Sunday, December 18, 2011
The Lord's blessings to you as He prepares you to rejoice in the birth of His only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit prepares you to receive and believe the words of the Father that lift you out of he depths of hell and into the kingdom of heaven.
A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along or read instead.
TEXT: 15"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.' 17And the LORD said to me, 'They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.'" Deuteronomy 18:15-19
That prophet of course is Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. Not only did He speak all that the Father commanded Him, He lived it—and died it—for you.
Now risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, Jesus lives it again and speaks it to the ends of the earth until the end of the age as He extends the words God the Father put in his mouth to the world through the ministers of His Word.
"The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16
These concluding words, "the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me," are ominous indeed—especially in light of the concluding words of our OT text, "and whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him."
This, of course, is a statement of judgment and condemnation. Here in a few words the LORD is saying, "Okay, you don't want to listen to me? I'm going to hold you to it. I'm going to require of you that you do it all yourself. Have it your way! But remember, your way is death. You have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, just like your parents and grandparents—just like Adam and Eve. And just like them, you will surely die. What's more, if you do not want to listen to my words, you will die eternally without ever ceasing to exist. Your dying and all the suffering and torment of dying will never be over. For what can the one who is surely dying do to stop his death? What can the one who has fallen and begun the endless descent into the bottomless pit of hell do to stop his fall, and rise to live again?"
But enough of this! You have not come here to ignore the words of the LORD and reject Him. You are here because you have been gathered by the Holy Spirit to listen to the words that this prophet Jesus came to speak in the name of the LORD His Father, our Father who art in heaven. And His words are the words of eternal life. His words are the words that not only tell you what He has done for you in the virgin birth; in the perfectly sinless life; in the holy, precious bloodshed; in the innocent suffering and death; in the descent into the depths of hell; in the resurrection from death, hell, and the grave; in the glorious ascension to heaven of His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. Even more than this, His words are also the words that tell you what He is doing to you save you, to stop your descent into that bottomless pit of hell, to raise you out of the grave, to place you into the kingdom of heaven, and to give you eternal life.
These words by which our mighty God did great things not just for, but to her are the words the blessed virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord, received, believed, and rejoiced in according to our Gospel text this morning. Mary actually sings a list of those things that God her Savior has done to her and to all people.
"My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things to me, and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
And here is what is so amazing and instructive for us in Mary's "Magnificat." Who of us could hold a candle to her in terms of innocence, righteousness, and good works? She is the very mother of God having born the flesh of the only begotten Son of God into the world. Yet she sings this song of praise in total humility before God to Elizabeth and all mankind, and she plumbs the depths of the meaning of those essential words of the prophet, Isaiah [64:6], "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away."
You see, as horrible and destructive as our sinful behavior is, it is our good works—even our best works that are our biggest problem. It is these that make us think more of ourselves than we ought. It is these that tempt us into trusting in our own righteousness and thinking we somehow deserve God's blessings. It is these that prevent us from receiving, believing, and rejoicing in what God does for and especially to us.
So let us now once again join with her and all the hosts of heaven and sing "The Magnificat," rejoicing in God our Savior who has looked on our humble estate and forgiven us all our sins--in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, "Arise, O Christian People," LSB #354. The sermon begins at the 3:00 mark.
Behold your God has come to gather you into His arms and tend you like a the flock of His church where He tends you like a shepherd.
A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along or read instead.
TEXT: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
But who wants that?
“Behold your God!” Bah, humbug!
The message of the prophets--“Behold your God!”
The message of John the Baptizer--“Behold your God!”
The message of the apostles--“Behold your God!”
The message of the church, her pastors, and all the baptized--“Behold your God!”
Take a look at your bulletin cover. Imagine John, dressed in camel hair; a diet of locusts and honey; living out in the wilderness preaching and baptizing. And this guy points to another no more impressive himself really—as Isaiah writes elsewhere:
“… he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” [53:2-3] Even his birth as a babe is not worth beholding.
How ironic—and appropriate--that the One who saves us from our sin would have “no beauty that we should desire him, while the one who tempted and lured us into sin had a beauty about him that was appealing to Adam & Eve and continues to be appealing to us today.
That is why sin is so deadly. We don’t know any better than to desire it and even love it. It’s not the sin we do, as bad and as harmful as that is to others. It’s that in our sin we don’t know God—He is actually ugly and undesirable to us.
And so, A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Luther writes: “The law works the wrath of God, kills, curses, accuses, judges, and damns everything that is not in Christ.” This what Isaiah and the voice is crying about.
Why? “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” [1 Corinthians 15:36]
The voice that cries out these things, even the voice that cries out--“Behold your God!”—is the voice of the Lord.
The same voice that cried out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”
The same voice that cried out to Isaiah and the prophets giving them the words they were to speak; the same voice that cried out from Isaiah and the prophets.
The same voice that cried out from John the Baptizer out in the wilderness.
The same voice that cried out from the apostles.
This voice cries out to you “Behold your God!”
Out there, in the world, the wrath of God is at work, killing, cursing, accusing, judging, and damning everything that is not in Christ.
But here, in the Word, the grace of God is at work, raising to blessing, forgiving, and raising to eternal life--in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, "Lo! He Comes on Clouds Descending," LSB #336. The sermon begins at the 4:47 mark.
Behold, the Day Is Coming--indeed it is already here--when Jesus forgives you all your sins and gives you eternal life.
A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along or read instead.
Behold, the Day Is Coming! This is the message of Advent. That is what Advent means: coming. So in the season of the church year called Advent, we prepare for the coming of the Lord, our Savior -- Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Last week we heard the prophet Jeremiah tell us to, Behold the coming of the righteous branch of David, the One who came to bring righteousness to the earth and make us righteous by coming to die and rise and ascend. While the Gospel of Matthew had us Behold our king coming to us humbly on a donkey. Both so we might Behold our king coming humbly in the things of His Church to bestow His righteousness on us by forgiving us our sins.
Now today we Behold the day that is coming when this king who came humbly will come in all His glory.
Malachi tells us that glory is a two-edged something of a two-edged sword. This is something to remember well when we get caught up in the desire for the glory of the Lord.
1“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 4:1–3
The sun is a raging inferno that would vaporize us if we were not in the proper place in relationship to it. The temperature at the surface of the sun is about 10,000 Fahrenheit. The temperature rises from the surface of the sun inward towards the very hot center of the sun where it reaches about 27,000,000 Fahrenheit. Yet here on earth, 92,955,807.3 mi away, God has placed us in the perfect place in relationship to the heat it generates to be able to live. In fact, without the heat and light form the sun we couldn’t live.
To be in the proper place in relationship to the LORD for His coming in glory [reference Malachi] text we must be in the relationship of faith that lives in the forgiveness of Christ as a repentant sinner-- confessing our sin as the most heinous before God and the only evil that separates us from His love and places us in the blaze of His righteous anger. That means, for us and our salvation, because of His great mercy and love for us, we behold the glory of the Lord now in a very different way—the glory of the cross.
Easily, the most frequently asked question of me is, “Pastor why do you have to call us sinners all the time – every sermon, every service?” And truth be told, unlike “Jeopardy,” it is not always phrased in the form of a question – “Pastor, my parents/children/friends don’t like to come here because of all that talk about sin in our service and your sermons. You need to be more upbeat and the service should be more uplifting if we want our church to grow.”
But what is more uplifting, more glorious, than to be rescued from the depths of our sin and into the very presence of God in His holy Kingdom? Sadly, much of Christianity would have you believe that, once you have heard the good news and accepted Jesus as your personal Savior who lives in your heart, sin is no longer an issue for you. Therefore, if you believe and have the Holy Spirit, all that is left is to be happy and to tell God and the world how much you love them. So church becomes a matter of entertainment and partying with the Lord—seeking to bask in His glory.
The prophet Malachi shows us how dangerous that glory apart from the cross really is.
Dear people of Trinity, church is all about delivering the forgiveness of sins, or it is nothing at all. It is why Jesus came, it is why he comes, it is why He is coming again –to take away the sin of the world, and to take us away from the sin of the world. Behold! The day is coming when the Lord in all His glory will utterly destroy all sin and sinfulness in the blaze of His glory. To prepare us, this is what He is always coming to do in His Word—destroy our sin and putting us in the proper place in relationship to Him, i.e. faith.
That is what a Savior does. That is what our Savior does. That is what The Savior does.
If you have no sin you need no Savior and Christmas is a hapless holiday, a moldy manger, a feastless festival—and you will be in the wrong place in relationship to the Sun of righteousness when He comes in His blazing glory.
So repent! The kingdom of God is at hand. Advent IS coming, Jesus coming to earth for the salvation of all who believe.
Let it be so among us now and until the very end of our days so that when we behold the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory we will not be consumed in the blaze of glory but be healed as the sun of righteousness
Have a most blessed Advent season, a very merry Christmas and I’ll see you in church – where the LORD is coming and is here to forgive you all your sins and give you eternal life– In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Thursday, December 1, 2011
"A high wind event creating problems in many parts of the Wasatch Front- especially Davis County- where a recent gust was clocked at 100 mph !"
This is what my yard looks like.
Looks like the peach trees made it.
But nine of our ten 30'+ evergreens were uprooted.
O Tannebaum, o Tannebaum,
Wie schön waren die Zweige!
O Tannebaum, o Tannebaum,
Wie schön waren die Zweige!
Yet, Lo, how the rose is budding!
Sunday, November 27, 2011
5"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Happy New Year! Not only are the days coming, but the days are here. The LORD has indeed raised up a righteous branch for David—and for you. He is reigning and dealing wisely as king of His church, where He is executing justice and righteousness in the promised land that is His kingdom of heaven.
This is what Advent is all about, the coming days of Jesus, a righteous branch—THE Righteous Branch—Who is the LORD, who is even righteousness Himself, come in the flesh to save us.
While the world jumps the gun on Christmas, we who live with Christ by faith in the kingdom of heaven are already celebrating a new year on the church calendar, indeed a new year in the days of the coming of our Lord.
But let's back up a bit and ask a question. Why--when the New Testament has replaced the Old and the Day of the Lord is upon us--why do we bother with the words of an Old Testament prophet? The answer lies in the refrain to the Advent hymn we just sang as the Hymn of the Day. "Hosanna to the Lord, for He fulfills God's Word!"
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the One who has come to fulfill His Father's Word of salvation. The Word of salvation is the Word God has spoken with His Son since before the foundation of the world, the Word of promise spoken to Adam and Eve as they cowered in sin and shame in the Garden. The Word spoken by the Law and Prophets is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, who Himself has said it is these Old Testament Scriptures "that bear witness about me."
And so we sing the song of Advent, "Hosanna"—save us now." 5"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
This Righteous Branch, is Himself the Tree of Life, from whom we all like Adam have turned away in favor of the knowledge of good and evil.
This Righteous Branch is the One who took that sin upon Himself and bore its curse upon the tree of Calvary.
This Righteous Branch is now the One who has been raised to bear fruit beyond measure where He reigns as king, dealing wisely with the world and its people through preaching and His Word in His holy Christian Church. In this Church He is executing justice and righteousness even as He once executed justice and righteousness on a cross outside of Jerusalem in the flesh of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
This Righteous Branch is now the One, who having been raised from the dead, has also ascended to the right hand of the Father from whence He comes to judge the living and the dead according to His justice and righteousness in the land of His choosing.
While we wait for His coming again in all His glory on the Last Day, He is preparing us for that Last Day by coming to us now in the Word and Sacrament of His Church to judge us now. This judging of the living and the dead is what Jesus established His church and sent out His disciples and ministers of the Word to do according to Matthew 18—execute His justice and righteousness. "tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. . . . where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
So in His Church Christ is continuing to fulfill the OT Scriptures.
6In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'
This is the name in which we have been gathered here at Trinity, Layton. The Lord our is our righteousness. He has placed His name upon us in Holy Baptism. He continues to come to us and execute His righteousness and justice to us in preaching and His Word and even in His own flesh and blood in Holy Communion. In these things we are saved and dwell securely with Him and Him with us.
7"Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' 8but 'As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' Then they shall dwell in their own land."
Indeed these days are already here. This land is the kingdom of heaven, and our Lord has brought you up to dwell in it forever by forgiving you all your sins--in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
And that is what we baptized believers are--travelers in this world—who live, and move, and have our being in the Way, the Truth, and the Life Who is the Word of God made flesh in Christ Jesus.
When we pray the prayer given us by the Son of the Living God known alternately as "The Lord's Prayer" and "The Our Father," we pray the perfect prayer of praise and Thanksgiving.
Part and parcel of giving thanks, indeed central to it, is coming before our Lord as beggars who know our life is completely in His hand and at His mercy, body and soul and all things.
So we pray together--and this together is of utmost importance as indicated by our Lord's choice in the use of the plural pronouns 'our" and "us" throughout--in THE FOURTH PETITION OF THE LORD'S PRAYER:
Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean? God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked people; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread? Everything that belongs to the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
Thus, it is neither mere accident nor empty repetition that the members of Christ's Bride, His Holy Christian Church on earth pray this prayer whenever they gather for the Holy Eucharist (which means Thanksgiving) in the greatest of Thanksgiving feasts to receive the body and blood of our Lord for eternal life.
A most blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope and pray that The Holy Eucharist is the entree` to your and our every Thanksgiving.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Here is the Bridegroom! Rejoice and spread the Word. He has come to meet us.
A rough preaching manuscript follows below if you prefer to read along or read instead.
SERMON for the LAST SUNDAY of the CHURCH YEAR: November 20, 2011
"Here Is the Bridegroom!"
TEXT: 1[Jesus said:] "The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, 'Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Matthew 25:1-6
"Here is the bridegroom!" Yes, He is here and each of you baptized is a member of His beloved and holy bride.
If this sounds at least vaguely familiar, and maybe even redundantly repetitive to you—well, then, Sweet! That means the Lord has kept me faithful in my call to give you "nothing but Christ and Him crucified," as our dear Lord's apostle, Paul, puts it.
This really is the same message I preached here to you last week, as I reminded you that "You are a sheep and the Holy Spirit has called and is gathering you at the right hand of the King." And this really is the same message I ought to be preaching to you every week in some way, shape, or form. "Here is the bridegroom!"
This is what every called and ordained servant of the Word since the Lord breathed the Holy Spirit upon His disciples has been placed into the office of the ministry and sent out to proclaim: "Here is the bridegroom!" This is the good news of the Gospel and the New Testament of our Lord in Word and Sacrament--in water, blood, and Spirit crying.
As we learn from the Gospel of Matthew account of John the Baptizer (which we will hear more about three weeks down the road in Advent), this is the Good News of the New Testament for which every OT prophet was sent to prepare God's chosen people. As the last and greatest of the prophets, "John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah."
IOW, John was crying out to those wandering in the desert of sin, "Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him."
This really is the preaching of Jesus Christ Himself, that He has handed down to His servants of the Word and poured His Spirit out in abundance to proclaim to a world lost in sin and blinded to His presence among them ever since Adam and Eve first went their own way and tried to hide from God. "After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'" "Here is the bridegroom!"
This is also what Baptism itself is all about. In baptizing little Talbot here today, we welcomed him into the kingdom of heaven and introduced him to the bridegroom and made him a member of Christ's holy and beloved bride, the Church. We gave him the lamp of faith—the same lamp each of you was given when you were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. These lamps of faith, filled with the Holy Spirit lighten the darkness of this sinful world and open your blinded hearts to see "Here is the bridegroom!--standing before, behind, among, along side, above, and below you.
If you think about it, this also means that a whole lot of people are wandering around out there with empty lamps and smoldering wicks. Like the five foolish virgins, though their lives may appear to be as pure, or purer, than anybody else, when the Lord reveals Himself on the Last Day the baptized whose lamps are not filled with the Holy Spirit will be caught on the wrong side of the door that has safely locked behind Christ and His elect, His holy and beloved bride,
This Holy Spirit who fills the lamps of faith gifted to each of the Baptized comes only and always in, with, and through the Word of God in the preaching, teaching, and Sacraments of His bride, the Church.
Don't be caught with an empty lamp. Don't risk being one of those wandering around in the dark when our Lord reveals Himself in all His glory—the glory that you can know, believe, and participate even now as a member of His holy and beloved Bride. Come to the Lord's house and table often to hear His Word and receive His very body and blood from which the Holy Spirit proceeds to keep your lamp of faith filled. And go forth with your lamp lit so that your neighbors, the family and friends with whom live and work and play every day, may also know where to get their lamps filled to see, Here is [their] bridegroom!—Christ, the Son of the Living God—that they too may "Come out to meet him." Now while and where He may be found.
The Church is where "the dealers" of oil for your lamps of faith are located. Of course that oil, the Holy Spirit is not for sale. But is only delivered and dispensed where "Water, blood, and Spirit crying, By their witness testifying To the One whose death defying Life has come, with life for all."
Dear Baptized, Life has come with life for you. "Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him." For He has come here to meet you--forgiving you all of your sin and giving you life now and forever--in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Have a most blessed week in your Lord, Jesus Christ, living with Him at the right hand of the Father.
Here is a rough preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.
SERMON for the SECOND-LAST SUNDAY of the CHURCH YEAR:
November 13, 2011
"Right Hand or Left?"
TEXT: [Jesus said:] "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:31-34
Right hand or left? Sheep or goat? Do you ever wonder?
Dear Christian, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, I have been placed into the office of the ministry here in Layton to tell you and all who will listen: "You are a sheep and the Holy Spirit has called and is gathering you at the right hand of the King."
You are a sheep because God has made you a sheep. At your Baptism, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God said, "Here I am. Follow me. Be my sheep. I will take care of you for every day of your life, just be my sheep."
To say you are a sheep is another way of saying that you are a disciple. For disciples follow and live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. That is what Matthew 28:19-20 is all about: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Yes, this is Jesus' command to His Church to make disciples, but it also tells how to make a disciple, and therefore, it tells us what a disciple is. A disciple is one who is Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AND a disciple is one who is taught to observe, that is to live or abide in, all things that Christ the Lord has commanded -- in other words, everything God has spoken to us by His Word as recorded in Holy Scripture.
In point of fact, this Baptism and teaching to observe is not two things but one. Being Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit means to be given everything God has to give. When that water trickled over your brow with the Words of God's very name, you became heir to God's kingdom.
In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks of the day when that kingdom that has already been given to you as an inheritance of faith by His New Testament, will be given to you in full in the flesh—your own resurrected flesh.
Between now and the day of His judgment, you live in your Baptism as a child of God by being taught all the things that God has given you in His Word and by living in and according to that Word of God. And it is in your Baptism, or better put, in God's baptism, that you, along with all the brethren of Christ who share the baptism of God, that Christ is with you always, even to the end of the age - that is even to the time of today when He will come again in glory to separate the sheep from the goats.
From the moment the first drops of water touched your tiny (or not so tiny) head, and God's Word was received through your ears by the proclamation of the Gospel and into your heart by faith, until you take your last breath and close your eyelids for the last time, Jesus is with you in your Baptism and you are with Him as you follow Him by hearing and receiving all that His Word has to give.
Simply put, in Baptism Jesus becomes your Good Shepherd and you become His sheep. As a sheep you are all about listening and following the voice of your Shepherd.
"And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." [John 10:4 ]
Listening and following your Shepherd, you are a member of His flock. Even though you don't see them, by hearing God's Word, the voice of your Shepherd, you are gathered with all His other sheep, those of the different pens throughout time and the far reaches of the earth. [John 10:16] As sheep you are the brethren of Christ of whom He speaks in our Gospel. Living in the Word with all the other sheep, confessing the truth in Christ that Word brings, is how you are among those on His right hand who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, sheltered the homeless, clothed the naked and visited the sick and imprisoned. And because you are content with hearing the voice and following the person of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, you don't even know that as you follow, you are doing the work of God.
In the 23rd Psalm we have a beautiful picture of the church, the sheepfold of God and His kingdom on earth. For in it the Lord tells us what a sheep does.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
But Pastor, you protest, that didn't really say anything about what the sheep does, it tells what the Shepherd does.
You are so right, dear Christian. You are so right. For there you have it! Being a Christian is all about the Shepherd. And you are a sheep because the Lord is your Shepherd. The Lord is your Shepherd--the Good Shepherd. That is who He is and what He does. You are His sheep who live at His right hand. Therefore you will never be lacking for any good thing, because He is here being your Shepherd.
Jesus makes you lie down in the green pastures of His Word and leads you beside the still waters of His Baptism. You eat and drink in what He has set before you -- because you are a sheep.
Jesus restores your soul by forgiving you your sin, He leads you in the paths of righteousness by giving you His name and the works He has prepared for you to do. You confess your sins and speak of His wonderful works -- because you are a sheep.
Jesus comforts you with the rod of His Law and the staff of His Gospel, the means by which the great comforter, the Holy Spirit, brings you to repentance and forgives you all your sin to create faith in you by which you walk through this dying world with Jesus, your Good Shepherd in front, along side and behind your every step - because you are a sheep.
Jesus prepares the table of His Supper by setting His resurrected body and blood before you so that you can participate in His resurrected life, He anoints your head with the oil of the Holy Spirit so that you will remain in the faith that receives His gifts to overflowing. You eat of His body and drink of His blood to give strength to your weak and dying flesh, you receive His Holy Spirit to give comfort to your flagging spirit, and you receive life - because you are a sheep.
The goodness and mercy of Jesus, the Son of God and your Good Shepherd follows you every day of your life as His Holy Spirit pursues you with His Word, and you dwell in the house of the Lord forever as Jesus dwells with you by the Baptism He has placed upon you and the body and blood He has placed within you. You live in the presence of God and have a seat in His heavenly kingdom even now--because you are a sheep who has been gathered by the holy Spirit to His right hand in the Holy Christian Church.
Pity those poor goats. The goats on Jesus left have none of this because they are not sheep. They think they have done many good things, yet they have not taken in Christ and did not recognize Him as the Son of God and their Savior because they did not listen to the voice of the Shepherd. The goats are always wanting because they have and desire no shepherd.
Goats do not lie down and feed in green pastures of God's Word or drink of the quiet waters of Baptism because they are busy climbing mountains, eating and drinking whatever garbage they come across. You are not a goat.
Goats do not have their sins forgiven or walk in the paths of righteousness because they are too busy enjoying their sin and pretending to be righteous. You are not a goat.
Goats do not have any comfort and are constantly driven by fear because they are too busy trying to ignore, cheat, or beat death and have no desire to hear what God would have them do or what He has done for them, they only want to tell what they want God to do for them or somehow prove what they can do for God. You are not a goat.
Goats do not eat at the table of the Lord and their cups are perpetually empty because they are too busy fighting with God, spilling their cups as they climb their mountains and fight their battles. You are not a goat.
Goodness and mercy does not follow goats and goats do not dwell in the house of the Lord now, or ever, because they are too busy chasing evil, following their own desires, and trying to build their own mansions. You are not a goat.
But remember, it's not as if you yourself have never been a goat, or that you wouldn't love to be a goat again, or as if you don't wander over to the left hand. Your sinful human nature, that goatish flesh of yours, is always tempted--and too many times successfully so—to go butting in and climbing around all that garbage piled to the left.
As you pity those poor goats, remember there but for the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit go you and me. You and I were once goats. This is what we believe and confess together in the Third Article of the Creed:
I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise up me and all the dead and will give eternal life to me and to all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
No, dear Christian, you are not a goat any longer. You are a sheep. You have been saved from being a goat and suffering at the left hand of God. You have been delivered by His strong Right Hand. You are baptized into the One true faith. You hear God's precious Word proclaimed for the forgiveness of your sin. You eat of His body and drink of His blood. By these very things you have the anointing of His Holy Spirit, the salvation of your souls, the presence of God your Savior, you dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and you are among those at his right hand who will most certainly hear Christ your King say, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"
Dear Christian, this is the Gospel of the Lord. You cannot hear or speak it to others too often. You are a sheep. Welcome to the right hand of God--In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Have a blessed week in the Lord as dear children of God, blessed to be saints in the kingdom of heaven now and forever.
A servant of the Word and His folk,
Here is a rough preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.
TEXT: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:3-12 ESV)
Dear Blessed Ones of the Father,
Truly God is proclaiming to you in the All Saints' Day Gospel reading for today that you are among those who are blessed. And to be among those who are blessed is to be a saint, to be sanctified—that is, made holy. Blessed are all saints, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
• God has given you new birth and marked you as one of all those saints in Holy Baptism;
• God is proclaiming you to be one of all those saints in the Word I am preaching to you now and wherever the Word of God is preached and taught for the forgiveness of the poor in spirit;
• God enfleshes you with Himself and all those saints when He gives you the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion;
• and God sends you forth into the world as one of all those saints carrying the benediction of His name-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
You who believe these things are indeed all saints who are blessed because in these things Jesus comes to you and you are made one with Him—the blessed One of whom the beatitudes of Matthew's Gospel speak.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Jesus became poor in spirit for us when "For our sake [His Father] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become) the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21 Therefore theirs is the kingdom of heaven who are poor in spirit and confess their sins. For they are forgiven and blessed in Christ.
4"Blessed are those who mourn. Jesus mourned as He wept over Lazarus at his tomb and over Jerusalem for their unbelief, and as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that not His will but His Father's be done. Therefore they shall be comforted who mourn the curse of their sin and certainty of their death for they are blessed in Christ and share in His resurrection.
5"Blessed are the meek, Jesus became meek though he was in(C) the form of God, did not count equality with God(D) a thing to be grasped, 7but(E) made himself nothing, taking the form of a(F) servant,[b](G) being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7 Therefore they shall inherit the earth who do not claim their own sinful works but Christ's work as their glory.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus, though the Son of God knew He was to be in His Father's house, hearing and speaking His Word and doing His will. Therefore they shall be satisfied who seek the righteousness of Christ in His house of Word and Sacrament.
7"Blessed are the merciful, God desires mercy, not sacrifice so He sent the merciful One Jesus. Therefore they shall receive mercy who receive God's mercy in Christ rather than offer their feeble sacrifices..
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, Jesus pure—spotless without blemish of sin. Therefore they shall see God who have been purified by His blood and washed in the living water..
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus suffered and died to bear the wrath of the Father and make peace with Him on our behalf. Therefore they shall be called sons of God who are made one with the only begotten Son of God.
10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, Therefore theirs is the kingdom of heaven who remain faithful unto death bearing all the world's disdain.
11"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Blessed are all saints who have gone before us to deliver this faith to us. We remember them, like Roger, for their living in W & S to the last day.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15
with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20b-21
During the service of the Sacrament we in the Sanctus, "Holy, Holy, Holy," we sing: "Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."
"Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" Matthew 21:9
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. Psalm 118:26
Jesus is the One who comes in the name of the Lord to make us blessed along with Roger and all the saints who have gone before us. So now blessed are you who come in the name of the Lord--baptized, forgiven children of God YOUrs is the kingdom of heaven and blessed are you with all Saints --In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
HYMN OF THE DAY: Oh How Blest Thy Faithful Children
TEXT: Rev. Eric Stefanski TUNE: Galilean (LSB #826)
1. Oh, how blest Thy faithful children
Ever dost Thou give them rest,
By the cross their sins removest
Far away as east from west.
Now they dwell by grace forever
Cleansed from sin, from fear set free;
For Thy death hath opened Heaven,
And in death they live to Thee.
2. Blesséd now the poor in spirit;
Thou to them dost Heaven give
Who confessed themselves as beggars,
Looked alone to Thee to live.
Blesséd are we pining mourners
Comforted alone in Thee:
By Thy grace Thou wilt sustain us
'Til at last Thy face we see.
3. Blesséd are the ones who meekly
Ever trust Thy gracious will,
Who have suffered lack, but gladly,
For Thy promise Thou fulfill:
A new Earth and a new Heaven
Thou shalt give for their abode,
Treasures there beyond all measure
Glory that naught can erode.
4. Those who for it thirst and hunger
Shall forever more be filled
With the righteousness of Jesus,
Which God's righteous wrath hath stilled.
They are purchased with His merit:
'Gainst their debt His blood sufficed;
They show mercy, for receivéd
They the mercy won by Christ.
5. Lord, Thy sufferings hearts pure maketh
In them who by grace shall see
Thee in glory, for Thou takest
From them all iniquity;
And peacemakers Thou has made them
By the peace received from Thee:
That the sons of Thine own Father
All might know them now to be.
6. Now rejoice we in the sufferings
Which we for Thy sake receive,
Since Thou didst for us win Heaven;
Grant us ever to believe
That the prophets and the martyrs
Gathered 'round Thy holy throne
With Thine angels shall receive us
Entered there by Christ alone.
∆ 7. For Thy saints above we praise Thee,
Who hast led them there by grace;
For Thy Church this prayer we raise Thee:
Bring us also to that place.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Praise and glory be to Thee
Gracious, everlasting, clement,
Holy, Blessed Trinity. Amen.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
The Augustana Ministerium (TAM, http://augustanaministerium.org ) is a pan-Lutheran group formed in 2004 to the aid of faithful pastors who have been mistreated in, or unbiblically removed from their calls by their congregations, as well as to generally uphold and promote our Lutheran confession of the Office of the Holy Ministry.
Since the election of Rev. Harrison as president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, TAM membership and contributions have waned, though the number of illegitimate "Divine Deposals" of pastors does not seem to be on the wane at all. So now, in addition to not having the resources to continue current subsidy levels for the men who have been deposed in the past, TAM faces the reality of being unable to provide any future financial assistance to additional men in need.
This is in no way meant to detract from Pres. Harrison’s faithful execution of his elected office. What it does mean is “so that we may obtain this faith [of AC IV], the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacramentsm,” it takes individual pastors and laymen of our LC-MS congregations to do whatever they can to support what first “was instituted” by our Lord Himself. [See AC V.]
Pastors, please consider joining the ministerium [http://augustanaministerium.org/AM-Application.html ].
Laymen, please consider joining the confraternity [http://augustanaministerium.org/AC-Application.html ].
Congregations, please consider including TAM in your mission budget items.
The annual dues--$50 for pastors, $40 for laymen--cover the registration fee for TAM's annual Theological Conference and Plenary. The 2012 Theological Conference and Plenary is being planned for sometime in late July-early August in the greater Chicago area. Audio recordings and textual documents of past Theological Conference presentations are accessible at http://augustanaministerium.org/essays/ .
Respectfully submitted for your consideration,
Rev. Kurt Hering
TAM Dean of Pastoral Care
- to fall back chronologically. Please remember to set your clocks back an hour before you hit the hay tonight and enjoy the extra hour of sleep or weekend fun.
- to fall back theologically. That is, to turn away from the sin that separates us from God and clings to the things of a dying world, and fall back into the arms of the one Who forgives sin and offers eternal in the kingdom of heaven in His holy Christian Church.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
"Why Dare and Can We Never Give Up the Church's Struggle for the Pure Doctrine?"
Lord Jesus, hot was the conflict which once our fathers had to fight; but glorious was the victory which you granted them. Therefore, we today joyfully extol and praise you. For what our fathers once had to gain by fighting, your precious pure saving Word, that today is still their children's, our precious inheritance. However, this holy war has not yet ended. The foe is continually trying to tear from us what we have. Therefore, you also constantly cry to us: "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Rev3:11. "Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 3.
Therefore, grant that the remembrance of our fathers who fought faithfully until death will today enkindle us to fight in our days as they did, so that we may be as victorious as they, some day be crowned by you, and also rejoice with them forever and ever. Amen. The text: Jude 3.My dear friends of the Lutheran faith, confession, and conflict. The history of the Reformation, whose remembrance we today celebrate, is the story of a continuous war of almost 30 years, from the year 1517 when Luther publicly posted his 95 Theses against the papal abomination of the indulgence until the year 1546 when Luther died.
This war was not so much a physical as a spiritual one. On the one side stood Luther, a defenseless monk, no weapons in his hand but the Bible, and supported alone by a few generally faint-hearted friends. On the other side stood the well-reinforced pope with the temporal and spiritual sword, as he called it, that is, the power of church and state, in his hand, supported by a countless host of prelates, of cardinals, bishops and archbishops, of priests, monks, and nuns, as well as by the greatest world monarchy of that time in Christendom, the Emperor.
On the one side, however, stood error, on the other, the truth; on the one side, the word of men, on the other, God's Word; and, this is the main thing, on the one side stood the invisible Jesus Christ, the King of truth and the Lord of salvation with all his holy angels, on the other, Satan, the prince of darkness and ruin with his entire hellish army.
Today 359 years ago, on October 31, 1517 it was as Luther with those 95 Theses first declared war on the pope and all his followers, girded himself with the sword of the Spirit, as David once did with his sling against Goliath, left his dark monk's cell in the name of the Lord the living God, made his appearance, and to all who wanted to stand on the side of the Lord and his true Church gave the signal for the attack and the holiest war which was ever waged on earth. Then followed one engagement upon another, orally and in writing.
In the year 1518 Luther was victorious in a secret duel in Augsburg with the Cardinal Cajetan on the subject of the one little word: "Revoco," that is, "I recant;" but all the rhetoric of the wily Italian was in vain: Luther did not recant and thus left the arena as victor.
In the year 1519 followed a public debate between Luther and the papal sophist Dr. Eck in the Leipzig Disputation in which the matter dealt chiefly with the standing of the papacy and the councils; but at the close all who were of the truth, even papists, granted Luther the prize of victory.
Two years later in the year 1521 Luther was finally cited to appear in Worms, in order to appear personally before Emperor and empire to defend himself and hear his sentence. All the friends of Luther trembled but not he. He stated: "And if there were as many devils in Worms as tiles on the rooftops, I would go; and if my friends would make a fire from Wittenberg to Worms which would reach up into heaven, I would still enter the mouth between his large teeth, confess Christ, and let him rule."
Thus a hot battle began. But see! As Daniel came unhurt from the lions' den and as the three men came unscathed from the fiery furnace, so Luther again left Worms unconquered; for his closing declaration is and remains: "I do not recant! Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen!"
A second hot Reformation battle was fought during the presentation of our Confession to the Diet at Augsburg in the year 1530. Because he was excommunicated by the pope and outlawed by the emperor, Luther could not stand in this great, decisive conflict at Augsburg with the rank and file of the confessors of the Gospel; but as the real God-chosen general in this war he was not only the one who by the writing of the Torgau Articles, so to say, had sketched the battle plan and dictated the articles of peace, but he was also the one who during the diet led and encouraged from Coburg the little group in Augsburg who stood before the foe by his daily letters.
And what happened? What Luther even during the raging conflict had composed and sung: A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon; He helps us free from ev'ry need That hath us now o'ertaken, that was gloriously fulfilled. Also this decisive battle was won. In spite of the threatening bloody imperial recess, the huts of the righteous of all Christendom again sang of victory.
However, the story of the Reformation is not only the story of a war from without, but also a spiritual civil war. After Zwingli, the Swiss preacher, had at first agreed with Luther and had bravely battled with him for God's Word against the papal doctrines of men, Zwingli soon fell away and declared: It is against reason to believe that Christ's body and blood is in the Lord's Supper. With dismay Luther saw that Zwingli intended to replace the pope with human reason. So after the futile exchange of several polemical writings between Luther and Zwingli in the year 1529after the Colloquy at Marburg there finally came ad ecisive battle.
Whether the words of the truthful and almighty Son of God: "This is my body, this is my blood," still stand firmly, hence whether God's Word must give way to reason or whether reason must give way to God's Word, that was the second casus belli, the second great cause of war which was to be decided in Marburg. And praise God! Luther did not give ground even here; as he in Worms had preserved God's Word against the pope's authority of the church, so in Marburg he preserved the same Word of God against the authority of human reason.
And thus Luther continued the fight until he was finally called into the land of eternal peace, in order to be crowned there and to celebrate with all faithful soldiers the feast of triumph of eternal life.
Now my dear brethren, has the victory of the Reformation of the Church finally brought peace? Alas no! The Church is to triumph above; here it must fight until the peal of the last trumpet. That God's Word testifies to us on all pages, and so also the apostle Jude, who has the surname Thaddeus, writes in our text: "Beloved, when I have all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write to you, and exhort you THAT YE SHOULDEARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCEDELIVERED UNTO THE SAINTS."
On the basis of these words permit me today to answer the question: WHY DARE AND CAN WE NEVER GIVE UP THE CHURCH'SSTRUGGLE FOR THE PURE DOCTRINE? I answer:
1. Because The Pure Doctrine Of Our Church Is Not Our Possession, But A Treasure Only Entrusted To Us For Our Faithful Administration,
2. Because The Loss Of This Treasure Would Be Something Much More Terrible Than All The Strife And Discord Among Men, and finally,
3. Because This Conflict Is One COMMANDED By God, And Therefore Is Certainly BLESSED By God In Time And In Eternity.
I. The first reason why it is supposed that the time has finally come to stop the strife for the pure doctrine in our Church is because this everlasting quarreling and fighting, as it is called, is against love.
Christ, they say, says in clear words: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Jn 13:35. Therefore, John also writes: "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." 1 Jn 3:14.
Yes, Paul says expressly: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." 1 Cor 13:1.13.
When the Galatians quarreled and fought with one another, the same apostle severely reprimanded them and wrote: "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed of one another." Gal 5:15.
It is true, my friends, that brotherly love is the indispensable sign of true Christians; without love all other virtues are only an empty pretence and all gifts, no matter how great, are unprofitable; it is true that loveless quarreling and fighting can bring only ruin; yet it does not in the least follow that for us the time has finally come to give up all the struggle for the pure doctrine in our Church; for as we have already heard the Apostle Jude writes thus in our text: "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you THAT YE SHOULD EARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCEDELIVERED UNTO THE SAINTS."
Concerning the true faith the apostle, therefore, says that it was "once delivered unto the saints." True faith, or what is the same, the pure doctrine is, therefore, not given but only "delivered" to the saints, that is, not granted to them but only given into their charge, not made their possession over which they are free lords and with which they can do as they please but only something entrusted to them as belonging to another, that is, God's possession, which they merely as servants and stewards must faithfully preserve and administer.
Now tell me yourself: Does love demand that a steward give away some of the property entrusted to him, or that he make a reduction of the debt to the debtors of his lord? or that he can calmly take for himself the treasures of his lord which are given to him to guard and keep? Was it, for example, love when that steward, in order to make him his friend, said to a debtor who owed his lord 100 measures of oil: "Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty"? Lk 16:6. Was that not rather unfaithfulness, yes, open deceit and theft? Does not Christ for that reason also call him the "unjust steward"?
Would it be love if in order to avoid a battle a general would allow merely a small opening to be made for the enemy in the wall of a fortress given to him to defend? Would not such a general rather be called to account and punished as a traitor?
Or is it love to steal their possessions from others in order to do good to the poor?
And finally, would it be love if Luther would have immediately become silent about the discovered and known truth?
So judge for yourself: Would it be love if in the conflict for the pure doctrine "delivered" to us, that is, entrusted to us only for faithful administration, we Lutherans would finally give up? if in order to make friends among men and in order to pass for loving and peaceable people, we would let it go? No, that would not be brotherly love, or love of our neighbor, to say nothing of love toward God, but self-love, not faithful stewardship of the great possession entrusted to us by God only to be administered but shameful embezzlement of another's possession, yes, nothing else before God but robbery and theft. And thieves shall not inherit eternal life.
Of course, our love should be ready for the sake of peace to yield in such things over which we have the say, but not in things over which not we but others are in control; true, our love should be ready to sacrifice everything which we have, even our life if necessary, however, not the possessions of others but only our own. That is why in the year 1522 Luther said to his opponents: "My love is ready to die for you...; but faith or the Word you should adore. You can expect anything you want of our love; but fear our faith in all things.
"Oh my dear friends of the Lutheran faith, confession, and conflict, do not be misled when today those are everywhere accused of lovelessness who still do not give up the battle for pure doctrine in our Church. Bear in mind: This doctrine, as our text says, is the faith which "was once delivered unto the saints." It, therefore, is not our property which we would have the power and freedom to give away. It is rather God's property which we can but administer and not only we ourselves but all Christendom, yes, which the entire world should preserve and leave behind and give to the coming generation. On that day God will, therefore, say to us also in regard to the pure doctrine of his Word which he has entrusted to us Lutherans: "Give account of thy stewardship!"
True, it is a bitter disgrace to have to let oneself be regarded as heartless and loveless people; yes, believe it, my friends, this disgrace will often completely break the hearts of those fighting for God's pure Word. This disgrace, however, all true soldiers have always had to endure. Therefore, our pious fathers also say in the confessional writings of our Church: "To dissent from the agreement of so many nations and to be called schismatics is a grave matter. But divine authority commands all not to be allies and defenders of impiety and unjust cruelty." Therefore, that the world might see that love is still in us Lutherans, let us in all earthly things show our love so much the more richly; however, in matters pertaining to God, to the pure doctrine of his Word which "was once delivered unto the saints" let Christ's utterance be our motto and guiding star: "He that loveth father, or mother, and he that loveth son, or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me."
II. However, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we still cannot give up the struggle for the pure doctrine in our Church because secondly, the loss of this treasure would be something much more frightful than all the strife and discord among men.
It is true, my friends: The conflict and strife being continually carried on in all Christendom, not only between the different church denominations but often between the members of the one and the same church, is such a great calamity, that it simply cannot be expressed in words nor deplored sufficiently, yes, neither wept over enough with bloody tears. Is it not a calamity that all who want to be children of the one and the same heavenly Father, the servants of the one and same Savior, temples of the one and the same Holy Spirit, fight with one another? Is it not a calamity that those who are to fight against the countless and mighty foes of Christendom as one man draw their sword against each other? How Satan must rejoice when he sees this disunity among Christians. How many unbelievers are offended and, therefore, do not want to become Christians because they think: How can that be the only saving religion whose confessors, so to say, lacerate one another? And also how many weak Christians go astray in their Christianity and fall again to the world!
What? many, therefore, say, is it not high time that we Lutherans finally give up our struggle for the pure doctrine in our Church? that we, as Isaiah has prophesied, beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks? that we at last make peace with all Christians, extend them the hand of reconciliation, and we unite with them in one great congregation of peace? Certainly, my dear hearers, if we Lutherans could purchase a salutary, universal treaty of peace with our blood, no Lutheran, to say nothing of a Lutheran minister, would consider his blood so precious but would rather with a thousand joys shed it in this behalf. And yet, my dear brethren, we cannot give up our struggle for the pure doctrine in our Church.
This the Word of God teaches on all its pages, this also our text teaches us when we read: "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of THE COMMONSALVATION, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Because the apostle wanted to write to the Christians "of the common salvation" he deemed it necessary, first of all, to admonish them to "contend for the faith." So according to this apostolic explanation the question concerns nothing less than "the common salvation.
"Dare we, can we, therefore, now give up the conflict for the pure doctrine in our Church? Never! Yes, if we were fighting over money and goods, over honor before men, over good days, in brief, over earthly things, woe would be us if we would never ask whether peace in the world and Church is thus being destroyed, whether unbelievers and weak Christians were being offended, whether God's work was being hindered or not. But it is a different matter when we "contend for the faith which once was delivered unto the saints." Then we are not fighting over temporal but eternal treasures, then we are fighting not over man's but God's honor, then we are fighting not for this but for eternal life, then according to our text we are fighting in one word, "for the common salvation." That is why even all the prophets and apostles and Christ himself constantly fought for the pure faith; and indeed Christ expressly says in Matthew 10: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Mt 10:34-36.
The strife which arises because one fights for the pure doctrine is, therefore, not an unfortunate but a blessed strife which Christ did not come to end and forbid but rather to send and to incite in this world.
Of course, if no one would falsify God's Word, no conflict would be necessary, yes, it would be a serious, terrible sin. But flesh, world, and Satan are continually bent upon falsifying God's Word or the pure doctrine; and never has it been falsified in so many ways as just in our times so that now millions die the death eternal because of the poison of falsified doctrine.
So dare we, can we be silent so as not to destroy earthly peace? For is it more terrible that temporal peace be taken from men, or rather that they be robbed of God's Word which alone can save their souls? Is this not worth more than the whole world? Does not Christ say: "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world," and thus also the peace of the whole world, "and lose his own soul?" Mt16:26.
Suppose, when in the fourth century the doctrine of Christ's divinity was attacked by Arius, that neither Athanasius or any other person would have fought this falsification; suppose, when in the fifth century the doctrine of man's conversion only through grace was assailed by Pelagius, that neither Augustine nor any other person would have fought against it; suppose, when in the 16th century the entire doctrine of Christ had been falsified by the papacy that neither Luther nor any other person would have fought against it; suppose, when at the end of the past century rationalism forced its way into the Christian Church, that no one would have fought against it. True there would have been infinitely less strife and dissension in the world, but where would the pure Word of God be now? where would the Lutheran Church be now? Where would the true doctrine of the way to salvation be now? All this would have disappeared long ago from the surface of the earth, and with it the salvation of countless people would have been lost.
Oh my dear friends, let us indeed sorrow and lament over this: that false teachers constantly assail the pure doctrine in our Church and thus are at fault for the conflict and strife in the Church; however, let us never lament but rather extol and praise God that he always awakens men who fight against those false teachers, for, I repeat, this pertains to "the common salvation."
III. And yet, my dear hearers, the most important, the most irrefutable reason why we dare not nor cannot give up the fight for the pure doctrine in our Church is this: Because this conflict is one commanded us by God and is therefore certainly one blessed in time and in eternity.
Permit me now in the third place to speak to you about this and, therefore, grant me a few moments of your attention. There are now many well-meaning Christians who say that naturally not all struggles for the pure doctrine should be rejected, one must at times rather most earnestly fight for it.
Thus, for example, it was absolutely correct that Luther 400 years ago fought until death for the pure Gospel as courageously as a lion against the falsifications of the papacy. That is why his conflict had such a result the like of which the history of the Church has never again pointed to. But now it is clearly time to end the fight for the pure doctrine in our Church and instead of fighting against one another build with one another, instead of the sword to seize the trowel. For what is the result of all the strife in our time? Nothing but greater splits and confusion.
As well as these preachers of peace mean it, they nevertheless are caught in a great error. First of all, it is not true, that the conflict for the pure doctrine in our Church in our times which has already lasted longer than 30 years has had only great splits and confusion as its result. Rather to God's honor it is to be said as a result of this conflict the Church of the Reformation with its golden pure doctrine has again risen among us as though from the dead, more than a thousand congregations have again rallied around the old pure confession of our Church; from our America the sound of the old pure Gospel has at the same time gone out into all lands and has won new confessors of the truth everywhere and gathered them around the good old banner of our pious fathers. Others, indeed thousands upon thousands who already were about to give up the old eternal faith completely were at least stopped on the road of error, some were moved more and more to return to the way of the truth they left.
This present conflict has been rightly and gloriously blessed by God beyond all hopes, prayers, and understanding. Suppose this were not true; suppose it seems as though finally all struggle in our days for the pure doctrine in our Church were completely without results and useless. We nevertheless dare not and could not give up this Conflict. And why? Because the great God has commanded it in clear words. For who is it who in our text so earnestly summons all saints, that is, all Christians through the Apostle Jude to "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints"? It is the great God himself. For these holy men of God have spoken being moved by the Holy Ghost.
What more do we need? Which man, yes, which angel, will dare to say "No, do not fight" when God says "Fight!"?And when we are now fighting at the command of the great God, dare we ever fear that our struggle would be in vain? Never! What God does or commands to be done cannot be anything but blessed in time and in eternity. For as the wise man Sirach writes: "Defend the truth until death, then will God the Lord fight for you." Sir 4:33.
Oh, therefore, let us never listen to those who praise and extol the conflict of the Reformation for the pure Gospel but want to know nothing of a similar conflict in our days. God's command: "Contend for the faith!" applies to all times, also to ours.
Let also our hearts be kindled by the fiery zeal with which Luther and his faithful helpers fought. Let us not like a coward surrender without a fight what they in hot conflict and with word, writing, blood, and tears gained by conflict, but faithfully preserve it and courageously defend it against all assaults until death. Let us consider no truth revealed for salvation as insignificant and agree to its falsification; for here applies: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Nor let us be concerned that for the sake of our conflict our names are rejected as malicious people. Even Luther and his helpers once had to experience this, and today millions bless them after they are long since at rest in their graves.
If today we show that we are not the degenerated but the true children of the Reformation, some day when we also lie dust to dust, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will bless us. Granted that our name remains covered with disgrace before men until Judgment Day because of our struggle for the pure doctrine in our Church, nevertheless if we remain faithful in the struggle, as truly as God is righteous and true, for the sake of Christ Judgment Day will be the day of our crowning and our entire eternity a festival of eternal victory and peace. Oh, what joy, what glory that will be when also we poor despised, scolded, and hated people will be received into the countless host of all the holy soldiers of God from Adam until the last faithful fighter who triumph before God's throne!
In conclusion I say to all of you: Then let us follow Christ, our Lord, And take the cross appointed And, firmly clinging to His Word, In suffering be undaunted. For who bears not the battle's strain The crown of life shall not obtain. Amen. [TLH 421, st. 5]