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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Finches love thistle. Drawing by Norma Boeckler.

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #523 by Gerhardt Warum sollt’ ich mich
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 Col. 3:12-17
The Gospel Matthew 13:24-30
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #528 by Gerhardt Valet will ich dir geben

Comfort in the Gospel

The Hymn #444 Wachet auf
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 #277 Vox dilecti

KJV Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

KJV Matthew 13:24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Jesus explanation of this parable:

Matthew 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that Thou hast sown the good seed, Thy holy word, in our hearts: We pray Thee that by Thy Holy Spirit Thou wilt cause this seed to grow and bring forth fruit, and defend us from the enemy, that he may not sow tares therein. Keep us from carnal security, help us in all temptations, and give us at last eternal salvation; through Thy beloved Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.


In this parable we have two kinds of assurance: one is that the best work in the Christian Church will attract destructive people who do Satan’s work; the other is that the Word will bring forth fruit, even if weeds also grow.

This parable makes it clear that correct teaching was a concern for Jesus and His disciples. This parable shows that false teaching being spread is something to be expected. So pastors and laity should not act as if they just graduated from convent school.

A crop was sown. Then the enemy came during the night and broadcast weeds seeds in the plot of land. When the crop germinated, it was clear that weeds were growing among the good plants. The servants told the Master (God) and asked if they should pull the weeds out. He said no, because pulling up the weeds would destroy the wheat crop. Wait until harvest, when the weeds will be separated from the wheat, with the wheat gathered into the barn (eternal life) and the weeds gathering for burning (eternal damnation).

At first weeds look like the intended crop. More than once I have mistaken a bumper crops for the plants which supposed to be growing. But when weeds flower and fruit, it becomes obvious that they are pretenders and not the real thing. Gardeners know that one does not simply yank out weeds growing with good crops. In some cases it can be done, but it can also tear up the good plants when they are still small and tender.

In one case an Episcopalian minister in early America decided that he longer believed in the Trinity. He took all references to the Trinity out of the worship service. His congregation went along with him and thus the Unitarian church in America was born. The Unitarian doctrine (denial of the Son and the Holy Spirit) can be found in the ELCA standard dogmatics book, called Christian Dogmatics, by Braaten and Jenson, where they state that the Trinity is nothing more than God the Father, the man Jesus, and the spirit of the believing community.

The Enemy Came at Night
False teachers always work stealthily. They never announce, “I am going to promote false doctrine, contrary to God’s Word.” They work undercover as long as possible, and then cry out in pain when they are discovered.

The Braaten/Jenson book was the standard dogmatics book at all the ELCA seminaries, but they denied it when asked. Anyone with access to the school could find out easily that Bratten/Jenson was required reading for all seminarians. Similarly, Wayne Mueller claimed there was “No Church Growth in WELS” when he was in charge of it. He added, “If there are CG programs, they are confessional.” That is a new addition to the Parable of the Tares – And the Master said, “There are no weeds in my plot of land, but if there are weeds, they are wheat seeds.”

This Parable of the Tares was used by the radicals during the Reformation to argue that they should be allowed to stay, and not removed. That seems to be a strange way to argue, to say, “We are the tares.” But it shows how they wanted to stay and continue to grow.

False doctrine works by supplanting
As we can see in this parable, false doctrine works by supplanting, gradually displacing sound doctrine until falsehood is dominant. No weed is delicate or faint of heart. They all show an amazing ability to grow and spread. Weeds seeds are often sticky or barbed, so they travel on animal fur. One goat’s head seed will probably become a plant and produce 200 more seeds. In the same way, false doctrine always shows an abundant growth pattern. The more foolish it is, the faster it spreads. The goat’s head seed will turn into a spreading plant that can be 8 feet across, rooted very shallow, but heavily seeded. Removing an old plant means a shower of seeds will fall in all directions, stick to clothing, and begin anew.

False doctrine is deliberately promoted
Jesus, as Lord of Creation, used certain aspects of His Creation to teach. Weed seeds often arrive by wind and by accidental travel on animals. But in this parable, He dealt with the deliberate proliferation of weeds (false doctrine).

The innocent and ignorant like to think some false doctrine happens by accident, but the force of the parable teaches us about intentional promotion, intentional supplanting of sound doctrine.

How False Doctrine Enters
The son of the founder of Fuller Seminary studied under Karl Barth ( an adulterous Marxist, who moved his mistress into his own home and worked with her alone in a cottage all summer). Barth’s allegiance was to Marxism and his mistress, so his students did not believe in God’s Word. When young Fuller came back to his dad’s seminary, he began to get rid of their stand on inerrancy (which was rather weak anyway). Once he succeeded, and it was quite a battle with the old fogey faculty, the Church Growth Movement was moved in with Donald McGavran teaching. They spread their marketing doctrine to all the denominations.

McGavran and C. Peter Wagner began by teaching church executives from all denominations, first in world missions, then in American missions. Those executives made sure all their underlings were trained at Fuller, too. Fuller bragged (in a letter) about all the WELS leaders they trained – naming them. WELS was furious because it became an issue. These things are supposed to happen at night, secretly. Missouri sent more men to Fuller than to their two seminaries – for post-graduate training. ELCA, even the Roman Catholic Church used Fuller.

The new trend is Emerging Church, which is getting all the excitement in WELS (pro and con). Emerging Church includes coffee, couches, and added efforts to make the entire Sunday experience exclusively for unbelievers. The Luveen and Chicago churches are Emergent Church.

So the growth of this new doctrine, supplanting the Gospel, was quite deliberate, not only by McGavran/Wagner, but also by the Lutheran executives. Missouri and WELS supposedly hate each other, but both groups use Kent Hunter and Waldo Werning to promote false doctrine. (Wally Oelhafen was known for dumping Werning books on WELS mission pastors. I knew Werning, so I already had his immortal, mostly cloned books.)

Note: “46 from St. Paul's attended the Win Arn Church Growth seminar, including Floyd Stolzenburg, George Skestos, Vicar Mike Nitz, etc. March and April, 1985.”
How big is that crop now?

False doctrine will grow and be harvested for eternal life – in Hell
The argument in the parable is not, “Ignore false doctrine,” but “You cannot dig it all out, especially among the tender.” Battling false doctrine is always Law teaching, and the Law alone does not produce any Gospel fruit. The Parable of the Tares reveals that the weeds will be judged just as the good crop will be. The Gospel seed produces fruit for eternal life, the weeds produce a useless crop and are gathered for the fire.

The weed harvest is now
The weeds have revealed themselves. For 30 years the Lutherans have been nagged about how these new methods will help the church grow, so they have to be good. (Hint – weeds always grow better than the desired crop. In commercial dandelion plots, grass gets in.) In the last 30 years the Lutheran synods have shriveled up and gone bankrupt, so even the most basic and materialistic claim of the Growthers has been proven false.

The apostates do not give money. They take money for themselves. They produce disciples for their cause, but they do not convert anyone. They do not produce church vocations, either. When apostates take over a denomination, the seminary enrollment always goes down.

Sound doctrine is taken for granted
I have tried to point out to pastors and some laity that we are in an era where the weed seeds are more prominent that the pure Word of God. Lutheran classics in print 20 years ago are now out of print. When people show that they prefer false doctrine and opponents of God’s Word, we should act accordingly. Some effort should be made to teach the truth, but after a time, the reaction of false teachers should tell us to move on.

One person drawn into the Mormon church said that he was tricked into membership classes, since the most evil doctrines were kept hidden from the casual prospect. Then in class, he said, and I paraphrase, “Either you walk out the door and never come back, or you snap. And nothing is too ridiculous after that.” And false teachers have a burning zeal seldom found in the orthodox.

At first we are upset, like the servants, to see weeds growing where they should not be. But this parable warns and comforts us with the knowledge that this will always be. It is a warning so that we are prepared. But it is also comforting because it is beyond our control. Someone said, “I knew when you had independent conferences you would attract the less stable.” I thought so too, but all the turmoil eventually united those who love the Scriptures and the Confessions. In time these things get sorted out, but we can never figure them out first in all our wisdom.

For last Sunday’s service, I picked two of Paul Gerhardt’s hymns The Lutheran Hymnal. As people know, Gerhardt had a very difficult life, and yet the difficulties became the fabric of his most comforting hymns. If anyone would like to read a fine essay on comfort in the midst of trial, stress, and suffering, Gerhardt’s hymns would be the best and most concise. If you look through the entire section of Cross and Comfort hymns, Gerhardt’s hymns stand out as the longest and the best among many fine hymns.

The weeds are sown and they grow robustly, but the crops also grow. As Jesus explained,

KJV Matthew 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Much of the explanation concerns the judgment and condemnation of those who belong to Satan, but Jesus also says, Matthew 13:43:

Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Two Sources of Suffering
When someone is suffering, two kinds of thoughts run through the mind. One group of thoughts dwells on the bad things done by evil people in the past. Some of these things can be very bad indeed. Money is stolen. People are attacked and assaulted, sometimes while still very young. Family members and false friends may be full of hatred and glory in saying terrible things. Although some people repent, these actions belong to the kingdom of Satan. As we see in the parable, the weeds are gathered and burned at the end of time. God will give the wicked their reward. So believers have no reason to dwell on thoughts about harm done to them in the past.

Secondly, another form of suffering by the believer is from blame and guilt. People torment themselves by going over problems and sins in the past, as if someone could worry over the past, replay it in a different way, and make the present better.

The greatest possible comfort comes from Gospel passages in the Bible, in the Confessions, and in hymns, such as #528, verse 5:

He canceled my offenses
Delivered me from death;
He is the Lord who cleanses
My soul from sin through faith.
In Him I can be cheerful,
Bold, and undaunted aye;
In Him I am not fearful
Of God’s great Judgment Day.

If we must dwell on something, then let us dwell on this thought, “He canceled my offenses, delivered me from death. He is the Lord who cleanses my soul from sin through faith.” One purpose of hymns is to have us repeat such words over and over again as we sing them to ourselves privately or together with fellow believers.

When I wrote about stress and comfort recently, a number of people responded. We do not always think about how many may be suffering at a given time. The more we realize the meaning of complete and full forgiveness through the cross, the more thankful to God we are. Then we also see that our blessings come in so many small but significant ways.

I find it hard to be cheerful when the worst characters seem to be winning for the moment. I know many pastors who are suffering right now. They are not suffering for doing wrong but for teaching the Word of God. They have no power and cannot make a dent against those who oppose them or make life difficult for them. This is very discouraging for anyone who cares at all. Nevertheless, we have to see God’s hand in this, even in the worst of difficulties.

Sometimes it seems as if nothing is more insignificant than a sermon. Even Paul wrote about the foolishness of preaching. I have noticed that some synod leaders even use the word “preaching” in a negative sense. Boomers and Gen Xers do not want to be preached to, he said, making preach sound like a bad word. This can eat away at a minister, to be trained for years in something that earns so little respect today, especially among church officials.

In contrast, learn a little about computers and you are like a physician everywhere. It used to be people saying to doctors, “I have a pain in my elbow when I turn my hand right.” Now, it is, “My computer refuses to…”

I am fortunate in that I get responses from all over. A Jewish woman (but a secret believer) asked for sermons to be mailed to her. Congregations and pastors need to remind themselves that the Word is constantly at work among them, bringing forth an infinite number of blessings and souls for the Kingdom of God.

Congregations should spend more energy showing their appreciation for the ministry of the Word and showing that they trust only in the Word. Ministers and congregations alike fall into measuring how well they are doing, a fatal error. No one can judge but God. Measuring (even in our minds) is terribly me-centered. We glorify God when we do not anticipate the final harvest and Judgment Day.

1 comment:

Suster Gila said...

Hi there...
You have your Bible and I have my own Quran. :)