Lutheran Worship and Resources

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Fourth Sunday in Advent:
Philippians 4:4

Christmas schedule - Christmas Eve, 7 PM Central Time - Candlelight Hymn service.
Christmas Day - printed sermon only - traveling south to be with LI's family

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 94 Hark, the Herald Angels                        3.19   
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 #90 Come, Your Hearts             3.83

The Peace of God

The Hymn # 103 – Luther            To Shepherds            3.82
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 #95 Savior of the Nations            3.42

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

KJV John 1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Fourth Sunday In Advent

Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto Thee, that Thou hast given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and hast therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Thy Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech Thee, in such faith in Thy grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Thy promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Thy Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Thy grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Peace of God

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Paul wrote this letter from prison. He was kept in prison for a long time, due to a scandal involving the emperor. He had hopes for justice, but the exact details of how this worked out are lost in history. The apostolic church did not carve marble statues of the apostles and preserve details of their lives. They focused upon the Gospel of Christ instead of the institution of the moment.

Paul’s prison letters are the most joyful, and this passage is a good example of that theme. It is ironic that John the Baptist and Paul ended their work in prison, yet the Gospel could not be tamed or chained.

4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Believing means forgiveness, so there is always rejoicing for the Christian. The attitude of a Christian is expressed in the next verse, although the exact word to use is difficult to find.

5 Let your moderation [Lindigkeit, yieldingness] be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

5) Your yieldingness, let it get to be known to all men! Ever filled with joy and happiness in all heavenly blessings that are ours, anything like rigorousness must be foreign to us, sweet gentleness, considerateness, Lindigkeit (Luther’s beautiful rendering) must ever emanate from us so that all men with whom we come in contact may get to realize, feel, and appreciate it (ingressive and effective aorist). Does this exclude people like those mentioned in 3:2? The question is evaded when it is remarked that Judaizers had not yet appeared in Philippi. Why should these or even pagan persecuters be excluded? Many will not appreciate this gentleness; but oh, the victories it has won among the worst enemies! Paul knows of no exception when he writes “all men.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 875

Lenski on moderation or Lindigkeit:
When we are preaching we should know just what is meant so that we may at least describe with exactness. Trench is a good teacher: the derivation is from εἴκω, ἔοικα, Latin cedo, hence the meaning is “yielding,” not insisting on one’s legal rights as these are often inserted into moral wrongs by making the summum jus the summa injuria. The word always refers to the treatment of others while “meekness” is an inner quality. Many angles converge in “yieldingness” such as clementia, aequitas, modestia. Even the Latin lacks a real equivalent. God and Christ exhibit what is meant. God deals so leniently with men, he remembers that we are dust, he withholds justice so long. Christ is gentle, kind, patient, more than only fair. Only our perverted reason would think that “yieldingness” might include a yielding of truth to error, of right to wrong, of virtue to vice and crime.
Kennedy quotes W. Pater’s Marius the Epicurean, which describes the spirit of the new Christian society as it appeared to a pagan: “As if by way of a clue, recognition of some immeasurable divine condescension manifest in a certain historic fact, its influence was felt more especially at those points, which demanded some sacrifice of one’s self, for the weak, for the aged, for little children, and even for the dead. And then, for its constant outward token, its significant manner or index, it issued in a certain debonair grace, and a certain mystic attractiveness, a courtesy, which made Marius doubt whether that famed Greek blithe-ness or gaiety or grace in the handling of life had been, after all, an unrivaled success.”
Yes, this is not the yieldingness of a slave or of an inferior but of a superior in a noble and generous spirit. The Christian keeps his high nobility, he condescends; he considers the weak and the needy and also the pitifulness of the world’s haughty and tyrannical. He has that purest and noblest grace which few are able to resist. All of this lies in this term epieikeia. Let it shine out from your joyous hearts!
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 876

Oswald Chambers is not a Lutheran but he had a lot to say about this term. One explanation is very fitting for our time. He said that being a Christian was not a matter of claiming rights but giving up rights.

We hear a constant clamor about individual rights and even animal rights. Today I saw a comical picture of a young woman hugging and kissing a tree.

But the problem is one of attitude. The unbelieving world is always outraged at the idea of its rights, privileges, and honors being harmed in some way. I witnessed a librarian fighting over a desk. The president moved out of the old library, so the librarian was promised the presidential desk. That did not happen, so the phone lines lit up. “They promised me the desk.” When that sort of friction over furniture is multiplied many times over by the entire population, chaos erupts. That is our society today.

There is enough of the Old Adam is each one of us to keep that going. But the New Creation (by the Word) resists that and substitutes a yielding nature. I remember watching my mother make pancakes on Sunday morning. Five people ate blueberry pancakes, as many as we wanted. I asked, “When do you get some?” She always ate last. The cook, I thought, was entitled to stop and eat, but she yielded. Mothers are the best example of this quality. Children seldom realize it.

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

The change in meaning for careful is used as an excuse for changing translations every few years. No one mentions the millions of dollars made when  everything printed has to be purchased again.

Careful means full of care or worry. Now we are inclined to say “anxious” instead. The context clearly shows what this spiritual advice means. Do not worry about your livelihood, your future, your children, but keep your requests before God – with thanksgiving, prayer, and

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Some congregations include “cares” into their URL, as if the congregation is doing the caring. The text says that Jesus cares for us, and if those words “Jesus cares” are used, then they should be applied uniformly, without denying help.

This lesson shows a definite divide between Lutherans and the non-Lutheran Protestants (who are similar to Roman Catholics in this regard). The non-Lutheran Protestants teach that people should pray Jesus into their hearts. That shows a misunderstanding in several ways:
  1. God’s grace comes to us through the Gospel, so when we believe, we are forgiven.
  2. Praying for forgiveness confuses prayer as the fruit of faith with conversion to the Christian faith. The moment one believes in Christ, that person is forgiven of all sins. Praying hard enough and long enough turns conversion into a work of man, a decision made by man.
  3. This approach makes people anxious about whether they have repented enough, prayed enough, suffered enough, yielded enough. In other words, the works of the Law are mixed with the free grace and mercy of Christ in the Gospel.

There is no way to escape these problems without the Means of Grace. God’s grace is not scary (as the UOJers on Lutherquest imagine) and does not “teach our hear to fear” (as Calvinist Newton wrote in “Amazing Grace,” the original words).

The Word is God’s instrument of grace. The Holy Spirit always accompanies the Word and never works apart from the Word. Therefore we know that God is at work in the teaching and preaching of the Gospel, in the visible Means of communion and baptism.

The Gospel promises create faith in our hearts, from the moment we are baptized, and these promises increase faith, which is nurtured  by abiding in the True Vine, Christ. John 15:1-10.

So there is a direct connection between the energy of the Gospel and prayer. That is why Paul always accompanied his admonitions to prayer with Gospel promises and testimony about God’s gracious work.

Turn to Psalm 73. There is the mind trying to guard and protect itself. “Why does God allow me to suffer so? Why does he allow the ungodly to flourish and thrive?” In v. 16 and 22 the psalmist confesses the inability of his own mind to protect itself from the assaults of such thoughts. In v. 23, 24 he makes the peace of God his refuge, where all his harassing thoughts are answered and brought to rest.
“In Christ Jesus” is to be construed with the verb and thus also with its two objects just as in Eph. 1:4, for the action is “in connection with Christ Jesus,” and the objects of that action cannot be in some other connection. As far as the feeling of peace (subjective) is concerned, we need scarcely say a word. Where the actual state of peace exists with its great guarding effects, how can the feeling of peace, the enjoyment of it, be absent? If the feeling ever declines, this divine guard will revive it. All we need is prayer, petition, asking, i. e., getting back under the protection of our guard, then we shall feel safe and happy again and shall joyfully offer thanksgiving.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 880

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This is not man’s wish but a statement of the Holy Spirit through Paul. It is normally used at the end of the sermon and has the Latin title of Votum – prayer. This little verse, so easy to take for granted, is another Promise of God. (Melanchthon uses Promises of God as a synonym for the Gospel, in the Book of Concord.)

The peace of God is the complete and free forgiveness of sins. That exceeds all understanding and comprehension of man. Therefore, it guards and protects our minds through the power of Christ. Whatever might torment us – that is shielded and defeated by the Gospel of Christ.


Advent IV

"Melanchthon, the Hamlet of the Reformation, shrinking from action into contemplation, with a dangerous yearning for a peace which must have been hollow and transient, had become more and more entangled in the complications of a specious but miserable policy which he felt made him justly suspected by those whose confidence in him had once been unlimited."
            Charles P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, Philadelphia: 1913 (1871), p. 85.         

"If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and reckon upon having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies, who will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where the Word of God is preached, accepted, or believed, and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be wanting. And let no one think that he shall have peace; but he must risk whatever he has upon earth--possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam; for the test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience in whatever way we are assailed, and to let go whatever is taken from us."
            Large Catechism, The Lord's Prayer, Third Petition, #65, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 715.     

"That forbearance which is a fruit of the Spirit retains its characteristic kindness whether directed toward friend or enemy, toward rich or poor."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 103.

"Prayer is made vigorous by petitioning; urgent, by supplication; by thanksgiving, pleasing and acceptable. Strength and acceptability combine to prevail and secure the petition."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 107.

"The Lord's Prayer opens with praise and thanksgiving and the acknowledgement of God as a Father; it earnestly presses toward Him through filial love and a recognition of fatherly tenderness. For supplication, this prayer is unequaled. Hence it is the sublimest and the noblest prayer ever uttered."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 107.

"This, mark you, is the peace of the cross, the peace of God, peace of conscience, Christian peace, which gives us even external calm, which makes us satisfied with all men and unwilling to disturb any. Reason cannot understand how there can be pleasure in crosses, and peace in disquietude; it cannot find these. Such peace is the work of God, and none can understand it until it has been experienced."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 111.

"The reference [the Votum] is simply to a disposition to trust and love God sincerely, and a willingness of heart and mind to serve God and man to the utmost. The devil seeks to prevent this state by terror, by revealing death and by every sort of misfortune; and by setting up human devices to induce the heart to seek comfort and help in its own counsels and in man. Thus led astray, the heart falls from trust in God to a dependence upon itself."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 111.

"Thus we have two parts, preaching and believing. His coming to us is preaching; His standing in our hearts is faith. For it is not sufficient that He stand before our eyes and ears; He must stand in the midst of us in our hearts, and offer and impart to us peace."
            Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., xd., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 355. John 20:19-31.       

"For the devil will not allow a Christian to have peace; therefore Christ must bestow it in a manner different from that in which the world has and gives, in that he quiets the heart and removes from within fear and terror, although without there remain contention and misfortune."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 380.

"Joy is the natural fruit of faith. The apostle says elsewhere (Galatians 5:22-23): 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.' Until the heart believes in God, it is impossible for it to rejoice in Him. When faith is lacking, man is filled with fear and gloom and is disposed to flee at the very mention, the mere thought, of God. Indeed, the unbelieving heart is filled with enmity and hatred against God. Conscious of its own guilt, it has no confidence in His gracious mercy; it knows God is an enemy to sin and will terribly punish the same."
            Sermons of Martin LutherVI, p. 93.

"To rejoice in the Lord--to trust, confide, glory and have pride in the Lord as in a gracious Father--this is a joy which rejects all else but the Lord, including that self-righteousness whereof Jeremiah speaks (9:23-24): 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth Me.'"
            Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 95.

"Now, suppose some blind, capricious individual intrudes, demanding as necessary the omission of this thing and the observance of that, as did certain Jews, and insisting that all men follow him and he none--this would be to destroy equality; indeed, even to exterminate Christian liberty and faith. Like Paul, in the effort to maintain liberty and truth, everyone should refuse to yield to any such demand."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 98.   

"Christ's kingdom grows through tribulations and declines in times of peace, ease and luxury, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:9 'My power is made perfect in weakness, etc.' To this end help us God! Amen."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 99.

"The ultimate purpose of afflictions is the mortification of the flesh, the expulsion of sins, and the checking of that original evil which is embedded in our nature. And the more you are cleansed, the more you are blessed in the future life. For without a doubt glory will follow upon the calamities and vexations which we endure in this life. But the prime purpose of all these afflictions is the purification, which is extremely necessary and useful, lest we snore and become torpid and lazy because of the lethargy of our flesh. For when we enjoy peace and rest, we do not pray, we do not meditate on the Word but deal coldly with the Scriptures and everything that pertains to God or finally lapse into a shameful and ruinous security."
            What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 18.

"The church is recognized, not by external peace but by the Word and the Sacraments. For wherever you see a small group that has the true Word and the Sacraments, there the church is if only the pulpit and the baptismal font are pure. The church does not stand on the holiness of any one person but solely on the holiness and righteousness of the Lord Christ, for He has sanctified her by Word and Sacrament."
            Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 263. Matthew 24:4-7.     

"When you preach or confess the Word, you will experience both without, among enemies, and also within, in yourself (where the devil himself will speak to you and prove how hostile he is to you), that he brings you into sadness, impatience, and depression, and that he torments you in all sorts of ways. Who does all this? Certainly not Christ or any good spirit, but the miserable, loathsome enemy...The devil will not bear to have you called a Christian and to cling to Christ or to speak or think a good word about Him. Rather he would gladly poison and permeate your heart with venom and gall, so that you would blaspheme: Why did He make me a Christian? Why do I not let Him go? Then I would at last have peace."
            Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 928.  

"We have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquility, and unity (which, moreover, is not in our power to do). Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ." (Closing of Formula of Concord, Triglotta. p. 1095)
            Francis Pieper, The Difference Between Orthodox And Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 65. 

"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war.”
            C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 28. 

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