Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Invocation - Ash Wednesday - February 10, 2016 - Text: Matthew 28:16-20
This year during the season of Lent and all the way through Easter morning we will look at the various parts of our Divine Worship Service and my prayer is that we see how the various parts reflect God’s working in our lives; God’s giving His gifts to us, our being given to and our response of faith. The parts of the service will not necessarily be presented in the order of our service but will be presented in an order which will prayerfully give consideration to the day of Lent on which it is presented, as per example, the Lord’s Supper will be presented on Maundy Thursday, the evening in which our Lord gave us His Holy Supper.
This evening we begin, appropriately with the invocation. First and foremost the invocation is an invoking or inviting of our Lord to be a part of our service. And the invocation, God’s name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit should be a reminder of the means of grace of Holy Baptism and our own Baptism and initiation into the Holy Christian Church when God’ Name was put on us with the water, making us His children. Indeed at our Baptism we were given faith and forgiveness of sins, the Lord put His name on us marking us as His own dear child and our names were written in the Book of Life.
Way back in the beginning, yes, in Genesis, God begins to reveal Himself to us as a God who is three persons in one Godhead, or at least that is the way in which we describe what He reveals to us. In Genesis, at creation we are told that God created the world. The word God is in the plural, yet is translated in the singular, thus we know that our God is a plural God in a singular Godhead. In the New Testament Jesus tells us that He and the Father are one thus solidifying our understanding that we are not polytheistic, that is that we worship many gods, nor are we pantheistic that is that we worship a god who is in everything, but we are monotheistic in that we worship one God who reveals Himself to us in a plurality.
Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus met with His disciples. The account went like this: “16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20). One of the first things I find interesting in this text is the fact that we are told that some of Jesus’ own disciples who had been with Him for three years, listening to Him preach, watching Him do miracles, and having witnessed His death and resurrection, we are told that they doubted. Makes me feel pretty good about the times that I have some doubt.
Unfortunately this passage of Scripture has been mislabeled “The Great Commission.” As we look at this text I believe we should re-label it, “The Great Giving of Authority and Promise.” Notice that Jesus begins by saying that He has been given all authority, which was His and which He had given up when He took on human flesh and blood being born as a man, but what is implied is that He is giving this authority to us so that when anyone asks us, “by what authority do you say these things?” telling people of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we might well say, by Jesus’ authority. And what is more, we have added at the end of this text Jesus’ promise that He will be with us. Thus we have His authority to speak and His promise to be with us when we do speak.
We have Jesus authority and promise to be with us as we are going about our lives, not an imperative, but an indicative, that is that as we are living in our vocations, as we have opportunity we are to give an answer, a defense of our faith in Jesus. Interestingly enough, Jesus tells us to make disciples by first baptizing and then teaching. And notice that we are to make disciples of all nations. Today we hear interesting language about how we are to make disciples of a certain target audience, but Jesus says our target audience is all nations. In other words, His Word and His Sacraments will work to give faith to all people. And notice as well, when a child is born they are born as a citizen of the nation in which they are born, thus another clue that we should be baptizing infants.
So, we are to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. We are to make disciples using the means our Lord has given us to use, those means through which He promises to work to give the gifts He has to give; faith, forgiveness and life. God’s promise is not that we are to make disciples by surveying the social group we intend to target, as a matter of fact He never gives us a target social group, except all nations. He does promise that His Word will not return void. He does promise that He is with us. He does promise that He will give His gifts when and where He pleases through the very means He has given to give His gifts. Thus, when we fail to baptize and teach, we fail to use the means through which God gives the gifts He has to give.
We might also make note, especially as we begin our service with this invocation that it is God who gives first. We come with nothing of our own, except our sins, which we will get to next week. We come with nothing because all that we are and have must first come from God. We love because He first loved us. We give only as He first gives to us. Naked we came into this world and naked we leave, all that we have is only ours as a gift from and on loan to us from God who owns all and gives all. God gives and we respond.
So, we begin our service as our life in Christ was begun, by having God’s name put on us, by invoking God to bless us and our service. We invite Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We invite Him as our dear Father, the Creator of all things, the Preserver of all things, indeed our own Father as our life is a gift from Him, as He gives life at conception. We invite Him as our spiritual Father as He gives new life, even eternal life through the waters of Holy Baptism.
God gives first and He gives His all and His best. God does not do fractions. He does not gives us some of His gifts now and more later. He does not put any restriction or qualifications on the gifts He gives, in other words He does not tell us if we are obedient or do our part, or do anything that He will do His next part or give any more of His gifts. He gives and we are given to. Certainly our only response would be to refuse and reject His gifts, which is what we would do left to ourselves. God gives and we are given to and we now invite Him to give to us and to fill us with more of His gifts
We begin our service by invoking, by inviting God to hear our requests and response of faith, thus we see an ebb and flow to our worship, our being given to by God and our response of faith through our prayers, offerings, and hymns of praise.
And notice, through the very words of our invocation, we make it very clear to whom we have come to worship, to whom we rejoice in, that One who is the One who is giving us the gifts and blessings He has to give. We do not come to worship just any god. We do not come to do for our God as if He needs anything from us. Rather we come and invoke and invite our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be a part of our service just as He is a part of our very lives and has been a part of our lives since putting His name on us, putting faith in our hearts, giving us forgiveness of sins and writing our names in the book of life at our own baptism.
We begin with the invocation which is a microcosm of our lives and our worship. We begin in the name of our God: Father, Creator, Preserver; Son, Redeemer and Savior; and Holy Spirit, Sanctifier and giver of faith, the One who does all and gives all. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.