Jubilate, The Third Sunday After Easter April 25, 1999
2, 462, 44, 36
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Here ends our text.
In Christ Jesus, who came to bring joy to the hearts of sorrowing sinners, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
“Thank God it’s Friday!” Every seven days, millions of Americans breath those words with a sigh of relief, as their work week draws to a close. Friday finally gets there, when at last they can look forward to some rest and relaxation. They’ve got sixty hours in which to do as they please before they have to be back to work on Monday morning. TGIF. “Thank God it’s Friday!” they say—whether or not they believe in God. And they leave their work behind them with smiles on their faces.
—But you never hear anyone say, “Thank God it’s Sunday!” Not even the Christians, who do believe in God, and who have the most reason to thank Him when the day of worship arrives again. How did you feel when you woke up this morning and remembered it was Sunday? A little sluggish, perhaps? A little daunted by the task of getting the family together and getting to church on time? Did you come here out of habit, simply because attending church a timeworn part of your Sunday routine?—Well, that’s not too bad a reason, I guess; attending worship services is certainly a good habit to get into. But in our text for today, the Psalmist describes an enthusiasm toward going to church that might seem a little hard for us to live up to. He says, Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Does that sound like you? Not exactly? Then pay attention. Our Scripture for today gives us several good reasons to—
Have you ever been so happy that you actually shouted out loud for joy? Try and remember the last time. Maybe it was when your favorite football team won a last-second victory in an exciting game. Perhaps it was when you heard your child or grandchild speak its first words, or when you received an unexpected gift from a loved one. Chances are, though, that you and I didn’t feel any extraordinary happiness about coming to worship service here this morning. Should we have?—The psalmist says Yes—and more than just happiness: he tells us to make a joyful noise—literally, to “shout for joy.” We should be so happy we’re here that we break out in glad singing! This 100th Psalm was written especially for worshippers, and it tells us to thank God it’s Sunday. But it doesn’t just tell us to be joyful. It also shows us where to find the joy.
First of all, there’s joy in WHO we worship. Our text says, Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Have you ever thought about the millions upon millions of people in this world who are without faith in the true God? They live in constant darkness, whether they know it or not. Many of them give their lives in wasted devotion to false gods named Allah, Buddha or Vishnu. Even here in America—a so-called “Christian nation”—there is a large majority of people who don’t know Christ, or have chosen not to know Him. And yet, here you are, in God’s house, worshipping Jesus Christ. Among all these masses of people, you have been given faith to see that Jesus is the only Way of salvation. “Many are called,” Christ said, “but few are chosen.” The Gospel call goes out to everyone, but very few believe it and are saved. You and I are part of that small number whose eyes have been opened. Was it something we did, or was it just a lucky chance?
It was neither—God chose us! He didn’t choose us because who we are or what we’ve done. He chose us purely out of His own grace, through Jesus Christ. Paul says that, in His grace, God “…chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ.” —Eph 1:4.
The other day I met a person who is very special. A neighbor of ours stopped by to chat, and we got on the topic of blood types. Turns out this woman has type AB blood—the rarest blood type there is. AB is the universal recipient—they can receive blood transfusions from any other type. Only five people in a hundred have this rare and special characteristic in their blood.
I wonder if you realize how special you are? For you too have a rare and special characteristic. It’s one which you carry in your heart, not in your bloodstream, and it certainly places you into a much smaller minority than 5%! You are one of the chosen elect of the only true God! Remember Who it is you’re coming to worship on Sunday morning: not only the God who created you, but the God who chose you in particular, and purchased you to be His own beloved child. Yes, I said “purchased”; because in order to make you His own, the Lord had to pay a price. Too many people these days think of themselves as free agents—they say defiantly, “Nobody can tell me what to do with my own body! My life belongs to me and nobody else!” But we Christians know different. Don’t be foolish! Paul says. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price.” —1 Cor 6:19-20. That price was the suffering and death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. It was a steep price—much more than we were worth—but God paid it. Jesus’ name was written on a cross—so our names could be written in the book of life!
So here we are, gathered in this building to worship that true God. What a rare and happy privilege! He’s not only our Creator and Redeemer, but also our Comforter. “We are His people,” our text says, “and the sheep of His pasture.” We heard last Sunday how the Lord, like a faithful shepherd, supplies everything we need in life: from the food on our tables, to the roof over our heads, to the paycheck that enables us to pay our bills. Even more important, He leads into us rich spiritual pastures. He feeds us with His Word—especially at these worship services. He gives us this precious hour on Sunday morning, when we can come here and know that the saving Gospel will be preached in all its truth and purity. If we want the joy and eagerness to return to our worship, it certainly helps to remember WHO we are worshipping. Then we can truly thank God it’s Sunday!
There’s also joy in HOW we worship. After all, what does the Lord ask of us when we come here on Sunday mornings? Does He place heavy burdens on us, or makes difficult demands? Does He insist that we make huge sacrifices or bring costly offerings in our hands when we come to worship? No—what God asks for is simple. Our text says, Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
What could be easier than that? God asks us for a simple courtesy. It’s one which every child learns almost as soon as he can talk—the courtesy of saying “thank you.” He just wants us to keep in mind the numberless blessings He’s showered on each of us, and return to give Him thanks. There are 168 hours in your week, each one of which is filled with blessings from the Lord. He only asks you for one. One hour when you can join your voice with other Christians in praising His name, and saying thank you. All God asks is that you give Him the glory. In addition, He makes a promise that, each time you come here for worship, you will certainly get a whole lot more than you could ever give! If there ever comes a time when you’re tempted to skip church—because of the guilt of your sin, the confusion in your life, or the need of rest—well, then those are the times you most need the comfort that’s waiting for you here in God’s house. Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. —Mt 11:28-30. Thank God for Sundays! It’s the only day when all we have to give is praise and thanks to God, and when what we get in return is so very precious!
Do you feel a little more like shouting now? Like laughing out loud in delight? Maybe you’re not quite there yet. Then consider the joy in WHY we worship. What is it, after all, that keeps us coming back here week after week? Why do we return to church every Sunday as our parents and grandparents did before us, and—God willing—as our children and grandchildren will after us? Why? So our service to God might reflect His service to us. Because a steadfast and continuing service to our Lord is the only fitting response to His steadfast and continuing love toward us. “For the Lord is good,” says the psalmist, “his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
A hundred years ago, the idea that a man could fly was considered absurd. Thirty years ago, nobody ever heard of a “personal computer.” Just ten years ago, if you had predicted the complete break-up of the Soviet Union, they’d have thought you were crazy; yet that’s exactly what happened. Does the speed at which our world is changing make your head spin as much as it does mine? How nice it is to know that there’s one thing that has never changed, and never will: God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. It’s been around since before creation, and it will endure until the last second of the last day of this world’s existence.
I think—if we’re honest—we have to admit that our love toward God does change. It goes through warm periods and cool periods. But His love toward us is constant. They say that you should never go back to the same well too often, but God’s love for us is a bottomless well of love and mercy which we can return to again and again and again. The Bible says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” —Lam 3:22-23. Every day we fall, and every day the Lord lifts us back up again. We keep coming back to our Savior, each time trembling because of our many sins. And instead of the fiery condemnation we expected, we hear each time the gentle voice of our Good Shepherd, saying, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee!”
Many of us have parents and grandparents who knew this constant love of God, and that’s why they kept going back, week after week, to those old, tumbledown country churches. Not because they had to, but because it was the greatest source of comfort and happiness in their lives. For centuries, that’s the way that faithful Christians have responded to God’s faithful love. It’s the same reason you and I are here today. And, in our text, God promises that His faithfulness
will continue through all the generations that are still to come. Finally, there will come a Day when all believers in Christ will meet to worship Him, not in a house made with hands like this one, but in the mansions of heaven. Isaiah says, “Then the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads; They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” —Isa 51:11.
Two workmen were standing outside a big city church one Sunday morning. A woman who was just heading up the steps happen to overhear one of them say to the other, “Just look at them! I’ve seen over two hundred people go into that church—and not one smile in the bunch!” Are we like that? Can we be like that, when we’re on our way to worship the God who has redeemed us? No! Let’s take the advice of Nehemiah and see Sunday for what it is: the happiest day of the week. “Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’” —Neh 8:10. In other words—thank God it’s Sunday! AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.