Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First Mid-Week Advent Worship, December 4, 2013. 7 PM Central

Advent, December 4, 2013

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Mid-Week Advent,  Wednesday, 7 PM Central

The Hymn #81   Gerhardt         Thy Manger Is            3.60
The Order of Vespers                                             p. 41
The Psalmody            Psalm 100                             p. 144
The First Lection                  
The Second Lection       
 The Sermon Hymn #90  Gerhardt   Come Your Hearts 3.83

The Bible Is a Cradle Holding Christ

The Prayers and Lord’s Prayer                         p. 44
The Collect for Peace                                           p. 45
The Benediction                                                   p. 45
The Hymn # 93        O Lord We Welcome    3.40

First Mid-Week Advent Sermon

The Bible Is a Cradle That Holds Christ

I was listening to a discussion about Pentecostals today. They emphasize the displays of the Holy Spirit. Most people would identify that with speaking in tongues, singing in tongues, and various ecstatic displays, including what they call holy laughter.

One issue was – when did this start. Several people were talking about how the history gets nailed down to one specific time and place, Azuza Street, 1906.

I was thinking, “We are the most Pentecostal group of all, more Pentecostal than the Pentecostals.” That is simply because orthodox Lutherans do not separate the Word from the Holy Spirit.

Simply put, the Scriptures are the cradle that hold Christ. If people want the love, grace, and forgiveness of Christ, all they need is the Word of God, which conveys Christ to us.
We can see Christ on every page of the Bible, but that requires faith. Rationalists see errors or an ethical book or an interesting book from antiquity. How quaint!

But in fact the Holy Spirit is at work on every page of the Bible, in every verse, since all the verses of the Bible are part of that one unified Truth – the Word of God – the Book of the Holy Spirit.

Realizing this answers two basic questions.

One is confidence in the Holy Spirit at work

How do we know when God’s Spirit is accomplishing His will?

The answer is – whenever the Word is taught, heard, read, or remembered. That also applies to faithful teaching about the Word of God. A faithful hymn is just as much the Word of God as a faithful sermon is.

Jesus said, “Whoever hears you, hears Me.” When the apostles went out preaching the Gospel of the risen Lord, they were multiplying the places where Jesus was being brought to individuals.

Man looks for proof of the Spirit at work. The proof is the faithful teaching of the Word, not material signs that appeal to us. If we demand something appealing, gratifying, God will deny that, because He is the manager. We are not.

This also means that God is at work, no matter how long He seems to take, or how unpleasant the reactions are.

Paul preached and started a riot. He gave a long sermon and Eutychus fell dead out the window. He confronted Peter for inconsistent teaching, which led to the first Council. He was divisive, which is good, because his faithfulness to the Word divided truth from error.
So it is funny and sad that man looks for results instead of looking for where the Spirit is – in the Word.

The Other Is Having Christ as Our Comfort

This is directly related to the first part, because the Word and the Spirit are always together and never apart. That also means that the Word brings Christ to us.
To repeat the opening of John’s Gospel is to call upon Christ, to possess Him and all His benefits.

Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, death is turned into life, sin into forgiveness, and anxiety into comfort.
It is true that the Gospel causes discomfort, anger, division, and rejection. And this too is the work of the Holy Spirit. We often need to have our faith exercised so we do not become a slug, like Jobba the Hut, apathetic and indolent about the Word, or hardened and blinded against it.

Most if not all orthodox Lutherans have gone through great turmoil about Christian doctrine, which has been their God-given path toward appreciating the Word of God and the Confessions.

Most in the ELCA seemed immune to the anti-Biblical stance of their leaders, until the 2009 vote showed them what a charade their denomination was, truly anti-Gospel while talking about the Gospel. Subtlety did not work on them, so God sent a hammer and fire, divided congregations and families, lawsuits and abandoned buildings. Some people think the congregation is the building until they realize the Word gathers the congregation.
Likewise, some adored pop entertainment worship and made fun of the ancient liturgy, not to mention those who appreciated it. But the errors grew, as they always manage to do, because mid-week services were absent, or the popcorn munching during the prayers was too loud.

So a new appreciated of the Word makes us all the more thankful for the comfort of forgiveness through Christ. Believing is forgiveness, even though this simple truth is debated, rejected, and condemned a heresy.

So when college students are talking about David and Goliath, they are speaking about faith in God – trust in Him rather than man-made weapons. And who was David? He was a young shepherd boy, at the start of his predestined role as the King of Israel, the model of the Messiah.

One of the most popular descriptions or titles of Jesus is – the Son of David. Likewise, He is called the Messiah (anointed king) or Christ (Greek for anointed king). When we hear about the shepherd boy David, we think about the Good Shepherd of John 10, the Lord is my Shepherd, Psalm 23.

We remember – He will lead His flock like a Shepherd. Isaiah 40, part of the great comfort passage of the prophet.

I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered – Jesus quoted that. So we use the Latin for shepherd – pastor – to this day.

When we have sons or grandsons, we think about that little shepherd boy, that moment when the boy is growing up and taking on responsibility. One model for that is David. And the other model is Jesus Himself.

In the crib, Jesus gathered His first flock. The wise men, shepherds, Joseph and Mary – all were gathered by the Word of God.

We like cradles for babies. We have a tiny one for a doll in our storage. We had a larger one for our son at Yale. Everyone passed it along. Jesus did not even have that. He had a manger for his crib, yet His work was not hampered by the modesty of his surroundings, a rented room.

For some, the Bible is still a humble cradle, not worth their interest. Bibles are everywhere and also nowhere (not read or studied, not even open). And yet that cradle, the Word of God, holds Christ and conveys His forgiveness to us.

Every part of worship is connected with justification by faith. We are alienated and anxious in carrying a burden of sin, but energized and thankful to God when absolved and blessed by the Gospel.

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