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The God We Know. Catechetical Sermon, February 2015

Most Holy TrinityCatechetical Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

The Apostles’ Creed (Matthew 3)

February 27, 2015

“The God We Know”

Iesu Iuva

Most people, if you ask them, believe in some kind of a god, even today. But if you ask them who their God is and what he is like, their answers become sketchy. Ask them what his name is, and they probably won’t know.

It’s not that way for you, because you are a Christian. You know God’s Name. He has made Himself known to you in the teaching of the Scriptures, in your catechesis into the mysteries of the Christian faith. You know what He requires of you, because you have learned His Ten Commandments. And you know who God is and what He does, because He teaches you in the Creed.

In the Ten Commandments you learned what God wants you to do, how He wants you to live. In the Creed He teaches you to know Him and what He has done. He has given you life and protected you. He has redeemed you from your sins. And He has made you holy and continues to make you holy.

Who is God? You can answer out loud.

The Apostles’ Creed confesses faith in one God who is three distinct persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are not three Gods, but one. But they are not one person, but three.

This is a great mystery that is beyond our ability to understand. But we believe it—that God is triune—three persons in one eternal God. People outside the church don’t know or believe this. They know there is some kind of a god, but they don’t know who He is. We know God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

What does the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do? He creates, redeems, and sanctifies us. He makes us, saves us from our sins, and makes us holy.

The first article of the Creed teaches us about God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. The Father created us and all the universe out of nothing. He not only created the world a long time ago, but He continues to preserve the world so that the sun shine and the earth gives food. He provides us everything we need for this body and life. We don’t see Him doing it. We see the farmer grow the food and the sun shine on the plants to make them grow. But God is the maker of the sun, the food, and the farmer. And by His command the sun, the food, and the farmer continue to carry out their work and be the instruments through which the Father feeds us our daily bread. He also watches over and protects us so that we are shielded from many dangers and troubles we would otherwise experience. We can put the 1st article of the Creed to work in our daily lives by thanking God every time we are provided with what we need for life, by thanking Him whenever we are shielded from danger, and by calling on Him for help in every need we have in earthly life. God the Father cares about our bodies, our physical and emotional needs, because He made them and gave them to us, and He takes care of them.

Just for this alone, that God the Father made us, provides for us, defends us and watches over us—for this alone we owe Him all thanks and praise and to serve and obey Him with our whole heart.

But as you have learned from the Ten Commandments, we do not serve and thank God with our whole hearts. In fact, every day we sin much and really deserve nothing but punishment.   Our hearts are always desiring to do what is against God’s commandments. This is something that people outside the Holy Christian Church don’t know. They think we are not perfect, but as long as we try pretty hard to do what’s right God is satisfied.

They don’t know that to be righteous in God’s eyes we must keep His commandments and love Him with all our heart and soul. And they don’t know or believe that we are unable to do it because we were born sinful and unclean, by nature dead spiritually and enemies of God.

Because we are this way and could not make ourselves righteous, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, redeemed us. He paid for us to be regarded or counted righteous. He justified us. How? God the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, was born for us, lived under the commandments of God, fulfilled them for us, and then suffered and died on the cross to make atonement for our sins, to pay their penalty. He became a human being like us and offered Himself as the substitute for the whole human race. God’s anger and punishment for all our sins and failure to serve Him fell on Jesus, and Jesus took it out of the way. He redeemed us, bought us back from sin, death, and the devil. He paid for all our sins in full so that we no longer have any sin to pay for. We are regarded as righteous because of Him.

And He rose from the dead on the third day, showing that our sins have been forgiven and that we no longer belong to death but to life, because He has freed human beings from death. He ascended into heaven, where He prays to the Father on our behalf, rules the universe for our good, and preaches His saving Word and gives His body and blood through the ministers He sends. And on the last day God the Son will return to judge the living and the dead, to give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ and to condemn to eternal death those who do not believe in Him.

But we could never believe in what God the Son had done for us unless God worked in our hearts, because we are by nature sinful and enemies of God. So the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, does His work of sanctification, or making holy. He proclaims what Jesus has done to take away our sins through the preaching of the Gospel. He says, “Jesus has died for your sins, and all by Himself, without any help from you, has made you right with God.” He says that when the Word is preached. He also says it in Baptism—“What Jesus did on the cross is for you.” He also says it in the absolution through the pastor after we confess our sins: “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And the Holy Spirit speaks and tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross is for us in the Sacrament of the Altar, when the pastor says Jesus’ words—“This is my body which is given for you…This is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

And through these things, the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit not only tells us our sins are forgiven through Jesus. He also works in our hearts so that we believe it and say, “Jesus died for me too, so my sins are surely forgiven.” No one can believe this on their own. When you believe it is because God the Holy Spirit has worked on you and in you to make you holy.

And when He brings us to faith in Jesus so that we are justified, counted righteous, He also begins to work in us so that we do the righteous works that please God. We begin to hate our sins and want to be forgiven and freed of them. We begin to want to do what pleases God. And we begin to keep His commandments out of thankfulness to the Father who made us and the Son who redeemed us.

The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, makes us holy. He creates faith in Jesus in us and a new man who begins to do the good works that please God. And the Holy Spirit does this for the whole Holy Christian Church. He gathers the believers in Christ together into one body, one communion, where we all share together in the forgiveness of sins. He keeps us together in the one true faith. He preserves our faith until we die, and then on the last day He will raise us and all the dead and give eternal life to all believers in Christ.

This is how the Creed teaches us to know our God. We are not in the dark about God. We are His people—created and fed by Him, redeemed by Him, made holy by Him and growing in holiness. We are called by His name because we have been baptized in the name of this one true God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we know Him. He is the God who made us, who saved us with His blood, who declares us Holy and is making us holy.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

What is the Sacrament of the Altar? Wednesday after Invocabit 2015

February 26, 2015 Leave a comment

durer lord's supper large passionWednesday after Invocabit

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Catechism: “What is the Sacrament of the Altar? Where is this written?”

February 25, 2015

Iesu iuva

The Passion of our Lord begins around the time of the Passover. This was the feast that God had instituted at the time He delivered His people Israel from slavery in Egypt. It was the final plague on the Egyptians—God would sweep through the land of Egypt and kill every firstborn male throughout the land, both of man and animal. After this devastating judgment, Pharaoh would let the people of Israel go.

But the firstborn of the Israelites would be spared. In their houses they were to take a year old lamb without defect, slaughter it, and smear its blood on the doorposts of their houses. Then they were to roast the lamb and eat it all—head, legs, and inner parts, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Whatever was leftover of the lamb had to be burned by the morning. And when the Lord saw the blood on the doorposts of the house, He would pass over and not slay anyone inside, because of the blood of the lamb.

And God commanded that the Israelites eat this lamb every year at the same time to remember what God had done for them, how He slew the firstborn of all the Egyptians, but the sons of the Israelites He spared because of the lamb whose blood marked their doors.

This was the time of year that was approaching when Jesus entered Jerusalem before His Passion. He had told His disciples that His death was approaching. Now Judas makes a deal with the chief priests to betray Jesus. Jesus knows what is going to happen to Him, and at this time He commands Peter and John to go prepare for them to eat the Passover.

That meant they had to go purchase the lamb and take it to the temple to be slaughtered, and then roast it over the fire to make it ready for the evening meal. So they did. And as Jesus sat down to eat the Passover with His disciples, He told them, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you that I shall not eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” This means—the Passover meal is coming to its end. What it foreshadowed all these years the Jews have been eating it is coming. The shadow is going away and the reality is coming. The Passover lamb whose blood was shed and smeared on the door so that the angel of death would pass by, the Passover lamb that was completely consumed by the Israelites, and what was left was burned in the fire—this lamb was only a symbol and picture of the true lamb of God, Jesus. He would shed His blood not to save us from physical slavery to Pharaoh but to redeem the whole world from spiritual slavery to sin and the devil. His blood would be smeared on the posts of the cross, on which He stretched out His arms to embrace the world in His death. He would give His flesh to be eaten by faith so that His people might live.

This was already a solemn night. On it they remembered how they were saved by the judgment of God that struck all around them but passed over them. It was made even more solemn by Jesus’ repeated warnings that He would be handed over and killed on this visit to Jerusalem. On this already somber night, Jesus instituted a new sacrament in place of the old yearly remembrance of the Passover. He instituted His last will and testament.

And what is His last will and testament? It’s vitally important that we know the right answer to this question. Surely Jesus didn’t die and leave us something that is of no consequence.

But that’s just how many people look at it—as if Jesus’ last will and testament was of little consequence. Whether or not a church teaches correctly about Jesus’ testament is considered unimportant compared to other things, like how inspiring the pastor is, how much we like the music, whether they have a good youth group, whether the people seem to be “on fire for the Lord.”

But it matters immensely. It was of such importance to the Lord Jesus that He instituted the sacrament of the altar as His final will before He died.

And it matters to you what Jesus’ testament is and that you know why you believe it to be what it is. Because there are many churches and Christians who change Jesus’ testament into something else than He instituted. What Jesus instituted on the night of His betrayal cannot be an unnecessary thing for your salvation. Rather it is of the highest importance.

Also understanding what the Sacrament of the Altar is and seeing the firm Scriptural ground we have for our belief about it will strengthen your faith and increase your hunger for this priceless gift.

So we consider today

What the Lord’s Supper is.

Who instituted it.

And how it is received.

The most concise answer to the question of what the Sacrament of the Altar is is given to us in Luther’s answer from the small catechism: What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.

 

There you have it in plain language: the Sacrament of the Altar is the true body and blood of Jesus under the bread and wine.

And how do we know this? We have Jesus own words on the matter in the three Gospels and the Epistle mentioned earlier, where Jesus says plainly, “This is My Body,” “This is My Blood of the New Testament.”

We should consider who it is who instituted this Sacrament.

It wasn’t a mere human being, a prophet or some other great man who instituted the Sacrament of the Altar. It was Jesus, who is true God and Man. That means that it is by divine authority that we celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar. And since it was God who instituted it, it is necessary that we stick to His ideas about what the Lord’s Supper is and what He wants done with it. And we have no other way to know what the Lord’s purpose for His Supper is than to listen and stick with the Words by which He instituted the Sacrament.

Secondly, because the man who instituted the Sacrament of the Altar is God, we can rest assured that He knows what words He wants to use and how to speak clearly. The divine Son of God in infinite wisdom chose the words by which He instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, and the words He chose were “This is my Body, This is my Blood.”

Third, it was on the night of His betrayal that Jesus spoke these words. It was a solemn night—a night of great religious significance already, a night on which the cloud of death was hanging over the heads of Jesus and His disciples. And Jesus spoke these words as His last will and testament. If ever there was a time to speak clearly and without figures of speech, this was it, because Jesus wanted His disciples to know clearly what He was giving them and what He wanted them to do with it before He died.

So it is not a mere man who instituted the Lord’s Supper, but God Himself. That speaks to its importance and necessity. The Lord Jesus did not institute music, youth groups, or religious zeal on the night of His impending death. He instituted His Supper. When people look at these other things as more important than the Sacrament of the Altar they ignore and treat lightly the last will and testament of the Son of God.

So what is it that the Lord says is given in the Sacrament of the Altar? First of all, bread and wine. He took bread, it says in the text. He took the cup, it says, which was a cup of wine. And so in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper we are not free to substitute other elements for bread and wine. It’s not our supper that we may change as seems good to us. It’s the supper of the Lord Christ which He instituted on the night when He was about to die.

And just as we can’t change the elements which Jesus prescribed to be used in His supper, we are also not free to deny or change the heavenly gift which He says He bestows in the Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus does not say, “Take, eat, this is a picture of my body.” He says, “This is my body.” He doesn’t say, “This is a representation of my blood, which is shed for you.” He says “This IS my blood, which is shed for you.”

Imagine a cardboard representation of the sun that you might have in a set on a stage or in a play. The cardboard picture might remind you of the sun, but in reality it is as different from the sun as cardboard is from a star in the heavens. A picture of the sun doesn’t make anything grow. It doesn’t give any heat. It’s a dead thing.   But the sun makes crops grow, separates day from night, makes your skin get tanned or burned. It is a living and real thing.

In just the same way churches and preachers who tell us that the Lord’s Supper is only a symbol of the body and blood of Christ substitute a lifeless imitation for what is real and life giving. Because Jesus’ body and blood really and truly give life and the forgiveness of sins.

In Exodus chapter 24 Moses reads the words of the Lord to the people of Israel, who say, “All the words the Lord has spoken we will do.” Then Moses took the blood of sacrifices and threw half of it against the altar and threw the other half on the people, saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with these words.” In doing that it showed that both God and the people were bound together by blood in the Old Covenant.

Jesus used the same language in instituting the Sacrament of the Altar: “This is my blood of the covenant,” or of the New Testament. He did this for a reason. Just as the blood of the old covenant had bound God and the people together under the covenant of the law, so the blood of Jesus which is applied to us in the Sacrament of the Altar assures us that we are bound with God in the New Testament; we are sealed into the new testament of the forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus took His blood into the heavenly sanctuary to atone for our sins before God. And in the Lord’s Supper He gives us that same blood to drink to assure us that we are included in this atonement.

And in the Passover, the blood of the lamb was smeared on the doorposts and the lamb was eaten inside, and the angel of death passed over the house. So we have Jesus’ body and blood applied to us personally in the Lord’s Supper to certify that the judgment of God will pass over us.

How is this Sacrament to be received? Jesus makes this clear in His words of institution also. He says, “Take eat, take drink.” He doesn’t tell us to spiritually eat His body and drink His blood, which we do by faith always. He tells us to eat the bread that is His body with our mouths and to drink the cup of His blood. Nor does He tell us to sacrifice His body again and again, or carry it around in procession, or lock it up in a box and worship it, as they do in the Roman Catholic church. It is really and truly His body and blood, and it is to be eaten and drunk in faith for the forgiveness of sins.

Now there are many Christians who argue this and say that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic, a mere remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross for us. They think this because it doesn’t fit with human reason to say that Jesus is giving us His body and blood with the bread and wine. They also say this because they don’t understand that Christian faith clings to God’s Word and not to the inner experiences of the heart. We need the Sacrament of the Altar as well as Baptism and the preached Word because our faith cannot live on itself. It lives by the Word of God that comes to us from outside; it holds to the word of God that says we are forgiven and not the inner experience of feeling forgiven.

If you tell a person of this doctrine that you know that you are saved because you receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, they will worry that you are not really saved because your faith rests on Jesus’ word instead of an experience you had of being converted or a prayer in which you asked Jesus to be your Savior.

They will say, “Jesus didn’t really mean that communion is His body and blood. He was using figurative language.” The only reason they say this is because they are following fallen human reason instead of the Word of the Lord.

First of all, Jesus had no need to institute another symbolic meal. They were already celebrating a symbolic meal at the Passover. The lamb they ate was symbolic of Jesus whose death gives life to the world. Jesus didn’t need to institute another symbolic meal. He was giving the reality, not a picture.

Secondly, these words of Jesus are the words of His last will and testament. He is instituting a testament the way that Moses did when He threw the blood on the people. No one makes a testament or a covenant using symbolic language. When you are making a will you write very clearly what you want given to whom. When you are writing a contract you don’t use metaphors. You write and speak clearly so there is no misunderstanding. Jesus was not telling a parable when He instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Finally, when Paul repeats the words of institution to the church at Corinth, he adds the warning that whoever eats the bread of the Lord’s Supper without discerning the body of Christ is guilty of profaning the body of the Lord and eats and drinks judgment on himself. In fact, he writes, this is the reason why some of you are sick and weak, and others have died. Paul doesn’t say the Corinthians are guilty of misusing a symbol of Christ’s body and blood. They have misused the body and blood itself because they have not recognized it for what it is.   In the Old Testament people get sick or die in the presence of the Lord when they approach the Ark of the Covenant without authorization or when they mishandle the things that are the Lord’s. The fact that the Corinthians got sick or died because of misuse of the Lord’s Supper indicates that this was something holy–not mere bread but the very body of Christ.

This gives us great comfort. It is not a reminder of the body and blood of Jesus that were given and shed for us that we receive when we approach this altar rail. We receive the very body and holy blood of Jesus Himself. That gives us great, firm, and glorious assurance that our sins are truly forgiven before God and that we have eternal life, no matter what we may be suffering in this world. May God increase our faith in the words of this Sacrament, so that we highly esteem this gift and take from it great assurance that our sins are forgiven.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Catechetical Sermon: 6th commandment. Oct. 1, 2014

the-arnolfini-marriage-jan-van-eyckWednesday Matins, St. Peter Lutheran School

St. Peter Lutheran Church

6th commandment (Genesis 2:18-25)

October 1, 2014

 

Iesu Iuva

 

What is the 6th commandment?  You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

Does anyone know: can anyone tell me: what did God create marriage for?

 

A big reason is for the creation of children. That’s one of the reasons why marriage is so important to God and pleasing to God, because God wants human life to continue on earth.

 

But in the reading from Genesis God didn’t say anything about children. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

 

Even when people like to be alone, no one can be completely alone. We need other people.

 

There are a few people that God has given a gift that they can not get married and still be chaste or pure sexually. But most people don’t have this gift.

 

That’s part of why God created marriage. When you get older and start liking people of the opposite sex, you know it’s probably a sign that God created you for marriage.  But then you wait for God to give you a wife or husband.  Not that you wait for them to drop out of the sky, but you get to know people of the opposite sex and are friends with them.

 

But you reserve physical intimacy until God gives a person to you in marriage, where you and your spouse are made one flesh.

Read more…

An Example of Announcement for Communion or Confession (2nd Discussion)

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

loehe5 profileHere’s the second of three discussions from Loehe’s example of announcement for confession.  I call it “announcement for communion” because that’s how it was referred to in the Missouri Synod.

It can be found in Der Lutheraner volume 3, p. 44.  And you can get an English translation of the book here.

 

Second Discussion

Margaretta: I would like to come to the confessional.

Parson: That’s good, why do you want to?

M.  So that I confess my sins.

Pn: So, even you have sins?

M:  We are all sinners and fall short of the glory we should have before God.

Pn:  Do you also know your sins?

M: Some we know and some we don’t.

Pn.: But one must still know those that are known, else, there wouldn’t be known sins, so do you know them?

M.:  I’ve never done anything wrong, and no one can say I have.

Read more…

An Example of Announcement for Communion

September 27, 2014 Leave a comment

loeheA little before I was born a practice that had been common in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod passed into oblivion.  It was called “announcement for communion.”  People used to go talk to the pastor before they went to the Lord’s Supper.  I’ve never really been too sure what went on in these talks.  From asking older people in the church I’ve gathered that over time it became little more than a ritual of going to church and signing your name in a book as intending to commune.  Later people began to phone in their announcements.

But it always struck me as interesting that there was this practice in the Lutheran Church that bore some resemblance to confession prior to communion and that it only recently died out.  Yet you never hear anyone talk about it or suggest resurrecting it.  I’ve written another post touching on the subject (here), but that was two years ago and I can’t remember what I said.

I’ve been flipping around in a fantastic book I bought recently–a translation of C. F. W. Walther’s early volumes of Der Lutheraner, the newspaper he started before the Missouri Synod was even founded.  (Thanks to Pr. Joel Baseley for his work in translating it; you can find the book here.)  I stumbled upon a sample dialogue between a pastor and would-be communicants at announcement for communion, authored by no less than Wilhelm Loehe.  I reprint part of it here for your edification and perhaps to entice you to buy a copy of the book.

A note: the confession referred to in what follows seems to have been a corporate service of confession and absolution rather than private confession and absolution.  Although in the first century and a half or so after the reformation it was normal for Lutherans to go to private confession before communion, by the time this was published (December 1846) private confession and absolution was seldom used.

 

Announcement for Confession

A sketch as to its nature.  by W. Loehe

 

First Discussion

Balthisar: Good day, Parson.

Parson: Good day, Balthisar, what do you want?

B.  I want to announce for Confession this Saturday and the Lord’s Supper Sunday.

Pn.  So why do you want the Lord’s Supper now?

B.  Why?  I think it is now the time to have the Lord’s Supper again.

Pn.  Why now?  Is it because you do that every year at Advent?

B.  Yes, in my family we’ve always thought we should observe that, so if it’s Pentecost or Christmas day or in Advent we go to the Lord’s Supper.  So I do that, too.

Pn.  So you are going because of that custom?

B.  Sure, why not?  I don’t agree with the tradition many hold, who go but once a year.

Read more…

Thanksgiving after Receiving the Holy Supper–Luther

lutheran-painting-liturgyOh my God, even though I am without doubt a poor sinner, nevertheless I am no sinner.  I am a sinner in myself and outside of Christ, but in my Lord Christ and outside of myself I am no sinner.  For He has paid for all my sins with His blood, as I firmly believe.  I also have been baptized and received in it the true mark of Your salvation.  I have been absolved of all my sins through God’s Word and declared free of sin, loosed and unbound.  I have also been fed the true body and given to drink the true blood of my Lord Jesus Christ, as certain signs of grace.  I have received forgiveness of sins, which my dear Lord Jesus Christ merited, won, and received for me through His precious blood.  For this I thank Him in eternity.  Amen.

Martin Luther 1483-1546

Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

Hell’s dam-gates burst

January 14, 2014 2 comments

baptismHoly Baptism (Psalm 29:10)

 Der Herr sitzet, eine Sündfluth anzurichten.*  Und der Herr bleibt ein König in Ewigkeit.

Hell’s dam-gates burst: a man, the LORD

Ascends to rule the nations,

And to the flood He gives His Word

To pour out in salvation

O’er ev’ry nation, ev’ry tongue

Which for hell’s bath were numbered;

That those who in these depths are flung

With millstone sins encumbered

This very death will rescue.

Categories: Baptism, Hymns Tags: , , , ,
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