Psalm 50
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


Dear faithful of the Mighty One, who speaks and summons the earth, when you gathered this evening in Advent, what did you expect to hear? Did you expect to hear Him say that He will not accept your money and other gifts that you give to Him? In our Psalm He says, “Not for you sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.” In other words, He says to His people, “You do the liturgical practice right, you do not neglect to do it exactly in the proper outward way, but I will not accept it. I do not want it.”


There is no doubt that our Father in heaven desires proper worship. This can be seen in the Levitical laws, everything is laid out precisely. Again in the New Testament, the Apostles give direction as to how the worship life of the congregations should look. There should be reading of Scripture and its interpretation or preaching, singing of hymns and spiritual songs, holy hands lifted up in prayers, and the breaking of bread. Without such direction, we would immediately create our own forms and our own liturgy. Thus our God saves us from grave danger of idolatry and false worship, giving us some direction so that we may be confident that our worship truly pleasing to Him. 

Sermon for the 2nd Wednesday of Advent, Dec. 11, 2013
Psalm 50
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


Dear faithful of the Mighty One, who speaks and summons the earth, when you gathered this evening in Advent, what did you expect to hear? Did you expect to hear Him say that He will not accept your money and other gifts that you give to Him? In our Psalm He says, “Not for you sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.” In other words, He says to His people, “You do the liturgical practice right, you do not neglect to do it exactly in the proper outward way, but I will not accept it. I do not want it.”


There is no doubt that our Father in heaven desires proper worship. This can be seen in the Levitical laws, everything is laid out precisely. Again in the New Testament, the Apostles give direction as to how the worship life of the congregations should look. There should be reading of Scripture and its interpretation or preaching, singing of hymns and spiritual songs, holy hands lifted up in prayers, and the breaking of bread. Without such direction, we would immediately create our own forms and our own liturgy. Thus our God saves us from grave danger of idolatry and false worship, giving us some direction so that we may be confident that our worship truly pleasing to Him. 


Still, we pervert this instruction with our sinful thoughts and distort the gifts that are here given to us, as Christ comes into our presence. It is not for lack of obedience to the outward forms that God condemns Israel, His church. It is for misunderstanding the relationship between God and ourselves. God does not need us, as if we can do so much for Him. He asks you, “Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” And we would answer, no, of course not! But do we understand why that question is so condemning? Animal sacrifice is rare here, but in places where it is common the reason for the blood being poured on the idol and flesh being offered to the god is because the god needs it. It sustains the god as it eats what is offered. Hence, one offers food to the god in order to be in favorable position and receive good things from that god. In effect you are saying to that god, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”


We may be accused of two things. First, of dishonoring God by thinking He depends on us, on our giving, as if He eats and drinks flesh and blood. This is not proper, for in no way does He depend on us. If He needed something, all of creation belongs to Him, every beast of the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills, even the birds and all that moves. Why would He ask us? To say that God needs us in effect denies Him of being the creator and sustainer of all things, because it means that He cannot sustain Himself. That is a weak and worthless god, one that is not worth worshipping. But our God is neither weak nor worthless, He is worthy of all praise and adoration by the fact of being Creator alone.


The second thing we may be accused of is trying to bargain with God. “God, do you see how I serve you and give to you? Now give me…” Do you not see how this ruins the very nature of a gift, how it destroys the opportunity for thankfulness? If you try to deserve or earn a gift, it is no longer a gift but wages. The wages you deserve are death, plain and simple. But the gift is life-, it is deliverance so great that we cannot help but glorify God for it.


This great deliverance is coming to you this Advent, and we celebrate its coming very soon. It comes as a child, born of a virgin and laid in a feed trough. There is nothing grandiose that meets the eye, no devouring fire before Him or a mighty tempest around Him. Yet God chooses to come to us in this way, to deliver us in the day of trouble. Jesus comes forth in such humble estate, clothed in our flesh with all our frailties, but even in that heavens open and declare His righteousness. The world and its fullness were His to use as He saw fit, even to use it as a sacrifice to cleanse sin by utter destruction. But He chose to be the sacrifice Himself, offering to the Father a blood more precious than all the blood of all the cattle in all creation could ever offer. 


There on the cross, in the day of trouble, Jesus offered up His body and His blood to atone for the sins of the world. He did not offer it up for the Father to eat or drink, but to us so that we may eat His flesh and drink His blood. God has no need of it, but we do. We need it because by eating His body and drinking His blood He now calls Zion, His church, the perfection of beauty in the forgiveness of Her sins. When we gather around this gift, Christ Himself is present to give it to us, both the meal and the host. In such fashion it is true that, “out of Zion, the perfection beauty, God shines forth.” In what clearer way can God be seen among His people than this meal?


Having received His promises and gifts, we know how great a deliverance He has given to us. The gift is so great we cannot help but glorify Him for it. How can we not thank Him for His wondrous gifts with praise and thank offerings?

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