Upon the dedication of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Weslaco, Texas
A church building be it a humble chapel or a grand cathedral is simply a building of wood, stone and mortar. The organ and the furnishings are not different in a chapel than in a cathedral, except that those of a cathedral may be more elegant.
Dedication is not the dedication of a monument to any person or self. We do not dedicate a church to be a social club. No politician shall ever search for votes within our walls or from the pulpit of our church. Among us the dedication of a church building is the consecrating or setting apart of the building for sacred use. What is dedicated is dedicated to the glory of God, who has called us individually to faith in Christ Jesus, and who has brought the assembly of believers in Christ together in one place. To dedicate a church to the glory of God is an implicit and explicit expression that within its walls God’s Word shall be preached. His name shall be hallowed. How? By teaching the Word of God in its truth and purity. Within the walls of a church dedicated to the glory of God we will preach Law. The preaching of the Law is enjoined upon the Church in order that the sins of the flesh may be exposed. Within these walls the predominant preaching shall be the Gospel, for the Gospel is the healing balm for sinners as it is the pronouncement of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus alone. Sinners troubled by their sin and seeking release from their guilt should find in a church dedicated to the Lord God and His service, peace of mind and hope of heaven. God is where His word is and the sacraments administered according to the divine institution. They who enter a church dedicated to the service of the Lord should know that they have been in the presence of God. A church dedicated to the glory of God will be a place within which the Gospel is taught so that unbelievers may be converted, and believers in Christ may be strengthened. It is a place within which they who gather will mutually confess their sins, receive the absolution of the Lord, and reflect this divine love in their relationship with all people.
Where the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity there God is pleased to dwell. He tells us in Exodus 20:24, ” In every place where I record my name, I will come to you and I will bless you.” A Christian church dedicated to the glory of the Lord is a place to which God’s people will come in confidence, as the hymn writer wrote:
In every new distress
We’ll to this house repair,
Recall to mind His wondrous grace,
And seek deliverance there. (Lutheran Hymnal 636)
The dedication of a building, however, is quite meaningless if the people who make up the congregation are not first dedicated in their heart to love the Truth as it has been taught, and to serve the Lord in the spirit of faith and holiness. The apostle Paul wrote by inspiration concerning the Corinthian Christians who had opened their hearts with a liberal outpouring of gifts for the Christians in Macedonia. He tells us how the Corinthians “first gave themselves to the Lord. . .” (2 Corinthians 8:5). What a beautiful example of dedication! As the Lord has redeemed us from sin and given us an inheritance with the saints, He has set us aside as individuals calling us “temples of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16) He says, ” I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Blessing rests upon such as are dedicated to the Lord and who worship in a building dedicated to the glory of God.
The hymn verse applies whether speaking of our heart or a building dedicated to the praise of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. We pray:
Come with Thy Spirit and Thy power,
The Conqueror , once the Crucified.
Our God, our Strength, our King, our Tower,
Here plant Thy throne and here abide.
. . . Be Thou our Rock, our Life, our Thought,
And we as living temples Thine. (LH- 637)