Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity

The Lost Sheep by Norma Boeckler

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 281 The Savior Calls 1:29
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 436 1:33

Warning for the Indolent

The Hymn # 329 – Luther – From Depths of Woe 1:27
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 # 339 All Hail the Power 1:57

KJV 1 Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

KJV Matthew 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Prayer by Veit Dietrich
O gracious God, merciful Father, who dost bountifully forgive and show mercy unto all who truly repent of their sins: We heartily beseech Thee, dear Father, forgive us all our sins, and grant us Thy grace, that all we who call upon Thy name, each day abstain from all unrighteousness and sin, and turn unto Thee with all our hearts, that by the power of Thy Spirit we may daily be found in sincere faith and obedience, bringing forth fruits of true repentance: grant us also that, seeking and calling upon Thee in faith and confidence, we may find Thee a merciful God and Father, and be assured of Thy gracious help and blessing in every need of body and soul, until at length, by Thy grace, we obtain eternal salvation; through Thy dear Son, our Lord and Savior, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Warning for the Indolent

Many people are led astray because they do not follow the basic principle of “Scripture interprets Scripture.” Or they fail to challenge those who ignore this basic rule.

Some skeptics are going to say, “Where is this rule written?” The rule is derived from our knowledge that the Bible is the Book of the Holy Spirit, one truth expressed without error or contradiction. For that reason, the Lutheran reformers were reluctant to speak about “doctrines” revealed in the Word of God when there is really just one doctrine. Notice that dividing the revealed Word into multiple doctrines has made it easy for people to pick and choose, or to say one doctrine is more important that the other.

I was talking to a student at a Disciples of Christ/ Unitarian seminary about her studies. She bragged that both denominations worked together at the same school, not realizing that such mergers are a sure sign of institutional failure. I asked her how she could tell the Unitarians apart from the Disciples. That left her unfazed, so I asked about whether she believed in the Virgin Birth of Christ and His bodily resurrection. She said a few dismissive words and added, “Those are not important doctrines anyway.”

Dividing up one unified truth and dismissing parts of that revelation as “unimportant” are both essential to apostasy. Few seem to realize that Protestant departures from Luther were based upon jealousy. His books overwhelmed Europe during the Reformation. Zwingli was the first significant person to depart from Luther. Zwingli began the process that led to Calvin – as well as the Radical Reformation of the Mennonites and Amish. Zwingli had very little theological training as a Roman Catholic priest, so his Protestantism consisted of a rationalistic break with Luther. Zwingli rejected the efficacy of the Word and the Sacraments. Since Zwingli said baptism did not accomplish anything, the radicals said only a baptism after conversion – believer’s baptism – was valid. Zwingli died on the battlefield and Calvin later filled the void in Switzerland, repeating Zwingli’s errors.

All Zwingli had to do was place reason above the Word, to judge the Scriptures according to his human logic, and the process began. It is a basic method of interpreting the Bible and will always yield bad results. Just as bad, and often linked with rationalism, is emotionalism – judging it correct if it feels correct. (Our cattle dog Sassy grins in the midst of mischief, as if to say, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”)

And yet this is portrayed as harmless. If a wrecking crew showed up at a skyscraper and said, “We are only taking out the first storey,” people would be alarmed. Yet someone attacks the foundation of the Christian faith (the efficacy of the Word) and no one seems to stir. If someone is alarmed, it is denounced as legalism, fanaticism, hating every synod, etc.

This digression is important in understanding the parable for today’s Gospel lesson. Some passages in the Bible suggest an immediate return of Christ, so lunkheads have used those passages to say, “The Bible is wrong. Jesus has not returned.” Others, a little more subtle, have argued, “The delay of Jesus’ return was a problem already in the New Testament church.”

When people raise basic questions like this, I go to the plain words of Jesus. My niece heard that Hell and Satan did not exist, so I asked, “Did Jesus speak about both?” She said, “Yes.” I did not need to say another word, because children grasp these things immediately. My niece looked at her mother and said, “See?”

So it is with this concept of delay. As 2 Peter teaches, God’s time is not like our own. A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day.

Secondly, although Jesus did speak of an immediate return, these additional passages also reflect the reality of waiting.

KJV Matthew 24:42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

KJV Matthew 24:43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

KJV Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

KJV Mark 13:33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

The Mark 13 passage is closely related to the disciples’ failing to stay awake (watch and stay awake are two ways to translate the same Greek verb, which is the root for the name Gregory).

KJV Mark 14:34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. 35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. 37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? 38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

If God said that people could party until the return of Christ in 2050, they would. During that time there would be chaos, because everyone would enjoy carnal security.

But, as they say, a watched man watches himself better. Knowing that Christ can return at any moment, Christians are always on the alert, being watchful and praying.

This parable is a warning against carnal security, a useful term I found in Lenski. The term describes people who take the Gospel for granted and award themselves prizes for various historical accomplishments, all irrelevant:
1. I was a charter member of this church.
2. I am fifth generation in this synod.
3. My father was a DP.
4. I serve on 5 committees and 8 sub-committees.

In the parable, there are five wise virgins and five foolish ones. They are waiting for the arrival of the Bridegroom, who is Christ. The wedding is the end of time, which can be interpreted as our death or as the return of Christ, Judgment Day.
I remember one sermon where a tall, athletic man attended with his son. That was his last chance to hear the Gospel – he died suddenly that week.

Christ is always the groom in the Bible, and the Church is the Bride of Christ.

The wise virgins were prepared for the delay, but the foolish ones were not. One reader told me they used oil candles at their church. One day they ran out of oil and the candles were unlit. That would have been a good time to use this parable in the sermon.

When the Groom came, the foolish virgins wanted to obtain oil from the wise ones. The wise ones said, “Then we would not have enough.” The foolish ones had to go off to find some at a late hour, returning to find the door locked to them.

11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

We are supposed to imagine that Jesus would never say “no” to anyone, or judge and condemn anything wrong.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures divide people into two categories only – believers and unbelievers. There is no “nice guy” category to excuse false teachers.

This parable is taught by Jesus Himself to show us how people fall into unbelief over time, due to a lack of watchfulness.

The virgins were eager to be at the wedding, so they all had faith. However, half of them were not prepared for anything except the immediate.

As the Parable of the Sower shows, the living Gospel seed is choked by the cares of the world. God creates faith in our hearts by the Word, but He also warns us to nurture that faith through the Means of Grace (John 15). Deadwood will be pruned away and discarded.

Salvation depends upon faith, because through faith we receive the forgiveness of sin. The purpose of the visible and invisible Word is to convey Christ to us, to bring His benefits and blessings to us.

Those who spend a lifetime of deceit will often linger, as Paul Tillich and Pope Pius XII did, filled with dread. At that point they are so blinded and hardened that they cannot see what true repentance means. A deathbed conversion is possible but unlikely for someone devoted to serving his Father Below.

“Let us in” is not sufficient. The invitations for the marriage feast of the Lamb were sent again and again, the humblest gathered to fill the halls. The great, noble, learned, and foolish are too busy, too important, or too hedonistic to accept the gracious invitation. Only at the end, when the feast begins, do they realize their error. Like those who mocked the building of Noah’s Ark, they want a reserved seat once reality dawns on them – too late.

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