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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

By Norma Boeckler

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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 d├ęcor – 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.

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