Lutheran Worship and Resources

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve Service

Thanksgiving, 2009

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 6 PM Central

The Hymn # 558 All Praise to Thee 4.44
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 100 p. 144
The First Lection 1 Timothy 2:1-8
The Second Lection Luke 17:11-19
The Sermon Hymn # 574 Come Ye Thankful 4.9

Giving God Thanks

The Prayers and Lord’s Prayer p. 44
The Collect for Peace p. 45
The Benediction p. 45
The Hymn #361 O Jesus King 4.1

KJV 1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

KJV Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Giving God Thanks

1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Last Thanksgiving, few would have imagined that this country could go into this much of a decline, in every sense of the word. The suffering is almost universal, in spite of the happy-face efforts to say it is almost over.

That should make us reflect on our country’s origins, because the freedom and Christianity of our nation came from persecution and hardship.

The Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower did not simply buy tickets and set sail, with the King of England waving goodbye at the dock. They had to sneak out of the country to have religious freedom. They left the women and children behind at the dock because of pursuit, then came back to get them. They suffered hardship in Holland before they finally left for America, a 67-day journey filled with storms, rogue waves, and utter misery. One man was washed overboard but grabbed a rope in time, and was finally hauled onto the deck. Later, while the ship was anchored, William Bradford’s wife fell overboard and drowned. Half the Pilgrims died in the first four months in Boston.

That was the hardship part. Persecution motivated them. England slowly moved toward the Protestant faith, starting with Henry VIII and his second wife, Ann Boleyn. Henry did not like dissent and burned Dr. Robert Barnes at the stake. His older daughter, Bloody Mary, murdered as many Protestants as possible, scattering many around Europe. His younger daughter Elizabeth, Ann Boleyn’s only surviving child, was a Protestant who tolerated the Catholics. Under King James I and the Stuarts (William I, II, etc), Catholicism was secretly promoted. North America was the last safe haven for Protestants, and sporadic persecution kept sending them across the Atlantic for the sake of freedom.

Few of us have known the hardship of one ocean voyage like that of the Mayflower and those ships that followed later. As Bradford said, when they landed, they had no one to greet them or help them. The Indians did cooperate, which kept them from starvation. There is a new kind of persecution at work today, based more on apathy and apostasy than old-fashioned burning at the stake and imprisonment. Apostates will not physically send others into exile, but they accomplish the same through nefarious means.

Paul’s apostolic work continued in the face of constant persecution, ending in prison and death. The Roman Empire considered the Christian faith another version of that troublesome tribe of Jews. The identification was not exactly wrong. Rome gladly went to war with many different nations, but they destroyed Jerusalem over religion. Other rebels had religious motivation, but the Jewish state and religion were almost identical, and that led to their city being surrounded, circumvallated (a wall around their wall), and leveled.

Rome saw Jewish rebels when they viewed Christian leaders, and they were not wrong. Paul and the apostles were all Jews. What would they say? “We are not Jewish Jews, but Christian Jews”?

Paul had the difficulty of dealing with the Roman Empire, which saw him as another troublesome Jew, while Jews fomented riots behind his back and Judaizers undercut his Gospel ministry. Add to that the hardships of travel (shipwrecks) and being whipped and jailed.

Yet Paul was thankful. His confession of faith:

1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

God’s will is not double-predestination, as the Calvinists teach. They claim, using a proposition central to John Calvin’s work, that God predestined a minority to salvation and a majority to damnation. (Some say before the Fall of Man, while others argue After the Fall, making them either infra or supra-lapsarians.) Understanding the rationalism of the Calvinists is important for comprehending the rationalistic leaps of UOJ people. Pietism took over Calvistic doctrine and copied Reformed cell groups among the Lutherans, one of the first but not the only time that Lutherans thought they could save themselves with false doctrine.

That predestination of the minority is not in harmony with this verse:

God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
God’s gracious will is to have all people saved and know the truth of His Word.

Walther quoted Luther on this and closed his Law and Gospel with Luther’s emphasis upon orthodoxy always bearing fruit, never doubting the fruit of the true Word of God when preached and taught.

Walther also said:

"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!"
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, p. 28.

Walther also wrote about the teaching office:

"True, the estate of teachers has, in general, been little respected, especially in ages gone by; and as far as the teachers of the Word of God are concerned, they are, of all men, most despised and even hated by the world. Nevertheless their estate and office is the most glorious of all, for the following reasons:--
1. The work of their office centers about man's spiritual welfare, his immortal soul.
2. They employ the salutary means and instrument in their work, namely, the Word of the living God.
3. They aim at the salutary and glorious end, namely, to make man truly happy in the present life and to lead him to the life of eternal bliss.
4. They are most wholesomely engaged in an occupation which entirely satisfies their spirits and advances their own selves in the way of salvation.
5. Their labor yields the most precious result, namely, the salvation of man.
6. Their labors have the most glorious promise of the cooperation of the Lord, so that they are never entirely futile and in vain.
7. Their labors have the promise of a gracious reward, which consists in a glory in the world to come that is unutterably great, exceeding abundantly above all they ever could have asked and prayed for in this life."
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 285.
Paul’s confession of faith goes on to say:

5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

This is a one-sentence confession, concise and plain.

The Two Natures of Christ are taught – the man Christ Jesus is a person of the Godhead. The Christian faith teaches the Three-ness of the One God, and the Unity of the Three Persons, a mystery revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in the Word. This mystery cannot be proven or deduced by logic – it is revealed by God.

God’s gracious nature extends to all men, moving us to pray for all men, including leaders with no religion at all. God’s will that all be saved has moved people to face incredible hardships for their missionary work – not like today, where they live like royalty and have native servants do everything for them.

God’s gracious nature is also revealed in the God-Man Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world. This is a universal Gospel which we broadcast to all people. How God wills to be effective in the Word is His sphere of activity, not ours. He reveals the power of the living Word to us and lets us scatter the Gospel seed everywhere.

How can anyone measure this? One blog encourages another. One layman encourages another. But where does it stop? No one knows.

I often think of the pivotal biography, actually dual biographies of Cardinal Manning and Cardinal Newman, both in England, found in Eminent Victorians.
Manning played his cards well and ended as one of the most prominent men in the British Empire. He is forgotten today. His cardinal’s hat was already gathering dust a century ago. What did he leave behind except fleeting fame and toxic doctrine?
Private kingdom builders seldom think about the Gospel itself. It is a rabbit’s foot for them, a lucky charm to use when appropriate, sending as fending off pertinent questions about doctrine.

The apostles were thankful they had the message of salvation for the entire world. It is a message that transcends culture and withstands the attacks of time and error.

"The preaching of this message may be likened to a stone thrown into the water, producing ripples which circle outward from it, the waves rolling always on and on, one driving the other, till they come to the shore. Although the center becomes quiet, the waves do not rest, but move forward. So it is with the preaching of the Word. It was begun by the apostles, and it constantly goes forward, is pushed on farther and farther by the preachers, driven hither and thither into the world, yet always being made known to those who never heard it before, although it be arrested in the midst of its course and is condemned as heresy."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 202. Ascension Day Mark 16:14-20.

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