Sunday, June 5, 2011
Exaudi, The Sunday after the Ascension, 2011
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 9 O Day of Rest 1:89
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
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #237 All Glory Be 1:12
Stewards of the Manifold Grace of God
The Communion Hymn # 341 Crown Him 1:70
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 #261 Lord Keep Us Steadfast 1:93
KJV 1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. 16:1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. 2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks unto Thee, that through Thy Holy Spirit Thou hast appointed us to bear witness of Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: We beseech Thee, inasmuch as the world cannot endure such testimony, and persecutes us in every way, grant us courage and comfort, that we may not be offended because of the cross, but continue steadfastly in Thy testimony, and be found always among those who know Thee and Thy Son, until we obtain eternal salvation through the same, Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Gaost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Stewards of the Manifold Grace of God
1 Peter: 4 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
There are only two classes of Christian leaders.
The Lords of the Church
The majority think of themselves as lords, with special privileges and powers, with claims because of birthright. They often make their claims based on the seminaries they attended, although no one thinks much of that particular school outside of the denomination. The lords take care of each other, marry into each other’s families for dynastic reasons, and protect each other when inevitable scandals erupt.
The English system of “a jury of his peers” arose so that a lord did not have to sit in front of a jury of peasants he had abused. His jury could only be made up of lords. Similarly, when a lord of the church is in trouble, he is judged only by other lords, who never find anything wrong.
In the LCA, when a bishop (district president) had a legendary break-down and did not even show up for work, he was given one of the largest congregations in the country to manage, so his staff could do his work for him.
These lords love false doctrine, which devolves into salvation by works and various heresies of the day. Salvation by works is handy for raising money. Heresies are good ways to confuse and bewilder the laity while identifying the wrong type of clergy, the ones who must be punished. No, not the heretics – but the ones who see through the heresy of the day.
The Stewards of the Manifold Grace
The second group is much smaller, because they take seriously their ordination vows. They are not lords, but stewards.
A steward is the old English word for manager. Sometimes a steward was placed on the throne until the king came of age. The steward was never considered the king, and he knew his role was to preserve the kingdom for the actual king.
Steward is used in the New Testament for the manager (steward) of the estate. He has a lot of authority, but that is used only to benefit the owner or lord of the estate. A faithful steward is someone who does his work so that the resources of the estate are preserved and protected, even expanded.
Ordination vows and countless passages in the Bible show that the only possible role for a pastor is that of steward. For that reason, the others are identified as wolves, hired hands, and tyrants.
Tyranny in religion is easy to adopt and protect. Almost everyone subscribes to a form of religion, so those who claim to be leaders can attract followers who will obey almost anything. Now we think it is absurd that anyone allowed human sacrifice as part of religion, but we have supposedly Christian leaders praying for the same, in the name of “abortion rights” and “women’s rights.” They spend vast amounts of offering money to lobby politicians to keep genocidal laws on the books. Nothing is really more tyrannical than an ongoing war against unborn babies, not to mention the damage caused to parents and all of society through this genocide.
Steward of the Manifold Grace of God
The manifold grace of God is another way of saying the Gospel. The word Gospel is used often, but most of the time the term is abused.
Although the Holy Spirit works through the Law, its role is limited. The Law stirs up knowledge of sin without solving the problem of sin. The Law makes us feel the guilt of sin but the Law cannot forgive our sins. All the “transforming” preachers of today use the Law to make people feel they do are not producing the fruit of the Gospel, but those law condemnations do not produce the desired fruit. The law programs to do that only make matters worse, filling people with notions of being holier than the rest.
This is important to realize from Luther. The Gospel alone forgives, saves, and bears the fruit of the Spirit. Some people distort that thought to embrace Antinomianism. Agricola, a brilliant man who wrote part of the Small Catechism, fell into that spirit time after time. The anti-law people are still with us, within the fold, where they can tear the flock and murder the sheep.
“The Gospel shows the Father’s grace…” When we speak of the Gospel, it is nothing but grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness. I realize people want to get the Law in there, and I mentioned that already. But the Gospel passages of the Bible, from Gen 3:15 on, are nothing but promise, forgiveness, and mercy.
The Law makes us fearful, but the Gospel gives us peace through forgiveness of sin. That forgiveness is complete and free. That is why the law-salesmen become so angry and vindictive, when their kingdom of merits is threatened in any way. They want people enslaved by their man-made laws, not set free by the Gospel. They want people to ignore the Word for their words (which are never-ending).
The stewards of God’s manifold grace must make sure that everyone knows the difference between Law and Gospel, discerning false doctrine, condemning it as a tool of Satan.
No one would bother with my little blogs if I simply stuck to quoting Luther, talking about the Gospel, and wishing we were back in the good old days. But – when their false doctrine is identified and the flocks are warned, they become enraged. They want to feast on mutton at their leisure, wear the finest wool, and do as little work as possible.
The old style of pastoral work was preach, teach, and visit. Pastoral visitations were constant, first to the shut-ins and hospitalized, second to prospective members, and never neglecting the spiritually inert. In one parish I was warned not to visit one family, because “they would never come back.” They came back were leaders in the congregation again. In another situation I worked five years to get a husband to attend, which was grief for his wife (his non-attendance). I worked with their new pastor when they moved, and the husband began attending every Sunday.
The Gospel in action is a mouth church – preaching, teaching, visiting. The opposite is planning, organizing, and being busy for the sake of bragging about “programs.” At the bottom of this decline is organizing baseball to get prospects to join. The Mormons, in days past, did the same with Boy Scouts. Those efforts say, “The church is everything except the Word of God.” No wonder the spiritually starved look for religious sustenance and often end up with cults that tell them how the Law will save them.
I used to wonder how Pentecostal churches filled up during the week. It was simple. They were ordered to attend. They were ordered to pay a lot of money for their notebooks for that day. They were ordered to bring their children, who were sequestered in another part of the building. One Pentecostal minister ordered his members to come up with $35,000 for new carpeting over the next week – and that was when 35k was a lot of money.
The Gospel in a Few Steps
The Gospel is simple to understand but easy to lose in the chaos of heresies and paganism around us. I kelmed myself below:
God's will is carried out only through His Word, and this Word is always united with the divine energy of His Holy Spirit. Isaiah 55:8-11.
The efficacious Word of God created the universe in six days and converts the blind, hardened unbeliever into a new creation. This same Word continues to work in the believer, to encourage godly contrition and sustain his faith in Christ.
The Holy Spirit works through the Law to condemn our sins against the Ten Commandments, our spiritual sins (First Table) against God, which lead to the more visible sins against our neighbor (Second Table).
God uses the preaching and teaching of the Gospel to plant and sustain faith in the crushed hearts of contrite sinners. The Gospel message is summarized:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." KJV John 3:16.
The proclamation of the Gospel is carried out through the invisible Word of preaching and teaching, the visible Word of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. God grants grace only through His instruments, the Means of Grace.
Those who believe in the Gospel of Christ receive what He has promised, complete and free forgiveness of sin. God declares that person forgiven - justification by faith. Romans 5:1-2.
The fruits of the Spirit follow from faith in Christ, and God is glorified by all things done in faith. Those who wish to harvest more for the Kingdom should broadcast the Word with complete abandon, trusting in God's Promises.
The Gospel in Our Lives
To enjoy the benefits of the Gospel, we abide in the Means of Grace, the Word and Sacraments. They are the treasures of the Church which give us 100% of the blessings God wishes to impart to us.
Abiding in the Gospel also means dwelling on the Word throughout the week, in study, meditation, prayer, and edifying music. A Gospel hymn is a proclamation of God’s grace, just as a Biblical text is. The difference is that a Gospel hymn is a confession of faith, an expression of thanks, while the Biblical text is God’s own revelation.
The Confessions are also important, especially in this anti-Creed age. The Confessions guide us back to the truth of the Word and away from popular, attractive falsehoods.
Hearing the Gospel also means living the Gospel, being patient and forgiving toward the faults in others. That does not include false doctrine, of course. But most of our irritations in life are from rather small things, where a dose of patience and forgiveness will accomplish far more than the law can ever do.
Two grandchildren were fussing over a toy yesterday. I said to Alexander (age 5), “Don’t lose your temper.”
He said, “I don’t have a tempa.” There was a pause.
“I have a little tempa.”
That self-knowledge did not come from a child’s heart, but from patient instruction. In that way, parents are stewards of God’s manifold grace in the most important school their children will ever attend – the home.
"We have the comfort of this victory of Christ—that He maintains His Church against the wrath and power of the devil; but in the meantime we must endure such stabs and cruel wounds from the devil as are necessarily painful to our flesh and blood. The hardest part is that we must see and suffer all these things from those who call themselves the people of God and the Christian Church. We must learn to accept these things calmly, for neither Christ nor the saints have fared better."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 263. Exaudi John 15:26-16:4.
"From these two convictions—that they do not know Him and that they persecute and slay His advocates—Christ now passes the judgment that the so-called Church is not the Church. He then concludes that with their false doctrines and persecutions they are both liars and murderers of God and of Christ and of all His saints."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 270. Exaudi John 15:26-16:4.
"It is not the devil's aim to plague us physically; he is a spirit who is always thirsting for the tears and the drops of blood that come from our hearts. He wants us to despair and to perish from sadness. This would be his joy and delight. But he will not succeed."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1244. John 15:19.
"Nevertheless, He has said that the Holy Spirit should testify of him and that they also should bear witness; and He assures them that their testimony shall not be effaced by this rage and persecution of the world."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 258. Exaudi John 15:26-16:4.