As the political races heat up, we’re going to hear a lot. Some will be true, some false. All will be costly, for TV, billboards and direct (full-color) mail, cost a bundle. Why would politicians spend all that money on claims that may not be factual? I get a date wrong in the bulletin and someone quickly corrects me!
Politicians believe appearance is reality. If someone looks bad, they must be bad. You may have heard it put his way, “Perception is reality.”
If only that were true. If only we could tell each other that we’re good, we’re whole, we’ve earned our way into God’s grace and favor and have a lock on heaven tighter than the lock the Yankees have on their divisional title. But that’s not what the Bible says, is it? Today’s text tells us of
Hollow Men Made Whole
1.Man’s appearance may be fake.
2.God’s worship makes us real.
While the Northern Kingdom, Israel, had been going to damnation in a hand basket led by their calf-worshipping king, Jeroboam, things had not been going well in the Southern Kingdom, Judah, either. Instead of hearing God’s Word and worshipping the Lord in the Temple, “the people set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites (23-24).”
They refused to worship in the Temple. They did their own thing. Set up their own “churches” in parks to worship the filthy nature gods of the Canaanites, the very people the Lord had driven out for their filthy religion.
The Lord soon acted. “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom (25-28).”
What’s going on here? Appearance seems to indicate that everything is good. The people are busy with their religious life. Oh, they aren’t worshiping the Lord in truth and purity in the way the Lord said he should be worshiped, but at least their worshiping God–that’s what really matters. Well, to be honest, they aren’t even worshiping God, they are worshiping false gods that will lead them into heartache and heartbreak here on earth and eternal damnation in the world to come, but at least their worshiping, and that’s the important thing, isn’t it?
Yes, there was that minor set-back of the King of Egypt cleaning out the land of all its treasures, but things are back to normal now, aren’t they? See how richly King Rehoboam worships the Lord, attended by 200 shield bearers carrying those bronze ceremonial shields whenever he goes into the Temple. Everybody can be assured things are going great. But never mind that those bronze shields were the replacements for Solomon’s gold shields which he left simply hanging on the walls of his palace. The King of Egypt took those away and even now, the peace is so uncertain that Rehoboam is afraid some other king will attack, defeat and plunder him so he has even those cheap bronze shields safely stored away in the guardhouse. He only uses them for public show when he goes to church.
How are things with most Americans? From appearances, I’d say things are OK with them these days, they got a new job, got a new office, got a new wife, got a new life and the family’s fine! I’ve lost touch, long ago. They’ve lost weight, I did not know. Who’da thought that you’d look so nice after all this time!
Then why all the pessimism about the economy? Why the fear of terrorism’s shadow? Why all the pills? And the increasing levels of personal debt to fund consumption? And at least the kids are going to church, well, not our church, but a church that says you shouldn’t baptize babies because they can’t make a decision for Christ, or a church that says Jesus doesn’t give us his true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. But they’ve got a good band and you know, they have so many new pastors and there’s so many people there that you can do whatever you want and nobody will even know how you are living and nobody will even miss you when you are gone, because nobody knows your name.
I see a lot of hollow people in Green Valley trying to fill themselves with appearances. I suppose that’s good only if you are a social worker, a shrink or a repo man. You will have a lot of customers. Are we going to be one of those customers? Hollow men made whole. Man’s appearance may be fake, but God’s worship makes us whole.
What had God desired from the people of Judah? He desired a worship of him that was a worship of truth and purity. He wanted them to have the best preachers, the best teachers, the best of everything, so he asked that there be a centralized worship in the Temple. That’s where they would gather for the worship of God according to the way God had prescribed worship to be. And, as God had wanted worship to be true, he wanted worship to be sincere, people coming not for the show or to show off, but people to come and humbly worship in a service geared around Law and Gospel, repentance and forgiveness for the sake of the Savior.
Does our worship here work that way? You bet it does. Is it important? You bet it is. I got a flyer in the mail this week trumpeting, “Remember that going to a good church is the key in your development as a Christian.”
Christians develop at Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church’s worship first of all at baptism. The Holy Spirit works through the water and the Word to create faith in the infants, strengthen faith in those older who have never experienced baptism’s blessings. Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church’s worship develops Christians through the sobering news that we are all hollow on the inside. Sin empties our lives of joy and purpose by turning us against God and against each other. It is so terrible a plague that only God can remove it and he has, through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. He freely gives us forgiveness of our sins through a hearing of that Gospel, and through a participation in the reception of Jesus’ true body and blood with the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper. What surer proof could we have that we are children of God, saved from sin and destined for heaven? Because we have God’s sure Word on that, we don’t need testimonials from tottering spokesmen, adrenaline rushes or dubious signs. Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church’s worship develops Christians by calling sin sin and virtue virtue. We can be so presumptuous to do so because we cling to that pure Word of God. We believe it came from God. We believe it is the very Word of God. Inspired. True. Always relevant. Always sufficient.
That’s why it is important to develop that habit of coming to worship. The veteran Christian knows that when they are going astray, hearing God’s Law is the last thing they want to hear. And it is hard to understand how the very things we are going through are what the preacher is preaching about that week. Nobody is going to get all excited about “going to get a beating.” But the veteran Christians knows that when they are going astray, keeping away from worship is not the way to go. They habitually go to church so that, even when they don’t want to, they hear the spiritual medicine that they need. If you can prove to me every child willingly takes his or her medicine when they are sick, then I will say it is not important to develop a habit of weekly worship as a safeguard for the hard times in our lives.
The sinner in Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church’s worship will hear the pure Gospel, not only as a sweet relief from the sins that beset us, but also as the power from God to resist that sin and overcome it in the future. What good is a religion that only preaches “I told you so”? What good is a church that only tells you, “You can do it”? We rely on the Gospel from beginning to end, to start faith, to sustain faith, to strengthen faith, that we may receive the crown of glory from the
Lord’s hand the day we enter into heaven.
Hollow Men Made Whole
1.Man’s appearance may be fake.
2.God’s worship makes us real.
Perception is reality? I hope we all realize that’s not the case. We’ll be the worst of voters and at the same time, the worst of Christians.