The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn #292 Lord Jesus Christ 1:2
The Confession of Sins
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 Romans 13:8-10
The Gospel Matthew 8:23-27
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #142 A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining 1:21
A Little Faith
The Hymn #192 Awake My Heart 1:22
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 #281 The Savior Calls 1:29
KJV Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
KJV Matthew 8:23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in Thy divine wisdom and fatherly goodness makest Thy children to bear the cross, and sendest divers afflictions upon us to subdue the flesh, and quicken our hearts unto faith, hope and unceasing prayer: We beseech Thee to have mercy upon us, and graciously deliver us out of our trials and afflictions, so that we may perceive Thy grace and fatherly help, and with all saints forever praise and worship Thee; through Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen. Amen.
Even a Little Faith Is Good
“The lake lies between high hills and is thus subject to sudden tempests which develop excessive fury as they roar through the great trough in which the lake lies. Some commentators think that more than natural causes were involved in this storm. We see no necessity for making the devil or the presence of Judas in the boat responsible for this storm, and we cannot accept the allegories which some commentators propose, such as that where Jesus is present upheavals must occur. We likewise consider out of place the discussion about the two natures of Jesus and such questions as: did his deity sleep? did he foreknow the coming of the storm? and similar questions. The storm was brought about in the providence of God in whose hand are all the forces of nature. The peaceful sleep of Jesus is due to the total absence of fear in his heart and to his absolute trust in his Father’s care.
25) And having come to him, they aroused him, saying, Lord, save! We are perishing! Matthew is still the most dramatic evangelist, only Luke approaches him in this respect. The fact that these disciples should come to Jesus for help is astounding. A number of them were expert sailors who knew all about handling a boat and who had been in many a violent storm on this lake. They appeal to Jesus who had never handled boats but had worked as a carpenter with his father in Nazareth. How could a former carpenter help these expert sailors when all their skill was at an end, and death in the roaring waves was their certain fate? In the providence of God this storm brought to view such faith as they really had. Completely at the end of their own resources in which they had always had great pride and confidence, they now cast themselves upon Jesus as their only hope. They forget that he had never sailed a boat; they think not of human but of divine ability in him. They abandon all human help, the best of which they possessed in their own skill; they cast themselves completely into the divine hands of Jesus.
That was faith. But their terror, their resort to Jesus only in their extremity, their fear of death in the waves are not faith but littleness of faith, which is in glaring contrast with the calmness of Jesus. This littleness of faith God’s providence also revealed. They aroused Jesus, broke in on his sleep.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 345
There are two ways to emphasize the lesson of this Gospel, concerning faith. I will outline them, as found in Luther’s sermons. In the famous Weimar edition, there are 30 volumes of his sermons. Even Lenker (my favorite editor) has multiple versions on his sermon for the same text, and they are long.
Fear Is the Opposite of Faith
The first is to emphasize the fear and lack of faith of the disciples. That is an important correlation because the opposite of fear is not courage - but faith. As Luther noted, fear is based upon reason and experience. Faith is trust in the power and mercy of God. The disciples believed in Jesus, but fear overcame them when the waves threatened to demolish the boat and drown them.
Matthew 8:24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
“A ship is like a prison, only you can drown.” They were using a boat that was designed for stability. Going straight across a large body of water is much easier than walking around it, unless a storm brews up. Although I have missed this experience, I have read how terrifying a storm at sea can be. After all, one sank a giant ore ship, the Edmund Fitzgerald, in seconds, and we still do not know how that happened.
A storm at sea or on a large body of water will erase all sense of position. The sky and water merge together in blackness. Worst of all, the waves rise up and crash down, tossing the craft and dousing its passengers. Fear is contagious. When we travel by air, I never worry until the stewardesses get nervous and buckle their seat belts, with the cart safely tucked away.
Whenever we face danger, all the bad experiences come to mind. The more we know, the more likely we will see all the bad signs and their implications. The disciples knew the stories about people lost during a storm, and they were quite experienced as fishermen. Their problem was not ignorance, but experience and knowledge. Once fear welled up in them, faith in Jesus went out the window.
A Little Faith Is Commended.
But in the House Sermons I was reading this week, Luther emphasizes that a little faith is good in the disciples, because they sought the help of Jesus, waking him up. The House Sermons were delivered to the residents of his home, an old monastery. They often had 25 people in residence.
Luther believed in the power of preaching, so he did not neglect his family, servants, and guests. Lest you think he lived in luxury, they barely scraped along. Luther generously gave away money donated to him. For example, he turned a generous gift over to newly-weds who were staying there. Katie worked extra to provide for everyone.
Luther’s point in the House Sermon is that the disciples were overcome with fear, but they trusted in Jesus enough to turn to Him in time of trouble.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
The modern Lutherans rail against faith because they have no concept of what Luther teaches in his sermons, what the Bible says, and what the Book of Concord confesses. These modern Lutherans are consumed with the arguments of the Calvinists against the Arminians, which is another story, since the Arminians did teach faith as a virtue, in other words, as a work. The modern Lutherans think this way because they have no grasp of the efficacious of the Word in the Means of Grace. Talking with them is like debating with a Baptist about infant baptism. No matter what is said, they come back to their talking points.
Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?
Luther, as a man who taught and knew the entire Bible, understood faith to be trust in the power and mercy of God, which is displayed always in the Word. One of his comparisons is quite easy to remember, especially since gold is so valuable now.
Whether we have gold wrapped up in a tissue, held in the hand, or locked in a safe, it is the same gold. The value of the metal is not changed in any way by what holds it. In the same way, faith is trust in God, with the emphasis upon God. The faith of a child is no different from the faith of a theologian, because both hold the same treasure, which is the Gospel.
In many cases, the faith of a child is purer than a theologian’s because the child has not been trained to doubt, rationalize, and change the meaning of the Gospel. Whenever I have asked children about how Jesus could walk on the water, turn water into wine, raise the dead, and feed the multitudes, the child has said, without any help, “Because He is God. God can do anything.”
Obviously, the railing against “faith as a work, faith as a virtue” is nonsense coming from Lutherans. They should know that faith is trust, and that trust in God’s Word is the chief characteristic of the Christian.
Trust in God’s Word leads to all the blessings of the Christian life, because the Holy Spirit works through the Word at all times. The person who doubts the Word will harden his heart against the Word until he is no longer a believer but an enemy of the Faith. I have seen this happen to many ministers I have known. The collapse of faith is more notable, because of the gap between what was taught and what is now rejected. In contrast, the mainline ministers may continue along the same way, never really believing and having nothing to give up. Their Father Below takes good care of them until the end. Then they find out the delusions they have held so close to their stony bosoms.
This Gospel lesson teaches us that “little faith” is also sufficient in time of trouble, because that faith is in Christ when we cry to Him for help.
Luther observed that being a Christian means “even the weather is against him.” How sad that few are told this. They turn bitter when they do not realize how difficult it can be. Yet God allows this experience so the glory is His when He delivers us from trouble.
Luther admitted in his House Sermon that he felt overwhelmed when facing the Imperial Diet at Augsburg, 1530. As you may recall, he was under such a threat of death that he could not be in the same town. He had to write letters back and forth while Melanchthon served as the representative for the cause of the Gospel.
From Luther’s standpoint, the entire Empire was rising up against the Gospel, like a giant rogue wave, ready to dash everything to pieces and kill the Lutheran Reformation, which was barely started. The Emperor despised the Lutherans and later almost completely conquered them.
However, something intervened after Augsburg. The Moslem armies were threatening Vienna and all of Europe. The Emperor was a great military leader, so he went off to gather armies to battle the Muslims. He was occupied for many years, so the Lutheran Reformation took root in his absence.
Historians call this luck, while believers call it God’s providence and mercy.
Matthew 8:26b Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
We have so little control over events, even the smallest ones. But here Jesus rebukes the weather and “even the wind and waves obey Him.”
This happened so we know the extent of God’s power in the Word. He gives us many different proofs of how He can change things in an instant, beyond anyone’s comprehension or imagination.
That is why the Word moves people to pray. We are moved by the power of the Word to trust in the love and mercy of God. “Merciful Savior. Through the Word, you stilled the storm, turned water into wine, and raised the dead…” What is difficult for God after considering and remembering those miracles?
The Word is effective when:
1. It is heard.
2. It is read.
3. It is remembered.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit is active when we dwell on the Word, abide in the Means of Grace. I kidded LI that his computer certification was close to the initials of a Roman Catholic order – the Spiritans, or the Holy Ghost Fathers. They have an interesting history. The Pentecostals would also like to claim the Holy Spirit.
But the Holy Spirit works only through the Word of God. The Spirit is not conjured up apart from the Word, and God never works apart from the Word.
The Word declares us forgiven through faith, because of the grace of God.
The Word consecrates the earthly elements so we commune with Christ, who builds our faith, takes away our sin, and prepares us for eternal life with this unique soul food.
The Word guides and directs us at all times, bearing fruit in a thousand ways.
Efficacy In The Book Of Concord
"Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc.' Matthew 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men."
Augsburg Confession, VIII. What the Church Is, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 47. Matthew 23:2. Tappert, p. 33. Heiser, p. 13.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession
"For Christ wishes to assure us, as was necessary, that we should know that the Word delivered by men is efficacious, and that no other word from heaven ought to be sought. 'He that heareth you heareth Me,' cannot be understood of traditions. For Christ requires that they teach in such a way that [by their mouth] He Himself be heard, because He says: 'He heareth Me.' Therefore He wishes His own voice, His own Word, to be heard, not human traditions."
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XXVIII. #18. Eccles. Power, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 449. Tappert, p. 284. Heiser, p. 134.
The Large Catechism
"Besides, it is an exceedingly effectual help against the devil, the world, and the flesh and all evil thoughts to be occupied with the Word of God, and to speak of it, and meditate upon it, so that the First Psalm declares those blessed who meditate upon the Law of God day and night. Undoubtedly, you will not start a stronger incense or other fumigation against the devil than by being engaged upon God's commandments and words, and speaking, singing, or thinking of them. For this is indeed the true holy water and holy sign from which he flees, and by which he may be driven away."
The Large Catechism, Preface, #10, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 570f. Tappert, p. 359f. Heiser, p. 167.
"For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words."
The Large Catechism, Third Commandment. #100. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 609. Tappert, p. 378f. Heiser, p. 175f.
"Thus it appears what a great, excellent thing Baptism is, which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God's own, suppresses and takes away sin, and then daily strengthens the new man; and is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory."
The Large Catechism, Part Fourth, Of Baptism. #83. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 751. Tappert, p. 446. Heiser, p. 209.
Formula of Concord
"Therefore, before the conversion of man there are only two efficient causes, namely, the Holy Ghost and the Word of God, as the instrument of the Holy Ghost, by which He works conversion. This Word man is [indeed] to hear; however, it is not by his own powers, but only through the grace and working of the Holy Ghost that he can yield faith to it and accept it."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, II, Of the Free Will, #19, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 791. Tappert, p. 472. Heiser, p. 219.
"And although God, according to His just, strict sentence, has utterly cast away the fallen evil spirits forever, He has nevertheless, out of special, pure mercy, willed that poor fallen human nature might again become and be capable and participant of conversion, the grace of God and eternal life; not from its own natural, active [or effective] skill, aptness, or capacity (for the nature of man is obstinate enmity against God), but from pure grace, through the gracious efficacious working of the Holy Ghost." Luther, Psalm 90.
Formula of Concord, SD, II, #20. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 889. Tappert, p. 525. Heiser, p. 243.
"Thirdly, in this manner, too, the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely to the divine working and the Holy Ghost, as also the Apology teaches."
Formula of Concord, SD II. #25. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 891. Tappert, p. 526. Heiser, p. 244.
"For this reason we shall now relate, furthermore, from God’s Word how man is converted to God, how and through what means [namely, through the oral Word and the holy Sacraments] the Holy Ghost wants to be efficacious in us, and to work and bestow in our hearts true repentance, faith, and new spiritual power and ability for good, and how we should conduct ourselves towards these means, and [how we should] use them."
Formula of Concord SD II. #48. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 901. Tappert, p. 530. Heiser, p. 246.
"Now, all who wish to be saved ought to hear this preaching [of God’s Word]. For the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are instruments of the Holy Ghost, by, with, and through which He desires to work efficaciously, and to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to do. This Word man can externally hear and read, even though he is not yet converted to God and regenerate; for in these external things, as said above, man even since the Fall has to a certain extent a free will, so that he can go to church and hear or not hear the sermon."
Formula of Concord, SD, II, #52. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 901f. Tappert, p. 531. Heiser, p. 246.
"Now, although both, the planting and watering of the preacher, and the running and willing of the hearer, would be in vain, and no conversion would follow it if the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost were not added thereto, who enlightens and converts the hearts through the Word preached and heard, so that men believe this Word and assent thereto, still, neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but should be certain that when the Word of God is preached purely and truly, according to the command and will of God, and men listen attentively and earnestly and meditate upon it, God is certainly present with His grace, and grants, as has been said, what otherwise man can neither accept nor give from his own powers."
Formula of Concord SD II. #55-56. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 903. Tappert, p. 531f. Heiser, p. 246.
"The other eating of the body of Christ is oral or sacramental, when the true, essential body and blood of Christ are also orally received and partaken of in the Holy Supper, by all who eat and drink the consecrated bread and wine in the Supper—by the believing as a certain pledge and assurance that their sins are surely forgiven them, and Christ dwells and is efficacious in them, but by the unbelieving for the judgment and condemnation, as the words of the institution by Christ expressly declare..."
Formula of Concord, SD, VII. #63. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 995. Tappert, p. 581. Heiser, p. 270.
"For the true and almighty words of Jesus Christ which He spake at the first institution were efficacious not only at the first Supper, but they endure, are valid, operate, and are still efficacious [their force, power, and efficacy endure and avail even to the present], so that in all places where the Supper is celebrated according to the institution of Christ, and His words are used, the body and blood of Christ are truly present, distributed, and received, because of the power and efficacy of the words which Christ spake at the first Supper. For where His institution is observed and His words are spoken over the bread and cup [wine], and the consecrated bread and cup [wine] are distributed, Christ Himself, through the spoken words, is still efficacious by virtue of the first institution, through His word, which He wishes to be there repeated."
Formula of Concord, SD VII, #75. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 999. Tappert, p. 583. Heiser, p. 270f.
"Also, Tom. III, Jena, Fol. 446: 'Thus here also, even though I should pronounce over all the words: This is Christ's body, nothing, of course, would result therefrom; but when in the Supper we say, according to His institution and command: 'This is My body,' it is His body, not on account of our speaking or word uttered [because these words, when uttered, have this efficacy], but because of His command—that He has commanded us thus to speak and to do, and has united His command and act with our speaking."
Formula of Concord, SD VII, #78. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1001. Tappert, p. 583. Heiser, p. 271.
"Now, it is not our faith that makes the Sacrament, but only the true word and institution of our almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ, which always is and remains efficacious in the Christian Church, and is not invalidated or rendered inefficacious by the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister, nor by the unbelief of the one who receives it."
Formula of Concord, SD VII, #89. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1003. Tappert, p. 585. Heiser, p. 272.
"1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocence] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life. 2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments. 3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith. 4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life." ..."God in His purpose and counsel ordained [decreed]:
Formula of Concord, SD, XI. #15. Of God's Eternal Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1069. 2 Corinthians 5:19ff. Tappert, p. 619. Heiser, p. 288.
"And this call of God, which is made through the preaching of the Word, we should not regard as jugglery, but know that thereby God reveals His will, that in those whom He thus calls He will work through the Word, that they may be enlightened, converted, and saved. For the Word, whereby we are called, is a ministration of the Spirit, that gives the Spirit, or whereby the Spirit is given, 2 Corinthians 3:8, and a power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16. And since the Holy Ghost wishes to be efficacious through the Word, and to strengthen and give power and ability, it is God's will that we should receive the Word, believe and obey it."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #29. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1073. 2 Corinthians 3:8; Romans 1:16. Tappert, p. 621. Heiser, p. 289.
"For few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word, and will not come to the wedding, Matthew 22:3ff. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge [or predestination], but the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says, 'How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!' Matthew 23:37."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #41. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1077. Matthew 22:3ff.; 23:37. Tappert, p. 623. Heiser, p. 290.
"Moreover, the declaration, John 6:44, that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order [the order decreed and instituted by Himself], by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto [to holy preaching], hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it..."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #76-77. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1089. John 6:44. Tappert, p. 629. Heiser, p. 293.