Lutheran Worship and Resources



Traditional Lutheran worship services, using The Lutheran Hymnal and the KJV.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream - Sunday, 10 AM Central.


Thanksgiving Eve - 7 PM Central Time.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works asgregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sunday after Christmas, 2012.
Luke 2:33ff.




The Sunday after Christmas, 2012

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn #79            Rejoice, Rejoice, This     4:77
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 #305:1-5            Soul, Adorn              4.25

 Holy Communion – The Visible Word

The Hymn #305:6-9                                Soul, Adorn              4.25
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 #657            Beautiful Savior                    4.24



KJV Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

KJV Luke 2:33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.



Sunday After Christmas

O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully direct our ways, that we may walk in Thy law, and be made to abound in good works: 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.

Holy Communion – The Visible Word


KJV Luke 2:33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

After Jesus was born, He was presented in the Temple. As Savior and Messiah, He lived according to Jewish law and custom. We can see how the Christian faith was established among Jews from the beginning.

God let His appointed servants see that the Messianic Promises were being fulfilled. The shepherds and Wise Men knew the truth from God. So did Simeon and Anna.

Lenski:
In v. 27 Luke wrote “the parents,” and he now in the same sense writes “his father and his mother,” knowing that his reader will understand in what sense “his father” is to be understood. Each parent is named separately instead of saying merely “his parents” wondered. The one was astonished as much as the other. How did this man know the mystery of the child? How did he single out their babe? More than that, their wonder was this that he should say such astounding things about the child. Simeon’s words went beyond Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:32, 33; 2:10, which referred only to Israel; Simeon included all the Gentile nations in the salvation that this child was bringing—reason, indeed, for astonishment at this new revelation!
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 152.

KJV Luke 2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Anna and Simeon were witnesses and evangelists, but so were the learned men who heard Jesus later, when He came to the Temple as a youth.



34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

This verse deserves careful reading, because there is a shift in the pronouns. Simeon blessed Joseph and Mary, but spoke about Jesus to Mary. This implies what is assumed from tradition, that Mary outlived Joseph and was a widow when Jesus was crucified. Acts also speaks only of Mary.

Luther said, “What kind of blessing was this for a young mother?” And yet, this was the truth of God’s revelation.

First –

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel;


The Gospel would be the Word of salvation for all those who believed, but also condemnation for all those who rejected the Gospel.

Lenski:
When men reject that grace in unbelief they fall, and it is God’s will that they perish (Mark 16:16; Isa. 8:14; Matt. 21:42, 44; Rom. 9:33). On the other hand, when God’s grace in Christ wins men and makes them rise up from sin and death in a spiritual resurrection (Eph. 2:5, 6), this is again the effect of his consequent will but at the same time the execution of his voluntas antecedens [GJ – freely translated – God’s long established will] which, disregarding all else, took into account only man’s fallen estate and sent grace and a Savior for all alike (John 3:16; Rom. 9:33b; Acts 4:12).
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 153.

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4) describes how the Word multiplies even though many forces work against it.

and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

Jesus will be a sign, a miracle from God who is spoken against. One category of this opposition is Holy Communion.

  1. Christianity – The Only Religion Where God Gives to Man.

One way to distinguish the Christian faith from all others is this  - Christianity is the only faith where God gives to man.

The rest have man giving to God, whether in one type of work or another, to appease and satisfy a demanding god of law.

But Christianity means God gives man forgiveness as a gift, from God’s grace,  His lovingkindness and forgiveness.

I posted a series of photos on Facebook where a lion cub fell onto a cliff, with loose soil and little tufts to stand on here and there. The lionesses all looked down in concern. The mother came down this cliff, which seemed almost vertical, got below her cub, picked him up, and carried him up to safety. The photos seem impossible, but one can see the muscles bulging as the mother brought the cub to the top. He was bad. He was careless. He deserved a scalding. His mother licked him to show her love and happiness. It makes people remember where this lovingkindness came from. God is the example and the font of grace.

Therefore, any attempt to change Christianity away from the Religion of Grace to a religion of demands must be resisted, avoided, repudiated.




  1. What is Holy Communion?

The Bible does not use the term “Means of Grace” but various groups use it as a shorthand for many discussions about the Gospel. Roman Catholics use the term, but forgiveness is never complete and the demands are always presented, so it is a term without grace – like giving a present and asking the recipient for cash to pay for it. And the price is never fully paid, either.

Lutherans say “Means of Grace” because Holy Communion is one way to receive God’s grace. It is truly a sign, a miracle, spoken against, because the basics revealed in the Word of God are questioned, attacked, and modified.

Holy Communion means that the Holy Spirit, at work in the Word, consecrates the elements of bread and wine so that Christ’s body and blood are also present.

The passages where this is most clear are changed to mean something else, even though the original text is clear. The bread is also the body and communing with the body of Christ. Likewise, the wine and the blood of Christ.

These are given – for the forgiveness of sin.

It is true that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic, as the non-Lutheran Protestants say, but it is more than symbolic. God’s Word does what it claims.

Holy Communion is the visible Word. When the Gospel Promises are united with earthly elements, we have a better grasp of the reality of God’s grace. This is not done because God needs it, but because we do.

Our own customs and habits show our need for visual confirmation. We could receive awards without any physical sign of them, but we have ribbons and trophies for those who win those awards.

One large business in St. Louis does nothing except give awards to people, paid for by the employer.

When I pass an in-house course at a university, they send a graphic with my name on it – I have successfully completed a course in The Difficult Student, or something similar.
Students given a pass or fail, in the old days, refused to study. They had nothing special to show for it. No sign of approval.

Each state (except Ohio) has its own flag. People identify with the flag. (Ohio has a pennant, not a flag.)


Holy Communion is more than seeing the symbol. We re-enact the Last Supper, using the same words to consecrate the elements. This is akin to the Passover Meal, where the conditions of the Passover are re-created.

Luther explained the value of Holy Communion by pointing out how the sermon can pass over our heads. One of the hardest things to do is concentrate and listen for 15-30 minutes. (His idea of a sermon was an hour, but only 30 minutes for beginning preachers.) It is impossible to miss the meaning of Holy Communion when we come up to the front, receive the consecrated elements, and hear the Word of God – This is My body, This is My blood, given for you for the forgiveness of sin.

  1. Preparation for Holy Communion

There are many good ways to prepare for Holy Communion, but the essential one is a believing heart. Faith receives the Gospel in the visible form of the communion elements. That is why closed communion is so important, since the Body and Blood are offered for faith and not for unbelief.

When denominations decided that giving Holy Communion to everyone, in the name of grace, they made people indifferent about the sacrament. From indifference comes opposition – a sign that is spoken against. “How do we know this is true?”

Anger about closed communion can have two results. I have seen both. People visiting can walk out when they see the notice. Or people can become upset and have a discussion about it. I know at least three households where upset over closed communion resulted in membership and even more people joining.

When an ELCA member can commune at a “conservative” Lutheran congregation, there is no reason to think there is any difference between the two.
When there is a stark difference pointed out, then actions follow the thought, and thought follows the actions.

  1. Benefits of Holy Communion

Holy Communion conveys the forgiveness of all sin. It is the Instrument or Means of God’s grace. God gives what He promises in the Word. We should not judge God’s Word by man’s thoughts, but man’s thoughts by God’s Word. The same Word that multiplied the loaves can also provide the consecrated elements for believers around the world.

When this is denied, it is a sign spoken against.

The Gospel is the only way we can fight against temptation and sin, so Holy Communion is a medicine for the sick, not for the healthy. It strengthens us and helps us in remaining with the True Vine and becoming fruitful for the kingdom.

We are not partially forgiven, but completely forgiven of all sins, and this continues to be a blessing for all believers. Holy Communion strengthens that faith because it shows us and makes us participate in what Christ did for us.

The “for you” is the key word in the Lord’s Supper. Given for you. It is personal, individual, and directed at believers.

They actually removed visitors and catechumens and locked the doors when celebrating Holy Communion in the past. Some confessions still follow this practice.

Holy Communion unites people in forgiveness and love, because they have one Savior, one Good Shepherd who gathers them together. They hear His voice and listen gladly to it, wherever they may live.

Like all miracles, Holy Communion helps us with anxieties and fears, since we see how much God can do in a moment.


Holy Communion


"And just as the Word has been given in order to excite this faith, so the Sacrament has been instituted in order that the outward appearance meeting the eyes might move the heart to believe [and strengthen faith]. For through these, namely, through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Ghost works."
Apology Augsburg Confession, XXIV (XII), #70. The Mass. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 409. Tappert, p. 262. Heiser, p. 123.         

"Our adversaries have no testimonies and no command from Scripture for defending the application of the ceremony for liberating the souls of the dead, although from this they derive infinite revenue. Nor, indeed, is it a light sin to establish such services in the Church without the command of God and without the example of Scripture, and to apply to the dead the Lord's Supper, which was instituted for commemoration and preaching among the living [for the purpose of strengthening the faith of those who use the ceremony]. This is to violate the Second Commandment, by abusing God's name."
Apology Augsburg Confession, XXIV. #89. The Mass. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 413f. Tappert, p. 265f. Heiser, p. 124.     

"Whoever denies the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper must pervert the words of Institution where Christ the Lord, speaking of that which He gives His Christians to eat, says: 'This is My body,' and, speaking of that which He gives them to drink, says: 'This is My blood.' [Also 1 Corinthians 10:16]
Francis Pieper, The Difference between Orthodox and Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 40. 1 Corinthians 10:16.

"If Reformed theology wishes to free itself from the confusion of self-contradiction and its other Christological errors, it must by all means eliminate its rationalistic principle that the finite is not capable of the infinite."
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1951, II, p. p. 275.                

"And all these are established by the words by which Christ has instituted it, and which every one who desires to be a Christian and go to the Sacrament should know. For it is not our intention to admit to it and to administer it to those who know not what they seek, or why they come."
Large Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar. #2. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 753. Tappert, p. 447. Heiser, p. 210.         

"For it is not founded upon the holiness of men, but upon the Word of God. And as no saint upon earth, yea, no angel in heaven, can make bread and wine to be the body and blood of Christ, so also can no one change or alter it, even though it be misused. For the Word by which it became a Sacrament and was instituted does not become false because of the person or his unbelief. For He does not say: If you believe or are worthy you receive My body and blood, but: Take, eat and drink; this is My body and blood."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #16-17. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 757. Tappert, p. 448. Heiser, p. 211.      

"On this account it is indeed called a food of souls, which nourishes and strengthens the new man. For by Baptism we are first born anew; but (as we said before) there still remains, besides, the old vicious nature of flesh and blood in man, and there are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes also stumble."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #23. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 757. Tappert, p. 449. Heiser, p. 211f.        

"Therefore it {communion}is given for a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so as not to fall back in such a battle, but become every stronger and stronger. For the new life must be so regulated that it continually increase and progress; but it must suffer much opposition. For the devil is such a furious enemy that when he sees that we oppose him and attack the old man, and that he cannot topple us over by force, he prowls and moves about on all sides, tries all devices, and does not desist, until he finally wearies us, so that we either renounce our faith or yield hands and feet and become listless or impatient. Now to this end the consolation is here given when the heart feels that the burden is becoming too heavy, that it may here obtain new power and refreshment."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #24-27. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 759. Tappert, p. 449. Heiser, p. 211.  

"For here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #70. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 769. Tappert, p. 454. Heiser, p. 214.         

"Therefore, if you cannot feel it {the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:199ff. above}, at least believe the Scriptures; they will not lie to you, and they know your flesh better than you yourself...Yet, as we have said, if you are quite dead to all sensibility, still believe the Scriptures, which pronounce sentence upon you. And, in short, the less you feel your sins and infirmities, the more reason have you to go to the Sacrament to seek help and a remedy."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #76-78. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 771. Tappert, p. 455. Heiser, p. 214.       

"Calvin was dissatisfied with Zwingli's interpretation of the Lord's Supper, but his own interpretation was also wrong. He said that a person desiring to receive the body and blood of Christ could not get it under the bread and wine, but must by his faith mount up to heaven, where the Holy Spirit would negotiate a way for feeding him with the body and blood of Christ. These are mere vagaries, which originated in Calvin's fancy. But an incident like this shows that men will not believe that God bears us poor sinners such great love that He is willing to come to us."
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 185.     

"Is the Lord's Supper the place to display my toleration, my Christian sympathy, or my fellowship with another Christian, when that is the very point in which most of all we differ; and in which the difference means for me everything--means for me, the reception of the Savior's atonement? Is this the point to be selected for the display of Christian union, when in fact it is the very point in which Christian union does not exist?"
Theodore E. Schmauk and C. Theodore Benze, The Confessional Principle and the Confessions, as Embodying the Evangelical Confession of the Christian Church, Philadelphia: 1911, p. 905f.        

"For in Confession as in the Lord's Supper you have the additional advantage, that the Word is applied to your person alone. For in preaching it flies out into the whole congregation, and although it strikes you also, yet you are not so sure of it; but here it does not apply to anyone except you. Ought it not to fill your heart with joy to know a place where God is ready to speak to you personally? Yea, if we had a chance to hear an angel speak we would surely run to the ends of the earth."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 II, p. 199.     

"In addition there is this perversion, that whereas Christ instituted the use of His Supper for all who receive it, who take, eat, and drink, the papalist Mass transfers the use and benefit of the celebration of the Lord's Supper in our time to the onlookers, who do not communicate, yes, to those who are absent, and even to the dead."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, II, p. 498.       

"However, you will be sure as to whether the sacrament is efficacious in your heart, if you watch your conduct toward your neighbor. If you discover that the words and he symbol soften and move you to be friendly to your enemy, to take an interest in your neighbor's welfare, and to help him bear his suffering and affliction, then all is well. On the other hand, if you do not find it so, you continue uncertain even if you were to commune a hundred times a day with devotions so great as to move you to tears for very joy; for wonderful devotions like this, very sweet to experience, yet as dangerous as sweet, amount to nothing before God. Therefore we must above all be certain for ourselves, as Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:10: 'Give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure.'"
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 II, p. 211. 2 Peter 1:10.

"Hence it is manifest how unjustly and maliciously the Sacramentarian fanatics (Theodore Beza) deride the Lord Christ, St. Paul, and the entire Church in calling this oral partaking, and that of the unworthy, duos pilos caudae equinae et commentum, cuius vel ipsum Satanam pudeat, as also the doctrine concerning the majesty of Christ, excrementum Satanae, quo diabolus sibi ipsi et hominibus illudat, that is, they speak so horribly of it that a godly Christian man should be ashamed to translate it. [two hairs of a horse's tail and an invention of which even Satan himself would be ashamed; Satan's excrement, by which the devil amuses himself and deceives men].
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII, Lord's Supper, 67, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 997. Tappert, p. 581f. Heiser, p. 270.    

"Dr. Luther, who, above others, certainly understood the true and proper meaning of the Augsburg Confession, and who constantly remained steadfast thereto till his end, and defended it, shortly before his death repeated his faith concerning this article with great zeal in his last Confession, where he writes thus: 'I rate as one concoction, namely, as Sacramentarians and fanatics, which they also are, all who will not believe that the Lord's bread in the Supper is His true natural body, which the godless or Judas received with the mouth, as well as did St. Peter and all [other] saints; he who will not believe this (I say) should let me alone, and hope for no fellowship with me; this is not going to be altered [thus my opinion stands, which I am not going to change]."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII, Lord's Supper, 33, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 983. Tappert, p. 575. Heiser, p. 267.  

"Besides this, you will also have the devil about you, whom you will not entirely tread under foot, because our Lord Christ Himself could not entirely avoid him. Now, what is the devil? Nothing else than what the Scriptures call him, a liar and murderer. A liar, to lead the heart astray from the Word of God, and blind it, that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ. A murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour. If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible."
The Large Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar. #80-82. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 771f. Tappert, p. 456. Heiser, p. 214.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day, 2012



The Day of Christmas
Bethany Lutheran Church, Springdale, Arkansas
December 25, 2012

Live Lutheran Worship Service, Sundays, 8 AM, Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 85:9-15 From Heaven Above                        4.55
The Invocation p. 5
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 6
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect
The Epistle and Gradual
The Hymn #657                     Beautiful Savior                                 4:24
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Apostles Creed, p. 12
The Sermon Hymn #83        Hark What Mean Those Holy           4:40
The Sermon - Full of Grace and Truth
 
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn  #99                      Now Are the Days Fulfilled               4:64

http://www.normaboecklerart.com

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

http://www.normaboecklerart.com


KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

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Full of Grace and Truth

KJV John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Many concepts and traditions have accumulated around Christmas, but the most important one is condensed in this one verse.

Although John can repeated the simplest words for emphasis, the Evangelist can also summarize with the fewest words.

The Fourth Evangelist gave us the Little Gospel - John 3:16 -

KJV John 3:16 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.

Christmas means that the eternal Son of God willingly took on our frail flesh, to be born of a Virgin. He lived among us, full of grace and truth.

Those are majestic, holy words - full of grace and truth.

Grace is a word often used, but what does it mean? Grace means God's love and forgiveness, offered freely through Christ.Therefore, the word carries the meaning of forgiveness and love, without human price or merit.

We are attracted to a gracious person, because a gracious person does not exact a price for his or her friendship. Nor does a gracious person hold grudges. We live in a world where there are hundreds of unspoken rules about who is welcome or not - an ungracious world.

Although graciousness is a fine quality, we all have limits on that. A gracious person does not  have the power to grant forgiveness to people, but Christ freely offers this forgiveness to those who believe in Him.

His very arrival, His manifestation, was gracious. He did not come to us as a mighty warrior, as a vengeful god, but as a tiny child in a manger. How unlikely that was, and yet how appealing for everyone, even the tiniest child.

Whenever a baby is present among small children, they will say, even before they know how to say the word baby properly, "Look, a beebee." Adults look at the toddlers and laugh, because the toddlers are still babies to them. But to a toddler, a newborn baby is small, weak, and intriguing.

Jesus born amid the animals of a stable - that is also attractive to all people. The difference from ordinary births is so great that it must make an impression.

So God makes it easy to believe in Christ. The start of faith in Him can be the moment a baby is born, when the newborn begins to hear about the Gospel. Baptisms are delayed today by the travel of the extended family. No so long ago, baptism took place immediately because of health concerns and custom.

But one way or another, the baby hears the Gospel and believes. Caring parents keep up an atmosphere of Christian nurture and they get to see their children memorize the words and hear them repeat those words. We made Beatitude geometric shapes in Sunday School, to memorize each verse. I still remember that from 60 years ago. Sunday School teachers think they do not matter much and avoid the extra work, but it must mean something if it is remembered 60 years later.

God makes it easy for people to believe. He plants faith in our hearts through the Gospel Promises, which is the action of the Holy Spirit in the Word, not an act of will or intelligence.

The second part is more difficult - truth. 

He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. The problem with truth is opposition to it. Wherever truth exists, there will be several kinds of opposition.

Our sinful flesh rebels against it, an automatic reaction. The vast majority of religions in this world are full of falsehoods, absurdities, and abuses. Their claims are simply crazy, but they have plenty of followers. The worse the claims, the greater the following.

One way or another, the Christian Faith is made to look bad, dangerous, reactionary, bigoted, or anti-intellectual. Therefore, a believer must spend a lifetime in a battle against his own inherent weaknesses and the assaults of unbelievers.

Nevertheless, those assaults are good for us in the long run. I know many Lutheran pastors and laity who comb the Scriptures, Confessions, and great old theology books to understand the attacks on justification by faith, the Chief Article of Christianity.

We do not value what we take for granted, the biggest danger to an entire society. I have seen the truth taken for granted in many different areas, so now those truths need to be defended with great energy rather than simply being taught. 

One area is "constitutional rights." I have asked many college students to identify "constitutional rights" for the individual in the U. S. Constitution. In fact, the document is not known to them at all. When I point out that it does not deal with individual rights, they are stunned. They have no argument, because they are simply repeating what they hear. They even talk about health insurance as a basic human right, a constitutional right, and that is now taken for granted. The Bill of Rights was a separate document? That is a shock to people who repeat what they hear from TV.

That is political and historical. That can be repeated many times over in areas of revealed truth. Evolution has become the one way to explain everything - not Creation. Every religion (except Christianity) is considered good and worthwhile. Or - among the elite - all religion is bad and oppressive.

Simply to say that there is truth becomes a radical statement. I could publish in a lot of journals if I accepted modern philosophy as truth. I could promote books in Lutheran journals, magazines, and blogs if I trusted in synods rather than the Means of Grace.

But this verse goes far beyond saying, "There is truth." This verse means, "Jesus is truth. All truth is judged through Him alone. Anything else is falsehood."

Light was created by the Logos, the Word, the eternal Son of God. He created light, truth, before the sun and stars. Jesus said, 


KJV John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.


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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve, 2012

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Christmas Readings and Hymns
Bethany Lutheran Church
Springdale, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Hymn 77:1-6 All My Heart This Night Rejoices 2.25

The First Gospel
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The Place of Jesus’ Birth
KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

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#102 O Come All Ye Faithful 1:7

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Virgin Birth
KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Incarnation
KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

#109 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks 1:35

KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
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Sermon – Angels We Have Heard

Dusting off classic movies is one of the good things about Christmas. We saw The Bishop’s Wife with David Niven, Loretta Young, and Cary Grant. That movie has the expected Hollywood treatment of angels, but far more Christian content than any movie today would attempt.

People understand two basic concepts about angels –
1. They are messengers of God.
2. They have divine power delegated to them.

When I was at Notre Dame, one of the doctoral students, Charlie Caldwell, an Episcopalian, was known for his interest in angels. In fact, I took the Time cover for the TV show, Charlie’s Angels, and put it on his carrel door at the library. Someone else tore it off.

Charlie and I had disabled daughters, and we were the only traditional Christians in the entire doctoral program, as far as I knew. Two of our cohorts were deeply offended when I said I believed in the Virgin Birth of Christ and His actual resurrection. Both of them teach theology at Roman Catholic colleges, one of them being the president.

God’s created angels accomplish His work in many different ways, often among those who appreciate it the least. The most obvious cases are those where babies have accidents where they survive unharmed. In one case, a fall from a highrise. The diaper exploded but the baby was fine. In another, babies were trapped from a Mexican earthquake. They were trapped, unfed and lacking any fluids. But they were fine. If a skeptic could prove to me how this was done according to “nature,” without divine intervention, I would still ask about many other cases, among people of all ages.

Angels exist and do God’s work, but their work is not seen or understood or appreciated.

The Birth of Christ is that turning point in time where angels are featured. But how much of this miracle is acknowledged or appreciated?

Luther had a great observation about the Virgin Birth of Christ. When the sun falls on still water, we feel its warmth, because so little is lost from movement and waves. But when the water is loudly rushing over rocks and hidden obstacles, we no longer see or feel the power of the sun in the water.

Every Christmas I hear the same story from people, a demand to keep from having any extra meetings, because of the busy-ness of Christmas. The traffic shows there is a lot more rushing around, which my wife and I avoid all year. So the irony is – the quiet that people need is often missing. The superficial details of Christmas may be noticed, but how many stop beside the road and hear the angels sing?

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Each Gospel writer has a speciality, which we can appreciate in comparing one to another. The Fourth Gospel supplements the first three. Mark is the most concise and has a very important, unique passage – the seed growing secretly.
Matthew’s structure is similar to the Five Books of Moses and places great stress on fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Luke’s Gospel is precise about historical details. 99.99% of all history is lost forever. C. S. Lewis has a great parable – all the libraries are gone. The only surviving one has burned. All the books are burned. One line of one book is readable – that is how much we know about human history. So Luke’s emphasis is very good in locating the time and details of Jesus’ birth.

There is an important theological detail noted by Luther. Jesus was born at a fixed time. Why not earlier? One reason is the Shiloh prophecy from Genesis, that the rule of Herod was not certain until 30 years of turmoil had passed. But it also took place during a census for taxation.

Jesus was born, subject to governmental rules, even the rules of a pagan government – Rome’s. This tells us that the Christian faith exists and expands in the midst of unbelief. Pagan governments were united with the religion of the era, because they saw government and religion united in official acts and public piety.

The Christian faith transcends culture, so we should not be so upset that our culture despises the faith. That is another sign of the end, which must come sooner or later. The Apostles did not ask why all religions were tolerated except theirs. They knew why. Only one religion was true, so it had to be persecuted and driven, spreading its influence across the known world.

Jesus was born subject to Rome, but not united with the culture of the time. He was not born near the Temple or the palace, but away from the center and the important people.

Joseph and Mary’s journey was uphill all the way, from Galilee to Jerusalem, to get to Bethlehem. Luther thought that the couple might have gone toward Bethlehem without realizing that the baby would be born so soon. The trip there is something we would not even think to start, with a birth so near. To travel uphill is another hardship, yet those details are imagined by us rather than emphasized in the concise text, with so few words given to this great moment in time.

Everyone was celebrating, with their grand reunions and celebrations. Joseph and Mary were nothing to the great and wise. For that reason, the great and wise were omitted from that one great event. The ones blessed by the event were Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men (whose arrival time is debated).

This is the ultimate paradox – what the world esteems, God despises. What the world despises, God esteems and praises. If you want to be despised, especially by nominal Christians, just express complete faith in the Word of God. These learned people, laity and clergy alike, will carefully explain how the obvious is not true.

God created, but through evolution, they say. The Bible is a fine book, one of the best, but it is a book written by men, they explain. And on they go. Anyone who believes the Word of God to be what it is will find himself treated like the village idiot, while many praise the obvious apostates and crypto-atheists.
But that does not matter, because God takes care of the faithful, as He did with Joseph and Mary, who braved many more dangers and insults to their honor than most face in a lifetime. No room was there for a young woman at full term. Could they not see it? They let Joseph and Mary have a few square feet in the stable, not in the warmth and security of the inn itself.

How could anything worthwhile happen in a rented room? Yet there is no word of protest. How does a young woman give birth alone? We are not told the details, except that Mary gave birth and wrapped up her baby in swaddling clothes, as they still do today. A new mother recently asked about how to help her baby sleep better. The mothers told her, on Facebook, “Swaddle the baby.” And he slept well, wound up like a mummy.

The paradox continues with the shepherds being given the first birth announcement. The wise men were on their way, but the shepherds were the first to see the baby. The angelic choir appear before the shepherds and terrified them. We would love to see the same wonder, but it would be scary. People become frightened over things they do not see, let alone what is placed right before them, completely out of the ordinary – beyond their imagination.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and pagans have spread doubt about Jesus being born on December 25th, which should make people wonder why the early church was wrong, being so close to the actual event. All those debates and explanations are quite silly and only detract from the account.

Fear comes from not trusting in God, not trusting in His Word.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

The opposite of fear is faith. To overcome fear, we should trust in the good news of great joy, the Savior sent to all people. This is a clear message for the entire world, yet it is also received in joy only among believers. The false teachers want this to apply to everyone without faith, which is quite absurd and contrary to the Word. They choose to pick up on some verses while ignoring the rest.

The importance of faith is clearly stated in the following verses:

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

I see three examples in two verses.

For unto you is born…

This has happened for individuals of faith. While Jesus is the Savior of the world, those without faith cannot comprehend this. His righteousness only comes to us through God-created faith, that is, the Holy Spirit working through the Word.

One of the worst fathers I have known said this about Christmas pageants, “No offense, pastor. But it means more when children say those words. You do it for a living. I always come to the Christmas pageant.” And he did. I do not know what problems kept him in his addictions, but he came and listened to the Word of God, spoken by the small children, including his own. What little faith he had was enough to grasp and receive the blessings of the Gospel, no less than rows of clergy dressed in their finest.

That is the dividing line, Without faith, the Gospel remains true for all people, but the benefits are not received apart from the Word, divorced from faith. On the other hand, the believer, no matter how weak that faith, receives all the blessings of the righteousness of Christ. A small child receives as much as an elderly theologian, but the child has the benefit of the child-like faith. Jesus never said, “You must have the explanations of a theologian to enter the Kingdom,” but “you must have the faith of a child.”

12 And this shall be a sign unto you

A sign is another way of saying – a miracle. This is a miraculous event to see, miraculous for you. So strange – to find people starting on the birth of Christ and ending with rationalism. A favorite story in The Lutheran (LCA) magazine was the birth of Christ, by Paul Tillich, a notoriously unbelieving “theologian.” He began with the Nativity and ended with talking about babies and how everyone loves them. It was not a sign for him, but something to decorate his pagan philosophy.

One believer heard him lecture and went to him afterwards, saying, “I hope you find Christ some day.”

The Nativity is a constant sign, a miracle for all believers, because it happened for each and every one of us.

Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Babies were being born that night, but one was lying in the feed trough for cattle or sheep, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

This is the Christ-child, born for you and for me.

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Luke’s Account
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

#646 Silent Night 4:38

Heavenly Host
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Prayers and Benediction


#87 Joy to the World 1:20


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Fourth Sunday in Advent, 2012.

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The Fourth Sunday in Advent, 2012

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #477   Lord Jesus Thou            3:90
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

Beyond Jordan

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.

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Beyond Jordan


Luther made an important point in his explanation of this passage – about the words – beyond Jordan.

This is his point – in his discussion of the spiritual meaning of the passage, “beyond Jordan” refers to John the Baptist being on the opposite side of the river, that is, taking another view of the Scriptures than those who were sent to grill him.

This is a major point, because every single confession starts with the Word of God. The Scriptures are the foundation for every heresy. The really abusive ones (WELS, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the mainline denominations) offer the Bible, but the Bible in their own words, because they cannot stretch the words enough to fit their dogmas. Therefore, new words are added and traditional verses are removed. Most modern “translations” fit this definition.

Inerrancy is one issue. There is no reason to discuss the Christian faith with those apostates who view the Bible as just another creation by man. There is no standard for them and they have already departed from the historic view of the Christian Church.

The most important issue is the Gospel itself. Justification by faith is the Chief Article of Christianity, the Master and Prince of everything else. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church, ELCA, the SynCons (LCMS, ELS, WELS), and all mainline groups are on the wrong side of the Jordan. They reject justification by faith, no matter how able their theologians are in defining, side-stepping, explaining, and waffling.

Therefore the best way to see this text, and all others, is to view it from the opposite side of the Jordan, to see it as resting upon the righteousness of Christ and no other, understanding that faith and forgiveness go together always, that lack of faith is the foundation for all sin.

The only purpose of the Bible is to teach us faith in Christ. The Bible brings Christ to us in the Word, so we have the blessings of faith in Him as our Savior. Anything else is subordinate to that singular purpose.

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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?

The leaders of the nation sent a delegation to John to ask about his mission. This alone was quite flattering. It showed how important he was at that time. His followers made the leaders uneasy.

The Shiloh prophesy was two-fold. First the kingship had to pass from the House of David. That happened when Herod was put on the throne. But the Jews did not like that and fought against him for 30 years. He finally subdued and subordinated them. The second part was now true. The scepter departed and he had control of Israel. Herod’s Temple was his peace offering to them.

Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

Knowing this prophecy, all the leaders were anxious about John and what his great following meant for them.

John could have been tempted to confirm any of those titles that were offered to him, but he did not cave in.

20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

First year Greek students find this repetition strange, but it is an emphasis upon John’s mission both in the positive (confessed) and the double-negative (denied not). Thus there can be no doubt – he was not calling himself the Messiah (anointed king). The answer is first described and then quoted.

This is best explained in the context of his vast following at the time, the turmoil caused by it, and the presence of Jesus – still unknown.

False religious leaders are always afraid. They realize their security and luxuries come only from being in complete control. They look for information and manage it to suit their needs. These leaders were under Herod’s power, so they were serving him as well as their own needs.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

Because they relied on righteousness through the Law, they wanted to pin down John and place him in a role. Elijah was a prophet of great importance at that time, because he ascended to heaven in a chariot. For that reason he was expected to herald the Messianic age.

John said, “I am not Elijah.”

Another expected role was The Prophet – similar to being Elijah, the forerunner of the Messianic Age. The inter-testamental literature was full books about the Messianic age. They were not Scripture but written as if they were, so they had an impact on the thinking of Jewish leaders at that time. There are collections of the literature of that time.

Lenski:
The question itself rests on Mal. 3:23 (in the English and the German versions Mal. 4:5) as understood by the rabbis regarding the return of Elijah in person to prepare the Messianic kingdom. Perhaps something in the stern preaching of repentance by the Baptist, aided by his austere dress and mode of life, may have prompted the surmise that this rabbinic expectation was fulfilled and that the Baptist actually was Elijah returned to life. In this sense the Baptist utters his denial: “I am not,” omitting any pointed ego (I), which would add the wrong implication: I am not, but another is or will be. The Baptist’s denial, therefore, does not clash with what was promised regarding him in Luke 1:17, and with what Jesus afterward said of him in Matt. 11:14; 17:11, three statements which correctly interpret Malachi.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 109.

KJV Matthew 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.

KJV Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.


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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.

The questions were not offered in a sincere spirit but in an effort to pin down and blame John in some way. The delegation was sent in the wrong spirit and would only use whatever answer they received in the wrong spirit. That John ended up executed is a good sign of how much they wanted to learn from him. They knew the power of his preaching, but they did not like it.

John identified his only role as pointing to the Lord, preparing the way for him. The one who tells the people to repent is not God, not the Savior. When the ancient monarchs visited, heralds went before him, so that everyone knew he was coming. They gave the news, but they were not the emperor, or monarch, or  lord.

John said, “I am preparing the way of the Lord.”

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.

John is teaching nothing more than faith in Jesus. They are to look for the Lord. As great as they imagine John to be (as reckoned by the crowds), he is nothing at all. He is not worthy to take off the shoes of Jesus.

Although Jesus is after John, He is before John in importance. (The Bible says so much in so few words.)

John is now pointing to the true Savior, the One who should have everyone’s allegiance, love, loyalty, and faith.

This is why Luther said that John was no longer a prophet. Prophesy ended with John, because all the Old Testament prophets were fulfilled in Jesus. That made John more than a prophet, because he had the most difficult job, to point to an ordinary looking man and say, “There is your King. Not a man riding on a charger and leading us into battle, but the Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world.”

Application


I thought about this passage during the week, about the LCA pastors complaining about being limited by the historic lessons. That is why they, Missouri, and WELS all follow the Vatican now – the three year series, invented by the Church of Rome.

John the Baptist keeps coming up as the lesson in Advent. They could not cope with that. But John the Baptist is not the main topic – faith in Christ is. “There’s the rub,” as Shakespeare said. Someone lacking in faith does not want to talk about faith. It is something to be avoided or slighted with faint praise.

Why did the ancient church leaders find this so important in Advent? The season is aimed at repentance, and John’s role was to encourage repentance in the people, before Jesus came. And John clearly told his audience that Another was coming.

To repent means to lay aside all our concepts of righteousness and despair of our own merit. The false teachers want to turn repentance into self-torture. Join Opus Dei and they will sell you some barbed wire to wear around your leg and a nice whip to use on your own back. Roman Catholic orders with whips are called flagellant orders. A Holy Cross priest said the flagellant orders also drink a lot. I looked at the rosy nose of the priest who told me that and thought, “More than your bunch?” But I did not say it out loud.

Luther was raised with the wrong kind of repentance, and he realized that as he was guided by Staupitz and the Word into the true concept of the Gospel. Repentance certainly means sorrow for sin, or godly contrition, but it does not mean self-torture to earn forgiveness. That easily becomes a work of atonement or appeasement, the old Roman system. Extreme versions are practiced in many countries today. They make a small whip seem mild in comparison.

To be on the other side of Jordan with John means to place all our trust in Christ Jesus alone. That means that we see the Gospel of forgiveness in all the texts, and the Gospel of forgiveness is the Gospel of faith.

Luther repeatedly said there were two doctrines – one of faith and one of the Law. We are justified by faith or by the Law. The Law may be from the Old Testament or from man’s own human reason. But that does not matter. All justification apart from faith is justification by the law and therefore false.

All justification apart from faith is man-centered and works centered. It can only lead to doubt and despair. Universal forgiveness without faith (UOJ) may seem to be all grace, but it really means that nothing matters. It is the spirit of atheism. First one says, “God loves so much that everyone is forgiven.” The old Unitarians were quite moralistic and at least confessed God the Father. But this great expression of grace (so-called) gives way to an antagonism toward God and all religion, because universal forgiveness teaches that nothing matters ultimately – only the self.

In contrast we have the truth of God’s Word. This Word shows us in an instant that we do not believe. If we did believe utterly in Him, we would not fear. We would not be anxious. We would rejoice in the forgiveness given to us through the Gospel promises. But we rest our confidence in ourselves and our abilities, our sanctity rather than the holiness of Christ.

When the Word shows us this truth, it also teaches us Christ, the Lamb of God, who appeared in the crowd as meek and mild, non-threatening except to the religion of works. He taught with divine authority, not like the Pharisees, and the people knew, long promised Good Shepherd was as anxious for each one of them as they were for Him. So the believers longed to hear His voice and come to Him.

Even so today He guides us to the green pastures and quiet waters of eternal life.

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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)
             
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