Psalm 84 (Third Sunday after Pentecost)
“We’ve Been Longing for This Day”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
June 21, 2020
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text the Psalm chosen for today, Psalm 84:
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. 8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! 9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! 10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We have longed for this day to come! The last time we attended the Divine Service together, in person, was March 15. For three months we have longed to come together again as the people of God in this place gathered around Christ’s Word and Sacrament. By God’s gift and blessing, here we are today, able to receive His Gospel gifts in person. Let me say to those who will be watching this service online, those who are not yet able to join us face to face: we love you; we miss you; and we look forward to seeing you when the time is right. We support you and hold you in our hearts and prayers while we are still apart.
I chose Psalm 84 for our use this morning because, for me, it summarized how we’ve been feeling. While we may have taken this place for granted in the past, I believe we will do so no longer. While we have been kept away from this “lovely dwelling place” where God chooses to meet with us by means of Word and Sacrament, we have remembered how loved and lovely this sacred place is to us who call this sanctuary home. Over the past weeks, I have heard from a number of you echoing the psalmist’s words, “My soul longs, even faints, for the courts of Yahweh.”—“I just wish we could be together in church again.” “I miss receiving Holy Communion.” “I so want to see my church family soon.” That’s a longing for the people of God, for the church, and for gathering together around this altar where the Lord comes to us in the Gospel Word and Sacrament.
I mentioned a moment ago taking God’s house for granted. I believe that’s a trap many Christians fall into. “Church will always be there. If I miss a week here or there, I can always go back when I’m ready.” Yes, the church is still here. We have been hearing the Word of Christ read and preached through online technology. But you couldn’t come here. You couldn’t come together as God’s people when you wanted to. And that’s what I mean by taking this place where the Lord Christ comes among us for granted. Our corporate worship life was halted because of the pandemic. In a very real way, this church wasn’t “here” the way it was on March 15. And today is only a beginning of coming back together as the body of Christ. We do not know what the future holds. We do not know if we will have to be apart again and unable to meet together as the Scriptures encourage us to do.
Remember the longing for this day that you have experienced. Remember how much you have missed this church family and how you have desired to receive the gifts of Christ in Absolution and in the eating and drinking of His Body and Blood with the bread and wine. No longer take the opportunity for worship and fellowship for granted. The psalmist points us in this direction today as we envision Psalm 84 sung by pilgrims on their way to the Jerusalem temple to participate in one of the three great feasts, maybe Passover, Pentecost, or the Feast of Tabernacles. They have been away from God’s house for a time and they longingly desire to be, not just in God’s house, but to be near God’s presence. These travelers want to be in the place where God comes among His people with His Word. They cannot take the place of God’s presence for granted. When the opportunity comes, they go!
The people of God gather where He Himself promises to meet with them, where the Gospel Word is read and preached, and the Sacraments of Christ are administered according to our Lord’s institution. This is the place where the Christian is blessed. “Blessed are those who dwell in your house continually praising you,” the psalmist pens. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you; pilgrims’ ways are in their hearts.” . . . “They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion.”
The strength God provides comes from His gifts to His people. Through the hearing of the Gospel Word, the Holy Spirit creates and sustains saving faith in the heart that holds tight to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In the Gospel, the Spirit delivers to each person the gifts the Lord Christ purchased and won for all people on the cross—forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In Holy Communion, Jesus Himself comes to His people with His true Body and Blood, in, with, and under, the bread and wine, giving forgiveness of sins, eternal life, salvation, and the strengthening of their Christian faith. It is in the gathering of the people of God in Christ around the gifts of Christ—Word and Sacrament—that we receive the strength of faith and holy living. It is at the font, altar, and pulpit that our Lord and Savior comes among us with His gifts by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Here in the Divine Service, our Lord Jesus does not withhold His good gifts from us. He gives His grace, His blessing, His forgiveness, His new life to each of us through Word and Sacrament.
The psalm then concludes, “O Yahweh of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” This is Gospel. It’s good news to us. We are blessed by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone. The time we are able to spend together in worship is a time that we celebrate, rejoice over, and no longer take for granted. Our Lord Christ comes to us in the power of His Spirit in His Word and Sacrament. He freely gives us the forgiveness of sins won for us by His death on the cross. He strengthens the saving faith gifted to us in the waters of Holy Baptism. Jesus gives us to eat His Body and to drink His Blood for the forgiveness of sins even as we proclaim His death and resurrection until He comes again.
Yes, we have longed for this day to come. You have heard the Word of Christ. You have received His forgiveness in Holy Absolution. You have responded with praise and prayer. By the power of the Holy Spirit, prepare your hearts and minds to come to longed-for Table of the Lord. At His altar, you have a place at the banquet feast of the King that is also a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. Come and eat. Come and drink. Be refreshed in body and soul until life everlasting with heavenly food—the Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. O Yahweh, God of hosts, hear our prayer; listen, O God of Jacob. You are our shield, O God, let us look upon the face of Your anointed One, Jesus Christ, in this sacred meal. Amen.