09162018 17 Aft Pent 16 Aft Trinity Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“Membership Matters: Why Should I come?”

09162018 17 Aft Pent 16 Aft Trinity Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

September 16, 2018

“Membership Matters: Why Should I come?”

Sermon Audio

Growing up in Tobacco country, daily during the summer I would see tractors travelling through town.  In the spring the tractors would be pulling planters with flats of plants ready for the field. During the summer tractors with attachments to cultivate the rows to make hills so the plants would stay upright.  Or in the fall or before the threat of weather like Hurricane Florence, when tractors pulled carts with heavily ladden poles of freshly pulled tobacco that was making its way to the barn for curing. It was clear that every time a tractor went by, the driver had lots of opportunity to think.

In Kansas, this was also the case.  Spraying the field to make sure the weeds were managed before fall planting.  Strip tilling the field in the fall preparing for planting winter wheat. Planting the row upon row of winter wheat in anticipation of the harvest the next year.  Running the combine or grain cart for corn harvest in the fall and even in the early summer with a different header for the wheat. Farmers always were behind the wheel of the tractor.  On many different occasions while riding in those same tractors in the buddy seats, I asked many farmers, why they wouldn’t come to worship, even when they weren’t behind the wheel of the tractor.  And the usual response was, “I can worship on the tractor just as well as in the church”. They would say, out here on the tractor, ‘it’s Jesus and me’!

Clearly this same response can even be said for those of us who have lots of windshield time driving to and from work to downtown of Pittsburgh or the metro area.  On Sunday’s we want to relax and sometimes the weekend is the only time we can sleep in, relax and not be pulled in so many different directions. Yet, what is not clearly understood and at times forgotten is that when we gather here and worship as the people of Emmanuel Lutheran, whether we are here or not, “We care about you”.

One of the strongest and most loving ways we demonstrate our care here at Emmanuel is how we not only send ‘Praying for You’ cards, but weekly pray for members on a rotating basis.  The purpose is to hold up each other in prayer so that others can receive the blessings from God that God clearly wants to give each and every one of us.

Yet, as our series we start today asks, if “Membership Matters:  Why Should I come?”  Membership for clubs or social organizations is about ‘being seen’, ‘doing favors for one another’ so ‘friends can benefit’, whether in our wallet or by ‘climbing the social ladder’.  But unlike cultural membership or social organizations, membership for churches is different. Membership in a church is on a different plane. I’m not talking airplane, but simply the earthly plane compared to the eternal plane.  We live here on the earth. We work for businesses or enjoy our retirement after having put in our ‘time’. Yet, the reality is, as we live on this earthly plane, whether after retirement or still in the ‘rat race’, we are at times separated from God.  And our separation comes, because of sin. And we have all heard and know sin entered into the world through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

So if we are ‘separated from God’, how can our coming to church bridge this gap?  Truthfully, we in and of ourselves cannot bridge this gap. We are unable, incapable and cannot ‘bridge the gap’ between us and God.  Our Gospel points to this clearly when the man, so desperate to heal his child asks Jesus, “help my unbelief”.  The only way that the gap between God and man can be bridged is through one person.  God’s only Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. For it was His innocent death on Calvary for all of mankind that bridged the gap between us and God.  You see, God has a different motivation than man does. God wants something that isn’t earthly, but eternal. God wants all of us to be with Him in eternity forever.  And God completed this offer of grace for us and for all of mankind by His gift of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ on a hill far away in a place known as Calvary.

But, back to the seminal question, if “Membership Matters:  Why Should I come?”  Simply, because Membership is ‘Not just Jesus and me’.  It’s about being in community with fellow believers and those who are seeking or daily struggling with doubt, shame and even ‘unbelief’ and joining together in community in and around the offer of grace that God freely offers us.  It’s about weekly gathering to hear from God of His abundant and never ending love for us through the declaration of the forgiveness of sins that we are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  It’s not about ‘checking the attendance’ scorecard like in baseball, football or hockey, but about freely and gladly helping others to understand and see that our membership matters not just on paper, but in deed, action and by our presence in order to receive the gifts of grace from Him.  

The question, “Membership Matters:  Why Should I come?” isn’t only about coming when the stars align and the mood hits us, but for us to desire to receive God’s grace freely whenever it is offered for us out of God’s love for us.  For that is what reciprocal Love from us for God really means, how Grace is freely given from God to us and by our sharing it with one another when we come and worship in God’s house.  When we come weekly we receive His Son Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament and depart having been cleansed and empowered to face another day in a world that doesn’t realize how much our God loves them and how we can share it with others that we encounter.

You see, “God’s desire is for all of us to come today, tomorrow and for eternity”.  This is preparation for our eternal home. Where the angels will sing and where our membership that we prepare for here on earth will be fulfilled in our eternal home.  Simply, to answer this question, “Membership Matters:  Why Should I come?”  It is because God wants to share with us His richest blessing and pour His blessing through the church upon us and for us to share it with others, because of His great love for all of mankind.

In our Old Testament Lesson this morning, Isaiah the prophet clearly pointed to why ‘Membership Matters’.  It matters because we can “Trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God”.  For Isaiah’s God is our God as well and we can clearly and emphatically demonstrate by our weekly presence here at Emmanuel and answer, “Membership Matters:  Why Should I come?” is about where and Who we will spend eternity with, our eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!  AMEN!