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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity




The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #250 – Grosser Gott
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
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 Galatians 5:16-24
The Gospel Luke 17:11-19
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 297 M. Loy, Herr Jesu Christ, dich
Nine-fold Fruits of the Gospel

The Hymn #304 Kingo – St. Crispin
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 # 309 Kingo – Old Hundreth

The hymn texts and a melody link are at the end of the sermon.

Galatians 5: 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity, Collect by Veit Dietrich
Lord God, heavenly Father, who by Thy blessed word and Thy holy baptism hast mercifully cleansed all who believe from the fearful leprosy of sin, and daily dost grant us Thy gracious help in all our need: We beseech Thee so to enlighten our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may never forget these Thy blessings, but ever live in Thy fear, and, trusting fully in Thy grace, with thankful hearts continually praise and glorify Thee; through Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

We should be happy that the Galatians were so mixed up about doctrine, Law and Gospel, flesh and Spirit. Paul’s tiny letter to them is full of wrath about their apostasy from the true Gospel but also full of divine wisdom about the Gospel’s blessings.

This letter inspired Luther’s finest Biblical commentary, which he thought keeping, along with the Small Catechism. I wonder how many Lutheran pastors have read the Galatians commentary. The book was also the favorite of John Bunyan, who wrote the allegorical classic, Pilgrim’s Progress.

The basic theme of Galatians is the desertion of the Gospel by those who wanted to impose Jewish ritual law on the Christians. The famous verse, Galatians 1:8, is aimed at all those who would take people away from the truth of God’s Word.
Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

The Judaizers are called that because they wanted all Christians to obey Jewish ritual law, such as kosher food practices. The earliest Christians were raised in Judaism, so Jewish practices were second nature to them. Although we as Gentiles tend to think of Paul’s Gentile mission first, the first expansion of Christianity was among those who knew the Scriptures and awaited the Messiah. We can tell when Paul was preaching to Jews because his sermons (Acts) appealed to the Scriptures being fulfilled.

Many did not grasp the profound change that had taken placed when Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. The previous sacrifices were preparation for the universal Atonement.

Jews thought in terms of obedience to the Law, performing acts of worship, fulfilling requirements. When Paul obeyed all the Jewish rituals in order to preach to Jews, he did so through the freedom of Gospel. He felt a special burden for his own people. He knew that appearing as a Gentile would have made his own people think of him as an apostate.

So if Paul could be a rabbi-apostle, and the original disciples were all Jews, as Jesus was, why not expect every Christian to fulfill Jewish ritual requirements, including circumcision?

There are Jews today (Messianic Jews) who believe in Christ and continue their Jewish ways. Their minister is called a rabbi and they observe Jewish holidays from the Old Testament.

I heard of a Lutheran congregation in New England that began following Jewish ritual. According to the story I was told, they eventually became a synagogue and abandoned Christianity. The difference is – one group is Christian by faith, the other is Jewish by faith.

This particular lesson from Galatians is aimed at those who believe righteousness is from obedience to the Law.

Galatians 5: 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Because of original sin, our flesh will always be at war against God’s Word (the Spirit). We can say the Word instead of the Spirit because the two are always together.

Walking in the Spirit means following the Good Shepherd from love. Helmut Thielicke created a good image when he lectured at my old school in Canada: The sheep follow the Shepherd willingly, based on their love. That is the Gospel. When they stray, the shepherd dog nips at their heels. Nipping at the heels is the Law. Then they scramble back toward the Shepherd, only because of the dog. That is based on fear.

Aristotle wrote in ancient Greece about honesty in literature. The Bible gives us an honest picture of ourselves. People rebel against that frank portrayal of human weakness. So some claim we can perfect ourselves. That mixes up people because it is not true.

A Christian group or quasi-Christian sect (like the Mormons) may pretend to be capable of perfection. The Bible says otherwise. When people pretend to be perfect or demand perfection, bad results follow. Anyone who hears only the Law will become very depressed or learn to pretend to be perfect. Luther said the second group is more in danger because they are outwardly obedient and good, but hate God’s Word and rage inwardly against it.

That is why all false religions are Law religions. The new (but old) religion of self-esteem and prosperity is another set of man-made law. One good indication of law thinking is the language:
You must…
You have to…
If you do this…
You cannot do that…
These are not God’s Ten Commandments, but man’s infinite number of commandments.

For those who thought righteousness could be derived from the Law, Paul had this to say about living through the Gospel or the Law:

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

(NKJV - 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.)

The works of the flesh betray the power of original sin. So Paul is condemning the Law salesmen with their own teaching. If the Law is the solution, why are these besetting sins so prominent among them?

This is a question I have asked many church leaders. If this church is so important, why must people use outright lies to make it stronger and better? How can the Gospel be advanced through deceit? Even more important – how can the church grow through false doctrine? One cannot continue in these errors and remain within the Kingdom.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

The fruits of the Spirit are nine-fold, the triune nature of the list reminding us of the divine, Gospel origin of these fruits.

Love, joy, peace.
Longsuffering, gentleness, goodness.
Faith, meekness, temperance.

Love is so often named and so seldom experienced that this deserves special mention. Love is the result of Gospel preaching, not the cause of conversion. Love does not convert – God’s Word converts.

One of the recent frauds tried out on people is love-conversion: show people lots of love and they will want to become Christians. The law mongers confuse Law and Gospel this way by saying, “You have to (law red flag) be loving or people will not listen to the Word. A sermon will do no good if the ushers are not friendly.” That statement, which I heard at a pastors’ conference, is blasphemy against God. Ushers, not God, convert people or make the Word effective. Many live this way and look around in a congratulatory mood, saying, “Aren’t we great?” not even knowing they are in the Law and missing the Gospel.

Love is something we can reverse engineer. If love is lacking in our relationships, then the Gospel is not bearing fruit. If the Gospel is not bearing fruit, we are not showing real, Godly contrition. Godly contrition is sorrow for sin, not sorrow from being caught, but from knowing from the Commandments that we have rebelled against His will and Word. Depth of emotion has nothing to do with the sincerity of contrition. The only test is the realization of that rebellion, which we can see from looking into the perfect mirror of the Law.

From godly contrition come hunger and thirst for righteousness, which can only be found in the Gospel Promises. Justification by faith, God’s declaration of forgiveness earned by Christ, is received when we trust in the atoning death of Christ. Conversion to faith is instant, but falling away from the faith can take a long time, many years. A man may earn several theology degrees before he finally becomes a complete apostate.

When someone realizes the abundance of God’s mercy in his own life, he is necessarily forgiving toward others and loving toward them. Forgiveness among those closest to us is most important and the greatest blessing. We cannot help being hurt, resentful, angry, or irritated, but we can control how we respond to those emotions. The more we understand, the more patient and forgiving we are.

One extreme example has always stuck in my mind. One young woman came from a strict Evangelical household. Drinking was forbidden, so she went out of her way to overindulge. Her parents yelled, threatened, and lectured her. One night she came home and passed out, making a mess. Her parents cleaned her up and put her in bed without a word. Then she realized how much they loved her. That moment of realization, a Gospel moment for her, led her to sobriety. The power behind that change was Gospel forgiveness, not Law condemnation, which she certainly deserved.

The Gospel has unlimited benefits because its blessings grow infinitely. One person proclaiming the Gospel will lead to an abundance of spiritual fruits.

Some people, who never garden, think of apples and pears as the New Testament meaning of fruit. But the broader term makes more sense. A plant flowers in order to be pollinated. The flower shrivels up and turns into the fruit of that plant. Fruit is often seed alone, such as wheat or corn or rosehips. But those seeds are often encased in delicious cases of orange, lemon, apple, pear, and pumpkin. The entire process is fascinating because someone can start with a small package of seed and end up with a harvest shared among friends and neighbors.

When I overbought edible pod peas and planted them all over my yard in Midland, the harvest was so great that we got sick of them and pressed the pods on everyone we knew. The more we picked, the more the vines flowered and fruited.

The Gospel grows the same way. The Apostolic Church was established through preaching and teaching the crucified and risen Christ. When the efficacious Word created persecution, the believers scattered and started even more congregations. An early leader said, literally, “The more you mow us down, the faster we grow.” Instead of trying to be like the decadent, self-centered, self-indulgent Roman society, they went against the norms and converted the Roman Empire from the bottom up.

24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

As Paul teaches, believers do not bow to selfish desires, but crucify them to serve Christ, family, and neighbor.

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