In Worship We Have a Christ Connection
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godó 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbandís will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
On the second Sunday of every month, before the worship service begins, we show a video called "The WELS Connection." This five minute video lets us know what is going on around our church body. We hear about mission work that we support and missionaries that we pray for. We hear how our mission offering is used to train future pastors and teachers. It is neat to be reminded of the connection we have with our fellow members of our Wisconsin synod, even if we have never met them personally.
After the video, the service begins and in our worship we see another connection. There is a connection with our fellow believers, but it all starts with our Christ connection. In worship we see clearly and hear plainly how we are connected to our Savior. It might not always come across in the sermon, but our Christ connection is made plain throughout our service as Godís Word is heard, sung and prayed about. This morning in worship as we spend some time with Godís Word as it is recorded in John 1, letís focus on how in worship we have a Christ connection. I. A connection for the whole world. II. A connection God made with us personally.
But before we talk about seeing our Christ connection we need to remember why a connection is necessary for all people. It goes back to the Garden of Eden. God created Adam and Eve in his image. They had a perfect, sinless relationship with God. But when they disobeyed him by eating from the tree he told them not to eat from, that relationship was ruptured. That is clear by the way God dealt with Adam and Eve. After he told them they would suffer pain and die because they sinned, he then kicked them out of the Garden of Eden. Their connection to God was broken.
When they had children, those children were not born in Godís imagine, connected to God. On the contrary they were in Adamís image, born in sin. This is seen by the actions of children, but more importantly Godís Word clearly says that this sin is passed on from parent to child. This natural lack of connection to God is true for this whole world and also applies to each of us. With our original sin and our daily sin it is clear that the only connection we have is to the devil and that connection leads only to separation from God forever.
One look at the devastating impact of sin in this world and in our own life shows how helpless we are. There is no way we could get connected to God and in fact by nature the sinner really doesnít want to be connected. Only God could make the connection. And in Worship we see that he made that connection when Christ came as the Savior of all people. Only Jesus, the eternal Son of God could do. John lists his credentials. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." Jesus is the Word. He has always been God, he was active in creation. He alone brought light and life to this sin darkened and dead world. Certainly he could and in fact did make a connection with all people.
Before Jesus began his ministry he sent John the Baptist to announce that he was coming. "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." People came to see John and John the Baptist clearly testified that Jesus was the light for all people. A little later in this chapter John says about Jesus, "Look the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." A connection was needed by all people and clearly from these verses and from the rest of scripture we see that Christ connects all people to God. He did that by being the lamb that was sacrificed for all sin. He connected all people to God by removing the sin that separated us. The empty cross, the empty grave and words of Jesus and his apostles and prophets show us plainly that we all have a Christ connection.
Our job is the same of John the Baptist. We witness and testify to that fact. There is darkness in this world, not everyone will believe in Jesus, but we still announce that he is the Savior of the world. That he opens the door to heaven for all people. We see this connection clearly in our service. After we confess our sins we hear that we are forgiven. We can say this with no strings because Jesus died for the sins of the world. This morning we then sang a hymn titled, "God loved the World, so that he gave." Again it is clear that God has made this connection with the whole world. This is not true because I said, or John the Baptist said it. It is true because God says and he did it by sending Jesus to pay for the sins of the world. May God grant that in worship we continue to see our Christ connection clearly!
Our Wisconsin synod is relatively small, about 400,000 members. All our pastors and teachers are trained in the same school system and they get to know each other well. Often when I watch the WELS connection video I know personally some the people in the stories. In fact the pastor who hosts the video was in worship with us a few years ago. It is amazing how if you travel to other churches in our synod, you meet people who you have some connection to. As we worship together we express our connection to one another and in worship we celebrate that. But this connection is not one that is built on anything we do or what church we belong to. As we continue looking at these verses and considering the theme, in worship we see our Christ connection. We also see that it is a connection God made with each of us personally.
We know that even though this connection is made for all people, many chose to reject it. That happened with many of Jesusí own people. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." How could they reject the light of the world? How could they refuse the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Rejecting God and refusing him are exactly what sinners naturally do. And as believers we can act in the same way, even when we come for worship.
Christ has made the connection and he has the right to talk to us about how we celebrate and worship him for that connection. But when we insist on our way and not his way, when we want worship on our terms, our time, our way and around our favorite themes, we reject God. We refuse to receive him when we refuse to recognize that the single most important aspect of our worship is that it centers on Christ crucified and his Word. We sinfully act like Jesusí own people and it is amazing that God does not say enough and kick us out of our relationship with him.
Our aptitude for sin reminds us that on our own we could never be connected to Christ. But as we hear again verses 12 & 13 we rejoice that God makes that connection with us personally. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godó 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbandís will, but born of God." Those who believe in Jesus are given the right to become children of God. But before we try to take credit by saying "I did the believing" we hear that we are children not by birth, nor personal decision or will, but we are connected to Christ because we are born of God. Paul says that this way in Ephesians 2:4,5, "But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in Mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgression, it is by grace you have been saved."
We were dead, but God made us alive in Christ. We are connected personally to Christ. This connection took place when the powerful good news of our Saviorís work took root in our heart. That happens in Baptism when a little water is used with Godís Word and faith is created. It happens when the Gospel is announced to a soul in anguish over their sin. God works through his Word to give us a personal connection to Christ.
We are reminded of our personal connection when we are in worship. When we hear God forgave the world, our connection is personal because each of us is a part of the world. When we hear that God loved the world, we know that he loves us. When we hear that Jesus was sacrificed for the world, we know that includes us. In worship we rejoice in our personal connection to Christ by the grace of God.
In our services we follow what is called a liturgy. Part of the liturgy includes following a three year cycle of Bible readings that take us through the life and work of our Savior. Next week in Bible study we will talk more about the liturgy. Using this helps to insure that in worship our focus will always be on Godís Word, all of that word. When that is the case in worship we see how God keeps connecting us to Christ. Not because we are so prepared to meet him, but because he meets us in his Word and sacraments.
Through these means we see the Glory of our Savior Jesus. John and the other disciples saw Jesus glory and were eyewitnesses of his miracles, but what he says in the last verse is also true for us in worship. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." We have seen the power of Godís Word to connect people to Christ. We have seen how he works in Baptism and continues to use our baptism as a powerful reminder of our connection to Christ. Shortly we will get a very personal assurance of our connection when we receive Jesusí body and blood with the bread and wine of the Lordís Supper, the very things that were sacrificed to connect us to Jesus. What a sight! What a personal connection we have to Christ.
We have two visitors with us today. And though you donít know them, they have a connection to our congregation. Mr. LaGrow was a teacher at a high school attended by two of our members. Mr. Sievert is the son of my eighth grade teacher and in fact his mother rocked me when I was a baby as she worked in the hospital where I was born. Those are neat connections we have in our small synod. But here in worship we each have a connection to Christ. It is one that he made with all people and one that he establishes with us through his Word and Sacraments. Knowing that connection is what makes worship different for us. It is a joy and pleasure not because of who we know, but because God knows us as his children through Christ. Amen.
Pastor Matt Brown
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (WELS) of Union City, Tennessee, Rooted in the WORD