So, don’t take this the wrong way, but the Psalm we just heard a few moments ago, is wrong. And evidently we can say that and lightning has not struck us down, and the church is still standing just fine; but Psalm 15 is wrong. It places restrictions on those who can be part of worship, as if God only wants to hear from a select few, as if worship is only truly “worship” when it comes from those who are perfect in God’s eyes. Psalm 15 is wrong.
Now, granted, at the time when it was written, when it was sung by people long ago as they entered the Temple, they thought they were doing exactly what God desired: that they had to achieve a certain moral purity. That’s all they knew from their history. They didn’t realize how immense this love and grace of God was in comparison to all the times they didn’t live up to the impossible expectations. But before we can get too critical of them: that the Israelites didn’t really know what this God was about, and, of course, we Christians figured God out, or that everything in the Old Testament is nice but it’s not quite the “real” Word of God as the New Testament is; let us also remember we have had our not so proud moments in rather recent history.
It wasn’t all that long ago when we not only expected but demanded that people dressed a certain way in order to make worship be “worship.” We not only expected but demanded that there would be absolutely no noise whatsoever except from the esteemed pastor, and when you were so privileged to be allowed to say a prayer or sing a hymn. And we thought so highly of those “esteemed” pastors that they determined who was worthy to receive Holy Communion. We call those the “good ‘ole days,” when we were not so far removed from the time of Psalm 15. We were and still are under the impression that we get to make a place or a time holy. We have a role in making worship sacred. And in order to do that we should have a say on who gets to worship and how they are going to act to make an authentic worship experience.
Except there’s a problem: we do not have an ownership over holiness. That belongs to God. We don’t get to make worship holy. Only God does that. And God says everyone, and God means everyone, is welcome to worship however they come, wherever they go. Psalm 15 is wrong, yes, but we also have to admit to ourselves that we have been wrong too.
Now in recent times we have tried to turn it all around. Churches all over the world have it imprinted on their bulletins, on their front yard signs, on their websites, that “all are welcome.” If only it were that easy. There’s too much history of that not being the case to simply accept those three words at face value. There’s too much judgment that still runs through our human minds and hearts. And people are a little unsure, to say the least, if we actually mean it. Do we really mean that “all,” and we mean all, are welcome? Because if we don’t think that, we cannot say it at all.
So it takes days like today, when Lilly Tollas and Tyler Stout will receive their First Communion. And for those of you who don’t know, they both have been talking about this for quite awhile, as if this whole Holy Communion thing really means something, as if there’s more to it than just a piece of bread and a few drops of wine. It’s as if they’re craving to get all the more closer to this God of love and compassion that overwhelms all our shortcomings. It takes days like today, when two of our own approach the altar for the first time to receive the sacrament, when for far too long we did our best to minimize who could be with the select worthy few. They will force us to listen to the words all the more closely today. This is God’s Son, our Savior, our Messiah, our love beyond all we can ever imagine; this is His body given for Lilly, for Tyler, for all of you. This is the everlasting covenant in His blood shed for Lilly, for Tyler, for all of you, for all people for the forgiveness of sin.
Psalm 15 is wrong. We have been wrong. There are absolutely, unequivocally zero limits to this love of God. We thought we could restrict it. We thought wrong, because along came this Jesus Christ Who didn’t check with our human judgmental selves before He foolishly shouted to a crowd of sinners, “Blessed are the poor in spirt, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So today, as Lilly, Tyler, and the rest of us come to the Lord’s table, it’s not just tasting what love is really like, it’s also a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven that God had in mind all along when Jesus came to die and rise for Lilly, for Tyler, for all of you, for absolutely, unequivocally everyone. No matter how many times we try to convince God from saving the whole world, it’s too late, because God already has. And for that, we most certainly give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon