It Isn't About Entertainment Or Spiritual Jumping Jacks, But About Hearing The Lord's Word

Texts:  Exodus 20:1-17 and Hebrew 4:1-16

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last week we began the Season of Lent.  As it was mentioned, the Season of Lent is an extended period of time, during the calendar year of the church, where we pause and reflect.  It is a time for us to take a step back from the busyness of life and consider our place before almighty God.  This happens as we move towards Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. 

In order to consider our place before the Lord, it was also mentioned last week that we are examining over the next month and a half, the perfect, divine, and holy will of God for us as expressed in the Ten Commandments.  Yes, through the Law of the Lord we are not only instructed on what is good and true, but we are also convicted of our sin and driven to despair.  Otherwise stated, as we contemplate our sinfulness this Lent Season through studying God’s Law, we do so knowing that we are traveling towards the cross of Good Friday where our sin finds its home not on us, but on Christ.

Tonight we are focusing specifically on God’s design for life as expressed in the Third Commandment.  The Third Commandment states,

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping in holy.” 

In other words,

“You are to hallow the day of rest.”
Now, too often this Third commandment is misunderstood by those outside and even inside the church.  Truly, we fool ourselves when we think the Third Commandment is speaking only about a certain day of the week when we have church, or that it is speaking only about not doing any physical work at all on the Lord ’s Day, or that it is speaking only about the day of the week which the old Blue Laws didn’t allow businesses to be open on Sundays.  Otherwise stated, each of us knows that we need physical rest at least one day a week; our bodies need to be refreshed.  But rest is not the main point of the Third Commandment.  Each of us understands that Sundays are typically ‘church days’, but that is not the main point of the Third Commandment.  So, what is the main point of the Third Commandment?  The main focus is really on God’s Word, His Word for you and for me.

Every day is intended for hearing God’s Word; it isn’t limited to just Sundays.  And every day is holy because God’s Word makes every day holy.  But we also set aside certain days, mainly Sundays for the purpose of hearing God’s Word.  We do this so that everyone may have the time and opportunity to attend public worship.  And that’s the main point of the Third Commandment.  It teaches us that worship is ultimately about hearing and learning God’s Word, receiving His gifts of life and salvation.

We need to really hear this in our day and age, especially when churches have become so completely radicalized in our country.  These days some of what passes for “worship” is little more than low-budget entertainment.  Some so called “worship services” in our time only seek to alter moods or get people fired up for some reason or another.  This unfortunately puts the focus on our reactions, our emotions, and our thoughts.

And this mind set is not only “out there in radicalized churches,” but it is also right here, in our hearts and our heads.  We too have something of these thoughts and desires of entertainment within us.  We want to be wowed.  We want to be impressed.  We want to feel a particular feeling. Our time is valuable, so we want each minute to count and to impress us.

Think about this for a moment…in our spare time we try to find some way to entertain ourselves and alter our mood, to forget about everything else for a little while.  When we are off of work and rest, we want the television to hold our entertainment, make us laugh, and give us that escape from the mundane of life.  We avoid boredom like the plague.  We especially want this of our weekends! 

So when it comes to Sunday morning, those ideas of entertainment are still bouncing around in our head and sometimes we begin to desire the same kind of thing in the Sunday Morning Divine Service.  When we consciously and subconsciously do this, we put the focus on what we feel and desire instead of on what God has to give us in His Word.  If a song doesn’t move us, if a sermon does not give us a tingly, and if we are not kept engaged, we cry foul.  “This is not entertaining!”  We then determine that we would’ve been better off staying home to watch the Kardashions, or Face The Nation, or the NFL Pre-Game Show, or Sunday morning reruns of The Wheel of Fortune on the Gameshow Network
My friends, when it comes to the Third Commandment, it is most certainly about us stopping our work and the elimination of our entertainment agendas, so that we can simply listen to God’s Word.  You see, our Sunday Morning Divine Service and Wednesday Night Services are all about hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament, these are the times for us to stop thinking about our quest for distraction and entertainment as being most important and instead focus on the work God is doing to and for us in His Word.

What this all means is that we keep the Sabbath day holy by stopping our efforts and by receiving God’s efforts as He works for us.  The Sabbath, the worship service is not about what you can do for Jesus, it’s about God’s Word and what it tells you your Savior has done and is doing for you.  The Divine Service on Sundays is not mainly about us speaking to God in worship in order to summon His presence and offer Him praise so that we can impress Him and obtain kudo points.  This view sees God as the audience of our worship.  This way sees us as the ones coming before God and doing all sorts of spiritual jumping jacks and spiritual work in order to get the Lord to notice us and then hopefully respond to us with kudos.  Christian worship is the exact opposite my friends.  God is the speaker.  We are the audience.  He calls us before Him so that He might give His Gifts to us.  

This is why God wants you to hold preaching and His Word sacred.  This is why you are to gladly hear and learn it.  There is nothing sweeter than gathering around God’s Word and being fed with the forgiveness of our sins as we listen with our ears.

God forgive us for attempting to make the Sunday Morning Divine Service into something that it is not.  God forgive us for our laziness, those times where we convince ourselves that we really don’t need to hear the Word of God.  God forgive us for those times where we sleep in or simply attend to something else that we believe has a bigger importance than hearing from the Lord.  God forgive us for our failure to simply hear, that is to say, listen to the Word and receive the gifts from the Altar. 

Baptized Saints, hear the Word of God for you and for me now.  You are forgiven; Christ Jesus was crucified—for you.  Yes, you who have ears, hear.  St. Paul says in Romans that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That means, faith doesn’t come by what we do or how much we do.  Faith doesn’t come by how you feel or whether you are entertained.  Saving faith doesn’t come by sermons on religious living or how to lose weight with Jesus, or how to have a stress free life.  Faith comes in only one way: by hearing the Word of God and the clear message of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of the world.  Thus, hear again, God’s Word, His promise to and for you.  You are forgiven for Christ’s sake! Be of good cheer, the good news of Mt. Calvary is for you.

This very listening to God’s Word—hearing about the forgiveness of your sins—is the greatest privilege and work we can do as Christians.  When you listen, learn, take to heart and inwardly digest and retain the message of Jesus you hear in this place, God is more pleased than if you were to build the greatest church ever built.  Listening and taking His word to heart is the greatest involvement any Christian could have in the worship service.

God’s design for life is a life with His Word. It’s a life of listening to Him and what He does for us in His Son.  It is a life that is captive to the Word of God.  It is a life receiving constantly from the    Word of God.  It is a life that is fed, shaped, and formed from the Word. 

God’s Word will never return to Him empty, it will accomplish what He desires.  And what He desires is your forgiveness, life, and salvation.

This is what the Third Commandment is all about.  It is about guarding and protecting the Word of God, the Word that is given to you and to me.

Baptized Saints, listen: You are forgiven for Christ’s sake. 

Baptized Saints, pause: You are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

Baptized Saints, rest:  you are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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