THE spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
Th' unwearied Sun from day to day
Does his Creator's power display;
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly to the listening Earth
Repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though nor real voice nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found?
In Reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing as they shine,
'The Hand that made us is divine.'
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Click here for the 8 AM Sunday service, Phoenix time, and the recorded services and Book of Concord studies.
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
The Hymn #13 Before Jehovah’s – Old Hundredth
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual 1 Corinthians 10:6-13
The Gospel Luke 16:1-9
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #479 Zion rise – Fahre fort
Escape from the Castle of Despair
The Hymn #387 by Luther vss. 1-5 – Nun freut euch
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 387 vss. 6-10
1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
Collect by Veit Dietrich
Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast bountifully given us Thy blessing and our daily bread: We beseech Thee, preserve us from covetousness, and so quicken our hearts that we willingly share Thy blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Thy gifts, and abide in Thy grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Thy judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
In this lesson we are warned to learn from the example of those who have been destroyed by their own folly. But we are also encouraged by the promises of God to help us with temptation.
We no longer have to look up historic references to Corinth to show people how sinful one city can become. We only need to look around, wherever we are, from the metropolitan areas to the rural counties. America has become Corinth and we are all paying a terrible price for it. Meth maggots or speed freak are common among the celebrities and among the poor, even though the drug is known for destroying people.
America is following the Roman Empire and many others in its decline. Juvenal, a Roman poet, wrote about women parading around in armor, pretending to be soldiers. We have a general social decline accompanied by vast wealth. Unfortunately, wealth allows vice to multiply rapidly.
Therefore, we have to be careful that we do not get drawn into the decline of society, in the name of freedom and forgiveness, and learn too late the penalties attached to that decline. In addition, we should not despair that so many seem to get away with everything. God’s Law is natural law. He commands what is good for us. Therefore, if we continue to violate His law, the consequences will follow.
Most police reports begin, “Outside a bar, downtown, at 2 AM…” or “Police are looking for the live-in boyfriend, who is suspected of…” If those two factors were eliminated, the crime stories would be much tamer. People cannot defy natural law and enjoy good consequences from their actions.
Luther explained the problem of temptation as follows, paraphrased. Satan deceives people to sin, as if there will never be bad consequences. They go along blindly and often enjoy a great measure of happiness, especially in scorning those who feel inhibited by such concepts as right and wrong. However, at the end Satan tears away the mask and shows people what they have become. Then they despair of all forgiveness and make themselves even more fodder for the devil.
Imagine how pitiful is the condition of the great apostates of today – those religious leaders who do not believe in salvation through Christ alone. Are they poor? Are they losing members? Are they scorned by the media? No, just the opposite is true. The worse they become, the more successful they are in every respect but one. Their hearts are hardened against God’s Word. One man wrote about going in to see a televangelist about the corruption of his ministries. The minister responded by ordering his financial secretary to write out a large check, a bribe to silence the man. How much money will God need to be silent on the Day of Judgment? “Lord, Lord, did we not perform great miracles in Your Name?”
Temptation comes in other forms for believers. Then Satan makes us think that others have much better conditions. He encourages us to doubt the goodness of God. Some believers question whether they can be forgiven and fall into despair when they realize how weak their flesh is. However, when we fall into temptation, we should be reminded of how we cannot rely on our own strength to save ourselves.
Since we live in an era with great wealth and peace, we do not despair about the age-old problems of hunger, security, and housing. Nevertheless, there are many ways to be tempted.
Those who suffer from long-term illness are tempted to despair. Many opportunities are closed off to them. I have known several people who are always treated as if they are retarded, just because they have limited physical abilities. The equation does not make sense, unless we believe a professional wrestler is a genius.
Long-term illnesses are almost always accompanied by great discomfort and pain, and many forms of humiliation. Greater expenses are matched by lower income. We worship the active, athletic life, and not one of thought, so it is easy for many people to feel useless because they are not athletes in residence.
But God’s purpose should not be questioned. We should not think He neglects us but rather see how He gives us blessings in the form of problems. Years ago, one mother was despairing because her son had special learning problems. Her husband made $400 an hour in sales, so they were not limited by financial concerns. I said, “That’s a minor problem. He just needs some special training and lots of love.” She said, with some disgust, “You make it sound so easy.” I thought to myself, “Compared to what I have seen in many hospitals and nursing homes, yes it is.”
When people have little, they often value the smallest things. One of our friends had severe lupus, retardation, physical problems, and a father who died fairly young. Her relatives did not treat her very well. On one icy Minnesota day, I stopped at Hardy’s and got her a bag of French fries, her favorite. The weather was too evil for her to walk there. She munched on those fries as if they were the best gourmet food in the world.
When someone has almost nothing, God’s Word is the only treasure. I think we could find more believers among the chronically ill than among the chronically rich. Knowing that their lives are shortened and many things beyond their reach or imagination, they take great comfort in the promises of God. A poor weak person is usually far more patient than a rich, strong person. It is well known that the Mafia don, John Gotti, beat the daylights out of a truck driver for talking back to him. Then, at the assault trial, he scared the trucker into denying the beating. What makes the chronically ill more patient is not their greater virtue, but the leaven of the Gospel working in them, making them more forgiving, more willing to endure.
Despair does not always come from great difficulties. It also comes from the normal challenges of daily life. For instance, as Luther wrote, it is easy to become despondent over the state of the church and the disappointing behavior of pastors. I counted up four pastors I have tried to help with publishing. All four have been especially spiteful and destructive. Those who want to be faithful Lutherans find themselves in one congregation after another, prompting their relatives to mock them for never being happy. I was told several times that WELS district presidents had gone through one doctrinal crisis with the break with the Missouri Synod. For that reason, they refused to engage in another doctrinal battle, as if God gives us a quota of one in our lifetimes. Even deer licenses are more lenient than that.
Despair can also come from fulfilling responsibility and never seeing any great results, often reverses. Mothers must do the same jobs every day and never feel rested or caught up. Gratitude is not a quality found in great abundance in children. Surrounded by love and concern, children take it for granted. Who can measure the great impact a loving mother has on her children, especially when the time spent (for an at-home mother) is so rarely in evidence today?
God’s blessings are being realized when we tempted to despair. At one time I thought my whole life consisted of walking through hospital halls, waiting for test results, listening to social workers insult my intelligence, watching helplessly as the weakness grew in our children. Every cure made things worse. Later, I realized those were times of the greatest possible happiness and fulfilling as well. It is a blessing to be able to care for someone and to receive so much love in response. Black Christians consider it a great honor to be able to care for someone. It is in giving without receiving back that we approach God’s love for us, but God gives us many rewards in the act of giving time and concern.
God promises us a way of escape, an answer for the problems of the moment. In that way, time after time, we see how God works to solve our greatest difficulties. When we see a teenager blow his stack over a minor frustration, we can say, “Oh yes, I often feel the same way.” When we think about how silly it is at the moment, we can think, “I have been as silly if not worse.”
Escaping the Castle of Despair
Every Lutheran should know the great work of Bunyan called Pilgrim’s Progress, because many Biblical lessons are taught in the allegory. I often recall the scene in which Christian is lying in a jail cell in the Castle of Despair. The giant who captured him is loudly discussing with his wife how he will kill Christian in the morning. Finally Christian realizes that he has had the keys to unlock the jail cell all along. They were in his pocket. They are: the Promises of God.
The Gospel defeats despair because it is nothing more than the promises of God. Do we have worries? God will provide. Are we afraid? God will take care of us. Does our suffering seem meaningless? God will show us the meaning in time.
When I think about difficult people I have known, and they come in a marvelous assortment, I believe they have one thing in common – no concept of forgiveness. It is not so much that they must be forgiving toward others. They seem never to have grasped forgiveness of their own sins, how they can receive it and rejoice in it. Forgiveness comes to us through that contrition which is worked in us by God’s Law. We see ourselves as we truly are when we look into the mirror of the Law. It is not that contrition makes us worthy to be forgiven.
Forgiveness of sin is not based upon how sorry we are or how sorry we say we are. Forgiveness comes from the Gospel alone, received in faith. But as long as our hearts are hardened in pride, as if we need no forgiveness, the Gospel does not mean anything to us.
But when we properly despair of ourselves and ask for mercy from God, we realize how great His love is toward us, how devoid of resting that love upon our worthiness.
Those who know how great this forgiveness is, through the blood of Christ on the cross, also find it easy to forgive others as well. They are also likely to assure others, “Just as God helped me out of my troubles, so He will help you in your crisis.” God is faithful. He will fulfill His promises. His Gospel promises defeat despair, fear, and anxiety.
A Pastor Smites Wolves
"It is not enough that we preach correctly, which the hireling can also do; but we must watch over the sheep, that the wolves, false teachers, may not break in, and we must contend for the sheep against the wolves, with the Word of God, even to the sacrifice of our lives. Such are good shepherds, of whom few are found."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 34. Second Sunday after Easter. John 10:11-16.
Spineless Conservative Pastors Are Wolves
"For nothing can feed or give life to the soul, which is not the doctrine of Christ. Although the hireling does not himself slay and destroy, he does not restrain the wolf. Therefore, because you neither point out nor teach this shepherd, you shall not and ought not to be heard, but you shall be shunned as a wolf."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 58f. Second Sunday after Easter. John 10:11-16.
False Teachers and the Colored Filter
"They [the false teachers] fared like a man who looks through a colored glass. Put before such a man whatever color you please, he sees no other color than that of the glass. The fault is not that the right color is not put before him but that his glass is colored differently, as the word of Isaiah 6:9 puts it: You will see, he says, and yet you will not see it."
Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols.,
ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 644. Isaiah 6:9.
Adiaphora and Confessional Crisis
"We believe, teach, and confess that at a time of confession, as when enemies of the Word of God desire to suppress the pure doctrine of the holy Gospel, the entire community of God, yes, every individual Christian, and especially the ministers of the Word as the leaders of the community of God are obligated to confess openly, not only by words but also through their deeds and actions, the true doctrine and all that pertains to
it, according to the Word of God. In such a case we should not yield to adversaries even in matters of indifference, nor should we tolerate the imposition of such ceremonies on us by adversaries in order to undermine the genuine worship of God and to introduce and confirm their idolatry by force or chicanery. It is written, 'For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.' (Galatians 5:1)."
Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article X, 10-11, The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983, p. 612. Galatians 5:1.
Luther and Fellowship
"Dr. Luther, who understood the true intention of the Augsburg Confession better than any one else, remained by it steadfastly and defended it constantly until he died. Shortly before his death, in his last confession, he repeated his faith in this article with great fervor and wrote as follows: 'I reckon them all as belonging together (that is, as Sacramentarians and enthusiasts), for that is what they are who will not believe that the Lord's bread in the Supper is his true, natural body, which the godless or Judas receive orally as well as St Peter and all the saints. Whoever, I say, will not believe this, will please let me alone and expect no fellowship from me. This is final." [WA 54:155, 156]
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII, Lord's Supper, 33, The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959, p. 575.
Spoiling the Egyptian Garbage
"Is it possible that one who has such models as Luther, Walther, Stoeckhardt, Lochner, Sieck, C. C. Schmidt, and Wessel, etc., etc., should leave these rich pastures to feed upon such garbage heaps as those from whom I have quoted?"
Martin S. Sommer, Concordia Pulpit for 1932, St. Louis:
Concordia Publishing House, 1931, p. viii.
"It is the purpose of this volume to aid in displacing books of Reformed preachers. We would encourage the cultivation of distinctly Lutheran preaching. Therefore, we now appeal to our brethren always to consult Luther when preparing to preach. Quo propior Luthero, eo melior theologus! Let us who are called Lutheran preachers be sure that in every one of our sermons we preach God's Word and Luther's doctrine pure. It is that preaching which God demands of us, 1 Peter 4:11. It was that preaching which conquered the Roman Goliath, Revelation 12:11. By that preaching we shall truly build the walls of Zion, not with hay, straw, and stubble, but with such stones as all the powers of hell shall never overthrow, Luke 21:15."
Martin S. Sommer, Concordia Pulpit for 1932, St. Louis:
Concordia Publishing House, 1931, p. ix.
Proper Use of Love
"In like manner we will also do to our princes and priests;
when they attack our manner of life, we should suffer it and show love for hatred, good for evil; but when they attack our doctrine, God's honor is attacked, then love and patience should cease and we should not keep silent, but also say: I honor my Father, and you dishonor me; yet I do not inquire whether you dishonor me, for I do not seek my own honor."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed.,
John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983,
II, p. 176. Fifth Sunday in Lent. John 8:46-59.
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE BOOK OF CONCORD
"We have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquility, and unity (which, moreover, is not in our power to do). Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ."
Of God's Eternal Election, Article XI, S.D., Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta,St. Louis: 1921, p. 1095. The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore Tappert, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 632.