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Monday, October 31 2016

Becca Ehrlich

We made it! It’s the last week, week 8 of our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer! Man, we’ve covered a lot! We’ve talked about God as our heavenly parent, God’s name, God’s kingdom, God’s will, our daily bread, forgiveness, temptation and evil, and now we are at the final part of the prayer—“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.”

We call this ending of the Lord’s Prayer a doxology, which is a fancy word made from two Greek words—doxa, meaning glory, and logos, meaning speech or word. Doxology basically means “glory word.” So when we say this ending to the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying glory words, and giving glory to God. We are praising God.

And when we come to worship, that’s what we are coming to do. We are here to give glory to God, to praise God for all that God does for us. We are here to focus on God, to hear about God’s own son Jesus, to experience the Holy Spirit.

But we don’t just praise God here in worship. It’s not like we have a copyright on praising God. You’re not only allowed to praise God with these four walls. It’s not like you walk in these doors and you can say “Oh good, NOW I’m allowed to praise God!” It’s not like that at all! This is just the place where we have designated, set-aside times to praise God. But praising God is part of our lives as Christians, not just something we do on a Saturday evening or Sunday here at church.

In fact, you could say that Christians know the meaning of life. People spend their lives searching for the meaning of life—and we actually know it! The Westminster Catechism, written in the 1600s for Christians in Scotland and Britain, tells us the meaning of life. It says: “Man’s [and woman’s] chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy [God] forever.”

THAT is our purpose in life, what gives our life meaning. To glorify God and enjoy God forever. To praise God and enjoy God’s presence. That’s it. It’s so simple. We were created by God to praise God forever. That is what we are made to do.

That means that we don’t just praise God when we are here in church—since it’s our life’s purpose, we praise God all the time. We praise God when we are at work. We praise God when we are at home. We praise God when we are watching a Bills game (it may be less easy to praise God depending on how their playing!), or out to see a movie, or going to visit family or friends. We praise God all throughout our lives!

That’s not to say that praising God is always easy. When things are going well in our lives, in can be super easy to praise God for all the good stuff.

It’s when stuff isn’t going well that it can be much harder to praise God. Even though Jesus tells us numerous times in the Bible that being a Christian doesn’t mean it’s always going to be all hugs and puppies and rainbows, when awfulness happens in our lives we can get shocked, dismayed, and lose hope pretty quickly. Life throws things at us, and the last thing we feel like doing is praising God.

But here’s the thing—praising God in the middle of crud is actually in our DNA as Christians. In fact, the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has this to a “T.”

When John of Patmos had the visions from God that he wrote down in Revelation, it was not a good time for Jesus followers. Scholars aren’t sure if there were officially-sanctioned persecutions of Christians outside of Rome at the time, but we do know that pockets of persecution and executions of Christians were happening, even without the government OKing it. Christians weren’t treated well, and sometimes were even killed for their faith. The early Christians were starting to lose hope.

Although the Book of Revelation can be confusing sometimes, and even trippy at other times, the over-arching message to those persecuted Christians, and to us, is clear. Even though our world is broken now, and awfulness happens, Jesus will come again and establish God’s kingdom here on earth once and for all.

In the passage we read from Revelation, we heard that every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea—that covers pretty much everyone-- are praising God, forever.

We are able to praise God even in the awfulness, because we know that evil and brokenness and the devil do not have the last word. God does. God sent God’s own son to die for us so that we could have eternal life with him. And Jesus will come again to make the world perfect, forever.

THIS was a message of hope to those Jesus followers reading John’s words in Revelation, and it is a message of hope to us now, too. We are able to praise God no matter what the circumstances, because Jesus has our backs. We know that God has GOT THIS. God is with us in the awfulness, because Jesus knows what it means to suffer. And as believers in Jesus, we know that we are saved and that ultimately God will WIN.

When we pray that doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying that God is the creator and Lord over everything, on BOTH sides of eternity. That means that we acknowledge that WE are not the ones in control, GOD IS the one in control.

That can be both freeing and utterly terrifying. You could say that it feels dangerous to pray that. We like to think that we are in control—but we aren’t. God is.

And although that is scary, when we end the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying to God and praising God no matter what our circumstances. We are saying that God has it all under control, even if to us it doesn’t look like it. We are doing exactly what those first century Christians did when they read John’s words in the Book of Revelation—we are praising God even when life stinks.

Today, we celebrate the Reformation, which started when Martin Luther posted a whole bunch of things, 95 things to be exact, on a church door about how he saw the Church of the time as broken. One of the things he said was that we can’t make God love us or save us—we can’t earn salvation or love from God. God loves us and saves us freely, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Since I’ve hung out in different denominations and traditions of Christianity over the years, I’ve heard some “catch-phrases” that different flavors of Christianity use. One of the catch phrases that I heard quite a bit was: “PRAISES GO UP, BLESSINGS COME DOWN.”

That phrase sounds pretty good at first. But if you stop to think about it, it’s not actually true. Martin Luther would have had a fit if he heard that phrase. “Praises go up, blessings come down.” It’s saying that praises go up, THEN blessings come down. In that order. It’s a conditional statement. Only if we praise God does God then bless us. So if taken to its natural conclusion, it’s saying that if we don’t praise God, then God doesn’t bless us. Woah.

We know that’s not true at all. We know that God blesses us and loves us and saves us, no matter what. We know that God loves us and blesses us, not because of what WE do, but because of what GOD DOES FOR US, no conditions required.

So this catch-phrase is patently untrue. But what if we turned it around? What if we reversed it?

Then the phrase would be, “BLESSINGS COME DOWN, PRAISES GO UP!”

HA! Now THAT phrase is true! God blesses us, provides us what we need, loves us, and saves us—and because of what God has done for us, then WE CAN PRAISE GOD! No matter what is happening in our lives, we can praise God because GOD BLESSES US AND LOVE US AND SAVES US. And ultimately, GOD WINS. Blessings come down, praises go up!

So no matter what’s going on in your life today—let’s praise God. Let’s praise God for creating us. Let’s praise God for loving us, even when we mess up. Let’s praise God for sending Jesus to die for us and rise again so that we could look forward to eternal life with Jesus. Let’s praise God because God will kick Satan’s butt and we will live in a perfect world when Jesus returns again. Let’s praise God because God’s blessings come down, and our praises go up!

Let’s praise God! Amen?                                                                                                 

Posted by: Pastor Becca Ehrlich AT 09:13 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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