Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Cover by Norma Boeckler

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #292 Lord Jesus Christ 1:2
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 Romans 13:8-10
The Gospel Matthew 8:23-27
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #142 A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining 1:21

A Little Faith

The Hymn #192 Awake My Heart 1:22
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 #281 The Savior Calls 1:29

KJV Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

KJV Matthew 8:23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in Thy divine wisdom and fatherly goodness makest Thy children to bear the cross, and sendest divers afflictions upon us to subdue the flesh, and quicken our hearts unto faith, hope and unceasing prayer: We beseech Thee to have mercy upon us, and graciously deliver us out of our trials and afflictions, so that we may perceive Thy grace and fatherly help, and with all saints forever praise and worship Thee; through Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen. Amen.

Even a Little Faith Is Good


“The lake lies between high hills and is thus subject to sudden tempests which develop excessive fury as they roar through the great trough in which the lake lies. Some commentators think that more than natural causes were involved in this storm. We see no necessity for making the devil or the presence of Judas in the boat responsible for this storm, and we cannot accept the allegories which some commentators propose, such as that where Jesus is present upheavals must occur. We likewise consider out of place the discussion about the two natures of Jesus and such questions as: did his deity sleep? did he foreknow the coming of the storm? and similar questions. The storm was brought about in the providence of God in whose hand are all the forces of nature. The peaceful sleep of Jesus is due to the total absence of fear in his heart and to his absolute trust in his Father’s care.
25) And having come to him, they aroused him, saying, Lord, save! We are perishing! Matthew is still the most dramatic evangelist, only Luke approaches him in this respect. The fact that these disciples should come to Jesus for help is astounding. A number of them were expert sailors who knew all about handling a boat and who had been in many a violent storm on this lake. They appeal to Jesus who had never handled boats but had worked as a carpenter with his father in Nazareth. How could a former carpenter help these expert sailors when all their skill was at an end, and death in the roaring waves was their certain fate? In the providence of God this storm brought to view such faith as they really had. Completely at the end of their own resources in which they had always had great pride and confidence, they now cast themselves upon Jesus as their only hope. They forget that he had never sailed a boat; they think not of human but of divine ability in him. They abandon all human help, the best of which they possessed in their own skill; they cast themselves completely into the divine hands of Jesus.

That was faith. But their terror, their resort to Jesus only in their extremity, their fear of death in the waves are not faith but littleness of faith, which is in glaring contrast with the calmness of Jesus. This littleness of faith God’s providence also revealed. They aroused Jesus, broke in on his sleep.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 345

There are two ways to emphasize the lesson of this Gospel, concerning faith. I will outline them, as found in Luther’s sermons. In the famous Weimar edition, there are 30 volumes of his sermons. Even Lenker (my favorite editor) has multiple versions on his sermon for the same text, and they are long.

Fear Is the Opposite of Faith
The first is to emphasize the fear and lack of faith of the disciples. That is an important correlation because the opposite of fear is not courage - but faith. As Luther noted, fear is based upon reason and experience. Faith is trust in the power and mercy of God. The disciples believed in Jesus, but fear overcame them when the waves threatened to demolish the boat and drown them.

Matthew 8:24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

“A ship is like a prison, only you can drown.” They were using a boat that was designed for stability. Going straight across a large body of water is much easier than walking around it, unless a storm brews up. Although I have missed this experience, I have read how terrifying a storm at sea can be. After all, one sank a giant ore ship, the Edmund Fitzgerald, in seconds, and we still do not know how that happened.

A storm at sea or on a large body of water will erase all sense of position. The sky and water merge together in blackness. Worst of all, the waves rise up and crash down, tossing the craft and dousing its passengers. Fear is contagious. When we travel by air, I never worry until the stewardesses get nervous and buckle their seat belts, with the cart safely tucked away.

Whenever we face danger, all the bad experiences come to mind. The more we know, the more likely we will see all the bad signs and their implications. The disciples knew the stories about people lost during a storm, and they were quite experienced as fishermen. Their problem was not ignorance, but experience and knowledge. Once fear welled up in them, faith in Jesus went out the window.

A Little Faith Is Commended.
But in the House Sermons I was reading this week, Luther emphasizes that a little faith is good in the disciples, because they sought the help of Jesus, waking him up. The House Sermons were delivered to the residents of his home, an old monastery. They often had 25 people in residence.

Luther believed in the power of preaching, so he did not neglect his family, servants, and guests. Lest you think he lived in luxury, they barely scraped along. Luther generously gave away money donated to him. For example, he turned a generous gift over to newly-weds who were staying there. Katie worked extra to provide for everyone.

Luther’s point in the House Sermon is that the disciples were overcome with fear, but they trusted in Jesus enough to turn to Him in time of trouble.

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

The modern Lutherans rail against faith because they have no concept of what Luther teaches in his sermons, what the Bible says, and what the Book of Concord confesses. These modern Lutherans are consumed with the arguments of the Calvinists against the Arminians, which is another story, since the Arminians did teach faith as a virtue, in other words, as a work. The modern Lutherans think this way because they have no grasp of the efficacious of the Word in the Means of Grace. Talking with them is like debating with a Baptist about infant baptism. No matter what is said, they come back to their talking points.

Matthew 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?

Luther, as a man who taught and knew the entire Bible, understood faith to be trust in the power and mercy of God, which is displayed always in the Word. One of his comparisons is quite easy to remember, especially since gold is so valuable now.

Luther’s Analogy
Whether we have gold wrapped up in a tissue, held in the hand, or locked in a safe, it is the same gold. The value of the metal is not changed in any way by what holds it. In the same way, faith is trust in God, with the emphasis upon God. The faith of a child is no different from the faith of a theologian, because both hold the same treasure, which is the Gospel.

In many cases, the faith of a child is purer than a theologian’s because the child has not been trained to doubt, rationalize, and change the meaning of the Gospel. Whenever I have asked children about how Jesus could walk on the water, turn water into wine, raise the dead, and feed the multitudes, the child has said, without any help, “Because He is God. God can do anything.”

Obviously, the railing against “faith as a work, faith as a virtue” is nonsense coming from Lutherans. They should know that faith is trust, and that trust in God’s Word is the chief characteristic of the Christian.

Trust in God’s Word leads to all the blessings of the Christian life, because the Holy Spirit works through the Word at all times. The person who doubts the Word will harden his heart against the Word until he is no longer a believer but an enemy of the Faith. I have seen this happen to many ministers I have known. The collapse of faith is more notable, because of the gap between what was taught and what is now rejected. In contrast, the mainline ministers may continue along the same way, never really believing and having nothing to give up. Their Father Below takes good care of them until the end. Then they find out the delusions they have held so close to their stony bosoms.

This Gospel lesson teaches us that “little faith” is also sufficient in time of trouble, because that faith is in Christ when we cry to Him for help.

Luther observed that being a Christian means “even the weather is against him.” How sad that few are told this. They turn bitter when they do not realize how difficult it can be. Yet God allows this experience so the glory is His when He delivers us from trouble.

Luther admitted in his House Sermon that he felt overwhelmed when facing the Imperial Diet at Augsburg, 1530. As you may recall, he was under such a threat of death that he could not be in the same town. He had to write letters back and forth while Melanchthon served as the representative for the cause of the Gospel.

From Luther’s standpoint, the entire Empire was rising up against the Gospel, like a giant rogue wave, ready to dash everything to pieces and kill the Lutheran Reformation, which was barely started. The Emperor despised the Lutherans and later almost completely conquered them.

However, something intervened after Augsburg. The Moslem armies were threatening Vienna and all of Europe. The Emperor was a great military leader, so he went off to gather armies to battle the Muslims. He was occupied for many years, so the Lutheran Reformation took root in his absence.

Historians call this luck, while believers call it God’s providence and mercy.

The Command
Matthew 8:26b Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

We have so little control over events, even the smallest ones. But here Jesus rebukes the weather and “even the wind and waves obey Him.”

This happened so we know the extent of God’s power in the Word. He gives us many different proofs of how He can change things in an instant, beyond anyone’s comprehension or imagination.

That is why the Word moves people to pray. We are moved by the power of the Word to trust in the love and mercy of God. “Merciful Savior. Through the Word, you stilled the storm, turned water into wine, and raised the dead…” What is difficult for God after considering and remembering those miracles?

The Word is effective when:
1. It is heard.
2. It is read.
3. It is remembered.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is active when we dwell on the Word, abide in the Means of Grace. I kidded LI that his computer certification was close to the initials of a Roman Catholic order – the Spiritans, or the Holy Ghost Fathers. They have an interesting history. The Pentecostals would also like to claim the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit works only through the Word of God. The Spirit is not conjured up apart from the Word, and God never works apart from the Word.

The Word declares us forgiven through faith, because of the grace of God.

The Word consecrates the earthly elements so we commune with Christ, who builds our faith, takes away our sin, and prepares us for eternal life with this unique soul food.

The Word guides and directs us at all times, bearing fruit in a thousand ways.

Efficacy In The Book Of Concord

Augsburg Confession
"Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc.' Matthew 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men."
Augsburg Confession, VIII. What the Church Is, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 47. Matthew 23:2. Tappert, p. 33. Heiser, p. 13.

Apology of the Augsburg Confession
"For Christ wishes to assure us, as was necessary, that we should know that the Word delivered by men is efficacious, and that no other word from heaven ought to be sought. 'He that heareth you heareth Me,' cannot be understood of traditions. For Christ requires that they teach in such a way that [by their mouth] He Himself be heard, because He says: 'He heareth Me.' Therefore He wishes His own voice, His own Word, to be heard, not human traditions."
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XXVIII. #18. Eccles. Power, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 449. Tappert, p. 284. Heiser, p. 134.

The Large Catechism
"Besides, it is an exceedingly effectual help against the devil, the world, and the flesh and all evil thoughts to be occupied with the Word of God, and to speak of it, and meditate upon it, so that the First Psalm declares those blessed who meditate upon the Law of God day and night. Undoubtedly, you will not start a stronger incense or other fumigation against the devil than by being engaged upon God's commandments and words, and speaking, singing, or thinking of them. For this is indeed the true holy water and holy sign from which he flees, and by which he may be driven away."
The Large Catechism, Preface, #10, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 570f. Tappert, p. 359f. Heiser, p. 167.

"For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God’s Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words."
The Large Catechism, Third Commandment. #100. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 609. Tappert, p. 378f. Heiser, p. 175f.

"Thus it appears what a great, excellent thing Baptism is, which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God's own, suppresses and takes away sin, and then daily strengthens the new man; and is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory."
The Large Catechism, Part Fourth, Of Baptism. #83. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 751. Tappert, p. 446. Heiser, p. 209.

Formula of Concord
"Therefore, before the conversion of man there are only two efficient causes, namely, the Holy Ghost and the Word of God, as the instrument of the Holy Ghost, by which He works conversion. This Word man is [indeed] to hear; however, it is not by his own powers, but only through the grace and working of the Holy Ghost that he can yield faith to it and accept it."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, II, Of the Free Will, #19, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 791. Tappert, p. 472. Heiser, p. 219.

"And although God, according to His just, strict sentence, has utterly cast away the fallen evil spirits forever, He has nevertheless, out of special, pure mercy, willed that poor fallen human nature might again become and be capable and participant of conversion, the grace of God and eternal life; not from its own natural, active [or effective] skill, aptness, or capacity (for the nature of man is obstinate enmity against God), but from pure grace, through the gracious efficacious working of the Holy Ghost." Luther, Psalm 90.
Formula of Concord, SD, II, #20. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 889. Tappert, p. 525. Heiser, p. 243.

"Thirdly, in this manner, too, the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely to the divine working and the Holy Ghost, as also the Apology teaches."
Formula of Concord, SD II. #25. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 891. Tappert, p. 526. Heiser, p. 244.

"For this reason we shall now relate, furthermore, from God’s Word how man is converted to God, how and through what means [namely, through the oral Word and the holy Sacraments] the Holy Ghost wants to be efficacious in us, and to work and bestow in our hearts true repentance, faith, and new spiritual power and ability for good, and how we should conduct ourselves towards these means, and [how we should] use them."
Formula of Concord SD II. #48. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 901. Tappert, p. 530. Heiser, p. 246.

"Now, all who wish to be saved ought to hear this preaching [of God’s Word]. For the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are instruments of the Holy Ghost, by, with, and through which He desires to work efficaciously, and to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to do. This Word man can externally hear and read, even though he is not yet converted to God and regenerate; for in these external things, as said above, man even since the Fall has to a certain extent a free will, so that he can go to church and hear or not hear the sermon."
Formula of Concord, SD, II, #52. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 901f. Tappert, p. 531. Heiser, p. 246.

"Now, although both, the planting and watering of the preacher, and the running and willing of the hearer, would be in vain, and no conversion would follow it if the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost were not added thereto, who enlightens and converts the hearts through the Word preached and heard, so that men believe this Word and assent thereto, still, neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but should be certain that when the Word of God is preached purely and truly, according to the command and will of God, and men listen attentively and earnestly and meditate upon it, God is certainly present with His grace, and grants, as has been said, what otherwise man can neither accept nor give from his own powers."
Formula of Concord SD II. #55-56. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 903. Tappert, p. 531f. Heiser, p. 246.

"The other eating of the body of Christ is oral or sacramental, when the true, essential body and blood of Christ are also orally received and partaken of in the Holy Supper, by all who eat and drink the consecrated bread and wine in the Supper—by the believing as a certain pledge and assurance that their sins are surely forgiven them, and Christ dwells and is efficacious in them, but by the unbelieving for the judgment and condemnation, as the words of the institution by Christ expressly declare..."
Formula of Concord, SD, VII. #63. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1921, p. 995. Tappert, p. 581. Heiser, p. 270.

"For the true and almighty words of Jesus Christ which He spake at the first institution were efficacious not only at the first Supper, but they endure, are valid, operate, and are still efficacious [their force, power, and efficacy endure and avail even to the present], so that in all places where the Supper is celebrated according to the institution of Christ, and His words are used, the body and blood of Christ are truly present, distributed, and received, because of the power and efficacy of the words which Christ spake at the first Supper. For where His institution is observed and His words are spoken over the bread and cup [wine], and the consecrated bread and cup [wine] are distributed, Christ Himself, through the spoken words, is still efficacious by virtue of the first institution, through His word, which He wishes to be there repeated."
Formula of Concord, SD VII, #75. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 999. Tappert, p. 583. Heiser, p. 270f.

"Also, Tom. III, Jena, Fol. 446: 'Thus here also, even though I should pronounce over all the words: This is Christ's body, nothing, of course, would result therefrom; but when in the Supper we say, according to His institution and command: 'This is My body,' it is His body, not on account of our speaking or word uttered [because these words, when uttered, have this efficacy], but because of His command—that He has commanded us thus to speak and to do, and has united His command and act with our speaking."
Formula of Concord, SD VII, #78. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1001. Tappert, p. 583. Heiser, p. 271.

"Now, it is not our faith that makes the Sacrament, but only the true word and institution of our almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ, which always is and remains efficacious in the Christian Church, and is not invalidated or rendered inefficacious by the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister, nor by the unbelief of the one who receives it."
Formula of Concord, SD VII, #89. Holy Supper. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1003. Tappert, p. 585. Heiser, p. 272.

"1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocence] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life. 2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments. 3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith. 4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life." ..."God in His purpose and counsel ordained [decreed]:
Formula of Concord, SD, XI. #15. Of God's Eternal Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1069. 2 Corinthians 5:19ff. Tappert, p. 619. Heiser, p. 288.

"And this call of God, which is made through the preaching of the Word, we should not regard as jugglery, but know that thereby God reveals His will, that in those whom He thus calls He will work through the Word, that they may be enlightened, converted, and saved. For the Word, whereby we are called, is a ministration of the Spirit, that gives the Spirit, or whereby the Spirit is given, 2 Corinthians 3:8, and a power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16. And since the Holy Ghost wishes to be efficacious through the Word, and to strengthen and give power and ability, it is God's will that we should receive the Word, believe and obey it."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #29. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1073. 2 Corinthians 3:8; Romans 1:16. Tappert, p. 621. Heiser, p. 289.

"For few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word, and will not come to the wedding, Matthew 22:3ff. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge [or predestination], but the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says, 'How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!' Matthew 23:37."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #41. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1077. Matthew 22:3ff.; 23:37. Tappert, p. 623. Heiser, p. 290.

"Moreover, the declaration, John 6:44, that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order [the order decreed and instituted by Himself], by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto [to holy preaching], hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it..."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #76-77. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1089. John 6:44. Tappert, p. 629. Heiser, p. 293.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Latest Publishing News

Lenski's daughter, Lois, illustrated this book and many more.

One of my readers gave me a bunch of edits to do for Thy Strong Word. I thought I would be done tonight, but I am working on the format. The age of the files and working with versions of Word gave me some interesting problems to face. Now I am going through page by page to get full justification to work. The reader hinted at some software short-cut for universal justification, but this is an individual effort.

I should have the new version uploaded on Lulu by tomorrow - God willing.

Meanwhile I am ready to do some improvements and edits for Justification. I will definitely add Pastor Harley's material, with permission, because the work is well done and pre-dates my efforts. There are some other additions, planned and potential.

I am adding the Outrageous UOJ quotations and a reading list.

Next will be a children's book, aimed at the youngest children but also useful for older children as well. Norma Boeckler is already working on the illustrations. My Facebook friends love her work as much as the Ichabodians do.

Some other books need additional work on the Lulu list. Remember, they are all available free as PDF downloads.

I am happy to send PDFs or Word documents for anyone who wants to read TSW or Justification to help in editing.

I will also need some back of the book comments, with or without names.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

"By Him all things were made, and nothing was made that was made apart from Him, the creating Word." John 1. The swan was painted by Norma Boeckler.

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #44 Ye Lands 2.41
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 # 264 Preserve Thy Word 2.55

Commending Faith

The Hymn # 249 Isaiah Mighty Seer 2.75
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 #45 Now the Hour of Worship 2.95

KJV Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

KJV Matthew 8:1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 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. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Third Sunday After Epiphany
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Thy mighty hand, to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Commending Faith
First miracle, Lenski:
“This leper is willing, if Jesus shall so will, to remain in his living death. Submissive faith can go no farther. This leper distinguishes divine temporal from divine spiritual and eternal gifts. He knows that he is asking only for the former which God’s wisdom and love may and often does withhold from us; but gifts such as pardon, peace, spiritual consolation and strength are always freely granted since it is without question God’s will that we have them. How this leper came to such faith we are unable to say; but his case is one that shows clearly how the teaching of Jesus produced the most blessed spiritual effects.
On leprosy see the Bible Dictionaries and Trench, Miracles. Luke states that the man was “full of leprosy”; the disease had progressed very far. The leper was accounted as one dead and thus as unclean. It was a bold act on the part of this leper to work his way through the crowd to the feet of Jesus.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 319

This Gospel consists of two miracle healings. There are many healing miracles in the Gospels and even groups of miracles mentioned. When details are offered, they have great significance, especially since the Gospels are so short in length.

The first miracle involves a man full of leprosy, in Luke’s version. In other words, he is close to death and hideously deformed. No one can miss the fact of his leprosy, and he is also shunned and excluded from human company, except for other lepers.

He was bold to come through the crowd and to come forward. As Lenski observed, his question itself shows great faith in Christ. If someone wanted to nitpick, the bowing and the use of Lord were not so great, since that was common in that area of the world. Alexander the Great caused great conflict in his Greek soldiers by asking to be treated that way, which was entirely foreign to them. The Greeks created one of the few democracies in the history of the world. Before this time our presidents have never bowed before kings because our tradition, from the Greeks, of freedom.

The lepers question was the key item, because he said in a few words, “You have the power to change this wasted, ravaged body and made it healthy again – with just a Word.” The leper’s entreaty does not question Jesus’ ability. It emphasizes his trust in the power of Christ with a Word.

The divine power of Jesus spread in every direction from the healings, the style of those miracles (beyond any human’s), and the other miracles. Some were seen by only a few – the disciples. But in the course of three years, Jesus raised up three people from the dead: the young girl, the widow’s son, and Lazarus. He walked on water and stilled the storm. His first miracle, turning water into wine, was public and witnessed by many who never expected or imagined such a thing. Therefore, His reputation spread in all directions, and the leper clung to the hope of the Savior cleansing him.

Our translations make it seem to be a matter of Jesus wanting to. Another way to express the leper’s request is to translate, “If You choose to heal me, You can make me clean again.” Jesus reached out His hand and said, “I do choose to heal you.” And the leper was cleansed.

Luther pointed out that, no matter what the conversations involved, Jesus always granted the request of those who asked Him for help. Many people balk at certain details, such as when Jesus appeared to be difficult (Canaanite woman, asking for her daughter). But each miracle has a lesson or two embedded and we only need to listen.

Jesus healed lepers and the blind. We can only imagine the thrill and the joy they experienced when their lives were changed in a moment.
This example of faith shows us what it means to trust utterly in Christ. Jesus said (John 16) –“The Holy Spirit (preaching the Word) will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe on Me.”

The purpose of all preaching is not to show people their carnal sin, which they realize already, but to create and renew their trust in Christ by proclaiming the Word of the Gospel.

The carnal sin preachers begin and end with Law. Notice that all false teachers rely on the Law because they do not trust the Gospel themselves. In the name of Jesus they extinguish faith in Jesus.

All the New Age ministers are influenced directly by the Pentecostals, who conjure up the Holy Spirit on their own, without the Word and Sacraments. But their real masters are the occultic teachers of Asian religion. That is where Norman Vincent Peale got the book he plagiarized (The Power of Positive Thinking) and turned into a best-seller. Schuller copied the concept as Possibility Thinking, and Fuller Seminary copied him. When I hear Jeske calling on the powers of the universe to help us with our personal problems, Time of Grace, I am hearing Asian religion – which I have covered in about 50 university classes.

So let’s look at this leper’s faith, which is a prelude to the Roman officer’s faith story. The leper did not deserve to be in the crowd. He was loathed and feared by everyone. They did not want to catch his disease, which can be communicated. Worst of all, he had the look of a dying man. If he had a shack, he would never put up a mirror to see what he had become. Doubtless he was very weak too. The crowd could have pushed him into the ditch or beaten him away with their staffs. In spite of his fears and self-loathing, he went forward and asked in faith.

So it is when we come before God to receive His grace through the Means of Grace. We do not come to the Throne of Mercy because we are worthy but because we need His cleansing. The Gospel is not logical or reasonable. We have to overcome the limits of our human reason to trust in God’s mercy, to receive His love and forgiveness.

And the way we deepen that trust is to abide with Christ in the Word and Sacraments. As God taught us, this alone is the way in which His grace comes to us. This alone is the work of the Holy Spirit. And only through the Means of Grace do we produce the fruits of the Spirit, because the fruits come from God – not us.

The Roman Officer
The centurion was a high-ranking Roman officer, a man who had survived many battles and the incredible rigor of Roman military life. A Roman soldier never rested. He was always in training or in battle. If he needed work to be done, there were camps to be set up and stone walls to be built. Many European towns began as Roman outposts and camps. Just to illustrate one job of the soldiers. They built 10 foot walls for their camps, but also dug 10 foot deep ditches in front of them, sometimes behind them as well. That is an enormous amount of soil and rock to remove. The idea was to make the wall intimidating and almost impossible to scale. No soldier was ever asked if he felt motivated to do such work. The orders were given and he obeyed. Death was the penalty for not obeying, and there was no trial.

The only way to understand the second miracle completely is to realize that the officer trusted in Jesus so completely that he confessed before the crowd –

“I am a Roman officer. I do not deserve to have You enter my house. If I command something to be done, it is done in an instant. No one doubts or questions my word. I do not debate whether it will be followed. I know it will because I have absolute authority given by Rome. I hold life and death in my hands. Therefore, to heal my dear servant, You do not need to come to my home. You only need to say the Word and he will be healed. I know that, because I understand that You have divine authority far beyond my human authority.”

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. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus marveled at the officer’s faith, so faith in Christ must be very good indeed. He even said that the centurion’s faith was greater than anything in Israel. The typical request was to have Jesus present, but the centurion understood the efficacy of the Word. He had that kind of human authority, but it was derived from Rome. Jesus had and still has divine authority from Himself – as God.

How troubled must many Lutherans be, to overlook this passage and think that faith is a virtue of man and must be denigrated! That is the position of UOJ, which comes from Pietism. And yes, it is Pietism that trusts in the works of man and the outward signs of religion. Pietism is Law-oriented: real, relational, and relevant – they claim.

The faith of the centurion means utter trust in God’s Word. Jesus is conveyed to us in the Word and no other way. Mormons tried to tell me the Bible was confusing. I said, trying to be Baby Blue Eyes, “Do you mean that God became man, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and then communicated this message so that no one could understand?”

The Pietistic cell groups (small groups, lay led koinonia groups, share, care, affinity groups) demand works.

The centurion was a prime example for his time. If he stood in the market and ordered people to leave, they would leave without hesitation.
Therefore, when Jesus said, “Be healed,” at whatever distance, the servant was healed.

God says, “Your sins are forgiven.” They are forgiven. This is God’s command, not our feelings.

God says, “This is My Body, given for you for the forgiveness of sin.” That means receiving the Sacrament in faith forgives our sins. Rather than doubting the abundance of the Means of Grace, as the non-Lutherans do, we should be thankful for the many ways in which God’s grace comes to us in the form of the Word.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #39 Praise to the Lord 3.1
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 # 370 My Hope Is Built 3.11

God’s Transforming Word

The Hymn #294 O Word of God Incarnate 3.31
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 #309 O Jesus, Blessed Lord 3.70

KJV Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

KJV John 2:1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Second Sunday After Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that of Thy grace Thou hast instituted holy matrimony, in which Thou keepest us from unchastity, and other offenses: We beseech Thee to send Thy blessing upon every husband and wife, that they may not provoke each other to anger and strife, but live peaceably together in love and godliness, receive Thy gracious help in all temptations, and rear their children in accordance with Thy will; grant unto us all to walk before Thee, in purity and holiness, to put all our trust in Thee, and lead such lives on earth, that in the world to come we may have everlasting life, 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.

God’s Transforming Word
“Here are the items that count. Jesus had left his home to begin his career as the Messiah; he had been baptized by John and had returned with six disciples; the report of what had transpired right after his Baptism together with the testimonies of the Baptist, of the six disciples, and of Jesus himself, reached Mary’s ears first of all. These things brought back to her mind the great facts connected with her Son’s conception, birth, etc. We know this woman’s character, the depth of her nature, the clarity of her knowledge and intuition. She knew her son was the Messiah of whom wondrous things were to be expected. Like Mary of Bethany, who foresaw Jesus’ death by violence and grasped the moment at the feast made for him by his friends and anointed him for his burying, 12:1–8, so Jesus’ mother turns to her son at this critical moment during the wedding feast. Just what she did expect of him—was it fully clear to her own mind? The answer: ordinary help, fails to meet the case entirely. The answer must be: extraordinary, wondrous help. This touch, too, is true regarding Mary—she asks nothing, not even, “Can or will you do something?” She simply states the difficulty and humbly leaves all else to Jesus.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 187

This is a well known miracle, one of the best known of all, even though we only read about it in John’s Gospel. Because it is so famous and so often used for sermons and essays, there are also many wondrous claims about the meaning of the miracle. When I was looking for artwork illustrating the miracle, I ran into these explanations. Some decided this was a miracle about the intervention of Mary, and turned it into a sermon about Mary and the need for her intercession. Needless to say, this miracle concerns Jesus and the power of the Word, and Mary plays a subordinate part, with an important point made about her relationship to her Son.

The wedding of Cana miracle has many lessons in it, which we can discern from the details offered to us, and by comparing to other parts of the Bible.

First of all, Jesus attended this wedding. That may be overlooked as an important point, but this very fact shows that Jesus honored and blessed the institution of marriage, which was established by God’s command for all people on earth. God established marriage because it is good for people. That is what we call natural law – God commands what is good and forbids what is harmful.

When I study pagan religions, I am struck by how bizarre and damaging they are to the vulnerable. In many examples, women and children are subject to the whims of the culture and are lower than domestic animals in how they are treated.

The most alarming danger signal about our Western culture is the willingness to copy paganism in so many respects. The institution of marriage is despised and rejected by the children of Boomers. It only took one generation for the grandchildren of WWII to decide that marriage did not suit them.

One sign of natural law’s truth is this – the best way to live in poverty is to be a single mother. Poverty encourages a lack of education, and a lack of education encourages single motherhood. In contrast, a married couple is more prosperous and encourages all the habits that promote prosperity in their children. The poverty cycle goes well with a lack of education and raising children alone. Add crime, the unattached boyfriend, and government programs – and the cycle is endless.

The old Judeo-Christian tradition was – “Get married and have children early, before you notice that you do not have any money.” In Judaism, the parents sign contracts to financially support a couple for the first 10 years, for example.

Another tradition has been that every adult should be married, because marriage is good. My wife Chris has encouraged many couples to get married. One woman wrote a personal thank-you from her honeymoon. Another couple was a iffy situation, where the young woman was raising a child alone. Chris said, “Who is this guy? If you love him and he loves you, why aren’t you married?” He came over to the gathering, a few minutes later. Soon after we attended their marriage, which has been blessed by a child.

Luther was aware of people despising marriage. He noted that people put off marriage in his era as excuse to engage in fornication. When he wrote in favor of priests getting married, the monasteries were emptied almost overnight. The Church of Rome was not happy because the tax on priests’ concubines was a major source of income. Of course, a cruder term than concubine was used. The faux-wife would be associated with the priest, be around the church, but had to live with her shameful condition.

But the Church of Rome attacked Luther for having a legitimate marriage and encouraging what the Bible clearly taught. The pope said Lutherans encouraged immorality when just the opposite was true. Luther observed that the people of his time worshiped those cardinals as gods “who were satisfied with a woman.” That is natural law – God puts the solitary in families.

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

They did not run out of wine because Jesus brought so many guests. Wine was the normal beverage, and the couple should have had plenty for everyone. Mary’s request indicates that she was in charge, so the couple was probably without parents to manage and pay for this wedding.

Mary’s statement to Jesus shows that she trusted in Him to provide an answer. John’s Gospel emphasizes His divinity by revealing in John 1:1 that He is the creating Word who fashioned the entire universe in six ordinary days. Scoffers like to say that the Virgin Birth is never mentioned in John, which is like saying that the NBC news report did not mention New Ulm. The Virgin Birth is assumed throughout John and certainly reflected in many different passages. Why did Mary believe so firmly in her Son (verse 5)?

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

Translators have added “dear” to this address, to soften the sound of it. The KJV is not so inventive and careless. In John’s Gospel, Jesus addressed His mother twice, as “woman.” This shows that He was still her Lord. He as indicated the same in His response to her when He stayed at the Temple and spoke to the leaders there. Finally, He addressed her as “woman” on the cross. He commended Mary to John’s care, so they would have a mother-son relationship, underling by His use of “mother” that He was her Lord.

KJV John 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

This is an important distinction, because Roman Catholics have made Jesus subordinate to Mary and given her attributes of the Savior (mercy, grace, comfort) while making Jesus the stern judge. This is not only true in their popular art but also in their official statements, encyclicals, essays, and books. Mary commands Him as His mother! She is the co-Redeemer (Redemptrix) who offered up her Son the same way a priest offers the Mass. Like all false doctrine, each generation has to be more extreme and absurd than the previous one. One sure sign of Lutheran pastors going off the deep end is their new-found obsession with Mary and their efforts to defy Scripture by making Mary the most important person in the New Testament.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

Mary’s response shows that her faith in Him was based upon her knowledge of His Virgin Birth and all the wonders associated with Jesus, including His stay in the Temple.

I agree with Lenski – that Jesus’ exchanges with people draw out their faith, so it is stated in the open. We can imagine Mary’s trust in Jesus, but this statement shows total reliance on Him as the Son of God. She does not tell anyone what to do, except to have the servants follow exactly what Jesus ordered. That is an example of faith, which is always exalted in the New Testament.

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

The commands are rather elaborate, but we can see why they are so detailed. The waterpots were empty and filled with water. The servants did this, so there was no mistake that empty clay jars were filled with water to the brim. What would that look like? Anyone can imagine – there is no mistaking a jar filled with water. In most conditions one can see down to the bottom or at least most of the way down, depending on light and sediments.

There is not trick. Wine is also quite obvious, not only in color but also in aroma. One glass of wine on the altar has a pungent aroma, from the fermentation process and the original source of the wine.

The same servants who poured the water took liquid from those water jars.

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

This response shows a bit of ironic humor. This great miracle is greeted with obvious irritation. The manager of the feast complained that the best wine had been kept back, which was not logical, not practical.

This was the first miracle performed by Jesus as the Messiah.

Left unsaid, though often mentioned in other examples of His divine power, is the commotion caused by the miracle. The servants knew what happened. Would they not tell? Water turned into very good wine. Did the manager hear about the oddness of his complaint? Everyone was left to marvel that this Teacher performed a miracle that no one could even imagine.

The Transforming Word
Every question we have is answered in many places by the Word of God. Every doctrinal error is addressed by the Scriptures.

The Synodical Conference taught an error about Holy Communion, an error which reflected their poor grasp of the efficacy of the Word. They said the elements were not the Body and Blood of Christ until they were received by the communicant. They even said, “They become the Body and Blood when they are received…” So this error is called Receptionism.

In debating this, the leaders said, “We do not know the exact Moment of Consecration…”

The same leaders have presided over the complete take-over of the Synodical Conference by false doctrine Fuller Seminary. And they love their UOJ – their only doctrine, because everything else disappears when UOJ is taught. The error is the same.

At Ft. Wayne, various Lutherans asked me about Consecration. I said, “If you believe in the efficacy of the Word, as I do, there is nothing to debate.”
The same is true with the Creation in six 24-hour days. Is that possible, compared to the intellectual richness of chaotic evolution over billions of years? Yes, if someone believes in the efficacy of the Word.

The Lutherans leaders of today are truly pathetic, because they lead people to and fro, in error’s ways confounded. They do not grasp or trust in the most basic teaching of the Bible – the divine effectiveness of the Word. Worse than that – they are against this teaching. They refuse to discuss it. They are antagonistic toward anyone who tries to remind them of their own heritage.

And this is the truest sign of their error – they shun the entire topic. They will not go near it because it lays waste to their entire edifice of man-made wisdom. Their posh jobs are also endangered by this most basic truth. They are not leaders but parasites who live off the generous donations of their members and the manipulative grants of Schwan and Thrivent.

What Should We Believe about the Transforming Word?

Most non-Lutherans are bewildered by the Sacraments, and we should not listen to them. What God commands is true and take effect from the divine power of His Word. If it is “This is my Body…given for the forgiveness of your sin,” then both are true. The Word consecrates and gives God’s energy to the Body and Blood of Christ.

Likewise, Baptism is not a cute ceremony, but the effect of the Word associated with water, so we know a baby or adult is taken into the Kingdom, given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and rescued from the power of original sin.

God’s blessings and His forgiveness come through the Word alone, although the Word comes to us in many forms – preaching, teaching, the sacraments, hymns, and creeds. The power of the Word is related to its purity, as H. E. Jacobs wrote.

The pure Word is the most powerful, so we should trust in that alone. That means the true Gospel will always produce God’s gracious will, which includes the cross.

False teachers think their prosperity, based upon greed and deceit, is proof of God’s blessing. They look down on those who bear the cross, thinking it is their punishment. This only shows how deceived they are by Satan. It is dangerous to juggle God’s Word as if it were a toy. Those who do so are in worse shape than the ones who wander or break into high-power electrical stations. They think they can defy the most basic rules and live.

On the other hand, the Gospel leads us to eternal life, no matter what gets in the way.



The Second Sunday after Epiphany

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16. KJV)

"The liberal movement in Lutheran circles is not a thing of sudden growth. In our circles it began half a century ago. In its early stages it showed itself by an aping of the sects in external things, while our doctrine remained sound. Perhaps the first thing to go was the Lutheran hymn...Many of the pastors and congregations gave up the ancient Gospels and Epistles, and began to preach on free texts, in imitation of the sects. There was a fad at one time for series of sermons on Old Testament characters. Lent was still observed, but the sermons became mere character sketches of Pontius Pilate, Judas, Simon Peter, and the Roman centurion.

"Contributed," "The Development of Liberalism, The Confessional Lutheran, 10/45. p. 121.

"That it is good and pleasing to God to sing spiritual songs is, I think, not hidden to any Christian. Everyone is acquainted not only with the example of the kings and prophets of the Old Testament ...but also with the common use of music, especially in the singing of psalms, in Christendom from the very beginning. St. Paul, too, instituted this in 1 Corinthians 14:15 and bids the Colossians (3:16) heartily to sing spiritual songs and psalms unto the Lord in order that thereby God's Word and Christian doctrine might be used and practised in diverse ways."

What Luther Says, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 980.

"In view of their spiritual meaning the psalms are really lovely and sweet; for they are comforting to all depressed, wretched consciences, who are in fear of sin, the anguish and agony of death, and all sorts of trouble and misery. To such hearts the Book of Psalms is a sweet, comforting, lovely song, because it sings and preaches the Messiah,...Thus David, too, often dispelled, or at least checked or weakened, the evil spirit for Saul with his minstrelsy (1 Samuel 16:17ff.). For the evil spirit is not at ease when one sings or preaches God's Word in true faith. He is a spirit of sadness and cannot stay where a heart is spiritually joyful (joyful in God and His Word." What Luther Says, II, p. 981.

"We know that music is hateful and intolerable to devils. I firmly believe, nor am I ashamed to assert, that next to theology no art is equal to music; for it is the only one, except theology, which is able to give a quiet and happy mind. This is manifestly proved by the fact that the devil, the author of depressing care and distressing disturbances, almost flees from the sound of music as he does from the word of theology."

What Luther Says, II, p. 983.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

First Sunday after the Epiphany

The Transfiguration, by Norma Boeckler

The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 277 I heard the voice 4:57
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 Romans 12:1-5
The Gospel Luke 2:41-52
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 657 Beautiful Savior 4:24

The Divinity of Christ

The Hymn #130 O Jesus King of Glory 4:49
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 #40 The God of Abram Praise 4:94

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

KJV Luke 2:41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

First Sunday After Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in mercy hast established the Christian home among us: We beseech Thee so to rule and direct our hearts, that we may be good examples to children and servants, and not offend them by word or deed, but faithfully teach them to love Thy Church and hear Thy blessed word. Give them Thy Spirit and grace, that this seed may bring forth good fruit, so that our homelife may conduce to Thy glory, honor and praise, to our own improvement and welfare, and give offense to no one; 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 Divinity of Christ

This story is one of my favorites. I remember going to church and seeing the well known painting of Jesus in the Temple. I knew the likelihood of a group of elderly men listening to a boy talk about religion. It was and still is fascinating to think about.

This should remind us of how little we know about the childhood of Jesus. The fake Gospels try to fill in the details with fables, but they were invented centuries later. The Holy Spirit chose to tell us relatively little because the central story of the Bible is the cross and resurrection.

There are several main themes in this story. One is the divinity of Christ. Another is the burden Mary and Joseph had to bear because they were raising the eternal Son of God. Finally, this story also shows how God took the Gospel to the temple (again) to prepare the religious leaders for the Messiah.

Divinity of Christ
Luke 2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

I often dwell on the laborious journey, uphill all the way, to Jerusalem, and the search for Jesus everywhere. That gives all parents a clear picture of the agony that Joseph and Mary must have felt for days.

However, we should also consider the long stretch of time Jesus spent with the elders, teachers, leaders of the Temple, asking them questions and teaching them about the Word of God.

It says about the Jewish leaders “And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”

There are two approaches to such matters. Some people tell everyone how much they know and offer their own authentication. I knew someone who went to Yale and told a story about how he graduated with highest honors, because his diploma said so in Latin. I looked at mine and saw “second honors” and asked a doctoral student at Yale about “first” being highest honors. She said, “Nonsense. First honors means it is a bachelor of divinity degree, the first degree. Yours means it is a master’s degree, the second degree.”

The second approach is to know matters so well than no one can dispute it. Sometimes I play a trick on people, because I was trained inadequately in network engineering. There is a phrase they use all the time – “check the physical layer.” There are some others that others do not know. When network engineers discuss something, not knowing me, or they give me needed advice involving the wiring and switches, I add “Start with the physical layer.” That creates astonishment. But of course, a few pointed questions would expose how little I remember after that.

Jesus spoke with the leaders for three days, we may suppose, and they were still astonished at what He said and the questions he asked.

Some of you may be thinking, “If I had been there. I would have listened to every Word for three days.”

But we have that opportunity all the time. The entire Bible is God’s Word. He speaks to us directly and His Word has the power to move us accordingly. It is both the direction and the power to follow that direction.
Recently an agnostic college student wrote to me about some matters on the blog. I urged him to forget about human institutions and read the Gospel of John, where Jesus speaks the most and teaches us in the clearest possible terms.

We can see from this episode in the Temple how much God did to convert Jews to the Christian faith.
1. He prepared the way with the Old Testament prophets and the greatest of all prophets – John the Baptist.
2. Jesus was circumcised and Temple leaders witnessed about His mission.
3. The Savior spoke with the Temple leaders for three days.

Jesus spent almost all His ministry among Jews and ventured into Gentile lands only for a short time. Likewise, St. Paul’s mission was “to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles.”

In God’s plan, this kept the Old Testament and New Testament together as One Gospel. From Lenski I came to realize that the earliest era of Christianity was an overwhelming success among Jews, so much that that excommunications and persecutions began in earnest. The Talmud also had its beginning at this time, according to Chemnitz, to cloud over the Scriptural witness to Christ.

So early Christianity was Jewish Christianity and then became Gentile Christianity as well. But the Gospel message to Jewish people has never stopped, and there are many Jewish Christian believers today because of it. One of the ironies of life is that I had a non-Jewish student who went to one of the Jewish Christian churches in Phoenix. So the mission to the Jews reversed itself and reached a Gentile.

Parental Cross
This story displays the agony Joseph and Mary felt. There is no secret about it. Mary said:

“Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

Jesus did not apologize but responded, “Did you not realize that I must be about my Father’s business?”

This shows us the vast gulf between our perception and God’s, which was preparation for the future. Jesus’ role was not something He would debate with Joseph, Mary, and the extended family. Doubtless few of them had any grasp of the nature of His work, until after the resurrection. Mary knew best of all.

There had to be this gulf because no one could imagine that the Only-Begotten Son would die on the cross to atone for our sins, to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil.
The clearest part of the Gospel, that this forgiveness is distributed through the Word and Sacraments, is still lost on people today. Either they do not know exactly how people are forgiven—although believing is forgiveness—or they declare everyone is forgiven in advance.

The seeming uncaring nature of Christ is His divinity. But this story lets us see our own doubts and reflect upon what is happening. We can see that Jesus in the Temple is a perfect example of God’s mercy. Could He have asked permission and received it, to stay for days? Instead, He did what God the Father commanded and brought the Gospel to the Temple itself. As a result some of the earliest Christians were from the highest levels of leadership, as shown by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

So, when God seems indifferent to our troubles and anxieties, God is allowing such things to happen for our ultimate good and to glorify His Name.

Efficacy of the Word Quotations

"Despised and scorned, they sojourned here
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand a priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
So oft, in troubled days gone by,
In anguish they would weep and sigh.
At home, above the God of love
For aye their tears shall dry.
They now enjoy their Sabbath rest,
The paschal banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord, at festal board
Himself is Host and Guest."
Hans A. Brorson, “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #656, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941.116

"But Christ was given for this purpose, namely, that for His sake there might be bestowed on us the remission of sins, and the Holy Ghost to bring forth in us new and eternal life, and eternal righteousness [to manifest Christ in our hearts, as it is written John 16:15: He shall take of the things of Mine, and show them unto you. Likewise, He works also other gifts, love, thanksgiving, charity, patience, etc.]. Wherefore the Law cannot be truly kept unless the Holy Ghost is received through faith... Then we learn to know how flesh, in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are regarded by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we experience that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost, so that now we are able to think aright."
Augsburg Confession, Article III, #11, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 159. Tappert, p. 125. Heiser, p. 42.

Effective in Galatia
KJV Galatians 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

In this passage Paul is presenting his case against the Judaizers in Galatia, establishing his status as the apostle to the Gentiles and destroying the necessity of circumcision. While Peter worked among the Jews and Paul among the non-Jews, God was actively at work in both men, because the effect of the Gospel does not depend on man. Therefore, the argument of the false teachers, that Peter alone worked miracles, is false.

Clark's translation: "For he who infused the supernatural spirit for Peter in order that he might authoritatively preach among the Jews, infused me too with that same spirit, so that I might as authoritatively preach among the pagans."
Kenneth W. Clark, "The Meaning of Energeo and Katargeo in the New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 54, 1935, p. 94.

KJV Galatians 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

The question posed by Paul about the circumcision party offers a comparison that needs no answer.

1. God provided all of the effort in giving you the Spirit. The verb form is related to the act of outfitting a chorus, that is, providing all of the expenses of a drama or pageant. God provided all of the cost in bringing the Spirit through the Word to the Galatians, sending His Son and commissioning the apostles.
2. God also worked (erg is the root for work) great miracles, which are recorded in Acts 14:3. “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
3. Did He work miracles (energon dynameis) through the works (ergoi) of the Law or the preaching of faith? The Judaizers could not teach the Gospel, could not therefore provide the Spirit, and could not perform any miracles or wonders. The works of the Judaizers do not work.

“Since Paul, then, clearly testifies that he did not even wish to seek for the confirmation of Peter [for permission to preach] even when he had come to him, he teaches that the authority of the ministry depends upon the Word of God, and that Peter was not superior to the other apostles, and that it was not from this one individual Peter that ordination or confirmation was to be sought [that the office of the ministry proceeds from the general call of the apostles, and that it is not necessary for all to have the call or confirmation of this one person, Peter, alone].”
The Smalcald Articles, Of the Power and Primacy of the Pope, IV, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 507. Tappert, p. 321. Heiser, p. 150.

Faith Works by Love, Galatians 5:6
KJV Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

"But after man has been justified by faith, then a true living faith worketh by love, Galatians 5:6, so that thus good works always follow justifying faith, and are surely found with it, if it be true and living; for it never is alone, but always has with it love and hope."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, III, #11. Righteousness of Faith, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 795. Tappert, p. 474. Heiser, p. 220.

This verse refutes the error of Roman Catholics, who damn to Hell those who teach that faith means trust in God, that faith alone receives God’s forgiveness.117

"If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this trust alone by which we are justified, let him be anathema [damned to Hell]." [Session Six, Canon XII]
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 460.

"If anyone says that a man is absolved from sins and justified because of this that he confidently believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except he who believes that he is justified, and that through this faith alone absolution and justification is effected, let him be anathema [damned to Hell]." [Sixth Session, Canon XIV]
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 551.

The law-merchants win if we think the energy of God’s salvation comes from circumcision or non-circumcision. They can even turn faith into a work of the Law, by making trust in God into a “decision for Christ,” or cooperation with God (synergism), or as the Church of Rome teaches, faith requiring good works to make the believer pleasing to God. Although the Roman concept seems to be the worst perversion, any addition of the Law to the Gospel destroys salvation by grace alone. The proper understanding of Galatians 5:6 is that the justified sinner, receiving forgiveness through faith, will be active in the works of love, in the spirit of gratitude rather than obligation toward God.118

“Therefore justification does not require the works of the Law; but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.”
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 721.

“He that hears the Word of Christ in all sincerity, and adheres to it in faith, will also soon be clothed with the spirit of love.”
Martin Luther, 8, 1572, cited in P. E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, New Testament, 2 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, II, p. 251.

"At this point, Paul uses the antonym katargoumai, in the aorist passive, of which notice may be taken here. All of you who seek to be pronounced dikaios through the Law, he says, katergethete apo christou, i.e. 'have been deprived of the efficacious spirit of Christ.' No longer is He in you, nor you in Him; you have been exorcised from him."
Kenneth W. Clark, "The Meaning of Energeo and Katargeo in the New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 54, 1935, p. 99.

To Will and to Do God’s Will, Philipians 2:13
KJV Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Kittel considers Philippians 2:13 the only instance of the word-group being used for human activity.119 Non-Lutherans have trouble with this verse, since they think in terms of the Arminian position of free will or the Calvinistic position of double predestination.120 However, Lutherans understand that the Holy Spirit works in the Word and Sacraments not only to make us love His will, but also to move us in serving Him willingly. Therefore, good works done by Christians are motivated by the Triune God and also activated by divine power. Walther: “We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for the very reason that our heavenly Father must do everything that is necessary for our salvation.”121

"Paul is not using law but Gospel. He is assuring his Christian readers that, in their complete dependence on God for their salvation, this God will never, never disappoint them but by working in them by means of Word and Sacrament will ever bring them to keep on in their willing and to keep on in their working, both object infinitives being present and durative."
R. C. H. Lenski, Philippians, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House: 1962, p. 800.

"And Paul, Philippians 2:13: It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. To all godly Christians who feel and experience in their hearts a small spark or longing for divine grace and eternal salvation this precious passage is very comforting; for they know that God has kindled in their hearts this beginning of true godliness, and that He will further strengthen and help them in their great weakness to persevere in true faith unto the end."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II, #14, Of Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 885. Tappert, p. 523. Heiser, p. 242.

“And although the regenerate even in this life advance so far that they will what is good, and love it, and even do good and grow in it, nevertheless this (as above stated) is not of our will and ability, but the Holy Ghost, as Paul himself speaks concerning this, works such willing and doing, Philippians 2:12. As also in Ephesians 2:10 he ascribes this work to God alone, when he says: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II, #39, Of Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 895. Tappert, p. 528. Heiser, p. 245.

Effective in Transforming, Philipians 3:20
KJV Philippians 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Here Paul contrasts the city to which we belong, in Heaven, to the earthly nature of those who are sworn enemies of Christ (verse 19) whose God is their belly, whose end is destruction, whose glory is their shame, because they think only about the things on the earth. Believers, in contrast, belong to the City of God, where our Savior will come from at the end of time. He will call our bodies from the dead, (John 5), giving believers a glorious body which is like His glorified body, through His activity in subordinating every created thing and all powers to Himself.
"From this earthly city issue the enemies against whom the City of God must be defended. Some of them, it is true, abjure their worldly error and become worthy members in God's City. But many others, alas, break out in blazing hatred against it and are utterly ungrateful, notwithstanding its Redeemer's signal gifts. For, they would no longer have a voice to raise against it, had not its sanctuaries given them asylum as they fled before the invaders' swords, and made it possible for them to save the life of which they are so proud."
Augustine, The City of God, Garden City: Image Books, 1962, p. 40.

Active in Colosse; 1:28, 2:12
KJV Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

Paul had to strive against Judaizers in Colosse, so he preached the Gospel and also warned against the false teachers. He could present every soul perfect in Christ only if the leaven of salvation by the Law was completely removed in all respects. His task is not easy; for he speaks of hard labor and agonizing according to the divine energy God has given him to work miracles. We can see that the old Pharisaical pride of Paul in being such a hard worker is now converted into praising God for working through him. The style of self-congratulations is still present, but Paul is now only the instrument.

KJV Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

The monergism of the Bible is repeatedly connected to this word-group. In this passage we have the utter defeat of synergism, that is, any notion that man cooperates with God in salvation, even if it only means to complete what God has begun. Baptism is symbolic, but the Sacrament is not merely symbolic. Baptism is the energy of God in burying the old Adam and raising up the new Creation. Water represents our burial, our washing, our rebirth, but the power of Baptism comes from the Holy Spirit at work in the Word. We are raised through the faith worked by God who raised Him from the dead. The creation of faith by One so powerful cannot be denied, especially since the actual resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith.122

"Luther heads the list of those who regard the genitive as a genitive of cause: 'the faith which God works,' etc., 'of the operation of God' (KJV), i.e., produced in us by His work. So this passage has come to be a dictum probans against synergism. The fact that faith is in toto God's production is the teaching of all Scripture."123
R. C. H. Lenski, Colossians, Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1937, p. 109f.

“Just as Paul says to the Colossians, 2:12, that faith is efficacious through the power of God, and overcomes death: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new movements and works. [Because it is a new light and life in the heart, whereby we obtain another mind and spirit, it is living, productive, and rich in good works.”
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, #250, Justification. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 191. Tappert, p. 143. Heiser, p. 53.

“Paul almost everywhere, when he describes conversion or renewal, designates these two parts, mortification and quickening, as in Colossians 2:11: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, namely, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. And afterward, v. 12: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Here are two parts. [Of these two parts he speaks plainly Romans 6:2, 4, 11, that we are dead to sin, which takes place by contrition and its terrors, and that we should rise again with Christ, which takes place when by faith we again obtain consolation and life.”
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII, #46. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 263. Tappert, p. 188. Heiser, p. 81.

Effectual in Acknowledging, Philemon 1:6
Philemon 1:6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

Communication (koinonia) is used exclusively in the New Testament for fellowship with God. The English term, koinonia, has degenerated into a name for socializing and cell groups. In the New Testament, koinonia means fellowship with God:
KJV 1 Corinthians 10:16 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (koinonia) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (koinonia) of the body of Christ?

When we understand that koinonia means fellowship with God, then we can see how Philemon’s faith can become energetic, divinely active, in being aware of all worthwhile things in him in Christ. The letter is a Gospel-centered plea by Paul to a rich man, Philemon, to accept back his runaway slave, Onesimus. The request in Philemon 1:6 is for Philemon to show mercy, which will then be influential among all the Christians, when they see someone give up his rights under the law in order to show forgiveness through Christ. This would also be a way of acknowledging the good things, the blessings, of Christian fellowship. In contrast, non-believers “lord it over one another (Matthew 20:25).”

Synoptic Energy, Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:14
KJV Matthew 14:2 (parallel: Mark 6:14) And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

Herod the Tetrarch, in a guilty panic after he murdered John the Baptist, claimed that Jesus was John come back to life. While others saw wonderful miracles attesting the divinity of Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, Herod saw a haunting memory of a dead prophet. If we did not have the efficacious verb in this passage, we would still be struck by the terror induced in Herod by the presence of the Savior. The mighty works active in Christ have the effect of the Law for Herod, because he only knows the agony of the unrepentant sinner who has hardened his own heart against the Gospel. Proverbs 28:1 “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Sunday Before The Epiphany

This Transfiguration scene is the cover art, designed by Norma Boeckler, for Thy Strong Word.

The Sunday before the Epiphany, 2011

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 126 Arise and Shine 3:67
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 # 128 Brightest and Best 3:29

Luther Taught Justification Through the Means of Grace

The Hymn #95 Savior of the Nations 3:42
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 #81 O Jesus Christ Thy Manger 3:60

KJV 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

KJV Matthew 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Sunday Before the Epiphany
O Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, to become a stranger and a sojourner in Egypt for our sakes, and didst lead Him safely home to His fatherland: Mercifully grant that we poor sinners, who are strangers and sojourners in this perilous world, may soon be called home to our true fatherland, the kingdom of heaven, where we shall live in eternal joy and glory; through the merits of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Luther Taught Justification Through the Means of Grace

Confusion and error about the efficacy of the Word have allowed a Halle University Pietist to trump the Bible and the Book of Concord with his strange concoction of double-justification, grace without the Means of Grace, forgiveness without the Word, without faith. A general understanding of the unity of Christian doctrine is necessary to discern the truth revealed in the Scriptures as distinguished from the manifest errors of the Enthusiasts.
Martin Luther is known both for his prolific writing and also for his consistency. He taught the same theology throughout life. Historians are not met with confusion caused by Calvin, who was also prolific. The Swiss Reformer contradicted himself throughout his writings, so the Calvinists continue to debate his doctrine and lack a unified, harmonious confession.
The Lutherans Reformers were anxious to avoid splitting the Christian faith into many doctrines, as if they are individual concepts, a modular religion to be put together and taken apart in units. Luther grasped and taught the entire Bible as a unified truth, the Bible as the Book of the Holy Spirit. The Concordists likewise sought a harmonious witness to the truth, not one that bartered and swapped individual pieces.
When UOJ advocates cry out, “You have denied Universal Objective Justification!” they emphasize their error, because they isolate one item and defend it by quoting other errorists, without ever connecting their concept to Biblical, Lutheran doctrine.
Lutheran doctrine is not the result of a franchise being established. Lutheran doctrine is not synodical, regional, or bound by a nation’s borders. The Book of Concord confesses, and Lutherans allegedly agree – that the unified truth proclaimed in its pages is the historic Christian faith. Therefore, the Book of Concord begins with the Ecumenical Creeds:
1. The Apostles Creed, so ancient that no one knows its origin.
2. The Nicene Creed, fashioned to combat errors about Christ.
3. The Athanasian Creed, “the most splendid ecclesiastical lyric ever poured forth by the genius of man.” (D’Israeli).
Thus, any debate among Lutherans or with those of another confession should be considered as an argument about the truth of historic Christianity. We used to say “the Catholic faith,” when it meant the universal and orthodox faith revealed in the Scriptures. But so many Lutheran pastors have sinuflected to Rome that the term Catholic is permanently tainted.
The Concordists considered themselves theologians of the 1530 Augsburg Confession, as Luther did. The Augsburg Confession and the additional writings of the early Reformation established the difference between the historic truth of the Scriptures as opposed to Roman errors, all in the context of the faithful witnesses of the past.
The Formula of Concord, 1580, dealt especially with conflicts among the Lutherans and errors among the non-Lutheran Protestants. Doctrinal discussions must always reflect this miracle of harmony. If not the participants engage in the sectarian conceit of people belonging to “the church of the open Bible,” as if the Confessions were irrelevant, boring, and impractical. That attitude reveals a marked anti-Lutheran and anti-Biblical attitude, one which generally decays into Unitarianism or worse, unless awakened from its torpor of ignorance, synod-worship, and sloth.
Convention and conference essays have no authority over the Book of Concord. The Brief Confession of 1932 has no more credibility than a seminarian’s essay in doctrine class. Some parts seem good, but the justification section is dangerously false, rendering the rest of the Brief Confession toxic. Moreover, the Brief Confession contradicts other confessional efforts and catechisms by the Missouri Synod, where UOJ was never mentioned. The 1987 Theses are just as ridiculous as the 1932 Brief Confession, because they try to blend UOJ with justification by faith.
Robert Preus was wrong when he promoted UOJ in the 1980s, but he corrected himself in his Justification and Rome, even though his UOJ-loyal sons Rolf and Daniel edited it posthumously. That change of heart and misplaced filial loyalty should remind everyone not to make a man or a recent publication the last word on a topic, but to seek truth in ruling norm of the Scriptures and the ruled norm of the Book of Concord.
Some have asked how the Missouri Synod got this so wrong when the Muhlenberg tradition (LCA) and Lenski grasped the basic truth. The General Synod/General Council split took place because of anti-Confessional practices involving revivals, unionism with the Reformed, even the formation of union Lutheran-Reformed congregations. The Henkels influenced the Tennessee Synod and others to take the Book of Concord seriously again. Thus the doctrinal division in the General Synod served to move many toward a Biblical understand of the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace.
These basics are beyond debate and remain absolutely at war with the Pietistic fad of UOJ.
Efficacy of the Word
God has bound His Holy Spirit to His Word and never works apart from that Word. Any person who claims otherwise is an Enthusiast, a false teacher participating in the foundational evil of all doctrinal error. The Holy Spirit works through the Law to convict us of our sin, but the primary emphasis in this section is justification through the Means of Grace.
The Word of God has been described as:
1. Invisible in teaching and preaching,
2. Visible in the sacraments.
The Gospel conveys Christ to us in both forms, and grace only comes from these appointed Means or Instruments of Grace.
Forgiveness through God’s grace is the issue in justification, which is God’s declaration of forgiveness. The Gospel’s divine power creates and sustains faith in each individual, but UOJ Pietists avoid the terms and the application of the Means of Grace, disparaging faith in the Gospel as if that were a sign of orthodoxy.
The Preaching Office
Luther observed in a sermon that the shepherds and Wise Men must have wondered at God directing them past the marvelous Jerusalem Temple to find the Savior in a manger. God has chosen foolishness to shame the wisdom of the wise. How bizarre to find Lutheran church leaders rejecting the spiritual wisdom of the Word to embrace the alleged wisdom of statistical analysis, marketing, and entertainment.
Nothing seems more foolish to the world than preaching and teaching the Gospel. Nevertheless, God Himself has chosen this instrument as the primary channel for His grace. The Enthusiasts of Luther’s day wanted to extol the Inner Word, as if someone could sit alone in a room and wait until the Holy Spirit came to him with inspiration. Quakerism is based upon this notion. In contrast, Luther followed the Biblical example of the External Word, the Holy Spirit always united with the Word. No better example can be found than that of the Savior. In each and every case Jesus converted people to faith through the Word, His teaching confirmed by miracles.
The Old Testament leaders preached, not just as the Law, as some might imagine. The prophecies and blessings are all Gospel. The Old Testament has more Gospel content than the New Testament, due to its size, about three times that of the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles preached the Gospel, His way prepared by the preaching of John the Baptist. The illegal, persecuted Church in the Roman Empire had no mass media methods to ease its way into the world. Instead, they relied on preaching and teaching until Rome itself was converted and Constantinople became the center of a Christian empire for eleven centuries.
The Pietists preach about the carnal sins of the world, which is exactly what the Church of Rome did to scare people into paying for indulgences. Jesus, in His farewell message to the disciples, emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching, but placed an emphasis on sin that is almost always lacking today.
The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, “because they have not believed on Me.” The problem—or opportunity—of carnal sin preaching stems from its ineffectiveness. The Law condemns the problem without providing a solution. Threats and punishment can stop the outward sin while inflaming the inward rebellion. Thus, one church may say, “Gambling is a terrible sin, so you must not gamble.” Another one says, “Drinking is a terrible sin, so you must not ever drink alcohol.” They apply more Law, which is no solution, and continue the cycle.
Jesus did not say, “Ye gamblers and ye drunks!” but “O ye of little faith.” Faith in Christ is forgiveness of sin, justification by faith, God’s proclamation of absolution through the Word. The foundational sin is not trusting in the atoning death of Christ. The Gospel message is simply Christ crucified for the sins of the world. This message of grace reveals to the unbeliever that the price has been paid. The proclamation means, “Not only for the world did He die, for also for my sins.” The Promises of God create faith, which receives the benefits of forgiveness. Although our sinful, selfish nature continues, the Gospel helps us in resisting temptation and following God out of love rather than fear.
The Sacraments
Preaching the Gospel offends the world, and the sacraments—the visible Word—offend most Protestants. They are sarcastic about the Real Presence, although Jesus said, “This is My Body.” They deny the effect of Holy Communion, neglecting the meaning of “given for the forgiveness of sin.” They stumble at the variety of the Means of Grace, asking “Why does God need so many?” as if forgiveness is God’s necessity and not man’s.

To be finished later.