Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin
Listen to Today’s Sermon:
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? – I Thessalonians 3:8
Jackie Robinson was in real distress. He had recently become the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, and things were not going well. He faced hostility from the opposing team. He faced hostility from the fans. He even faced resentment and suspicion from his own teammates. Then came the day when things got worse. While playing 2nd base, Jackie committed an error. Immediately the stadium erupted with taunting and derision.
Then, something wonderful happened. The legendary shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, trotted over and put his arm around Jackie’s shoulder. The taunting stopped. It stopped because, with that simple gesture, Reese was signaling a message to the entire stadium. The message was, “Jackie Robinson is my teammate, and Jackie Robinson is my friend.” Robinson, of course, went on to be a Hall of Famer. But he never forgot what Pee Wee’s act of friendship had done. That arm around his shoulder, Robinson later said, had saved his career.
The Advent season is a superb time to stop for a moment and consider how the Lord has blessed you through friendship. Think about the friend who gave you an encouraging word just when you needed it, and the friend who gave you an example of courage for you to follow. Think about the friend whose need gave you what you really needed – an opportunity to serve. Think about the friend who was patient with you when you were not being very loveable, and the friend who makes you laugh. Think about the friend who is quietly praying for you, and the friend whose very life reminds you that you are not the only one who carries burdens in this broken world. Think about the friend who has demonstrated what it means to forgive, and the friend who so often helps you remember all the things you have to be thankful for.
But even if you’re in a moment in your life when you feel isolated, as if an entire stadium of people has turned its back, never forget the Best Friend you have. Never forget the One who died and rose to claim you as his own. Jesus stands beside you with his arm around your shoulder. And by your side he is going to stay.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are my dearest Friend. Thank you for blessing me in so many ways. And thank you for standing by my side. Amen.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. – Hebrews 10:11-12
Day after day the Old Testament priests offered sacrifices because God had directed them to do so. But the writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us that these sacrifices did not take away sins. This raises a question: Then why offer the sacrifices at all?
This wasn’t just ritual for the sake of ritual, sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, or blood for the sake of blood. It all had meaning. The shedding and sprinkling of blood reminded the people that they were sinners. It reminded them that they had no business coming before God – in fact they could not come before God with sin and its guilt still on their hands and in their hearts. It reminded them that their sin separated them from God. It reminded them that their sin had to be atoned for. It reminded them that they needed someone to mediate for them. It all pointed ahead to the Savior who was to come. It all pointed ahead to Jesus.
The sacrifice Jesus made was similar yet very different from the sacrifices offered by the Old Testament priests. Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t have to be done over and over again, day after day and year after year. It was done once. And that sacrifice did not consist of the blood of bulls or goats. It was the sacrifice of Jesus himself, the holy precious blood of God’s own Son. One sacrifice – for all sins, for all time.
So today we are taken not to the Old Testament Tabernacle or Temple Court, but to a hill outside Jerusalem. There we see Jesus, the sinless Son of God, hanging on a cross. Some mock him and challenge him to come down. He could, but he doesn’t. He stays. He stays on the cross and endures the punishment, the hell we sinners deserve. He stays and sheds his innocent blood for our sins and for the sins of the world. Then he proclaims, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). And it is! It will not, it cannot, it need not be repeated ever again.
Jesus suffered, Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus ascended, and Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. All of this assures you: your sins have been forgiven.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for putting your Word in my heart and on my mind. By this Word assure me that you remember my sins no more; they have been forgiven – in Christ, the perfect Sacrifice for all sins for all time! Amen.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3
We live in a culture of fear. Every day we are reminded of the many dangers this world has to offer. We hear about them on the television, on the internet and in our e-mail. There is the fear of cancer, the fear of the flu, the fear of meningitis. There is fear for health insurance not being there when we need it. There is the fear of destructive storms, the fear of being injured in a car accident or an accident in the workplace. There is the fear that our children will be abducted or molested, the fear that they will be hurt riding their bikes or drown while swimming in the pool. There is the fear of financial disasters: not having enough money to pay the mortgage or not having enough money to retire comfortably.
In the midst of all this fear, we turn to Psalm 46 and discover solace. While the storm of fear rages around us, we rest quietly in these words, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The God who created this world, the God who sustains this world, the God who saved this world from its sin by the death and resurrection of his Son – THAT God is quite capable of protecting and providing for his children.
Therefore, we will not fear, though storms swirl around us, though we contract a terrible disease, though we are injured in an accident, though our finances fall apart – we will not fear. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.