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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity




Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #44 by Koren, Gude Menighed
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 Ephesians 4:1-6
The Gospel Luke 14:1-11
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #467 by Grundtvig, Kirken den er

Unity in Truth

The Hymn #330 Wenn wir in hoechsten Noeten
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 #44 Guide Me


KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

KJV Luke 14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer him again to these things. 7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father: We beseech Thee so to guide and direct us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not exalt ourselves, but humbly fear Thee, with our whole hearts hear and keep Thy word, and hallow the Lord's day, that we also may be hallowed by Thy word; help us, first, to place our hope and confidence in Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who alone is our righteousness and Redeemer, and, then, so to amend and better our lives in accordance with Thy word, that we may avoid all offenses and finally obtain eternal salvation, through Thy grace in Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God. world without end. Amen.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [7 ones follow]
4 There is one body,
and one Spirit,
even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord,
one faith,
one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all,
who is above all, and through all,
and in you all.
[Verses 4-6 each have a triadic structure and name the Trinity as Spirit, Lord, God the Father.]


UNITY OF FAITH, ONENESS OF GOD

Those who look down upon the Scriptures, as if they could write better themselves, should examine two verses of the six in this lesson. In verses 5 and 6 St. Paul confesses the Three-ness of the One God with a series of ones, seven in all. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are named, although not in that order. The ones not only include the members of the Trinity and the One God, but the ones also associate in that unity the body (the Christian Church), the hope we all have for eternal life, our unity of faith, and our common baptism.

The Scriptures not only reveal the unity of God, but also the Three-ness of the One God. We cannot explain it using our human reason. It is a mystery revealed by the Word of God. Man rebels against it, as he does with every aspect of God’s Word. The Socianians named in the Book of Concord were early Unitarians, denying the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The ELCA dogmatics book, by Braaten and Jenson, claims, and I paraphrase, that the Trinity is “merely the Father, the man Jesus, and the spirit of the believing community.” That statement is Unitarian and contrary to all Christian confessions. I knew an LCA pastor who said, “The book was written to counter the wild radicals who wanted to toss everything out.” Something was left after Braaten and Jenson? Yes, they saw their effort as conservative and confessional, making anyone wonder what those words were supposed to mean.

St. Paul wrote this passage to emphasize a unity in the church that was based upon the unity of God. That unity can be experienced all over the world, as we do in our little congregation. The sermon broadcast and sent around the world. Those people read or hear the sermon because of a common desire to read the Word of God. The Word called every single one of us to faith.

The Holy Spirit, through the Gospel of Christ, called us to faith by proclaiming the promises of God, the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. God is One, so there can only be one truth. This unique truth creates unity in a world torn apart by divisions: racial, gender, class, age, and economic.

We experience that unity when people from all walks and all classes are brought together by the Gospel. The true Christian Church is invisible, not identified by synodical or denominational signs, or by independence, but by faith in salvation through the merits of Christ alone. It is ironic that man seeks unity by merging visible organizations. Unity can only come from a common confession of the truth of the Gospel.

One of the main sources of confusion today is derived from a lack of confidence in the unique truth of God’s Word. Truth is reduced to a patchwork of opinions, supposedly of equal value. However, once the concept of truth is reduced, one person’s peculiar version is promoted, at gunpoint if needed, and defended at all costs.

Confusion is closely allied with arrogance. Man creates confusion and then uses chaos to rule over other people.

In contrast, God’s truth is humbling. First of all, the Sword of the Spirit, sharper than any two-edged weapon, pierces into the joints and marrow, judging our thoughts and intentions. (Hebrews 4) When we repeatedly discover from the mirror of the Law that our hearts are dead toward God, that we rebel against Him in every way, that all our efforts are tainted by the Old Adam.

This judgment seems too harsh. We would rather do away with the Biblical doctrine of original sin. So it is not surprising that those who would diminish God would also deify man. They make man inherently good, or basically good, although Jesus said, “No one is good but God.”

We are all unified by original sin. No one is better than anyone else. The best we can do is pretend to be better and thank God we are not like others, like tax collectors and open sinners. In that regard we share the same judgment. God who is holy and just must punish sin. Eternal punishment is the payment for sin, even a single sin against God’s commandments.

We know that we rebel against the Law, even our own invented Law. We will say, “I must do this. I have to do this. I will do this by a certain time or else.” But we cannot muster enough will power to do what we claim we must do. If someone else tells us we must do it, we feel compelled not to. This is especially hard on children, who refuse to do what they have to do, on principle.

God’s Law produces a stronger reaction, as the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul in Romans. The Law works wrath. Sin becomes even more obvious, but the Law by itself cannot produce any remedy for sin or any strength to fight sin, even to resist temptation. The Apostle said, “The good that I would do, I do not. The evil that I would not do, that I do.”

All world religions provide a solution for this: more Law. They condemn the sinner for falling short of the Law and then command the sinner to perform certain works to make up for the sins. These works salesmen will never go out of business, because there are not enough works to make up for one’s sins. Each person is like the man who sold furniture at a loss. “We make up the difference on volume.”

But God provided for our great failings and weaknesses at the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise by their disobedience to the Word of God, our gracious heavenly Father promised them and us a Savior. The contrast could not be greater. Adam and Eve not only lost Paradise for themselves, but condemned us to live under the shadow of their sin as well. No one deserved more wrath and condemnation than they, but God promised the seed of a woman, the Messiah, who would crush the head of Satan.

God saved people through faith before the crucifixion and after the crucifixion. For thousands of years, the Messianic promise of Genesis 3 was enlarged and clarified. The Gospel of forgiveness was proclaimed long before people saw the baby Jesus. They heard salvation, Yeshuah, throughout the Old Testament, and Yeshuah is the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of the name Jesus. Many promises were foreshadowed or explained. At first people knew about the “seed of the woman,” which we can see now as foreshadowing the Virgin Birth prophesy of Isaiah 7:14 – Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son…Immanuel. The Gospels clarified that Mary was that Virgin and Jesus that son, God With Us, Immanuel.

As Luther wrote, it was easier for people to believe in a Messiah they had not seen. It was hardest of all for John the Baptist to point to an ordinary looking man and say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Generations of skeptics have examined every verse of Scripture, every hare-brained theory, to reduce Jesus to being fully human, only human, even if He is better than average in their myopic eyes. We should stop and meditate upon this mystery of God’s Word each and every day – true man and true God, the only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary.

The apostle rests his request to the Christian church upon their call to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The doctrinal unity of the Bible calls for the humility and longsuffering of the believers. The Holy Spirit has built the Christian Church upon the rock which is Jesus, the Son of God. Our status as forgiven saints draws us together and gives us the peace that passes all human understanding.

The military might of Imperial Rome was not enough to squash the weak and driven Christian Church. The city of Rome is filled with ruins of that mighty empire which built thousands of miles of roads across Europe, united tribes, conquered and subdued enemies. The Coliseum, standing in ruins, was the site of the sacrifice of Christian martyrs, who provided fun for the crowds as they died. The more they died, the faster the Church grew, not through programs but through the Word.

The Word of God multiplied, as Luke wrote in Acts. One believer spoke to others. The converts spoke to more. Soon the Gospel was proclaimed across Europe and into India. It reached more people through persecution than through ease and comfort, when it was briefly “the Church at rest.”

So the Christian Church exists today only to proclaim the promises of God, the Gospel. The true church never tires of speaking about forgiveness. Our need for repentance never changes. No other knowledge compares to the knowledge of the surpassing riches of Christ Jesus, whose atoning blood washes away our sin.

Pride can keep us from accepting the doctrine of original sin, proof by itself of our sinful nature, when we try to deny it. Pride can also keep people from receiving the Gospel in faith. The Gospel is not for proud, arrogant, secure Law-saints. The Gospel is for humble sinners, their bones broken by the Law (Psalm 51) but rejoicing in the knowledge of God’s will. “Rock of Ages” expresses it in the simplest words, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

Therefore our unity, in families, among friends, even in the congregation, comes from gathering around the treasure of the Gospel. Most treasures make people fight for the pile, to take the lion’s share. But this treasure puts people at ease, giving them comfort and balm for their wounds, forgiveness for their sins, hope for their worries, and the promise of eternal life.

Quotations

"Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this commandment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose."
The Large Catechism, Preface, #95, The Third Commandment, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 607. Tappert, p. 378. Exodus 20:8?11.

"Since it is God's gracious purpose to remove every hindrance to conversion by the means of grace, and it is still possible for a man at every point to continue in his opposition to God, a man is never without responsibility over towards the grace of God, although he may mock and say that, since God is the one who does everything for our salvation, then a man has no responsibility himself, as we see in Romans 9:19. Cf. Theses 17 and 18."
U. V. Koren, 1884, "An Accounting," Grace for Grace: Brief History of the Norwegian Synod, ed., Sigurd C. Ylvisaker, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1943, p. Romans 9:19.

"It is God the Holy Ghost who must work this change in the soul. This He does through His own life?giving Word. It is the office of that Word, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, to bring about a knowledge of sin, to awaken sorrow and contrition, and to make the sinner hate and turn from his sin. That same Word then directs the sinner to Him who came to save him from sin. It takes him to the cross, it enables him to believe that his sins were all atoned for there, and that, therefore, he is not condemned. In other words, the Word of God awakens and constantly deepens ture penitence. It also begets and constantly increases true faith. Or, in one word, it converts the sinner."
G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 145f.

Law Causes Contrition
"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 149.

Gospel Only for Humble Sinners
"All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help." Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 149.

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