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Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

2,000th post on Ichabod:
The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #292 Ach bleib bei unsThe Confession of SinsThe AbsolutionThe Introit p. 16The Gloria PatriThe Kyrie p. 17The Gloria in ExcelsisThe Salutation and Collect p. 19The Epistle and Gradual Romans 13:8-10The Gospel Matthew 8:23-27Glory be to Thee, O Lord!Praise be to Thee, O Christ!The Nicene Creed p. 22The Sermon Hymn #142 An Wasserfluessen
Wind and Waves Obey the Word
The Hymn #192 Auf auf mein herzenThe Preface p. 24The Sanctus p. 26The Lord's Prayer p. 27The Words of InstitutionThe Agnus Dei p. 28The Nunc Dimittis p. 29The Benediction p. 31The Hymn #281 Azmon
KJV Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
KJV Matthew 8:23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
Fourth Sunday In AdventLord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto Thee, that Thou hast given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and hast therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Thy Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech Thee, in such faith in Thy grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Thy promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Thy Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Thy grace we obtain eternal salvation, 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.
Wind and Waves Obey the Word
This Gospel lesson teaches us about the power of the Word, so we never despair over God’s power.
Many individual stories about Jesus emphasize the power of the Word, as this one does.
The foundational section of this doctrine is Genesis 1. The opening of the Bible teaches us, with John 1’s commentary, that the Son of God is the creating Word which fashioned the entire universe.
In fact, nothing in Creation was made without the Word, the Son of God. What so many deny is obvious to believers – the great harmony and perfection of Creation is a testimony to God’s design, power, and compassion. Every single creature is provided for and aids in that universal design which favors humankind so generously.
In the bitter winters of Minnesota I was constantly reminded of how God provides for the winter birds. Ice storms covered the trees and bushes with an armor coat, and that is what stymied the birds. They needed fuel to stay warm, and their food was covered up. Until then I never realized how much birds depend on the larvae living through the winter on the bark of trees. A ice storm closes off that food supply and the birds get especially hungry. Someone wrote that was the best time to get birds eating from one’s hand. Shyness gives way to hunger and training is speeded up.
The birds which were picky about which seeds they ate were eager to eat anything when the ice and snow covered up most of their food. They enjoyed their winter baths that much more too.
I still have the bird-bath warmer which I bought to keep the birds happy in winter. I often put a gallon of water a day in the birdbath to replace what was used up through bathing and drinking. (You can have it shipped to you free if you ask, via the comments or plain old email. The first request gets the warmer.) The funniest scene was in Midland, about 20 birds or more, lined up 2 by 2, jumping in the bath, splashing around, getting out for the next pair.
Without larvae living in the bark over the winter, birds would disappear or be forced to fly away. They provide a great deal of entertainment over the winter and even more in the spring, when a burst of insect life feeds a burst of newly hatched birds.
I was discussing birds with a scientist. He was talking about their beautiful songs, which I learned were often about territory. When the male bird sang, he was saying, “Stay away from this property.” If the Creating Word had made these songs dreadful to hear, spring would be full of terrible songs, like fighting dogs and cats. Instead we hear a choir of birds singing Matins each morning.
One little item about birds is another part of this great Creation. Some birds do their work in flocks, like sparrows and starlings. Others are more isolated in pairs. The cardinal does not want his property invaded, so he stakes out his claim. He watches for other cardinals, but he is quite tolerant of other bird species. Each bird species has its favorite food, its favorite place to eat, its favorite place to rest. A balanced property has room for many types of birds to live together and do the work of Creation.
All this happens by the Word of God. As Luther reminded us, the birds who sing so cheerfully each day do not know where their next day’s food is coming from. They happily go about search for food with no promise about tomorrow. That is why Jesus directed everyone’s attention to the birds and the flowers of the field. God provides for them. How much more will He provide for us?
The Storm
The Son of God revealed His universal power in the storm. This was not a storm on a pond or a lake. The Sea of Galilee is one of the great inland seas in the world. During a storm, the waves are like ocean waves and the darkness is overwhelming.I had to opportunity to drive home at night in the Phoenix “desert hurricane.” The effects were quite astonishing. My hopes were to drive out of the storm. On the way home, I thought, “This is a hurricane, not a rain storm.” Later, the media said our storm created 75 mph winds with the rain. I-17 turned into unpredictable lakes. The rain whipped sideways. Lightning flashed across the sky, making the ensuing darkness even more oppressive.
Jesus and His disciples were in a boat, one especially made for these storms. Nevertheless, it was swamping with water. With no Coast Guard, no light, no help nearby, they cried out for help.
Matthew 8:24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
So we see that God seems unaware or unconcerned about our danger. When we use our senses and human reason, fear takes over. This miracle shows us that the more we rely on ourselves, the more quickly faith in God jumps out the window.
The energy behind the Church Growth Movement has always been fear. The Lutherans all knew in 1978 that the natural growth they enjoyed before was going to change. Families were on the move. Confirmed children did not necessarily come back to church when they married and had children. They had statistics and studies. I went to an event financed by the LCA (where I served in those dark days) – and all the “facts” were gloomy.
The answers were – study the statistics and teach Management by Objective (the Misssion/Vision statement, sometimes called a Vision Statement). MBO is a business method.
“O ye of little faith,” Jesus said in rebuking His disciples (see parallel versions). This word rebuke is very strong. Sin is rebuke. Peter was rebuked for trying to deny Jesus’ cross.
The Word then rebuked the storm and a great calm took over the sea and the men.
Matthew 8:27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
The men knew the sea very well. They relied on their experience and their sense. They knew they were going to die. They did not rely on the Word.
In faith, they might have said, “We cannot perish. We are in the same boat with the Creating Word. If He is asleep, we are fine. He is not worried, so we are not anxious.”
Even so today, we should not let fear drive away faith. We cannot help being anxious about a tax cheat becoming the Secretary of Treasury, a man so deceitful he blames Turbo Tax for his troubles.
The best way to drive away fear is to study the Word and the Gospel Promises. God only works through the Word and never apart from the Word. If we want to rely on the Creator of the Universe, we only need to turn to His revealed Word. If we want to rely on frail, fallible, sinful people, we only need to turn to our own wisdom.
Jesus commanded the storm to stop through His Word. That was a great and impressive miracle. An even greater one is when He commands us to be righteous on the basis of His work, not ours. We hear the Gospel message and trust in Him. In faith we receive what He alone can promise – forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.
In the greatest storm of life we can be calm within, because the Son of God is with us, in good times and bad.

"Let him therefore who is concerned about his life not be taken in by the friendliness of heretics to agree with their doctrine. Neither let him be offended at my faults, who am a teacher, but let him consider the doctrine itself." [Origen, Homily 7, on Ezekiel]Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 154.
"But now I ought not to quote the Nicean, nor you the Ariminensian Council, as if to judge beforehand. I will not be bound by the authority of this, nor you by the authority of that. On the authority of the Scriptures and not on any one's own, but on the common witnesses of both, let matter contend with matter, cause with cause, reason with reason." [Augustine, Contra Maximum, Book 3, chap. 14]Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, I, p. 155.
"Later on we read that even the most prominent leaders, both Peter and Barnabas, fell into error and all the other Jews with them. Then Paul alone rose up and rebuked Peter publicly, as he himself writes in Galatians 2:11."Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., II, p. 28. Gal. 2:11.
"I often say that there is no power or means to resist the sects except this one article of Christian righteousness. If we have lost it, we cannot resist any errors or sects."What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., III, p. 1225. Galatians 2:20.
"In philosophy an error that is small at the beginning becomes very great in the end. So a small error in theology overturns the whole body of doctrine...That is why we may not surrender or change even an iota (apiculum) of doctrine."What Luther Says, III, p. 1365.
"Therefore, do not speak to me of love or friendship when anything is to be detracted from the Word or the faith; for we are told that not love but the Word brings eternal life, God's grace, and all heavenly treasures."What Luther Says, III, p. 1411f.
"In matters concerning faith we must be invincible, unbending, and very stubborn; indeed, if possible, harder than adamant. But in matters concerning love we should be softer and more pliant than any reed and leaf and should gladly accommodate ourselves to everything."What Luther Says, I, p. 412f. Galatians 2:8.

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