Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday in Advent

Midweek Advent service this Wednesday, 7 PM, Phoenix time.

Hummingbird by Norma Boeckler

The First Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 609 Wachet auf
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 13:11-14
The Gospel Matthew 21:1-9
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 68 St. Thomas

The Advent of Our King

The Hymn #310 St. Michael
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 #361 St. Agnes

KJV Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

KJV Matthew 21:1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

First Sunday In Advent (Veit Dietrich, Reformation Leader)
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, we bless and praise Thee forever, that Thou didst send Thy Son to rule over us poor sinners, who for our transgressions did justly deserve to remain in the bondage of sin and Satan, and didst give us in Him a meek and righteous King, who by His death became our Savior from sin and eternal death: We beseech Thee so to enlighten, govern and direct us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may ever remain faithful to this righteous King and Savior, and not, after the manner of the world, be offended with His humble form and despised word, but, firmly believing in Him, obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Advent of Our King
We have Palm Sunday twice a year. The normal time is one week before Easter. This is the other observation of Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was clearly an announcement of His Messianic reign. He had the disciples make preparations for it. “The Lord has need of it.” He entered as a king, something lost on our present day readers. He was the Son of David, claiming His throne.
The crowds saw it and praised God.
Even the babes praised God.

Baptists tell me that infants have no faith. First, they have to ignore a newborn’s faith in his own parents. I have seen this many times in baptizing babies. The baby looks at me, a stranger, and howls in fear. The startled look is comical from my viewpoint. When he sees and feels his mother again, he quiets down and relaxes at once. I asked one girl teetering on the brink of agreeing with Baptists, “You have seen this happen many times. The baby has faith in its mother, as a newborn?…And yet cannot have faith in God?”

More significantly, the Bible teaches us that babies have faith.

KJV Matthew 21:16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

When these matters are turned around, the confusion creates chaos in thinking.

As I have said many times before, the New Testament continues the Old Testament teaching of the Means of Grace. God has appointed the Word in visible and invisible forms to convey Christ to us.

The Gospel lesson illustrates the difference between the Scriptures and man’s opinion. Man’s opinion has us seeking God, going to Him, and using our wisdom to make a decision.

The Word of God tells us that Christ comes to us. God has appointed instruments (means) to bring Jesus to us and to keep us in the faith. Those who repeatedly despise the Means of Grace harden themselves against the Gospel and lose the benefits so freely given.

These instruments are called Means of Grace because God gives us His grace in this way and only in this way.

It is easy to see how one confusion leads to another. Non-Lutherans are taught to seek comfort in the visible church (the Roman Catholic Church and now more recently the Eastern Orthodox Church). They supposedly know they are right because these institutions have always been there. It’s like being accepted at Harvard rather than Yale, because Yale represented a conservative reaction to Harvard.

Non-Lutheran Protestants are often taught that prayer is an instrument of grace, the only Means of Grace. That gets them very anxious. How do they receive this grace? They must pray, but how much is enough? What kind of prayer is correct? What should they feel? It is easy to take these people and make them pray in tongues. When that is enough, they are told they can get gold fillings (free) while praying and hear about the dead being raised in local funeral parlors.
Gold fillings and mortuary miracles seem crazy but they are recent claims with plenty of devoted followers.

This makes Lutherans sound anti-prayer, but it is a matter of emphasis. Prayer is the fruit of faith. We can see that in the Bible where prayer is urged after stating once again the Promises of God. The Word creates faith through these Gospel Promises and urges the fruit of faith as the fruit of the Spirit.

But first Christ comes to us through the Word. There we learn all God has done in the past, most importantly - redeeming the world through Christ’s crucifixion. This redemption means the price has been paid for our sins. The Gospel Promises of forgiveness and eternal life create faith and sustain faith.

We doubt and our faith gets wobbly. The Gospel Promises attack doubt at the root – our human reason, experience, and emotions. The wonderful thing about babies is they lack adult reason and experience. They hear the Word at baptism and believe. Loving parents nurture that faith with Biblical training. Everything a child does, even soiling his diaper, is glorifying God, because everything done in faith glorifies God.

It is odd how often Roman Catholic errors get reproduced by Protestants. For instance, we often hear about monks praying for hours, whipping themselves, and making a point of their suffering. Some Protestants do many of the same things, carrying on as publicly as possible, emphasizing their own sanctification, not Christ, who sanctifies us with His Word.

When we try to figure out our lives, the Word shows us that the tangled ball of yarn we live with makes sense according to God’s purpose. I recall when the actor who played Superman was asked about his accident, causing him paralysis and ultimately death, he said, “No, there is no purpose. Things happen randomly.” On the other hand, a believer knows that God’s gracious purpose may seem mysterious at the moment but is not to be questioned. God has the power and uses the power to turn evil into good.

We say Means of Grace, because God always displays His grace rather than demanding our worthiness. In a world of earning everything, the Gospel tells us that Christ has earned this forgiveness for us. The price has been paid, so this redemptive and forgiving message comes to us through the Word, creating and strengthening faith, which receives the grace offered.

Faith is another word for trust, not another word for virtue. Trust comes from the Holy Spirit working through the Word. We experience that trust dramatically when we sing hymns by Gerhard. The Scriptural words, which were forged in times of great personal hardship, are the sweetest comfort for people suffering. And they are lessons to learn for the future when times of trial arrive. If we look closely at the child-like words of faith, they reflect times of great agony that purified his faith.

So the Means of Grace keep producing the nine-fold fruits of the Spirit. But what is the message of these Means?

The message is forgiveness of sin. We are so weak and fallible that we continue as constant reminders of the Old Adam in each one of us. Knowing that God’s grace comes to us in the Word, as forgiven sinners, we strive to be as forgiving as God.

Children all know that the petition – Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of others – is impossible. We think of children as being forgiving, far more so than adults, who get even 50 times for the same slight. But children know they harbor the same feelings. Children are great psychologists, a trait lost immediately upon becoming adults.

The fruit of the Spirit is always going to include forgiveness toward others, patience, and kindness.

When we hear the Word of God and receive Holy Communion, Christ comes to us and we appear before His throne. He knows each and every one of us by name. That is not a small matter.

I just created a family calendar at Lulu. One of my favorite pictures is the whole clan with Yakov Smirnoff. I was looking at that, and I thought, “He was in major motion pictures. He was on TV. He appeared with President Reagan. This is a big deal. And there he is signing our t-shirts.”

That is a very small matter compared to being with Christ, who gives us constant blessings through the Gospel. He did this so our “joy would be complete,” in other words, so our lives would not be like that of others who do not believe.

People often worry, “What about those who do not believe?” Many have turned around the whole picture and have made this man’s problem rather than God’s. It is all up to us, they claim. One traveling phony asked, “How are we going to reach America with the Gospel in 2007?” Of course, he had a product to sell.

When my work changed over to teaching, I learned how often someone has the opportunity to teach the Word, without looking for opportunities. They are abundant. I was asked to teach “Mythology,” a class which offended many Christians. One of the topics was the Flood Myth. So I had a chance to say I thought the Genesis Flood was historically true, that God created through the Word. Naturally one student was especially furious and gave a presentation on the myth of evolution. Every believer in the class was encouraged by the Word and non-believers were challenged in some small way.

My most astonishing class included giving away Christian doctrine books to Mormons who asked for them. I did that without a synodical grant or a mission/vision statement. These things happen all the time, with variations according to what is appropriate.

God provides, so man does not have to force the issue. He has been doing a great job managing things, without my input, so I am going to let Him continue.

Here is one last area of the Word at work. It should never be overlooked or diminished in any way. Parents of children have the greatest possible opportunity for influencing generations to come. No audience is more receptive than one’s children. They adore and trust their parents. In the teen years they test whether those lessons are really valid for all time or just for little children. When children grow up and become parents, they have the chance to repeat the same process.

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