Mission Festival

Preached: October 18, 2009

Our Hallelujah Mission
Psalm 117

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God which gives us our mission is Psalm 117

Praise the Lord, all you nations. Laud him, all the peoples. For his mercy prevails over us and the faithfulness of the Lord lasts forever. Hallelujah! (Psalm 117)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Do you recognize this theme music? It's the opening from the TV show Mission Impossible. The Mission Impossible movies use it as well. In the show the IMF, the Impossible Mission Force, was given a task to do, a seemingly impossible mission.

At mission festival our thoughts often turn to missionaries across the sea. Leaving behind family and friends, immersed in a radically different culture, surrounded by strange sounding words and conversations, unusual smells twitching their noses, their taste buds puzzled by new foods -- how impossible a mission to share God's Word there, we may well think! Yet our God in his love has enabled missionaries and their families to learn new languages, adapt to new cultures, brave the unknown, and so share the Good News of Jesus.

But today instead of thinking only of the mission of missionaries, let's consider the mission our Lord and Savior has given to each one of us. What is that mission he sends you on? How do you carry it out? Let's answer those questions as we dig into God's Word this morning.

A. What is the mission?

First, what is the mission? To learn about the mission you don't need to find a secret, taped message that self-destructs in five-seconds after you've listen to it. Rather, let's take to heart the word of God before us today. We turn to Psalm 117.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations. Laud him, all the peoples. For his mercy prevails over us and the faithfulness of the Lord lasts forever. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 117). That's the entire Psalm, very brief. Let's think about it.

What's our mission? Is it to buy tickets to Africa and become missionaries? Is it to move to another town to start a church there, inviting people to worship in our homes? Is it to knock on doors in our own community asking whether they have a church or not, ready to tell them about Jesus? We might often picture mission work as falling into these categories: world missions, home missions, door-to-door evangelism. But our mission is broader than any one of those tasks. Certain Christians, at certain times, under certain circumstances may be called or asked to do one of those things. And they are helping to carry out our mission by doing so. But the mission is broader.

What is our mission? One word from the Psalm can summarize it: Hallelujah! Hallelujah is from the Hebrew words meaning, “Praise the Lord.” Our mission is to praise the Lord. That's what our God wants all nations, all the peoples to do, including you and me, as the Psalm makes clear. “Praise the Lord, all you nations. Laud him, all the peoples” (Psalm 117:1). Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!

Here again, though, don't think of this in a narrow way that focuses only on a handful of tasks we do. Sometimes we only think of singing hymns in church as praising the Lord. But praising him is much more than that, which we begin to see, when we ask why do we praise our Lord and what do we praise him for. Both questions have the same answer, which verse two of the Psalm gives us. “For his mercy prevails over us and the faithfulness of the Lord lasts forever. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 117:2).

The strong man of sin used to rule in our hearts. We willingly followed our sinful desires, so great was sin's control over our soul and mind. But God's mercy was stronger. Like a might warrior, his mercy prevailed.

We usually don't picture mercy as a mighty warrior, do we? That doesn't fit together in our minds. But the way God's mercy won us for himself doesn't fit our human thinking either. He prevailed not through might and miracle but through weakness. The mighty warrior whose mere word could calm the raging storm, drive out demons, and raise the dead, he let mere mortal men nail his hands and feet to wood.

So great is his mercy! He, God over all, the eternal Son of the Almighty, he humbled himself to save rebellious sinners, such as you and I. He not only took flesh and blood into his divinity, but he took on himself our misery, our pitiful wretchedness, our naked shame. He clothed himself with our filthy, guilty rags and became sin for us. He took your place, dear sinner. He took your place under God's wrath on that cross. So great is his mercy!

What a mystery this all is! “Alas! and did my Savior bleed, And did my Sov'reign die? Would he devote that sacred head For such a worm as I? Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree! Well might the sun in darkness hide And shut its glories in When God, the mighty Maker, die For his own creatures' sin” (“Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” The Lutheran Hymnal 154:1, Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 129:2, 3). What mighty mercy!

He did that for you, dear friend, for you. Is this not alone reason enough to praise him? Is this not what our praise is all about? His mercy. The Father gave his Son as the sacrifice for you. The Son, Jesus Christ, suffered and died in your place.

But there is more. The Psalm not only points us to his mercy, but to his faithfulness as well. His truth does not fail. It stands forever and ever. For your crucified Savior has risen from the dead. He rose in victory and triumph. He keeps his promises. For the Lord is faithful. He does not change. As the eternal I AM, he remains faithful to his promises.

So when he made that promise to you at Baptism that you have died with Christ and rose with him so that your sins are washed away, his promise stands firm for you to believe. When he promises forgiveness through Jesus' body and blood in the Lord's Supper, his promise stands firm for your faith to hold on to. The Lord is faithful.

What is our hallelujah mission? To praise our merciful and faithful Lord. To praise him in all we do in life. Our hallelujah mission isn't just our singing on Sunday morning. It's also taking care of your family Sunday afternoon, working diligently at your job Monday morning, helping a friend Tuesday evening, studying God's Word Wednesday night, showing kindness on Thursday to that troublesome neighbor, enjoying your Friday filled with thankfulness to God, doing your Saturday chores. Our hallelujah mission is to praise him in all we do in life, or as the Apostle Paul expressed it: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). Our hallelujah mission.

B. How do we carry out the mission?

And that's also how we carry out our hallelujah mission. For, dear Christian, your entire life, Sunday through Saturday, is a show-and-tell. Just as your God has shown you mercy by giving you Jesus, show mercy to others. Humbly serve, gladly forgive, kindly act, lovingly help, earnestly pray for others. Show them the same mercy you have received. Let them see God's mercy at work in you as you gladly do what the Lord gives you to do as parent or child, as worker or employer, as husband, wife, or single person, as citizen and Christian. Let them see how important to you God's mercy is as you place his word of mercy first in your life, joyfully hearing it and regularly learning it. When you come to services each week you are praising your God, carrying out your hallelujah mission, even before you sing a hymn, for you are showing others that your God is more praiseworthy than all those other things you could be doing instead.

And as you show mercy to others be ready to tell them of God's mercy. That's the tell part of our show-and-tell mission. Speak to them God's promises in Jesus. Tell them of his mercy and faithfulness. Tell of your Savior's mercy toward you, sinner though you are, his mercy that moves you to show mercy to others. Show and tell. That's how we carry out our hallelujah mission.

“But Pastor I don't have all the gifts to do all those things.” You're right. You don't have all the gifts. For example, you don't have the gift of being able to speak Chichewa to do mission work in Malawi. And there are many other gifts you and I don't have. But that doesn't mean you can't carry out the hallelujah mission, praising our God through all that we do. Don't forget the Second Lesson from 1 Corinthians today. We are different parts of Christ's body. Of course you don't have all the gifts, just as an eye doesn't have the gifts of hearing or smelling. But the Holy Spirit gives you the gifts God wants you to have. Use what the Spirit has given you. Use it to show and tell God's mercy and faithfulness. That's how you and I each carry out the hallelujah mission.

Yes, the Holy Spirit graciously gives each one of us what we need to carry out our part in that one mission. Some of his gifts come through natural abilities. Some are developed through study and practice and experience. It's tempting to take credit ourselves, but boastful pride has no place in Christ's body. No matter how gifted you are or how hard you've worked, remember it's all a gift, a gracious gift, an undeserved gift, given by the Holy Spirit. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthian 12: 4 NIV), the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth.

And use those gracious gifts, dear friends, for service. “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthian 12: 4 NIV), Paul continues. So many outside the body of Christ use their natural gifts selfishly, trying to make themselves happy and successful. How tempting for us to follow such examples, pursuing our own happiness. But that pursuit only leads away from Christ, away from true happiness. Rather use your gifts to serve. Even as Christ, to whom belonged all things, laid it all aside to serve you and me, giving his life as a ransom for all. Our Lord served us to ransom us as his own. So serve your Lord by using your gifts to serve others. That brings us back to show in the show-and-tell mission of praising our Lord. Show his mercy as you serve others.

And finally actively put those gifts into practice “There are different kinds of working, but the same God who works all of them in all men” (1 Corinthian 12: 4 NIV), Paul also writes. Put your gifts to work. Don't neglect them thinking, “Oh, I could serve so much but if only I had this or that gift. Why bother trying? So-and-so has so many better gifts. Let them do the work.” No. Use what he has given you. And if you think that another gift would be beneficial in your hallelujah mission, pray about it, and if God gives you the time and opportunity to develop that gift, do so. But in the meantime don't neglect the gifts he has given you. He is working through your service, accomplishing his mission.

And he has certainly given you gifts. For the Holy Spirit is no miser or Scrooge. He's given us different gifts, like the different members of the body. But we are united to Christ, we are united in mission to praise our Lord in all that we do, our hallelujah mission. Your Lord has chosen you for this mission. He has gifted you with what you need so that you can show his mercy to others and tell them of his faithfulness. Praise the Lord in all you do each and every day of your life. Hallelujah. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313