Lutheran Worship and Resources



Traditional Lutheran worship services, using The Lutheran Hymnal and the KJV.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
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Thanksgiving Eve - 7 PM Central Time.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works asgregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Third Sunday after Epiphany



Cover for Liberalism, by Norma Boeckler



The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #339 Coronations
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 Romans 12:16-21
The Gospel Matthew 8:1-13
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #423 Hyfrydal

The Effective Word

The Hymn #341 Diademata
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 #401 Freu dich sehr

KJV Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

KJV Matthew 8:1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Third Sunday After Epiphany
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Thy mighty hand, to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Effective Word

This Gospel lesson gives us two healings, and we should remind ourselves of a basic lesson in all these healings. No matter how Jesus responded at the moment He was asked, He always answered the prayers of the petitioners. All were healed. This alone is reason to take our troubles to Him.

The second healing is especially worthwhile to note at this time. The most basic doctrine of the Bible is under attack by Lutherans who were trained by false teachers at heretical institutions.

The basic doctrine is the efficacy or effectiveness of the Word.

Sad to say, the Lutherans of the last 100 years or so have built upon a weak foundation – their own. They have largely neglected or attacked this basic doctrine. For example, when I decided to study the efficacy of the Word for Thy Strong Word, I found almost no scholarly literature at all. In contrast, I found hundreds of Luther quotations where he made it absolutely clear that God’s Word alone is effective – nothing else. The same message is emphasized throughout the Book of Concord and elsewhere among the great Lutheran theologians.

There are 19th century Lutherans who taught the same, but the 20th century saw a growing embarrassment over God working through His Word alone. Perhaps the growth of evolution and shame about Creation generated this apathy or neglect.

The Old Testament makes it clear that God works through His Word. I ended up studying Hebrew and Judaism more than most, and I know this concept has carried through to this day. Whatever God commands happens. That is even applied to rabbis. For example, when a rabbi said, “He must be dead,” his son-in-law fell over and died. That story was told to illustrate the power of the rabbinic Word. Once spoken, it must be true.

The story of Creation in Genesis 1 is one of the Word creating. Clearly, if the power of the Word is removed through evolution, all perspectives are changed. That is why all the miracles were explained away with rationalism. If man cannot do something, then God cannot. Soon God is out of the picture altogether and man is the measure of all things.

There is no difference between the Old Testament and New Testament views. The more someone is an authentic Jews, the more he realizes that the New Testament is a continuation of the Old. There is no gap or contrast because the New Testament takes the Old as the authority, the very Word of God.

When the liturgical service is ending, the Trinitarian Aaronic blessing is used.

KJV Numbers 6:24
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

That is God speaking, even when an ordinary person is saying those words. God is actually blessing each believer as the Lord God Father and Creator, the Lord God Jesus Christ, the Lord God Holy Spirit, the unity of the Three, the three-ness of the One.

I often mention Isaiah 55:8-11 as a key passage about the Word. That passage shows how the Word’s effect is just as inevitable as the effect of rain and snow.

Paul addresses the same issue in Romans 10

We preach the Word of faith –
KJV Romans 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

The Apostle made it very clear, first of all, that salvation itself is simple and clear. (Remaining in the Faith is very tough.)

Then he explained in reverse how the Word works:

KJV Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? [GJ - report could be translated as preaching, meaning the hearing of our preaching]

Unless Paul was hiding pop music, marketing methods, Seeker Services, Friendship Sundays, grinning greeters, and how-to messages [no sermons!] from this formula, the Apostle was relying upon the Word alone to bring salvation to all those who heard and believed.

To teach Biblical theology correctly, it is necessary to say the Word of God alone, because all the sects yak about the Word, but they have their little additions, such as the Word and obedience, the Word and sanctification, the Word and witnessing, the Word and marketing.

In the same way, we often need to say the Means of Grace alone, to speak about how God’s grace comes to us. The false teachers speak about grace, but apart from the divinely appointed instruments of grace (the Word and the visible Word of the Sacraments). The Reformed generally make prayer the only way in which God’s grace comes to people, confusing people in the worst possible way. Prayer is the fruit of faith, not the cause of salvation.

Once again I received a message, anonymously, from someone who insisted that God declared the entire world forgiven, quoting this passage:

KJV Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. [judgment came, the free gift came – both phrases are added to the original text]

That seems convincing on surface, like many other tricks of these people. They insist this means every single person received grace without the Word, without the Means of Grace, without faith.

But what about Romans 5:19?

KJV Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

The many are not all, and there is no possible way to turn “the many” into “God declared the world righteous.”

In fact, as Lenski shows with great clarity, verse 17 states exactly how this happens:

KJV Romans 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Those who receive the abundance of grace will reign with Christ. The repeated use of one is to show that by one (Adam) all inherited sin and death, so also by One (Christ) will grace come to all who believe.

This is consistent with the message of Romans 10 that preaching the Word creates faith, that faith in Christ brings forgiveness and salvation.

The marketing salesmen keep saying, “Don’t you want to know how all this works?” – as if it has never been revealed by the Holy Spirit. These windbags offer every single thing except that which really does work – the Word of God in its truth and purity.

The word for effective or efficacious in the New Testament is the root for our word energy. And energy simple means – works in. Or, to use the lingo of Fuller Seminary – the Word alone works.

Centurion’s Servant
The miracle of the centurion’s servant shows us that a Roman soldier understood and believed in the power of the Word. That is, someone does not have to be an Old Testament Jew to understand.

The soldier asked Jesus to cure his servant, who was still at home. The officer knew all about commands. He had the power to order a decimation, where the other soldiers killed 1 out of 10 soldiers. That was used to enforce discipline. If he commanded it, the soldiers obeyed.

Rome tested bridges by having the engineer stand under it while loads were brought across it. That reduced the number of incompetent engineers and increased the motivation of the builders.

No one sued Rome or said, “That’s not fair.” Orders were orders and obeyed.

So when Jesus offered to visit the centurion’s place, the officer said it was not necessary.

Matthew 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Jesus marveled at the man’s faith, but He also warned that many would come into the Kingdom of God from outside of Judaism, while the heirs of Abraham would face eternal torment.

He encouraged the centurion by saying the servant would be healed just as the officer believed. So the Word of Christ took effect from a distance – no surprise to children. As they say, “He is God. He can do anything.”

How do we apply this?

We are so surrounded by how-to books that it is no surprise that we think everything is up to us.

How can God, so far away, take care of our problems? We have to compromise here, finagle there, do whatever it takes.

I find it amazing that few seem to realize that the Church grew the most when under persecution and the least when fat and spoiled.

When the Christian faith was hounded, banned, and driven from place to place, the Gospel spread across the earth. Now, with all the money from the wealthiest nation in history, the Gospel is shrinking in the face of Buddhism, Hinduism, and materialism. In many cases, the guardians of the Gospel have traded the Faith for anti-Christianity: spirit guides taught (the occult), Christian Buddhism (impossible), Yoga taught (the basis for all Hinduism), and Feng Shui taken seriously (magic, but really dumb magic at that).

Is it possible to rely on the Word alone and accept what God brings with His Word? Or must we rely on a little of God’s Word with a lot of man’s superior reasoning powers?

As Professor Deutschlander shows so brilliantly in his new book, The Theology of the Cross, the Gospel without the cross is not the Gospel at all.

Those who reject the cross as part of the Christian faith, subsequent to faith, are rejecting the Christian faith altogether. The two cannot be separated. That is why Luther often used the term “the dear cross.” Chytraeus, an editor of the Book of Concord, taught that a mark of orthodoxy was “opposition.”

So when leaders tell a pastor, “Make everyone happy. Avoid conflict,” they are saying “Remove the cross from the Gospel, the Gospel from the church.”

Just a little listening will show how the religious leaders teach the institution, not the Gospel. That is why they fell for marketing and management. If the object of worship is material, then material means are needed. If the object of worship is Christ, then people concern themselves with the Means of Grace alone.

Most congregations would be better off if they got rid of all their activities and just offered worship, education, and pastoral visitation.

The Bible does not teach against the basic elements of common sense. The Book of Proverbs is full of practical knowledge. But the Word elevates God’s role and blesses man with the knowledge and hope of God’s mercy.

God may delay His answer for a long time. He may seem to have forgotten. My cousin was married 25 years before he had his first child. He said, “We wanted to see if our marriage worked out first.” He must have felt like Abraham at that point.

God always listens and answers according to His wisdom. We can rest easy at night because the troubles we trust to Him are answered in the morning. Gerhardt’s beautiful hymn says it so well. My translation is literal and not poetic; the German is clear, simple, and powerful:

2. Der unser Leben, das er uns gegeben,
in dieser Nacht so väterlich bedecket /
und aus dem Schlaf uns fröhlich auferwecket:
Lobet den Herren!

He who our life has given,
in this night has covered us so fatherly
and wakes us joyfully from sleep,
All praise the Lord.

--

Efficacy Quotations

"The Word of God is efficacious not only when it is being read from the Bible, but also when it is being spoken or preached, and when it is recalled by memory. The Word of God, properly speaking, is really not the letters which we see or the sound which we hear, but the divine thoughts, the truths designated by these signs."
E. Hove, Christian Doctrine, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1930, p. 27.

"'When the Word is read at home it is not as fruitful or as forcible as in public preaching and through the mouth of the preacher whom God has called for this purpose.' (Luther, Erlangen edition, 3:401)."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1913, p. 290.

"The efficacy of the Word, unlike that of the seed, always has a result. The man to whom the Word of God comes, and who repels it, is not as he was before. Where long and persistently refused, hardening at last comes, Exodus 8:15; 9:12; John 12:40; Hebrews 4:1, and the Word becomes a 'savor of death unto death,' 2 Corinthians 2:16. Every word heard or read, every privilege and opportunity enjoyed, leaves its impress either for good or for evil. It is not so properly the Word, as man's abuse of the Word; not so much the efficacy of the Word, as the sin taking occasion of the efficacy that produces this result, Romans 7:8."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, Elements of Religion, Philadelphia, Board of Publication, General Council 1919 p. 155. Exodus 8:15; 9:12; John 12:40; Hebrews 4:1; 2 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 7:8

"Since the Word of God is this weapon [sword], it behooves us to make use of it at all times and to this end become acquainted with it both by means of public preaching and by earnest Bible study at home. Cursory reading must be supplemented by careful memorizing of proof-texts and strong passages. Only in this way shall we be able to make the proper use of the Word of God as a true weapon of offense at all times."
Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the New Testament, 2 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, II, p. 292. Ephesians 6:17

"God has chosen despised and frail human beings for the ministry of the Word that the divine power of the Word might become apparent—
a power impossible to suppress even in the weakest of persons. Moreover, if the mighty of the world were to preach the Gospel, people would be captivated more by the authority of the person preaching than by the Word itself."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald M. Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1959 III, p. 1118 W 25, 255; SL 6, 484; brief comments in 1532-34 #3571; Isaiah 40:10

"Quenstedt (I, 170): 'Whether the Word be read or not, whether it be heard and believed or not, yet the efficacy of its spiritual effects is always intrinsically inherent in it by the divine arrangement and communication, nor does this divine efficacy only come to it when it is used. For the Word of God, as such, cannot even be conceived of apart from the divine virtue and gracious working of the Holy Spirit, because this is inseparable from the Word of God.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans., Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 506.

"Hollazius (993) uses the following figures: 'It possesses and retains its internal power and efficacy even when not used, just as the illuminating power of the sun continues, although, when the shadow of the moon intervenes, no person may see it; and just as an internal efficacy belongs to the seed, although it may not be sown in the field.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans., Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 506.

"Only little weight is attached to the ministry of the Word, to worship services, the Sacraments, to confession and absolution, and to the observance of Christian customs; a thoroughly regenerated person does not need these crutches at all. Pietism stressed the personal element over against the institutional; voluntariness versus compulsion; the present versus tradition, and the rights of the laity over against the pastors."
Martin Schmidt, "Pietism," The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 3 vols., ed. Julius Bodensieck, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965, III, p. 1899.

"But if ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not unwilling to call ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God's command and glorious promises. Romans 1:16 The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Likewise, Isaiah 55:11: So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please...And it is of advantage, so far as can be done, to adorn the ministry of the Word with every kind of praise against fanatical men, who dream that the Holy Ghost is given not through the Word, but because of certain preparations of their own...."
Apology Augsburg Confession, XIII. #11. Number/Use Sacraments Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 311. Tappert, p. 212. Heiser, p. 95. Romans 1:16; Isaiah 55:11.

"And it is of advantage, so far as can be done, to adorn the ministry of the Word with every kind of praise against fanatical men, who dream that the Holy Ghost is given not through the Word, but because of certain preparations of their own, if they sit unoccupied and silent in obscure places, waiting for illumination, as the Enthusiasts formerly taught, and the Anabaptists now teach."
Apology Augsburg Confession, XIII. #13. The Sacraments. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 311. Tappert, p. 213. Heiser, p. 95.

"This power {the Keys} is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling, either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Romans 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government."
Augsburg Confession, XXVIII. #8. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 85. Tappert, p. 82. Heiser, p. 23. Romans 1:16

"Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and retaining it in memory, and do not think that it is optional with you of no great importance, but that it is God's commandment, who will require of you how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word."
The Large Catechism, The Third Commandment, #98. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 609. Tappert, p. 378. Heiser, p. 175. Exodus 20:8-11.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Second Sunday after Epiphany



Adam and Eve sinned, but heard the First Gospel, Genesis 3:15 -
NKJ Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."


The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #387 by Luther vss. 1-5 Nun freut euch
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 Romans 12:6-16
The Gospel John 2:1-12
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 387 by Luther vss. 6-10 Nun freut euch

Justifying Faith

The Hymn #370 Magdalen
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 Old Hundreth


KJV Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

KJV John 2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Second Sunday After Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that of Thy grace Thou hast instituted holy matrimony, in which Thou keepest us from unchastity, and other offenses: We beseech Thee to send Thy blessing upon every husband and wife, that they may not provoke each other to anger and strife, but live peaceably together in love and godliness, receive Thy gracious help in all temptations, and rear their children in accordance with Thy will; grant unto us all to walk before Thee, in purity and holiness, to put all our trust in Thee, and lead such lives on earth, that in the world to come we may have everlasting life, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

JUSTIFYING FAITH


John’s Gospel should be memorized, as much as possible, by all Christians. The Fourth Gospel has the most apostolic authority (known as the disciple John’s from the beginning) and the most passages about the meaning of Christ and His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I have been reading The Jewish Trinity by Joel Natan, so John’s emphasis on the Old Testament is especially interesting in these Trinitarian discourses.

John’s Gospel sorts out some historical questions which people have. For instance, John reveals a three-year public ministry of Christ.

Two other instances are the early cleansing of the Temple and water turned into wine. The Temple cleansing taking place early explains the opposition of the Jewish leaders from the start. The miracle at Cana explains how Jesus had a following from the beginning, even if many were only miracle-believers.

I mention these matters because the four Gospels weave together a complete portrait of Christ, one that is astonishing in its harmony.

In this Gospel we have a miracle that is so remarkable that it made the divinity of Christ apparent to everyone. People have always claimed to have the power to heal others. We often hear the claim today. Some fakes use animal parts and pretend to pull them out of their patients through “psychic surgery.” Pentecostal healers carefully select those whose ailments can improve temporarily with a shift in mood. Arthritis and hearing problems are quite variable, so an instant cure seems impressive. One fake name Popof was exposed for using a radio setup with his wife. She sent him messages in his earphone about personal information on the cards of members in the audience. So Rev. Popof could miraculously tell someone that her sister was ill, or that she had a son named Bob. Once he proved his powers, thanks to radio, Popof could fool them about anything. As I said, Popof was exposed a few years ago, disgraced, and now he is back again on television. Televangelists are an inspiration to any politician in trouble.

But with this miracle the claim is very clear. The people knew they were out of wine. The servants knew they were dealing with water. They filled the water pots with water. If they had poured in wine by mistake or through cunning, the aroma would have given them away. The texture of wine is also quite different. I doubt whether the whitest wine could pass for water, especially in a culture where wine was a daily staple.

But, at the Word of Jesus, the water became wine. No one asked for a miracle or looked for a miracle, except Mary. Mary knew her Son had the ability to solve the problem. Most mothers think so, but in this text we can see that she is asking for something beyond His immediate desire to fulfill. His response is at least a mild rebuke.

Here the translators often think they are wiser than the Holy Spirit. They do not like Jesus calling His mother woman, so they add words, such as “Dear woman.”

NIV John 2:4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come.

Twice when Jesus addressed His mother directly in the Gospel of John, He called her woman instead of “mother.” This shows us that He was her Lord and not just a son. It also shows how the Church of Rome has distorted the relationship between Mary and the Son of God. One papal announcement in my database even claims that Mary offered up her Son at the crucifixion, in a priestly fashion, making her a Co-Redeemer. The term Co-Redemptrix

[Pope Pius XI used the title Co-Redemptrix in the encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor, 1928. As Pius X put it, Mary merits for us de congruo what Christ merited for us de condigno. Ad Diem said that Mary is the "aquaduct" as Bernard taught, "or even the neck by which the Body is joined to the Head, and by which the Head communicates force and power to the Body." [p. 96]
Paul F. Palmer, S.J., Mary in the Documents of the Church, Gerald G. Walsh, S.J., Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press 1952, p. 97.

"The authors of the Marian chapter purposely avoid the use of the term 'co-redemptrix,' for while it admits of a correct interpretation, it is also susceptible of grave misunderstanding. They also tread lightly on such controversial ground as the famous promise of the proto-gospel (Genesis 3:15) that Adam's seed shall bruise the serpent's head, because of an erroneous translation in the Vulgate ("she shall bruise your head," instead of it--that is, the seed, referring either to man in general or to the Messiah.) The Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 1854 defining the Immaculate Conception had still taken this as a proof passage referring to Mary's own victory over the serpent."
Titus Cranny, S.A., Is Mary Relevant, A Commentary on Chapter 9 of Lumen Gentium, The Constitution on the Church from Vatican II, New York: Exposition Press 1970, p. 35.

The proper role of Mary is seen in the Scriptures as the mother of Jesus who raised Him in faith. She was a mortal woman, a sinner who died in the same way all must die. She did not fully understand her Son, as shown in the incident in the Temple, but she believed in Him and had a major role in the apostolic church. She is named early in Acts and then never again. (We should marvel that the apostles did not make a cult out of Mary then, for she was there at the beginning and had many years of memories of Him. So we see that the apostles resisted the urge to concentrate on Mary. Instead they preached the Gospel of Christ.)

This miracle raises the issue of justifying faith.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

When we speak about faith, the word faith can have many meanings.

For instance, everyone has faith or trust in something. The atheist Carl Sagen did not believe in God, but he believed in extra-terrestrials. He needed to. Anyone who insists on evolution must have life on other planets, to show that life can generate itself spontaneously and without God.
The epistle of James speaks about dead faith. Lutherans should not be afraid of this letter or fail to study it. The Gospel always brings the fruit of the Spirit. If the fruit is lacking, then it points to a lack of faith. We see that in many church leaders who can speak the right words but keep themselves in power through lies, slander, and protecting false teachers. It is good to remember their faith and avoid falling into the same trap. As James says quite vividly, “The demons believe and their hides bristle.” That is not justifying faith. It is an awareness of the power of the Word: hating and fearing it.
Faith in miracles. Martin Chemnitz writes about this in his Loci, and it should make us think. Many hundreds if not thousands saw the miracles of Jesus. Certainly this happened at the wedding feast, at the grave of Lazarus, and in many other instances. They believed it was a miracle but they did not necessarily follow Jesus or believe in Him as their Savior.
Historical faith. Many scholars and people on the perimeter of Christianity have faith in the basic facts about the Bible. They even believe in the historical truth of the Bible. But it never goes farther than that. Luther said in many ways that it does no good to say that Christ died for the sins of the world if we fail to say, “and for me.” Unless we say, Christ died for my sins, we only have historical faith.
Kohlerglaube. A collier’s faith is based upon an incident where a coal handler was asked he believed. “I believe what the church believes.” And what does the church believe? “The church believes what I believe.” In other words, it is just an attachment to the institution, without knowing much or believing. Although this can bring a whole family or ethnic group to church, it is easy for someone to hear the Word and reject it by saying, “This is the right place. All my friends and relatives are here.”

I am not listing all these variations to become a new scholastic but to show how many ways faith can be something other than justifying faith.

Chemnitz and the authors of the Book of Concord were anxious to show the Church of Rome the proper understanding of faith.

"But when we are speaking of the subject itself, it is certain that the doctrine of gracious reconciliation, of the remission of sins, of righteousness, salvation, and eternal life through faith for the sake of the Mediator is one and the same in the Old and in the New Testament. This is a useful rule which we must retain at all costs: The doctrine, wherever we read it, in either the Old or New Testament, which deals with the gracious reconciliation and the remission of sins through faith for the sake of God's mercy in Christ, is the Gospel."
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 459.

This is beautifully expressed by Melanchthon, the primary author of the Augsburg Confession:

"Thus when we say that we are justified by faith, we are saying nothing else than that for the sake of the Son of God we receive remission of sins and are accounted as righteous. And because it is necessary that this benefit be taken hold of, this is said to be done 'by faith,' that is, by trust in the mercy promised us for the sake of Christ. Thus we must also understand the correlative expression, 'We are righteous by faith,' that is, through the mercy of God for the sake of His Son we are righteous or accepted."
Melanchthon, Loci Communes, “The Word Faith.” Cited in Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, II, p. p. 489.

I doubt whether the authors of the Book of Concord ever imagined that any Lutheran would speak of righteousness apart from faith, apart from the Word, apart from the Means of Grace. But sadly, that is common now and blabbered about as if it were true.

This miracle also shows how Jesus honored the institution of marriage. His decision to appear at the marriage is very significant, especially since He was there with His disciples. Outside influence made the Medieval Church despise marriage and force non-marriage (but not celibacy) on its priests, monks, and nuns. Worst of all, the Medieval Church portrayed a non-married priest as spiritually above a married man, no matter what kind of priest he was.

Marriage is the institution created by God through the Word (Genesis). This natural law concept is so powerful that the entire world honors it, one way or another. Even the Marxists register people as man and wife, apart from any official acknowledgement of God. They realize marriage is a major building block of society.

Luther’s point about this miracle is that marriage, through faith in God, is like water turned into wine. God honors what the world despises. The unbelieving world says, “You must be happy at all times or you have permission to split.” God says, “Whatever is done in faith honors Me.” So marriage offers children an ideal school for learning about the Christian faith, relationships, forgiveness, and love.

Luther has a funny comment about Adam and Eve being married hundreds of years. “You ate the apple,” countered by “You gave it to me.”

I have around 120 students studying communication at the same time, online. One issue is about the difference between men and women in the way they relate to each other. One woman offered a list of rules, but I countered with this concept – One has to start with forgiveness based on faith in Christ, because we are all weak, fallible sinners. What we do is significant, but the foundation is what we believe and applying the Gospel to our lives.

Where justification by faith flourishes, people enjoy the fruits of the Spirit. Everyone flourishes because God’s plan is to give us life in abundance, that our joy may be complete.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The First Sunday after Epiphany



Rose, by Norma Boeckler


The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 277 Vox delecti
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 Romans 12:1-5
The Gospel Luke 2:41-52
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 657 Schoenster Her Jesus

Objective Truth of the Gospel

The Hymn #130 Valet will ich dir geben
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 #40 Yigdal

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

KJV Luke 2:41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

First Sunday After Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in mercy hast established the Christian home among us: We beseech Thee so to rule and direct our hearts, that we may be good examples to children and servants, and not offend them by word or deed, but faithfully teach them to love Thy Church and hear Thy blessed word. Give them Thy Spirit and grace, that this seed may bring forth good fruit, so that our homelife may conduce to Thy glory, honor and praise, to our own improvement and welfare, and give offense to no one; through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Objective Truth of the Gospel

In this Gospel we see that Joseph and Mary were unable to comprehend the Child they raised, even though they knew about His divine origin and unique virgin birth. Secondly, this Gospel silences anyone who wonders why God did not convert the Jewish religious leaders. There stood Jesus in their midst, showing His amazing superiority at an early age. They had every opportunity to believe in Him, starting at that time, but also later, when He revealed Himself through His teaching and miracles.

Throughout Epiphany we have lessons that emphasize the revelation of Jesus to the entire world. This one is especially intriguing. As Paul asked in Romans, “What advantage does the Jew have?” The advantage is knowledge of the Scriptures. Every faithful Jew is raised with a knowledge of Hebrew, a cycle of readings, and access to what we call the Old Testament. The Hebrew name is literally Torah, Prophets, Readings. I think it is exciting to think of these elderly scholars, with an incredible knowledge of the Scriptures, listening to Jesus with awe.

It’s important to understand how this works. Jesus was not found until the third day, so we can assume He was at the Temple the entire time. In addition, His role was not to stand there and lecture the Jewish leaders. Sometimes we see paintings of Jesus standing in front of the leaders, His arm raised, as if He were delivering a solemn address. The Jewish tradition encourages younger people to ask difficult questions of the learned. So the text tells us that Jesus was listening and asking questions. Obviously, the questions revealed how much He understood.

I may have mentioned that in Columbus we had a family visit on a regular basis. The father was a pioneer in military jets. The mother was brilliant. The children radiated intelligence. The oldest son went to the U. of Chicago and earned a Ph.D. in economics. The children loved to ask difficult questions, and their questions not only gave away their understanding of the Christian faith, but also what was being discussed in the adult class. We only guess that Jesus in the Temple was 10 times as perceptive. Everyone was astonished at His understanding and answers, for surely the teachers began asking Him questions as well.

People can sense when someone has an unusual amount of knowledge. There will always be fakes and pretenders, but still people know real authority. Nothing has more authority than the Word itself. Jesus was and is the Word of God in the flesh. When He spoke, He taught with authority, not the authority of the scribes and Pharisees, but the authority of God.

This happens today as well. The Word of God has its own authority. The whole world can preach against the Word, and it does, but people still believe the Word and consider the Scriptures infallible. From time to time I heard people tell me that the minister would attack the Bible in the pulpit. More than one person said, “Why go to church to hear the minister preach against the Bible and say it is full of errors?” Most people do not get involved in all the historical data confirming the truth of the Bible, and it’s just as well. Too many get involving in an outward proof that depends upon a certain discovery, such as Noah’s Ark or the ark of the covenant. I saw a television show where Pat Robertson seemed to be claiming that they just found the ark of the covenant. They must have been wrong, because the story died away.

I have no question about the historical and geographical accuracy of the Bible. If anything, I am surprised that any liberal can open his mouth, considering what we have learned in the last century. Obviously few of them have studied these discoveries. But I doubt whether the guestbook from the Temple, signed by Jesus, would convince them. They would say, “That is interesting, but it does not prove Jesus walked on the water.”

On the other hand, a believer, someone converted by the Word, cannot be dissuaded by the arguments of man. Why? Because he knows that the Word of God pierces his heart with the Law. No matter what any fool might say about the Bible and the Christian faith, the Law reveals us for what we are. It can be so dramatic that people will burst into tears, as one group of prisoners did once when I simply quoted the Bible to show how we are all sinners. The individual knows that the Word of God has done this, not an effort by a human, but through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. Individuals know this because of their own resistance. There are only two causes of conversion: the Holy Spirit and the Word. The Bible does not recognize “a willing heart” or “a receptive person” as a third cause.

How receptive was Paul on the road to Damascus, persecuting the Christian faith? How receptive was Grace Fuller, spouting her Unitarian blather (her conversion by the Word alone is quoted verbatim in Thy Strong Word)? How ready was Augustine, who willfully resisted the Christian faith of his mother Monica? How ready was John Newton, a hated member of a crew doing hateful business, hauling slaves from Africa? Look at how we diminish the power of God when we make man or the human will a cause of conversion.

J-112
"Mrs. Barnhill looked at me and said, with such a loving look in her gray eyes, 'Oh, Grace, Christ said, 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,' and, my dear, you have no way of approach to a holy God unless you come through Christ, His Son, as your Saviour.' "The Scripture which she quoted," Mrs. Fuller continues, "was the Sword of the Spirit, and at that moment Unitarianism was killed forever in my heart. I saw the light like a flash and believed at that moment, though I said nothing. She had quoted God's Word, the Spirit had used it, and, believing, I instantly became a new creation in Christ Jesus. She might have talked and even argued with me about it, but instead she just used the Word."
J. Elwin Wright, The Old Fashioned Revival Hour and the Broadcasters, Boston: The Fellowship Press, 1940, p. 54.

As Grace Fuller realized, the proclaimed Word has the power to slay the elegant doubts of Unitarianism and to energize faith in the Gospel in an instant. Therefore, believers have an abundant witness in the Scriptures about the power, clarity, and effectiveness of the Word, but they also have the added benefit of experiencing the energy of the Law and Gospel, which work together to kill the dead old skeptical sinner and to create a new man who loves God and wants to serve Him. The Old Adam remains, but the leaven of the Gospel continues to work in those who hear the Word.

1.12 Conversion of St. Augustine,
Thy Strong Word

People think of St. Augustine (354-430) as a religious leader of the distant past, but he was once a famous, hedonistic pagan. His mother Monica gave him Christian instruction as a child and prayed for his conversion to the faith. Augustine’s unique intellectual gifts made him a powerful intellectual leader and the finest orator at a time when rhetoric was the pathway to fame. He was so brilliant that he felt the Scriptures were beneath him. In addition, Christianity was one of many religions of his day and not very successful in the marketplace of ideas. Monica never ceased her prayers. Another burden in her life was an unbelieving husband. One day, as Augustine felt the weight of his sins, he was overwhelmed with a sense of contrition. Weeping under a fig tree, he heard a child’s voice sing out a Latin song, “Tolle, lege. Take and read.” The song had no religious content, but Augustine felt compelled to pick up the Scriptures where he read the damning words of the Law and the comfort of the Gospel:

KJV Romans 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

J-131, Thy Strong Word
Augustine wrote: “I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” Augustine then went to tell his mother Monica, who “leaped for joy triumphant, and she blessed Thee, Who art ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.’” (Ephesians 3:20) [24]
Monica prayed to have a believing son, but God gave her something she never imagined, a son who became one of the greatest of all teachers of Christianity. Augustine became a bishop and served the African church, writing such classics of the faith as his Confessions and The City of God. It is impossible to study Christian thought apart from Augustine or find a topic he did not write about, using the gifts abundantly given him by God. At the last bookstore I visited, not long ago, I saw a well known highly respected biography of Augustine in paperback, a testimony to the kind and loving Father Who blessed Monica far beyond her ability to think or ask. That power gave her, like many heart-broken mothers afterwards, the faith to pray, the hope to find comfort in waiting, and the patience to wait for the effectual working of the Triune God, who can use a child and a secular song to fashion a bishop and theologian out of a rogue.

J-131, Thy Strong Word
"In like manner, St. Paul says that God's ability is thus proved, in that He does exceeding abundantly above and better than we ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. Therefore, we should know we are too finite to be able to name, picture or designate the time, place, way, measure and other circumstances for that which we ask of God. Let us leave that entirely to Him, and immovably and steadfastly believe that He will hear us." [25]
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p.179f.

J-132, Thy Strong Word
"A very fine example of the power of prayer is provided by Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. She asked for nothing in her prayer for her son except that he might be liberated from the madness of the Manichaeans [pagans] and be baptized...But the more she prayed, the more stiff-necked and stubborn the son became, and her prayer seemed to her to have become a sin. But when the time for hearing her solicitous prayer had come (for God usually defers His help), Augustine is not only converted and baptized but devotes himself entirely to the study of theology and turns out to be such a teacher that he shines in the church to this day, teaching and instructing the church. Monica had never asked for this. It would have been enough for her if her son had been freed from error and had turned Christian. But God wants to give us greater blessings than we can ask for, as long as we do not weaken in our prayer."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald M. Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959 II, p. 1094. Genesis 17:19-22.


When we consider Jesus in the Temple, we should not assume that everyone who heard Him rejected Him. It is likely that we have vignettes from the life of Jesus to show us why the Gospel was a powerful force in Israel. After all, the persecution of the church did not happen because it was harmless and ineffective, but precisely because it was uprooting sclerotic Judaism and converting Jews to the Christian faith. Paul, before his conversion, was eager to have Christians arrested. The apostles preached in synagogues until they were expelled. When the truth becomes apparent to people, the enemies of the truth must silence the Word by killing, persecuting, jailing, and expelling. Nevertheless, key leaders became believers.

KJV John 19:38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

KJV John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

Should we think that the initial listening and questioning by Jesus in the Temple had no effect? When Jesus spoke, God incarnate spoke. When He converted key leaders through the Word, they converted others through the Word. The Word is not as sharp as the sharpest sword, but sharper than any double-edged sword.

KJV Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

The Word is sharp and powerful in discerning and powerful in comfort, as the subsequent verses show.

KJV Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

So we can see that Jesus conducted His public ministry for the very purpose of revealing the comfort of the Gospel to all people. Who would aid the Roman government in killing Him? Jesus spoke with them, the Jewish religious leaders, for days in the Temple? That was “His Father’s business.” By this we know that there is no comparison between our thoughts and God’s thoughts, our ways and God’s ways. God provided the Gospel in the flesh for those who were in a position to crucify Christ. Many were justified by faith. Many more were condemned to eternal death and punishment for their unbelief.

And we can consider this wonderful story, the only one about the youth of Jesus, and think, “All this happened for me.” The very fact that we are hearing the Gospel means that God has provided the means to give us His Word. He sent the prophets and the apostles and most of all, His beloved only-begotten Son. The Gospel has been sent out to the entire world, but in particular to individuals.

The Gospel moves forward in positive ways, through people God has sent and trained through the Word. But it also moves ahead because of afflictions, disruptions, persecutions, splits, and controversies. Many people have been shocked to find themselves expelled or excommunicated for believing the Word, but the warnings began clearly enough in the Gospel of John.

KJV John 16:2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

It is difficult at the moment to see these events as good, but they are God’s will, or at least within the control of God. He limits the evil that people can do and also turns evil into good. Some people miss the ease and comfort of the large congregation, when they form a tiny, independent congregation. No money, no furniture, no hymnals, no candles, no Sunday School materials, no building (usually) or too much building. But look at this contrast: in a large congregation an inordinate amount of time is spent running the organization, and secular concerns often dominate the agenda. In an independent congregation, organization strength is missed, but endless meetings are not. Very little time is spent in an established congregation on spiritual matters.

That also happens in denominations. When I was in the LCA, we never had parish pastors giving papers. The bishop would give a talk, very unprepared. National church leaders, sometimes called The Wisemen From the East, would lead sessions. One man had a huge division and an enormous budget – all the American missions plus most of the social activism efforts. Someone noted on a napkin: “The greater the height, the larger the view of the speaker and the shallower the content.” The man was so vain he put on glasses to write on a board and took them off in facing the group. In contrast, when pastors are forced to give papers, they have to study a topic and at least one person learns something. If he does a good job, someone else learns something. If he is orthodox or not, something worthwhile is accomplished, if people are discerning about the Word. If not, they are damned for their unbelief and participate in the spread of false doctrine.

But the greatest testimony to the power of the Gospel is this. Although many books have the power to judge us and condemn us for our actions, our sinful nature, only the Gospel has the power to comfort us through the forgiveness of sins. This is the very purpose of the Christian Church, to show sinners that their Savior has paid for their sins on the cross and risen from the dead. No one, no matter how religious or moral he might be, is anything more than a lost sinner without Christ. No one can ever be comforted apart from the Gospel. We live in a troubled world because people want forgiveness but only receive more Law – commands, demands, and judgment.

Someone may say, “But I don’t feel forgiven.” That is all the more reason for hearing the Gospel and clinging to it. If someone is tortured by regret, the Gospel promises must penetrate the regret with the constant message of true and genuine forgiveness through Christ. If someone has grown up with nothing but the Law, this is difficult to grasp. In fact, for all of us, our weak faith is always in need of God’s love to strengthen the trust He plants in our hearts. Complete and full forgiveness, through God’s grace alone, received in faith, goes against our human pattern of thought. We cannot imagine taking on the sins of the world and dying for sinners. Because we cannot imagine it, God reveals it as truth and proclaims it in hundreds of ways through the Scriptures and the Sacraments.


Forgiveness in the Book of Concord
Megatron Database

"But Christ was given for this purpose, namely, that for His sake there might be bestowed on us the remission of sins, and the Holy Ghost to bring forth in us new and eternal life, and eternal righteousness [to manifest Christ in our hearts, as it is written John 16:15: He shall take of the things of Mine, and show them unto you. Likewise, He works also other gifts, love, thanksgiving, charity, patience, etc.]. Wherefore the Law cannot be truly kept unless the Holy Ghost is received through faith...Then we learn to know how flesh, in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are regarded by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we experience that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost, so that now we are able to think aright."
Apology Augsburg Confession, III. #11. Love Fulfilling of Law. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 159. Tappert, p. 125. Heiser, p. 42.

"If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments...Therefore Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God's command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament. For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. And God, at the same time, by the Word and by the rite, moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, Romans 10:17: 'Faith cometh by hearing.' But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and of the rite is the same..." [Luther, Bab Captivity, 3 sacraments]
Apology Augsburg Confession, XIII,#3. Number/Use Sacraments. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 309. Tappert, p. 211. Heiser, p. 94.

"Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness is His sight. Romans 3 and 4."
Augsburg Confession, IV. Justification. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 45. Tappert, p. 30. Heiser, p. 12f. Romans 3; Romans 4

"Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted; and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that, for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance."
Augsburg Confession, Article XII. Repentance. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 49. Tappert, p. 34f. Heiser, p. 13.

"But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church]."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #56, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 195.

"We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached, concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #54. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 417. Heiser, p. 195.

"Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is offered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #55. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 195.

"For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #58. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 196.

"Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #59. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693f. Tappert, p. 418. Heiser, p. 196.

"Therefore we believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church, and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith, in order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the Word."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #62. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 695. Tappert, p. 419. Heiser, p. 196.

"Therefore there is here again great need to call upon God and pray: Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses. Not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer (for He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it). But this is to the intent that we may recognize and accept such forgiveness."
The Large Catechism, The Lord's Prayer, Fifth Petition, #88, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 723. Tappert, p. 432. Heiser, p. 202f. Matthew 6:12

"For this reason let every one esteem his Baptism as a daily dress in which he is to walk constantly, that he may ever be found in the faith and its fruits, that he suppress the old man and grow up in the new. For if we would be Christians, we must practise the work whereby we are Christians. But if any one fall away from it, let him again come into it. For just as Christ, the Mercy-seat, does not recede from us or forbid us to come to Him again, even though we sin, so all His treasure and gifts also remain. If, therefore, we have once in Baptism obtained forgiveness of sin, it will remain every day, as long as we live, that is, as long as we carry the old man about our neck."
The Large Catechism, Part Fourth, Of Baptism. #84-86. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 753. Tappert, p. 446. Heiser, p. 209f.

"Therefore also it is vain talk when they say that the body and blood of Christ are not given and shed for us in the Lord's Supper, hence we could not have forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament. For although the work is accomplished and the forgiveness of sins acquired on the cross, yet it cannot come to us in any other way than through the Word. For what would we otherwise know about it, that such a thing was accomplished or was to be given us if it were not presented by preaching or the oral Word? Whence do they know of it, or how can they apprehend and appropriate to themselves the forgiveness, except they lay hold of and believe the Scriptures and the Gospel? But now the entire Gospel and the article of the Creed: I believe a holy Christian Church, the forgiveness of sin, etc., are by the Word embodied in this Sacrament and presented to us."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #31-32. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 759. Tappert, p. 450. Heiser, p. 211.

"For here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #70. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 769. Tappert, p. 454. Heiser, p. 214.

"...it has been unanimously taught by the other teachers of the Augsburg Confession that Christ is our righteousness not according to His divine nature alone, nor according to His human nature alone, but according to both natures; for He has redeemed, justified, and saved us from our sins as God and man, through His complete obedience; that therefore the righteousness of faith is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and our adoption as God's children only on account of the obedience of Christ, which through faith alone, out of pure grace, is imputed for righteousness to all true believers, and on account of it they are absolved from all their unrighteousness."
Formula of Concord, SD, III. #4. Righteousness of Faith. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 917. Tappert, p. 539f. Heiser, p. 250.

"These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the Father, and are eternally saved."
Formula of Concord, SD, III 10, Righteous of Faith before God, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 919. Tappert, p. 541. Heiser, p. 250.

"This righteousness is offered us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and is applied, appropriated, and received through faith, whence believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life."
Formula of Concord, SD III. #16. Righteousness of Faith. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 921. Tappert, p. 541. Heiser, p. 251.

"Moreover, neither contrition nor love or any other virtue, but faith alone is the sole means and instrument by which and through which we can receive and accept the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins, which are offered us in the promise of the Gospel."
Formula of Concord, SD, III 31, Righteous of Faith before God, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 925. Tappert, p. 544. Heiser, p. 252.

"The other eating of the body of Christ is oral or sacramental, when the true, essential body and blood of Christ are also orally received and partaken of in the Holy Supper, by all who eat and drink the consecrated bread and wine in the Supper--by the believing as a certain pledge and assurance that their sins are surely forgiven them, and Christ dwells and is efficacious in them, but by the unbelieving for the judgment and condemnation, as the words of the institution by Christ expressly declare...."
Formula of Concord, SD, VII. #63. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 995. Tappert, p. 581. Heiser, p. 270.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Second Sunday after Christmas



Word and Sacrament, by Norma Boeckler


The Second Sunday after Christmas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 131
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 1 Peter 4:12-19
The Gospel Matthew 2:1-23
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 128

The Star and the True Light

The Hymn #305
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 #127

KJV 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

KJV Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Veit Dietrich Collect
Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast given us the light of Thy holy word, the guiding star, which leadeth us to the Christ-child: Send, we beseech Thee, Thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may receive this light and make use of it unto our salvation, and that we, like the wise men, when they were seeking the star, may not be afraid because of any hardship or peril, but put all our trust in Thine only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, as our only Savior; devote our earthly possessions to the advancement of Thy kingdom, and in all things serve Him, Thine only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

[Note – a friend asked about why the holidays were being changed, renamed, etc. The Vatican decides and all the Lutherans go along with Rome. Eastern Orthodoxy is a bit independent. I combined the Gospel for this Sunday and for the Day of Epiphany, which has always been January 6th. The three-year reading cycle is from Rome, too.]

The Star and the True Light

The Day of Epiphany begins the series of lessons showing how Christ was revealed to the world, first through the Wise Men.

Skepticism and Ecumenism
The Star of Bethlehem was once considered the most obvious myth of Christmas. The scoffers scoffed by saying that it was a pious invention. Tracking down a good candidate for the Star hurt the reputation of Kepler among scientists. Later, they realized he was right. When I was checking over the common acceptance of the Star, I found a website when the author was very grouchy about the popularity of planetarium shows about the Star.

The widespread rejection of the Christian faith, especially among nominal Christian leaders, is a good example of mounting evidence (about a host of historical, Biblical issues) having no effect on scoffers. If anything, the evidence hardens their hearts against the Word even more.

From a believer’s perspective, the Star is another example of God working through all the elements of the universe to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. All the nations of the world and all the stars and planets are subject to His will. I do not look at astronomical calculations as proof of the Bible being true. I am glad they have caught up in some areas. The facts do not convert – the Gospel does.

Someone could certainly claim that the Star was not a miracle at all, that the planets do merge in the sky every so often, and comets go wandering by. Stars explode to make a bright but temporary supernova. We know there were several candidates in the sky, each one of them there in time for the birth of Christ.

The birth of Christ was the greatest miracle of all time, God becoming flesh, the divine and human united in One Person, Jesus.

Rejection of miracles in the Bible is really a rejection of Christ, who is the central miracle of the Scriptures. Those who believe the Gospel is true also know that the secondary revelations of the Word are also trustworthy.

In any given era, the scoffers attack at the weak points. In the last 50 years, the theme has been, “Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we drop these doctrinal distinctions?” They call this the Ecumenical Movement, which has a history and certain important figures.

First came the attack on the text of the New Testament, in the 19th century. Now a committee votes on every verse of the New Testament, but that came about from Tischendorf, Wescott and Hort turning the New Testament into their personal sandbox. They invented rules and decided which rules applied to each verse. A shorter passage was better than a longer one. Why? They decided. I know that some people tell longer stories over a period of time and finally shorten them. Others embroider stories until they become more and more ornate. President Johnson was famous for that, as he retold his story about earning a Silver Star, which was a fable. Either way, how does length decide faithfulness to the truth? Nevermind, scholars fell in love with determining the text, rejecting what the Greek church had always preserved.

Evolution took hold in Christianity at about the same time. Evolution allowed people to doubt the Creation while believing in Christ – so they thought. No intellectual wanted to defend Creation by the Word when everyone was lionizing Darwin.

Now we have the Ecumenical Movement in the form of Church Growth, the Emerging or the Emergent Church. The Willow Creek Association includes all denominations (for a price), including ELCA, WELS, and Missouri. They have to believe the same things to belong. I noticed a bevy of ELCA Willow Creek congregations in Minnesota, all of them talking about “Core Values,” in a vague way, but carefully hiding their affiliation. On some websites I could not tell at all. Maybe they were ELCA, or maybe they were the offshoot from ELCA, which also ordains women.

The best way to step away from the Bible in a stealthy and furtive manner is to drop confessions of faith and doctrinal statements. They can be watered down, if necessary. But to say, “We confess this truth and reject that falsehood,” – unacceptable for the ecumenists. Those who reject the confessions soon jettison the Scriptures as well.

"The modern radical spirit which would sweep away the Formula of Concord as a Confession of the Church, will not, in the end, be curbed, until it has swept away the Augsburg Confession, and the ancient Confessions of the Church--yea, not until it has crossed the borders of Scripture itself, and swept out of the Word whatsoever is not in accord with its own critical mode of thinking. The far-sighted rationalist theologian and Dresden court preacher, Ammon, grasped the logic of a mere spirit of progress, when he said: 'Experience teaches us that those who reject a Creed, will speedily reject the Scriptures themselves.'"
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1911, p. 685. Trinity

The best definition of an ecumenist (or unionist) is – Someone who loves every denomination except his own. The Lutheran Church Growth people always mock Lutheran doctrine and worship.

It’s hard to say whether doctrinal indifference or ecumenism come first. One is the cause of the other. Historically, all union efforts have ended in fewer people hearing the Word, fewer members, and a complete loss of the articles of faith. The United Church of Christ is a product of many different union movements. They are dying fast and completely apostate in doctrine, accepting all religions as equal.

The Star of Bethlehem
The Star is important for many reasons. We can see that God willed that great intellectual leaders from the East should see the Messiah and report back to their people. The Word spread miraculously because God provided for that in the earliest days. Among Jews it was in the prophecies of the Old Testament and the Seder Meal.

Matthew 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

The Wise Men saw the Word Incarnate and returned home to teach about Him. Jesus revealed Himself in the Temple when He was still a young boy. Jewish scholars saw their Scriptures fulfilled as Jesus spoke. Certainly the Word Incarnate was effective in the Temple.

The Wise Men’s treacherous journey is testimony to longing for a Savior in those days of darkness. Ancient religions were too gross or bloodthirsty to discuss the details. Nothing was too degraded for them. People had fallen away from the truth as the earth repopulated after the Flood. Then too, religious leaders found it easy to terrorize their followers or to give them exactly what they wanted. The world was in darkness.

Darkness and Light
The greater the darkness, the more a tiny of light will shine forth. The Star promised a greater light to come. The followers of Satan, various religions, all want to borrow light as a symbol of their teaching.

Followers of the occult use light, the rainbow, and anything else they can borrow to make their falsehood look good.
Nevertheless, the Bible portrays Christ as the one true Light of the Word.

KJV John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

KJV John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

God’s wisdom is shown in that He:
1. Revealed His Son to the lowly shepherds first, then to Wise Men from the East.
2. Kept the Wise Men safe and sent Jesus into Egypt, fulfilling the prophecy.
3. Established Jesus as the Messiah among His own people, then spread the Gospel to all nations.
4. Announced His Son’s birth so that the entire world would take notice of the Star of Bethlehem, a phenomenon noted in the Chinese records.

Notice that the Wise Men worshiped Jesus, not the Holy Family, not Jesus and Mary, when they found Him. The Bible is sparse in details and those details are telling. There is no mention of venerating Mary. She is indeed honored above all women in history, but the Bible did not elevate her to Jesus’ status and even beyond (as the one who pleaded for mercy, commanding her Son).

Some would like to downplay the Wise Men, who are found only in Matthew. But the passage about them and the Star in Matthew is very significant. In a very small book like Matthew, the space given to the Star and the Wise Men means that the Holy Spirit wants us to learn a lesson. God led them to Jesus through the Star. How did they know? There are various explanations for it. Some say that the pseudo-science of astrology made them think that a King was coming to Israel. We cannot tell why they traveled on a difficult journey, but they traveled in faith. They believed they would find the Savior of the world.
They went to a bloodthirsty king, Herod, but God kept them safe. Herod had the chance to see the Savior and believe in Him. Instead, he used to knowledge to try to kill the Savior. Those are two different and very significant reactions to the Word of God Incarnate.

Why can’t more people believe in Jesus? They probably need more miracles. God gave Herod a miracle in the sky, the Wise Men to show how important the Star was, and Jewish experts to explain the meaning of the Star.

Many would say, “With that much happening, I would certainly believe. My faith would never falter and never grow weak if I saw the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men.” But the true Church produces a miracle every time Holy Communion is celebrated. The Body and Blood of Christ are given with the common elements of bread and wine, given for the forgiveness of sin. Both are miracles. Holy Communion is a miracle. Forgiveness is a miracle.

These wonderful testimonies from the Gospels strengthen our faith, and so do the Sacraments.

God created and managed many different events to strengthen the faith of those who would literally face wild animals in defense of the Gospel. God’s abundance of mercy is shown in the heavenly choirs, the Star of Bethlehem, the Wise Men, the flight into Egypt, and the later miracles. Many individual miracles are so great that the ability to do one of them today would create world-wide headlines. More importantly, the disciples and the people knew that Jesus converted them through the spoken Word. They knew that better than anything else. Although they were weak and frail, impulsive and wrong so many times, those early followers were strengthened by the Word and remained fruitful for abiding in that Word.

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.


Schmauk Quotations
"Shall we permit this to be done! in the name of Christian unity! and by a latitudinarianism that is our own heritage, which rises ever anew from the embers of the past to find such veiled support and strength in the citadel of Zion that Confessionalism is told to whisper low in Jerusalem lest she be heard on the streets of Gath."
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: 1911, p. 941.

"Is the Lord's Supper the place to display my toleration, my Christian sympathy, or my fellowship with another Christian, when that is the very point in which most of all we differ; and in which the difference means for me everything--means for me, the reception of the Savior's atonement? Is this the point to be selected for the display of Christian union, when in fact it is the very point in which Christian union does not exist?"
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: 1911, p. 905f.

"The modern radical spirit which would sweep away the Formula of Concord as a Confession of the Church, will not, in the end, be curbed, until it has swept away the Augsburg Confession, and the ancient Confessions of the Church--yea, not until it has crossed the borders of Scripture itself, and swept out of the Word whatsoever is not in accord with its own critical mode of thinking. The far-sighted rationalist theologian and Dresden court preacher, Ammon, grasped the logic of a mere spirit of progress, when he said: 'Experience teaches us that those who reject a Creed, will speedily reject the Scriptures themselves.'"
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1911, p. 685. Trinity

"The real question is not what do you subscribe, but what do you believe and publicly teach, and what are you transmitting to those who come after? If it is the complete Lutheran faith and practice, the name and number of the standards is less important. If it is not, the burden of proof rests upon you to show that your more incomplete standard does not indicate an incomplete Lutheran faith."
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: 1911, p. 890.

[Selnecker, who wrote "Ach bleib bei uns" (TLH #292) was bitterly attacked and severely persecuted by the Reformed, deposed when Augustus died, reduced to poverty, and not allowed to remain in Leipzig as a private citizen.]
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1911, p. 310ff.