|By Norma Boeckler|
KJV Luke 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus
answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one
thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Ash Wednesday, 2012
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
The Hymn #552 Abide with Me 2.11
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 1 p. 123
The Lection Joel 2:12-19
The Sermon Hymn # 17 O Worship the King 2.44
The Sermon – Rend Your Heart, Not Your Garments
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45
The Hymn # 429 Lord, Thee I Love 2.54
KJV Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? 18 Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people. 19 Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:
KJV Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst manifest Thyself, with the Holy Ghost, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Thy dear Son, and with Thy voice didst direct us to Him who hath borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech Thee, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Thy command, and the example of Thy dear Son, we pray Thee to strengthen our faith by Thy Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and 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.
Rend Your Heart, Not Your Garments
The commonly accepted form of repentance is often portrayed in the media, and it always happens after someone is caught.
The outward gestures are always advertised. Lately that means checking in at the Betty Ford Center and blaming parents (who are not there to defend themselves).
This continues to be the normal perception of repentance, and everything is associated with what is visible, outward, and easily condemned.
There are many outward signs of contrition today, and some services use ashes for that. According to one tradition, the ashes of burnt palm leaves are used from the year before. That serves to remind people that hailed Jesus on Palm Sunday, but He was crucified anyway.
Whether someone uses ashes or not, the truest form of contrition is inward rather than outward. In the last few years people have used Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as the standards for correct worship, but both deny justification by faith, because they add works. They also associate many errors with their worship, such as a concentration upon Mary that goes far beyond the Biblical portrait.
Worship proclaims doctrine, and doctrine directly affects worship. That is why those Lutherans who worship at Babtist conferences bring home that same Babtist theology. Those who gradually adopt Roman practices sinuflect (genuflect in a winding, snake-like way) toward Catholicism.
That does not settle whether one practice or another is correct. But the troubling fact is a focus on the outward act rather than the inward and invisible thought.
Across America there will be many confessions of sin tonight – confessing that we have hurt the environment, have not been sensitive, have failed to redeem society with an ever-changing agenda, and so forth.
The Old Pietists focus on the sins of the flesh, while the New Pietists rail against the sins of conservatism and traditional Christianity. Long ago, at one wedding, the congregational prayers included the exhortation that “American get out of Central America.” They had forgotten the concept of marriage as an institution created by God’s Word. For the modernly pious, a wedding was an opportunity to promote a political agenda.
The Central America prayer was so out of place that it reminded me of a scene in a book (also movie) about a Methodist minister. He fell asleep during the prayers, which were shared by many different people. He woke up with a start and said in a commanding voice, “God bless the pots.” His children never let him forget.
Pietism is a religion of Law, where the solution to sin is more Law. Old Pietists have to pledge they will never smoke, never take a drink, never go to the theater.
Methodists wrote out their liquor pledge once a year and turned it in.
New Pietism substitutes government Law. If something is wrong, such as bullying or hating, then a law must be passed against it, to make it a crime against society.
People go along with a Law approach because it anti-Biblical, and we live in an unbelieving age, where people do not say, “Where is my responsibility?”
We have endless displays of garments being torn, but very little rending of the heart.
Ask people – What is contrition or repentance, and they will repeat scenes from trials where the criminal says, “Words cannot express how sorry I am.” That is one of the oddities of this age, using words to say “Words cannot express…” That would be called irony – the theme of the blog today.
Contrition and repentance are defined as feelings. The worse the feeling, the greater the sorrow, the deeper the repentance, the more sincere the contrition.
Anyone who can cry on cue has a definite advantage, because we actually do like to see repentance, even when it is faked.
But Jesus has a completely different perspective to offer, and Luther emphasized this with great consistency.
The Holy Spirit’s role is to convict the world of sin. John 16:8f. If Jesus had not explained it more, everyone would have been left alone with their previous bad ideas. In fact, our ideas are so bad that we forget this passage and go back to wrong conceptions.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, but what is sin, according to Jesus Christ?
Sin is not trusting completely in Him.
KJV John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more. 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
This passage is just as central in justification by faith as any other, but it also contains an antidote against the wrong conception of contrition or repentance.
Self-justification is proclaiming one’s extreme emotional distress and announcing good works to make up for those sins.
Justification by faith is relying on the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Simply put, believing in Christ is forgiveness.
As mentioned many times before, the Holy Spirit does not operate apart from the Word of God at any time. Therefore, this reference to the Holy Spirit could easily be replaced with the Word.
The Word of God will convict the world of sin, because they do not utterly trust in Christ.
The contrite person does not say, “I will stop all sins of the flesh,” a promise no one can keep, but “My sins are forgiven through God’s declaration of the Gospel Promises.” From that forgiveness comes the strength to resist temptation and to grow in the fruits of the Gospel.
The next phrase makes perfect sense in showing people how the Means of Grace assure people of their forgiveness. Christ will no longer be present with His disciples to teach them in person or to show them absolution. That day was coming soon.
The Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, will convict the believers of their righteousness, because the Word will bring the righteousness of Christ, the forgiveness of their sins, to them.
The world is far from freely and frankly admitting its sin. It, indeed, feels and knows its sin, especially the gross forms which are too evident to be denied. But always it seeks to cover up its sin, to excuse it in some way, to make it something less than real sin. The world everlastingly seeks “righteousness” in some form, either making itself the judge of its own case, or, when it thinks of God as the judge, conceiving him as a God who deals gently with sin. Thus men evolve their own schemes for appearing righteous. They may think that their good deeds outweigh or atone for their evil deeds; or they accept religions which teach work-righteousness as the true way to heaven. Always the world seeks to find and to secure righteousness for itself by efforts of its own. Often, in doing so, it makes the way hard for men (Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46), whereas the divine way to righteousness for the sinner is light and easy (Matt. 11:30). Thus one great feature of the Spirit’s work in the world is to convict the world in regard to righteousness.
“Concerning righteousness, inasmuch as I go away to the Father, and you behold me no more,” means that all true righteousness for the world of sinners is connected with Jesus, with his return to the Father from his redemptive mission, with the completion of his earthly work and the withdrawal of his visible presence from his disciples. Righteousness is the state of the sinner whom God acquits; all other acquittals by men or by human organizations are useless, they do not stand in the court of heaven.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1084.
"For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians know and have. For though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap, still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which can sanctify nobody. But God's Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were sanctified. At whatever hour, then, God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. Therefore I constantly say that all our life and work must be ordered according to God's Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled."
Large Catechism, Preface, #91, Third Commandment, Concordia Triglotta, 1921, p. 607. Tappert, p. 377.
"For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which could not attain ourselves."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #38, Concordia Triglotta, 1921, p. 689. Tappert, p. 415.
Luther: "True, the enthusiasts confess that Christ died on the cross and saved us; but they repudiate that by which we obtain Him; that is, the means, the way, the bridge, the approach to Him they destroy...They lock up the treasure which they should place before us and lead me a fool's chase; they refuse to admit me to it; they refuse to transmit it; they deny me its possession and use." (III, 1692)
The. Engelder, et al., Popular Symbolics, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 5.
"These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the Father, and are eternally saved." Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, III 10 Righteousness, Concordia Triglotta, 1921, p. 919.
"Early in the morning it rises, sits upon a twig and sings a song it has learned, while it knows not where to obtain its food, and yet it is not worried as to where to get its breakfast. Later, when it is hungry, it flies away and seeks a grain of corn, where God stored one away for it, of which it never thought while singing, when it had cause enough to be anxious about its food. Ay, shame on you now, that the little birds are more pious and believing than you; they are happy and sing with joy and know not whether they have anything to eat."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 114.
"These means are the true treasure of the church through which salvation in Christ is offered. They are the objective proclamation of faith which alone makes man's subjective faith possible (Augsburg Confession, Article V). The Formula of Concord (Solid Declaration, Article XI, 76) states expressly that God alone draws man to Christ and that he does this only through the means of grace."
Walter G. Tillmanns, "Means of Grace: Use of," The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 3 vols., Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965, II, p. 1505.
"It is a faithful saying that Christ has accomplished everything, has removed sin and overcome every enemy, so that through Him we are lords over all things. But the treasure lies yet in one pile; it is not yet distributed nor invested. Consequently, if we are to possess it, the Holy Spirit must come and teach our hearts to believe and say: I, too, am one of those who are to have this treasure. When we feel that God has thus helped us and given the treasure to us, everything goes well, and it cannot be otherwise than that man's heart rejoices in God and lifts itself up, saying: Dear Father, if it is Thy will to show toward me such great love and faithfulness, which I cannot fully fathom, then will I also love Thee with all my heart and be joyful, and cheerfully do what pleases Thee. Thus, the heart does not now look at God with evil eyes, does not imagine He will cast us into hell, as it did before the HS came...."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 279.
"Thus we see what a very splendid thing Baptism is. It snatches us from the jaws of the devil, makes us God's own, restrains and removes sin, and then daily strengthens the new man within us. It is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this state of misery to eternal glory. For this reason everyone should consider his Baptism as his daily dress, to be worn constantly. Every day he should be found in the faith and its fruits, suppressing the old man, and growing up in the new; for if we want to be Christians, we must practice the work whereby we are Christians. But if anyone falls from baptismal grace, let him return to it. For as Christ, the Mercy Seat, does not withdraw from us or forbid us to come to Him again even though we sin, so all His treasures and gifts also remain with us."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 61.
"(3) Hollazius (ib.): 'The Word of God, as such, cannot be conceived of without the divine virtue, or the Holy Spirit, who is inseparable from His Word. For if the Holy Spirit could be separated from the Word of God, it would not be the Word of God or of the Spirit, but a word of man. Nor is there any other Word of God, which is in God, or with which the men of God have been inspired, than that which is given in the Scriptures or is preached or is treasured up in the human mind. But, as it cannot be denied that that is the divine will, counsel, mind, and the wisdom of God, so it cannot be destitute of the divine virtue or efficacy.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans., Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 505.
Roman Catholic Indulgences
"Indulgences are, in the Church, a true spiritual treasure laid open to all the faithful; all are permitted to draw therefrom, to pay their own debts and those of others."
Rev. F. X. Schouppe, S.J., Purgatory, Illustrated by the Lives and Legends of the Saints, Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, 1973 (1893), p. 195.