Gather together

The Lutheran Service Book, copyright Concordia Publishing House



Day 2 – We gather together

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
he chastens and hastens his will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.”

Can you hear the hymn in your head? I was reading Scripture and commentary to get ready for this post and I just could not get this particular hymn out of my mind. The hymn is traditionally a thanksgiving hymn, but was originally used for patriotic purposes by the Dutch. The last time I heard it, it was at a baptism.

I watched the darling baby being baptized and I sat back and listened. I didn’t sing. I listened. In fact, I entered that weird vortex when everything seems to still around you and it’s just you and God. Except it wasn’t. It was me and God and the voices of a hundred of God’s precious people singing praise to His name.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning;
thou, Lord, wast at our side; all glory be thine!”

Beside us, joining, maintaining, at our side. Gathering together Scripturally is almost always about relationship. This made it a perfect hymn for baptism- it’s all about relationship!

Let’s look at the Ecclesiastes 3:5 passage to refresh our memories regarding the wording…
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;”

The counter to casting away stones from yesterday is to gather stones together.

What can we learning about gathering from Scripture? Open your Bibles and check out the following passages. I’ll include the text of two passages here for ease of use, but challenge yourself to dig in!

Genesis 25:8 “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.”

Genesis 31:43-55
1 Kings 18:19-20
Ezra 3:1
Isaiah 11:12
Mark 2:2
John 11:51-53
Acts 13:44-45

2 Thessalonians 2:1 “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers…”

The people and things in these Scriptures were not simply collected and placed haphazardly. These people were gathered together for a purpose, whether as His people or by Him as the diaspora, or even in order to plot against Him. Even that is by His hand- gathered together.

One of my favorite stories of gathering is in Esther 4:10-17… If your Bible is handy, read the whole chapter. Here, I’ll focus on these seven verses:
10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”
12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Underline Mordecai’s wisdom for Esther in verse 13:
Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.”

This passage in Scripture that is all at once familiar and confusing to us, with all of it’s names and ‘he said’ ‘she said’, reminds us that God values all His people. He sees us for sure as individuals, but He sees us as community also.
When we stand as Christians, we stand for the Body of Christ. We are not living our lives for only ourselves, but for one another. And each of you are being lived for, by your Christian brothers and sisters. The great cloud of witnesses isn’t just a fun picture of the saints gone before us and the saints around us. It is a living and active breathing ministry, to the whole Church…to you, beloved.

Look around you. Who are you here for in this time and place? Who is God gathering you to and with?

This historical event from Esther gives us a glimpse of a moment when the people were all gathered together for the needs of the body. Reread verse 16:
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.’”

One for all and all for one. Sometimes persecution brings scattering, sometimes it brings complete and utter unity, all for Him.

What has God asked of you in your time and place? How does this desire He has laid on your heart, or task He has given you, gather you with His people?

In the end, we will be gathered together in Him, perfect and whole and complete. Until then, let us spur one another on- casting living stones, gathering them together, all in His time.
Discussion questions:
Look around you. Who are you here for in this time and place? Who is God gathering you to and with?
What has God asked of you in your time and place?
How does this desire He has laid on your heart or task He has given you gather you with His people?
(All Bible quotations are from the ESV Scripture translation.*I am unsure of who to credit for the Hymn “We Gather Together.” I found it in an old file from a retreat. The author itself is unknown.)

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