Stimulus-response. A car swerves in your lane. What’s the first word out of your mouth? Someone taps your shoulder. Do you jump? Swing? Cower? We learn and reinforce our default modes of reactions to different situations as we weave our ways through life. I had 40 years of uncaring and nasty responses to life’s situations. When Jesus came along and took me by the hand, He slowly worked a lot of those issues out of me. He helped me quit drinking right away but He let me work on quitting smoking, it seemed, on my own. I never want to do that again. Yugh! My responses to bad drivers or unusual situations have softened greatly in 20 years.
Pastor Sattler’s sermon was about having a ‘joyful response’ to the world. Pick a disaster, personal, local or worldwide. How do we typically respond? Normally, we are outraged, saddened, and maybe even feel helpless. These responses can be true for most people, Christians included. The world wants revenge and an ‘evening of the score’. Christians can want this, too. But as Christians we learn to stop, take a deep breath, and ask if this is the right thing to want. In my life, I’ve reckoned these aren’t the answers that Jesus encourages. Instead, He gives me a ‘joyful response’. People who are dying, hurt, or distressed need immediate help but what I mean by a ‘joyful response’, I know that regardless what happens to me I am safe in Him. I know when He is with me it makes it easier to offer help, money, time, but most importantly, prayers for those in need. I don’t want do these things to impress anyone, for personal gain, and mostly not as a way to ‘work’ my way into Heaven. Christianity is the only religion where the goal in life is NOT to do as many ‘good’ deeds as I can and stack them up against my perceived few ‘bad’ deeds and get into Heaven on that basis. My hope to be ‘better’ than half the people who ever lived is on a pretty flimsy foundation. What does God say about me trying to work my way into His good graces? He says in Isaiah that…
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Our only hope in Heaven is believing Jesus is our Savior, who eradicated my sins when God abandoned Him on the cross as He took my sins, your sins, and everyone’s sins upon Himself. Take it from me, but if not me then Pastor Sattler, that God isn’t angry when I or you make a muck of it. He was angry at His son for what He did (accepting all the sins) and that’s over with 2000 years ago. So you have a choice. You can carry your sins with you when you die and try to work them off your self (you can’t). Or let Jesus take them, and you go on and live a life with the assurance you are cleared for take off when your day comes.
This is how all of us can have a joyful response to whatever is ailing the world. Now you are free to enjoy the present without keeping a tally sheet. God has given us works to do, not for our benefit but for someone else’s. It’s called a ‘sinful world’. Everything is broken and needs mending. Open your eyes and take a look around. I won’t give examples. Your conscience tells you what they are.
We had a new piano player this evening. Dave’s the name. He played with flair, like water flowing in a stream. He played, we sang “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”. The melody, Ode To Joy, is from Beethoven’s last movement from his last symphony, the 9th. The lyrics were written by Henry Van Dyke as a poem called “The Hymn of Joy”. Why the name change? Many hymns rename original titles by using the first line in the first stanza. Our song for the Word, was “Now Thank We All Our God”, “Give Thanks” as the offering song, and we recessed with “Almighty Father, Bless The Word”.
We, as a congregation, confessed our sins to God Almighty. What does this mean?The pastor leads us by saying…
O Almighty God, merciful Father,
And we respond…
I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities,
with which I have ever offended you and justly deserved your punishment now and forever.
But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them,
and I pray you of your boundless mercy,
and for the sake of the holy, innocent,
bitter sufferings and death of your beloved son, Jesus Christ,
to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.
Pastor responds with…
Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the The Son and Holy Ghost.
Everyone follows with a heartfelt…
And, yes, our sins are forgiven, covered in the past, the present and the future.
Have a good everything.