Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you for sending your Son to reveal yourself to us. We thank you that in Christ we have seen your life, your glory, and experienced your love and grace. We thank you for that, and we ask that you would teach us now by your Word and Spirit that we might faithfully live that Life that you have given us that we might also be faithful in living out your kingdom here on earth even as it is in heaven. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
This is the last sermon in this series on the Church Calendar. The point of this series has been to lay out a case for keeping time in a distinctively Christ-centered way in order to worship more faithfully.
From the Center
In an important sense, the calling of God’s people is very simple. The early Church pattern of gathering together for prayers, teaching, and breaking bread is what we are all about. The Church Calendar can become (and has been in the past) a means of distracting from this central calling, but what it ought to be is a general guide to our devotional life which teaches us to remember, give thanks, and believe, gathered around this table, reading the Scriptures, offering our prayers, and rejoicing before the Lord who is remaking this world. But we are also called to be steadfast in these habits, in continual prayer, daily dwelling together in gladness and praising God. While we tend to chalk up the early church pattern to enthusiasm, there is a rich biblical tradition for the pattern of daily prayer we see in the early church (Acts 2:42, 46-47).
The worship of the tabernacle included a continual offering of bread (Ex. 25:30), a burning lamp (27:20), reminding Yahweh of the names of Israel and the judgments (28:29-30), atonement (28:38), incense (30:8), and a continual offering of lambs daily (29:38-42). These continual offerings are defined specifically as morning and evening sacrifices (Ex. 29:39, Lev. 6:6, 6:20, Num. 28:3-4), and the sacrifices of the festival calendar were to be offered in addition to these continual offerings (Num. 28:10, 23, 31, 29:6ff). Later, the Psalmist takes up this language in his own prayers and worship (Ps. 34:2, 40:17, 70:5, 71:3, 6, 14, 73:23, 105:4, 119:117), and he specifies several times that he does this morning and evening (Ps.1:2, 55:17, 88:1) and sometimes more (119:164). The New Testament insists that this continual prayer has not ceased but continues to be our practice (Lk. 18:5, Acts 2:42, 46, 6:4). Jesus, our High Priest, is the one who now serves continually (Heb. 7:3), and his single sacrifice is the continual sacrifice for all time (Heb. 10:12-14). Paul describes his own prayer life as one that is continual (Rom. 1:9, 1 Th. 1:3, 2:13), and he urges believers to do the same (1 Th. 5:17). And Paul explicitly defines this service of prayer without ceasing as prayers night and day (2 Tim. 1:3, cf. 1 Thess. 3:10, 1 Tim. 5:5). And the reason for all of this is that it reflects the continual service of God before his throne in heaven (Rev. 4:8, 7:15). Joining the continual prayers of heaven is nothing less than participating in the life of God now.
We want to encourage these continual sacrifices at Trinity in at least three ways. First, we want to encourage you to be in prayer in your homes around your tables. Family devotions are a rich heritage of the Reformed tradition, and they ought not to be neglected (Dt. 6:7, 20ff, Eph. 6:4). Second, we want to encourage parish life that includes both prayer and breaking bread from house to house (Acts 2:46). And third, we want to gather together as a congregation somewhat more regularly for prayer, service, and celebration (e.g. Morning Prayer, Open Houses, Feasts, Lenten services, Holy Week, etc.).
Remembering for the World
In an important sense, what we do here is for the world. We pray for the world, but we are also called to be the righteous in the city that causes God to spare it (e.g. Gen. 18:23-33). But our continual remembering in word and in deed is also missional and evangelistic. The pattern in Acts is that the Lord adds to their number as they are steadfast in prayers, breaking bread house to house, and in the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:47). In all of this we seek the blessing and peace of our city (Jer. 29:7)
Our goal is to continually offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), praising God (Heb. 13:15), doing good and sharing with our neighbors (Heb. 13:16). This is the life which God has bestowed upon us, and it is the Life which is for the world (Jn. 1).
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Almighty God we thank you that you have called us into your fellowship, into your life and light, and we ask that as you have bestowed this life upon us that we would be faithful to manifest this life in all that we do and say. We pray for this city that you have called us to. We pray for the university, for the farmers, the businesses, the families, the schools, the hospital, the police force, and all of those we come in contact with in our neighborhoods and business. We pray that your light would be evident in our lives, that your glory would be shared, that your life would bring healing, and that your kingdom would come and your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Through Jesus who has given us life and who taught us to pray, singing…