Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #  191 Christ the Lord 2:97
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 #188 Hallelujah 2:20    
Faith Praised in the New Testament
The Communion Hymn #  206 Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense  2:81
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 #   212 A Hymn of Glory 2:93

KJV Ephesians 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

KJV Luke 7:11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. 16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. 17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst send Thy Son to be made flesh, that by His death He might atone for our sins and deliver us from eternal death: We pray Thee, confirm in our hearts the hope that our Lord Jesus Christ, who with but a word raised the widow's son, in like manner will raise us on the last day, and grant us eternal life: through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Faith Praised in the New Testament

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

“These are the three parts we have in this Gospel lesson: Sin is unbelief; righteousness is faith; the judgment is the holy cross. Therefore give heed and learn to consider everything that is without the Spirit as nothing and as condemned, and afterwards be prepared for the holy cross that thou must suffer on account of it.”
Luther’s Sermon on John 16:5-15, Fourth Sunday after Easter


This Scripture is the one most ignored in the Synodical Conference, and Luther’s sermon on it is the most ignored of all his sermons.

Lenski has written about this, but he is also ignored.

The thought is not that the world knows nothing about sin. Its daily crime list contradicts that, as well as its moralists with their repressive and reformatory measures. What the world lacks and the Spirit supplies is something that goes far deeper, something that actually convicts in regard to sin. This is not the fact that sin is sin, or that the real essence of sin is unbelief. The Spirit is not to repeat the work of Moses in preaching the law. The conviction in regard to sin lies in one direction: “inasmuch as they do not believe in me.” Yet note that this is the capital sin. For to believe in Jesus is to be saved from sin, to have sin forgiven; and thus not to believe in Jesus is to remain in sin, to perish forever in sin. The Spirit’s work in regard to sin is to confront the world with the terrible fact of its unbelief in Jesus, which means, with the fact that this unbelief leaves it in its damnable sin, doomed and damned forever, in other words, that only he who believes escapes from his sin. This conviction in regard to sin naturally operates in two ways. It will crush some hearts so that they will be frightened at their unbelief and cry out like the 3,000 at Pentecost, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37, and thus be led to repent and to believe. Or it will further harden those who resist this conviction; they will go on, convicted though they are, more obdurate than before, fighting against this conviction until they perish. In this the Spirit will do exactly what Jesus did in 7:33, etc., and again in 8:22–24: “I said, therefore, unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
Some fix their attention on the phrase “concerning sin” and thus fail to see the significance of the word “believe” in the elucidating clause, “inasmuch as they do not believe in me,” with its implication that this unbelief leaves them in their sin, and that faith, and faith alone, relieves them of their sin. Thus we get those interpretations which turn only on the word “sin,” unbelief as the greatest sin, the real nature of sin, and the like. But the Spirit uses “me,” Jesus; believing and not believing in Jesus apply to Jesus, unbelief in him and faith in him to the world’s sin—if possible, to save the world from sin, otherwise to brand the world with the conviction of its damning unbelief.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1082.

The Evangelist himself should have some standing in this discussion, but he does not –
KJV John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. [Following the Doubting Thomas passage]

And in many places in the New Testament – faith is good.

KJV Matthew 8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

KJV Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

KJV Matthew 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

KJV Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

1. “Sin is unbelief.”

This passage goes against many dearly held, but false concepts. The word “sin” conjures up images of fast women, slow horses, the “hellish lure of the card table” (as the Pietistic Augustana Synod once said). Many other layers of sin are added to this definition, including:
1. Telling the truth about false doctrine.
2. Questioning Holy Mother Synod on anything.

As Luther and Lenski both observed, the world has a concept of sin, but their definition is wrong. Anyone can list the many wrongs of society and individual, but the default attitude is to take care of these sins with atoning works, which are sins in themselves. Anything done without faith is a sin, so a good work done without faith does not atone for sin but only makes the sin worse.

The Planned Giving Counselors have honed this error so that no one goes near it for fear of being sliced to death. They sooth the guilty conscience of a greedy, dishonest, and adulterous businessman by selling him an indulgence to calm those nagging doubts about all the evil he has done. Then he can say, “Sure I cheated all those people, but look at all the good it is doing. There are buildings named after me, all over Lutherdom.” And he saw that it was very good – and died. Judgment Day may not sound as appealing as the soft flexing of Gucci loafers worn by an obsequious Planned Giving Counselor.

The entire construct of Purgatory, which is still essential to Roman Catholicism, is based upon one sin (works without faith) atoning for a lifetime of sin. These works are demanded during one’s lifetime, facing death, and forever after. The ideal Roman Catholic attends Mass daily to reduce time in Purgatory, pays for additional ceremonies to reduce time in Purgatory, and endows perpetual Masses to be said during his almost endless time in Purgatory, because nothing was ever enough to pay for his sins. This goldmine of faithless works will never be updated because it has been all too successful.

Jesus says that everything has already been accomplished by Him, that righteousness must come from Him. Unbelief is sin, but faith is justification – God’s declaration that sins are removed, absolved, and forgotten.

“As if he wished to say: Had they believed on me, everything would already have been forgiven them, whatever sin they might have committed, for I know that they by nature cannot do otherwise. But because they will not receive me, neither believe that I can help them, this it is that will condemn them. Therefore, God will at the final judgment pass a sentence like this on them: Behold, thou wast in sin and couldst not free thyself from it, still I did not on this account wish to condemn thee, for I sent my only begotten Son to thee and intended to give thee a Saviour, in order that he might take the sin from thee. Him thou didst not receive. Therefore, on this account alone, thou wilt be condemned, because thou hast not Christ.” (Sermon, ibid, found here –

The message of the Gospel and faith are the same in this respect. The Gospel teaches us that Christ has accomplished everything for us. He has shown mercy and love to us, before we could even ask about it. Faith means that we trust in His work rather than our own.

The oddest part of this passage is also the most comforting when we understand it.

2. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father

Many passages in the Bible are impossible to understand without additional study. Sometimes we know the words years before we know the meaning behind them. The more we study the Word, the more we see what these passages mean, but we need a sound, clear guide to show us the way.

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father for our sakes, to build our faith in Him as the crucified Messiah, Savior, and Son of God. He might have done things quite differently, since He often downplayed His power and went away from people. The resurrection took place as a spectacular display of God’s power and His victory over death. The tomb was opened up and He was not there. The disciples visited and saw the empty tomb instead of a corpse. He spent time with His disciples and taught the 500, to give the Church hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection. He ascended to heaven before their eyes and appeared to Paul.

I have often dealt with apostates. In the past I had a project of writing to all the ELCA seminaries and asking if any of their professors believed in the Virgin Birth of Christ or His resurrection. Finally one of them gave me a name, and this professor did say in writing that the resurrection might be a historical fact.

This may seem rather weak—and it is—but the research led me to the literature showing that no one has ever refuted the resurrection of Christ. Many reject anything divine about Him, but no one has made a case for it being fraudulent.
The empty grave is the concrete reminder of Christ victorious over death.

As Luther observed, the resurrection was not for Jesus, but for us. And the Ascension was not for Jesus, but for us. Even today, people feel the great joy of Easter, which remains as free of commercialism as we could hope in these last days of an insane old world.

But the Ascension. Conservative Lutherans mark this day especially  because the unbelieving world and apostates would like to keep Easter without the reason-defying picture of Jesus rising from the earth. It is more than Easter, because it marks the first witnesses watching the event as it takes place. Nothing says more about the unimportance of all things worldly when the King of Kings reigns over us.

“ Wherever Christ is now preached and acknowledged, there he reigns in us, from the right hand of his Father, and is himself here below in the hearts of men. There he reigns with might, power and dominion over you and all your enemies, and guards you from sin, death, devil and hell. Thus is his resurrection and ascension our comfort, life, blessing, righteousness and everything in one. This is what the Lord means when he speaks of righteousness, that the people thereby should become pious and righteous, that he ascends to heaven to the Father and we see him no more. This the world does not know, therefore the Holy Spirit must come and convict the world of it.” (ibid)

“Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more” means – Faith is righteousness.

Faith in Christ means we spend our time studying the Word, worshiping, receiving grace through the Means of Grace.

Isn’t it strange how people say, as we children do, “Why do we have to go to church? Why does God demand church?” In faith, we know that we receive in church. We do not give to God, who needs nothing.

The childish notion of church is – a demand. Many ministers present it as such, and that works outwardly in creating inward Pharisees who do what they must do, as works of the Law.

The faith notion of church is – God gives righteousness, forgiveness, mercy, and love to troubled souls. When there is a government hand-out program, thousands show up to receive. When Notre Dame says that they may sell some extra tickets, which are paid in advance whether seats are assigned or not – thousands respond.

When God says His grace is freely distributed through the Means of Grace and received in faith, man:
1. Argues against the Means of Grace (Calvinism and Pietism).
2. Ignores the Means of Grace and copies Pietism (Synodical Conference).
3. Fakes the Means of Grace and eviscerates their meaning (Rome).

Ministers were shocked when I reduced pastoral work to the Word, which is the only way God works:
1. Preaching the Gospel.
2. Teaching the Gospel to adults, catechizing the young.
3. Taking the Word to people through visitation.

The truly successful Lutheran pastor today:
A. Plagiarizes a false Gospel – concoction of works and New Age tomfoolery.
B. Has someone else do the teaching, or copies synodical and non-Lutheran materials.
C. Spends all his time planning and going to Schwaermer conferences.

Since the Pharisee plan is being employed, based on works-righteousness rather than the righteousness of faith, the churches are attracting and producing little Pharisees.

Relying on the Word of God, trusting in the Means of Grace can only lead to:

John 16:11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

That can be seen as a victory—and it is. But we also have to wonder, with Luther, what the Prince of this Word thinks about it.

Luther translated the meaning as – Bearing the cross.

The unbelieving world, Satan and his followers, and the apostates will not listen to the Gospel, hate the Gospel, and impede the Gospel whenever they can. Chytraeus wrote that the surest sign of orthodoxy is persecution.
Because we lack faith, the surest sign of God’s blessing (see the Beatitudes) is viewed with alarm – the cross.

That shows a lack of understand and a lack of depth. The cross must happen, and we must wait for God’s blessing to come through that cross. If it were appealing, we would never call it a cross.

The time we spend in agony, awaiting a change, teaches us patience, because we see once again how God works – beyond all hope, without any wisdom or skill on our own.

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