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
Ustream - Sunday, 10 AM Central.


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
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Misericordias Domini, The Second Sunday after Easter



The Shepherd and His Sheep, by Norma Boeckler


Misericordias Domini, The Second Sunday after Easter

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Thursdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #201 Jesus Lives 2.81
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 2:11-20
The Gospel John 10:11-16
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #A Hymn of Glory 2:93

The Hired Hand vs. The Good Shepherd

The Hymn #205 The Day of Resurrection 2:90
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 #656 Behold a Host 2:39

KJV 1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

KJV John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Second Sunday After Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, who of Thy fatherly goodness hast been mindful of us poor, miserable sinners, and hast given Thy beloved Son to be our shepherd, not only to nourish us by His word, but also to defend us from sin, death, and the devil: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that, even as this Shepherd doth know us and succor us in every affliction, we also may know Him, and, trusting in Him, seek help and comfort in Him, from our hearts obey His voice, and obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Hired Hand vs. The Good Shepherd

Once I got an anonymous email telling me that Jesus was never negative, but he must have forgotten this passage and many more like this. This lesson is a warning against the hired hand and the wolf who devours and scatters the flock.

In this Gospel lesson, Jesus compares His own role to that of the hired hand. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

When people follow a hired hand, someone who wants to fatten himself as a minister, they fall prey to several evils at once. The hireling does not protect them against the wolf, but abandons them to the wolf, who destroys the souls of some and scatters the rest, who are utterly lost and confused.

Church history has many examples of charismatic figures who spoke in God’s Name and led people into destruction. One was Thomas Muentzer, who incited the Peasants Revolt in Germany. When the battle came, he ran away and hid in a pile of hay. Thousands died - and many went back to the Church of Rome, blaming Luther for the slaughter. Luther is still blamed for the battle today, because Muentzer was a Protestant. Muentzer claimed to received his instructions directly from God, not from the Scriptures, so he was an Enthusiast of the worst sort.

Today many of the hired hands are watching their empires collapse. They fleeced millions of dollars from people to build palaces that would proclaim God was on their side. They borrowed millions more for the mortgages, which are now in default. When the house of cards blows down, the sheep are that much more a prey for the anti-Christian cults. If a sect is authoritarian and abusive, its members are trained to respond to the same kind of leadership from a clearly anti-Christian cult, like the Mormons or JWs.

Many religious leaders today portray Jesus as so loving that He would never speak against anything. They want their flocks to be as indolent and spiritually lazy as they are. And many prefer that as well. There is much less trouble when religious indifference is taught and practiced.

In the “Godspell” movie, the Jesus figure tells the Parable of the Last Judgment. The sheep and the goats are divided according to their good works reflected their faith in Christ. At the end, the sheep are invited into Paradise. Next, the goats are also invited. The message – it does not matter what people believe and do.

Jesus repeatedly warned His followers against false doctrine. Matthew 7 is well known but mostly ignored in application:

KJV Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Paul also used the figure of the wolf:

KJV Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

The Reformation was a time of constant trial for all the religious leaders. When Luther died, the unity he created by preaching the Word was wrecked by weak and false teachers. The weak ones gave in to the false teachers inside and outside the flock. And yet, all those problems led to the Book of Concord, thanks to the leadership of men who were faithful to the Lutheran Reformation: Chemnitz, Chytraeus, Selnecker, Andreae.

As anyone can see, one error leads to another. My original training was in the LCA, which never took the Book of Concord seriously. I owned the Tappert edition but no college or seminary course dealt with the content of this great theological work. That reflected the general attitude in the LCA that nothing after 1530 (the Augsburg Confession) mattered. Also, no one wanted to identify with the Missouri Synod.

The biggest wave of apostasy has swept over all churches in America because of “one man, one book, and one seminary.” (Someone coined that phrase, but I cannot remember who.) The man was a sociologist, McGavran, who earned a secular PhD from Columbia University. The book was Understanding Church Growth. The seminary was—and is—Fuller in Pasadena.

“Donald McGavran is the father of the movement.
C. Peter Wagner is its systematician.
Win Arn has introduced America to church growth principles.
And Lyle Schaller, not really connected with the roots of the movement, is a guru of church planning whose advice is respected by those who are at the root of the Movement.”
http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/Church/Conway/church-growth/cgm-roots.htm

The concept was simple – use statistical methods to find trends in the Christian church and copy “what works.” That quickly led to marketing methods, dropping anything suspected of being a “barrier to church growth.”

For Lutherans to adopt this, they first had to overcome their resistance to unionism and start listening to false teachers. They knew it was wrong so they lied about it.

The false teachers flattered them, saying, “You are in a Biblical church. Just do the right things and you will grow faster than weeds.” The right things meant dropping the liturgy, getting rid of the great hymns, and turning the sermon into a pep talk: how to have more time, how to have more friends, how to be happy.
The false teachers all hated Lutheran doctrine and spread their loathing to their Lutheran converts. The Lutheran gurus began saying or thinking, “Lutherans are not evangelistic. We have to be just like the Baptists.”

Willow Creek started in a movie theatre, so that is the venue to covet. Rent a theatre and all will be well.

My wife and I were at a Starbucks. Right behind us was a coffeehouse minister, talking to a woman. When she left, he ordered his third cup of coffee. No wonder they have closed over 600 Starbucks. Another factor in the closings would be the so-called church where they offer couches and coffee during the service. As WELS pastor Randy Hunter says, “It works.” Whenever churches compete for commerce (gambling, restaurants, coffeehouses, entertainment) the Gospel loses.

Institutions rise and fall. One of the greatest empires of all times – Great Britain – is only a shadow of what it was 100 years ago. Macy’s, one chain we shop at, is ready to close. Their ads recently said, “We have always been there – and in the movies too.” Not always. The existence of a given congregation or denomination is temporary.

The Word of God remains forever. This is a life or death issue. When falsehood is taught, souls are gathered by Satan. The purpose of the true Church is to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments in accordance with the Scriptures.

The parents of our very good friend died a few days ago. Church was important to them. They saw the gradual demise of the ALC and the confusion in the Missouri Synod. I once wrote an article that seemed too academic for most people, about how the ALC declined. They were on the phone when it came out – they loved it because they saw it happen around them.

When someone in the family dies, the message of the Gospel is the only comfort we have. Everything else is transitory. No one says, “But they were at a very large church,” anymore than they say, “But they were in a small church.”

The central unifying event of the Christian Church is the resurrection of Christ. He died on the cross for the sins of the world, but no one knew it at the time. The disciples were afraid and locked in a room, a week after the resurrection. After repeated resurrection appearances and training by the risen Lord, the disciples began to teach all that the Holy Spirit gave them to remember.

Are we to think that the atoning death took place on a random date and not recognize the liturgical calendar? One of the most important details of the crucifixion is the piercing of Jesus (fulfilling the Scriptures), because of the Jewish high holy days. The next event was Pentecost, another Jewish holiday, when the Holy Spirit sent them out to preach.

The Pentecostals never celebrate Good Friday – too Catholic. They never celebrate the Day of Pentecost – too Catholic. The Pentecostal/Baptist break with the liturgical year is accompanied by a similar break with the Sacraments and the efficacy of the Word. Everything we associate with orthodox Lutheranism is faithful to the Old Testament, from the efficacy of the Word to the nature of Sacraments (God’s Word plus earthly elements). The Old Testament is liturgical, high church, with a definite calendar – but those who claim to be Biblical break with all that in favor of their emotionalism.

Knowing the Word is effective at all times, we know that proclaiming the resurrection of Christ is eternal-life giving. Wherever the Gospel is preached, death is conquered as souls are snatched away from Satan.

John 10:14
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

This verse alone is a source of great comfort. Jesus knows every single believe by name. When we are baptized, we are given a Christian name, or christened. That means every soul has a name. The very fact that we respond with delight to the Savior’s voice means we belong to Him. We cannot believe on our own. Christ plants faith in our hearts through the Word. Through this faith we receive all the benefits of the Christian faith. As Luther said so tenderly, “He is just as anxious for us as we are for Him.”

Just the opposite is true of those who reject Christ. I have known many of them, and I have seen pastors turn into enemies of Christ. Instead of gladly hearing the voice of their Master, they cringe and reject His message. They mock His death and resurrection. They openly doubt the existence of God or the reality of His love. All the blessings of the faith are curses to them because they belong to their Father Below.

Jesus made so many comparisons, to help us understand our relationship to Him. Anyone with animals knows how this works. We give our animals names, and those names matter. Our Cattle Dog lies on the carpet, looking at me, waiting for my next words. So I say, “Are you being a good Sassy?” The tail thumps. If I type too long, she reaches from the bed and taps my shoulder for attention. And of course, when she is guilt of an infraction, she does not want to be anywhere close.

John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

We do not come to Jesus. He comes to us through the Word and Sacraments. As our Good Shepherd, He provided for us before we existed. His Gospel provisions are an example of the abundance of God’s love, because His Word is full of promises and blessings. He surrounds us with many opportunities to hear the Gospel and to speak about our hope. God’s efficacious Word alone is evangelism, gathering into one flock the true Church, made up of those who trust in the merits of Christ alone for their salvation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quasimodogeniti: The First Sunday after Easter



Shepherd and Sheep, by Norma Boeckler


Quasimodogeniti, The First Sunday after Easter

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Thursdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #208:1-5 Ye Sons and Daughters 2.29
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 John 5:4-10
The Gospel John 20:19-31
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #208:6-10 Ye Sons and Daughters 2.29

Holy Communion Teaches the True Christ

The Hymn #195 Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s 1:46
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 #197 Where Wilt Thou Go 1:2
KJV Luke 24:29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. (Emmaus)

First Sunday After Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that of Thine ineffable grace, for the sake of Thy Son, Thou hast given us the holy gospel, and hast instituted the holy sacraments, that through the same we may have comfort and forgiveness of sin: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that we may heartily believe Thy word; and through the holy sacraments day by day establish our faith, until we at last obtain salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Book of Concord
"Now, although both, the planting and watering of the preacher, and the running and willing of the hearer, would be in vain, and no conversion would follow it if the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost were not added thereto, who enlightens and converts the hearts through the Word preached and heard, so that men believe this Word and assent thereto, still, neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but should be certain that when the Word of God is preached purely and truly, according to the command and will of God, and men listen attentively and earnestly and meditate upon it, God is certainly present with His grace, and grants, as has been said, what otherwise man can neither accept nor give from his own powers."
Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will, 55-56, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 903.

Holy Communion Teaches the True Christ


KJV John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Doubting Thomas

The minister of St. Thomas Lutheran Church was asked, “Which Thomas?” The person wanted to know if the congregation was named after Doubting Thomas or the apostle who traveled as far as India in proclaiming the Gospel, according to tradition. One province in India, Kerala, is mostly Christian. They trace their church, Mar-Thoma by name, to the apostle Thomas.

Many different lessons can be learned from this Gospel. First of all, we see that the disciples were frightened and locked in a room after the death and resurrection of Christ. Why? “For fear.” Fear is not a reason but an emotion. Fear is the opposite of faith.

The disciples were trained by Christ. They saw the miracles of Christ: water turned into wine, walking on water, raising the dead. They believed in Him, but fear caused faith to vanish at times, such as when Peter denied Jesus three times during His trial. Fear is easily transferred to others. Screaming “fire” in a crowded place is likely to cause a stampede, even if no one detects any evidence for fire.

The disciples were not looking for the risen Christ. Nor did they go out and announce the resurrection of Christ. On Easter Sunday evening they knew the tomb was empty. But the doors were locked. The Gospel of John has many ironic contrasts in it. One is that Peter denied Jesus three times in front of a charcoal fire (John 18:18), then received absolution from the risen Lord three times beside a charcoal fire (John 21:9). The sealed tomb could not hold the crucified Christ in, and a locked room could not keep the risen Christ out.

Jesus could also move at will through any obstacle during His earthly ministry, as we see from Luke 4:30, when the crowd tried to throw Him from the cliff. This is called the non-reciprocity of the second genus by Lutheran theologians, meaning simply that the divine nature of Christ was not limited by His human nature. However, Jesus often did not display His divine nature. Most of the time He appeared to be an ordinary man. He converted others through the Word, using miracles to confirm the Word.

KJV Luke 4:30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way…

An ordinary man, pushed to the edge of a cliff by an angry mob, cannot pass through their midst.

It is important to remember Jesus entering the locked room, because our frail human reason is so inclined to doubt how God works. In fact, reason cannot come to any certainty about any act of God.

For instance, even the most hide-bound atheist will pray in times of crisis, if television is to be believed. Does he stop to ask how God hears that prayer, especially when his prayer is silent? The Reformed believe in prayer. They get prayer mixed into conversion, asking Jesus to come into their hearts, as if He did already do that through the preached and taught Gospel.

Therefore, entering the locked room is akin to Jesus converting us through the Word. Most of us have times in our lives when we are cold toward the Gospel. We are born as unbelievers. Yet God enters our hearts through the Word and converts us to faith.

The Word of God creates and nourishes faith, dispelling fear. We could not pray a single prayer if we did not have faith that God hears and answers prayer. In fact, the Bible is filled with assurances of God’s love, power, and willingness to answer our prayers.

KJV John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus showed His wounds to the disciples. He was not a ghost or a vision, but a real person. His body was glorified, but it was the same crucifixion-scarred body in a transformed state. At the end of time, all believers will have a similar glorified body. Christ is the first-fruits of all who will rise from the dead.

Jesus also gave the disciples the office of the keys. They were to use the Law and Gospel to pronounce lack of forgiveness to the unrepentant and pardon for the contrite believers. Offering forgiveness without any contrition only hardens hearts. We see the results of that all around us in our society, where people think they can do anything they want. The 10 Commandments were carved in stone, not placed temporarily on a chalkboard. They remain God’s perfect will and command, even if no one obeys or believes. Nothing in this world will last, but the Word of God remains forever.

Thomas Returns

This Gospel is read for the first Sunday after Easter because Thomas was absent on Easter evening. He was perhaps shopping for another lock. He refused to believe the preaching of the apostles. (They were now “sent” as Jesus was sent. Apostle means “sent.”)

Thomas demanded evidence, just as people demand today. Woe to all church leaders who rely upon human reason and evidence to prove that God’s Word is true. They are Doubting Thomases who try to prop up God’s Word with human arguments.

"It is most scandalous for us to attempt to defend God's Word with our reason, whereas we are to defend ourselves against all enemies with the Word of God, as St. Paul teaches (Eph. 6:7). Would he not be a great fool who in battle would seek to protect his helmet and sword with bare hand or head? But that is the situation when we try, with our reason, to defend God's Law, which is our weapon."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis:
Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1475.

When Jesus returned, the doors were still locked, reminding us that people resisted the profound message of the Gospel even then. Jesus appeared and offered to let Thomas actually touch the evidence he demanded.

Thomas did not actually touch the wounds of Christ, but he confessed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus warned Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” That has remained the blessing of the Christian Church, for faith has grown across the world without people seeing the risen Christ. Once again, we see the power of the Word in creating faith. Doubting Thomas is an example to us, a warning not to demand or rely upon physical evidence.

When people puzzle about having a small or an independent church, often the same questions trouble them. Something out there is needed to make them feel secure. A building? A bigger building? A full-time pastor? I see no evidence that St. Paul’s congregations owned a building. Perhaps some did and others did not. He was certainly not a full-time apostle. He made tents for a living, a tradition among the Pharisees (to have a real job, as they say). St. Paul helped to support his own ministry by making tents. That will be necessary for most independent Lutheran missions from now on. Seldom will a church large enough to support a full-time pastor break away from Holy Mother Synod. Few pastors will actually leave the warm nest of a pension fund and health benefits for the privilege of preaching the Word faithfully.

God does not permit us to predict the future or generate 5-year plans. Everything is in His Hands. He started with nothing but a few, fallible men on the Day of Pentecost and created the Christian Church through the preaching and teaching of believers. Some are known to us. Many are unknown. Countless Christians were killed for their faith. Many worshiped underneath the ground, in the catacombs, using a tomb as an altar. For that reason many altars look exactly like coffins, a reminder of how the Church began, not in comfort, but in persecution.

We have this comfort alone – that the Law and Gospel are God’s sole method for turning people from sin and offering them forgiveness. Wherever the Gospel is preached, sins are forgiven, Satan is defeated, and the gates of heaven open up. The fruits of the Gospel become manifest. All this is God’s doing and not our own.

When Lutheran pastors tell me how discouraged they are about the lack of progress and outward success they have, even saying, “I haven’t seen it work, even though I believe the Word is effective,” I challenge them with a series of questions. Have you never baptized a baby? Have you never distributed the body and blood of Christ in holy communion? Have you never preached the Word of God faithfully?

The answer is usually, “Well, I haven’t liked the results. They are not what I expected.” That is irrelevant. God’s Word is effective in creating faith, sustaining faith, and in damning unbelief. Some reject the Word. They do not want the righteousness of Christ in place of salvation by works. When St. Paul caused a riot with his sermon, he was preaching effectively. When religious leaders opposed him, he was obviously doing his work.

KJV Acts 17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

We are told that the end-times will be so bad that Christ wondered in advance if He would find faith.

KJV Luke 18:8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

KJV 2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 2 Timothy 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth

America enjoyed a great era of outstanding Lutheran leaders, in the 19th and 20th centuries:
1. C. F. W. Walther.
2. Francis and August Pieper.
3. Matthias Loy.
4. Krauth and Schmauk.
5. Henry Eyster Jacobs.
6. A. Hoenecke.
7. Martin Franzmann.
8. Jack and Robert Preus.

All of these men had their faults, as we all do, but they contributed genuine leadership in Lutheran doctrinal matters. Now Lutherans are being led by Doubting Thomases who require statistics (Church Growth Movement), false doctrine (God commands us to love ourselves; if true, the only commandment we can keep!), and loyalty to an institution at the expense of the Word.

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

QUOTE: "Let us learn more and more to look upon the Lutheran Church with the
right kind of spiritual eyes: it is the most beautiful and glorious Church; for
it is adorned with God's pure Word. This adornment is so precious, that even
though an orthodox congregation were to consist of very poor people - let us say
nothing but woodchoppers - and met in a barn (as the Lord Christ also lay here
on earth in a barn, on hay and straw), every Christian should much, much rather
prefer to affiliate himself with this outwardly so insignificant congregation,
rather than with a heterodox congregation, even if its members were all bank
presidents and assembled in a church built of pure marble. Let us be sure that
our flesh, and the talk of others does not darken the glory of the orthodox
Church, or crowd it out of our sight."
Francis Pieper, The Difference between Orthodox and Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981 p. 47.

Quotations

"Another defect of Reformed preaching is its contempt for the Means of Grace. They will tell you that the Holy Spirit needs no vehicle, neither ox-cart nor aeroplane, to enter the heart of man; and by this rationalistic argument they think to have done away with the Means of Grace. But notice how they set about immediately to construct their own Means of Grace. Luther told them in his day:'If the Holy Spirit needs no vehicle, no preaching, then why are you here? And why are you so earnest in spreading your errors? It seems that what you really meant to say was that the Holy Spirit does not need true prophets, but He is very much in need of false prophets.' If the Holy Spirit needs no Means of Grace, who do these Reformed churches undertake their campaigns of revivalism?"
Martin S. Sommer, Concordia Pulpit for 1932, Martin S. Sommer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1931, p. iv.

"Speak, O Lord, Thy servant heareth, To Thy Word I now give heed; Life and spirit Thy Word beareth, All Thy Word is true indeed, Death's dread power in me is rife; Jesus, may Thy Word of Life Fill my soul with love's strong fervor That I cling to Thee forever."
Anna Sophia, 1658, "Speak, O Lord, Thy Servant Heareth," The Lutheran Hymnal, trans., George T. Rygh, 1909 St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941, Hymn #296. 1 Samuel 3:10.

"So the Law finds all guilty, none righteous, no not one; it stops every mouth, and holds the whole world accountable (Romans 3)."
George Tiefel, Jr., "God the HS Acts in Both Law and Gospel," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 47. Romans 3.

"The Holy Spirit thus uses the Law to bring us to despair; it is a despair of ourselves and our own righteousness before God; and then through the Gospel He shows us Christ."
George Tiefel, Jr., "God the HS Acts in Both Law and Gospel," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 50.

"Since the age of Rationalism and Lutheran Pietism a new spirit has crept into the life of the church which is un-Lutheran, un-Evangelical, and un-biblical. The Sacraments have been neglected at the expense of the Word."
Walter G. Tillmanns, "Means of Grace: Use of," The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 3 vols., Julius Bodensieck, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965, II, p. 1505.

"These means are the true treasure of the church through which salvation in Christ is offered. They are the objective proclamation of faith which alone makes man's subjective faith possible (Augsburg Confession, Article V). The Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration, Article XI, 76) states expressly that God alone draws man to Christ and that he does this only through the means of grace."
Walter G. Tillmanns, "Means of Grace: Use of," The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 3 vols., Julius Bodensieck, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965, II, p. 1505.

"The Sacraments are not mere symbolic expressions by which faith is strengthened (Calvin), nor are they mere acts of confession of faith (notae professionis, Zwingli), but are effective means by which God sows faith in the hearts of men."
Walter G. Tillmanns, "Means of Grace: Use of," The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 3 vols., Julius Bodensieck, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965, II, p. 1506.

"This faith, encouraging and consoling in these fears, receives remission of sins, justifies and quickens. For this consolation is a new and spiritual life [a new birth and a new life]. These things are plain and clear, and can be understood by the pious, and have testimonies of the Church [as is to be seen in the conversion of Paul and Augustine]. The adversaries nowhere can say how the Holy Ghost is given. They imagine that the Sacraments confer the Holy Ghost ex opere operato, without a good emotion in the recipient, as though, indeed, the gift of the Holy Ghost were an idle matter."
Article IV., Justification, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 139.

"Truly, it is amazing that the adversaries are in no way moved by so many passages of Scripture, which clearly ascribe justification to faith, and, indeed, deny it to works. Do they think that the same is repeated so often for no purpose? Do they think that these words fell inconsiderately from the Holy Ghost? But they have also devised sophistry whereby they elude them."
Article IV., Justification, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 153.

"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]
Article XIII, Number/Use Sacraments, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 309.

"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."
Article XIII, The Sacraments, 13, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, J-234 p. 311.

"For Christ wishes to assure us, as was necessary, that we should know that the Word delivered by men is efficacious, and that no other word from heaven ought to be sought. 'He that heareth you heareth Me,' cannot be understood of traditions. For Christ requires that they teach in such a way that [by their mouth] He Himself be heard, because He says: 'He heareth Me.' Therefore He wishes His own voice, His own Word, to be heard, not human traditions."
Article XXVIII, Eccles. Power, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 449.

"2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments. "3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith."
Formula of Concord, SD, XI, Of God's Eternal Election, #17, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1069.

"And this call of God, which is made through the preaching of the Word, we should not regard as jugglery, but know that thereby God reveals His will, that in those whom He thus calls He will work through the Word, that they may be enlightened, converted, and saved. For the Word, whereby we are called, is a ministration of the Spirit, that gives the Spirit, or whereby the Spirit is given, 2 Corinthians 3:8, and a power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16. And since the Holy Ghost wishes to be efficacious through the Word, and to strengthen and give power and ability, it is God's will that we should receive the Word, believe and obey it."
Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI., Election, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1073. 2 Corinthians 3:8; Romans 1:16.

"Moreover, the declaration, John 6:44, that 'no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him,' is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments." Solid Declaration, Article XI, Election, #76, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1087. John 6:44. concerning God, etc. For these facts it is apparent that the Law cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Ghost."
Augsburg Confession, Article III, #11, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 159.

"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."
Augsburg Confession, Article III, #11, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 159.

"And since the Gospel is taught among us purely and diligently, by God's favor we receive also from it this fruit, that in our Churches no Anabaptists have arisen [have not gained ground in our Churches], because the people have been fortified by God's Word against the wicked and seditious faction of these robbers. And as we condemn quite a number of other errors of the Anabaptists, we condemn this also, that they dispute that the baptism of little children is unprofitable."
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IX, Baptism, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 245. Matthew 28:19.

"But as the Confutation condemns us for having assigned these two parts to repentance, we must show that [not we, but] Scripture expresses these as the chief parts in repentance and conversion. For Christ says, Matthew 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Here there are two members. The labor and the burden signify the contrition, anxiety, and terrors of sin and of death. To come to Christ is to believe that sins are remitted for Christ's sake; when we believe, our hearts are quickened by the Holy Ghost through the Word of Christ. Here, therefore, there are these two chief parts, contrition and faith."
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII (V), #44, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 263. Matthew 11:28.

"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 of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII (VII), #11, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, J-205 p. 311. Romans 1:16; Isaiah 55:11.

"And just as the Word has been given in order to excite this faith, so the Sacrament has been instituted in order that the outward appearance meeting the eyes might move the heart to believe [and strengthen faith]. For through these, namely, through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Ghost works."
Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV (XII), #70, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 409.

"Our adversaries have no testimonies and no command from Scripture for defending the application of the ceremony for liberating the souls of the dead, although from this they derive infinite revenue. Nor, indeed, is it a light sin to establish such services in the Church without the command of God and without the example of Scripture, and to apply to the dead the Lord's Supper, which was instituted for commemoration and preaching among the living [for the purpose of strengthening the faith of those who use the ceremony]. This is to violate the Second Commandment, by abusing God's name."
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV, The Mass, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 414f.

"That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake. They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparation and works."
Augsburg Confession, Article V, The Office of the Ministry, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 45.

"Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: 'Who can understand his errors?' Psalm 19:12."
Augsburg Confession, Article XI, Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 47. Psalm 19:12.

"Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God; and that children are to be baptized, who, being offered to God through Baptism, are received into God's grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism."
Augsburg Confession, Article IX, Baptism, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 47.

"Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc.' Matthew 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men."
Augsburg Confession, Article VIII, What the Church Is, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 47. Matthew 23:2.

"Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought through the Word."
Augsburg Confession, Article XVIII, Freedom of the Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 51. 1 Corinthians 2:14.

"Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this [pure] doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Part I, 2, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, J-55 p. 777.

"We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament alone, as it is written in Psalm 119:105: 'Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.' And St. Paul: 'Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed,' Galatians 1:8."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Part I, 1, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, J-56 p. 777. Psalm 119:105; Galatians 1:8.

"Therefore, before the conversion of man there are only two efficient causes, namely, the Holy Ghost and the Word of God, as the instrument of the Holy Ghost, by which He works conversion. This Word man is [indeed] to hear; however, it is not by his own powers, but only through the grace and working of the Holy Ghost that he can yield faith to it and accept it."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, II, Of the Free Will, #19, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 791.

"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, Article XXVIII, #8, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 85. Romans 1:16

"Moreover [On the other side], both the ancient and modern enthusiasts have taught that God converts men, and leads them to the saving knowledge of Christ through His Spirit, without any created means and instrument, that is, without the external preaching and hearing of God's Word."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 4. Free Will Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 881.

"Against both these parties the pure teachers of the Augsburg Confession have taught and contended that by the fall of our first parents man was so corrupted that in divine things pertaining to our conversion and the salvation of our souls he is by nature blind, that, when the Word of God is preached, he neither does nor can understand it, but regards it as foolishness; also, that he does not of himself draw nigh to God, but is and remains an enemy of God, until he is converted, becomes a believer [is endowed with faith], is regenerated and renewed, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the Word when preached and heard, out of pure grace, without any cooperation of his own."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 5. Free Will Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 881.

"Thirdly, in this manner, too, the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely to the divine working and the Holy Ghost, as also the Apology teaches."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 25. Free Will Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 891.

"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, Thorough Declaration, III 10 Righteousness Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 919.

"...and He has revealed it in His Word, as much as is needful for us to know of it in this life. Now, everything for which we have in this instance clear, certain testimonies in the Scriptures, we must simply believe, and in no way argue against it, as though the human nature in Christ could not be capable of the same."
Solid Declaration, Article VIII., Person of Christ, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, J-57 p. 1033.

"For few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word, and will not come to the wedding, Matthew 22:3ff. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge [or predestination], but the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says, 'How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!' Matthew 23:37."
Solid Declaration, Article XI, Election, 41, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, J-127 p. 1077. Matthew 22:3ff.; 23:37.

"Moreover, the declaration, John 6:44, that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order [the order decreed and instituted by Himself], by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto [to holy preaching], hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it...."
Solid Declaration, Article XI., Election, #76-77, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1089. John 6:44.

"For this reason we shall now relate, furthermore, from God's Word how man is converted to God, how and through what means [namely, through the oral Word and the holy Sacraments] the Holy Ghost wants to be efficacious in us, and to work and bestow in our hearts true repentance, faith, and new spiritual power and ability for good, and how we should conduct ourselves towards these means, and [how we should] use them."
Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will, 48, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 901.

"Therefore God, out of His immense goodness and mercy, has His divine eternal Law and His wonderful plan concerning our redemption, namely, the holy, alone-saving Gospel of His eternal Son, our only Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, publicly preached; and by this [preaching] collects an eternal Church for Himself from the human race, and works in the hearts of men true repentance and knowledge of sins, and true faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And by this means, and in no other way, namely, through His holy Word, when men hear it preached or read it, and the holy Sacraments when they are used according to His Word, God desires to call men to eternal salvation, draw them to Himself, and convert, regenerate, and sanctify them. 1 Corinthians 1:21: 'For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.' Acts 10:5-6..."
Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will, #50, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 901. 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 10:5-6.

"Now, although both, the planting and watering of the preacher, and the running and willing of the hearer, would be in vain, and no conversion would follow it if the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost were not added thereto, who enlightens and converts the hearts through the Word preached and heard, so that men believe this Word and assent thereto, still, neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but should be certain that when the Word of God is preached purely and truly, according to the command and will of God, and men listen attentively and earnestly and meditate upon it, God is certainly present with His grace, and grants, as has been said, what otherwise man can neither accept nor give from his own powers."
Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will, 55-56, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 903.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday



The Risen Christ, by Norma Boeckler


Easter Day, The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Thursdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #192 Gerhardt: Awake My Soul 1.22
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 Cor 5:6-8
The Gospel Mark 16:1-8
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #199 Jesus Christ is Risen Today 1.83

Good Leaven and Bad Leaven

The Hymn #192 I Know That My Redeemer 1.80
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 #207 Kingo: Like the Golden Sun 4.76

KJV 1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst deliver Thy Son for our offenses, and didst raise Him again for our justification: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that He may rule and govern us according to Thy will; graciously keep us in the true faith; defend us from all sins, and after this life raise us unto eternal life, through the same, Thy beloved Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Romans 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Good Leaven and Bad Leaven
KJV 1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I used to think this epistle selection for Easter Sunday was especially puzzling.

But I was reading the novels of Isaac B. Singer, who won the Nobel Prize for literature. He concentrated on tales about Judaism from his Polish homeland. Cleaning up the old leaven was a tradition in Judaism in celebration of the Passover.

In 2009 Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday April 8 and ends at nightfall on Thursday April 16 in the Diaspora (Wednesday April 15 in Israel).


“The rule against leaven applies not only to its consumption but also to enjoying any benefit thereof and even to its possession. Therefore, before the arrival of Passover, all leaven must be removed from one’s premises. Nor should one have leaven in his legal possession. In a simple economy, not having any leaven in one’s legal possession was easily accomplished. If by chance a bit of leaven was left, it could be disposed of with relative ease. When the economy became more complex, a new solution had to be found--selling one’s hametz to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover.”

“The night before Passover, immediately after sundown, one begins the search for leaven (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chayyim 431:1). The aim of the search is to be sure that no leaven has been left behind after the cleaning of the house.
The procedure includes these items: a candle; a feather, which acts as a broom; and a wooden spoon into which the pieces of bread will be scooped. First, a candle is lit, and the following benediction is recited:”
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Passover/At_Home/Leaven.shtml
Removing the old leaven and starting anew is considered a cleansing and rebirth in rabbinic Judaism.

Paul continued in the Jewish liturgical traditions he learned as a rabbi and Pharisee. For Paul, leaven was especially powerful as a symbol of the old and the new.

In the Scriptures, leaven can be both good and bad.

In this brief parable, often overlooked, the power of the Gospel is compared to leaven, which is alive and continues to work in a batch of dough, constantly growing and influencing the dough. A tiny bit of yeast can grow in bread dough and raise the entire loaf, in the first rise and second rise, finally one more time in the oven.

KJV Matthew 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Bad leaven has a corrupting influence:
KJV Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

In my father’s bakery, we used one pound bricks of yeast for bread dough and bread doughnuts. If the yeast was old and bad, nothing would make that batch of dough good, no matter what ingredients were used. If the yeast was fresh and alive, the large bowl of dough grew faster than a Hollywood monster. The final product was light, fluffy, and delicious. In my hands a new brick of yeast would literally explode in different directions, leaving particles here and there. An old brick would crumble like dry, rotten wood.

The leaven in the Bible was sourdough, which could spoil, probably worse than the refrigerated and cultured yeast of our day. Bad leaven would spread its corruption throughout a batch just as much as good leaven would improve it.

A Day of Contrasts – Old and New
The morning of Easter was a divide in history, first for the women and the disciples, then for the entire world. The women were walking to the tomb carved in rock. The door of the tomb was rock that rolled in a groove. If anyone has moved larger stones, it is unlikely that it was a large round boulder. More likely it was flatter and perhaps shaped to be more like a lid. Moving it would be a chore for a man, impossible for three women.

Their first concern was, “Who will roll the stone for us?” They were still thinking of the old – sorrow, death, grief, and preparation of a corpse.

When they came to the tomb, the entrance was open. Non-Lutheran Protestants think the angels released Jesus from the tomb, but they are stuck in John Calvin’s confusion about the Two Natures of Christ. The divine nature of Christ was not and is not limited by His human nature. This is well stated in “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth,” by Paul Gerhardt.

“O Love, how strong Thou art to save, Thou beddest Him within the grave,
Whose Word the mountains rendeth.”

Could the Son of God, who turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled the storm, and raised the dead be imprisoned by a stone door? Previously in the Gospels Jesus displayed His divine ability to move at will, even when surrounded by angry mobs ready to kill Him.

Yet some artwork shows Jesus emerging from the tomb when the angels rolled the stone away.

In fact, the doorway was opened for everyone to see that the grave was already empty.

God provided an angel to tell the women not to fear grave robbers, but to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, the Son of God.

NKJV Mark 16: 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, 6 "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 "But go, tell His disciples -- and Peter -- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you."

This is a three-fold statement about Jesus:
1. He was crucified.
2. He is risen.
3. He is not here – see the place where they laid Him.

Mourning turned to joy in an instant. This changed everything for the women and soon for the disciples.

Instead of grieving for a lost, condemned Teacher, they were following the risen Lord, the Redeemer of the world. This was a unique turn in history, repeated many times over for various converts in the future.

Paul was first a zealous Jew, persecuting the Christians. On the road to Damascus, he saw the risen Christ, who made him an apostle. The chief distinction of the apostles was their actual experience of the risen Christ. An apostolic witness could preach the Gospel and accompany it with his own experience of being with the crucified and risen Christ.

Paul had to feel this experience of old and new leaven especially since his life changed so dramatically on the road to Damascus.

Likewise, Augustine was the hero of the Silver Age in Ancient Rome, the greatest orator of his day, but not a Christian. His mother prayed for his conversion, and that happened with children singing a non-religious song, which led him to pick up the Scriptures (“Take and read,” they sang). The Word converted him. Augustine became a bishop and the greatest theologian of the Christian Church, until God raised up Martin Luther.

Many people have had that experience of old and new yeast, death and resurrection, when all the influences of the Word came together and created an instant conversion prepared carefully by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word, coming from various directions.

Others have come to a better and clearer understanding of the Word because they saw people trying to trample it down, steal it, corrupt it, and replace it with something toxic but appealing in a superficial way.

For every Christian, the Gospel is eternal-life giving. Wherever the Gospel is spoken, eternal life springs up as people are justified by faith. God declares their innocent verdict on behalf of His Son’s innocent death and glorious resurrection, the Word of grace opening their hearts to the Gospel.

The resurrection of Christ is the constant reminder of His role as Lord of Creation. As the creating Word, the Son of God instilled in the universe all those laws that scientists continue to discover. One is the absolute certainty of death. All living things die. Some live for a short time. Others for more than a century. Before the flood, some lived for many centuries, but all died.

Jesus, human in all respects, also died. But God raised Him up from the dead. The laws of the universe do not bind the Lord of Creation. What is true for most is not true for those who follow Him. Not by their own merit, but through His merit, all believers inherit eternal life through forgiveness of sin.

Grief is still painful because of the love we feel for those we outlive. Our comfort in mourning comes from knowing that Christ conquered death with the cross and the empty grave.

Knowing about eternal life and believing in Christ can give us a better understanding of the material world. We love the blessings we receive from the Creator, but we also know that one thing must outlast us.

Strangely, people write up trusts to make sure their money lasts for a long time after death. Trusts often ruin the lives of those who benefit from them. Other people put their likenesses and names on bronze plates, because bronze plates last a long time. I like to read the names of people who were on the city council when a bridge was built. The granite or bronze plate is impressive – and all the names are forgotten. On TV some people say they live to pass on their special homes to the next generation: “My role is to preserve this home for those after me.” That is very touching, for someone who thinks a house lasts forever.

Some people worry about a particular church institution, a synod or a school or a church. One man created an enormous trust to benefit different three synods, and all of them face enormous financial difficulties today. Visible church institutions do not last. The Melanchthon Synod and Olive Branch Synods no longer exist in America. Dozens have faded away.

One thing must outlast us – that is the truth of the Gospel. Preserving the truth is God’s role. But He gives us one special task: to guard the Word. The truth revealed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Book of Concord, but many do not guard the Word.

If we continue to study the Word and abide in the Means of Grace, we play a small but significant role in preserving the truth of the Gospel. God will always maintain a faithful remnant, but that does not allow us to be passive and let the revealed Word be traded for a bowl of lentil soup.
Facing issues of life and death make us more aware of the importance of the eternal Word. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my Word will never pass away.” Far better to cling to the eternal Word than to passing attractions.

KJV John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Not long after she said, that Jesus went to her brother’s grave…

KJV John 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

Lazarus emerged in his grave clothes, foreshadowing the resurrection of Christ, and the Last Day.

KJV John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

The Gospel calls us out of the old and into the new. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the new leaven. All the old leaven of corruption must be swept away in favor of the new leaven of Gospel forgiveness and eternal life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Vespers Service





Good Friday Vespers Service


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 6 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #172:1-5 Herzlich tut mich 2.55
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 22 p. 127
The Lections
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
John 19:1 –19:42

The Sermon Hymn #172:6-10

The Sermon – The Crucified Messiah

The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45

The Hymn #175 Hamburg 2:42

KJV Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

KJV John 19:1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. 4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. 5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! 6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. 7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. 8 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; 9 And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? 11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. 12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! 15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. 16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. 17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: 18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. 19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. 21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. 23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. 37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. 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. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Dietrich’s Collect for Maundy Thursday
O Lord Jesus Christ, we thank Thee, that of Thine infinite mercy Thou hast instituted this Thy sacrament, in which we eat Thy body and drink Thy blood: Grant us, we beseech Thee, by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not receive this gift unworthily, but that we may confess our sins, remember Thine agony and death, believe the forgiveness of sin, and day by day grow in faith and love, until we obtain eternal salvation through Thee, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Crucified Messiah

KJV Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.


Every child knows the meaning of this Old Testament prophesy. It was written centuries before Christ was born. Imagine someone from King Arthur’s Court predicting what would happen today. That is how distant this prophesy was (not in exact years), so far back in time that one can hardly imagine so many years. And yet, these verses, in fact the entire chapter is a vivid portrayal of the crucifixion of Christ.

Paul uses this verse in Romans 10, teaching us that faith comes by hearing. To be more accurate, he is saying that faith comes by preaching. It is not the act of hearing itself that brings about faith but the Holy Spirit working through the spoken Word of God. Faith comes by sermons, we might say. Who has believed our sermon?

KJV Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

God’s love for His people was so great that He began preaching the Gospel to us when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden (Genesis 3:15). If Isaiah was early, think how ancient those words are that we remember tonight. God said to the serpent, “You will bruise his heel, but He will crush your head.”

From the beginning God placed faith in the hearts of people through the spoken Word. Every time God promised the Messiah through His prophets, the Gospel was being preached and believed. And “it was reckoned as righteousness.” Justification by faith began with Abraham, long before Moses. And Moses also believed and preached.

God entrusted this Word to prophets. Christ appointed apostles who then trained pastors to serve under them. I know one person who does not accept any sermon as the Word of God. He said he can only be taught by direct quotation of Scripture. But Jesus said, “Whoever hears you hears Me.”

KJV Luke 10:16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

Some people did not even pay attention to Jesus, who taught them:

KJV John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life

So we are inclined to say, “Who is this, a mere man, to tell us what God thinks and says?” But that is exactly what pastors have been called by God (through the congregation) to do. In the same way the head of the household is placed in that role to teach his family the Word of God. True, many men despise this role and reject it. But it is still God’s decision and appointment, God’s Creation and order. Those who acknowledge this as good and wise will benefit from it.

Satan is especially enraged that an ordinary person, a sinner, is entrusted with the one weapon that can defeat him – the Word. So Satan rages especially against anyone who teaches God’s Word, using every trick to make him give up his trust in Christ. If he is poor, others mock the minister for being poor. If he has sickness in his family, supposed Christians mock him for not enjoying God’s blessings. (Paul Gerhardt lost his entire family except his son, and he was kept in poverty. Yet almost every Christian will sing “O Sacred Head” today.) If he is faithful, he will see cathedrals of false doctrine rise up around him. Just today I spoke with a friend about three different Lutheran ministers we knew who were no atheists. Satan is busy at work, misdirecting our eyes from the Word, to bow before the devil’s transitory wealth and power.

Isaiah

This Isaiah prophesy is poetic and filled with contrasts. They remind me of the great Philippians hymn/creed, where the humiliation and exaltation of Christ are contrasted. Christ is exalted because of His abasement, one so horrible that we can hardly imagine it. The first real portrayal of a crucifixion came in the recent movie, The Passion of the Christ. Some derided the brutality of the movie, but Roman justice was far worse than anything put on a movie screen. The Word reveals more than a movie dares.

52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. This exaltation serves as a title for the entire passage. The Servant will be exalted by becoming the crucified Messiah.

52:14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;

This is a precise portrayal of the results of Jesus’ severe beating and crucifixion. His appearance was so marred that He became repulsive to look at.

15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

The sprinkling of the nations can be both the Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion which He instituted. The most powerful men on earth, the kings, will be silenced upon learning that the unimaginable has been accomplished by this supposed criminal, this despised and rejected Man.

Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

KJV Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith grows from hearing the Gospel promises. The most powerful way to convict people of their sin is to show that Jesus bore their sin on His cross. This is not logic and certainly not marketing. It is God’s revelation, His mystery revealed by the Holy Spirit.

The one doctrine most heatedly rejected in these times is Christ dying for the sins of the world. The apostates rail against this, even though it is clearly the basis for the entire New Testament, and the Old Testament as well.

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Unlike the way the world works, Jesus does not attract through His looks or His Hollywood charisma. The humiliation of Jesus was that almost no one stood by Him during His last hours, no one except John and a few women, including His mother. The vast crowds and His disciples left Him to die alone.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Verse 4 tells us how terrible the crucifixion would be. Verse 5 teaches us what the crucifixion means. It would have a purpose. The Son of Man would be wounded to pay for our sins, beaten for our evil. His whipping would be to give us peace through the forgiveness of sins. “By His stripes we are healed.”

For those who believe in Jesus, and this comes only through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word, these words are a great comfort. We already know this, but in hearing it again our faith is deepened.

The next two verses contrast the Good Shepherd and the wandering sheep:

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Although we are constantly going astray, He did not waver in his role as the innocent Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Luther has two very good points to make about the crucifixion. One is that we should never dwell upon the cross in this way, saying, “Look at what those Jews and Romans did to the perfect Son of God!” That is all wrong and contrary to this lesson. Instead we should say when we meditate on the cross, “Look at what I did to Jesus. Those are my sins that He bore. I was the transgressor and He was whipped. I rebelled against God’s Law and He was humiliated and mocked. I am the cause of His suffering.” Otherwise, although the Romans and the Jewish leaders played a role, we miss the whole concept of His atoning death. If Jesus died because of THEIR sins and not because of MY sins, then I am not expressing faith in the cross.

Secondly, Luther correctly taught that the surest form of sorrow for sin is not weeping, or feeling bad, or outward and emotional signs of repentance. No, the surest sign of genuine repentance (which is a work of the Holy Spirit and not from our own efforts) is when we are forgiving toward others. Whenever we stew about wrongs committed against us, and many of these things do happen, since we do them to others as well, then we are saying, “I would like to enjoy complete and free forgiveness of my sins, but I will not give an ounce of mercy to anyone else.” That is a failure to grasp the meaning of forgiveness, a failure to be thankful for forgiveness.

Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Why did Jesus die on the cross? He was tortured to give us peace, not agitation. The first step is taking away our sins through His atoning death. God says, “Here is a great Treasure, an infinite source of forgiveness, the cross of My beloved Son, where He poured out His blood for your sins.” The more God teaches us this great truth, the more we trust it and grasp it as the greatest and most life-giving truth on earth. Through this trust in our hearts created by the Word God grants us forgiveness. God says, “You must do one thing absolutely to receive the forgiveness of sins. You must believe the Gospel of forgiveness.” In believing and holding on to this truth, we receive the what the promise offers.

In practicing this forgiveness we enjoy a double blessing. It is far better to be forgiving than to be full of revenge. (Unfortunately, it is also much more difficult, but it gets easier with practice.) And in addition—this is the second blessing—the person forgiven also enjoys this peace of God. Revenge and bitterness are doubly difficult on people, both in giving and receiving. It is very contagious.

To enjoy this blessing of forgiveness, we have to dwell on the meaning of the cross of Christ rather than whatever annoys us at the moment. I don’t mean to minimize this, because some people have really been the victims of various kinds of assault and robbery. I knew a woman who was beaten almost to death for a few dollars in the cash register. However, when we think about the immensity of God’s forgiveness of all of our sins, then we can be more expansive in forgiving others. We can do that for two reasons. One is that forgiveness is not wasted. If someone is forgiven and yet goes on doing more bad things, then God will add up the totals later. God is just and will be not be mocked. Secondly we can be forgiving because we need to be in that pattern of behavior, which belongs to Christ, rather than following the unbelieving world in exacting revenge.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

The first place to begin practicing this forgiveness earned for us by Christ is within our own families. That is where the greatest and most important conflicts arise. When we apply this lesson of forgiveness, we enjoy the benefits and see its blessings in our children, who also have the peace that passes understanding from this message of the Gospel.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Those who know the brief story of taking the strong man’s palace will recognize the Old Testament version. Christ defeated Satan on the cross and took away the spoils of the strong man who guarded his own palace, the earth.

KJV Luke 11:21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

The cross has defeated sin, death, and Satan because the Messiah crucified for each and every one of us has won the victory.



Quotations

GOOD FRIDAY, 1998

"Thus, we know how and where the Holy Spirit is to be found, and we need not be in doubt nor waver, gazing here and there for special revelations or illuminations. Each one should hold to the Word, and should know that through it alone, and through no other means, does the Spirit enlighten hearts and is He ready to dwell in them and to give true knowledge and comfort through faith in Christ."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 300.

Not for Us To Judge Results
"Be not worried because of this! for even though a man preach and continue in the Gospel for many years, he must still lament and say: Aye, no one will come, and all continue in their former state. Therefore you must not let that grieve or terrify you."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 305. Luke 24:36?47.

"But when St. Peter stood up and preached, they made a mockery of it and considered the apostles drunken fools. When they had urged the Gospel a long time, they gathered together three thousand men and women. But what were they among so many? Yea, no one could discern that the Gospel had accomplished anything, for all things continued in the same state as before. No change was seen, and scarcely anyone knew that there were Christians there. And so it will be at all times."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 306. Luke 24:36?47.

God Builds with the Word
"The Word and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are materials with which He builds. Though the dwelling is not altogether completed, yet through His grace and love it is accepted of God."
Sermons of Martin Luther, III, p. 322.

Only the Word
"Secondly, it is shown here that this Word precedes, or must be spoken beforehand, and that afterwards the Holy Spirit works through the Word. One must not reverse the order and dream of a Holy Spirit who works without the Word and before the Word, but one who comes with and through the Word and goes no farther than the Word goes."
Sermons of Martin Luther, III, p. 329.