Sermon Text: Psalm 95:1-9.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us pray… Lord God, bless your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as you have promised, your Word may achieve the purpose for which you sent it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas is one of my favorite pastors to listen to on the Internet. Over the last number of months, he has addressed numerous questions and topics while driving in his car, often from church to home.
Sometimes life can be as light as feather; like that feather in the movie Forest Gump, floating here and there, almost without care. At other times though, life is more like a rock; one that sits on us, weighing us down with fear and anxiety; causing us to horde toilet paper, harden our hearts and even rebel in anger.
Where are you at today? Are you floating peacefully because Christ has set you free through his death on the cross or is that faith, once planted in you by the Holy Spirit; now drowning in your trespasses and sin?
It’s so very good we have this opportunity every week to confess our sin and hear God’s promise of forgiveness; to be released from all that weighs us down. You may not be aware of this, but you also have opportunity to come to me, your pastor, for private confession when the burden of sin weighs heavy like a rock sitting on your soul. In the Small Catechism we were all taught about confession in these words:
Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.
Unconfessed sin can become a cumbersome weight upon our lives, dragging us downward to hell, but what joy and relief there is for those who know the promises of God’s Word that…
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
I don’t often preach on the Psalms, but today I thought it good to do exactly that. The Psalms are the prayers of the faithful who themselves went through all kinds of circumstances, including those times where they were weighed down with the burden of sin and the stresses of life around them. The Psalm we read today, Psalm 95 is a prayer or song of the forgiven and it begins with…
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Now the rock mentioned in this first verse is not the one that often presses heavily upon us. Instead, it is the Rock from which living water flows and upon which our faith is built.
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is this Rock. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes:
For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ (10:4).
Here Paul is making reference to that first reading from Exodus (17:1-7) where in the name of God, Moses strikes the rock and out of it flows the promised living waters; those waters Christ spoke of to that Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel (John 4:10).
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul again draws on the image of Christ as the rock, but this time it is as the cornerstone of the Church. He writes:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
Jesus Christ is the rock of our salvation and there is nothing in all creation, not sin, the Coronavirus, death or the power of the devil, that will separate us from His love.
With this promise and filled with the Holy Spirit we can as the Psalmist wrote, come into his presence with thanksgiving…to make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Every Sunday God invites and moves us to be here in response to the good news that we are forgiven because of what Christ has done for us.
In fact, our response of thanksgiving includes all that God has done for us because of who He is. Psalm 95 reads:
3 For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
The God we worship is given three titles here. He is first, our King above all kings. Second, He is our Creator, the Creator of everything. And finally, He is our Shepherd – the Good Shepherd, our Pastor.
The first two titles speak of what God is for all creation – all people. He is the King of all. He is the Creator of all. However, this last title, that of being the “Shepherd” is limited to His people, His flock; those whom he has called and gathered, who trust in His promises and who stand on the Rock of their salvation – Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
This Good Shepherd invites and calls us by name to sing to the Lord…to make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!….(to) come into his presence with thanksgiving….(to) make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!…(to) worship and bow down;…(and to) kneel before the Lord, our Maker! (95:1,2,6).
Later in John’s Gospel Jesus would say:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10).
People who do not recognize by faith this one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will have no reason to come and worship Him for they will not hear His voice and the Psalmist tells us why this is the case through a warning. He writes:
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
In the first reading from Exodus (17:1-7) we read one of many accounts where Israel complained about their situation and quarreled with their God ordained leader Moses. It was at Massah and Meribah, names which mean “testing” and “quarreling,” that the Israelites argued against, not Moses, but God’s leadership, even questioning whether God really cared about them (Exodus 17:7). As a result of this incident and many others that would follow, God swore that these people would not enter the Promised Land and that every one of them over the age of twenty, except for Caleb and Joshua, would die in that wilderness.
Now do you think that God’s warning is any less serious for those today who would ignore his invitation; for those who would be here in body only and not in spirit; for any whose hearts are hard and whose ears are deaf to the Word? Where are you right now? Are your lips praising God, but your heart is far from Him? God’s invitation of Good News is always embedded with a warning just as we hear in Jesus’ own words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
There is no peace for those who stand apart from God and from His invitation in Christ and yet, it is to such as these and to all who know their sin that St. Paul wrote of God’s great mercy in Christ in his letter to the Romans (5):
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
To all who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life; weighed down by this virus, God has provided a place of rest; a place of peace situated on the Rock of Jesus Christ. It is that Rock upon which we stand right now and it is with this warning and with hope that we hear God’s Word from Hebrews (5:6-11) which also makes reference to Psalm 95:
And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Worship is such a privilege and an incredible honor for the Christian. In worship, the Holy Spirit not only calls and gathers us, but God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit come to serve us with His Word of salvation and with His Body and Blood Christ fills our mouths and our entire being with the medicine of eternal life. This is the worship that Jesus speaks of in John’s Gospel (John 4:24), a worship whereby we are filled with the Spirit and in the truth of Christ we respond to both who God is and what He has done for us with joy, thanksgiving, singing and with reverence.
God is a great King and Jesus is our Rock, the Rock of our salvation and He invites us not to pass up the opportunity every week to gather to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Yes, there are many other rocks in your life; rocks that will pile upon you, burden you and some may even tempt you to throw them at others. However, there is no hope or peace in them and there is no hope or peace in staying away from your King, your Creator and the Good Shepherd who loved you so much that He took upon Himself all that burdens you so that you may know the peace of His eternal rest and the hope of His salvation.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! – Psalm 95:1
Grace be with you,