[We are not following the Church of Rome lectionary used by all the Lutheran synods, and we are a bit off on the traditional one. Call this the Gregorian. Back to the gesima Sundays next week.]
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #8 Fred til Bod
The Confession of Sins
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 2 Peter 1:16-21
The Gospel Matthew 17:1-9
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #135 Potsdam
Metamorphosis - Transfiguration
The Hymn #307 Old 124th
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 #283 Reuter
KJV 2 Peter 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
KJV Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father: We thank Thee that Thou hast revealed unto us the glory of Thy Son, and let the light of Thy gospel shine upon us: We pray Thee, guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by Thy grace, and conduct our lives in all godliness; 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.
Metamorphosis – Transfiguration
The Epiphany readings remind us of the divine nature of Christ and how it was shown to the Jewish leaders (in the Temple), the ordinary people (Wedding at Cana), and the disciples (stilling of the storm, Transfiguration).
Today I was reading material about the Seminex days, which I remember quite well. The people in the LCA cheered those seminarians and professors who left Concordia St. Louis (but came back the same day for meals and lodging). A public relations storm, manipulated by John Tietjen, made out the conservatives as despicable villains, the apostates as noble heroes worthy of emulation.
I got to know Robert Preus fairly well and I met his brother Jack, who signed my copy of Chemnitz Two Natures of Christ, which he translated. (Can you imagine Jerry Kieschnick translating a doctrinal book from Latin?). The Preus brothers brought to the forefront the world of Lutheran doctrine. They showed people that PhDs could be believers and defend those beliefs.
There are only two ways to look at this Gospel lesson. Either this happened, revealing the divine Sonship of Christ, or it was a myth. Until the Preus brothers disputed the leadership of the LCMS, the vast majority of Lutherans were being led into the mythological view of this Gospel text. The mythological view held that the story was invented but told an important truth anyway. The truth was whatever the reader saw in it.
Some people may think that the Wisconsin Synod did not fall for this, but Richard Jungkuntz and his sidekick Gerke were both teaching this at Northwestern College for years. They were finally smoked out and departed for the Missouri Synod, where heretics with PhDs were welcome. Then they were revealed again, and Jungkuntz finished his days in the ALC as provost of a small synodical college. (Jungkuntz was promoted every time he was exposed as an apostate, so he was not exactly a martyr. Besides, he is probably the only NWC professor ever quoted in the New York Times.)
The Emerging Church, which is the latest fad in WELS and the ELS, is a return to the mythological view of the Bible. Some may shriek that this is no so, but it bears some thought.
The Emergent Church is aimed at non-believers (in a rather petulant, angry way – as Stetzer and others have shown). The Emergent Church is full of movie screens, enormous sounds systems, and gimmicks to appeal to urban snobs – couches and expensive coffee machines. The Emergent Church is non-confessional and non-liturgical, because non-believers do not like such things. Don’t look for a cross, either. The Emergent Church only tries to appeal to the felt needs (very important term: felt needs) of unbelievers. Demographic studies show they worry about relationships, time management, and spirituality in a vague way. Everything is aimed at that slice of the market, at the ego of those people.
What this Gospel lesson teaches is not material for an Emergent Church service. The Emergent Church does not follow a liturgical calendar anyway. If this lesson is mentioned, it is to start a monologue about the speaker, where he pretends to bare his soul about his insecurities (much audience laughter) and his vanity (solemn nods). He may talk about himself for 40 minutes, as I witnessed at Xenos (a model Emergent Church, loved by Doebler’s Rock and Roll Church), before he even mentions God.
Is this not the mythological approach? The content of God’s revelation is only a springboard for a mildly amusing or stupendously annoying comedy routine. And Missouri contended against it for a period of time and seemed to win. The Wisconsin Synod and ELS felt kinship as they saw their old warnings finally proven to be true. After all, the Preus brothers started the break in fellowship as ELS leaders just before they joined the LCMS, which they had denounced as apostate. Nevertheless, God works with the Word even among clever church politicians. Both men accomplished a lot and showed more leadership skills than anyone who followed. Now we are back in swamp again. Church Growth is supposedly dead, but only because a worse version is taking over – the Emergent Church.
An eyewitness wrote this, inspired by the Holy Spirit:
2 Peter 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables [myths], when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The power of the apostles’ preaching came from their status as eyewitnesses of the Resurrection. Of all the miracles of Christ, the Resurrection was the greatest and most impressive. The apostolic witness was unanimous—and included Paul, who saw the risen Christ. The risen Christ appeared to Paul and made him an apostle.
Only those who saw the risen Christ could be apostles. That is why we only have one generation of Apostles. Often when there is a new religious fad, the leaders of that fad call themselves apostles. One writer said that charismatics were not ordinary Christians – they were apostles, much higher than ordinary pastors. Anyone can imagine how much they looked down on ordinary pastors. Harumpf.
The original Apostles traveled, preached, and trained local pastors. We can see Paul’s efforts in his letters to two pastors - Timothy and Titus.
Peter wrote, as John did in 1 John, that they were witnesses of the divine power of Christ. They were with Him on the Mountain of Transfiguration and they heard the heavenly voice saying, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” There were two spoken affirmations of Christ. One was at His Baptism, when God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The second affirmation said – “Listen to Him,” or in other words – Listen to what He says about His death and resurrection.
“We have a more sure word of prophecy.” The Apostles had the Old Testament to preach from and circulated apostolic letters at first. The Gospels were the spoken stories of the Apostles. People saw the men who were on the boat with Jesus during the storm. The fishermen could identify with that. They saw the men who witnessed the water turned into the finest wine. That probably caused a stir which was remembered in Cana, Galilee. The greatest commotions were caused first by Lazarus rising from the dead then Christ rising from the dead.
For all these things to happen and to have the Scriptures fulfilled – that was the message of salvation from the Apostles. The foundation of the Christian Church was the work of Christ, the witness of the Apostles, and knots of believers created during the preaching ministry of Christ. The Word of God transforms people.
KJV 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Christianity is historical, not mythological. The Gospel teaches us to have a different view of life because of God’s revelation. The Gospel is not a rabbit’s foot to be used for luck and prosperity when times are tough – or not luxurious enough. The Gospel transcends all material needs first, by feeding the soul, preparing us for eternal life, while reminding us that God also provides for our material needs before we even ask.
One member said she learned a lot about birds from an earlier sermon. Birds can be seen from an evolutionary perspective, as they were by Darwin, born 200 years ago. Or they can be appreciated from the perspective of Creation. Darwin saw various kinds of finches on an island decided they evolved into those different species.
Everything living is food for another living thing. Believers look at the astounding variety of ways in which birds take care of God’s Creation. I still puzzle over how one animal or plant becomes something else over time! We have many examples of human settlements falling apart because of poor planning, lack of food, lack of water, violent warfare, and sterility (ancient Rome and their lead problem). Birds do not reason yet they manage very well, as if designed and programmed by the ultimate Manager. They thrive where the food is plentiful and fly off to where the new supplies are. They seldom strip a tree bare of fruit. Instead, they eat some and move on. They live in all kinds of habitat, from the ground to the highest perches. They court in the strangest ways, all different from each other, and they raise their young differently.
When people look at God’s Creation and eliminate His divine power from it, they are creating a mythological view. For example, they cannot explain the evolution of a bird feather, which is enormously complicated (there are four types, but that is another story). Instead, they say – the bird feather “is a miracle.”
Or sharks. I heard one TV program say, “Suddenly in evolution there appeared a perfectly designed killing machine – the shark.” That sounds like Creation but it was fashioned to conform to the mythology of evolution. The facts do not matter. Only the impression matters – the impression that there is no divine power, no divine justice, no heaven and hell.
The demagogues of this world want us to rest upon our feelings, to make our judgments based on our emotions, which are fragile and transitory.
In contrast, the Word of God says we should use our minds:
KJV Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Faith is not contrary to the use of our intellect. The Word of God converts us and sustains us, so our minds are constantly renewed by learning about God’s world through God’s eyes.
whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
There is only one truth and it is revealed by God in the canonical books of the Bible. It does not matter what people think it means. It only matters what God clearly states. When Mormons argue against the Bible, they say, “There are 100 different ways to interpret each verse of the Bible.” I agree with them, to a point. I always say, “Yes, 99 wrong ways and 1 right way.” And I sometimes add, “Are you telling me God’s Son was born of the Virgin Mary, performed great miracles, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead, but God entrusted this message to a bunch of idiots who could not write clearly?” Their reaction is amusing.
Arguments against the clarity of the Bible are attacks against God’s Word. If someone says, “Those are grey areas of Scripture,” he is saying, “God speaks in such a confused and disorderly way that we can take those passages any way we wish.” That what the warning against “private interpretation” means. Of course, the charming heretics always have their own interpretation and promote it without ceasing. But the Word simply hardens their hardened hearts until they retreat into atheism, Hinduism, or both. They prefer to have the highest positions in the church, where they can promote their mythological me-centered views in comfort and style.
Similarly, if someone says he is incapable of interviewing a known heretic and exposing the man’s false doctrine—because the wolf is so clever—then he is confessing he is “not apt to teach” and disqualified from being a pastor.
KJV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
“Rebuke” means to condemn, to damn false doctrine, as Paul did – If anyone teaches another doctrine, even an angel, then anathema – damn him to Hell. Now the leaders say – “but we have to be careful and cautious and worry about all the souls.” They do not trust God’s Word to do God’s work.
Peter and Paul wrote about great sorrow and trials in the midst of preaching the Gospel, but that is the cross, which cannot be separated from the Gospel. The light shines in the darkness, and appears even more brilliant because of the darkness. The darkness may seem overwhelming, but light overcomes it.
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.