Summary: The Invocation reminds us of where we are and who we are.
How many rituals do you have? How many procedures do you follow on a regular basis? Many of you make a pot of coffee upon waking in the morning or stop at Tim Horton’s because you wouldn’t dare start your day without a caffeine hit. That’s a ritual. Brushing teeth after meals is also a ritual, as is eating turkey on Thanksgiving. When a ritual is practiced often enough, one can do it without thinking. That’s not a big deal when it comes to rituals like brushing teeth, but it is a problem when it comes to procedures that we really do need to pay attention to when we do them. Driving to work might be a ritual we repeat every day, but we’d better stay focused on the task of we’ll quickly find ourselves involved in a fender bender.
Staying focused is also important when it comes to worshiping our God. The Lutheran church often follows a pattern of worship over a thousand years old called the liturgy. It’s a good pattern to follow because it places Jesus and his Word clearly at the center of our worship. But since the liturgy is a ritual that we repeat week after week, month after month, year after year, the danger is that we can begin to do it without giving it much thought, like brushing our teeth. For the next several weeks we will take a closer look at some of the individual parts that make up our worship ritual. It is my prayer that by doing so we will all understand our worship better, will appreciate it more, and will be able to participate in our worship more thoughtfully and more meaningfully.
Our sermon today will focus on words that are usually spoken after the opening hymn: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This “Invocation,” as it’s called, is more than a churchy way of saying: “God says, ‘Hi!’ He’s glad you came to church today.” No, the Invocation reminds us of where we are, and it reminds us of who we are.
Listen to our text from Genesis 28:16, 17. “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’” Do you remember what prompted Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, to speak these words? He had received a dream in which he saw a ladder that stretched from the earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. At the top of the ladder stood God himself. Why was this dream significant? Well consider Jacob’s situation. He was running away from home because his older brother Esau had threatened to kill him. Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright when he deceived their blind father Isaac by dressing up like Esau to receive the blessing. Although it’s hardly the same, consider how you would feel if a co-worker picked up your Christmas cash bonus saying he was going to deliver it to you, but then ran off to Mexico with it.