Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Saints Sunday

All Saints Sunday, 2012

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 656        Behold a Host                        2:39
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 # 463     For All the Saints                   4:31 

The Blessings of the Gospel

The Communion Hymn #  371         Jesus Thy Blood        4:6
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 # 657        Beautiful Savior         4:24  

KJV Revelation 7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. 6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. 7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. 8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. 9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

KJV Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.


O almighty and everlasting God, who through Thine only-begotten and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, wilt sanctify all Thine elected and beloved: Give us grace to follow their faith, hope, and charity, that we together with them may obtain eternal life: through Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Blessings of the Gospel

Neither time nor place are specified. While we may be interested in both, Matthew’s Jewish readers should have their whole attention centered on the substance of the sermon. So the preliminaries are brief: only a transitional δέ, the multitudes, the disciples, and what we may gather from the sermon. From Luke 6:12, etc., we learn that Jesus had chosen the Twelve as apostles, that other disciples were present in addition to a great concourse of people. The sermon itself presupposes a degree of advancement on the part of the disciples. Only in v. 20 does it refer to entering the kingdom, a word that was evidently intended for those who had not yet entered. In v. 12 it refers to the Twelve, associating them with the prophets of old; and in v. 19 it distinguishes between the teachers who shall be least and those that shall be great in the kingdom. According to Luke, Jesus went up into the mountain the night before and retired for prayer. It was in the morning, just after the Twelve had been chosen, that Jesus chose a spot where all could see and hear him, a large level place between the heights or along the mountainside, and there began his teaching...
“The mountain,” with its Greek article, is best taken to refer to the one right at hand, R. 756. The expression is similar to our “into the woods,” “into the field,” when we have no special woods or field in mind. Yet some stress the article: “the New Testament Sinai,” “the mount of sacred history,” but this stress refers to what the sermon now to be preached made of this mountain. The locality seems to have been near Capernaum; late tradition takes it to be the Horns of Hattin.
“The multitudes,” with its Greek article, points back to 4:25, and thus strengthens the inference that the sermon was spoken at the height of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. It was customary for teachers, and for preachers to sit cross-legged while speaking, the hearers assuming the same position. The writer saw a speaker sitting thus on a raised platform in a mosque in Damascus in 1925, another in the mosque of the dervishes in Constantinople, the hearers in each case sitting on the floor. The word disciples means more than pupils or learners, namely those who have learned, who have imbibed their master’s spirit. They may still learn, but what they have already learned is what makes them “disciples.”
            Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 181

KJV Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

The Beatitudes are Gospel blessings that pour out God’s love on us and also teach us the meaning of the Gospel. We could say that these special verses are a sermon on the Gospel itself.

KJV Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many verses in the Bible make us stop and wonder, because they go against our normal thinking. That is how we distinguish between reason and faith. Our human reason begins to rebel, so we have to subordinate our first thoughts to what the Word of God reveals. The Old Adam naturally rebels against God’s revelation.

When people argue from reason, they are also arguing against faith in the Word.

In this case we can look at the opposite, the opposite of poor in spirit. Those would be the haughty, proud, and self-centered. What do they say about the Gospel? They do not need the Gospel. They have no need for repentance. They do not like something that takes the focus off themselves. How can they be forgiven when they have no use for forgiveness? I get to read a lot of liberal theology, and pride is at the center of it.
Pride – I am too smart to believe this.
Pride – I have my own personal version of this doctrine.
Pride – Only a few of us have this special knowledge – we are super-smart.
Pride – I obey the law, even if it is my law. That law makes me good.

Poor in spirit is the opposite. Before the glory and majesty of God, the poor in spirit are humble, repentant, and longing for forgiveness of sin. Luther said many times that the powerful and worldly-wise were not suited for the Gospel, which was aimed at the poor, needy, broken sinners.

If you want to meet humble sinners, do some jail visitation. They know they deserve to be locked up because they did 10 times more than the charges against them. They are broken and contrite because the steel bars remind them of where they have put themselves.

Who wants an antibiotic? A runner on his 10th mile? Or a patient lying in bed, burning up with a fever, with a throat so sore that swallowing hurts and the ears pop in an unpleasant way? Often that medicine produces instant relief as the healing begins.

The Gospel is medicine for the sick, for the poor in spirit.

KJV Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

This Sunday often marks a day where the departed are remembered. Bethany began with the spirit and work of three people who have passed on to eternal life, Brenda, Cliff, and Cleo.

In another city, Walt Boeckler was eager to form an independent Lutheran congregation.

In another city and state, my mother helped in getting a home and a place where the congregation could worship locally and across the Internet, first by phone, then by video.

Someone in another state altogether died a believer, helping out in publications and in other ways, loving Jesus Priceless Treasure. “That was your best book.”

And there are many more we have lost collectively. I saw the photo of my friend from junior high, high school, and college. He was deeply loved as a public school teacher and Sunday School teacher. Leo had a weak heart but a big heart. He could never be an athlete so he trained athletes and they named a tournament after him.

Bruce was our best friend at Yale, earning his second doctorate. He discussed theology all the time with me and made many good points on the side of conservative Christianity – all the more impressive coming from a Yale scientist and future Harvard Medical instructor.

Collectively we have lost many who were dear to us. That we miss them so much is a measure of how much we treasured them. Christians are blessed because of the comfort afforded by the Gospel. This is but one stage before eternal life.

KJV Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Commentary - KJV Psalm 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

This is not a promise to inherit the new earth, at the end of time, but to inherit this earth. “Meek” is the quality of Christ – not being angry and bitter over reverses in fortune and harm done by others.

The abundance of peace comes from accepting in faith the last verse in the beatitudes – the worst promise of all. Why is that?

The proud, arrogant, and spiteful are always in turmoil. I like Luther’s expression – they are so angry they would tear up trees by their roots if they could. They get away with a lot because bullies make people shrink back and cower in fear. But this same proud spirit turns them upside down in time and their fall from glory is very difficult to bear. One District President was the choice for the top job, but he was asked by his peers to step down as DP, then defeated in his quest for the big job. I remember when the same bully told my pastor-friend, “You can voluntarily quit your call and get 3 months pay or I will fire you on the spot with no pay.” Isn’t that sweet?
The meek do what they can, knowing they are mortal sinners, but accept what comes their way from the cross.

KJV Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

KJV Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Hunger and thirst remind us of our most basic needs. If we have plenty of food, we also need something to hydrate us. If we have water alone, which is good, we also need the calories from food. Those are two great bodily needs.

But I also see a parallel to the two sacraments. Holy Baptism is related to water, to washing, to the spring that refreshed the Israelites, and the water from the well in John 4. Jesus gives “living water.”

KJV John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Righteousness is forgiveness of sin.

No man, however wise and powerful, has ever discovered a way to turn a guilty, sinful soul into a righteous one. Men justify and declare themselves righteous, but this amounts to no more than the criminal’s denial of his crime and never stands before the court which has the full evidence of his guilt. But what is beyond all human ability is brought about by Christ who by his holy life and sacrificial death met the demands of God’s norm of right, met them in our stead and now transfers his perfect righteousness to us through faith and thus wins our pardon and acquittal before the divine judgment bar. “Righteousness” cannot here mean the power of right in human affairs in the world of men generally; for the passive “shall be filled” denotes a gift of God to certain persons, rendering them “righteous” in his sight. It cannot denote a virtue, the so-called acquired righteousness, when men live righteously and do what is right. The passive verb shuts out also this.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 189.

Forensic means – in the courtroom – but it is misapplied by UOJ fanatics. They claim the entire world has been judged innocent. What the term has always mean in Christian theology is this – through faith in Jesus we are declared innocent of all sin:
  1. Great and terrible sins.
  2. Many sins, all sins, not just a few.
  3. Sins we cannot conquer, not just those we conquer, which is impossible anyway.

To be filled means to receive a constant supply of forgiveness, which we receive in faith.

KJV Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

This area is very much Gospel-influenced. I see that all the time. I was in a crowded gas station when two of us bumped into each other. I apologized, and the other man apologized. Then he added, “No, it was really my fault.” I had a situation in a Phoenix restaurant where one man wanted to fight me because we barely touched while standing in line. He was offended and wanted his honor restored. Someone like that is going to have a short life.

Faith is pre-supposed, as Luther says. One cannot be merciful without faith. That is why so many synodical officials are merciless and vindictive – they lack faith. The fruit cannot grow without the tree (faith). Or – the corrupt tree produces evil fruit.

The forgiven are also forgiving. If you want a peaceful life, spend a lot of time asking for forgiveness (repentance) and being forgiving. There are plenty of annoying things that should be examined with care and seen for how minor they really are. One useful tool is to say, “Am I annoying in the same way or do I have similar annoying traits or habits?” If the answer is yes, then there is no reason to bear a grudge over such things. Some things are just plain funny when seen this way.

I read biographies and I cannot fathom why people rehearse their grudges against their parents. The more they do that, the more childish they look. I was laughing today about a family reunion where we got there so early the hosts were still in bathrobes. My father did not want to be late. At the time all of us kids were out of sorts for waking up early, getting there with nothing to do for hours, and for the awkwardness of hosts in bathrobes. Today it made me laugh because our son said, “Everyone has OCD in this family.”

Some want to go around forgiving murderers and false teachers (murderers of souls) as if that is Jesus-like. One of my witty friends says, “They are more evangelical than Jesus.” That is actually the wrong use of the keys, because the unrepentant should receive the binding key until they repent. The unrepentant cannot comprehend forgiveness or receive it. They are like mice that get into the communion host, devouring what they do not understand.

KJV Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

KJV Psalm 24:4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

KJV 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; 2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

Pure in heart means not being a scheming, dishonest, covetous manipulator. Like many other faults, these short-comings will often be rewarded in our secular society and fallen congregations, but they are not God-pleasing.

To see God means to experience Him as He is – all loving and powerful, gracious and kindly. The wonderful Durer painting I have featured for All Saints is a representation of this beatific vision, for seeing God also meaning communicating His nature to others.

That makes many hymns difficult to sing, because they offer such a glorious picture, faithful to the Word, that emotions easily well up in us. However, unbelievers do not experience this and long for soda pop concerts with loud rock music.

As I have often mentioned, Luther observed that unbelievers do not see the fruit of Christian faith, but mock it. They only see trouble, poverty, oppression, difficulties. They laugh and say, “Why are you Christians always so sick?” Their unbelieving clergy chuckle and say, “You should do things my way, instead of being a sucker.” One LCA leader said his motto was, “Use others before they use you.”

I know a pastor’s family where they seem to have nothing in material benefits, but they make do and create such a paradise of love in their home that I have warned them their children will be utterly spoiled. I say that in a joking way because they turn a lack of money into ways of doing without. And all those stories are inspiring and charming.

KJV Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

At peace with God and thus themselves filled with sweet peace, they live in peace, if possible, with all men and work to keep and to make peace wherever peace is threatened or lost. Theirs is the work of true Christians who follow in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace. Nor is this “peace at any price,” which ignores confessional principles and is unwilling to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). These are not unionistic peacemakers who combine contrary doctrines by agreeing to disagree. Truth of God comes first, peace with men second. Friends are dear, the Word of our greatest Friend dearest. No “blessed” was spoken by Jesus upon the disrupters of the church who insist on their false views, nor upon those who regard the peace and the fellowship of their brother-confessors as being of slight value, so that they may run after other fellowships. The true peace of the church is a blessed possession; we cannot guard it too closely. Contentious, stubborn, obstreperous church members—this beatitude ought to make them impossible. Also in the world, wherever strife arises, the followers of Christ work for peace in the spirit of their Master.
The passive “shall be called” implies “by God,” for he alone can bestow the title “God’s sons” in truth and in reality. Here, too, the future tense means that God shall call them his sons now when they prove their relation to him by their peacemaking.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 193.

Those who desire sound doctrine are called trouble-makers. Those who want to merge all confessions are called peaceful, kind, loving, and accepting. Luther was contentious because he said “This is My Body” and wrote it on the table in chalk.

But peace comes from confessing the same truths of the Bible, not conspiring to support falsehood. God is the one who decides who the peacemakers are. He alone names them.

KJV Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

This is the difficult beatitude. How can this be a blessing? Yet Luther often mentioned the “blessed holy cross.” We only bear that when we teach the truth.
When something is attacked, suppressed, and silenced by the great and wise within the visible church – that is the cross to bear.

Luther’s Gospel was taught in the midst of the one and only church of its time, which is much the way people see their own denominations today.

Paul too was the convert (boo hiss) in the midst of the legal religion, teaching the despised and hated religion that was in the midst of Judaism and hated. Opponents looked for ways to get rid of him, from stoning and riots to execution.

The cross means that God has blessed the work.

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