Mid-Week Lenten Vespers
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
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 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.
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%.