What is in a name? Part 2
When I drive between my home and Concordia University, it is likely I will see Mount Zion Temple, a Jewish synagogue on Summit Avenue built in the 1950s. Given that there is a synagogue that shares the name we have for our congregation that should help us see the ancient origin of our name. King David conquered the “stronghold of Zion” from the Jebusites and established his own royal residence, calling it “the city of David.” (2 Samuel 5, 1 Chronicles 11) This location was lower than the temple and palace complex Solomon would build. The construction of the temple with its presence of the Ark of the Covenant would switch the identity of Mount Zion to the temple location. Psalm 125:2 states, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” Later, the term Mount Zion would extend more broadly to all Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem as the author of Hebrews writes, “You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.” (12:22)
The Book of Hebrews has an interesting comparison and contrast of two mounts, Sinai and Zion, in chapter 12. Mount Sinai is visible and terrifying. One can touch the mountain and see how it blazes with fire. There is darkness and gloom. Any tempest, trumpet, or voice would terrify anyone. God’s sovereignty is on full display. Neither human nor beast was permitted to approach this mountain; even Moses trembled with fear. The product of the mountain was the Law, which promised grace and blessing to those who keep God’s commandments but no one can and does keep them. The priesthood for centuries with its sacrificial system pointed to another mountain that was greater, yet hidden.
The glory of Mount Zion is hidden but comforting. Zion’s glory is not much to see in this world. We cannot see the angels, faith, and the souls of the departed in Christ. Zion appears weak and powerless with small congregations struggling for survival, but Zion is the mountain of communion with saints and angels. Zion is the whole church united in worship, a communion with “angels and archangels,” and a communion with the church triumphant in glory. Mount Zion is where God provides forgiveness for sinners through Jesus and his new covenant. He intercedes for us before the judgment throne of God and we receive his forgiveness through baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
You could say that every Sunday for us is a “mountaintop experience.” Far more is happening in our worship than what we see. Like the author of Hebrews states, “You have come to Mount Zion,” and does not write, “You will come.” We see and hear with the eyes and ears of faith in Christ. We will physically see and hear on the Last Day when, as St. John saw and heard in Revelation, the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven as a bride beautifully adorned for her Bridegroom. Until then, we hear and trust this Word from the Lord that says we have already come to Mount Zion.
Lastly, in October I wrote I would provide the most common names for Lutheran congregations. The top five names with numbers for Missouri Synod congregations are Trinity 569, St. John 467, St. Paul 464, Immanuel 325, and Zion 323.
Pastor Michael Dorner