Saturday, February 25, 2012

Anniversary Sunday - Dedication of Gathering Space Homily

Almighty God, You have promised to be with Your Church forever. We praise You for Your presence in this place of worship. Yet we built this sacred space to have a place to gather in Your name. We ask Your ongoing blessing upon those who gather here. Dwell continually among us with Your Holy Word and  Sacraments, strengthen our fellowship in the bonds of love and peace, increase our faithful witness to Your Salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray.

The birthday of Missions occurred on the day of Pentecost circa AD 30 in the city of Jerusalem. On February 25, 1838, Zion-Friedheim Lutheran Church was chartered to be a House of Peace, a Haven of Hope - and a Harbor of Light in this sin-darkened world. As followers of Jesus, we are Christ’s ambassadors – commissioned by Him who has reconciled the world to Himself to be salt and light.

The Mission of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church - Friedheim is to be “A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith”  Today we gather to remember the blessings the Lord has showered down upon us for the past 174 years and to dedicate a gathering space which has been constructed to the glory of God. The text I have chosen to concentrate our thoughts is the collect for the occasion of an anniversary of a congregation. Thus, we pray:

1.            Almighty God, You have promised to be with Your Church forever. This is a promise the Lord has made to His people throughout the scriptures.

A.            The Last words the Savior spoken on the day of His Ascension is your reality. “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) This sentence - are the last five words the Savior spoke on this earth. They are His yes and Amen. You are never alone.  These may be His last words, but He continues to speak to you through His inspired and inerrant Word.

B.            The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) 

C.            This is the same point David makes in Psalm 139. “Lord You have searched me, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” (Psalm 139:1-4) Your Saviors knows everything about you. Yet He remains with you to direct your life as He orders your days. We do not live to ourselves. We live to the Lord.

Our prayer continues

2.            We praise You for Your presence in this place of worship.

A.            Our Lord is not confined to a building. There is nothing, which can contain Him. Yet, we build a sacred space and set it apart for us to gather around His Word and Sacraments.  Constructing a temple had been David’s heartfelt dream. But it was his son, Solomon who would build it.  Solomon after seven years of hard work, international cooperation and a massive expenditure of resources, the temple was finished. On the day of dedication, the Ark of the Covenant was carried into the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the temple, and the glory of God entered with it in the form of fog, so thick, the priests could not perform their sacrifices.  “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built”.  (1 Kings 8:27)

B.            Yet we built this sacred space to have a place to gather in the Lord’s name. We gather in His Name for worship, edification, fellowship and instruction.

It is for these spiritual blessings that we pray

3.            We ask Your ongoing blessing upon those who gather here. We need the continued blessing of our Lord. It is fitting we should hold this dedication service as we begin the solemn season of Lent. Lent reminds us of our need for a Savior. Lent reminds us of our mortality, our sin, our guilt. As we gather in this space, Sunday after Sunday, season after season, may we recall the words of St. Paul when he said,  “I Determined to Know Nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1)  Pizzazz does not equal power, tinsel is not transformation, and  bigness does not equal blessed. We can look good, but be nothing but white sepulchers.   True ministry results from an overflow of knowing nothing except Christ crucified. May nothing replace the simplicity and centrality of Christ and Him crucified. To keep Christ  and message of the cross at the core all we do we pray three specific petitions.

A.            Dwell continually among us with Your Holy Word and Sacraments. Christ has promised to be with us in and through His Word. The Lord has given us His word to make us “wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Being one in unity and faith we will base our lives on God’s Holy Word as He speaks clearly to us through that Word.  And what does that Word say to us? It says, “You are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” – Galatians 3:26, 27. And by the clear voice of your Good Shepherd, He says, to you, “This is My body, which is given for you”; “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you, for the remission of all of your sins.” Sacramental living happens when experience daily the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation as Christ comes to us in and through these Sacraments.

B.            Strengthen our fellowship in the bonds of love and peace. Our vision is to be one in the Lord Jesus Christ. Experiencing true joy in Christ. Living at peace with each other and enjoying one another. How does that happen? It happens when Christ is at the center. It happens when we work as one unit, with one vision, with one purpose, with one clear goal, which, of course, is Christ.

C.            Increase our faithful witness to Your Salvation. Christ is not calling us to be successful. He has not called to be popular.  He is not calling us to be well-off or wealthy. He has not calling us to be triumphant. We are not a purpose driven church, nor should we. Rather, we must be Spirit lead. He calls us to be faithful; faithful to His Word, faithful to our calling, faithful to our work, faithful to each other. We do this through service. We come to a worship service and then, in service, we worship our God. Martin Luther King Jr. summed it up so well - “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

On my heart, imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!

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