Serve the LORD with Gladness

Sermon Preached by Rev. Thomas W. Larson
Season of Pentecost – October 4, 2009
St. John's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, Illinois

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Today's text: Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Today is Lutheran Women's Missionary League Sunday. Anyone involved with the Lutheran Women's Missionary League certainly knows the words "Serve the LORD with gladness." So it's appropriate today, on Lutheran Women's Missionary League Day to have a worship service centered on service and then to leave here after the worship service to go and to serve.

The psalmist says, "Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!" Wow! We have a lot of reasons to make a joyful noise to the Lord, don't we? God has give us life, He's provided for us in so, so many ways. We have so much reason to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Then, when we come here and we see the altar and we see the cross and we're reminded of what Jesus has done for us, and we're reminded because of what Jesus has done for us that we have eternal life. We have so great a reason to make a joyful noise unto our Lord. As we look around as we see brothers and sisters in Christ and celebrate that we are a family of God, we have so many reasons to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

In verse two, the psalmist says, "Come into his presence with singing!" What a joy it is to be able to sing praises to our God; to tell Him how much we appreciate what He has done for us; and, through the words of our song, how much we love and adore Him. Then we are told to "Serve the Lord with gladness!" We have plenty of reason to do exactly that — to serve the Lord with gladness.

Come In and Be Served

"Come into his presence with singing!" "Make a joyful noise to the LORD!" We come in today to sing God's praises, but more than that. As we come here week after week, we come in order that the Lord would serve us in this place. God does that — He serves.

In today's Old Testament reading, the very first verse of that is, I think, one of the key passages in Scripture, because this verse really tells us two very crucial and important things about the God of the Bible: the God of the Bible is a God Who cares and the God of the Bible is a God Who provides. Over and over again we see that theme throughout the Scriptures. We see that theme right away in Genesis, chapter two, verse eighteen: "It is not good that the man should be alone ..." This is a God Who cares. He cared about Adam. He wanted what was best for Adam. But His caring doesn't stop there — He cares about you and me, as well; He wants what is best for you and me, as well. The God of the Bible is a God Who cares, but it goes beyond that. He is also a God Who provides. He says, "... I will make a helper fit for him." That's exactly what God did, as He gave Eve to Adam, as that firsts marriage was struck right there in the Garden of Eden. God cares; God provides.

In this morning's text, in Psalm one hundred, it says, "Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. ... For the Lord is good." This is a God Who has created us, a God Who cares for us. The psalmist says, "His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." God cares; God provides.

God provides. We see that over and over again in the Scriptures. God cares; God provides. We certainly saw and heard it in today's Gospel reading, as the people were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them. The disciples, thinking that Jesus was too important, too busy, tried to prevent that from happening. But Jesus wouldn't allow it, because He cares and He provides. We are told that "he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them." He blessed them.

We come here today, into this house of worship, to be served by our God, and He does that. He serves us through His Word, His strong, powerful, His holy, inerrant Word. God serves us as He builds us up in our faith. God serves us as He gives us direction in His Word, guidance in His Word, in how we should go about living the life that He has given to us. God blesses us through the sacrament, as we hear Jesus say, "Take and eat, this is my body, given for you. ... And drink of it all of you, this is the blood of the new testament shed for you for the remission of sins." We realize how much our God serves us, giving to us, over and over again, building us up and strengthening us for life here in this world.

The God of the Bible is a God Who cares and He's a God Who provides. We see it in today's Epistle reading. It says Jesus was "crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." By the grace of God. Grace can be defined by using the letters G-R-A-C-E: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. We're reminded in that verse of the expense, the price that Jesus paid for our salvation — His suffering and death on the cross. He tasted death for everyone — for you and for me — so that we could have life, eternal life. Of course, we know that not only did Jesus taste death, but He rose on Easter morning and proclaimed the victory that by God's grace belongs to us. Another way of defining grace is to say "we get what we don't deserve." Isn't that what Heaven is? We get what we don't deserve because the sinless Son of God paid the wages of our sin.

Go Out and Serve

We come in here this morning, and each and every time that we worship, and God serves us here. Through His Word, through the sacrament, God blesses us. Just as Jesus blessed those little children, so He blesses us today. He blesses us so that we can go out and serve Him. "Serve the LORD with gladness!" One way that we have to say thank you to our God is by serving others.

John, chapter thirteen, takes place on Maundy Thursday. Jesus asks His disciples, "Do you understand what I have done to you?" What had He done? It tells us in the very next verse. He says, "If I then, your teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." Jesus, in humility, had taken a basin of water, had taken a towel, He had stooped down, He had served His disciples by washing their feet. Then He tells them why: "For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you." Later on in that same chapter, Jesus says to them, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." There is a song that says, "They'll know that we are Christians by our love."

Today we try to express that love. How can we thank You, Lord? Whether it be children coloring pictures to brighten someone's day, or if it be teenagers and adults going out and visiting someone in a nursing home or someone at home who isn't able to come to church this morning, or whether it be people going out and raking leaves or trimming bushes or washing windows, we seek to say "Thank You, Lord. Thank You for what You have done for us." It's a small way, granted, but it is a way to say thank you to our God.

May God bless us in that saying, in that doing, in that serving. Amen.

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Now may the peace of God, a peace that far surpasses all understanding, guard and protect our hearts and minds in the victory which is ours through Jesus Christ. Amen.