"Shout It Out," Pastor Kinsey
Psalm 100 tells us to, shout it out – don’t hold back! Though many of us have messages in our head from the past telling us, “Keep your voice down,” “Keep it under control,” “Don’t raise a ruckus” – Psalm 100 is all about letting loose and speaking up. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord,” the Psalmist declares. “Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.”
Indeed, Psalm 100 was all about getting ready to, “come into God’s presence,” a song to be sung, to “Enter [the Temple’s] gates with thanksgiving, and [God’s] courts with praise,” as verse 4 says.
And if you check out Hymn #883 in our books, “All People That on Earth Do Dwell,” you will see, that it’s a hymn of Praise and Thanksgiving, which is based on the words of Psalm 100. Its tune is called, “Old Hundredth!” and is often used as a Gathering, or Processional Hymn. But never was there a more famous occasion when it was performed in recent times, than at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation service at Westminster Abbey in 1953 – and one of the first events of its kind ever televised, which of course, you can find on YouTube today. Entering the Abbey’s courts with praise, took a long time, and to make it loud and celebratory, Ralph Vaughan Williams created a spectacular arrangement for trumpets, percussion, and organ. The Queen was, oh so young, and probably terrified! Not to mention, she was still mourning her father’s death, which had unexpectedly catapulted her to the throne.
And this processional song, Old Hundredth, was one of the most memorable moments of the day. Though the Queen was stone faced somber with fear and trembling – the music and singing, lifted the moment to its proper height, with loud and jubilant praise, for the people of God, and for the new Queen, a symbol of God’s goodness to them: “Give thanks to God, bless God’s name,” Psalm 100 concludes. “For the Lord is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness to all generations.”
As beautiful as this hymn of praise for God’s goodness is, how do we take that message, and it’s feeling of wonderful exhilaration, out into the world with us? How do we share this good news with our neighbors and the world?
This is what Jesus asks his disciples in our Gospel lesson. His greatest concern, was always the going out, not the coming in. “As you go,” he says, “proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Unfortunately, he had no trumpets, no percussion, and no Westminster Abbey organ accompaniment! The sending out is not quite as full of pageantry, as the coming in! “See,” said Jesus, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
And Jesus then reminds them of the dangers and sacrifice ahead of them, though it is surely different for us, though still a challenge that will take us out of our comfort zones. The good news is, that we have some good news, to invite people to, both in the message of salvation, and in our community welcome, here at Unity!
The message of salvations’ Good News, is that, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul says. A message that was renewed and shouted loudly, exactly 500 years ago, when Martin Luther, an obscure Augustinian monk in feudal Germany, grabbed the Reformation torch and lit the world on fire, after his personal discovery in Paul’s Letter’s, how we are, justified by faith, and not by our own good works. He had been torturing himself to obtain God’s mercy, and anguishing over scripture, to please a wrathful God. But when he realized that God was good, God was merciful, full of lovingkindness for God’s Creation, and that our worship could be full of the praise found in Psalm 100, and not in self-flagellation, and being guilt ridden, his eyes were opened!
Paul’s message, and interpretation of the Christ event, was clear! We are justified – that is, made sin-free, made acceptable, saved – not by what we do or don’t do right or wrong – but, by faith, through Christ’s faithfulness, to the God of covenant and promise. And so, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is not a ransom, paying our safe passage to the next life, as much as it is a New Covenant, reviving the First Covenant with Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, a righting of the Ark, and stabilizing of God’s world, which we celebrate at the banqueting table of the Lord.
Luther tried his dard-est to win God’s favor by working hard to atone for his sins, but he only felt mired deeper in guilt by the day. Paul’s Good News message opened his eyes to a new way, a new fork in the road. We have obtained access to God’s grace, through faith, not our own merit. This message of freedom, releases us from sin and guilt, so now we can boast of what God has done for us, and all we can, or need, do, is worship God with praise and thanksgiving.
That’s the message we celebrate in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation – a unique and powerful message, which is definitely worth sharing, in a world yearning for truth, and justice, and peace.
When we show Christ’s love and grace in our lives, we have something genuine and holy, that is attractive, something to invite others to. Now, we just have to invite!
I can’t forget what Dave Daubert told at the Synod Assembly workshop on Outreach, last weekend. That, on average, Lutherans invite someone to worship once every 23 years! That really caught our attention! Can that really be true? And that means, Daubert told us, that for the Lutheran who’s at retirement age, they may just have one more invitation left in them!
Whereas, if you think about it, friends who just want to get together and have dinner or a summer picnic, invite pretty much every week. So, what are we afraid of, in our church inviting? Fear of rejection, certainly, in any number of ways, often keeps us from inviting. That’s real! But Daubert says, think of it more like inviting your friend out to dinner, or a baseball game. Sometimes there’s good reasons people will turn us down. It dosen’t mean you have to stop inviting them. Daubert says, he grew up in an unchurched family, and he only went to his first worship service after dozens of invitations from his college friends – invitations, by the way, not to a Lutheran church, but a Pentecostal one – though he is a Lutheran today.
We have something really important to share, the gift of God’s grace and peace in Christ Jesus. And we know, the sacrificial gift of the cross, is nothing if it is not connected to Jesus’ life and teaching – that what Jesus lived and taught, is the same message he entrusted to his followers: we “proclaim the good news, that the kingdom of heaven has come near.” That is, it has come near in the person of Jesus. And who Jesus is, was shown in the same things he asks us to do – praying for the sick, to raise up the hopes of the down-trodden, and lives of the outcast, and to meet and greet everyone with God’s peace.
Like Luther’s time, 500 years ago, we too live in a time when the message has been twisted and lost its punch, yet its transformative news, is sorely needed. The kingdom and realm of God is ours, to embody, and employ. In the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are the Body of Christ in the world, with the power to heal and make people whole, and to bring peace to every one we encounter.
Where that message is clear… the church will thrive, and God’s world will find peace, and be a safe place, for all. And that’s worth “shouting out,” and blowing the trumpet for!