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
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Midweek Lenten - 7 PM Central Daylight.

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, August 29, 2010

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity



By Norma Boeckler




The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 281 The Savior Calls 1:29
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #259 Flung to the Heedless Winds 1:64

Many Vehicles of Grace

The Communion Hymn # 308 Invited, Lord, by Boundless Grace 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 # 464 Blest Be the Tie That Binds 1:39

KJV Galatians 3:15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

KJV Luke 10:23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, we most heartily thank Thee that Thou hast granted us to live in this accepted time, when we may hear Thy holy gospel, know Thy fatherly will, and behold Thy Son, Jesus Christ! We pray Thee, most merciful Father: Let the light of Thy holy word remain with us, and so govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may never forsake Thy word, but remain steadfast in it, and finally obtain eternal 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.

To Hear the Voice of God

KJV Luke 10:23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

When we read the Scriptures or hear the Word, we should remember this introduction to the most famous parable. Those who have exalted positions, prophets and kings, longed to know what the truth was. A man who has conquered all his enemies and sits on the throne has the time to think about the meaning of life. So does the prophet who deals only in religious belief and practices (unless he is busy copying the work of others and presenting it as his own). If we look at those ages were most people were illiterate, it was the rules and the religious leaders who had the monopoly on education. As one historian said about England during Queen Elizabeth’s reign – there were so road signs because no one could read, no advertisements in town, because no one could read, no papers or magazines in their homes – because no one could read them. Queen Elizabeth was so well educated that she could berate a foreign ambassador in perfect Latin. The noblemen had libraries and clergy could read during that time of illiteracy.

Christianity began as a “mouth church” to use Luther’s expression because the Gospel was spoken to people. Jesus used the spoken Word to convert people to faith. So did the Gospels. This did not keep people from becoming scholars of the Word, as many did.

But imagine it the other way. Confucius began a religion or philosophy based on wise sayings, and it always remained book-centered. For many centuries the way of advancement in government was in being a Confucian scholar, taking exams on one’s grasp of the philosophy.

So we have a spoken religion and the only one where God is truly communicating with the world. Every phrase from Scripture is God’s voice. When the liturgy uses phrases and verses from the Scriptures (which it does almost 100%), it is the same as hearing the Word directly from the text. For instance, the blessing at the end of the service is as old as Moses, a three-fold use of “The Lord”, a three-fold blessing. It is God speaking to us as a group and as individuals and we should take each word to heart.

When people trust in God’s Word, they treat it accordingly. The presence of entertainment, noisy snacks, and sloppy dress imply that God’s Word is marginally important when presenting a secular philosophy. For example, when I attended a cult gathering called Xenox, I looked at my watch and waited for God to be mentioned during the “sermon.” No mention was made until 20 minutes had lapsed. Before that the speaker gave a monologue about himself. Yet many hundreds filled that vast gathering place.

Necessarily, if the speaker is fascinated with himself, he has little interest in God. If he has no knowledge of the Gospel, he will teach some form of the Law.

The Lawyer
That introduction is the prelude to the parable, which begins this way. Note that a concise Gospel--and even more concise parable--has details which we should overlook.

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

This introduction is terribly confusing for the humorless, because Jesus often used ironic humor. The lawyer asked about what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked for a law response, which He was given. The lawyer gave the two-fold summary of the Law – to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.”

The correct follow-up would be to say, “How is that possible?” But the lawyer did not hesitate. His own question assumed he could follow the Law.

No one can possibly fulfill the Law. As Luther observed, we cannot get past the First Commandment and say “I have always done this,” let alone the rest of the Commandments. Can anyone claim “I fear, love, and trust God above all things”?

The Law always condemns, whether it is God’s revealed Law or man-made Law. There are many sad examples of false prophets who laid heavy burdens on everyone else but never felt moved to obey the same rules.

The lawyer wanted to justify himself (not the same as being justified by God). He asked “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Word of God is turned around so completely that people interpret this as a Law parable. In other words, they imagine the parable condemns people for not doing enough to help others.

At the end of a sermon on the Good Samaritan, where people feel the sting of the Law for not doing enough for others, the congregation slinks out, with some resolving to join one improvement society or another – all with good intentions. Thus a Law sermon is going to promote the formation of political activism. What we see today in Left-wing activism is Messianic without the Messiah. R. Reuther in The Radical Kingdom, connected Left-wing activism to Jewish and Christian Messianic hopes (as the foundation of their political program).

The legislative program of Franklin Roosevelt was the agenda of the Social Gospel – labor laws, child labor laws, pure food and drugs, urban renovation and children’s playgrounds, etc. In America, all the mainline church leaders belong to one party because it represents the their ideals of Messianic hope without the burden of believing in the Messiah.

The Parable
We can see the genius and clarity of Jesus’ teaching by reflecting on how well we know this parable. It is easy to imagine and repeat.

1. A man is robbed and beaten almost to death on the road to Jericho. (Social Gospel answer – make the road to Jericho safe!)
2. A priest saw him on the road and went to the other side to avoid him.
3. Likewise, a Levite went to the opposite side of the road, rather than help him.
4. The third person was a Samaritan, who had compassion on the man.
5. The Samaritan bound up his wounds.
6. He poured oil and wine in the wounds.
7. He placed the man on his beast and brought him to an inn.
8. The Samaritan took care of him at the inn.
9. When the Samaritan left, he gave money to the innkeeper for continued care.
10. He also promised to repay anything spent on the stranger for his recovery.

Jesus asked the lawyer which was proved to be a neighbor (“Who is my neighbor?”) The lawyer had to say, “The one who showed mercy.”

So what do we conclude about Jesus’ answer – “Go and do likewise”?

Those who live in the Law only see the Law, so they flog everyone with the Law. They do not know the origin of mercy since they show no mercy.

Clearly this parable shows Jesus as the Samaritan. The story answers the challenge about God providing so many Means of Grace. That has been one of the attacks on historic Christianity, started by Zwingli – “God does not need a vehicle, like an oxcart.”

And yet the Samaritan had a vehicle.

How many ways did the Samaritan offer his help?

a. He bound up the wounds.
b. He poured wine (the Law) on them.
c. He poured wine (the Gospel) on them.
d. He lifted the man onto the beast.
e. He took him to the inn.
f. He cared for him at the inn.
g. He promised future pay for his continued care.

Did the Samaritan need all this for the half-dead man, or did the victim need it? At any one point, people might say, “That is quite enough to help a stranger,” but the Samaritan did more and more, far beyond our expectations.

All these steps, which are quite detailed compared to other parables, show us how many ways God provides for our healing, forgiveness, and eternal life.
We can see from this parable that man needs the Instruments of Grace (Means of Grace), and God graciously provides them.

What happens when Lutherans want to be another denomination but are too chicken to join that other group? They abandon the Means of Grace. They replace the baptismal font with a movie screen. They have no altar or pulpit. They have a stage. They have wireless mikes so they can prance around like their spiritual snake-oil cousins. Their own words betray them more than the décor – they copy verbatim the words of false teachers and publish them as their own.

They are the priest and Levite who pass by on the other side of the road, lest they help the dying man.

The lawyer had to say that his neighbor was “The one who showed mercy.” To show mercy, we need to know what mercy is. That mercy begins and ends with faith in Christ. Apart from that faith, anything done is a sin, whether it means donating a billion dollars to charity or speaking a fake Gospel with 20 sub-woofers in the background.

The entire Bible only teaches one point – forgiveness (justification) comes from faith in Christ. Works do matter, but they follow faith and forgiveness. They are the result of justification and not its cause.

Note how the Christian Pharisees add their law to the Gospel, rendering a false law and a death-causing fake gospel. They have a long list of what people must do, and they parade their works to provide a good example (in their hardened hearts). They are doing what no one else is doing, they tell us, and reaching the people no one else is reaching, they emphasize. But they do not publish their stolen sermons. They do not broadcast their plagiarism, which would give away their dishonesty and criminal behavior.

When Law and Gospel are confused, people think the Law saves them by doing good works to earn God’s favor. That makes them insecure, because they are never sure. In time, they cling to the works and no longer have faith.

In contrast, the Gospel itself is the energy and motivation behind good works. Starting with all our sins forgiven through Christ crucified, our human mercy flows from the divine mercy already provided in so many ways.

Trust in God’s Word is essential. When the minister says, “Your sins are forgiven,” that is God speaking through a fallible, ordinary person. That forgiveness is true no matter what our feelings may be. We are to look at the Word and not our feelings.

Whenever we seek to justify ourselves, we doing the opposite of what the Gospel teaches – justification by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law. God alone justifies. It is His work. Knowing our weaknesses, which are many, He provides many forms of the Gospel – Word, Sacrament, mutual consolation, absolution. One poor over-worked minister may preach to the same person for 20 years, with no apparent effect, but the next mention of the Gospel may provide the final work of God upon that person and the conversion is clear and compelling. One organist never took communion for decades in his church. One day he appeared at the altar rail, down from the balcony, a mysterious stranger to the children in that congregation.

A legend? Perhaps, but I have seen many example which are similar. Sadly, many move in the opposite direction, turning away from the Word of God with the excuse of man’s many failings, the church’s many failings. It is good to be disillusioned because that means we were living with illusions. Man’s great works are glittering cloaks of sin, as Augustine said. We should trust in the Word of God, not the works of man.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity



By Norma Boeckler



The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #462 I Love Thy Kingdom 4:21
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 #123 O God Our Help 4:3

Sufficiency from God

The Communion 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 # 376 Rock of Ages 4:47

KJV 2 Corinthians 3:4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; 6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

KJV Mark 7:31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. 32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33 And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37 And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

Twelfth Sunday After Trinity
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast created all things: We thank Thee that Thou hast given us sound bodies, and hast graciously preserved our tongues and other members from the power of the adversary: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy grace, that we may rightly use our ears and tongues; help us to hear Thy word diligently and devoutly, and with our tongues so to praise and magnify Thy grace, that no one shall be offended by our words, but that all may be edified thereby, 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.

Sufficiency from God

KJV 2 Corinthians 3:4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; 6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Lenski:
“In Second Corinthians Paul bares his heart and his life as he does in none of his other letters. This lends a special value to the letter. Combined with this self-revelation is the wonderful way in which Paul reaches out to the Corinthians. He lets all the love of his heart speak, and its language is perfection. Paul’s psychological judgment of his readers never errs. His arms reach out. He touches the secret springs in his readers who certainly could not help but respond. Even the sterner tones in the last chapter voice this compelling love. These inward things that run through the entire letter deserve far more attention than they have received. Other apostles may have been like this, but none of them has left us a document which reveals this as does this one dictated by Paul. Second Corinthians is precious indeed.” Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1963, S. 804.


Second Corinthians is Paul’s defense of his ministry. Many people have concluded what was happening from Paul’s own comments. The religious opponents are illusive – we can only speculate. But clearly their attack was against Paul himself as not being adequate as an apostle. What remains is Paul’s response. From this we can see a deeply personal letter but also one which is universal and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Some might question how a man with many flaws could write a letter and have Christians called it Scripture, inspired by God, inerrant and authoritative. The difference between Paul’s letters and many similar letters from the age is this – Paul was elected by God to be an apostle. Christ miraculously appeared to Paul and converted him through the Word. God chose Paul to be an extraordinary missionary and author.

Sceptics like to claim that Paul created the Christianity that we know, that without him there would have been no Christian church. They fail to note the miraculous growth of the Word before Paul was converted, recorded in Acts 1ff.

All this is dependent upon the foundation which Paul described here so well – the Word of God.

The Creating Word
Although this is almost universally neglected, the Scriptures teach that God’s power comes to us exclusively through the Word.

The Son of God Himself is the Logos (Word). When God created the universe in Six Days, the Logos was that creating Word. What Genesis 1 implies, John 1 teaches clearly:

KJV John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

This verse, John 1:3 connects the Creation Hymn (a nickname for Genesis 1) with the Logos Hymn (a nickname for John 1:1-18):

John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

This clearly identifies Jesus, the Son of God, with the Creation of the entire universe. We cannot separate any feature or any detail—plant, mineral, star, animal, human—from the work of Jesus and the power of the Word.

What God declares, happens. There is no gulf between the will of God and the Word of God.

Sadly Lacking
What is sadly lacking today is a confidence in this power remaining in the Word of God. This has come about through neglect. Instead of teaching against this doctrine, the church leaders simply ignore it. That allows people to wander around in confusion.

The efficacy of the Word alone is taught throughout the Old Testament and is well known in Judaism. Among conservative Jews, the doctrine has inspired many stories, including the word of the rabbi.

Luther always taught the efficacy of the Word alone, but the other Protestants broke with him about this Biblical doctrine – Zwingli, Calvin, and the radicals who came to be associated with the Mennonites and Baptists.

And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.

English changes. Today we would say – through Christ toward God, but I like the old structure, which reminds us of where toward came from.

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

Paul saw that the attack was against him, but he was not representing his ministry as his own but the ministry of the Word. He had nothing to offer on his own, so that was not his argument at all.

Paul’s sufficiency came from God. This is not a vague term, but one which is very clear in the next verses.

The Bible means the Word when it speaks of the work of the Spirit, and it means the Spirit when it speaks of the Word. This is only possible because the two are never separate. Hoenecke (WELS) – “The Holy Spirit never without the Word. The Word never without the Spirit. That is sound doctrine.”

Any variation is called Enthusiasm by the Book of Concord, and Enthusiasm is roundly condemned.

6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

God chose Paul to be an able minister (servant) of the Spirit – a minister of the Word. Another variation on this is – stewards of the mysteries of God. What God reveals in the Scriptures is not subject to man’s judgment. The Trinity does not need to appeal to man’s logic – it is a mystery revealed by God. The Creation may be tough to imagine, but that does not mean God is incapable because of man’s limitations.

The Holy Spirit works through the Law to create Godly sorrow in the hearts of listeners.

Luther emphasized most of us that people failed to trust in God’s Word – the greatest sin of all. People imagine the gross, carnal sins, but they are symptoms of man’s rebellion against the Word.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity


By Norma Boeckler




The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 361 O Jesus King 4:1
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 # 388 Just As I Am 4.91

Publican Versus the Pharisee, By Faith or By Works

The Communion Hymn #305 Soul, Adorn Thyself 4:23

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 # 657 Beautiful Savior 4:24


KJV 1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

KJV Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Eleventh Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, we beseech Thee so to guide and direct us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not forget our sins and be filled with pride, but continue in daily repentance and renewal, seeking our comfort only in the blessed knowledge that Thou wilt be merciful unto us, forgive us our sins, and grant us eternal life; 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.

Publican versus the Pharisee, By Faith or By Works
This brief parable is one of the classic passages about justification by faith, comparing the hated tax-collector against the highly respected Pharisee. The justification prayer is preceded by one about justice:

The parable about justice is another argument from the lesser to the major. In other words, if an unjust man—who disregards man and God—can deal justly with a widow, how much more will God carry out His justice – in His infinite power and mercy.

KJV Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Lenski wrote:
Neither the preceding parable nor the one that is now introduced deal with prayer as such; prayer is only the vehicle in both. So the connection is not from prayer to prayer. The first parable deals with the kind of faith Jesus wants the disciples to have, one that is constantly longing and asking for his return; the second parable adds the true humility of faith, of that faith which alone justifies. It may well be possible that this parable followed the other promptly. Since εἶπε πρός is constantly used to mean “he said to” the persons who are then named, we cannot have it here mean “he said regarding” absent persons.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 898


KJV Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

The chief attribute of those who believe in justification by works is their despising of others. They act and speak as if they cannot stand being on the same planet with such low-lifes. This contempt and arrogance may dismay some, afraid they have offended these great saints who take and abuse church positions. The best way to test the spirits is to listen to them.

They people who trust in themselves, as Jesus says, are always praising their own works and their own merits. Yes, they will list all the marvels they have done as proof of their God-pleasing ways.

For example, when I spoke to Kent Hunter (CG guru, LCMS and WELS) the first thing he said was, “My congregation quadrupled in size while I was there.” I responded, “But you are not there now. If it was so great, why did you leave?” I did not get an answer.

Extolling one’s own work is the same as not trusting in God’s Word, because everything happens through God’s Word and never apart from God’s Word. Only Christ crucified can be the source of our boasting, and that is belongs to God’s realm alone.
This despising is quite common, and we see it communicated by all the followers of Satan. They have reason enough to feel arrogant, because the world favors them and they have plenty of followers. How many faithful ministers are on the cover of a news magazine? None. The faithless clergy have two opportunities – one is for their great skill in telling people what their itching ears want to hear. During that time everyone is astonished that the organization grows so large and wealthy. (Remember Promise Keepers?) The second opportunity is either the prison term (Jim Bakker) or the selling of church property (Schuller, Kennedy). The news magazines love shooting stars in the clergy, on the way, and even more on the way down.

Faithful shepherds do not despise others and even work to convert false teachers to the true Gospel. Being despised is a burden, a cross to bear. It is accompanied by name calling, bearing false witness, shunning, and many kinds of humiliation. This is proof of the cross – although we know what it is, we still hate it at first. Much later we learn that the cross is indeed holy and blessed, for many different reasons. However, our Old Adam still rebels against it.

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

In this parable, two opposites are compared. Jesus’ parables were extremely short, concise, and easy to remember. We can picture them without effort and remember them easily. That is because of the concrete examples offered. Also, there is a surprise, a twist where our normal understanding is turned upside-down. The Pharisees were the good, holy men of the age. They observed the Law strictly, and Judaism had degenerated into Law-mongering rather than Gospel-teaching.

The Gospel of the coming Messiah, the Suffering Servant, was revealed to the Jewish people from the beginning. They turned away from this, even though they longed for redemption from their sin. We can see that the Pharisees held sway over the people, because they all allowed Jesus to be crucified for no other reason than challenging justification by works. That was the bedrock of Pharisaical hatred.

We think of this parable as comforting, but the words stung the Pharisees. There is no escaping their meaning.

In contrast, the public or tax-collector for the Roman Empire was the most hated figure of all, despised more than criminals. He was a Jew who extorted as much money as possible for himself and the occupation troops. We can hardly imagine taxes being taken from us to pay for occupation troops and foreign judges. Our public servants would never support the building of a religious monument celebrating the 9/11 disaster, would they?

This contrast in the parable is also outward. We can see what the Pharisee does and says, because he is the essence of strict holiness. Thousands of books have been written about such saints. The Medieval stories are full of wonders and miracles that never happened, such as a severed head emerging from a well to lecture people on piety (The Glories of Mary).

The Pharisee is outwardly an object of awe while the Publican is outwardly an object of contempt.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

The self-justification Pharisee commends himself for being so holy, and even thanks God that he is not contemptible, the way other people are – naming specific sins and the tax-collector in particular. The resume is impressive. Today it would be – Thank God I reach out to transform lives, that I take risks, doing what other will not do so I can reach others they do not reach. Those mottos are all self-centered.

The favored doctrine of the Romanizers and Fullerizes is justification without faith. They try to make that sound Gospel-centric, but just the opposite is true, as anyone can see in their comments. They are full of contempt for others and praise themselves for having the true Gospel. They lord it over everyone else but refuse to deal with the obvious raised by their false doctrine. Luther’s comments on false teachers, just posted on Ichabod, describes them perfectly.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Here there are no claims, but only faith in God’s mercy. As one collect says, God’s power is shown chiefly in His mercy. Although He could condemn the world for its sin and weakness, He justifies believers for trusting in Christ alone for their salvation.

The tax-collector has no haughty words for God and no comparisons. We are all sinners, so comparisons are not worthy of a contrite heart. We contribute no merit of our own, so we cannot thank God for being so good. Whatever we do follows justification and salvation, so the glory belongs to God alone.

This entire action belongs to God. He brings about contrition through the Law. All preaching against false doctrine is the Law, and that is why false teachers howl when Luther is quoted against them. They harden their hearts and get even, but they do not realize the effective Word is working on them too. The more they rebel, the flintier their hearts become, the blinder they are to the Gospel – the one for weak, poor contrite sinners.
Grace comes to us only through the Means of Grace, so forgiveness is conveyed by Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and the Word preached and taught – the Word in various forms. And it can come from the mutual consolation of the brethren and absolution. God is glorified in the many delivery methods, but it is the same Gospel and the same grace.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

God declared the tax-collector justified by faith, not the Pharisee – who justified himself and thanked God for it. That is part of Jesus’ subtle humor, but something designed to make the Pharisees like Him.

Some would like justification by faith sound like an act that is man-centered. But it is God declaring the believer innocent. This parable is a good antidote for those who fear justification by faith is not glorifying God. In the very words of Jesus, man does nothing but receive from God.

In contrast, the bad example shows an outwardly pious man performing all the work himself and showing the marks of works-righteousness.

Believing is justification, because that means the individual is trusting in the Gospel message of the Atonement.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Tenth Sunday after Trintiy



Cover by Norma Boeckler



The Tenth Sunday after Trinity


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 #190 Christ Is Arisen 1:52

Jerusalem Surrounded

The Communion Hymn # 308 Invited Lord 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 # 350 Jesus the Very Thought of Thee 1:53

KJV 1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

KJV Luke 19:41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. 45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. 47 And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, 48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.

Tenth Sunday After Trinity
Almighty and everlasting God, who by Thy Holy Ghost hast revealed unto us the gospel of Thy Son, Jesus Christ: We beseech Thee so to quicken our hearts that we may sincerely receive Thy word, and not make light of it, or hear it without fruit, as did Thy people, the unbelieving Jews, but that we may fear Thee and daily grow in faith in Thy mercy, and finally obtain eternal salvation, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Jesus Weeping Over Jerusalem
This Gospel reminds us of Jesus’ foreknowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus we know what He said before it happened, and we know how true this is from the accounts of Josephus. This lesson is a warning to all believers, not to depart from the Word of Truth.

Luke 19:41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
There are two passages where Jesus wept. One was at the sight of his friend’s tomb – Lazarus. The other occasion is here, where He considered the future destruction of Jerusalem and the suffering to come from that event, only 40 years after His death and resurrection.

Before this time, Jesus considered the future of Jerusalem and His ministry to that historic city.

KJV Luke 13:33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Jerusalem had a long history of turning away from God’s prophets, with inevitable hardship to follow. We can see modern examples, such as Russia and Germany abandoning the Gospel – Russia to Marxism, Germany to Modernism and Unionism, only to create millions of deaths in their WWII struggles. Would either country have done the same things, if they had known the future?

Jesus continued:

Luke 19:42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

Lenski wrote, “Resist the beginnings” in one commentary, and this could be the motto of many nations.

Israel was conquered many times over, becoming a Roman territory because of internal squabbling. They invited the Roman Empire to come in as peacemakers, and the Romans never left.

Jesus was born in Rome-occupied territory because Israel invited it. And that is why the Roman soldier and the Jewish tax collector for the Romans (the publican) were so hated. The tax collectors were their own people, extorting taxes to pay the soldiers who enabled them to extort tax money and keep them an occupied state. This naturally paved the way for the rebellion which destroyed Jerusalem – Hebrew for “a place of peace.”

Jerusalem did not see what was coming, yet Jesus’ foreknowledge allowed Him to see the implications of all that would come.

How many Americans knew they were voting for the wreckage of their country? They voted for moderation, hope, and change. They got the necessary consequences of placing a Saul Alinsky student in the White House, with another Saul Alinsky student as the Secretary of State:
http://www.tysknews.com/Articles/dnc_corruption.htm

Yesterday I read about cities closing down all their libraries and planning to destroy their book collection. States are tearing up concrete roads to replace them with gravel. California is simultaneously bankrupt, with the GOP governor urging homosexual marriage upon the very people who voted against it (Proposition 8).

Flint Michigan is already bulldozing areas of the city where houses are empty and proving to be hazards. Some houses in Detroit sell for $1000. The average value there is $10,000. State pensions were once considered completely secure, but now everything is in doubt. The best job now is a federal job, because the federal government gets the tax money directly to pay the tax collectors, a lot like Rome.

43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

Jesus spoke about a future time, about 40 years from that moment, when Israel would rise in open rebellion against Rome and suffer the consequences. As I learned on recently, the worst thing that happened was an early victory. The first rebels defeated a small Roman force, and that made them bold. No one seemed to figure that Rome never sued for peace, never gave up. The Empire always struck back. The 55,000 miles of paved roads allowed the military to move with great speed toward any destination. They could bring with them thousands of slaves to increase the amount of work done in attacking a city.

To keep Roman soldiers busy in England, the commanders had them build a wall. Hadrian’s wall stretched across the island, East to West, and remains impressive today.

http://www.hadrians-wall.org/

Rome attack Jerusalem by building a wall around the entire city, which is one of the best defended sites in the world. Trapping the citizens in made it impossible to feed everyone. In time starvation led to horrible tragedies taking place. Some are too awful to publish in a sermon. Josephus, who was there, told about it.

The city was packed with religious pilgrims at the time.

It was said, in spite of all the problems, that the only way the city could have fallen was the will of God. Jerusalem was that difficult to capture. Once the city fell, the soldiers killed and took into slavery all they wanted. The leveled the Temple, looking for gold.

Lenksi:
“44) The city and her children or inhabitants were to be dashed to the ground, the latter to be slain; and this destruction was to be so radical as not to leave one stone on another—an absolute and utter ruin. Ἀνθʼ ὧν = “in return for that which” and is usually translated less precisely “because.” Jesus reverts to the guilt of Jerusalem in that she did not realize “the season of her visitation,” ἐπισκοπή, which is used regarding both a gracious and a punitive visit. The verb is used in 1:68, 78; 7:16, “to look in upon someone.” God’s looking in upon us with his grace continues until a certain time; then those that refuse that grace shall receive a far different visitation from him whom they have spurned.( Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel (969). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.)”

Israel rebelled and lost in 70 AD and repeated the error about 50 years later. This gave the Jews and Christians the worst possible reputation. Jerusalem was banned as a haven for Jews. Some say the area never recovered from the devastation of those campaigns.

Christians shared in the ignominy because they were considered a branch of the Jews, and they were. Many Jews believed in Jesus in the apostolic times.

The final result of this 70 AD rebellion was the killing and enslavement of Jews. As slaves they were scattered around the civilized world, because their numbers depressed the price slaves.

Because Christians were persecuted, they were driven from place to place, taking the Gospel with them.

We now have the time of visitation. America as a whole has abandoned the Word of God. There is no respect for our religious heritage. All the mainline churches are falling over each other to endorse what their own liberal members find repugnant – homosexual ordination and marriage. But that is only the symptom of the wholesale rejection of God’s Word by the same denominations.

When “The Last Temptation of Christ” came out as a movie, great consternation swept across sections of Christian groups considering themselves conservative in one way or another. Jesus was just a man. The Gospel was a fraud, etc. I did not watch the movie because I already knew about the book. My Unitarian friend loved it – he had been LCA. I wrote a movie review saying the plot was nothing new – it was exactly what ELCA and all the mainline churches had been teach for some time.

And yet, no one thought it was bad for conservative Lutherans to work with ELCA. They still do not.

In fact, one group leaving ELCA has already considered sending its future pastors to ELCA seminaries. I know – sounds ridiculous. Everything lately has been on the same level of moronic behavior: doing what is safe rather than what is right. The corporate mentality leads people to take the safe route each time.

There will be great volumes of nattering going on about the decline of our country. All the statements about the symptoms will be correct. However, just as we see in the country as a whole, complaining about the symptoms will not change them. The foundational causes must be addressed.

We are too few and too small to make much difference overall, but we can begin with the basic steps for turning away from the upcoming tragedy of America – both in the civil and religious spheres.

We can remain in the Word and trust in that Word, avoiding those who would turn us away from it in the name of a false peace.

Lutherans astonish me with their ability to talk up Luther without considering what he faced. The entire religious establishment was against him. The Emperor of Europe hated Germans in general and Luther in particular. Only the Muslim distraction kept the Lutheran Church protected during those fragile, early days.

Luther argued that the Word alone was more powerful than all the forces arrayed against it. At any given moment, our human wisdom and experience tells us why we should trust in ourselves instead of God. The Holy Spirit teaches us in the Word that He can turn the greatest evil into the greatest good.

Jesus was even more alone in His battle against Rome and the religious authorities. All someone had to do was be regal and Rome was threatened. Jesus was and is the Messiah, the King. That title and His power threatened Rome. We can say, “But His Kingdom was not of this world.” But politicians never think that way. They think about the threat to their own security.

Rome hated and feared Jesus and used its power against Him. The religious authorities were also filled with bitter hatred. Luther emphasized this strongly. Jesus taught an alien righteousness. All righteousness came from faith in Him. That destroyed the claims of anyone who thought man’s righteousness came from within. The civil and religious threat combined to make Jesus a victim of Roman justice and Jewish betrayal. While one man protected Luther (the elector Frederick), no one protected Jesus. He might have called upon legions of angels to destroy the Roman forces, but He allowed Rome to carry out its sentence in conjunction with the Jewish leaders.

Thus the Holy Spirit turned the crucifixion of Jesus into the atoning death of the Messiah. What looked like weakness and defeat was God’s victory over sin, death, and Satan. As one early writing said, “God baited the hook with Jesus, and Satan was captured.”

Greek Christians chant, “By death trampling on death.”

Justification by faith means believing in this Gospel message, the central message of the Bible. All portions of the Scriptures are built around this Promise.

One objection to justification by faith is comical – as if it focuses on man. I can only ask, “Who justifies, declares us innocent? Does man declare himself?”

God justifies, so justification by faith emphasizes the action of God upon man, who only receives in faith what God promises in grace.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity



By Norma Boeckler


The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 628 Shepherd of Tender Youth 3:74
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 #283 3:90
Strange Parable
The Communion Hymn # 307 Draw Nigh 3:72
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 # 50 Lord Dismiss Us 3:86

KJV 1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

KJV Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Ninth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast bountifully given us Thy blessing and our daily bread: We beseech Thee, preserve us from covetousness, and so quicken our hearts that we willingly share Thy blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Thy gifts, and abide in Thy grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Thy judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Strange Parable

This parable is the strangest of all parables, but we have to look at the intentions of Jesus.

A lot of people clustered around Jesus for the benefits. Enormous crowds followed Him, but they left the moment He said something they did not like. One example is in John 6, when they said, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” And they left.

Jesus often questioned their motivation, since they liked the mass feedings and the miracles.

Therefore, the parables were designed only for believers to understand. When an unbeliever hears this parable, or if someone listens to it superficially, it is a complete puzzle.

The plot itself is rather simple. The manager of the estate has done a poor job, so he is going to be fired. To provide for himself, he goes to those who owe his master money and lowers their bills, making them his friends. We expect the master to imprison the steward for costing him money, but he commends the steward instead. If that is not confusing enough, Jesus offers the unjust steward as an example for believers – for the children of light.

How do we make sense of this – Make friends for yourself of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the everlasting habitations?

Anyone can say, without being contradicted, that the church leaders of today have been unjust stewards of the treasures they were given. Unjust is another word for unrighteous.

The squandering of the treasure is obvious. ELCA comes to mind first, especially if someone has read the classics from the 19th and 20th centuries, all from ELCA pioneers: Reu, Jacobs, Krauth, Lenski, et al. My wife and I were talking about the congregation and pastor I worked for in Kitchener, Ontario. He was so conservative and liturgical by today’s standards that he could not get a call in most areas of WELS, Missouri, or the ELS. But, after 40 years, that same congregation is conducting homosexual weddings and already had an Anglican bishop as an interim pastor.

WELS, Missouri and the mini-micro synods want to use ELCA to make themselves look good, but they have squandered just as much, with the same speed. My first visit to a Missouri church took place in high school – a matter of curiosity for those of us who had never been to one. We met at a school gym and used the 1941 hymnal, which was very much like the one we used. At our allegedly liberal LCA congregation, youth meetings consisted of using the hymnal to learn liturgical services like Vespers and to sing Lutheran hymns. The ministers wore liturgical robes (not Geneva academic gowns) and sometimes chanted.

Now Missouri and WELS think youth gatherings should be as pagan as rock concerts. In fact, they are rock concerts and the rock n roll has moved into the Sunday service itself.

Thus far the parable. The wealth has been squandered. In the Bible, wealth is primarily the spiritual treasures of the Gospel, since money is a small matter to God.

The spiritual treasures have been squandered to such an extent that frauds either promote Roman Catholic or Fuller doctrine and call themselves “confessional Lutherans.” My Shelties know more about Lutheran doctrine than the DPs and seminary professors, so the frauds all promote one another and praise one another, world without end, Amen.

So what should we do, according to the parable? Even a bad, lazy, crooked steward knows what to do. He makes friends with that same mammon (money) he has squandered. He was foolish before but now he is wise. They will take him in when he is fired from his stewardship, because he has befriended them.

Jewish reasoning is often from the minor to the major. In other words, if this bad steward can figure it out, so should the believers – but they are often foolish.

Jesus never said, “Be crooked and wily.” He said, “Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

So, if an unjust steward can figure this out, why not follow him in his cleverness?

People long for the power and money of the established churches. But what they do have is far more powerful. They have the free use of the Word and many ways to spread that Word of God for free.

A few people have noticed that it is possible to communicate with 20,000 people for free, all over the world, when others spend millions to do the same thing.

This is one way to make friends in the best sense, to unite people according to their faith in the Word of God.

It is strange that everything gets turned upside down. Money itself has only short-term use and has no eternal value. The treasure of the Gospel is a blessing now and in eternity.

When we help people out, we often complain, “We did not get any thanks for it or even a returned favor.” That is really a barter situation, not a gift. If I get a returned favor or thanks, I am not truly giving something away, whether it is my time or something with monetary value.

This parable teaches, “Make friends with money and they will speak for you when you get to heaven.” (Luther) I see this as encouragement to think of those who receive from us as our defense lawyers when we reach Judgment Day. The New Testament has an odd way of balancing faith alone and those good works which follow faith. The good works are a visible testimony to our faith. They do not add to, do not complete faith (as the papalists teach). It is a matter of order.

The situation will be reversed in many cases. There will those who reach Judgment Day who have been honored by the visible church for funding all their buildings. But if they broke up their own families and others, if they lied and cheated people through life, will God be impressed with their honorary doctorate from Fleabit College? Who will speak for them? The apostate church leaders will already be on slow roast.

The early Christians took note of the advice given by Jesus. They had nothing and were nothing, but they spread the Gospel throughout the world. They used hospitality the way we use the Internet today. They had secret signals, like the fish. Deprived of great marble temples, they used the tombs below ground. Persecuted, they took the Gospel to new places. Imprisoned, they preached to their jailers (see Acts) and baptized them. Slain, they died in peace in front of raging beasts, shaking pagan Rome to The CORE.