[A video of this sermon is available on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/4409sspotswoodrdgordonsvilleva.]
JUST SO VERY GLAD TO BE HERE!
I don’t know about you, but without Church on Sundays, I just haven’t been able to keep my days straight for the rest of the week. And to me, it seems like it’s been months and months since we have been able to get back to worship here in God’s House. And as terrible as this pandemic has been and may continue to be, I think that one good thing that has come out of it is that we have a greater appreciation for what it means to be able to come to church on Sunday and worship together as God’s people. The sad truth is that the Christian Church has needed something as bad as this to bring us back around to the fact that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath and needs to be treated as holy. As evidence of Christian laxness, there was a poll taken in Great Britain that typifies just how much Sunday’s have become just like any other day of the week for the average person. In this poll, 2,000 people in Britain were asked: “How would you describe your perfect Sunday?” A quarter of those polled thought that the perfect Sunday morning would be comprised of a full English breakfast in bed. One third of them responded that relaxing on a Sunday morning with a cup of tea or coffee followed by loafing around the house would be perfect for them. About 10% would like to spend their Sunday afternoons drinking in a pub, while another one in seven felt their perfect Sunday would be to shop at the grocery store for the next week’s food supply. Others gave a host of things that would make their Sunday’s perfect, including taking the time to read a good book, listening to their favorite music or doing some gardening. But of the 2,000 people polled not one of them mentioned any desire whatsoever to attend church on Sunday.
But for me, no Sunday could be considered perfect apart from coming together with other like-minded Christian people into the House of God. And if I had to describe the one Bible verse that best reflects my reaction to the Governor’s recent Executive Order allowing the re-opening of churches, it would have to be Psalm 122:1 which simply says: “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1 (KJV) This is considered to be a Psalm of David, and when David said that he was “glad” to be going into God’s House, the word “glad” is a bit of an understatement. The Hebrew word for “glad” is śāmaḥ (saw-makh’) which in this context expresses deep joy, extreme gladness, pure delight and fulfillment. In other words, David was saying that he was overjoyed by the fact that He could come into God’s House. That’s how I felt last week when I heard we could once again meet here in this Church!
What was it that prompted such a joyous response on David’s part? Well, David was so very happy for reasons not unlike our own. You see Psalm 122 is one of a series of special psalms running from Psalm 120 through Psalm 134 known as the Songs of Ascent or sometimes they are referred to as the Pilgrim Songs. Each year, faithful Jews would travel great distances to attend the three major Jewish religious festivals held in the City of Jerusalem. And when they finally approached Jerusalem, they could see it sitting high on a hill. And as they started up the roadways up toward the city, they would start singing these songs on the “ascent” as they climbed the hill. You see, the Tabernacle had been erected in Jerusalem. And for many of them, they had been away from it for farntoo long. They were rejoicing to be going back to the House where God dwelled. And so it is for us this morning.
But, what is it that makes us glad? Why do we rejoice this morning? Now you might answer, “Well, because I am once again in church.” True. But, why is that important to us as Christians?—How do we articulate the answer to that question? The Apostle Peter tells us to: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) This morning, I want you to expand that concept one step further whereby we can be prepared to give anyone who asks the reasons why joining together in this House of God is so important in our lives as Christians. And I would like for you to consider four very basic reasons why we are so overjoyed to be here this morning.
First of all, we are rejoicing today because we can come here to worship. That, of course, doesn’t mean that we haven’t worshipped God during the period of time that our church doors have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why?—because worship for a Christian is a way of life seven days a week—not just Sunday. So in that broad sense of worship, we worship God every day when we follow His commandments by the things we do and say. That is what Paul referred to when He said: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. THIS IS TRULY THE WAY TO WORSHIP HIM.” Romans 12:1 (NLT2) We want to continually worship God in that daily sense.
But, there is a special importance to the worship of God’s people assembled together in God’s House on Sunday. Why on Sunday?—because since the time of the 1st century early Church, Sunday has been accepted as the regular time for Christian worship. And it was back then that our church worship was shifted from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday as indicated in the Book of Acts when Luke alluded to Jesus’ followers gathering “together to break bread” on the “first day of the week.” Acts 20:7 And we could go over a litany of theological arguments as to why we need to meet together to worship in church on Sunday, but I think Billy Graham captured this best when he said: “The Bible says, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’ If our Lord loved it enough to die for it, then we should respect it enough to support and attend it.” Then, Rev. Graham added: “I like what Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘You may worship God anywhere, at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship Him somewhere in some particular place, at some particular time.’” That “particular place” is in Church and that particular time is on Sunday. And so on this day when we finally get to re-enter God’s House, we can join with the writer of the Book of Hebrews who said: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 (NLT2)
The second reason that we are so overjoyed to be here this morning is that we can come together in fellowship and praise God. And that’s so very important because human praise of our Creator is one of the major themes presented throughout the Bible. It is interesting that the word for praise in Latin means “value” or “price”. So when we offer our praises to God, what we are really doing is proclaiming His infinite value to our lives as reflected by the price He paid is sending His Son to die on the Cross for our sins. The Bible expresses this praise concept through various terms such as proclaiming “God’s glory” or by speaking of our need to give “thanksgiving” to God for faithfully meeting our needs. Another of these terms that you may have shouted upon hearing the church would be reopening is the word—“Hallelujah”! In fact, the word Hallelujah is actually a variation on the Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise the Lord.” And this carries over to the Hebrew title of the Book of Psalms—which means Book of Praises. And furthermore, biblically speaking, praise is directly related to both instrumental music and vocal song. And so, it is no accident that the very last Psalm in the Bible directs us as follows:
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:1-6 (ESV)
Now, we are also extremely glad to be here today because we can do something very special as a group that we cannot do alone. It provides us with the third reason that we are overjoyed to come into His House today—it’s called corporate prayer. It is the collective prayers of God’s people offered during our worship services in which we continue to offer thanksgiving to Him, and by which we call upon the Lord to meet our needs and the needs of others. In a sense, our corporate prayers are presented as a special kind of worship and praise of Him. For example, when I lead in prayer and you are praying silently, we may all be praying together for a number of things. We may be praying for protection and guidance of our missionaries, Myrna Ballain and Ana Moshenek. Or, we often pray as a church body for the sick or those who have other needs that God will touch them and heal them or otherwise provide for them. And this kind of group effort is an especially powerful form of prayer.
I have always loved to listen to the tapes and CD’s of the country comedian Jerry Clower. He was always so very humorous telling stories of his days growing up near Route 4, Liberty, Mississippi during the 1930’s. But he could also be quite serious, particularly when proclaiming His love for His Savior, Jesus Christ. I think that one of the most powerful examples of corporate prayer came from one of Jerry Clower’s stories. And it was a true story about the night that he was getting ready to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Shortly before he was to go out to do his show, he learned that there would be a thousand retired U.S. Marines in the audience that night. Jerry had a special place in his heart for military personnel because he had served in the Navy during WW II. And so during the show, he made it a point to offer a few words of appreciation to the Marines who had come out to see him perform. He gave special thanks to one of the veterans who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. And he added that he felt in awe just to be standing in the same room with such a heroic person. The Marine who had received the Medal of Honor was so moved by this that he asked if he could go backstage after the show to thank Jerry for his graciousness. Of course, Jerry was thrilled to accommodate the man’s request. And when the two of them met in Jerry’s dressing room, Jerry asked him the circumstances that had transpired which led to this Marine to receive the Medal of Honor. The man then described how he and a few other soldiers had come to the rescue a group of Marines near the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. These Marines had become hopelessly surrounded by Red Chinese troops who were intent upon their annihilation. But, before the Chinese forces were able to attack, this man led his small force through enemy lines just in time to show the Marines an escape route that ended up rescuing them. When the Marine completed his story, Jerry remarked that he always “marvels at the faithfulness of God.” The Marine replied, “Yes, it was quite a miracle.” Then Jerry asked the man if he knew what had prompted that miracle, and the man replied that he wasn’t sure about that. This is the explanation that Jerry Clower gave to him: “The day before you went in [to rescue those men], the East Fork Baptist Church [near to where I lived] had a special prayer meeting for those Marines. The reason we prayed for you was because my brother was one of the men that were trapped! He was a communications person for the Marines at the time, even though he was Navy. I knew God answered our prayers, because He is faithful, but little did I know that forty years later He would let me meet the instrument He used to answer our prayers. God is faithful!” Yes, God is indeed faithful and corporate prayer is powerful stuff!
And last, but not least, the fourth reason we are delighted to be here today is fellowship. It’s just plain good to be back together again with all of you. And when we come together in this way as Christians, something amazing happens. Jesus explained this when He told His disciples: “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:20 (TEV) That’s what is so special about all of us coming together to worship and praise God and to offer our prayers to Him—When we do that, we not only enjoy Christian fellowship, but we are privileged to experience the presence of Christ in our midst. And when you allow the Spirit of Christ into your heart, you’ll begin to understand something. You will come to understand your purpose in life—and that’s something that fewer and fewer people are able to comprehend.
Now we might think it’s bad that the people in Britain have forgotten what Sunday’s are supposed to be about. But, the people of this country are barely any better when it comes to understanding their purpose in life. And that’s not just my opinion—survey data clearly indicates that the vast majority of people in this country haven’t got a clue as to what their true purpose in life is all about. A recent survey conducted through the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that 4 out of 5 Americans believe they have a purpose in life. Many expressed it almost poetically when they stated their purpose “was to evolve to their full potential physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.” Others expressed such lofty purposes as “furthering the development of humanity” or “living a long, healthy life.” Now in and of themselves, these so-called purposes are not necessarily bad, yet they miss the mark because all of them fail to make any connection between our purpose in life and God. And one of the startling findings of this survey was that it shows that Americans in general no longer accept the biblical perspective that our true purpose is to know, love and serve God. And so, for many of those who participated in that survey, God is no longer at the center of their life’s purpose.
But not you! You came here this morning to worship the Lord, to praise God, and to offer Him your prayers. You came here in Christian fellowship to experience the spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. And, like David, you were glad to hear the words—“Let us go into the house of the LORD!” Let me conclude with the words of Rod Cooper who was once the chaplain for the Houston Astros baseball team as well as for the then Houston Oilers football team. He remembered just how fired up the sports fans of those two teams could be during their ballgames whenever someone hit a homerun or scored a touchdown. Chaplain Cooper recalled: “The place [would go] crazy. People were giving high fives and jumping around. The score board went off. It was a ringing shout, because their man [had] scored a touchdown [or had gotten a big hit with runners on base].” Then he added: “I’m not saying that when you come to church you need to give each other high fives or do cartwheels down the aisle, but worship is a time of anticipation and expectation. We come together because all week God has been knocking home runs and scoring touchdowns in our lives. Worship is a time to celebrate what God has done for us.”
What He has done for us today is to re-open the doors to the place we love best. Praise the Lord! Halleluiah! Amen.
Forest Hill Baptist Church
May 17, 2020
Darvin Satterwhite, Pastor
©2020 All Rights Reserved
 Cara Bentley, “The ‘Perfect Sunday’ Doesn’t Include Church,” Premier.Org (2-17-18), cited as “What ‘The Perfect Sunday’ Doesn’t Include,” PreachingToday.com.
 Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
 NIV Study Bible.
 Holman Old Testament Commentary - Psalms 76-150.
 Believer's Bible Commentary: A Thorough, Yet Easy-to-Read Bible Commentary That Turns Complicated Theology Into Practical Understanding.
 Expositor's Bible Commentary, Revised - Psalms.
 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
 Billy Graham, “The Importance of Corporate Worship,” Billy Graham, Evangelistic Association, https://billygraham.org.
 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
 Amanda Casanova, “Less Than 1/5 of Americans Believe Life's Purpose Is Knowing, Loving God, Survey Finds,” ChristianHeadlines.com (May 8, 2020).
 Rod Cooper, “Worship or Worry?” Preaching Today, Tape No. 108, PreachingToday.com.