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Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reformation Sunday

The Beauty of Spring, by Norma Boeckler

The Festival of the Reformation

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #262 by Luther Ein’ feste Burg
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 Rev. 14:6-7
The Gospel Luke Matthew 11:12-15
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #269 by hermann Herzliebster Jesu

The Reformation Gospel

The Hymn #309 by Kingo Old Hundreth
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 #283 by Grundtvig Reuter

Prayer by Veit Dietrich
O almighty and everlasting God, who by Thy Son hast promised us forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from eternal death: We pray that by Thy Holy Spirit Thou wilt daily increase our faith in Thy grace through Christ, and establish us in the certain hope that we shall not die, but peacefully sleep, and be raised again on the last day to eternal life and salvation; through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

KJV Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

The Reformation Gospel

KJV Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

My wife and I went to his church. We sat at his dinner table. I disagreed with him later when he went all out for the Church Growth Movement. He was a Missouri and then a WELS pastor. Now he is virtually an atheist – free thinker who publishes at a forum called Freedom From Religion. (“Young Calvinist – Old Atheist” – still true.)

The Reformation marks the time when God took extraordinary men and women and refreshed the Church with the everlasting Gospel. Some claim that the Christian Church would have rotted away without the Reformation. Naturally, God did not allow man to destroy the everlasting Gospel, and that is simply not possible.

There were many odd little events which went together, showing how God works. Many know Henry VIII’s second wife as “Ann of a Thousand Days.” She was executed, but not before she changed England in two crucial ways. One was the birth of her daughter Elisabeth, who became the first Protestant monarch of Britain. The second was her ability to turn Henry VIII toward Protestantism. She was the key person who read Protestant works and influenced him. He pursued her a long time, so she had more than three years to win him over.

Protestant-Catholic battles in England led to the settlement of America as a Protestant haven from the Stuart kings, who tried to make England Catholic again. About 3/4ths of my ancestors were English. French wars against the Huguenots (Protestants) led my French Protestant ancestors to come to America (the Noel clan). The loss of crucial French Protestant naval skill led to the dominance of England on the seas after the horrible St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

Another odd series of events involved Erasmus. He was the most noted scholar in the time before the Reformation. He was like the man who gathered all the kindling but refused to start the fire. Or, as some noted, he started the wagon rolling down the hill and jumped off. He stayed loyal to Rome, but his Greek New Testament and his writings were the basis for the Reformation and the Bible being produced in a modern language.

Gutenberg, in Germany, took a wine press and turned it into the printing press. That meant religious books could be printed cheaply and spread across the civilized world. Caxton in England also invented printing. Of course, long before, China had printed paper money, but that does not count for Westerners.

The Everlasting Gospel
For the Gospel to be what God has delivered to us, the message must be exactly what God has revealed.

God allowed Martin Luther to experience spiritual turmoil throughout his life, so he was always dealing with the Word. He never had any outward peace in his life, but God gave him happiness in many other ways. Luther lived in the midst of civil and spiritual warfare, but he had trustworthy friends, an Elector who protected his life, a wife and children.

Luther deserves credit for emphasizing once again that the Gospel is free from law demands. Others knew how to teach the comfort coming from the Gospel of forgiveness, but Luther was relentless in separating the Law from the Gospel, as the Apostle Paul did. Like Paul, he kept the worship forms and only changed things gradually. He was often pushed into some changes, because other attempts were making everything chaotic. His German translation of the Bible and German worship service followed attempts by others to modernize those two areas of church life. That is why Krauth called the Lutheran Reformation – The Conservative Reformation.

The Calvinists tried hard to be different for the sake of being different. They took many Lutherans with them then and still do today. Calvinism and its more liberal branch, Arminianism (decision theology)

Comparison of the two -

Those two branches added several dangerous elements to the Gospel, adulterating its message. One was human reason. Any effort to appeal to human reason (or emotions) is going to denigrate the Gospel. After all, who can explain the mysteries of the Faith? No one can explain Creation, the Trinity, the Two Natures of Christ, the Sacraments, the Virgin Birth, the miracles, the Atoning death of Christ, or the Resurrection. Once human reason is used to judge the revealed Word, the Scriptures must be subordinated to the understanding of man. That is one path leading to atheism.

The other path is the Law requirement embedded in the Gospel. That comes in hundreds of ways but it has the same effect. Someone determines that no one can be a Christian and….fill in the blank. I do not mean that the 10 Commandments are obsolete. They just add a lot of commandments and those laws vary from region to region, sect to sect. One does not allow any kind of dancing. Another says that looking at any type of dancing is a sin. These were big issues among the Swedish Pietists. Dance studios had their front windows soaped over to prevent people from seeing inside. My teacher, as a child, peaked through a hole in the window covering and looked inside. He was disciplined. Later, reflecting upon that is going to make someone toss out everything with the dancing rule (or looking at dancing rule).

People weigh down the Gospel with “have tos” and turn the “have tos” into the path of salvation.

As Luther taught, the Gospel alone gives us the power to battle against temptation and sin. The Law by itself is good and useful, but powerless to make us better, to strengthen against sin.

The Efficacious Word
One overlooked contribution of Luther was, and continues to be, crucial in the Christian faith – the effectiveness of the Word.

Luther and his followers were united in the Hebrew Old Testament concept of the Word, which was naturally the New Testament teaching as well – the Holy Spirit works only through the Word and never apart from the Word.

God has chosen to convey Christ to us through the visible and invisible Word, so we are never in doubt about how to abide in Christ (John 15) and be fruitful.

We are never in doubt about how to evangelize – by sowing the Seed, which is the Word (Mark 4, Matthew 13).

Are we weak in faith? The Gospel will strengthen that trust in the Promises.

Do we wonder about forgiveness? The Word teaches us in hundreds of ways that the Savior seeks us, carries us home on His shoulders, and rejoices that He has found us.

People become anxious that they are not good enough, but the Scriptures teach us that the Good News is aimed at the weak, the anxious, the poor in spirit.

Non-Lutherans disparage the Sacraments and teach against them. The question about Holy Baptism is answered in the Small Catechism. “How can water do such great things?”

How can water do such great things?--Answer.
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.
Most congregations which teach against infant baptism will dedicate babies, using the Word of God. One minister explained this to me, so I said, “You baptize without water. We baptize with water.” He did not like what I said, but history shows that groups teaching against the Sacraments become increasingly rationalistic and abandon the Scriptures entirely, while maintaining the outward forms.
If I had told my vicarage supervisor that his congregation would be headed by a retired Episcopalian bishop (as an interim pastor) while promoting homosexual marriage, he would have had a stroke. How did that develop in only 30 years? A series of pastors and seminary professors taught against the Word until the Scriptures had no significance at all.

A former member of the ELS wrote, “The synod became more important than the Word of God.”

Jesus said something about that. “You set aside the Word of God to hold to the traditions of man.”

The Word of God belongs to God and always works with His Holy Spirit. We cannot discuss the Word the way we talk about Shakespeare or Herodotus. For instance, Herodotus has some wise observations and some that are just ridiculous.
Debating with God is foolish. His Word says “teach and baptize all nations,” not “withhold baptism…and anyway, it is just a law, not a sacrament.” Episcopalians call their confession a three-legged stool, the legs being the Word, tradition, and human reason. This allows the Word to be set aside in two different ways, by human reason and by tradition.

KJV Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Does the New Testament teach orthodoxy?

Now another term is tainted. Orthodoxy used to mean straight teaching for Lutherans. Now Lutherans are joining the Eastern Orthodox, so the word may become ambiguous in time.

Orthodoxy is often mocked today, especially by those who want to belong to the conservative branch of Lutherans. Moles are more dangerous than people attacking from the outside.

Jesus warned that the wolves dressed themselves as sheep:

KJV Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

The Word of God will not fade away, but last longer than everything on earth:

KJV Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Paul warned against wolves attacking from the outside and perverse men within the fold – all destructive. The New Testament says nothing about protecting the organization, the “face of the church,” as the ELS seminary president expressed himself.

KJV Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

KJV 1 Timothy 1:3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

Just as he wrote to the Galatians:

KJV 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.

Paul described false teachers as flatterers and belly servers:

KJV Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

The most important work of a minister is read at installations and ordinations, and nothing is mentioned by Paul about synod public relations:

KJV 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

With the Word comes the cross. Teaching the Word in its purity and truth means bearing the cross. In the old days, cross and crown were associated together. The believer belongs to the royal priesthood and will reign with Christ in glory, but here on earth he will bear the cross.

Now we have the cross resting in a mug of coffee, to suggest that a God without wrath sent His Son without a cross into a world without sin.

The Reformation continues.

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