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, February 28, 2010

Reminiscere Sunday, The Second Sunday in Lent



The Holy Trinity, by Norma Boeckler


Reminiscere Sunday, The Second Sunday in Lent


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #652 I Lay My Sins on Jesus 1:24
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 454 Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire 1:41

Was Jesus a Faith-ian?

The Hymn # 281 The Savior Calls 1:29
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 # 374 Grace Tis a Charming Sound 1:91

KJV 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

KJV Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Second Sunday In Lent
Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us, we beseech Thee, by Thy Holy Spirit, that He may strengthen our hearts and confirm our faith and hope in Thy grace and mercy, so that, although we have reason to fear because of our conscience, our sin, and our unworthiness, we may nevertheless, with the woman of Canaan, hold fast to Thy grace, and in every trial and temptation find Thee a very present help and refuge, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.


Was Jesus a Faith-ian?
Recently, a seminary graduate with three years of parish experience used “faith-ian” as a term of mockery. He wanted to mock justification by faith, but he ended up mocking his own lack of discernment and his own limited education.

This miracle story is often described as “the Canaanite woman” because the main point involves her and her responses to Jesus. This is often included among the hard sayings of Jesus because He appears to be aloof, even rude to her. Each miracle has one or two main points. One issue in this miracle is Jesus’ mission to His own people, and how that expanded. The other issue is God’s apparent lack of concern.

This is the kind of Gospel story that becomes a snare for rationalists. When they feast on the Word, they do not know what they have, so they use the truths of Scripture to mock the Word of God. This always attracts a following, so they think themselves very wise.

Jesus appears to be callous in this miracle, which goes against our perception. But the Word reveals the true portrait and not a sentimental one, so we have to find out why this particular miracle is so important that it was included, when many others might have described in its place.

First of all, a Gentile woman implored Jesus to cure her daughter, who was grievously vexed by a devil. We can imagine the torment of a neurological disorder or demonic possession, one as bad as the other. For example, in one rare disorder, the body sends horrendous pain signals to the individual because the chemical path is dysfunctional. There is no actual pain, but the child feels intense pain nevertheless.

The woman called out to Jesus and used His Messianic title, Son of David, but Jesus did not even respond.

The disciples interceded with Jesus, to silence her by giving her what she wanted.

And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

Jesus answer was worse than silence.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

He offered a reason for rejecting her, and many people crumple when rejected twice in a row. Fear of rejection is one of our greatest fears, and this happened twice to this mother who only wanted her child cured.

The Canaanite woman asked Him a second time, worshiping Him:

25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

The next response was the worst of all. Jesus made a comparison. Healing His own people was caring for His children, but healing her daughter was taking bread away from children to throw it to the dogs. We do not understand “dog” to be a great insult, but it is hardly a flattering term. Then and now, “dog” is the worst kind of insult among Jews and Muslims.

26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.

That should have been her final defeat. But she took the words we see as insulting and used them to ask again:

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the [little] dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.

Jesus commended her for her faith and her daughter was immediately healed.

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

We can see from the entire miracle that Jesus was not lacking in compassion. In fact, He never rejected a single plea for help. We have to look at the context of this healing to see what is being taught by this exchange.

On one level, Jesus seems to be limiting His mission to the Jewish people alone. But that does not hold true. There is one path to salvation shown by this exchange. The non-Jewish woman acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah – Son of David. She worshiped Him as God. Finally, Jesus commended her faith. Therefore Jesus is the Savior – not by reason of birthright (by being a Jew) – but through faith in Him. Therefore, no one is excluded by reason of birthright. This woman prevailed because her sincere faith in Him would not let her give up. In other words, this was not the virtue of the woman, but her trust in the true nature of Christ, which is all compassion.

Meaning of the Miracle
This miracle also has an important message for all who think they are being ignored by God in their prayers. Silence seems to be the answer at first. Then, when others seem to have their prayers answered in abundance, God’s answer seems to be – “You are not one of the Chosen.” In fact, many nominal Christians are only too glad to see misfortune as a sign that someone else is cursed. They may offer many insights about this, such as saying, “You don’t believe hard enough,” or “You go to the wrong church,” or “God must be punishing you.”

Those insights would be difficult to match up with the lives of the early Christians or Christ Himself. The saints were not spared at all. Those who led the church through the Reformation suffered every type of persecution, torture, and death.

The woman is an example of one who saw, through the eyes of faith, the true nature of Christ. Why would she stop asking if she saw every response as additional signs of His Messianic role?

I saw the funniest example of this when a little girl asked her father 10 times in a row for treats. Every time he said “No!” she grinned and asked again. He finally said “Yes,” proving that she knew his true nature.

Translating the answers Jesus gave, we can see the following lessons.

God’s silence does not mean a lack of attention or compassion. That by itself is an answer for a period of time. We cannot fathom God’s wisdom so we trust in His wisdom rather than in ours. God allows many episodes like this in our lives so we can see how God instantly solves problems we cannot possible solve ourselves. Each episode deepens our trust in Him and His abiding love, especially when we see that His solutions work when ours do not.

“Throw it to the dogs” is a good remedy against thinking that God prefers some over others, especially some as opposed to us. That may be our perception for a long period of time, but our view from the outside is often wrong on all essentials. Why do they have five healthy children and I have none? Or - why are they so healthy and ours are full of complicated problems? Human reason and experience will see only problems. Faith will see blessings not given to others who take their benefits for granted.

Faith-ians
I know that generations of Lutheran pastors from the LCMS, WELS, and ELS have been trained to make fun of justification by faith. They do not understand the order of salvation, which explains why they fall for anti-Christian fads like Church Growth.

Briefly, this is it:
The Holy Spirit works through the Law to crush our sinful pride and show us our sin. However, the Law can only prepare us for the Gospel. The Law is useful and spiritual, but limited.
The Holy Spirit works through the Gospel Promises to plant faith in our hearts. This faith is trust in the mercy, love, and goodness of God, as shown in the crucifixion of Christ. The Holy Spirit distributes these Promises through the Word and Sacraments, sustaining our faith.

Much more could be said, but it is worthwhile to remember that Jesus said:

O woman, great is thy faith.

That must make faith something good in the eyes of Christ. In fact, Jesus marveled more than once at the faith of individuals, showing us that trust in Him is very good indeed. Since this faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, it is a gift of God and not a work of man.

Since Jesus commended faith and others deride faith, that must make them anti-Christians while they pose as Christians, wolves in sheep’s clothing. We are warned against them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mid-Week Lenten Service, Because We Are Not an Emerging Church, 7 PM Central



The Lost Sheep, by Norma Boeckler


Mid-Week Lenten Vespers


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 6 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #552 Abide with Me 2:11
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 2 p. 123
The Lection The Passion History

The Sermon Hymn #436 The Lord's My Shepherd 1:33

The Sermon – God's Dominant Love

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

The Hymn #281 The Savior Calls 1:29


KJV John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

The Gospel of John is often called the Gospel of love, because the word is found there so often.

The word is over-used in our time, often applied to everything. We love this and that, we love, love, love this and that.

John’s Gospel describes God’s love and contrasts that with man’s hatred for the truth and rejection of Christ.

KJV John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

KJV 1 John 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

And yet –

KJV John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

This is an important contrast, because all the false religions of the world make man pleasing to God by his sacrifices, works, and endless prayers.

John’s Gospel teaches us that God loved the entire world so much that He gave His only-begotten Son. God’s love is prior and it dominates.

The Passion of Christ contrasts the steadfastness of Christ with the fickle and fearful nature of the disciples. That is where this verse is so important. Exposing the massive flaws and weaknesses of the disciples, the Gospel says, nevertheless,

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

Jesus did not stop loving His disciples when they were fearful at the time of His arrest. One follower, thought to be Mark, ran away. A soldier caught his cloak, and he ran away naked.

KJV Mark 14:51 And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: 52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

Peter mistakenly drew out a sword and sliced off the ear of one man.

KJV John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.

Only John was at the crucifixion, which had been foretold three times.

After the crucifixion, the disciples were so afraid that they locked themselves in a room.

Still later, they were fishing, not for men, but for fish.

The disciples present a cross-section of our weaknesses and failures. The lesson teaches us that throughout His greatest trial, Jesus still loved His followers. They were His sheep. They belong to Him, so He protected them.

We have herding dogs, and they show the same concern. They understand sickness and pay special attention to the patient. Sassy sleeps with front paws on one of her sheep and her remaining back leg hooked on another. Their tender concern is a shadow of Christ’s work as the Good Shepherd:

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.

KJV Matthew 26:31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

KJV Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

This is an important lesson – that God loves us to the end.

KJV 1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

God’s dominant love is taught to us by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel. That creates faith and sustains our faith in trying times. When we fall as sinners, which must happen because of our nature, God continues to love us. The Gospel is proof of that love and it is not withdrawn because of our sinful nature.

As Luther said, we should not use the Gospel as a pillow to fall asleep on. So many take forgiveness for granted, so much that they “sin more that grace may abound.” That is a reversal of the message of the cross, which is – All sins have been redeemed on the cross.

It is this forgiveness that gives us the power to withstand temptation and turn away from sin. And yet, the more we are forgiven, the more we experience our need for forgiveness.

In the cold spells that hit Arkansas and every other part of the sunbelt, I thought of Luther’s comparison of God’s love to a furnace. On bitterly cold days, we could feel the chill seeping through the walls and windows, the feeble heat pump unable to keep up. Lighting up the fireplace, I could feel its radiant heat across the room. Luther called God’s love a baking hot oven that we can feel. In fact, we cannot help feeling it.

“Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Invocavit - The First Sunday in Lent



By Norma Boeckler


Invocavit Sunday, The First Sunday in Lent


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #148 Lord Jesus Christ 3:61
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 146 Lamb of God 3:62


Doing and Believing – The Difference

The Hymn # 153 Stricken Smitten 3:63
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 # 154 Alas and Did My Savior 3:14

KJV 2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

KJV Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

First Sunday In Lent
Lord God, heavenly Father, inasmuch as the adversary doth continually afflict us, and as a roaring lion doth walk about, seeking to devour us: We beseech Thee for the sake of the suffering and death of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to help us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and to strengthen our hearts by Thy word, that our enemy may not prevail over us, but that we may evermore abide in Thy grace, and be preserved unto everlasting life; through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Doing and Believing – The Difference
The three-fold temptation of Jesus shows Him to be truly man, subject to all our trials, and true God, having the will and power to withstand all temptation without sinning.

Jesus’ trials began immediately after He was baptized by John in the river Jordan.

This is a parallel to the life of the ordinary Christian believer. Our temptations begin after God has planted faith in our hearts. As one person told me, “I was never tempted before I became a Christian. I did whatever I wanted.”

Jesus fasted in the desert and Satan sought to capture Him. As Luther saw so clearly, Satan pursued the Chosen People from the moment God predicted that Someone would arise who would crush Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). The prophet foretold that this would not happen until a non-Jew was on the throne of David.

By that time, as Luther said, nothing was left of Israel except a stump. It was occupied territory, ruled by pagans, taxed to death, humiliated in every possible way.

The Savior was revealed at the Baptism of Jesus and Satan went to work, returning later at His crucifixion, the final act of Satan’s drama.

First Temptation
During the temptation of Jesus, Satan made three different offers. The first one was to have Jesus prove His divinity by changing stones into bread. During a fast in the desert, every round stone would look tempting. The same temptations are offered today – take care of yourself. Many feel triumphant when they do that. From clergy to well known frauds, there is a great deal of smugness in getting away with it and reminding others of the successful strategies of greed, malice, and trickery.

Jesus responded with the Word,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

This is a statement which includes a direct reference to Isaiah 55:

KJV 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 shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

This is a great reminder that the Word, going out from God (since it belongs to Him alone) is our life – we live by it – and the sole cause for accomplishing God’s will.

I see books about Bernie Madoff in the bookstores. For many years, people knew he was crooked. Yet they gathered billions of dollars from investors, promising them impossible investment returns, and lived high and mighty. When the schemes came crashing down, as they had to, the same money men were filled with despair and some gave up their lives. They lived on falsehoods and died in shame, turning stones into bread but realizing at last they were just stones after all.

Every generation has its fraudulent churches, which glory in their material success. Visit any urban area and you will see these monuments, neo-gothic splendors maintained with endowments and almost empty. They have lost their grip of God’s Word and comfort themselves with spending the interest from their funds. A lot of money must be spent to tuck-point the brickwork, clean the curtains, and send the clergy to more conferences.

On an individual basis, many have gone into an easy form of crime to turn their life of want into luxury, only to discover that this led them to the hoosegow. There are always those temporary lulls where all the schemes seem to be working. One coke dealer (and I do not mean soda pop) took every precaution, even to the point of avoiding areas where he could be hurt or arrested. Nevertheless, while sunning himself on the beach, he saw men with sub-machine guns descending from ladders on helicopters, all running toward him at once. They were federal agents who were drawn to his cause by his very success in getting away with it.

Jesus was asked to trust in His own devices, and He had the power to do so. But He quoted God’s Word instead. When we think we can solve our own difficulties, with our own cleverness, we are saying, “I trust in me, but not in God’s Word.”

Second Temptation
In the second temptation, Satan urged Jesus to throw himself from the highest point of the Temple, so that angels would take care of Him, as promised in the Word.

7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Tempting God has become a major trend among American churches. For instance, I saw this notice in an Episcopalian church and similar ones published all over: “We have prayed that God will increase our membership by 10% per year in the next three years.” There are many variations on that, but they all concern man telling God what to do and when to do it, combined with some sort of deal about what man will do, such as organizing and spending to make this happen. It is a business plan for churches and it has not worked for most of them. The one with the earliest success, Garden Grove (Schuller’s) is floundering and failing, trying to sell off assets to survive. Schuller claimed, “I started the Church Growth Movement.”

On an individual basis, people tempt God by demanding He take action according to their dictates and time schedules. This is also tempting God, putting Him on trial. “I will believe in you if You obey me.” If God obeyed man, He would not be God. Many pagan religions are based upon deals with idols. Feed the idol incense or human sacrifice and he will perform miracles.

Herman Melville, the free-thinker, made fun of this in Moby Dick. These false teachers do not appreciate how much they feed the fires of atheism until they become part of that everlasting furnace themselves. In the name of salvation, they pull others down with themselves.

Third Temptation
Satan took Jesus to the highest mountain, so He could see the vast power He would have if He only bowed down to worship Satan. Jesus responded with the Word:

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

In one course I teach, we look at Billy Graham versus his partner in the Evangelical Church, Templeton. As I mentioned before, Templeton went from being the most influential minister in Toronto to being an outright atheist. I was interested in Templeton’s version of all this. He was dazzled by the intellectuals at Princeton, and he felt that Christianity had to conform itself to the rationalistic demands of the world. He never got over his anger than Graham failed to go through the same brain-washing.

If Templeton had searched among faithful teachers, he would have realized that rationalism is the final step of Calvinism. Princeton broke with the old ways, so the conservatives marched off. All of Templeton’s questions could have been addressed by the great scholars of the Lutheran Church – Chemntiz, Chytraeus, Luther. Instead he was fed mush and he found it distasteful.

One of the Fuller boys had to have a Princeton degree too – C. Peter Wagner. That did not make him any better either. Lutherans have failed to create their own universities. Instead they have parochial schools and long for the prestige of old, large apostate universities.

The cross individuals must bear is the disapproval of the world, which is always eager to witness to its lack of faith. The fallen-away are the worst of these.

Conclusion from Temptations
There is a crucial difference between Biblical Christianity and Pietism/Romanism/Eastern Orthodox.

Most people follow the wrong path and define Christianity by issues of doing, not believing.

When Evangelicals and Catholics talk, they give this away by describing their lives by what they do.
An Evangelical will talk about not watching TV or the movies, about avoiding the wrong kinds of dress. Christianity is bound up with the act of praying.

A Roman Catholic will speak about Mass, the peak being daily Mass.

So the ultimate criticism of Christianity, people imagine, is “How can you do that if you call yourself a Christian?” Manipulation is easy, “How can you NOT help out if you call yourself a Christian?”

A definition based on doing will always lead to Pietism and then to rationalism, because we should all do good things together, no matter what we believe – they say. Thus the Word of God is obsolete.

In contrast, Jesus’ answers were all directly connected with believing the Word of God.

Christians are not condemned for being sinners, because all of us remain in that state.

Believing in the Word of God means we can fight against temptation with the Word rather than our dubious virtue. We are weak and frail, bound to fall many times over. We may suffer the same temptation for decades and continue to battle it. The Gospel of forgiveness is the only power that can defeat sin, first through justification by faith, secondly with the fruits of the Spirit.

John Bunyan was a perfect example. He was the most obnoxious cursing and blaspheming man in the area. The Gospel tamed him and he became a local wonder, an example of the power of the Word. He immersed himself in Luther and taught the difference between Law and Gospel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday Service



The Crucifixion by Norma Boeckler

Mid-Week Lenten Vespers


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 6 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #142 An Wasserfluessen Babylon
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 1 p. 123
The Lection The Passion History

The Sermon Hymn #347 Jesus meine Freude

The Sermon – The Passover Lamb

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

The Hymn #554 O Welt, ich muss


The Passion History begins with the preparations Jesus made for the Passover Meal. This shows us the unity of the Old and New Testaments.

That also illustrates the importance of God’s Word in the worship service. Some of us grew up in the Bible Belt, where people were diligent in learning as much of the Bible as possible, and always learning more.

One senior pastor told me that in Canada he barely got 10 people at a Bible study, in the largest Lutheran church in the country. In a similar church in Iowa, he routinely had 200 for the same class.

That seems to be an attitude which crosses denominational lines, because all the churches (except the Catholics) seemed to be like that in the Midwest. One reason it is not true in other parts of the country is the rationalistic, Reformed attitudes toward the Bible. Once it becomes “man’s book about God,” there is no great reason to study. We have enough textbooks already.

But where people want to know as much as possible about the Word of God, the phrases used in the liturgical service and creeds are a constant reminder of the Scriptural Promises. (In the Book of Concord, the Gospel is often interchanged with the phrase “the Promises of God.”)
For instance, when the benediction is said, that is God speaking directly to each person. Therefore, the benediction should be God’s Word, not man’s word.

Man’s word says “God loves you and so do I.” But why put that vague statement in place of the majestic Trinitarian blessing, one Lord three times:

1. The Lord bless you and keep you.
2. The Lord make His face to shine upon you.
3. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

When people want to fix up the worship service, they take away the historic liturgy, which is 100% God’s Word, and substitute man’s word.

The Medieval Church did that because they could frighten people into good works by threatening Purgatory and Hell, making Purgatory seem like a blessing in comparison. And of course, Purgatory requires even more good works to spring loved ones from that semi-Hell for the semi-saved.

The Reformed Church changed the historic liturgy because Zwingli did not believe in Holy Communion as a Sacrament. He actually had a nightmare before he instituted this change, where an angel spoke to him, “It is the Lord’s Passover.”

Another omen for him was the horde of people who attended the last Holy Communion service before he took it away and made it a symbolic, memorial meal that did not take away sins. Calvin simply continued along the same lines, although he was a better, more elegant writer in undermining God’s Word. However, he also mocked the Sacraments in the same way as Zwingli.

Passover Meal
The Passover Meal unites believers with the Exodus, and the Savior with the spotless lamb sacrificed to set free the People of God.

Therefore, when we read the stories of the Exodus, our own Holy Communion is tied up with those events. If that were not clear enough, Jesus spoke about these elements in the Gospel of John.

The Israelites ate the miraculous manna, the bread from heaven.

Jesus is the Bread from Heaven:

KJV John 6:30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

Jesus is the water of life:

KJV John 4:13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

Jesus is the Lamb:

NKJ Exodus 12:21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 "And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. 23 "For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. 24 "And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever.

KJV John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

KJV Revelation 7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

That is why Luther emphasized the truth, power, and authority of God’s Word, so that we never take away from it.

As soon as man begins to adulterate the Word to make it appealing (by his standards) he presents man’s word in the guise of God’s Word. This is all the more seductive because the two are blended together and offered in a spirit of making things better for everyone.

Saying that this adulteration is a blessing is Enthusiasm, pure and simple. Anyone who separates the work of the Holy Spirit from the Word is an Enthusiast. Our Confessions condemn Enthusiasm in no uncertain terms.

The opposite of Enthusiasm is faith in God’s Word. More faith is not virtue, it is greater trust. Faith in God’s Word means trusting it 100%, no 80% or 50%.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quinquagesima Sunday






The Lost Sheep, by Norma Boeckler


Qunquagesima Sunday

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #657 Beautiful Savior 4:24
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 364 How Sweet the Name 4:18

Treasure in Heaven

The Hymn # 304 An Awful Mystery 4:6
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 #198 He’s Risen 4:60


KJV Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? 18 Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people. 19 Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:

KJV Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Quinquagesima Sunday
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst manifest Thyself, with the Holy Ghost, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Thy dear Son, and with Thy voice didst direct us to Him who hath borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech Thee, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Thy command, and the example of Thy dear Son, we pray Thee to strengthen our faith by Thy Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and salvation, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen,

Where Is Our Treasure?
Matthew 6: 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of concentrated wisdom from the Savior. Movies about Jesus often have Him delivering this message. In this Gospel lesson alone we have material for two different sermons or two different books.

These three verses speak about treasure. We used to dig in our yard for buried treasure. We dug anywhere we could for buried treasure. We were sure it had to be somewhere. It is part of the plot of Tom Sawyer and every pirate adventure.

Jesus gave us a brief and often-overlooked parable about treasure buried in a field:

KJV Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

The origin of buried treasure was the lack of banks. If someone went on a journey or feared an enemy invasion, he buried his treasure in a field or under his home. For that reason, there were always stories of lost gold or suddenly found fortunes.

This passage is also overlooked, or read as if it said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.”

The reason why so many crimes are committed or false doctrine spread is money.

Crime – the professor who killed three colleagues and wounded others. She shot her brother twice with a shotgun, but her parents’ wealth got the charges dropped, the evidence erased, and an emotional time-bomb sent into academic life.

False doctrine – because it belongs to Satan’s realm, it is blessed by plenty of money. If not, the prosperity coming from the Gospel eventually attracts enough wealth to subvert the Gospel and endow evil. One of the most conservative churches in America became the one of the worst because endowments made it possible – Glide Memorial in San Francisco.

An advantage of seniority is having a perspective. A teaching colleague said to me, “I lost $280,000 from my pension fund, so I will keep teaching.” He was 71. I said, “It’s only money and teaching is fun.”

There have been many bubbles in the past. I once read a history of banking in America. The author loved the Federal Reserve and thought it was the answer to all our problems with bubbles. I read that while the real estate bubble was forming. Throughout history, fortunes have appeared and vanished. Whatever something is worth – that can change overnight. The biggest private estate deal in the world went sour because the Russian mobster who bought the estate ran out of money – and demanded his deposit back. The largest real estate deal in America, apartments in NYC, has become the biggest bust in history.

The definition of treasure is tied to the First Table of the Ten Commandments. If we worship material treasure, that will occupy our hearts and displace the treasure of the Gospel. Material treasure is short-lived. The Gospel treasures are eternal.

I gave away one of my favorite novels, where a dandy from Paris posed at the fireplace, looking down on his country cousins for being so plain and unfashionable. At that moment he was completely without funds, but he did not know it. At the same time, his prospective bride was on her way to becoming one of the richest people in the land, because her father was such a miser and left her everything. And yet the novel begins with the ruin of that entire estate, to show us that all the struggles about money ended up with no one left and the house empty. Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth.

Moby Dick has a hilarious passage where the misery ship owners bargain poor Ishmael down by quoting this passage, which is a pun in the book. A “lay” is a percentage of the cargo. Since whale hunting was like searching for gold, the rewards could be vast for the owners and those having a share or a lay. Ishmael got very little in the hiring contract, but that did not matter since the whale attacked the ship and all hands were lost – except for the narrator. They were debating over something that did not last, that did not even make it to a safe harbor.

Like Ishmael, Newton (author of Amazing Grace) was stranded at sea in a shipwreck, only that cargo allowed him to live. The barrels were so buoyant that they made great life preservers. Newton repented of his evil life, became a minister, and wrote famous hymns.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.

This is a great summary of the transitory nature of wealth. Clothing can be very expensive. We see examples of that on TV, but vermin will destroy anything over time. Even carefully preserved articles of clothing will decay. If something valuable lasts, such as diamonds and gold, thieves steal it.

Luther’s dissertation on money was that it was a weak god. It is so weak that it must be protected with fences, locks, iron safes, and armed guards. Money is such a weak god that it cannot even cure an illness. One of our famous Lutherans, Steve Jobs, is turning into a skeleton as disease robs him of his health. All the money in the world cannot cure that.

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

We should instead lay up our treasures in heaven, where nothing corrupts and thieves do not steal.

How do we do that?

First of all we place all our trust in the Word of God. The Gospel is repeatedly called a treasure in the Book of Concord, as Jesus clearly teaches in this lesson and the parable in Matthew 13. This treasure is so great that a man sold all he had to obtain the field with the treasure in it.

The comparison is clear. All that we have is less valuable than that place where the Promises of God, the real treasure can be found. The Word is far more precious than all our goods combined.

The Gospel is priceless because its power creates faith and pronounces us innocent, righteous, forgiven, through that faith. It is also priceless because this comes to us because of God’s grace and not because of our own worth.

Most clergy would say they agree with this passage, but they put money before the Gospel in all their decisions. They cannot afford the financial penalty of fighting against error, so they go silent, or worse – go out of their way to curry favor by undermining anyone who would sound the alarm.

The effect of silence or collusion is guaranteed – it hardens the heart. So in the name of the institution the Gospel is lost and the official proclaimers of the Gospel lose themselves in the process.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sexagesima Sunday



The Sower, by Norm Boeckler


Sexagesima Sunday

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #190 Christ the Lord 1:52
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 339 All Hail the Power 1:57

Jesus Extols Faith

The Hymn # 308 Invited 1:63
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 #46 On What Has Now Been Sown 1:62

2 Corinthians 11:19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool ) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

KJV Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Sexagesima Sunday
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that through Thy Son Jesus Christ Thou hast sown Thy holy word among us: We pray that Thou wilt prepare our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may diligently and reverently hear Thy word, keep it in good hearts, and bring forth fruit with patience; and that we may not incline to sin, but subdue it by Thy power, and in all persecutions comfort ourselves with Thy grace and continual help, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Jesus Extols Faith

In His well known Parable of the Sower, Jesus described what must be done with the Word and praised faith in the recipients of the Gospel Promises.

As gardeners know, some seed is individually planted, because of its nature, while other seed is broadcast. Pumpkin and corn are large seeds, so they are planted individually. Grass, dill, lettuce, and spinach can be tossed where the seeds will be expected to grow.
Some use rye seed for a winter lawn in Phoenix. That is also broadcast.

Broadcasting seed will always means that a fair amount of seed meets an unhappy fate. This parable is relatively clear for those with some experience, but it had the added advantage of being explained by Jesus.

The final result is that we understand
· the need to broadcast, to sow the seed of the Gospel with abandon,
· the reasons for disappointment,
· the final results which give an abundant yield.

This parable extols faith because there is no room for measuring success on man’s part. The parable also encourages faith because God is glorified and the good results do come according to His will.

There are four parts to this parable, which begins in simple, plain words – a sower went out to sow.

5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.

Here are the four parts, which are not meant to suggest 25% of the seed in each case:
1. Some fell along the path, where the birds ate it.
2. Some fell on a rock, germinated, and withered.
3. Some fell among thorns and was choked by the weeds.
4. Some fell on good soil and grew up, yielding 100-fold.

Three parts deal with the loss of faith. Jesus gives us three causes.

Fell along the path and devoured.
Where people walk, the soil is hardened and becomes relatively infertile. The garden or farming plots were divided by pathways in Jesus’ day, so those pathways would be the places where seed fell and could not germinate. Birds are opportunist and they love human workers. A gardener is going to drop seed to eat or turn over soil and expose bugs and worms.

Birds quickly learn where their extra meals come from. Once I bought garbage bags of popcorn which could not be sold at community function. Soon after we had a heavy snowfall, so every day I took one of the bags out the garage and spread popcorn all over the area where birds liked to roost, among the pine trees and the branches I left on the ground for them. They got so used to daily feasts that they had a chorus of contented bird noises every time I came toward that area with the bag.

Likewise I could hear them talking when I got my shovel out in the spring and started to turn over soil. If I found a white grub in the soil, I put the wiggling white body out on a tree stump for a protein meal. The birds stayed to tend the garden, eating bugs and weed seeds. Starlings prowled the rows each day, often flipping a piece of leaf to get the bug underneath.

This part of the parable addresses those people who have the Word but it does not germinate in their hardened hearts. As Luther wrote about this sermon, these are the great and wise people of the church, the most holy people (by appearances). Mother Theresa is often used as an example of saintliness but she confessed that she never had a moment’s comfort from the Gospel her entire life. The most faithful Roman Catholic does not really hear the Gospel of grace but a system of laws, a series of threats, and the cold comfort of centuries in Purgatory to continue paying for the sins that Christ died to erase.

Seed needs a place to grow, to send down roots for moisture and food. I found canisters of seed in the church in New Ulm. They were so old that they finally died. We poured them on the ground and the animals refused to touch them. An indication of their age was a dead bat residing among the jars. He too must have given up hope after so much neglect.

Likewise, the great theologians of the church are often the same people who use their great learning to destroy faith because the Word has never found a lodging place in their hearts. Birds (Satan in Mark and Matthew) have stolen it away and their work belongs to him.

As Luther said, they have a carnal nature. Their use of the Gospel is to feed their bellies and provide luxury rather than the cross.

The solution is to provide the Law, which is a hammer to pound our hardened hearts, to prepare us to receive the Gospel. Many complain about a blog devoted to attacking apostasy, which is the teaching of the Law. Apostates do not want the First Table of the Law condemning their opinions and hardness of heart. They want to be praised as great saints, as saintly theologians, as pillars of the church. Some want to be identified with the church because it gives their illegal, fraudulent, or criminal activities the patina of righteousness and a gaggle of reverends to defend them. If challenged for poisoning thousands of people with salmonella, or selling them homes that sink into mire, they say, “Look at all the good I have done for Christianity. Tell em Rev. Tell em what I have done of my own free will.” That would be gold-ly contrition rather than godly contrition.

A heretic with millions is a hero, and one with a billion is praised into heaven, before and after his death. But we should always apply each category to ourselves as well. As the season of Lent approaches, we are constantly reminded of the need for repentance, involving both godly contrition and faith in the Gospel Promises.

Some fell on a rock, germinated, and withered.

This may seem wrong, but seed can germinate with moisture alone. On a rock, soil and dust can accumulate, enough to form a paste where seed can start to grow. I had a stump of wood on concrete. Underneath, without any effort, a group of earthworms took up their abode. They had the soil and shelter they needed for their creature comforts.

Seed is alive by nature (God’s Creation, God’s design), so it is always ready to pitch its tent anywhere. Gutters are full of hopeful trees every spring. Cracks in the sidewalk shelter various weeds and even an herb called dandelion (despised for its lust for life).


The Gospel seed never dies but always accomplishes its purpose. It either hardens or converts, blinds or enlightens. It is foolish to say, “I don’t see any effect,” although there is some honesty there. We do not always see the effect, but the effect is there. To say otherwise is a statement against God, blasphemy. His Word is always effective. Offer the Law and the Gospel to false missionaries and they will storm from the house yelling, even using foul language. That is an effect, and God knows how He will use it in time.

One man left the Mormon church for the Christian faith. His wife disowned him and kicked him out. That was an effect. But there was another effect. He left books around the house. She read them and became converted to the Gospel herself. She welcomed him back. His experience was cruel and harsh, but that is the cross. God uses the cross, so that experience became a little book to encourage others.

This part of the parable is about those who begin with a sincere faith in Christ. They know the Gospel in its truth, but they shrivel as soon as persecutions or hardships arise. They become deeply resentful about the Gospel as soon as they reject it.

Some of the great haters of the Christian faith are those people who first believed in the Gospel. I have heard them explain their change, from not having a given prayer answered how and when they wanted, from having a loss in the family.

Some fell among thorns and was choked by the weeds.

Here the Gospel seed was choked by the cares and riches of the world. This is a common problem today. The two-income family has made Sunday more of a recovery time or a replacement for Saturday sports tournaments. As the only totally free morning left in the week, it is the excuse for neglect of the Gospel.

But there are other ways. One can be surrounded by the trappings of religion while working against the Christian faith. J. P. Morgan used his vast wealth to take the Anglican leaders to conferences. Morgan paid for the tickets and went along on the train with the clergy, as a lay leader, taking his mistress.

I have to laugh or marvel when I see the staff of the great mainline denominations in the areas where they have prospered. The president of the Augustana Synod worked out of a roll-top desk in Rock Island. The Bishop of the Northern Illinois district has more staff than an Army general, and he is just as overbearing. Such luxuries have choked the Gospel, not sustained it.

8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold…15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.


The Word has this great power, the divine power of the Holy Spirit, always at work. Those who hear the Gospel and “hold it fast” [keep it] will bring forth fruit in great abundance.

The abundance comes from God. Those with an honest and good heart recognize the Gospel Promises as the great treasure. They will no more let go of it than a famous donor would let go of a dividend coming to him.