August 14, 2016 Sermon Titled: A Simple Act Thst Has Great Meaning

First Mennonite Church
August 14, 2016

A Simple Act That Has Great Meaning
Text: Psalm 84:1-12

There are some visible actions that we engage in and although they are very simple they have meaning which goes beyond the ordinary acts itself. Take for instance Communion. We eat an ordinary morsel of bread and drink what otherwise is ordinary grape juice. Yet, the reason we eat and drink these alimentary substances have a purpose beyond the reason we ordinarily eat and drink, which is to satisfy our physical need for nourishment. When we as a congregation participate of the Communion elements, we do not do so like when we have a potluck lunch, although we eat and drink. Partaking of the Communion bread and grape juice points us to a world-changing event of God’s working. Eating and drinking the Communion elements point to the act of God opening his arms, welcoming all peoples onto himself, as Christ stretched out his arms nailed to the cross on Calvary. Therefore, behind the act of eating a morsel of bread and drinking a miniature cup of grape juice we declare to each other and witness to the world that we receive the grace God offers us through the death his only begotten Son. We participate in the life of Jesus offered on our behalf.
Another visible act we can talk about is baptism. But today, let me address one that relates to our passage: the visible act of gathering in this place we often call “church.”
Yes, one of those visible acts we do is to come to a place we sometimes call “the house of God.” Going to church is not, say, going to the doctor, or shopping, or to the theater. Yet, when we go or come to church we plan for it. We prepare ourselves by more than just choosing the clothes we want to wear on that day. We prepare our heart. We anticipate meeting with others. For those of us who participate in leading some part of the service, we gather, review or rehearse our part. But most of all, we anticipate to meet with God somehow. We come expecting God to hear our voices and our heart’s cry. We come expecting to hear word of comfort, or of guidance, of exhortation and affirmation from God. We come knowing that beside the friendly smiles we exchange and beyond the casual conversations we engage in, our desire is to participate in the grace of God promises to those who gather in his name. We come affirming an ongoing relationship with each one in the fellowship, but also with God. Some of us walk, while others drive to this place, and although we come to a familiar place deep down in our heart we know there is something special about this place.
Every research on church attendance among evangelicals shows a sharp decrease in attendance. Some get tired of going to church. Some others lose purpose of doing so.
Psalm 84 is the perfect antidote to the insidious apathy that creeps in the heart after having been going to church for many years. It is funny, although with very serious consequences, how this apathy for church attendance affects many people. So often heaven is thought of as an ongoing eternal worship service. To those who see church attendance or worship service as a tedious and boring hour, the idea of spending eternity in something they detest is not an inviting one.
Psalm 84 is thought to have been a song the pilgrims of ancient Israel sang as they journeyed to Zion or the song they sang as they approached the temple in Jerusalem. For the psalmist or for the pilgrims, the anticipation of arriving and joining in the celebration held in the temple courts overflows in this Psalm. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! The psalmist marvels at the beauty of the place where Yahweh was believed to dwell. The worshipers journeyed for days to go to Jerusalem and while there, their celebration went on for days too. For the pilgrims, the temple was holy ground; it was a sacred space because Yahweh dwelt in it.
How often our understanding of God’s omnipresence has led to a diminishment of our sense of awe and reverence when we come to church. It is absolutely true that the presence of the Lord fills the earth and therefore God is everywhere. Yet, when we lose perspective and to some degree the reverence we should have when we come to this place, then every other aspect of our gathering here is likely to be diminished as well. God is not a parochial God. God is not bound to a given place. He dwells and fills the earth, but it is here where he promises to meet with us as his people. It is here where he affirms or corrects our ways. It is here where he pronounces his blessing and forgiveness in the words of affirmation we address each other. It is here where the Lord whispers his grace to our longing and hungering heart. It is here we can exclaim with the Psalmist, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise! Happy are those whose strength is in you.
After two weeks of being away from church, being here today feels like being at home, finally. Reciting the words of this psalm is indeed necessary and very opportune for me. It is a beautiful thing to be with you today. It is a marvelous opportunity to be in the presence of the Lord along with each of you.
As the psalmist may have walked around admiring the temple courts, its structure, and ornamental features, he may have also noticed sparrows’ nests with chicks calling for food.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Not only were the priests considered happy for the privilege of serving in the temple, but also the little birds that built their nests to raise their young.
The psalmist’s intense desire to be in the house of God is reflected poetically in verse 10: Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
The comparison used here by the psalmist reminds me of what happens on Black Friday at some stores. If you were to see the lines that form by the door of Best Buy or Walmart on Thanksgiving night, you’ll understand the craving there is for material things. Store call these sale-opportunities “door busters.” A door buster is someone who camps out by the door waiting to enter the moment the door is opened. Although some believe that the doorkeeper Psalm 84 refers to those who are the greeters by the temple door or similar to those mentioned in 2Kings 12, verse 19, David uses it with a different idea in mind. In 2Kings we read that King Jehoiada set priests by the entrance of the temple to guard the chest made for donations to repair the temple. However, Psalm 84 speaks about the psalmist intense desire to worship that he comes early even before the door of the temple had been open and waited there.
On a couple of occasions I have come and found Karen and Harold patiently waiting in their car for me to open the church doors. That is the kind of doorkeepers the psalmist was talking about. Those who come early and have to wait to enter the temple. Contrary to that eagerness to be at the house of God is to come late. I have done that too. Although it is better to be late than not to show up at all, but Psalm 84 is a good reminder about the eagerness we should have to be before the Lord’s presence.
Psalm 84 reminds us that through the simple act coming to this place, we profess that our lives are not our own. By coming to this place, we give witness that we are not masters of our time; God is. By making this trek to 2343 Park Street, we continue to witness to the world that God is sovereign and we humbly yield at his feet. We continue to tell others that our destination to God’s eternal dwelling place begins and is symbolize by us coming to this place every Sunday, Wednesday or any day we gather before our holy God.
For Christians, going to a place of worship is a simple act, but there is meaning beyond the act. We go to be in the company of other believers and before the presence of the God who has called us to himself. We go because we have found that it is lovely where God dwells among his people.
Let us, therefore, be door keepers of the house of the Lord. Let us grow in our desire to come to be together. Let us join the psalmist and proclaim: How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Pastor Romero