Most of you have probably noticed that I have been on vacation the last two weeks. My beloved wife Nancy – with whom I am well pleased – and I took a road trip. 4600+ miles. 16 states. We visited family and friends along the way. And it was marvelous. Well, the driving wasn’t always so great – but the places we visited, and the people we reconnected with made it a wonderful time. So thank you for the time away. It is good to be back.
One of the cities that we visited was Denver, Colorado. Our son Philip lives there, as does my brother and his family. One of the things that we noticed about Denver is that it has a bustling night life with dozens and dozens of restaurants on 16th Street. Lots of people – I would say crowds of people – come out every night to enjoy what 16th Street has to offer.
Our last night in Denver, we spent some time on 16th Street – and as we drove away – we saw a small group of bicyclists – looked to be in their late teens or early twenties – riding their bikes. And then there were more until we found ourselves all of a sudden surrounded by young people on bikes. It seemed like there may have been – I don’t know – at least a hundred of these kids riding their bikes together. And I asked out loud, “What in the world is all this?” And Philip says, “It’s a bike flash mob, Dad. Haven’t you ever heard of this before? Someone gets the word out on Facebook and the word spreads, and they all meet on a certain street and ride their bikes together.”
Let me tell you, it was a little disconcerting – and somewhat unsafe from my perspective as a driver – trying to avoid hitting one of these kids with my car. Most of them rode in one lane – but not all of them did! Thankfully, the police were also out there doing their best to keep the kids safe. After all, they weren’t breaking any laws – just having fun – and keeping those of us in our cars fully alert and careful.
That’s the first time I have ever witnessed firsthand a flash mob of any kind. Have any of you ever experienced a flash mob? Been a part of one? Kind of a new phenomenon in recent years. I want you to watch one example of a flash mob. It takes place in a shopping mall. I am sure some of you have seen this or something like it on Youtube. But just take a moment to watch this.
Man, I love that. In my humble opinion – the Hallelujah Chorus has the power to move people to worship the Lord like no other. Did you notice how people joined in – whether they had ever sung the Hallelujah Chorus before or not – they just joined in. Kind of neat how they seemed to spontaneously raise their arms together at the end. Moved to worship the Lord in a shopping mall! And when the worship was over – they all went back – to eating lunch. Did you notice that?
But I want you to know – that that’s exactly what worship does. When we gather here in this place for worship – when we hear the sending to go in peace and serve the Lord – when the last note on the keyboard/organ has sounded – we go from here to wherever it is that the Lord wants us to be – to be his hands and his feet – even if that means going over to the Clarence Pizza Company or Mardees or the coffee shop at the corner – or home – or wherever – to have – lunch.
I want to talk with you today about worship. Let me remind you that weekly worship is one of the six marks of discipleship that we promote when we talk about what it means to be a disciple. Nothing says church matters more than when we gather together each week to worship the Lord.
Our Gospel reading from Luke is an episode in the life of Jesus where he is in the Synagogue on the Sabbath – in other words – he is in church. Lots of things can happen when you’re in church. On this particular day, Jesus heals a woman who has been bent over for 18 years. And the leader of the Synagogue has a problem because Jesus did this on the Sabbath – a day in which there was to be no work. In other words – Jesus breaks the rules. But he broke the rules for a reason – to show the love and compassion of God for those who are hurting. Jesus shows us that keeping Sabbath – spending time at worship is a celebration of the goodness and love of God – not a rule that needs to be kept.
Folks – I hope – I really hope that you are here today because you want to be here – and not because of any rule that says you have to be here. Okay – maybe some of you were shamed into coming – or your Mom or you Dad dragged you along today – maybe it was your husband or your wife, I don’t know – but there is something about the people of God gathered together in this place – or in a place like this one – to worship. To worship God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit – just to celebrate the goodness and the love of God.
I think that’s what Martin Luther was talking about when he explains the First Commandment which says, “You shall have no other gods.” He said what this means is that “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” This is what worship is. Worship honors God. Worship shows that we trust God above all things. Worship teaches us to fully rely on God.
I think it’s important to remember why it is that we do gather every Saturday. Every Sunday. By the way, the last thing I want you to do is to waste your time in church. Think about that for a moment. Don’t waste your time in church. As long as you’re here – for whatever reason you are here today – use this time wisely. Everything we do here in this hour – even the announcements at the end of the service – are designed to create a sense that we are in the presence of a holy and awesome God. Some might say that we are in the presence of an awe-full God. Not awful like you never want to go through that again – you know – like having to sit through a really bad movie a second time. Or a second date after a bad first date. THAT would be awful. But awe-full – full of awe. And wonder.
Worship is the chance quite frankly that we have for us to tell God how wonderful He is. That’s what the word worship means by the way. It means to give worth to or worth ship.
And that’s why I think – and I am saying this not just because it’s my job to say this – but because I truly believe it – but worship is so important that we need to be here – or in a place like this – as often as possible. Of course you would expect me to say something like that.
The last two weeks I have been on vacation. Two Sundays ago Nancy and I worshipped with the folks at St. John Lutheran Church in Salina, Kansas. And last week – we got back from our trip a week ago Saturday – so last Sunday we worshipped with the folks at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Buffalo. I share that because wherever you are – you can find a place to worship.
Now I know – I know – sometimes you just don’t feel like going to church. When I wake up on a Sunday morning – and I tell Nancy that I don’t feel like going to church today – she’s there to remind that I have to go because I’m the pastor. But you know – when someone says they didn’t feel like going to church – or they don’t need to go to church to worship God – or they don’t need church to be a spiritual person – or to be a good person whatever that means – or that they didn’t miss not going to church, I want to say, “Yeah – but we missed you.” Although we can worship the Lord with any number of people – I would rather hear 100 voices raised in praise over 10. And a thousand over a hundred. Just a mob – maybe even a flash mob – of people who have come together with one purpose – to be in the presence of an awe-full God.
To be able to come here and to be with brothers and sisters in Christ – to sing songs of praises to our God – to hear that you our loved. Where else are you going to hear that your sins are forgiven? Where else are you going to hear God’s word spoken to you from Holy Scripture – or hear whatever it is you hear when the preacher gives that inspiring message of the day. (Can I get an Amen on that one?) Where else are you going to experience Jesus as he comes to us in bread and wine? This is the place where – at the end – we are invited – we are encouraged – to be the people God is calling us to be – to do the things that God is calling us to do – to be His hands – His feet. To be in the presence of an Awe-full God. It is nothing short of amazing.
This is a place where all are welcome. A place where your children – your children and grandchildren – are welcome in worship. In fact a place where our children and grandchildren need to be. I would have a really hard time serving at a church where Sunday School and worship were scheduled at the same hour. In fact – I think that practice is a church killer. And we’ve got lots of kids. Lots of kids! Come back on Sunday September 8th – and you’ll see what I mean. We’ve got lots of kids. And that’s a wonderful thing!
Now children might not understand the liturgy. They might not be able to sing every word to every song. They might be bored and fidgety. But this is a good place – a good place for them to be – and a good place where I hope they will want to be.
A couple weeks ago in our 9:45 service – a mother carried out her daughter as communion was ending. And she cried out loud enough for everyone to hear, “I don’t want to leave! I don’t want to leave.” I gotta tell ya, I doubled up behind the altar I was laughing so hard. Because what she said is so true!
Would every one of us come to the end of this time of worship shouting, “I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave. ” But that is where our worship sends us. To our homes – to our places of work –to our schools – to our neighborhoods and our cities.
Maybe even to lunch. But we go – having met the living Christ here in this place.