Our Greatest Service To God? Listening to the Sermon!

Pentecost 17 Monday

1 Timothy 1:5-7

“The chief sum of the commandment is this: Love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from sincere faith. Some, having missed these, have turned around to idle blather. They want to be masters of Scripture and do not understand what they say or posit.”

It would be nice if people could be accustomed to call going to the sermon “going to God’s service,” to call preaching “serving God” and to call those who are assembled there “those who are assembled in the true, high service of God.” In the past, the dear apostles and ancient fathers have spoken this way. It came from them and has remained to this day that we say “going to mass” and “hearing mass”…and no one is used to saying “I want to see a mass,” but all say: “I want to hear mass.” This actually means that I want to go to God’s service and hear preaching or God’s Word, which is the best and most necessary part of the mass…For the word “mass” which seems to have been handed down from the apostles
means in Hebrew something like a tribute (Deuteronomy 16:10) or socage, like a peasant or vassal offers his mass to his lord, that is, the proper tribute or service, by which he recognizes him as his lord and carries out his obedience. Accordingly, they said here “I want to go to mass,” or “hear mass,” as if they wanted to say: “I will give God his tribute and proffer his service and perform the service that is highest and most pleasant to him.” In this way, hearing mass would be nothing but hearing God’s Word and serving God thereby. I say this to exhort us to hear God’s Word and attend the sermon gladly, because it is not only a strict commandment of God, but also it has the highest promise that it is pleasing to God and the highest, dearest service which we can offer to him–it outshines the other services just as the sun outshines all the stars and the Sabbath or holy day surpasses all the other common days and as, in sum, God’s kingdom surpasses the kingdoms of the world. For here everything is consecrated and specially chosen–time, persons, place, and church–everything for the sake of the Word, which makes all things holy for us, so that we may take care and not become lazy and lax when it comes to the Word like the shameful, sated spirits do who think they have already mastered it all and are able to do it better than we can proclaim it to them or who soon grow tired of our preaching and think: “Alas, I’ve heard the same stuff so many times already–why should I always hear the same old stuff?” These people do not know and do not consider what a great, precious thing and service to God preaching and hearing God’s Word is, which they so lazily abandon and miss. They greatly anger God by rejecting his earnest commandment so securely and by letting his promise be made in vain for them by destroying, or at least hindering, such praiseworthy service to God by their example as much as they can.

St. Louis ed., 9:885-886.

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