Sunday, March 15, 2009

Oculi - The Third Sunday in Lent

Oculi, The Third Sunday in Lent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Wednesdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #175 Hamburg 2.43
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 Ephesians 5:1-9
The Gospel Luke 11:14-28
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #172:1-5 Herzlich tut mir 2.55

The Stronger Man

The Hymn #172:6-10 Herzlich tut mir 2.55
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 #457 Friend 2.24

KJV Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

KJV Luke 11:14 And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. 15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16 And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. 18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. 19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. 20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. 24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Third Sunday In Lent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast sent Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh, that He might overcome the devil, and defend us poor sinners against the adversary: We give thanks unto Thee for Thy merciful help, and we beseech Thee to attend us with Thy grace in all temptations, to preserve us from carnal security, and by Thy Holy Spirit to keep us in Thy word and Thy fear, that unto the end we may be delivered from the enemy, and 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 Stronger Man
Luke 11:21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

This Gospel lesson has four different parts, which I have divided in the printed version for clarity.

The first part deals with the power of Jesus, which was displayed with great effect from time to time. The audience had two possible conclusions. Either Jesus was divine or demonic, because only God or Satan could have such power. Some accused him of being in league with the devil, while others demanded a sign (a miracle from heaven). That was often a feature of Jesus’ miracles. In the midst of them, people wanted even more. In my current religion class, some students wondered why Jesus promised the cross to His followers.
Our Savior knew that people were attracted to the miraculous and only wanted the miraculous. Many false leaders today have proven that a criminal record, no education and phony miracles will not be a barrier to forming large crowds and getting big offerings.

When Luther wrote about the Two Kingdoms (Reich) he was distinguishing the Kingdom of God from the Kingdom of Satan. (Another category is the Two Realms or Regiments – the spiritual and the material, the Church vs. the government). People either belong to one Kingdom or another. We are born unbelievers so we do not enter God’s Kingdom until we are baptized. The Christian Church began with infant baptism, when whole households were baptized—no exclusions—for 16 centuries until a few men decided to take away that certainty by inventing “believers’ baptism.”

So the Bible teaches us that there are exactly two categories of people – believers in Christ and non-believers. Becoming a believer is the easiest possible thing in the world because the Word accomplishes it either through baptism (among infants) or through conversion among adults. Remaining a believer is the difficult part. God has appointed His Means of Grace so we always know where we find forgiveness and the source for strengthening our faith, but we always take abundance for granted.

I think many would now value the LCA church I attended in the 1960s. The pastor was conservative. Every service was liturgical. No one ever thought of appealing to the youth by bringing in pop music. Confirmation took two years, but no one was allowed in class until the Small Catechism was memorized. The confirmation classes numbered about 60 each year. As I mentioned on the blog, youth meetings ended with Vespers or another service from the hymnal. The pastor routinely visited in the homes and hospitals. That congregation today would be as rare as hen’s teeth.

So there is a perpetual battle between the Two Kingdoms, Satan’s and God’s. People would have us believe that more people will enter God’s Kingdom if we imitate Satan’s realm. Jesus’ message in this Gospel is - His battle against Satan’s kingdom. Proof of God’s Kingdom arriving is Jesus’ ability to cast out demons. Opposition always accompanies the Gospel because Satan cannot abide losing anyone from his followers, and he wants to recruit as many new ones as possible.

People used to take closed communion for granted. No one thought it was a Constitutional right to drop in at a new denomination and demand Holy Communion. Now people will read a closed communion announcement in a bulletin, stand up, and leave in a huff. If enough congregations have open communion, the forces of apostasy win simply by making everyone indifferent to God’s Word.

Falling away from the faith is more toxic than never believing in the first place. Those who fall away (apostasy means falling away in Greek) have an allergy to what they first believed. They are most likely to be active opponents. I have one reader of the blog who posts one or two atheistic comments on a regular basis. I sometimes wonder if one or both of the Church Growth pastors I knew in the past are sending those atheistic posts.

I recall so many famous Evangelists who became apostates that I cannot begin to list them all. Now we are in an era where even the supposedly conservative Christian leaders are apostates. There is no place where doubt and opposition cannot enter. But these things were predicted in the Epistles.

KJV 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (Apostasis – apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

KJV 2 Timothy 4:3 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.

Stronger Man
The brief mention of the stronger man is a good example of Jesus speaking to believers who must study His Word carefully. It is easy to pass by this brief mention, but the passage is full of meaning for everyone. For a non-believer, the passage makes no sense.

21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

The strong man is Satan. He ruled over his realm on earth in peace and kept his spoils. Before the Flood, most of the world was given over to godlessness, so it was destroyed, except for Noah’s family. After the Flood, godlessness and pagan worship grew once again. The public ministry of Jesus began the era of the Stronger Man. First in His miracles, then with His cross of resurrection, Christ defeated Satan and took away his armor (all his weapons of deceit). Christ as the Victor took away Satan’s spoils too. The souls won by Christ through the Word would be in God’s Kingdom rather than Satan’s.

Since then the Gospel has spread over the world and given every tribe the chance to hear the Word.
The warning parable in the third section notes that someone may be converted, defeating demonic forces, but still be prey to their return. Let’s say the problem was addiction. An individual puts his life in order through the Word and receives nothing but blessings: forgiveness from friends and family, a new chance at a job, respect and a health life once again. He says, “I have conquered this.” So an old friend offers him another hit, and he falls again. That can happen many times over, but despair takes over when someone is proud of his own achievements. The swept and garnished house is easier to wreck. So even worse demons take over.

I have seen young adults speaking in class, former meth addicts, with their special meth acne scars still showing. I wonder how we could have thrown away a civilization on such poison.
The Blessing
People in the crowd tried to bless Mary for giving birth to Jesus, but He responded:

27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

God blesses those who hear the Word of the Gospel and guard that Word. The verb means to protect, watch over. The verb is used for guarding a jail. The happy-chappy-chapel people want to talk about Jesus all the time, but they never take His Word seriously. Conversion to Christ means a responsibility to teach His Word exactly as it is revealed in the Word, without any adulteration. We are blessed both in hearing the Word and in keeping it, because God’s Word—not man’s—is the blessing.

No comments: