Lutheran Worship and Resources

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Spring in Arizona, by Norma Boeckler

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 369 trans. Loy - Wenn wir in hochsten The Invocation p. 15
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 Romans 6:3-11
The Gospel Matthew 5:20-26
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 370 – tune: Magdalen The Sermon
Righteousness from God or from Ourselves

The Hymn # 314 by H. E. Jacobs – tune: Herr Jesus Christ dich 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 # 45 tune: Liebster Jesus

Hymn notes – Loy was one of the great leaders of the old ALC, serving a church in Delaware, Ohio, just north of Columbus, Ohio. The old ALC seminary had a great faculty and led the Midwest in orthodoxy. Lenski taught there, but is now forgotten or scorned. Trinity Seminary is ELCA now and so is Loy’s congregation in Delaware. Henry Eyster Jacobs was one of the great leaders in the Muhlenberg tradition (LCA). He helped restore Reformation Lutheran doctrine to the Pennsylvania Lutherans.

Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us, our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin, that we never in this life can be without sinful lust and concupiscence; therefore we beseech Thee, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Thy Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Thy word, abide by it, and thus by Thy grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. 21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Righteousness from God or from Ourselves

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees…

At first glance that looks like a criticism of the scribes and Pharisees, as if they were immoral, lax, hedonistic, stingy, bad examples. The opposite is true. They held to a rigid observance of the Law.

Luther has an extensive discussion of Law and Gospel in his commentary on Galatians. That book was one of his finest, and he held it as one of his best, along with the Small Catechism.

First let me discuss the observance of the Law. As Luther knew from his own effort to please God with the Law, one can be outwardly observant while inwardly raging against the Law. This counts for nothing, for our thoughts condemn us as much as our actions. That is often missed in congregations today, where the appearance of piety is mistaken for faith in the Gospel. The piety on display is really to impress others. If those glittering vices (Augustine) are overlooked, people point them out. “My father founded this church” or “I serve on seven committees” or “I was a charter member of this church.”

Someone can be kept from outwardly sinner by physical restraint and threats. That does not remove sin. Luther said, “You can tie a pig ever so tightly to a tree, but you cannot keep him from squealing.”

The Roman party tried to make Luther into a hedonist, but he was making the point that the system of righteousness through the Law was destructive to Roman Catholic souls, as he knew. No peace can come with righteousness through the Law, because nothing is ever enough. Either the person is tormented by the Law and hates God, as Luther did, or he is hardened by his self-righteousness, as Paul was. The Apostle was so observant as a Pharisees that he actively sought out Christians and arrested them. So God chose this hardened instrument to be His instrument of grace. No one knew the Law better, so Paul became the best Gospel preacher during a time when the Law-mongers wanted to drown out the Gospel.

Strangely, I had the misfortune of hearing the Willow Creek Community Church preacher give a sermon on this text. He began the same way, but what he offered was man’s observance of the Law as the solution. The Law does show us our sin, but the Law cannot cure the problem. My wife had a cardiac test this week, but another test is not going to make her heart better. If tests (the Law) cured her, she would be Superwoman by now.

One example from Willow Creek was a sports star who vacuumed the rugs there. They wanted to prove their “servant model” and make people feel guilty about not volunteering. If a Chicago Bears football star took the money he made per hour in sports, he could buy new carpets instead of sweeping them. I suppose that would have been a lesson in piety too. The minister also told people how men had to accept women’s leadership in the church before they were allowed to join. And yet, in an age where men flee from spiritual leadership and need to be encouraged to lead, LCMS and WELS gurus tell their pastors to take classes at Willow Creek to learn how to do things right.

The trouble with the Law is that we feel pretty comfortable with it. My college students, even graduate students, ask me, “What do you want?” I remind them - that is a child question, not an adult question. “I want 1000 words” (Law) will yield 1000 words – minimal fulfillment of the Law. The Law moves us to do the minimum. The Gospel is entirely different.

Just to show how deeply some are involved in the Law – one Lutheran at a conservative congregation became very angry when I said the Law did bear any fruits. I was quoting Walther in a congregation where Walther supposedly walked 6 feet off the ground. The statement enraged the man because he did not accept the dominance of the Gospel and trusted in the Law. The Scriptures warn us constantly that Moses is not our Savior and the Law is a terrible form of salvation. If we make God the God of Law alone, the burden is intolerable.

The Gospel cures the problem of sin. That is why pastors are called stewards of the mysteries of God. A mystery is something revealed by the Holy Spirit and known only through revelation. That is, everyone can and should know there is a Creator. Almost everyone in America believes in God in some fashion. However, the Trinity is not the final result of man’s research, common sense, or logic. Neither is the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, or justification by faith.

We can see how these are mysteries because man’s wisdom wants to reduce them to something else. Man reduces the Two Natures of Christ to one nature, either divine alone or human alone (depending on the era). Man constantly works against justification by faith. The greatest intellectual edifice ever fashioned is justification by works – a product of Medieval Christianity. Thousands of books are devoted to maintaining a transparent attack against the message of the entire Bible – that man receives the righteousness of Christ through faith. That faith is the result of proclaiming the Gospel. Only God can produce that faith in man. Only God can supply the righteousness received through faith.

Pietism rules over Protestant America, and other forms of Pietism dominate Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy. They have the same formula – performing works to earn God’s salvation.

That is the reason for the religious leaders hatred of Jesus. They could not condemn Him for being gracious, kind to the poor, full of miracles for the needy. They loathed Him because He said, “Your righteousness does not come from within you but from the outside, from Me alone. Believe in Me and you will be forgiven, saved, and taken into the bosom of Abraham.”

We are not saved by the virtue of faith, as Chemnitz teaches below:

"We must note the foundations. For we are justified by faith, not because it is so firm, robust, and perfect a virtue, but because of the object on which it lays hold, namely Christ, who is the Mediator in the promise of grace. Therefore when faith does not err in its object, but lays hold on that true object, although with a weak faith, or at least tries and wants to lay hold on Christ, then there is true faith, and it justifies. The reason for this is demonstrated in those lovely statements in Philippians 3:12: 'I apprehend, or rather I am apprehended by Christ' and Galatians 4:9: 'You have known God, or rather have been known by God.' Scripture shows a beautiful example of this in Mark 9:24: 'I believe; help my unbelief.'"
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., II, p. 503. Philippians 3:12; Galatians 4:9; Mark 9:24.

We are saved by the object of our faith. Faith apprehends and grasps the Gospel Promises, which never deceive.

Christ is the healing balm for our sin. The Law shows where our flaws exist, where the wounds of our human nature lie. The Gospel of forgiveness heals these wounds. We need constant healing because we wound ourselves and wound others as well.

The Gospel from Christ is also the power to defeat sin. The Law shows us sin but has no power over sin, just as an x-ray reveals a broken bone without healing it. The Gospel is the energy of God’s Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen against sin.

The Law says, “I told you that you could never overcome this problem.”

The Gospel proclaims forgiveness when we fail and return in godly contrition, even when we fail and fail again. Each step along the way shows us the folly of our Old Adam and the loving grace of our Savior.

People are not driven away by Christianity but by the Law religion they hear or choose to hear. That is why so many have made hay from this Law obsession. The Law-mongers condemn with the Law and sell a varnished version of the Law as the cure. You have problems? You don’t believe hard enough! (More condemnation) You are poor? Give God all your money and He will give you seven times as much back. (Paying God for forgiveness, not to mention making a nice investment with a great return.)

The Gospel promises forgiveness and the cross. We would rather pass on the cross business, but the cross must remain. The unbelieving world hates the righteousness of Christ, so they must persecute the Word wherever it prospers and threatens to take root. Christ and the apostles were not spared, so why should we be?

I will never forget this wonderful lesson from a talented woman. She had an MBA and stayed at home to raise her children. She was a perfectionist and loved hymn 370, which we sang today. It was her favorite hymn. She said, “I am a perfectionist. That’s why I know I am not perfect. That is also why I need the Gospel. I know Christ is my righteousness.”

My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less
One morning it came into my mind as I went to labour, to write an hymn on the ‘Gracious Experience of a Christian.’ As I went up Holborn I had the chorus,
‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.’
In the day I had four first verses complete, and wrote them off. On the Sabbath following I met brother King as I came out of Lisle Street Meeting…who informed me that his wife was very ill, and asked me to call and see her. I had an early tea, and called afterwards. He said that it was his usual custom to sing a hymn, read a portion, and engage in prayer, before he went to meeting. He looked for his hymn-book but could find it nowhere. I said, ‘I have some verses in my pocket; if he liked, we would sing them.’ We did, and his wife enjoyed them so much, that after service he asked me, as a favour, to leave a copy of them for his wife. I went home, and by the fireside composed the last two verses, wrote the whole off, and took them to sister King…As these verses so met the dying woman’s case, my attention to them was the more arrested, and I had a thousand printed for distribution. I sent one to the Spiritual Magazine, without my initials, which appeared some time after this. Brother Rees, of Crown Street, Soho, brought out an edition of hymns [1836], and this hymn was in it. David Denham introduced it [1837] with Rees’ name, and others after…Your inserting this brief outline may in future shield me from the charge of stealth, and be a vindication of truthfulness in my connection with the Church of God.
Edward Mote
Letter to the Gospel Herald

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.


"But when we are speaking of the subject itself, it is certain that the doctrine of gracious reconciliation, of the remission of sins, of righteousness, salvation, and eternal life through faith for the sake of the Mediator is one and the same in the Old and in the New Testament. This is a useful rule which we must retain at all costs: The doctrine, wherever we read it, in either the Old or New Testament, which deals with the gracious reconciliation and the remission of sins through faith for the sake of God's mercy in Christ, is the Gospel."
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 459.

"Therefore God, 'who is rich in mercy' [Ephesians 2:4], has had mercy upon us and has set forth a propitiation through faith in the blood of Christ, and those who flee as suppliants to this throne of grace He absolves from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation, and by the imputation of the righteousness of His Son, which they grasp in faith, He pronounces them righteous, receives them into grace, and adjudges them to be heirs of eternal life. This is certainly the judicial meaning of the word 'justification,' in almost the same way that a guilty man who has been sentenced before the bar of justice is acquitted."
Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 1989, II, p. 482.

"Yet these exercises of faith always presuppose, as their foundation, that God is reconciled by faith, and to this they are always led back, so that faith may be certain and the promise sure in regard to these other objects. This explanation is confirmed by the brilliant statement of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:20: 'All the promises of God in Christ are yea and amen, to the glory of God through us,' that is, the promises concerning other objects of faith have only then been ratified for us when by faith in Christ we are reconciled with God. The promises have been made valid on the condition that they must give glory to God through us."
Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 1989, II, p. 495.

"Therefore this apprehension or acceptance or application of the promise of grace is the formal cause or principle of justifying faith, according to the language of Scripture."
Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., II, p. 502.

"We must note the foundations. For we are justified by faith, not because it is so firm, robust, and perfect a virtue, but because of the object on which it lays hold, namely Christ, who is the Mediator in the promise of grace. Therefore when faith does not err in its object, but lays hold on that true object, although with a weak faith, or at least tries and wants to lay hold on Christ, then there is true faith, and it justifies. The reason for this is demonstrated in those lovely statements in Philippians 3:12: 'I apprehend, or rather I am apprehended by Christ' and Galatians 4:9: 'You have known God, or rather have been known by God.' Scripture shows a beautiful example of this in Mark 9:24: 'I believe; help my unbelief.'"
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., II, p. 503. Philippians 3:12; Galatians 4:9; Mark 9:24.

"For we are not justified because of our faith (propter fidem), in the sense of faith being a virtue or good work on our part. Thus we pray, as did the man in Mark 9:24: 'I believe, Lord; help my unbelief'; and with the apostles: 'Lord, increase our faith,' Luke 17:5."
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., II, p. 506. Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5.

"But because not doubt but faith justifies, and not he who doubts but he who believes has eternal life, therefore faith teaches the free promise, which relies on the mercy of God for the sake of the sacrifice of the Son, the Mediator, and not on our works, as Paul says in Romans 4:16: 'Therefore it is of faith, that the promise might be sure according to grace.'"
Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., II, p. 507. Romans 4:16

"Thus when we say that we are justified by faith, we are saying nothing else than that for the sake of the Son of God we receive remission of sins and are accounted as righteous. And because it is necessary that this benefit be taken hold of, this is said to be done 'by faith,' that is, by trust in the mercy promised us for the sake of Christ. Thus we must also understand the correlative expression, 'We are righteous by faith,' that is, through the mercy of God for the sake of His Son we are righteous or accepted."
Melanchthon, Loci Communes, “The Word Faith.” Cited in Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, II, p. p. 489.

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