Sunday’s Sermon: Being Sent Out in God’s Word

This is the last installment of the “Why We Worship” sermon series.

  • When I was at daycare, the other kids and I used to find the most exotic, fascinating pets you could ever imagine!
    • Small
    • Black and red
    • Fun to watch … even if they weren’t so good for snuggling.
    • What were these exceptional pets? Box elder bugs!
      • Huge tree in back of Joan’s yard = no shortage of “pets”
      • Describe how we used to keep them
    • I can only imagine how many of those poor, disgusting bugs my daycare lady ended up having to throw away! You see, they never ended up surviving long in those plastic palaces we used to put them in.
      • Couldn’t get nourishment
      • Couldn’t thrive
      • Couldn’t grow
    • Now, I know this may sound a bit odd, but God’s Word is not so different from those poor box elder bug pets we used to keep. God’s Word isn’t meant to be restricted and cooped up. It’s not meant to circle round and round solely within these four walls, only interacting with something or someone on Sunday morning. God’s Word is meant to be out and about among the people, and how does it get there? Here’s a hint: it rhymes with us!
      • Aim of the 4th and final worship phase: being sent out in God’s Word –> more than just a dismissal (e.g. – school bell at the end of the day)
        • You see, it’s those last 3 words – being sent out in God’s word – that make this phase of worship so crucial. –> up to this point – immersed ourselves in the Word
          • Gathered together in God’s word for praise, confession, and prayer
          • Heard the word read and preaching and sung and prayed
          • Responded to the word by sharing as much of ourselves as we can
            • Giving of resources in offering
            • Giving of our hearts in celebrating sacraments
            • And now, it’s time to leave. It’s time to go back out into the world, back into the busyness of our daily lives. But before we do, it’s important to know and understand and remember that we are not being sent out empty-handed. God’s Word goes with us.
              • Scriptures today not only address being sent out in God’s word but also give encouragement in the power of that word
  • Isaiah passage speaks to true majesty and dynamic nature of God’s Word
    • First = majesty – text: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.[1] –> By definition, ‘majesty’ is a greatness, an authority and a grandeur. There is a feeling of preeminence and power and importance wrapped up in this concept. This is God’s word! This is the power of the gospel message that God has given to us. No wonder such a message was meant to be shared! It’s far too big and too significant to keep to ourselves.
      • Like trying to hold a beam of light in your hand – shining out all over the place no matter what
    • Is passage also describes dynamic nature of God’s word
      • Speaks of how active rain and snow are in renewing the earth and producing grain for food, then likens that activity to the nature of God’s word – text: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.[2]
        • Heb word ties majesty and dynamic nature together – “succeed” = strength, effectiveness, power + activity of causing to thrive –> This amazing thing – this thing that inspires strength and power and nourishment for the soul … this amazing word of God is the same word that we hear and share with one another.
          • Word we hear in Scripture and sermon
          • Word we voice in prayer and song
          • We even get to be the dynamic nature of this word, first when we pass the peace with one another but also later, when we leave this sacred space. –> leave with God’s word tumbling around in our hearts and in our minds
            • And it’s important for us to truly believe that there is real power in this word. If we don’t, why would we bother taking it with us?
              • Power to heal scarred heart
              • Power to renew weary soul
              • Power to embolden timid spirit
              • Power to convey greatest message of all time: God loves you. God loves you! Ultimately, this is the message we share.
            • Can be intimidating, especially in society that tells us not to talk about something as “touchy” as religion –
              • “Too controversial”
              • “Too personal”
              • “Too irrelevant with today’s culture”
              • But think about those objections for a minute … controversial, personal, and disconnected with social structure. Hmmm. Jesus was controversial. Jesus was personal. Jesus was found to be irrelevant by the popular culture of his day. Yet despite being labeled as “unacceptable,” Jesus still shared God’s word with everyone he could. And even after he was gone, his disciples continued to share that word, giving it room to grow and thrive and change people’s lives.
                • Had faith in transformative power of God’s word
                • Don’t have to reinvent the wheel –> same word we’re asked to share – tried and true message that’s weathered the test of time: God. Loves. You.
  • You know, being sent out in God’s word should be the exciting part of worship, not because the service is almost over and we get to head home to whatever’s waiting for us there but because we get to be a part of that activity! We are here for our own spiritual renewal, yes, but we’re also here because we’ve got an active part to play in the shared story of faith in this world.
    • Clear in OT – Is: For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands.[3]
      • Popular Christian worship song: It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it. You spread his love to everyone. You want to pass it on.[4]
    • Also main focus of NT text: If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. … set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching.[5]
      • First thing you may be thinking of = evangelism – sharing God’s word with those who have never heard it before –> certainly one very important aspect of being sent out in God’s word
      • Another side = just as important – doing all of this reading and exhorting and preaching for one another
        • Scholar: The point is that the Christian life involves movement, growth, development. Too often … so much attention is given to conversion that the equally important development toward maturity is neglected. … Here again a choice once made has to be repeatedly reaffirmed and lived out.[6] –> So we’re being encouraged to take the word of God with us when we leave because in addition to sharing it with those who haven’t heard it before, we just might need it to help each other out out there! Yes, we lift up our prayers for those things that weight on our hearts on Sunday mornings, but bad things happen on days other than Sundays. And good things happen on days other than Sundays, too. When we take God’s word with us from this place, we do this for a number of reasons.
          • Bolster ourselves throughout the week
          • Continue learning/reflecting throughout the week
          • Support one another throughout the week
            • Bump into someone at the grocery store or the pharmacy or the gas station or the coffee shop – remind them of God’s message of love, lift them up in prayer
            • NT passage: Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them …  continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.[7] –> Gr touches on intimate nature of our role
              • “put these things into practice” = meditate on them, cultivate them
              • “devote yourself” (re: reading of scripture, exhorting, teaching) = literally “be in them” –> We’re asked not just to read God’s word the way we scan through a newspaper article or novel. We’re asked to really inhabit that word – to nestle in, to wrestle with it and chew on it and let it challenge and stretch us. At the end of our service on Sunday morning, we may be leaving the physical structure of the church, but God is asking us to remain in the word always.
  • Nuts and bolts of what this looks like in our actual worship service
    • As far as the elements of the worship service that are included in this final phase, they’re pretty self-apparent.
      • Sending hymn – hymn that aims to wrap up what we’ve been talking about and give us encouragement as we go
      • Charge – challenge for the week –> Now that we’ve talked the talk, how are we going to walk the walk?
      • Benediction – blessing
    • Scholar sums up importance of these elements: Having assembled in God’s name, [the people] now prepare to go out in God’s name. … Having been fed by Word and Sacrament, we go out to share that nourishment in the ordinary intersections of our daily lives. The Lord’s Day service is the indispensable event that identifies the church with its [God] and equips it to identify with those whom [God] has called us to serve.[8]
  • I want you to take out your hymnals and look at the words for our next hymn (#76). Yes, it’s a sending hymn – a hymn that’s normally sung at the end of a worship service. But these words convey why it’s so important for us to be sent out in God’s word:
    • v. 1: Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing, the people of God from this dwelling take leave. The service is ended, O now be extended the fruits of our worship in all who believe. The seed of the teaching, receptive hearts reaching, shall blossom in action for God and for all. God’s grace did invite us, and love shall unite us to work for God’s realm and to answer the call.[9] Amen.

[1] Is 55:8-9.

[2] Is 55:11.

[3] Is 55:12.

[4] “Pass It On” by Kurt Kaiser, © 1969.

[5] 1 Tim 4:6, 11-13.

[6] James D. G. Dunn. “The First and Second Letters to Timothy and the Letter to Titus: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 11. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000), 815-816.

[7] 1 Tim 4:15-16.

[8] Peter C. Bower, ed. The Companion to the Book of Common Worship. (Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2003), 43.

[9] “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing” by Omer Westendorf, © 1964, emphasis added.

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