Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Third Sunday in Advent:
7 PM Central, Sunday.
Total Internet Failure This Morning

The Third Sunday in Advent, 2011

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 8 Father Who the Light            2. 20
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 #76 A Great and Mighty Wonder            2.2  

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The Hymn # 77:1-8 All My Heart               2.25

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 # 77:9-15            All My Heart               2.25

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Third Sunday In Advent

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man, and to come into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech Thee so to rule and govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may seek no other refuge than His word, and thus avoid all offense to which, by nature, we are inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

This word for accounting is also used for justification, forgiveness of sin. Sometimes that is translated as reckon, still a favorite verb today – I reckon that will cost you $1500.

The words used in the New Testament are simple, clear terms. The more we find ancient documents, the more we understand their common use. But we also have the text itself to compare words and concepts.

In the case of the stewards a special genitive is needed, for they must administer property in order to be classed as stewards. The genitive “God’s mysteries” names the property, namely God’s gifts for our salvation as embodied in the gospel. These are mysteries, for man’s wisdom knows nothing about them.
In both terms “attendants” and “stewards,” the prominent idea is that of complete subordination to a master, and in the latter also that of special accountability. A helper merely takes his orders and at once carries them out without question. A steward also takes his orders and carries them out in due process, and then returns and renders his account. He works, as it were, by himself, in the absence of his lord, who trusts him to this extent. But he is always and fully accountable. He dare not deviate in the slightest from his orders, nor try to improve upon those orders with wisdom of his own in order to please others.
Again, more people than just the Corinthians should remember that truth. Too many stewards change their orders to please themselves and their congregations; and too many congregations act as though they owned these stewards and as though they are accountable only to them. Because the day of reckoning has not yet come, all concerned feel secure; but this security is a false security.
Since he is entrusted with valuable properties, a steward naturally ranks higher than a mere attendant, although both are slaves. This steward who is set over the mysteries of God possesses a corresponding dignity with which men may not interfere, and, having received his trust from God, even God thereby honors him as the incumbent of this office. Thus “attendant” points to lowliness, and “steward” to dignity, and both combined indicate how the Corinthians are to regard their ministers. Yet both men are slaves, are owned by their Lord who uses them as he wills, to whom all their labor and all results of their labor belong, and who, after their services have been rendered, owes them neither wages nor reward.
[1]Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1963, S. 162.

Steward is a word with a rich heritage in the English language. My favorite is the steward as the substitute for the king or queen. When the actual heir was too young to rule, or the blood line was missing – out of the country for a crusade – a steward could rule with all the power of a king. However, the steward was never the king and ultimately reported to the king as faithful in his duties.

Mystery is a fine term for everything taught by God, revealed by the Holy Spirit. That is why I called the series on Biblical doctrine – The Mysteries of God. When people try to reduce the teaching of God to a series of logical arguments, they are obliterating the concept of the mysteries. The mysteries are so significant that they cannot be reduced to something man can understand without the guidance and revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Word.

All of man’s religion is the product of his imagination. He imagines that God or the gods are angry and must be appeased. Therefore, he also thinks he can provide the works to atone for sin. Anyone can see that in all world religion and the occult. It does not take long to hear the “must do” and the “have to do” list. In the fad movie about gurus, the male lead keeps shouting at Julie Roberts, “Do the work.” It is never quite clear what the work is, except it involves travel and meditation. They look for insight from various gurus when real insight can be found in the Scriptures for a fraction of the cost.

Recently one Lutheran said of the catechism, “It was written so that a pastor does not need to explain it.”

I added, “The Bible was written that way too.” The Holy Spirit speaks through the Word, so the teaching of God is available to everyone, regardless of formal training. Moreover, the Gospel is meant to be spoken, so the ability to read is not the key factor. Instead, Chemnitz writes about preaching the Gospel faithfully and listening with sincere hearts.

Paul’s argument is this – He is only a steward of the mysteries of God. Christ appointed him an apostle and taught him directly. Paul even received insights greater than any man could imagine or hope to realize – truly the wisdom of the ages.

I mentioned this before – When people feature their homes on Extreme Homes, they say, “My purpose in life is to preserve this building for the next generation.” That is always said with great reverence. What they want to do with decaying buildings is far more worthy with respect to the Gospel.

Jesus used the figure “treasure,” a concept often used in the Book of Concord and by Luther. The treasure hidden in the field was a real possibility in those days. If someone was traveling or afraid of invasion, he would bury his treasure in the soil. Some people died on their foreign travels. Others were killed or driven away by invasion. A large treasure of gold, silver, and gems might rest in the ground for a long time. A man who discovered treasure hidden in the field would be happy to sell his meager goods to own that field – and the treasure.

If everything can be sold at a quick garage sale to buy treasure in a field, how much more valuable is the treasure of the Gospel?

If the Gospel is a treasure, is it valuable enough that we can give up the esteem of the world, friends, and family to keep this treasure?

We watched a British special on the Tower of London, which included a show about the fabulous collection of crowns, jewels, and special treasures there. Sometimes a city put together silver, gold, and jewels to offer a gift to royalty. The king and queen do not keep the treasures for themselves but preserve them in the Tower. In addition, certain officials work full-time to take these treasures out of their cases and clean them with utmost care for every detail. The king or queen are stewards, and the employees of the Tower are stewards, because these creations are important for history and the enjoyment of all visitors.

Imagine some curator saying, “I would like to replace the diamonds with zircon, the silver with aluminum, the gold with brass.” They would look for the nearest cell to keep him away from the treasure.

Yet man in his vanity will say, “This part of the Bible is good, but I will redecorate the rest with my own ideas, my dreams, my illusions, my brilliance.”
That is why a faithful Bible translation matters so much. For Tyndale, it mattered enough that he – as an Englisman – traveled to Germany to study under Luther and Melanchthon. He translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek with that guidance, creating the English language in the process, just as Luther created the German language. They did not invent the language but established the norms for their own country, simply by the power of expression and the clarity of the terms used.

Tyndale cared so much about this translation work that he labored constantly to bring the English Bible to his people. Once all his Bibles were bought up and burned. He said, “That is good. Now I can afford to print even more copies.” And he did. The treasure was not in his bank account but in the Word of God. Eventually he was betrayed by a friend – imagine that – and burned at the stake. His final words were, “Dear Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” The next king allowed the Tyndale Bible to become the King James Version, 400 years ago.

There are two foundation stones for the English language – the Tyndale KJV and Shakespeare (Earl of Oxford). Oddly, in both cases another person gets the credit for the work. And today – no Lutheran church body in America will get behind the King James Version, not even in the modern versions. They are more than willing to give up the treasure mined by Luther and Tyndale for gold in the publishing house coffers. I understand the LCMS has about $26 million in the bank. One Shrinker demanded a $1 million check from WELS Northwestern Publishing House, so they must have some coin there, too. A church body can have money in the bank and still be bankrupt.

2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Faithful means trustworthy – someone who will not substitute something false for something true or good. One of our friends, long ago, went to a church with a woman pastor. He was supposed to be conservative, but the Pentecostals were the first to have women pastors. He said, “She explained that the verse does not really mean that a woman cannot preach.” The mainline churches caught up with the Pentecostals and the cults (Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventists) and said, “Women can be and should be ordained pastors.” Now the “conservative” Lutherans are saying the same thing – including John Brug at Mequon.

Being found faithful is pure Gospel, because it means everything depends on the God’s will through the Holy Spirit in the Word.

Distribute the Word and God does the work.

Because God does the work, there is nothing to keep us from the free distribution of the Word.

It is a requirement, because the Word belongs to God alone, but it also gives us the freedom and the motivation to follow His gracious will.

After all the will of God is not to condemn, but to convert, to forgive, to save, and to keep us in His flock.

Therefore He constantly surrounds us with His grace through the Instruments of Grace, the Word and Sacraments. He gives us faithful teachers. He prepares soldiers of misfortune, who have battled against many opponents and received their training in helping others.

He gives us individualized crosses to bear, to purify our faith and help us understand the price paid to redeem the world from sin.

So Christ constantly speaks this Gospel Word to us – Your sins are forgiven through the cross. Receive this forgiveness in faith and enjoy the peace that passes all understanding.

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