Organist 50th Anniversary

Preached: January 12, 2014

Peace Praises our God
Colossians 3:15-17

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word of God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus is Colossians 3

And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule in your heart. And keep being thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing yourselves with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing in your hearts to God with gratitude. And everything that you do in word or deed, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17).

This is the word of our Lord.

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

So Phyllis, were you nervous fifty years ago? Often when we start something new, especially when its in front of people, we have those feelings of unrest. Some may feel their stomachs churn. Others have their heart race or their hands become sweaty, which for an organist can create a whole other set of problems if your fingers start slipping off the keys. At the moment it may not have felt all that peaceful.

But you began a life of service, bringing the peace of Christ to others. You are much more than just a musician, you are a Gospel coworker, a member of Christ's body, working to build it up. Through music, you brought the peace of Christ to others, peace that praises our God. That's the theme today. Peace praises our God. Peace praises him by teaching one another with words and songs. And peace praises him by giving thanks in all we say and do. Peace praises our God.

A. By teaching one another with words and songs

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:13 NIV84). What's this peace that rules in the Christian's heart? The Greek word translated “rule” does not mean to rule like a king or governor. It means to do the work of a referee or umpire. Think of baseball game. As you slide into home base, you come up short. You know it. Your team knows it. The shouts from the crowd in the stand are calling you out. But the umpire shouts, “Safe!”

Is he blind? Wasn't he paying attention? Does he need glasses? Not at all. He made his call, not based on your performance, which obviously failed, but based on Christ Jesus. This is the peace of Christ.

When it comes to our own record before God, we don't even make the team. When we examine our hearts against God's standard of holiness spelled out in the Law, our conscience is like a full stadium shouting, “He's out! Call her out! They don't deserve to be in the game!“

But the peace of Christ overrules your conscience. Sinner though you are and I am, Jesus came and took our place under the law. He played the perfect game, not one error. And he suffered our punishment to atone for our sins. Through his death on the cross he reconciled you to God. Be reconciled to God. Through faith in Christ, you are no longer God's natural born enemy; rather, you are his reborn child. What peace!

Think of the words of that Christmas hymn: “Softly from his lowly manger Jesus calls One and all, ‘You are safe from danger. Children, from the sins that grieve you You are freed; All you need I will surely give you’” (“Once Again My Heart Rejoices,” Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 37:5). “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15 NIV84).

How does this peace come into our hearts? “Let he word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16 NIV84). The word of Christ, God's message, the Good News of the Gospel — that's what brings Christ's peace to us. The word of Christ is the sword of the Spirit to penetrate our hearts, to convert our will, to change our minds, to renew our souls, to transform our lives.

But what blessing when that word comes to us attached to music! Music touches our emotions and lingers in our minds. It invites us to contemplate and ponder that message of peace. Music moves us to join our voices in praise to God. It unites us in song. It brings us together rejoicing in Christ. Music gives our new, spiritual self that opportunity to praise God by teaching one another in word and song.

Church music isn't simply to cover up the silence or give variety. The liturgy and hymns are sung not only because it's traditional. Rather, since the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, we want to praise our Savior-God and music gives us and wonderful way to do so. Peace praises our God by teaching one another in word and song.

Take to heart the words you sing to teach yourself. Let the music the organ plays remind you of God's truth that you have learned. Come to worship and join in singing not only for yourself but to teach and encourage one another as well. For the peace of Christ that rules in our hearts praises our God. We praise him by teaching one another in word and song.

What a blessing for us, to have you, Phyllis, lead us in that musical praise for fifty years!

B. By giving thanks in all we say and do

Now, I realize that not everyone is musical. That peace of Christ that rules in our hearts not only praises God in worship but also praises him by giving thanks in all we say and do, which brings us to part two. The Apostle writes, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV84). What a way to praise our God! Whatever we say and do, wherever and whenever, do it giving thanks to him.

You see, when the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, that peace we have with God referees our thoughts and attitudes toward others. We, who believe, are one body in Christ. We have different abilities and different functions just like our eyes, ears, and hands differ. That's why we're not all organists. But whatever abilities and responsibilities the Lord gives you, use them in ways to build up your fellow Christians and to glorify your heavenly Father. For as the peace of Christ lives in us, we live at peace with each other to the glory of our God. What a way to praise him even if you cannot sing a note! What a way to give him thanks!

Peace praises our God by giving him thanks in all we say and do. We give him thanks by doing all that we do to his glory. We give him the credit. We don't boast about ourselves or covet the spotlight. Peace praises him by giving him thanks as we give him the glory in all we say and do.

The greatest Lutheran organist, Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote the initial “S. D. G.” at the beginning and end of many of his compositions. They stand for the Latin “Soli Deo Gloria,” which means, “Glory to God alone.” The glory and thanks goes to him alone.

When talk of celebrating your fiftieth anniversary as organist began, you seemed to feel a little hesitant, Phyllis. You've done this work week after week, not for your glory, not even to be appreciated or thanked. Like Bach you've done it Soli Deo Gloria.

So also, fellow members, in whatever way you serve, in whatever you say and do inside or outside of church, give thanks to God by doing it Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone the glory. What a way for peace to praise our God!

We do so anticipating that time when we will see God in his glory, when we will praise him in perfect peace, when we will join our voices with all of his people of every time and place and give him eternal thanks. Here we gather as the people of God in worship practicing for the eternal worship before the throne of the Lamb. We thank you Phyllis for musically leading us in this practice for heaven. Maybe one way to picture heaven is an eternal Christmas where we never tire of singing our favorite Christian carols in praise to Jesus. And so we pray with the hymn writer, “Jesus in mercy bring us To that dear land of rest Where sings the host of heaven Your glorious name to bless” (“Jerusalem the Golden” Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal: Supplement 728:2).

Until then let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. This peace praise our God by teaching one another in word and song and by giving him thanks in all we say and do.

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