For the audio of this sermon please click on the play button
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and God’s children celebrated and said AMEN
Feasting, that is really about? … Celebrating! Absolutely! Many churches have banquets to celebrate the year, and the ministry God leads them to perform, to recognize those who serve their church and in a festive way God’s love and delight in us. I’m told that the men here at First St Johns used to bring a keg of beer into the meeting room in the school building. I’m not encouraging the idea, but hey we’re not Baptists! Martin Luther certainly did nothing to discourage drinking of beer. In our reading in Isaiah, the Hebrew word that is used for banquet is hT,v.mi ((mishtah) which means “feast, drink, banquet”. I’m not saying “hey, let’s go get a keg”, I’m not saying no, just no stupid. The ancient Israelites would have readily understood that part of what Isaiah is describing as a banquet would be drinking, probably wine. We live in a world where fear is so prevailing. Yea, we celebrate, but it’s always with sort of detachment, at arm’s length with each other. We get to celebrate once a week! Too many people see it as a chore, an obligation to be fulfilled. We get to be in His presence every Sunday morning and that is a celebration. I hope it comes across to you, that when I lead worship I’m doing it in a way that is enthusiastic, excited, I get to be here, I get to lead worship in this magnificent place, I get to tell everyone how great God our Father is and what His Son Jesus Christ has done for us. If that’s not worthy of celebration, well what is? We can get into a discussion about how we worship. Many people would claim that liturgical worship isn’t “celebration”, that it’s just a rote way of doing the same thing. We’ve let the world tell us how to “celebrate”, we forget what celebration is in the worship of Jesus.
A “Satanic Black Mass” was held recently in Oklahoma City. Fox News noted that “dozens” participated in the mass, while those who stood opposed to the “mass” far outnumbered the participants. Kudos to the Roman Catholic Archbishop who held Holy Mass at a local church, that was attended by over 1200 people, almost a hundred times those who attended the Satanic Mass. The Archbishop’s message was something to truly celebrate in the face of the world’s depraved observance: “as Christians “we know that Christ conquered Satan. The war has been won, Christ has conquered, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes to reign forever.”1
Notice how the world mocks Christianity? They mock the mass, the liturgy, worship like we Lutherans conduct. You never see them mock worship like those of, let’s just say those who are all happy-clappy, telling you that it’s all about you and being “happy” and being entertainment versus what we do, which is worship. I truly think of our worship as a time of joy, there should be exuberance and celebration, I feel joyful and enthusiastic when I lead worship and I hope you will tell me if I’m not being joyful or it’s not coming across. I don’t see worship as a chore, I see it as a couple who are members here told me, “I get to come to church and worship”. The rest of the world holds back in fear and worry, they are afraid that they will be criticized or that their dignity will be affected. We get to celebrate every week and as I greet people as they leave worship I see joy, I see enthusiasm. But then they go back into the world, they let the world’s agenda dampen their joy and enthusiasm. They let the world’s message beat them down, “that wasn’t ‘fun’, that was boring, rote ritual”. No it’s not! We get to remember all that has been done for us, all that we have to be joyful and thankful for. Why do we let the world impose on us with its cynical and depressing attitude?
It’s often because we really believe the world’s message, that it’s a scary, fearful, ratrace, and now that you’re back in that world, you have to put aside that church stuff and realize how scary it really is.
It’s not! Unless you let it be. We have the promises, grace and love of Christ in our lives. There’s nothing to be afraid of! Jesus tells His disciples in John 16: 33, just before He is to be crucified, that yes, difficult times are ahead; “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The world can’t harm you, the world’s opinion doesn’t matter, I have overcome the world and since I am in you and you are in me and I have overcome the world, you have what I have given you, what I have promised you, joy, confidence, the knowledge that this world is not the real thing, it is not genuine. What the world says and does is phoney, only what I say, the Lord and Savior of your life is genuine, what you receive here in worship is genuine and you should celebrate that and take that attitude back into the world. We need to push back against the world. We are all so afraid of rejection, “oh here comes that crazy Bible thumper”. Heavens, that takes away our dignity. At last week’s conference someone made the comment that there is always push back against our message in Jesus. D’uh! Of course there is, how could it be otherwise? Jesus told us there would be. The conference was centered on our ministry to younger generations, that these people have left the church. Why? I submit because there is a serious lack of genuineness in the church. Why believe something that no one really stands up for and asserts that this is what is really important. No one is going to buy something that they feel is not genuine in its claims.
We don’t celebrate our faith and our worship, we don’t show what it means to be genuine in our discipleship and then we wonder why no one is buying. Those in the world know how phoney and irrelevant the world’s institutions are. They are looking for the genuine and we have it right here and we get to celebrate it in worship every week. I submit to you that instead of this sanctuary and building being so empty the rest of the week, that we come for other worship, Matins, confession, prayer, other small groups. What else can we do to make our worship more genuine, every day, not just on Sunday? Let’s spend more time in prayer, studying Scripture, sharing our faith with brothers and sisters and those in the world. That’s what the younger generations wants and they know, that when it’s done right, not the phoney stuff the world tries to convince us is “church”, that it does produce joy, peace, comfort and assurance that God is with us, that He loves us 24/7, that He wants what is best for us. That’s why Satanists mock what we have and not the phoney worship. But we take it for granted, we let the world drive us down, instead of us going out and showing the world what true joy and love is.
Isaiah is telling the Israelites, this is what’s going to happen. It’s not some vague metaphor, it is genuine, true, giving hope and assurance. When you really let it become part of you, realize what God is promising, you should be at least this high off the ground (holding your fingers at least two inches apart). God is going to provide us a feast of rich food of well aged wine. He’s telling this to a people who often live hand to mouth, we get plenty of food, they never had enough, God is telling them ‘you will have a gift far beyond your imagination, you will have joy and all you could want.’ Jesus is telling us that we are not worthy of His great wedding feast, but you know what? He wants us to have it, He wants us to have a time of joy and plenty beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Even now we are so blessed, provided with so much, and yet we have no joy. Please remember what we’ve been given, share it with others, the joy grows only when you share it with others and then you see the effect of their joy and how it builds yours in Christ our Savior. Spend some time journaling on all that you have to be joyful for.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.