In worship we sing “hymns” – the special name for songs that set words of Scripture to sing-able notes, which are sung to God. Today’s sermon is a Gospel Hymn-sing that has us singing the words of Jesus, which begins as a challenge!
What do we do with Jesus’ word “hate?”
Answer: We hear it in the Aramaic in which He would have said it which changes “hate” from a feeling word to priority word – with the priority being what we just witnessed and a couple pledged in the Sacrament of Infant Baptism, that we belong to “the faith and family of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus demands we “hate,” we dismiss, all that distracts us from from centering our life in Him, so, as a wedding poem reads: “With Jesus in the center marriages/families come together.”
The priority that calls for three actions named in today’s Gospel, three cues that will turn a sermon into a Gospel “hymn-sing.”
First, the Gospel line: Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.- giving us the first word:
CARRYING: To belong to Christ’s family, the priority that becomes a blessing to our own families, requires that each person takes up the cross Christ carried.
And so, in Baptism, the sign of the cross is made on the infant’s head, marking him or her as sealed in the saving love of Jesus Christ, to live out that love as a disciple of Christ.
When set to music, we are heard singing:
Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.
Our priority: Carrying the Cross.
The second cue that turns this sermon into a Gospel “hymn-sing” is given in the line: For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?
COUNTING: To belong to Christ’s family, the priority that becomes a blessing to our own families, requires that each person knows it isn’t a “cakewalk.”
The cross is more than a piece of jewelry an athlete may wear like a rabbit’s foot, or a performer displays to add glitter to an on stage show.
The freeing love of God in Christ literally poured out in Christ’s death on the cross means our acceptance as child of God is a gift; all we need to do is receive it, open it, live into it,
but also be prepared to count the cost others may impose on us for accepting that gift.
In some parts of the world “the cross can cost you your life. In Nepal today there are 168 people in the court system charged with nothing more than being Christians. Recently a Christian named Abraham was killed in India by a hostile Hindu group. Bishop Dolok of Indonesia returned home to find that Muslim groups had burned down many of his churches, and one pastor's family was burned to death within the church building.
Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and the persecution is intensifying.” (Quoted from https://www.sermons.com for Sept. 4, 2016)
It is the martyrs past and present, men and women, who have chosen to pay the cost for their total commitment to Christ, who become our inspiration, which when set to music provides us with many songs.
In 1849 when Frederick W. Faber left the Church of England to return to the Church of Rome,
he wrote the hymn “Faith of Our Fathers” for the Roman Catholics who were the ones being persecuted at that time. Later his hymn was revised for “the whole earthly Church of God” (Quoted from Brown and Butterworth in their The Story of the Hymns and Tunes, P 233) and the word “Fathers” has been changed to “Martyrs,” who are an ever-growing list inspiring us as we sing:
Faith of the martyrs, living still, In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy Whene’er we hear
that glorious Word!
Refrain: Faith of the martyrs, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of the martyrs, we will strive To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God, We all shall then be truly free. Refrain:
Our priority: Counting the Cost of Carrying the Cross.
The third cue that turns this sermon into a Gospel “hymn-sing” is given in the line: ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
CHOOSING: To belong to Christ’s family, the priority that becomes a blessing to our own families, requires that each person chooses not to quit carrying and counting the cost of taking up Christ’s cross.
Others who have made that choice infect us with their joy for having made it. One is the blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915, who wrote over 8,000 hymns and Gospel songs – so many that she had to use a pseudonym for publishers to accept them.
Today she is credited as the most prolific America hymn writer of the 20th century and given the title “Queen of Gospel Song Writers” and “Mother of Modern Congregational Singing in America.”
One day she was visiting in the home of her friend, Phoebe Knapp, where a pipe organ was being installed. Because it wasn’t ready, Mrs. Knapp sat at the piano and began to play a new melody. As she did, she asked Fanny Crosby, “What do you think the tune says?”
Immediately Fanny answered, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” (Wikipedia)
A blind hymn writer infects us with the joy that has us choosing to sing:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the daylong; (Repeat)
Our priority: Choosing on
Counting the Cost of
Carrying the Cross.
set to the words and notes that turn today’s sermon into a Gospel hymn sing and an ongoing prayer:
“Attune My Heart to Sing!” Amen.