Lutheran Worship and Resources

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mid-Week Lenten Worship

Mid-Week Lenten Vespers

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Central

The Hymn #347   Jesus, Priceless Treasure            2:77     
The Order of Vespers                                             p. 41
The Psalmody                   Psalm                         p. 123
The Lection                            The Passion History

The Sermon Hymn #175            When I Survey            2:43  

The Sermon –   Growth and Adiaphora
The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace                                            p. 45

The Hymn #558               All Praise             2:8

KJV John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

Growth and Adiaphora

Spring is a good time to speak about Jesus as the True Vine.

The Bible is filled with Creation metaphors, which are impossible to forget. The Song of the Vineyard is from Isaiah.

KJV Isaiah 5:1 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: 2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? 5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: 6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry. 8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! 9 In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. 10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.

The Kingdom of God is compared to yeast growing in dough, a treasure buried in a field, the pearl of great price, and seed being sown.

The more we learn about Creation, the more we understand about these comparisons.

Today’s consultants would like people to think that all growth is good, but Jesus spoke of bad growth as well as good growth.

Good leaven leavens dough but evil leaven ruins it. “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees.”

Crops flower, fruit, and go to seed to feed people – but tares sown among the good seeds will also grow.

When the sower casts the seed around, the good  seed starts to grow, but weeds also grow and choke the good growth.

In the parable of the True Vine, the growth and fruiting of the Vine are good, but the Vine must be pruned – first with cleansing ( justification by faith ),  secondly by cutting off and gathering up the deadwood, which impedes the good growth.

I want to address this in terms of adiaphora ( matters of indifference ). This term was used because the Lutherans were forced to compromise after Emperor Charles V took over Germany after he was done whooping the Muslim forces.

The Lutherans agreed that many matters are adiaphora and not doctrinal by themselves. Worship varies in many ways. Practices vary, too.

One is not superior over the other when no issue of doctrine is involved.

However, this has been used to excuse a complete abandonment of the Gospel in the name of “growth” because people like wolf-preaching, as Luther calls it.

Wolf-preaching takes place when ministers shape their message to please the congregation by avoiding what the Word of God teaches. Worse than that, the Word of God is turned upside-down to make the message appealing to as many as possible.

One current example is having everyone bring in a favorite object (football, computer keyboard) and fuse it to a frame and call it a Lenten cross. This is the sort of “artwork” that Picasso did, long ago, and it was clever in its own way. But the cross is not clever artwork or appealing to the senses. It is not an object that makes us focus on ourselves and our hobbies, but on what Christ has suffered and done for us.

No matter how this is justified, it is another step in trivializing the Gospel of Christ. An ancient Lutheran said to me, “They call so many things adiaphora that nothing is left.”

Here are some things not mandated as such by the Scriptures – the exact form of worship, including the Creeds, the hymns, the garments worn by ministers, church decorations, the name of the denomination.

But this part is funny, bizarre, or sad – The reason for dumping so many things is the absolute rule (from Fuller and Willowcreek) that the name Lutheran, the liturgy, the creeds, the hymns, and formal wear must be jettisoned to having a “growing” church. The pipe organ must be removed! (Matter of indifference – not). They MUST have a praise band, etc.

For a gardener like me, this is say, “We have to grow weeds now because the crops are too much trouble and do not give us as many seeds. And weeds grow with rain or without. By golly, they take over.” And they do.

Here is the adiaphora section in the Formula of Concord that these Emergent Church types (Willowcreek, CrossWalk, CrossRoads, The CORE, Grace Point) never quote – my wording –

We dare not give up anything when it is under attack, because that would be compromising with false doctrine.

Formula of Concord, Article 10, Solid Declaration

15] Likewise, the article concerning Christian liberty also is here at stake, which the Holy Ghost through the mouth of the holy apostle so earnestly charged His Church to preserve, as we have just heard. For as soon as this is weakened and the ordinances of men [human traditions] are forced upon the Church with coercion, as though it were wrong and a sin to omit them, the way is already prepared for idolatry, and by this means ordinances of men [human traditions] are afterwards multiplied and regarded as a divine worship, not only equal to the ordinances of God, but are even placed above them.

16] Moreover, by such [untimely] yielding and conformity in external things, where there has not been previously Christian union in doctrine, idolaters are confirmed in their idolatry; on the other hand, the true believers are grieved, offended, and weakened in their faith [their faith is grievously shaken, and made to totter as though by a battering-ram]; both of which every Christian for the sake of his soul's welfare and salvation is bound to avoid, as it is written: Woe unto the world because of offenses! Also: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea [Matt. 18:6, 7].

So, the point of this article is NOT identifying with false teachers, even in the most minor matters of indifference, especially when forced upon people, as if by law – “it’s the only way we can grow.”

On the positive side –
The liturgy goes back to the Old Testament and the Apostolic Church. We must go a long way to prove that the Word-centered, Means of Grace oriented liturgy is bad for people.

The Creeds are inherent in the Scriptures, because we have creeds embedded in the Epistles and doubtless in Revelation, too. Hymns and confessions of faith are parallel – poetic, easily memorized, and concise.

The Creeds of man are good because they gather our witness to the Word of God, to clarify what we believe and practice. As one observer said, the church that gets rid of the creeds will soon get rid of the Scriptures as well.

Hymns are Christ-centered, while pop Christian music is me-centered. One song even mocked the other songs, with the group singing, “Give me this, give me that” as Christian Contemporary Music.

Jazzing up a good hymn is a way of saying, “Look at us. Listen to us.” Music should direct us to the Savior, not the performer.

Why must I wear jeans to be relevant as a minister? Must they be wrinkled, too? That is another way of saying, “The Word is not effective, but identifying with the youth is effective. They will listen to the jeans.” Jesus parable says, “They have the Word.” But the false teacher, like the rich man in the Lazarus parable says, “But if only someone preached in wrinkled jeans and a faded shirt! They would listen to me!”

Likewise, a congregation invites people with the Gospel with carnivals, pizza events, and block parties. Nothing says justification by faith like an inflatable bounce house.

How we speak about the Gospel says a lot about how much we treasure the salvation given to us through faith. If we trust man’s methods rather than God’s Word, then we demean the Gospel as something captured and used by man ( for carnal security) rather than a treasure owned and given by God alone.

People make this so difficult, when John 15 simply teaches – abide in the True Vine. There you will find forgiveness and fruitfulness. Whatever you pray for in My Name, I will give you, because that will glorify God.

The Gospel begins and ends with God, for our spiritual benefit.

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