Since we are a people of initials both within and outside our church, I have decided to coin a new one: "PCELS." It's something that most (all?) congregations experience. Satan uses it to cripple and even destroy otherwise faithful, energetic, and well-intentioned congregations. So, what is "PCELS"? It's "Post-Christmas/Easter Letdown Syndrome." Its major symptom is the drastic decline in participation in worship services after the very joyful Christmas and Easter celebrations.
Why does PCELS happen? Maybe it's because of an attitude of minimalism (attending public worship and partaking of the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion once or even twice a year is adequate … it fulfills the necessary requirement to be kept on the congregational membership list); spiritual apathy (what difference does it make or who cares, anyway?); or fatigue (our lives are so filled with activities, responsibilities, and other "things" that we are just too tired to attend public worship). After all, "God will understand" we rationalize.
How do we successfully counteract PCELS? The answer is so simple that we often miss it. We humbly confess our sinful neglect, gratefully receive God's forgiveness, resolve to correct our wrong in the power of our Baptism identity as God's children, and prayerfully encourage one another to live as God desires us to live. That is, we do what Satan is trying to get us to not do. We faithfully participate in Word and Sacrament by reading, hearing, and obeying God's Holy Word both individually and collectively and join with fellow Christians of the same confessional conviction in consuming Christ's crucified and resurrected body and blood that are really present in, with, and under the consecrated elements of bread and wine. Both activities point our attention to and give us the strong assurance of what Jesus told His disciples 40 days after His bodily resurrection when He bodily ascended back to His heavenly throne, "I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18)
Because Jesus is with us we have great comfort and strength as we struggle to move through life confronted with trials and tribulations, heartaches and despairs. The reality of our Savior's presence safeguards us against and protects us from Satan, the world, and our sin-infected selves. No matter what challenges threaten us, we have the blessed assurance that Jesus has already won the ultimate victory for us with His holy life, innocent suffering and death, and triumphant resurrection from the dead. He reminds us of that truth every time we recall our Baptism, by which the Holy Spirit cleansed us from our sins, gave us faith in our Savior, and connected us with His death and resurrection. That's what the divine service is ultimately all about—reminding and reassuring us of God's compassionate mercy and grace that His only-begotten Son gained for us.
Isn't that worth receiving and celebrating regularly … frequently … even weekly? Let's combat PCELS by faithfully attending public worship and partaking of the Lord's Supper, humbly confessing our sins and gratefully receiving God's forgiveness for them, and daily communicating with God through His gift of prayer. God will be glorified, we will be uplifted, and His Church will be strengthened.
In Immanuel's service,
This sermon is not copyrighted. It is God's gift to His Church for free and unrestricted use through me who am one of His many faithful servants. Please exercise the common courtesy of properly acknowledging its source should you use part or all of it for any purposes.
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