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Serve The Lord With Gladness

December 4, 2016 Pastor:

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Stir up our hearts, O God, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son, that by his coming we may be enabled to serve you with pure minds. (Collect for 2nd Sunday of Advent)

Last week, on the first Sunday of Advent, the church prayed that God would “stir up his power” and come rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins. We asked our God, for whom nothing is impossible, to awake to our troubles, hear our prayers, and to save us from them!

Today we pray that the same God who “stirred up his power,” would also “stir up our hearts” so that we might prepare for the Lord’s coming, and be enabled to serve him with pure minds, here in time, and there in eternity. But how do we do that?

If you want to meet God, if you want to know the joy of his love, and the consolation of his coming, there’s only one way to do it, dear Christians, by repentance. We are sinners and by our sin we have left the family home, and forfeited our place at the family table. We have sold our birthright, like Esau did, for a pot beans, only there’s nothing magical about them. No beanstalk, no rainbow and no pot of gold: but only discontent, despair, disease and death.

But we need not always live this way, because Jesus came to be our Savior, came to renew the face of the earth. But he didn’t redeem us by remote control, from a comfortable recliner in the heavens. Instead he “was made man.” He “bore our grief’s and carried our sorrows.” He took on the entire human experience from birth to death, and sanctified what we polluted with our sins. He suffered want, sorrow, temptation, pain, dishonor, injustice, false accusations and finally cruel death on the cross. But he did all those things for us, to purge our sins, reconcile us to our True Father, and make us New Creations in Christ who can now serve him with pure minds.

In baptism we, who are born as sinful people of sinful parents, are born anew, and begotten from above. Begotten of the heavenly Father, and given a heavenly inheritance. But our new life doesn’t end with baptism, but only begins.

From the font we are brought into the church where we are taught holy things, holy truths, holy ways. Where we are absolved of our ongoing sins of the flesh, and nourished and strengthened with the Bread of Life. Here we enter into communion with the holy, so that the old things that cling to our flesh might pass away, and behold, all things be made new.

This is what we pray for in today’s Collect, that God would continue to stir up our hearts, so that by our Lord’s coming, we might be enabled to serve him with pure minds.

Now there’s a prayer! The desire to serve God with a pure mind, a Service which takes on two forms.

First that the baptized should partake in holy worship. Twice in the Revelation of St. John we hear the command of the angel: Worship God! We hear the same message from our Lord who says, “Worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” This is the duty of all men
whoever you are, wherever you come from, to turn from your sins, to cleanse your minds, and to worship the Father in Spirit and Truth.

But this command to worship is not merely done in theory, or in our simply in our minds or hearts. But it is done here, in this very gathering where in the words of St. Paul we, “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one voice.”

That “one voice” is the voice of the church’s liturgy. Her prayers and praises, her hymns of glory and songs of thanksgiving. And so Christian unity is not merely a matter of subscribing to the same confession of faith (important as that is). But of speaking the same words, praying the same prayers, eating of the one loaf, and drinking from the one cup; by which we who are many, are joined to one another, and “become One Flesh” with our holy Lord and Bridegroom, Jesus
Christ.

But let us not forget the second part of what it means to Serve God which we learn from our Lord’s own words in today’s gospel lesson when he says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”

Dissipation means to live life in the fast lane! To party hearty day and night. To live a decadent life of excess, self-indulgence, and over-consumption with no thought for tomorrow, no thought of the Lord’s return and no thought of the final judgment that will come upon the whole earth. It means to pollute your mind with the culture’s impure “values” instead of the pure “morals” of Holy Scripture. It means to intoxicate yourself by whatever substances, or diversions necessary: rather than “serve the Lord with gladness, and come into his presence with thanksgiving.

And so on this Second Sunday of Advent, with temptations to the left of us, and temptations to the right of us, the church fervently prays, “Stir up our hearts, O God, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son, that by his coming we may be enabled to serve you with pure minds.”

It is a prayer that our God answers at his altar today. Come and eat! Amen.