GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 6.15.23

Monthly memory verse: “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

I hope that this note finds you guarded by the Lord’s peace and filled with the joy of His salvation.  I have been praying for you this week, asking Him to draw you closer to Himself each day in His Word, in prayer, and in the fellowship that comes with diligence in keeping His commands.  At the same time, I have been praying that He would increase our longing to join together in His praise, and our delight in doing that very thing each Lord’s Day.  I pray this because He has made it clear in HIs Word that He is pleased to bless the gathering of His faithful ones, such that, when we draw near to Him, by faith, together with His congregation, we will find ourselves blessed indeed.  This is something of which I am wonderfully reminded each year during the annual meeting of the ARPC Synod of North America, and this was no different during the recent 219th meeting of that Synod.  It is a meeting that finished, as is the case every year, with the singing of Psalm 133.

Psalm 133 speaks of the blessedness of joining together with God’s people to give Him the worship of which He is so eminently worthy.  It begins by declaring that it is both good and pleasant to dwell together in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ (v.1).  It then describes this as being akin to the pouring out of the anointing oil upon Aaron the high priest, with the oil then running down onto his beard and robes (v.2).  This is a picture of refreshment, as oil soothes the skin in the dry climate of Israel.  But, more significantly, it is a reference to the anointing of the high priest, setting him apart to minister to God on behalf of the people, who share in his ministry as he represents them before the Holy One.  Thus, the oil runs down to cover not only the head, but the entire body.  This picture is fulfilled in Christ, our High Priest and the Head of the body that is the church, being anointed with the Holy Spirit without measure, whom He then abundantly pours out upon His people, so that we share in His anointing and blessedness before the Lord – all sweetly fitted together and made one as various parts of His one body.  Next, the Psalm compares dwelling in unity as part of God’s congregation as being like the dew from Mount Hermon that descends on Zion, the temple mount where the Lord’s people gathered as one to glory His name (v.3a).  Which is to say, it represents the mind, heart, and soul reviving refreshment that are found in the presence of our God’s praising people as being like dry land drinking in the dew that falls soft upon it from the mountain heights above.  Finally, the Psalm ends by stating why it is such a blessed thing to be among those who so gather in unity to worship the Lord (v.3b).  It is because, it is in the midst of His praising people that the Lord especially loves to pour out the rich blessing of everlasting life – calling lost sinners to salvation by His Son, and sustaining saved sinners through the ordinary means of grace, administered, received, and enjoyed in the company of His dearly loved ones.  Thus, we are told, in a heart-moving way, of the blessedness of joining together with God’s people to give Him the worship of which He is so eminently worthy.

We get a taste of this each year at Synod, as Ministers and Elders from the United States and Canada gather to worship the Lord and consider matters of import to the church.  Each year, as we do so, I am personally encouraged by the reminder that I am far from alone in seeking to serve the Lord in a fallen world that is adamantly opposed to Him.  I am simultaneously convicted by others who are engaged in the same conflict, who are examples in the way they seem to run the race so well.  Furthermore, I am taught, challenged, and comforted by the faithful preaching of God’s Word.  In addition, I am moved and warmed in heart by the sound of the gathered saints praying and singing the praises of our great God and Savior.  For these reasons and others besides, I am grateful to be granted a small taste of the blessedness declared in Psalm 133 at the annual Synod meeting.

But, more to the point here is the fact that these blessings are by no means reserved for meetings of Ministers and Elders that occur once each year, but are available to each of us every single week as we come together on the Lord’s Day, which our God graciously commands us to do for His glory and our good.  Every single week, you and I may (and, by the Lord’s clear instruction, must) gather together to receive the abundance of blessing that He has stored up for us in the corporate worship of His bride and body.  Every week, you can and I can be encouraged by the reminder that we have a family in the Lord, and are therefore far from isolated in the world.  Every week, we can be helpfully convicted as He uses the examples of fellow believers, and especially His read and preached Word, to cut and to heal, increasingly fashioning the likeness of Christ in us.  Every week, we can be taught, challenged, and comforted by the expounding of the life-giving Word.  And, every week, we can be helpfully moved by the lifted voices of those who likewise love the Lord, bringing to Him prayers and songs of praise.  Such blessings aren’t intended to be reserved for annual or occasional meetings or conferences, but are meant to be the regular ‘bread and wine’ of the Christian faith, received and delighted in from one week to the next as every believers humbly and gratefully heeds the Lord’s call to, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod 20:8).

Let us therefore give thanks to our heavenly Father for laying up such blessings for us to enjoy every single week.  I have heard many believers express regret over not being more committed to being present for His praise, but I have never heard a believer express regret over being present too often for, or devoting too much time to, His worship.  Let us not despise His blessings or think less of them because of the regularity with which He is pleased to distribute them.  Rather, let us rejoice that He loves to give such good gifts to His children.  Let us make it a non-negotiable, set determination of the highest importance that we will prepare our hearts and come, week by week, to taste the goodness of our God and the pleasantness of dwelling together in unity!

In Christ,

Pastor Eric

P.S.

Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.

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