One of the things I appreciate most about Montgomery Hills Baptist Church is our rich tradition of worship. I am grateful for our “balanced” style of worship that allows us to use traditional hymns as well as more contemporary choruses and praise songs, and grateful too, for Cheryl and Jonathan and our praise team, and all those who lead us in worshipping God.
Our worship in January begins with a celebration of Epiphany. Epiphany is a rather strange sounding word I suppose. It comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation or showing forth.” Epiphany marks the day on which the Magi, (or Three Kings, or Wise Men) following the light of a star, arrived in Bethlehem, bowing in worship before the Christ child.
Of course, a number of legends have grown up around this story. We don’t really know how many kings there were. We read of three gifts given so we assume there were three kings, but we don’t really know. There is no mention of a manger. In fact, the Bible speaks of the Magi entering a house, and their visit may have been as much as two years after Jesus’ birth.
The Magi were outsiders. They did not “belong.” They were Gentiles, not Jews, but they acknowledged by their worship and gift bearing that this child was Lord not only of Jews, but Lord of all people. The journey of the Magi speaks to us of God’s all inclusive love, and proclaims God’s salvation to all people. To be sure, Christ’s church can and must do better in mirroring such love.
Many call them kings; others say they were priests, still others say astrologers or astronomers. Whatever their vocation, Lee McGlone says, “They represent that noble spirit of curiosity that searches for truth and goes the distance to find it, and having found it, recognizes its deity and bows in worship and praise.”
The Sundays after Epiphany also afford us the opportunity to reflect on the acts and deeds of Jesus that reveal and show forth the power of God. We will consider for example, his baptism in the river Jordan; we will unpack his first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus supplies that which is running out, the wine. And, we will retell the story of Jesus going back to his hometown of Nazareth to preach. That didn’t end so well.
Peter Bohler once said to Charles Wesley, "If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Jesus Christ with every one of them." Wesley was so impressed by that statement, that he wrote the matchless hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise."
Well, we may not have a thousand tongues to sing every Sunday, but we can all glorify God, thank God for his blessings, pray for the needs of others, listen to the Word read, sung, and preached, respond in faith, and testify to what God has done for us. Please join us each Sunday in January. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!”
Blessings, Pastor Joel
"Dear Pastor, I think a lot more people would come to your church if you moved it to Disneyland.” (Loreen, age 9)
Loreen, that sounds about right. Church attendance in our day is not exactly, shall we say, fashionable? Research reveals a continuing decline in Sunday morning attendance. Observe what America does on a typical Sunday and usually, going to Sunday school and worship are at the bottom of the list of varied activities. More and more people are opting out. Many see the church as irrelevant and out of touch. They see it as time that could best be used doing something else.
Of course I recognize that any talk of attending church by a pastor would appear to be self-serving, since we pastors can be seen as having a vested interest not only in our churches surviving, but also in growing and thriving! Pastors can get concerned when attendance in worship drops off.
Still, how are we doing in our attendance each Sunday? How faithful are we in supporting our church with our presence? James Moore asks these questions in a more creative way: “If our car would start one out of three times, would we consider it faithful? If our television worked sixty percent of the time, would we consider it faithful? If our newspaper delivery person should skip our house every other day and an occasional Friday, would we call that faithful? If our water heater should greet us with cold water three mornings a week, would it be faithful?
If we fail to come to work five or six days each month, would our employer consider us faithful? If we should miss a couple of house payments in a year, would our mortgage holder say, “Oh well, ten out of twelve months, that’s not too bad?” If we attend church once or twice a month, 25% or 50% of the time, would we say that we’re faithful?
In a real sense, the church year begins anew after summer break. Vacations are over; school is back in session and full church programming resumes. I encourage everyone to be present for Bible study and worship throughout September. God’s Word was written not just for information, but for
transformation. Come to study the Word and hear it proclaimed!
I believe this might be an apt time to share with you a series of messages on just a few of the myriad of reasons why it is so important that we gather together each Sunday morning for study and praise. The Series is entitled, “Church: Why Bother?” and begins on September 4th. Why bother? There are more reasons than I can number. So, “Let us draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:22) God desires a relationship with us. I encourage you; don’t miss out on all that God has for you.
Pastor Joel Hawthorne