Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you that you have invited us here yet again. We thank you that you speak to us again, despite the fact that we are quick to forget what you have said, and despite the fact that we have often ignored what you have said. Empower your Word now, by your Spirit, and give us ears to hear, hearts to treasure your words, and the ability to obey. Through Christ our Lord.
We continue our consideration this morning of a theology of other people. Today we consider those other people closest to us in space and time: our families. These neighbors live in the same house as you, and some of them sleep in the same bed as you. These people are no less gifts to you, they form a central part of your tradition, and they are the first place you are called upon to express catholicity.
The Home as Firstfruits of Church
While there is always the danger of overemphasizing the importance of family and devaluing the Church, the writers of Scripture continually point at the family as one of the central evidences of whether Christians are getting it. If you understand the gospel and what is going on here every Lordís Day that flows out into your homes, and if you donít understand what God is bestowing upon you here, that too will be evident in the culture of your family. The home is the firstfruits of the Church. So this week and next week, we will use portions of the liturgy as our sermon text.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20)
We are called to worship in the Triune Name week after week, and this is because it is your new name, the name applied to you when you were baptized; it also the name that was given to your spouse, your children, your roommates, and your borders. This initial call to worship is also based upon the apostolic authority given by Jesus when he sent his disciples into the world. As the baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, you and your households gather here in submission to the authority of Jesus Christ, and you affirm this and commit yourself to this reality when you declare your ĎAmen!í to this call. This baptism marks your entrance into the holy people of God and requires you to view the other saints in your home as holy ones. Holiness is not a heavenly glow that circles your head; it means that you and your house are summonsed by the God of the universe to be his servants in worship and in the world. Those saints who you live with are part of Godís Church, and your words and actions towards one another reflect a certain view of the body of Christ. And Christís commission concludes with a promise that is both a blessing and warning: ďLo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.Ē
The Lord Be With You (Ruth 2:4, Ps. 122:1-2, 124:8)
The opening call to worship is followed by a series of greetings and declarations of our intent to worship God. We begin by blessing one another. ĎThe Lord be with youí is an ancient Hebrew greeting and blessing (Ruth 2:4, 1 Sam. 17:37, 1 Ch. 22:16, 2 Th. 3:16). We worship in the power of the Spirit of the Lord, and therefore it is necessary for us to have the Lord and his blessing for our worship to be meaningful and pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God our Father. The following declarations are taken from the Psalms of Ascent (122:1-2, 124:8). These psalms are those which were sung and chanted as the Israelites ascended to Jerusalem for the feasts and worship. Like them, we ascend to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem with the great cloud of witnesses and the angels. We are going to the Lordís house, and we are doing it with joy. And we have every reason to believe that we will be received and blessed because Yahweh is our creator and redeemer. Once again, we appeal to the Name of God, the God of the Exodus, the God of Creation, the God who has mercy upon his chosen nation. All of this is not unique for Sunday morning. On Monday you are called to bless one another as fellow pilgrims. On Tuesday, you must remember where you are going next Lordís Day. If you call out Godís blessing upon one another here, you may not go home with a mouth full of cursing.
Conclusions & Applications
Your family and household make up the first stage of Christian ministry. In other words, ministering to your wife, husband, and children is church ministry. In baptism, those other people were joined to Christ, anointed as holy ones in the house of God, and are fellow citizens with you (Eph. 2:14-22). Genuine catholicity means being catholic toward the saints closest to you. How can you prepare to love the saints at the Nazarene Church if you do not love the saints in your own home?
Pure and undefiled religion is the care of orphans and widows in their distress (Js. 1:27). This does not end with the family, but it certainly begins there. Remember that the call to care for orphans and widows starts with your own (1 Tim. 5:8, 16). And this includes the warning against creating any in your own homes through neglect or mistreatment.
All of this is a call to be the Church. You are no less the Church when you are driving home in the car together, when you are sitting at the dinner table together, or when there is miscommunication, misunderstanding, and sin. Remember, we are the people of God who confess their sins week after week. As we learn this liturgy of blessing and forgiveness in God’s house, we become this liturgy in our homes.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, you have been so kind to us. You have forgiven us and loved us in a far deep way than we even understand. You continue to show your grace to us week after week, and for this we are thankful and amazed. You are good. Therefore, we ask you to continue your kindness by giving us grace to love you and those you have put in our homes and lives. Through Jesus who taught us to pray, singingÖ