September 29, 2016

18th Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 22:34-46 + September 25, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn #545 The Morning Sun is Brightly Beaming
Hymn #343 How Lovely Shines the Morning Star
Hymn #247 God the Father, Be Our Stay
Introit - pg. 80

Readings
Deuteronomy 10:12-21
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Matthew 22:34-46

Collect for Trinity XVIII
O God, forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee, mercifully grant that Thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel


Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The Pharisees hear that Jesus has silenced the Sadducees. The Sadducees were your Jewish elites of the time. They had money and prestige. Their piety was entirely wrapped up in the temple ritual. They were also quite Greek in their thinking. They didn’t believe in any sort of bodily resurrection from the dead. They didn’t believe in angels or demons. They were your most rationalistic, metropolitan Jews of Jesus’ day. They had approached Jesus with a ridiculous scenario in order to trap in Him, trying to prove the resurrection of the dead was an absurd idea. Using the book of Exodus, Jesus puts the Sadducees in their place and silences their absurd ideas with the words of Scripture. The Pharisees could not stand the Sadducees. The Pharisees were your common religious man. They sought to bring the holiness of the temple into their daily lives, often in absurd ways. Pharisees thought they were experts in the Mosaic Law. So when they heard Jesus had silence the Sadducees they conspire to take down the one who has taken down their enemies. They gather together and one asks a question to test Jesus. His question seems like it would be quite the conundrum. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Can you imagine if someone asked this question today of civil law? Of all the laws and statutes on the books, which is the great one, which is the law of laws? It would be impossible to answer, so they think, and any answer Jesus would give they could use to philosophically flay Him. Their question though shows a deep misunderstanding of the Law and the expectation of the Lord who gave the Law.

2)         Jesus answers easily, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” From all the legislation given to Moses in his five books, Jesus distills the entire Law into one word: love. This is why He’s not cheating when He immediately adds, “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The two greatest commandments are really the same commandment, just pointing in two different directions. The entire Law is summarized in the word “love.” Love for God and love for your neighbor. But it’s more than simply love. It is a perfect love that the Law demands. This is evident from way Jesus describes this love you are to have for God. You are to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. God does not want part of your heart or most of your soul. He does not want a thoughtless love, but one that engages the entire mind, all one’s thoughts, waking and sleeping. For mankind this is utterly impossible, for “every intent of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually” Moses writes in Genesis 6:5. Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Among the Pharisees there was no one who loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind. The descendants of Adam and Eve bear their guilt and their sin. They fall short of the second commandment, which is like the first, for not a single one of them loved their neighbors as they love themselves, carrying for their neighbors needs just as much as they cared for their own. Jesus not only answers their question, but answers it in such a way that shows they don’t understand the nature of the Law which they claim they can follow.

3)         Jesus seizes the momentum of the argument and asks them a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This may seem like mere academic tit for tat. They ask a seemingly difficult question. Jesus answers and then asks them a question which is deceivingly simply. But it is far more than just argumentative back and forth. The Pharisee’s question was about the Law, that is, what God requires of man. Jesus’ question is not about the Law but about the Gospel. Jesus has already demonstrated that these men do not understand the Law they claim to uphold so He moves on to the Gospel, a topic which, like the Law, they assume they understand but really don’t. Jesus says, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He? They said to Him, “The Son of David.” They know their Scriptures and that the Christ was to come from the house and line of David. But they are ignorant about the Messiah’s true nature. Jesus asks, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?’ If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” Jesus is quoting Psalm 110, which the Pharisees would have known well. They just didn’t understand it. Jesus presents them with a real conundrum, not an imagined one. A king never calls his son “Lord.” Even if a King makes his son co-regent with him, the king is not made inferior to his son. King David, once the crown is removed from his head and placed upon Solomon’s, does not at that moment become inferior to Solomon. Jesus, using the Scripture, demonstrates that not only do they not understand the Law, they have no understanding about the promised Messiah either. “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare question Him anymore.”

4)         Christ was willing to teach the Pharisees about the Messiah, about Himself, but they wouldn’t have any of that, which is why they left him without answering Him. They had exalted themselves in Jesus’ presence and Jesus had brought them down. If they had humbled themselves before Jesus and earnestly sought to be taught, Christ would have gladly and gently taught them about His person, who He was, and His work. They could not answer them because human reason cannot understand Christ unless Christ reveals Himself and teaches about Himself. The Messiah is the Son of David, of the house and line of David, as the Pharisees knew from the Scriptures. David’s son was also David’s Lord because the Messiah would be fully man and fully God, for that is the only way in which David would bow before one of his own offspring, if that offspring was greater than he. Human reason cannot fathom how God could take on flesh and become fully man, neither can human reason understand how this incarnation can happen so that the Christ remains fully God AND fully man at the same time. This is why this doctrine must be taught by Christ Himself. This is why faith is not the rational decision to believe something, but the gift of God the Holy Spirit, for the Christian faith is beyond the powers of reason and decision. The Pharisees, like men of every age, cannot be reasoned into the faith, nor can they make a decision to accept the faith, they must be taught the Faith so that the Holy Spirit, working through the teaching of the Gospel, creates faith in the hearts of men. The faith that Holy Spirit creates in our hearts through the Gospel accepts the Gospel, which is more than just the identity of the Messiah, but His work as well, that Christ has died on the cross to atone for the sins of the world, so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

5)         These two teachings of God, the Law and the Gospel, go together, though they are never to be confused or fused together into one. The Law shows us that we do not love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. The Gospel teaches us about Jesus’ perfect life lived in our place and His bitter, innocent sufferings and death which atone for our sins. The Law shows us God’s will for us and our behavior and how we don’t live up to that. The Gospel shows us our Savior and that He has lived our life perfectly and righteously. Christ loved God the Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. Christ loves His neighbor as He loved Himself, so much so that He became man and died for the sins of His neighbors in the flesh, the entire human race. Faith in the Gospel forgives our sins and cleanses us from all our unrighteousness. That faith is what moves Christians to begin to love God in this life because faith is how we are pleasing to God. Through faith we begin to fulfill the Law. We begin to love God, still not with all our heart, soul, and mind, but what we lack is not counted against us because our trust is in Christ for the remission of all our sins. Faith is the love and trust of God in our hearts because faith believes all His gracious promises in Christ Jesus. Through this faith we also begin to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not love our neighbors perfectly in this life, for sin still sticks to us in everything we do. But where our love for our neighbor is lacking, that is forgiven through faith in the Gospel. That is why we come back to this place week after week, to hear the Gospel, to have our sins forgiven in Word and in the Sacrament, so that through these means Christ strengthens our faith which believes all His promises.

6)         In the end we see that in this disputation with the Pharisees, Christ is simply teaching us faith and love. He teaches us faith by teaching us that David’s Son is David’s Lord, that Christ is fully God as well as fully man so that He might atone for the sins of the entire word. He teaches us love for God and neighbor as the Christian lives a live not under the Law of Moses but under the Law of love. The Pharisees understood none of these things, nor did they care to. But your Lord Jesus teaches you these things once again so that your faith might be strengthened for the week to come and so that your love for your neighbor might not grow cold. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

September 23, 2016

17th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 14:1-11 + September 18, 2016

Introit - pg. 79

Readings
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Ephesians 4:1-6
Luke 14:1-11

Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Lord, we beseech Thee, grant Thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow Thee, the only God; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1)         Jesus teaches us today about the true use of the Sabbath. On a certain Sabbath Jesus enters the house of a Pharisee, a ruler among that sect of the Jews and notices that the Pharisees gathered there are watching Him closely. It is then that Jesus sees a man with dropsy at the gathering. Dropsy is an older word for what we call edema today, swelling in the hands, arms, feet and ankles. Luke makes it seem as if this man’s presence there was a trap for Jesus. Jesus doesn’t wait for anyone to pose the question that is their minds. He beats them to the punch and asks them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” The Pharisees, experts in the Law and dire hard followers of the Law, remain silent. Jesus will not keep His peace though. He doesn’t wait for one of them to venture an answer which very well might start an argument or disputation. He takes the man and heals him then lets him go. By healing the man on the Sabbath Jesus answers His own question, “Of course it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath.” He then moves quickly to make his point by asking these men, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” To this question they had no answer. Every one of them, if their beast of burden fell into a ditch, even on the Sabbath, would work strenuously to get the animal out of the ditch. And don’t think that it wouldn’t be work to get a large animal out of a ditch. They all remain silent to Jesus question because they know that he is right and that they have misused the Sabbath for their own purposes.

2)         The Sabbath was instituted to be a day of rest, for on the first Sabbath the Triune God rested from His labors of creating the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, visible and invisible. But this was far more than an example to mankind that we are not to work seven days a week or face fatigue, exhaustion, and burn out. The Lord sanctified the seventh day so that man would rest form work so that He might attend to the Word. The Lord did not institute rest simply for the sake of rest, though rest is necessary for mankind. The commandment was given to sanctify the holy day so that on that day the Lord might sanctify man through His Word. The Pharisees rested on the Sabbath. They marked off their steps lest they walked too far. They went to great pains to make sure not manual labor was done on that day. But they did not attend to the Word of God, which is the only means for bringing rest not to the body but the soul. Six days man was to work and eat his food by the sweat of his brow. But one day a week was a day to rest the body so that man might attend to the things of God. It all boils down to that word “sanctify,” which means “to make something holy.” How is anything hallowed? How is anything made holy? By the Word. Jesus prays in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” St. Paul tells us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, “for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:5). You can’t sanctify the holy day if you’re not dealing with the Word of God. The Lord’s Day cannot be sanctified by the fishing rod, the golf club, or the pillow. It can only be sanctified, hallowed, kept as holy, if you attend to the holiest thing we have: the Word of God.

3)         The Pharisees missed this point about Sabbath observance. They might have very well attended synagogue that day and heard the Word. But it had not penetrated their hearts, otherwise they would have easily answered Jesus, “Of course it is perfectly fine to heal on the Sabbath!” Instead they held the command to “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping in holy” over and above the commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The Lord does not want only part of His word attended to, but all of it. The Pharisees thought that rest of the body was enough to sanctify the Sabbath. They neglected the Word. This much is obvious because they neglected their neighbor. And you cannot neglect your neighbor and love God in your heart. St. John says this much in his first epistle. “If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). The Pharisees wanted to pit one commandment against another. But the Scripture cannot be broken, meaning that it cannot be made to contradict itself. So these men followed the Sabbath commandment outwardly and externally, but they failed to attend to the Word which taught them faith toward God and love for neighbor.

4)         Jesus goes deeper though, in order to drive his point home. He tells a seemingly unrelated parable, “When he noted how these chose the best places.” He says to them, “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” This is more than simple etiquette. Jesus’ point about humility towards oneself ties in directly with His teaching about the Sabbath just a moment before. The connective tissue between these seemingly unrelated topics is love for neighbor. The Pharisees could not love their neighbor because they were filled with love for themselves. They had turned a deaf ear to the Word of God, God’s sanctifying instrument, and turned away from their neighbor. They thought more highly of themselves, which is why they jockeyed for position amongst each other when they would go to other’s houses. Jesus’ teaching about humility reinforces what He teaches them about the Sabbath. It is as if He said, “Gentlemen. You fail to sanctify the Sabbath because you refuse to hear God’s word attentively and with a good and honest hearts. Because you refuse to be sanctified by the Word, you treat your neighbor as the humble one and yourself as the one who needs to be exalted. But the opposite is true before God. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
5)         It should be clear by now what Christ wants to teach us today through this Gospel text. First, he wants us to be circumspect about how we sanctify the Lord’s Day. Second, he wants to us be on guard against self-exaltation and thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. For the Christ, our Sabbath is not the seventh day. The command to worship on a particular day belongs to the ceremonial law which Christ has abolished. St. Paul teaches us Gentile Christians, “Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). Nor is the Christian Sabbath Sunday. Christ is not a new lawgiver, as Rome teaches, who taught the Church to move the Sabbath, with all its regulation, to the first day of the Week. That would make Sabbath into a new law for us. It would also mean the Christian is still under the rule of the Law with all its punishments for violating the Sabbath. For you, the Christian, the Sabbath is every day, for every day is holy to the Lord. Sunday is certainly “the Lord’s Day,” which is one reason the Church chose to worship to on it, but there is no necessity laid upon what day one worships, for the Word of the Lord, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” applies to every day (Psalm 118:24). You are to sanctify every day as holy to the Lord. You are to hear the Word of the Lord every day, as you have opportunity, and also as you make opportunity. The wants His Christians to attend not to a certain day, but to sanctify every day with His Word, so that He can sanctify us each day through His Word.
6)         That word includes the word of the Gospel by which our sins are absolved, the word that Christ has atoned for the sins of the entire world by His sacrificial death upon the cross, so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. The word includes the words spoken over you in Holy Baptism, the words by which the Triune God forgave the guilt of your sin and adopted you into His holy household of faith. The Word includes the command to love your neighbor as you love yourself, so that each day you are reminded to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2). The Pharisees neglected the sanctifying word of the Gospel so their ears were stopped up to God’s will: love for neighbor. Let is not be so among us. But let us hear the Word daily through the reading of Scripture. Let us hear the Word preached in this place as often as the Lord gives us opportunity. Let us live according to the meaning of the Third Commandment and sanctify the holy day by attending to the Holy Word of God. By taking the gospel of the forgiveness of sins to heart we will be more willing to forgive others when they slight us. By rejoicing in that blessed word which absolves us of all our transgression, we will be more willing to be gentle and lowly toward others, because we will know that we have humbly received all good things from God our heavenly Father.
7)         This is how the Lord exalts those who humble themselves because God and neighbor. He lifts up the humble with His good news. He exalts the lowly by giving them every good gift. Let us so humble ourselves before God, to hear His Word, to be attentive to it so that we repent of our sins and confess them. Jesus’ word is not a potentiality or possibility. It is a promise. Those who exalt themselves will be brought down. But those who humble themselves under His Word He will lift up and exalt as His own child, son, and beloved with every blessing Christ. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
--
Rev. Josh Sullivan (ELDONA)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church (UAC)
Kerrville, TX 78028
facebook.com/holycrosskerrville


September 11, 2016

16th Sunday after Trinity + Ephesians 3:13-21 + September 11, 2016

Introit - pg. 79

Readings
Deuteronomy 32:39-40
Ephesians 3:13-21
Luke 7:11-17

Collect for Trinity XVI
Lord, we pray Thee that Thy grace may always go before and follow after us and make us continually given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Epistle Lesson

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         St. Paul writes to the congregation in Ephesus to comfort them in their affliction. At the moment their particular affliction is the status of Paul himself. As Paul writes this letter to the Ephesians he sits imprisoned in Rome. This is why he writes, “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” Having your preacher sit in an imperial prison is not necessarily a good thing. Having THE Teacher of the Gentiles in custody would only bring shame upon the Ephesians who had gladly heard Paul and accepted his teaching. The world had judged Paul as a criminal and a seditionist. The world will always do its best to silence true preachers. This is what happened to the Prophets of old. Jeremiah thrown into a cistern. Isaiah sawn in two. John the Baptist imprisoned and beheaded. Christ crucified. Stephen stoned to death. The world was simply operated according to its standard M.O., putting Paul in chains and eventually, under the abrasive hand of Emperor Nero, martyring him. The world assumed Paul was a disgraced leader and that is certainly what the Ephesians would have felt as their heard news of Paul’s imprisonment in the capital of the empire. That is how tongues would have wagged about Paul, seeking to destroy his credibility since they had not been able to destroy his gospel. Paul, always teaching and pastoring his flocks, even while imprisoned, consoles them, “do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” With this Paul reminds them to look at all life’s situations, even the direst, through the eyes of faith in the promises of Christ rather than through the eyes of the sinful flesh.

2)         This is important for Christians in every age to learn, for one of the fruits of the gospel is the hatred of the world and suffering because of it. At the end of his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas “returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith, saying, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul, like the Lord Jesus Christ, never promised a life of ease to his Christians. He did not sugarcoat the truth by telling people that the Christian truth would make life easier. He lived a life of hardship because of the gospel and he taught the flocks under his care to expect the same treatment from the world, since the world, secular society, and human cultures cannot tolerate Christ. “Do not lose heart,” he says. “Do not be discouraged because I sit in an imperial prison. Do not fall away on account of my trials, for they are given to you as proof of the truth of the gospel, so that you may firmly believe and not doubt. This trial of Paul’s is for the strengthening of the Ephesian’s faith, for that is the purpose of trials and hardships in the life of the Christian. This is because faith is not a substance that you can possess, so that once you possess it you can lock it away for safe keeping. Faith is confidence, a heartfelt trust, a boldness of heart that no matter what the world does, no matter how Satan rages, and no matter how much the sinful flesh torments you, faith is that which still clings to Christ’s Word. Paul does not want their faith to wave and grow cold because of his situation, or from any future situation.

3)         This is the reason for his prayer in today’s Epistle lesson, which is really a marvelous prayer to think that St. Paul wanted this for Christians. He prays that God the Father “would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Paul is very wordy here as he always is, but the point of his prayer, that for which He asks, is quite simple: that God the Father strengthen the Ephesians with might through the Spirit in the inner man. He prays that God would strengthen their inner man through the Holy Spirit so that their inner man is mighty against the assaults of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. He prays for such strengthening because his gospel has shown the Ephesians that their own strength is nothing when it comes to fighting sin, enduring temptation, and overcome the thoughts and patterns of this world. St. Paul knows the Ephesians are weak according the inner man, so he prays that the Holy Spirit might strengthen that inner man, which will in turn lead them to comprehend the ineffable depth of the love that Christ has for them.

4)         When Paul writes about the inner man, he is speaking of the new man which Christ raises to life in us through the Gospel. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” This happens in Holy Baptism, for he writes in Romans 6:4 that “we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. In Baptism Christ washed you of your sin inherited from Adam. In Holy Baptism the name of the Triune God was placed upon your forehead and your heard through water and the Word, and you because the new creation. Holy Baptism is a resurrection not of the body but of the spirit, whereby you are regenerated, born again, or born from above, so all who have been baptized in the name of the Triune God have faith in their hearts and are the new man. Luther attributes this to Holy Baptism in the Small Catechism, “What does such baptizing with water signify? It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” You are united with Christ in His death by Holy Baptism. You participate in the crucifixion and resurrection so that your old sinful self, the Old Adam, the Old Man, are put off, buried, and gone, so that the new man, the inner man, the man that lives by faith in Christ might rise daily to live before God in Christ’s righteousness and purity.

5)         Paul prays that that which was accomplished for the Ephesians in Holy Baptism might be strengthened so that it not falter in temptation nor shrink as it considers sufferings and hardships. The outer man, the Old Adam, the sinful flesh, still clings to us in this life and does all it can to suppress the inner man as well. It is not only the spiritual temptations of the Satan and the hardships the world brings about that try to weaken the Christian’s resolve. Paul prays that the inner man be strengthened with might according to the Holy Spirit so that the inner man, the man of faith in Christ, might struggle against and overcome the old Adam with his sinful desires. Paul tells the Corinthians something similar in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed -- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Though the Old Adam, our sinful nature, daily press us, perplex us, persecute us, and strike us, the Christian daily fights against him and puts him to death through repentance and faith. That is how the death of Jesus is manifest in our own bodies, through the putting to death of our sinful desires.

6)         Paul goes on to say, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Though the outer life, the life of the sinful flesh, hard press us and try to lead us into sin in thought, word, and deed, our inward man is being daily strengthened and renewed by the Word. Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would strengthen the Ephesians in the inner man, and he teaches elsewhere the Holy Spirit only works through the Word, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Holy Spirit cannot strengthen the inner man of those who neglect the Word, despise the Word, or refuse to hear the Word after their baptisms, for the Word is His instrument for increasing the inner man, strengthening his confidence in Christ’s promises, and emboldening him to confidently live a life of faith towards God and fervent love toward neighbor. The Holy Spirit cannot, and will not strengthen anyone’s faith and inner man apart from the Word of God, through preaching and His visible Word of the sacraments. This is why the Ephesians were to treasure the Word of God and the preaching of Paul whom God had sent, regardless of his worldly circumstances and outward persecutions and hardships.  

7)         What Paul prays for the Ephesians is the desire of the Triune God for all Christians. Your Lord wants to strengthen your inner man, the new life given to you in Holy Baptism, through the preaching of His Word and through receiving His sacraments according to His institution. He does not want you to lose heart at what you see with your eyes, nor does He want you to be deceived when the church suffers hardship or when you undergo personal trial, so that you imagine you have lost His favor. He wants to strengthen your inner man, your faith, through His Word, so that you may be begin to comprehend the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ, so that your faith may be strengthened for the trials that lie ahead in the week to come. You cannot endure temptation by your own strength, for you have none. You cannot endure the world’s persecutions by your own resolve, for the only resolve you have is that which is given by God. But praise be Christ, for He desires to strengthen you, to embolden you, and to fortify you in all His promises. To that end He gives you the Holy Spirit to strengthen your inner man, so you might suppress the Old Adam with its lusts and desires, and let the new man of faith come forth. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds by faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

13th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 10:23-37 + August 21, 2016

Introit
(Antiphon) Have respect, O Lord, unto Thy covenant: oh, let not the oppressed return ashamed.
Arise, O God, plead Thine own cause: and forget not the voice of Thine enemies.
(Psalm) O God, why hast Thou cast us off forever?: Why doth then anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

Readings
Leviticus 18:1-5
Galatians 3:15-22
Luke 10:23-37

Collect for Trinity XIII
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


1)         The point of Jesus’ parable is pretty simple. After the young lawyer correctly identifies the Samaritan as the one who acted neighborly to the man who fell among thieves, Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus is teaching us love. He wants His Christians to love their neighbor as they love themselves. The lawyer wanted to wiggle out of that divine command and so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The lawyer felt the sting of the command from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He did not want to love his neighbor, or at least certain neighbors. He most certainly did not want to care for his neighbors with the same level of care that he felt towards himself and his own needs. So he tries to narrow the playing field to make the commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself,” easier to fulfill. By asking, “And who is my neighbor?” the man reveals that he doesn’t love his neighbor at all. Even in his loving actions and attitudes towards his neighbors, he is still thinking only of himself, because there are some people he wants to exclude from the commandment. Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan as a corrective to his misshapen view of what it means to love your neighbor.


2)         A certain man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves, “who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” If ever there was a man who needed a neighbor, it was this man. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” The priest does not love his neighbor as he loves himself. Surely the priest, if he had been in that man’s situation, would have wanted someone to help him. “Likewise, a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.” As it went with the priest, so it goes with the Levite. The priest deals with the holy things of God, yet those holy things have not sunk into his heart so as to move him with compassion for his neighbor. The Levite, the teacher of the divine Word, neglects the command which He surely knew and surely would have taught. The man who fell among thieves was surely their neighbor. But they did not act neighborly toward him. What this man needed was someone who would help and befriend him in every bodily need.”[1] What he needed was someone to clean his wounds with oil and wine. What he needed was someone to bandage his wounds to protect them from further infection. What he needed was someone to put him on their own animal since he could not carry his own weight. What he needed was someone who would care for him in an inn until He was whole again.


3)         In this Jesus teaches us what kind of good works are truly good works. When our neighbor has a need, the truly good work is to meet that need. Too many think that if they just give money to someone they have helped them. But imagine in the Priest had given the half-dead man money! He couldn’t do anything with it because he was half dead. That also would have made him prey to more thieves. There is nothing wrong with giving money to someone if money is truly what they need. But often that is not the case at all. Oftentimes, throwing money at someone’s need doesn’t help because that is not their true need. The same could be said for prayer. Perhaps they said a prayer for him in their heart and thought that was enough. We are commanded to pray for our neighbors in need and that would be a good and God-pleasing thing to do. But it was not what the man needed at the moment. We are commanded to pray but we are also commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And besides, God works through means in this world. He regularly works through people. It would have been contradictory for the Priest and Levite to have prayed that the Lord would help the man, yet deny the Lord’s command to love their neighbor, the very means that God had ordained to help the man. The Samaritan was the only one who understood this. This is why the Samaritan gave the man exactly what He needed. He cleaned the man’s wounds. He bandaged them. He put the man on his own animal and took him to Jericho to an inn and cared for him there. When business took him elsewhere, he did not leave the man to his own devices but covered any expenses that he might incur. The Samaritan sees his neighbor in need and reacts according to that specific need. In doing so he shows himself to be a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves. This is what we are do emulate. This is how we are to “Go and do likewise.” We are to meet the specific needs of our neighbors by being a neighbor to them.


4)         This then is how this parable intersects with our Lord Jesus Christ to teach us faith. He teaches us love in the parable, but He also teaches us faith. For Jesus IS the Good Samaritan. He sees a need, a specific need and reacts to it specifically, graciously, and compassionately. The great need which Christ saw was our sinful condition. We are the man walking the path going from Jerusalem to Jericho. We are the man who falls among the thieves of sin, death, and the power of the devil. The Devil’s fiery darts wound our hearts by leading us into sin and death. He robbed our first parents of their original righteousness in the Garden of Eden through temptation to sin. He leaves us half dead on the side of the road of life, unable to help ourselves, unable to pick ourselves up, and unable to replace that which has been taken from us. Christ sees the great need of humanity and is moved with compassion. He gives us exactly what we need, too. He doesn’t just say, “Well, humanity is fallen, now I will pray for them.” He doesn’t say, “Humanity has fallen into sin and corruption, I will pass by on the other side of the road.” He doesn’t say, “Humanity has become tainted with sin and has lost the righteousness with which I originally created her. I will provide physical comfort in this life since they are headed for torment in the life to come.” Like the Good Samaritan, Christ Jesus arrives on the path and gives us exactly what we need.


5)         He cleans the wounds of sin with the oil and wine of repentance. For as alcohol stings an infected wound, so repentance stings our wounded hearts. But the sting of repentance is necessary so that we see our sin and desire to be rid of it. He bandages our wounds, covering them with the forgiveness of sins that He freely gives to those who repent and believe the gospel. Jesus sets us on His own animal in that He carries us through this life, for spiritually we are still wounded and unable to carry ourselves. He assumed human flesh for this purpose, to live our life perfectly and spotlessly, fulfilling the entire law on our behalf since we had no power to fulfill the law in and of ourselves, being wounded by sin and tainted with transgression. He carries us to an inn where there He cares for us Himself and provides others who care for us. The inn to which He takes sinners is His holy Church, which is nothing more than hospital for souls. This is the inn to which He brings us, for here in this place He cares for us, weekly treating the wounds of our sins. He applies the salve of the gospel to our sins so that they are forgiven. He feeds us with His real body and real blood, the same body and blood sacrificed on the cross. He uses that holy food to forgive our sins and strengthen the faith that He works in our hearts. He also sets innkeepers over us so continue to care for us, pastors whom He gives as gifts to the church to care for the souls Christ retrieves.


6)         In this Jesus shows Himself as our neighbor, our Good Samaritan. He gives us exactly what we need and that which we truly need. Many approach church and worship with the attitude that they need all sorts of other things from God other than the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. So many approach church, thinking that in her walls Christ should give them other gifts that seem more pertinent to their earthly life. They are wounded by sin, spiritually harangued and half dead, yet they don’t want what our Good Samaritan offers. They want Him to teach them how to live a more industrious life, a happier life, a life that is less lonely and more successful. They are the man lying on the side of the road, bleeding out, wanting someone to throw money and temporary goods at them, or motivational speeches, or perhaps a pillow so they are more comfortable with their condition. Many are not content with the work of the Good Samaritan because He does not come to meet their felt and perceived needs. This is why so many churches have functionally abandoned the gospel for other topics. This is why churches come up with all sorts of programs and gimmicks for people, because so many do not want what Jesus promises in the gospel, and many who have received the gospel quickly learn to despise it, thinking little of all the Good Samaritan has done, and continues to do for them in His Word and Sacraments. For this attitude, defend us, good Lord.


 7)        The truth is that we cannot “Go and do likewise” unless we first receive that which Jesus has gone and done for us in His incarnation, His perfect life, His innocent and bitter sufferings and death, and His glorious resurrection and ascension. Good works of love for our neighbor aren’t truly good works if they are not done in faith, “for whatever is not from faith is sin,” Paul says in Romans 14:23 and he also says in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” That is why we must always come back to this place, to the place where the Word is purely preached and the sacraments of Jesus are administered according to His institution of them, so that through these means He can continually heal the wounds of sin that afflict us each week. Then, and only then, having received the gracious gifts of the Good Samaritan, are we able to go out into our lives and be a neighbor to our neighbors who fall among thieves. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.





[1] Luther’s Small Catechism. Part I The Ten Commandments. Explanation of the Fifth Commandment.

13th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 10:23-37 + August 21, 2016

Introit
(Antiphon) Have respect, O Lord, unto Thy covenant: oh, let not the oppressed return ashamed.
Arise, O God, plead Thine own cause: and forget not the voice of Thine enemies.
(Psalm) O God, why hast Thou cast us off forever?: Why doth then anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

Readings
Leviticus 18:1-5
Galatians 3:15-22
Luke 10:23-37

Collect for Trinity XIII
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


1)         The point of Jesus’ parable is pretty simple. After the young lawyer correctly identifies the Samaritan as the one who acted neighborly to the man who fell among thieves, Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus is teaching us love. He wants His Christians to love their neighbor as they love themselves. The lawyer wanted to wiggle out of that divine command and so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The lawyer felt the sting of the command from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He did not want to love his neighbor, or at least certain neighbors. He most certainly did not want to care for his neighbors with the same level of care that he felt towards himself and his own needs. So he tries to narrow the playing field to make the commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself,” easier to fulfill. By asking, “And who is my neighbor?” the man reveals that he doesn’t love his neighbor at all. Even in his loving actions and attitudes towards his neighbors, he is still thinking only of himself, because there are some people he wants to exclude from the commandment. Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan as a corrective to his misshapen view of what it means to love your neighbor.


2)         A certain man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves, “who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” If ever there was a man who needed a neighbor, it was this man. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” The priest does not love his neighbor as he loves himself. Surely the priest, if he had been in that man’s situation, would have wanted someone to help him. “Likewise, a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.” As it went with the priest, so it goes with the Levite. The priest deals with the holy things of God, yet those holy things have not sunk into his heart so as to move him with compassion for his neighbor. The Levite, the teacher of the divine Word, neglects the command which He surely knew and surely would have taught. The man who fell among thieves was surely their neighbor. But they did not act neighborly toward him. What this man needed was someone who would help and befriend him in every bodily need.”[1] What he needed was someone to clean his wounds with oil and wine. What he needed was someone to bandage his wounds to protect them from further infection. What he needed was someone to put him on their own animal since he could not carry his own weight. What he needed was someone who would care for him in an inn until He was whole again.


3)         In this Jesus teaches us what kind of good works are truly good works. When our neighbor has a need, the truly good work is to meet that need. Too many think that if they just give money to someone they have helped them. But imagine in the Priest had given the half-dead man money! He couldn’t do anything with it because he was half dead. That also would have made him prey to more thieves. There is nothing wrong with giving money to someone if money is truly what they need. But often that is not the case at all. Oftentimes, throwing money at someone’s need doesn’t help because that is not their true need. The same could be said for prayer. Perhaps they said a prayer for him in their heart and thought that was enough. We are commanded to pray for our neighbors in need and that would be a good and God-pleasing thing to do. But it was not what the man needed at the moment. We are commanded to pray but we are also commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And besides, God works through means in this world. He regularly works through people. It would have been contradictory for the Priest and Levite to have prayed that the Lord would help the man, yet deny the Lord’s command to love their neighbor, the very means that God had ordained to help the man. The Samaritan was the only one who understood this. This is why the Samaritan gave the man exactly what He needed. He cleaned the man’s wounds. He bandaged them. He put the man on his own animal and took him to Jericho to an inn and cared for him there. When business took him elsewhere, he did not leave the man to his own devices but covered any expenses that he might incur. The Samaritan sees his neighbor in need and reacts according to that specific need. In doing so he shows himself to be a neighbor to the man who fell among thieves. This is what we are do emulate. This is how we are to “Go and do likewise.” We are to meet the specific needs of our neighbors by being a neighbor to them.


4)         This then is how this parable intersects with our Lord Jesus Christ to teach us faith. He teaches us love in the parable, but He also teaches us faith. For Jesus IS the Good Samaritan. He sees a need, a specific need and reacts to it specifically, graciously, and compassionately. The great need which Christ saw was our sinful condition. We are the man walking the path going from Jerusalem to Jericho. We are the man who falls among the thieves of sin, death, and the power of the devil. The Devil’s fiery darts wound our hearts by leading us into sin and death. He robbed our first parents of their original righteousness in the Garden of Eden through temptation to sin. He leaves us half dead on the side of the road of life, unable to help ourselves, unable to pick ourselves up, and unable to replace that which has been taken from us. Christ sees the great need of humanity and is moved with compassion. He gives us exactly what we need, too. He doesn’t just say, “Well, humanity is fallen, now I will pray for them.” He doesn’t say, “Humanity has fallen into sin and corruption, I will pass by on the other side of the road.” He doesn’t say, “Humanity has become tainted with sin and has lost the righteousness with which I originally created her. I will provide physical comfort in this life since they are headed for torment in the life to come.” Like the Good Samaritan, Christ Jesus arrives on the path and gives us exactly what we need.


5)         He cleans the wounds of sin with the oil and wine of repentance. For as alcohol stings an infected wound, so repentance stings our wounded hearts. But the sting of repentance is necessary so that we see our sin and desire to be rid of it. He bandages our wounds, covering them with the forgiveness of sins that He freely gives to those who repent and believe the gospel. Jesus sets us on His own animal in that He carries us through this life, for spiritually we are still wounded and unable to carry ourselves. He assumed human flesh for this purpose, to live our life perfectly and spotlessly, fulfilling the entire law on our behalf since we had no power to fulfill the law in and of ourselves, being wounded by sin and tainted with transgression. He carries us to an inn where there He cares for us Himself and provides others who care for us. The inn to which He takes sinners is His holy Church, which is nothing more than hospital for souls. This is the inn to which He brings us, for here in this place He cares for us, weekly treating the wounds of our sins. He applies the salve of the gospel to our sins so that they are forgiven. He feeds us with His real body and real blood, the same body and blood sacrificed on the cross. He uses that holy food to forgive our sins and strengthen the faith that He works in our hearts. He also sets innkeepers over us so continue to care for us, pastors whom He gives as gifts to the church to care for the souls Christ retrieves.


6)         In this Jesus shows Himself as our neighbor, our Good Samaritan. He gives us exactly what we need and that which we truly need. Many approach church and worship with the attitude that they need all sorts of other things from God other than the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. So many approach church, thinking that in her walls Christ should give them other gifts that seem more pertinent to their earthly life. They are wounded by sin, spiritually harangued and half dead, yet they don’t want what our Good Samaritan offers. They want Him to teach them how to live a more industrious life, a happier life, a life that is less lonely and more successful. They are the man lying on the side of the road, bleeding out, wanting someone to throw money and temporary goods at them, or motivational speeches, or perhaps a pillow so they are more comfortable with their condition. Many are not content with the work of the Good Samaritan because He does not come to meet their felt and perceived needs. This is why so many churches have functionally abandoned the gospel for other topics. This is why churches come up with all sorts of programs and gimmicks for people, because so many do not want what Jesus promises in the gospel, and many who have received the gospel quickly learn to despise it, thinking little of all the Good Samaritan has done, and continues to do for them in His Word and Sacraments. For this attitude, defend us, good Lord.


 7)        The truth is that we cannot “Go and do likewise” unless we first receive that which Jesus has gone and done for us in His incarnation, His perfect life, His innocent and bitter sufferings and death, and His glorious resurrection and ascension. Good works of love for our neighbor aren’t truly good works if they are not done in faith, “for whatever is not from faith is sin,” Paul says in Romans 14:23 and he also says in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” That is why we must always come back to this place, to the place where the Word is purely preached and the sacraments of Jesus are administered according to His institution of them, so that through these means He can continually heal the wounds of sin that afflict us each week. Then, and only then, having received the gracious gifts of the Good Samaritan, are we able to go out into our lives and be a neighbor to our neighbors who fall among thieves. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.





[1] Luther’s Small Catechism. Part I The Ten Commandments. Explanation of the Fifth Commandment.

August 14, 2016

12th Sunday after Trinity + Mark 7:31-37 + August 14, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn # 3 Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now
Hymn #30 Oh, that I had a Thousand Voices
Hymn #26 Praise the Almighty, My Soul Adore Him

Introit - Psalm 70:1-2a, Psalm 70:2b
(Antiphon) Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O LORD! Let them be ashamed and confounded Who seek my life;
Let them be turned back and confused Who desire my hurt.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Readings
Isaiah 29:18-19
2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Mark 7:31-37

Collect for Trinity XII
Almighty and Merciful God, of Whose only gift it cometh that Thy faithful people do unto Thee true and laudable service, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may so faithfully serve Thee in this life that we fail not finally to attain Thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel


Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         He has done all things well.” That seems like a bit of an understatement, doesn’t it? Jesus has opened the ears of one of who was deaf. He has loosed the tongue of one who was mute. In this miracle Jesus shows Himself once again for who He truly is. He is the Only-Begotten Son of God. He is the Word of God the Father, existing alongside the Father from all eternity. He is the Word by which all things were made, including man’s ears and tongue. Being the creative Word by which the heavens and all that is in them were made, He alone can restore the fallen creation. Jesus shows Himself to be much more than a mere man. Jesus demonstrates that He is not simply a man of God as were the prophets of the former days. The prophets were able to do great wonders and speak great things because the Word of the Lord came to them. Jesus has no need for the Word to come to Him, for He is that same Word of God which gave the prophets their power and speech. Jesus is always teaching us who He is because in every age of the world there are scoffers who want to make all sorts of counter claims about Him. They want to make Him a mere man whom God adopted to be the Messiah. Others want to make Him the first creature of God, before God created the heavens and the earth. But the testimony of Jesus’ works will allow none of these sorts of things. It is as Jesus says, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38). He is able to do all things well because He is God Himself in human flesh, the incorruptible creator of all that is, restoring His creation one by one from the corruption of sin and its ill effects.

2)         Jesus does much more than though than simply giving this man back His hearing and speech. That would have been enough! But there is another element to Jesus’ miracle, just as there is another element to each of Jesus’ gracious acts. What Jesus does to this deaf mute, He does not promise to do to every deaf mute. But what He does to this deaf mute, He promises to that great work to all who are spiritually deaf and mute. What I mean is this. All humanity sits in the seat of this deaf mute. Man is, by nature, deaf to the Word of God. Consider how many people aren’t here on a Sunday morning and you see that is true. Consider how many refuse to hear God’s Word. Consider how many in our world not only neglect preaching but despise it altogether. The world is full of those who think they hear just fine, while in reality their ears are stopped up with the wax of self-righteousness. The world imagines that it speaks just fine, except its mouth only speaks words of praise towards self and destruction towards others. Not hearing the Word of the Lord with their ears, they cannot use their tongues for that which God created them. So many can only use God’s name to curse, swear, to gossip, to lie or deceive. By nature, no one truly prays, praises God, or give Him thanks as he was created to do. Like this deaf mute, everyone is born with the disease of sin that our ears are shut to God’s Word and our tongues are stuck to the roof of our mouth, unable to be used for their divinely-ordained purpose.

3)         And this is why the eternal Word of the Father, the Only-Begotten Son of God, assumes Human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This is why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we could behold His glory, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). It is because He is gracious toward His creation that He comes to earth enfleshed in our humanity, bearing our burdens and our infirmities. Once this man’s friends bring him to Jesus, Jesus takes him aside from the crowd and does the oddest of things. He “put His fingers in his ears and He spat and touched his tongue.” Jesus might be signaling to the deaf mute His intentions. “I am going to clear out your ears and moisten your hardened tongue.” But it is more than that. Jesus is always teaching us how He works. When Jesus sticks His fingers into the man’s ears He wants us to remember that with those same fingers He drove out demons, for He said in Luke 11:20, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” With this He shows that it is by His own almighty power which He saves sinners. Previously the finger of God had engraved the Law upon two stone tablets. But now that same finger of God drives out demons and heals closed up so that they cannot hear God’s Word. In this Jesus shows us that for all the glory the ministry of the Law possessed, it was nothing compared to the ministry of the gospel, for the Law brings about sin and death, but Christ brings grace and truth, salvation for all who hear and believe.

4)         Christ continues to demonstrate how He works by spitting and touching the man’s tongue. Saliva comes from the mouth, does it not? Jesus once again teaches that He heals men’s infirmity by means of that which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus’ saliva signifies His Word, since both come from His mouth. And this saliva is salvific because, as Augustine wrote, “The Word is applied to the element and it becomes a sacrament.” Jesus then speaks one word, “Ephatha,” that is, “be opened.”  Jesus combines His word with a visible element, a most common and ordinary element which all men possess, spit, and that spit makes the deaf mute whole. In this Jesus shows us how He still works among us today through His Word and Sacraments. He still takes elements which are lowly and common, the water of Holy Baptism, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, and combines them with His Word of promise, and those common elements because sin-forgiving, life-giving sacraments for all who believe. This is why the church’s worship has always been centered in the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, for these are Christ’s means for bringing His incorruption to sinners, His righteousness to the penitent unrighteous, and His grace to those who are afflicted with the disease of sin. This is why we have preaching and the sacrament every Lord’s Day, for they are the Lord’s instruments for bestowing salvation upon us week after week.

5)         And as we are always sick with sin, we always need the medicine of immortality. So many Christians imagine that the Christian life begins with the forgiveness of sins that then quickly moves on to other more exciting topics and adventures. In reality though, since we live our days in the flesh and carry around with us what Luther so often called this stinking maggot sack of the sinful flesh, we are daily in need of God’s grace, especially His chief grace which is the forgiveness of our sins. And while the Christian does their best to fight sin in their mortal body and not offer their members as slaves to unrighteousness, we still daily find ourselves turning back to our former condition of being deaf mutes. This is the sin that is far more difficult to detect in oneself than something like murder, hatred, adultery, immorality, and the like. Those are external and easy to see for the one who is vigilant against them. It is the sins against the first three commandments which are often hidden from our own eyes because they deal with our tongues and our ears.

6)         Consider this. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the afternoon being shocked by this thought, “I have not yet prayed today?” How often does it strike you, “I have not yet given thanks to God for the many blessings He has given me?” Do you make it to the end of the day and think to yourself, “In the midst of such a busy day, I have not yet made time to hear the Word of the Lord?” This thought struck me very clearly at one point this week, that I had been slothful in my prayers and slow to hear the of the Word. It was at that point, when I found myself asking those questions of myself, that I realized I was the deaf mute from today’s gospel lesson, spiritually speaking, of course. My ears had been closed up to the Word. It was not malicious. I simply had things to do that, in my sinfulness, I thought more important. My slothfulness in prayer was not premeditated negligence. I had simply imagined that I could put off my prayers until later. It seemed that my tongue had grown an impediment that restrained it from its proper use of prayer, praise, and giving thanks.

7)         So we must always be on our guard against returning to our status as deaf mutes. Being justified by faith we ought to always seek the Word of God, that He put in our own tongue as He put His spittle on the man’s tongue, for when God places His Words on our lips, then we cannot help but speak it back to Him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. That is what David means when He sings, “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise” (Psalm 51:15). His Word, when we hear, read, mark and learn it, opens our ears to hear of His mercies. His Word, when He places it upon our tongues, gives us a thousand voices to sing our savior’s praise and to confess Him boldly before the world for the sake of men’s salvation. Consider how you are hearing the Word of the Lord. Consider your prayers and your thanksgiving to God. But most of all consider the great things He has done for you in Christ Jesus, and the great things that He does for you through His preaching and through His sacrament. Then you will praise Him with lips and heart, confessing that truly, “He has done all things well” for you. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes human understanding guard you hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

August 10, 2016

11th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 18:9-14 + August 7, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn #294 O Word of God Incarnate
Hymn #342 Chief of Sinners Though I Be
Hymn #526 In God, my faithful God
Introit - pg. 77

Readings
2 Samuel 22:21-29
1 Corinthians 15:1-10
Luke 18:9-14

Collect for Trinity XI


Almighty and Everlasting God, Who art always more ready to hear than we to pray and wont to give more than either we desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of Thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

Sermon on the Holy Gospel


Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         Jesus’ target audience for today’s parable were those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Christ shows the righteousness of the Pharisees for what it truly is, that it is not righteousness at all. “Two men went up the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus within himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” The Pharisee who enters the temple to pray really has no reason to pray, other than that he desires to be seen by others. He has no reason to pray because He doesn’t need anything from God. Apparently he has everything he needs already. You might say, “But Pastor, He gives thanks, and isn’t that a reason to pray?” And while that is most certainly true, that we should at all times give thanks to the Lord, this Pharisee is not truly giving thanks to God because he thinks he has received nothing from God. He’s done it all himself! He thanks God that he isn’t like other men. He gives thanks for an imagined moral superiority. He may very well not rip people off. He may very well be quite righteous and upstanding. He may be faithful to his wife. But in the end he is thanking God for his own righteousness, his own faithfulness, his own goodness. This is the first trap into which the Pharisee falls headlong. He imagines that he is righteous before God and gives thanks that for that righteousness. He needs nothing from God.

2)         That feeling causes him to simultaneously fall into a second and related trap, which is that, needing nothing from God, he offers his own good works to God as a sign of his righteousness. Good works are necessary. The Lord commands His children to do good works. But they are not necessary for salvation. They are necessary because they are the Lord’s will. Notice which works the Pharisee wants to offer to God. “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” The good works he offers to God aren’t even the good works God has commanded. Someone might answer, “But Pastor, fasting and tithing are indeed good works, aren’t they?” But works are only good and God-pleasing when they are the works that God has commanded. God did not command the Israelites to fast twice a week. There is nothing wrong with fasting in order to discipline one’s flesh so that you learn how to subdue sinful desires in your flesh. But fasting is not commanded by God, therefore it cannot be a good work. We are commanded to subdue the flesh and not live according to its desires, so if fasting is done to subdue the flesh, then sure it is a good work. But it if this Pharisee fasts just for the sake of fasting, then it is not a good work. Tithing as well is a good and proper practice. Without faithful tithing, the ministry would suffer in any given place. Tithing is one way of saying “thank you” to the Lord for that He provides the Holy Ministry for you. But the Lord does not command tithing. If you tithe out of thankfulness and appreciation for the gift of the Holy Ministry, then tithing is God-pleasing, since we are to gladly hear the Word preached. But if one tithes because He has to, or so that others will see his piety, then it is not God-pleasing.

3)         This Pharisee shows us how not to approach God. He trusted that he was righteous in and of himself and he offered his man-made good works to God as if they would impress God all the more. The Pharisee, though, aside from being a grotesque picture of the spiritually smug and self-righteous, is a picture of what sinful human nature does without the aid of the Holy Ghost. Everyone is tempted toward spiritual pride, to think that they are righteous because of their works, or because they abstain from certain evil works. From time to time we all face the temptation to think ourselves better than our neighbors because they do certain things that we don’t do. There are moments when each us is tempted to think within ourselves, “I thank you that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” When we look down on others for their sins, without seeing our sins, whatever they might be, we fall into the first trap of this Pharisee, to trust in ourselves that we are righteous. If we dwell in that place for too long we soon fall into the second trap of the Pharisee, to begin to imagine that our works, no matter how good, churchly, or helpful they are, gain us God’s favor. From this, good Lord, preserve us.

4)         But Jesus isn’t just telling this parable to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” He is also telling the parable so that those who do see their sinfulness and lament their sinful condition. For the parable continues, “The tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Here you have the very opposite of the Pharisee. This man looks inside himself and sees no righteousness at all. He can’t play the game of “good by comparison” because he’s at the bottom run of the ladder. He might very well be the extortioner, the unjust, the adulterer. What’s telling is that we don’t know exactly what sins plagued this man. It’s not necessary to the story. In fact, it’s better that we don’t know what sins were his pet sins that beset him and tormented him regularly. If we did, we couldn’t put ourselves as easily in his shoes. Whereas the Pharisee “gave thanks” that he didn’t do certain sins, this tax collector doesn’t confess specific sins. He confesses that he is “a poor, miserable sinner,” who has “justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment.” He most certainly has specific sins which stick to his flesh, actual sins which he has done which he regrets and desires to be rid of. But they are so numerous and run so deep that he can only let out a penitential cry, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” It is not wrong to confess our individual sins to God. He desires that we do just that. But Jesus here teaches us that it is not simply our actions that need forgiving, but our entire person. We don’t just bring individual sins to Jesus, we bring the whole sinners before Him.

5)         This man has no good works to rely upon. He knows that the best of works is not good enough and that all a sinner does is sinful, no matter how glamourous it looks in the eyes of the world. This man does not want to meet God at the tribunal of divine justice and try to argue that He is already righteous and has no need for God. Those who approach God with their own works and righteousness will only find judgment. Even the great saints of the Holy Scripture know better than to seek God at the tribunal of the Law. David says in Psalm 143:2, “Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous.” This tax collector knows this. He feels his sins. He is ashamed of them and wishes he had never committed them. He does not flee to the tribunal of the Law to be judged by God according to His works, for he knows what awaits him there. Instead the tax collector flees to the throne of God’s grace and there he approaches God not on the basis of his own works, but on account of God’s mercy. This is what Jesus teaches us to do as well whenever we feel our sins. All sinners are to flee to the throne of grace, which is Christ Jesus Himself. We know that God will be merciful to all who seek mercy from Him in Christ. St. Paul teaches the gospel to us this morning when He says, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3). It is to this gospel that sinners are to flee for refuge from their sins, the guilt of their sins, and its consequences, for there and only there has God promised mercy.

6)         This is what Jesus teaches in the parable. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” God only declares sinners righteous through faith in Christ. Righteousness cannot be won through works of the Law. Nor does God declare all men righteous at the cross and absolve them from all their sins before faith in Christ, for faith alone justifies. Jesus does not teach a pre-existent justification as the Synods teach just as He does not teach a righteousness through works of the divine or human law. He speaks this parable to us so that we who are His Christians will be on guard against spiritual pride and arrogance, lest we think we do not need a Savior from sin at all times. He tells this parable to console us when we are convicted of our sins so that we might immediately flee to Christ as the place where God promises to be merciful to sinners. He tells this parable so that we might remain humble towards ourselves and others. For He says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” As we see neighbors caught up in trespasses and sin, we out not to think ourselves better than they are. Rather we ought to truly give thanks to God our Father for His mercy toward us, so that like St. Paul we can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:10). When we see our neighbor in sin we do what is in our power to restore them through repentance and faith in Christ, always in truth and humility, remembering that we too are sinners in need of mercy.

7)         This is a wonderful parable. By it Jesus clearly teaches us the gospel that we are justified by faith in Christ and not our own works or merits. We are also taught what it is truly give thanks unto God, so that we receive the forgiveness of all our sins and rejoice, not that we are better than others, but that we have a God who is merciful to us in Christ Jesus our Lord, a God who is “wont to give more than either we desire or deserve.” Amen.

May the peace of god, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.