Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Advent

The Trinity, by Norma Boeckler

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 81 Gerhardt III.60
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 Philippians 4:4-7
The Gospel Matthew 11:2-10
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 90 Gerhardt III.83

Peace Beyond All Understanding

The Hymn #307 III.70
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 #93 III.40

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 Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

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.

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.

Peace Beyond All Understanding

Peace is highly valued, but seldom found. This epistle teaches us about the peace of God, which is so great that it exceeds all human understanding.

The Votum is a prayer at the end of the sermon, and the Votum is Philippians 4:7. I remember the future president of the Lutheran Church in America asking me at Salem Lutheran in Moline, where he was going to preach, “Do you use the Votum?” I was new to Lutheranism and could not have located a votum for anyone to use. It sounded like something black with knobs on it. My friend Ken bailed me out, saying, “Yes, we do.” Ken became a Unitarian later in life, following the example of Marshall, who wrote The Mighty Acts of God. I told Ken that he switched too soon. He should have stayed with ELCA while it was turning Unitarian. I was joking, but he took me seriously.

At Yale, Abraham Malherbe gave me an assignment from his 1 Thessalonians class. I was told to write 20 pages about the use of this one word in the Greek New Testament. (We use the name peace for a woman’s name, Irene.) I turned in my assignment, which omitted an important insight. The word peace in the New Testament is always found in conjunction with salvation. Salvation and peace go together throughout the Bible.

The first three fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are love, joy, and peace. But one of the best definitions for peace can be found in Romans 5:1-2.

KJV Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Lenski, quoting Robertson, said, “There are sermons in tenses.” Normally I would not talk about grammar in a sermon, but “being justified” is an aorist passive verb. That means that God justified us, declared us innocent, through faith. The first phrase means that we are declared innocent by God through faith. Paul does not say we have justified ourselves through faith. God has given us a pardon, received through faith.

“Being justified” is a participle defining we. The participle is very flexible in Greek, so we can translate it many ways, knowing that “we” is being defined by “being justified.” I could translate, “We who are justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We can see the close connection between being justified by faith and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do many writers never send a manuscript to an editor? They do not want to be on the receiving end of an editor’s wrath. “Why do you bother me with such junk?”

Why do people have so much trouble with phoning others to make appointments? They fear an angry reaction, perhaps laced with a lot of cussing.

Why is it hard to knock on the doors of strangers and invite them to church? Fear of their anger and rejection.

A guilty person has no peace with God. This alienated state drives the guilty person away, not because God wishes this to happen. Guilt causes inner turmoil, anxiety, and tension. That is one reason why we have seen an enormous falling away of the younger generations in this me-centered world. Our society says, “Do whatever you want. There is no right or wrong.” But the conscience still works away. The person who is guilty and yet denies guilt runs from God and sees Him only as an angry judge.

Edgar Robinson starred in a movie called “Scarlet Street.” He killed his girlfriend, framed someone else, and got away with it. The movie shows him in a Hell of torment over his unresolved guilt.

The Law works wrath and increases our awareness of sin, by showing us what God commands and how guilty we are. The purpose of the Gospel is to show us that Christ has already paid for our sins. When we see paintings or statues of Him crucified, we should say to ourselves, “Those are my sins. He suffered for the sins of the whole world, and that includes all of my sins as well.”

The peace of God does not come from saying, “There is no sin,” (Humanists, Values Clarification, Situation Ethics) or “Everyone is a guilt-free saint, whether they ever believe or not” (WELS, etc.). The peace of God comes from knowing we are sinners through the Law and receiving forgiveness in the Gospel promise through faith.

Although God is full of grace, we do not receive grace except through faith.

Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

God establishes His peace by showing us our sin and the Savior who paid for our sin. Then the warfare begins. Satan will never leave a believer alone but will use every tactic to remove the believer from the Means of Grace.

I was never going to plant a member of the mint family again after trying to keep it back in the Midwest. But one person told me how to deal with mint in Phoenix. “Don’t water it.” Mint is extremely invasive, but it will die from lack of water. The Christian faith is contagious, because it travels and spreads through the Word. But, if the faith of an individual is never nurtured by the Gospel, through worship or study, the individual’s faith will become much weaker, or even die away. The power of Holy Baptism is so strong that a lapsed believer can hear the Word and return to his former state.

The peace of God is beyond all human understanding because it is one peace that cannot be taken away by anyone or anything. If a Mafia don is set free after a trial, he is full of peace and contentment. However, if his lawyer is tossed out of court for being in bed with known felons, the same mafia kingpin is filled with alarm and has no peace. Christ established a peace which the world cannot give or take away. John Bunyan had that peace when he spent his adult life in prison, writing masterpieces of the Christian faith, especially Pilgrim’s Progress, a book deeply influenced by Luther’s Galatians.

Christ promises and gives us an eternal peace, starting with being justified by faith. This peace is better than the bedrock on which our bridges and highrises are planted. If I barter away God’s peace for worldly peace, I will have a calm and serene life for a few years, but not for eternity. If I cling to the Word alone, I can count on the hostility of Satan and the scorn of the world. The peace of God can hold up against all threats and will last throughout eternity.

When God offers a promise, He also carries out that promise with the power of His Holy Spirit.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The peace of God will keep your hearts and minds a prisoner through Christ Jesus. Once, Al Capone was afraid for his life, so he surrendered himself to the police and had himself locked in prison. (Where else can one get free police protection?)

In this last verse, “keep” is a future tense for the verb for keeping prisoners. In this way Christ locks up our intellect and our emotions. Evil can displace the Gospel, but the more powerful Gospel can displace error, evil, and temptation.

All the admonitions of the apostle are based upon the Gospel. Because the Gospel has given you justification by faith:
· Rejoice in Lord.
· Let your kindly consideration be known to all.
· Do not fret about anything.
· In thankfulness take all your requests to God in prayer.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Quotations for 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)
Francis Pieper, The Difference Between Orthodox And Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 65.

"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war.”
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 28.

No comments: