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A Place at the Table

November 18th 2012 by Joshua Simons

Today's readings draw our attention to the end times and the return of Jesus. The Epistle lesson from the book of Hebrews focuses us specifically on the gifts God gives through Word and Sacrament as we continue to gather in the Lord's name awaiting His return. Listen or read to know more...

Proper 28 Series B - "A Place at the Table" - Hebrews 10:11-25 - November 18, 2012

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, Jesus God, Lord of all, King of kings, The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.

Psalm 96:1-4. What a joy and blessing it is to be in this place with you … singing songs … declaring the works of the Lord … praising Him … worshiping together on this day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice – together – and be glad in it – together.

What a Spiritual joy we possess by grace through faith! Our Savior Jesus, Almighty Eternal Lord, humbled Himself even to death on the cross! And because of that we escape the Holy Father’s wrath and are accepted into His presence. Wow!

Should we ever step into this sanctuary with anything less than awe upon our countenance? No! Because … do we deserve to be here? No! And yet YAHWEH, Author of love and grace, says, “Come into My presence. I have gifts for you. I love you. You are mine!”

Today we’re going to discuss why we come to church, why we worship together. And though there are many, many, many benefits of church attendance, I want to get us to the main, most important reason we come. Let’s see what the text says … verse 11. Hmmm … sounds discouraging. What does it mean? Well our problem is sin and it means that nothing we do or offer can solve that problem of sin. As priests picked the best lamb each day to kill and offer as sacrifice, it didn’t do any good, at least not with regard to the real forgiveness of sins.

In case you’re struggling with this, let me assure you that it doesn’t mean that sins aren’t forgiven. But it does make clear that nothing we do earns forgiveness.

And that last sentence matters with regard to church attendance. Because the main reason we come here is Not because we’re being obedient Not because it’s what good people do Not because it gains us favor before God Not because we deserve a place in God’s kingdom because we decided to come to church.

So what’s the main reason? We’re getting there, but first let’s remind ourselves of the problem … sin. And how does God deal with sin?

It makes me think of dinnertime with my two-year old, Rose. She has entered the age of “sinning with a smile”. One of her biggest offenses at the dinner table is raspberries … no, not the fruit … raspberries with her tongue – spitting. When she is told to stop spitting, her response is simple … she smiles … and then spits again. The current consequence is that her high chair gets turned around and pushed from the table facing the corner … in a word … exclusion. At that point, she can spit all she wants, but there is symbolism in the consequence that if she doesn’t do what we say, she’s not allowed to be with the family. Tears soon follow.

God dealt with our sin the same way. After Adam and Eve sinned – Genesis 3:24. Exclusion. In the temple, a curtain blocked the way to the Most Holy Place – God’s presence on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Exclusion.

God created us in His image, perfect and holy. And anything less has no place in His Holy presence. So see, church can’t mainly be about us doing a good thing. We are sinful. If it were about us and what we do and deserve … then those doors would be locked. Exclusion.

Ok. Finally. What’s the main reason we are here? Inclusion.

Rose doesn’t face the corner for the entire meal. It upsets her, yes, but after a minute or two at most, she gets turned back. I ask her, are you going to spit again and she answers “no.” Well maybe this time, but the next meal we’ll probably start over again. Why does she rejoin the family at the table? Not because I believe she’ll never spit again (that would officially make me the dumbest father ever.), but for a bigger, better reason … because I love her. I want her with us … included … because I love her.

Our Gracious Heavenly Father also desires that we have a place at the table in His presence . . . because He loves us.

Remember the problem? Sin. God solved it. Let’s return to the text …

Highlights of Verses 12-14 Verses 19-22

The priest’s sacrifices didn’t actually forgive sins, but they pointed to what does. The priest could not pass through the curtain to the Most Holy Place without the blood of sacrifice. So too, we cannot stand in the presence of our Almighty and Just God unless covered by Christ’s blood of sacrifice spilt on the cross. At Jesus’ death on Good Friday, the temple curtain was torn asunder; the way to God’s presence forever opened. Inclusion.

So now we approach YAHWEH’s altar with confidence and full assurance of faith. Because for those who believe, the wrath of Almighty God has been reckoned. So we do not see the Lord as terrible and frightening, fleeing from his presence, but rather we run to him as joyful, helpless children leaping into His open arms of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

The Lord has revealed Himself to us. He invited us into His kingdom through the waters of baptism. For the sake of Christ, He washed us with water and His blood so our sins of scarlet were made white as snow. And He now invites us to His table of communion as we receive His body and blood, looking to our eternal place at the table at the marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven. Inclusion. Because of our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, we deserve to be excluded, but God sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and therefore calls us into His Holy presence. Inclusion.

So it begs the question …

Why wouldn’t we come to church?

Or even further, why wouldn’t we invite others?

I found two lists on the internet about why we go to church. Top two reasons from the first list: #1 It is an act of obedience and #2 We need to be with brothers and sisters in Christ trying to live out the gospel just like we are. Do you hear the problem with those? They focus on us, what we do, not what God does for us. They turn gospel into law.

Here are some problems if church is about what we’re doing: • Eventually we wear down; it becomes difficult to always “obey” so we falter. • Eventually we will question the effectiveness of what we do. • We may even think we’ve done enough and then stop coming. • And in speaking to others: it allows them to say, “Well, that’s good for you; that’s what you do, but it’s not for me.”

And now the top two reasons from the second list: #1 To have fellowship with the crucified and risen Christ and #2 To be forgiven. Those focus on God and what He does. These are gospel.

Here are the solutions knowing that church is about what God is doing: • God never tires. • God’s gifts – His Word and Sacraments – are always effective, granting forgiveness of sins. • God has done enough. The sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross and His glorious resurrection delivered the world from sin, death, and the power of the devil. And it continues to do so. • And in speaking to others: “It’s not what I choose to do, it’s what God chose to do for me through Jesus and He died for you too. Please come and hear more.”

Why come to church? Why invite others? Because the Lord says, “Come into My presence. I have gifts for you. I love you. You are mine!”

We are invited to a great meal that has been prepared for us. All are invited. All who come are included. So come often and take your place at the table. Give thanks; and feast upon forgiveness, life, and salvation by God’s grace and love shown through His Son, Jesus, on the cross. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, that which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

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