Sunday, September 15, 2013: Jesus Came to Save Sinners

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:12–17

When is the last time you thought about your own sin? Sometimes Christians can become so accustomed to God’s grace and forgiveness that we can forget how wretched we once were and how we continue to struggle with sin. The passage of focus this week comes from the Epistle reading, 1 Timothy 1:12–17.

Upon reflection of our Psalm for the morning, Psalm 14, we are forced to meditate on some pretty harsh and stark statements such as, “There is none who does good, no, not one,” or “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Psalm 14 contrasts the fool and the righteous by stating that the righteous seek refuge in the Lord. We will be singing this Psalm to the tune of “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” as adapted from the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter. The verses divide neatly into 4 stanzas and will be sung congregationally as a hymn rather than responsively as we have done in the past.

The Call to Worship will be Hymn #524, “We’re Marching to Zion” which uses similar language to Psalm 14. The upbeat 6/8 rhythm of this hymn is a nice gathering song before we pause to take in the weight of the morning’s Psalm.

While the Old Testament reading was not specifically referenced in planning the morning’s songs, it does iterate our sinfulness and need for forgiveness. “They are silly children, and they have no understanding,” God says. The severity of the Jeremiah passage is a dramatic prelude leading into the grace of Christ we read of in the following 1 Timothy passage.

In the 1 Timothy 1:12–17 passage, Paul famously continues his introduction to point out how deserving he is of God’s wrath. He was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…” he says. However, he “obtained mercy.” Paul speaks as if he has been called to an intense life of suffering for Christ because of his previous sins. In verse 16, he counts it joy to suffer greatly for the sake of Christ and all believers.

The songs selected to follow this passage and lead us into the sermon begin with “Before the Throne of God Above.” The intent here, is to echo Paul’s sentiments. This hymn speaks of our intense need of a Savior and the guilt we continue to wrestle with as we fight against sin. Christ has not only dealt with our sin but continues to intercede for us and comfort us in our present situation. I always like to either precede or follow such a lyrically weighted hymn with a simple chorus. This week, the familiar, “I Have Been Redeemed” finishes out the rich theology and moves us into an easier, more contemplative chorus. This song continues the same themes found in “Before the Throne of God Above,” but hopefully frees folks to put down their bulletins and think more deeply about what Christ has done, continues to do, and will always do for us.

This week’s service is a simple meditation on the Gospel. Appropriately, after making thanks at the Eucharist table, we will close the service with Dennis Jernigan’s classic, “Thank You, Lord.”

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