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Good Friday, Chief Service 2017. Why is This Friday Good?

crucifixion grunewaldGood Friday—Chief Service (1 PM)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 19:28-30, 34 (John 18-19, Is. 52:13-53:12, 2 Cor. 5:14-21)

April 14, 2017

Why is this Friday “Good”?

 

Iesu Iuva

 

My son asked me—last Sunday, I think it was: “Why is it called ‘Good Friday’?  It doesn’t seem good.”  We sit here in a church stripped bare, in darkness, hearing the agony of our Lord Jesus read out loud, hearing the reproaches of God against us a little on from now, praying prayers asking God for mercy.  It indeed does not seem good.  When we look at the mockery of Jesus, think of the shame and wounds He endured, and consider also that God looked with anger and wrath on His Son as well, because He was carrying the sin of the world, like the scapegoat in the Levitical Law—it is not good.  The sin we were born in, the sins we have committed knowingly and unknowingly, the sin we often excuse, tolerate, continue in and think we can repent later—not good.  Here we see it unmasked for what it is: sin brings death.  Sin brings God’s anger and punishment.  God will not leave sin unpunished.

 

The word “good” in Good Friday probably originally meant something different than we think when we hear it.  It probably meant something like “holy” or “godly.”

 

Yet it is right to think of Good Friday as being “good” in the way we normally use the word.  Good Friday is good because on Good Friday (together with Easter) Jesus fulfilled or “finished” the Gospel, the “Good News.”  He finished the message that His apostles would later proclaim, and that the Reformation began to proclaim again after it was lost.  He finished the good news of our justification before God, our being accounted righteous, as Isaiah the prophet put it, our being “released from sin.”

 

On this day Jesus “finished” the content of the Gospel.

  1. It is recognized as good news only by helpless, condemned sinners, terrified by God’s Law;
  2. But to them it is very good, because it proclaims that Jesus finished our sin and God’s wrath on the cross, and that through His Work alone, received by faith, we are accounted righteous, or justified.

 

1.

 

The world doesn’t receive the preaching of Jesus’ suffering and death as good news.  There are plenty of people who understand intellectually what we preach, that Jesus suffered for our sins so that we might not be condemned—as St. Paul writes: For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew know sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:17).  There are plenty of people who understand this with their minds.  Some—many even—profess to believe this. Yet their faith goes no deeper than their mind and intellect; it is not a faith worked by the Holy Spirit, giving salvation, on which a person stakes his life and eternity.

 

Such a person doesn’t really regard the death of Jesus as good news.  The suffering and death of Jesus, after all, doesn’t seem like anything to rejoice in.  A man dying in shame and mockery a horrible death seems weak and useless to the world, not joyful, happy news.

 

The agony of Jesus, the death of Jesus, is good news, whether a person realizes it or not.  But most people do not.  There are many people who come to church occasionally who hear the death of Jesus proclaimed, but it appears to make no impression on them.  It does not lead them to renounce their sins, hear God’s Word more frequently, be baptized, live a life that is by faith in the One who died for them.  Even on those who regularly come to hear the Word of Christ preached and receive His body and blood, there are many for whom it does not appear to be particularly good news.

 

That’s because although it is good news for all people, although it is the best news there is—it is only recognized as good news by the people the Bible refers to as “the poor”.  It is recognized as good news by people who have been brought to a knowledge of sin, who as a result are terrified and afflicted.

 

A person comes to this knowledge through the Law of God.  The more we look into God’s Law, or hear it, the more we become conscious of our guilt before God, and the seriousness of His anger against those who disobey His Law.  This is one of the reasons why you are so often encouraged and exhorted to learn the Small Catechism by heart and to read the Bible.  When you do, the Holy Spirit will often convict you of your sin before God.  You don’t get very far in the Bible before God starts commanding things and you realize you haven’t done them.  You can’t read the Bible very long before you are confronted with an example of God threatening or punishing sinners, and realizing that you are guilty of the same sins that caused Him to send the flood, or drown Pharaoh, or reject Saul.  The words of Psalm 5 are an example: For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with You.  The boastful may not stand before Your eyes; You hate all evildoers.  You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.  (v. 4-6)  Is there anyone here today who has never spoken lies?

 

Those who are brought to a knowledge of their sin become frightened by words like these; we become conscious of the guilt we bear before God and His anger against us as sinners, and we look for how we can become free from sin.  Because we are Lutherans, we learn that we are to take the guilt of our sin to Jesus, who atoned for the sins of the world.

 

But even as Christians, we find that sin remains with us.  Even if we don’t know it from experience, we can look at the example of St. Peter and see just how much evil and weakness remains even in Christ’s disciples.  Peter said, “I will die with you,” and couldn’t keep his pledge for a few hours.  We are not able to do “our part” to be faithful Christians.  We can’t keep ourselves from falling into sin.

 

In fact, we are not even able to produce the faith that takes hold of Jesus and saves us.  The more you see your sin, the more your heart trembles in fear of God, or in anger against Him at putting you in this impossible situation of trying to please Him when you can’t.  The more you see yourself fall, the more difficult it becomes in the flesh to believe that God has really forgiven you.

 

This is a terrible feeling to those who have experienced it.  Such a person feels forsaken by God.

 

But even if a person has not experienced this so intensely, only those who have come to the knowledge of their sin through God’s Law hear the death of Jesus as good news.  A person may not have felt God’s wrath in their hearts so intensely, or felt forsaken by God.  But all Christians believe testimony of the Word of God, that there is nothing good in them, that born in the sin transmitted by Adam to his descendants, they are by nature spiritually dead, enemies of God.  And all Christians know that God is angry at sin and will certainly punish it with suffering in this life, with death, and with eternal torment in hell.

 

And in the cross and death of Jesus we see this.  Jesus was born without sin and never committed sin.  The result was that He was immortal.  He was not subject to death, and certainly not to God’s anger, certainly not to His condemnation.

 

Yet today, on Good Friday, we see Jesus die.  We hear Him cry that He is forsaken by God.  We see how angry God is with our sins, that He would not spare His Son, when His Son was carrying all the sins of the world, but punished Him, turned His face from Him, allowed His Son to die and, while dying, to experience His condemnation and curse.

 

We also see in the Passion of Jesus that it is not just a human being who is suffering and dying on the cross.  Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father, God of God, light of light.  He tells Pilate “my Kingdom is from another place.”  And when Pilate hears that Jesus has declared that He is the Son of God, Pilate is afraid.  It is fearful to think that not just a man suffers the mockery, the agony, and death of the cross.  It shows not only how wicked human beings are, that His own people would reject Him and demand Him to be put to death.  It shows how serious our sins are in God’s sight, that He would require nothing less than the suffering of God in the flesh to atone for them.

 

When the rebellious people of Israel were thirsty in the desert, God caused water to flow out of a rock and quenched their thirst.  He refreshed them, even though they were rebellious and unfaithful.  But His faithful Son, there is no refreshment.  Jesus is given sour wine to drink and no water, which is a picture of how the Father did not turn away His wrath from His Son.  He did not relent, but gave Jesus the cup of His wrath, which belonged to us.  It had to be drained to the bottom.

 

2.

 

All that is very bad news.  If you take it to heart you will be troubled and distressed, because you realize that Jesus’ agony is a picture of the agony you will endure in hell unless your sin and guilt is removed.

 

But how can that happen, when we continue to be sinners?

 

This is the good news that Jesus finished on Good Friday, the good news of the pure Gospel:

 

We cannot purge away our sins, not even with the help of the Holy Spirit, so that God will no longer be angry with us.

 

Our sins must be “put away”.  We must be “released” from them.  Our sin must be covered, as the 32nd psalm says.

This is why Good Friday is rightly called good, because this is what Jesus does today.  He covers our sins and makes us to be accounted righteous, as Isaiah 53 said.

 

When the stripes are laid open on Jesus’ back by the whip, we are healed, and peace with God is being made for us.

 

When He is mocked and scorned as a King with a crown of thorns, and a jeering crowd calls for Him to be crucified, God is leading Him like a lamb to be slaughtered for our sins; and Jesus does not open His mouth to protest.

 

He is being oppressed and afflicted by God; God the Father’s will is to crush Jesus, so that we may not be crushed, but be accounted righteous, be declared not wicked but righteous and without sin.

 

Jesus is “reconciling the Father to us” as He is nailed to the cross and lifted up to hang there under His curse.  He thirsts and is forsaken by God, so that we will not be forsaken, or thirst for God and not have our thirst be quenched.  God does not let us thirst because His anger is removed from us.  He is reconciled to us and at peace.  “The chastisement that brought us peace was upon Him.”

 

That is why Isaiah says, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied, by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Is. 53:11)

 

Jesus made us to be accounted righteous by God.  Not as a fiction, a lie.  But really making payment sufficient for God to count our sins to us no longer, so that we are really righteous and just and without sin through faith in Jesus alone.

 

“It is finished,” says Jesus.  What is finished?  The atonement for our sins; God’s reconciliation with sinners, the forgiveness of our sins.  It is finished.  Nothing is to be done but to receive this Word of Jesus and believe that, as great as your sins are, Jesus has paid the sufficient ransom to set you free from them.

 

Paul says, God committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. He means the ministry of preaching this Gospel.  This is why God invented the pastoral office and why He still sends men out to preach His pure Gospel.

 

It is to bring you good news, so that you may not thirst and get sour wine, so that you may not thirst like the rich man in hell, longing for a drop of water in the flames but never receiving one.  Instead you are to receive the water of the Gospel for your thirst.  That water does not come from nowhere.  It comes from Jesus’ death.

 

 

Just as His body was pierced and water and blood poured, so God pours on You His grace.  Announces your justification and His reconciliation with you, that He has put all your sins on His Son. Releases you from sin in the absolution.  Purifies you in His sight, burying and resurrecting you with Jesus in Baptism.

 

Giving you His flesh to eat and blood to drink.

 

This streams to you from Jesus’ death, here and now.

 

So we call it “Good Friday,” because Jesus finished the good news on this day.  Good like God said His creation was very good before the fall.  Now God says all who believe in Christ are good like that; spotless, pure, holy, through faith in Jesus alone—a new creation.

 

Amen

 

SDG

The Regime of the King of Peace–Advent 4 Midweek Vespers 2016

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

jesse-tree-ingeborg-psalterAdvent 4 Midweek (Vespers)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 11:1-10

December 21, 2016

The Regime of the King of Peace—adapted from Stoeckhardt’s Adventspredigten, “Siebzehnte Predigt”

 

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Jesus is a King.  That is what His name means: “Christ”—anointed one.  King.

 

But where is Jesus’ kingdom?  Do you know?  Even those who can tell you the right answer are often embarrassed to say it, because it seems so impossible.

 

Yet there is nothing greater that a person could desire than the Kingdom of Jesus.  Isaiah just pictured Jesus’ kingdom for us in the reading—as Paradise.  And that is what it is to be part of Jesus’ Kingdom—Paradise.  To be in Jesus’ Kingdom is to be in God’s gracious presence; and it is to have—peace.

 

But the problem with Jesus’ kingdom is that we can’t see it.  He said this a long time ago to some fools who thought it was impossible that the Kingdom of God could come without them seeing it a long way off.  The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you—or perhaps within you (Luke 17:20-21). 

 

The Kingdom of God can only be seen through the Word of God.  Otherwise we will see it and despise it.  Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus about this Kingdom and its King.  He describes Jesus as the King of Peace and Jesus’ Kingdom as a Reign of Peace.

 +++

 

Unless a person has eyes to see, he will laugh at Jesus’ Kingdom..  Isaiah foretold that this is how it would be.  Jesus’ Kingdom looks like nothing in our eyes because its king looks like nothing in our eyes.

 

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah wrote: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  Jesse was King David’s father.  David became the King of Israel, and God promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne and reign forever.  Yet Isaiah says that David’s house would be torn down and left desolate, like a stump in the ground.

 

Imagine a big, five-hundred year old oak tree.  It’s beautiful.  Its branches spread far and wide; it give shade in the summertime.  Someone ties a rope to a branch with a tire on the other end.  Kids swing on it and laugh.  When they get thirsty they run to the porch and their mom gives them a Dixie cup of Kool-Ade.

 

Then one dark day the family gets evicted and someone comes with a chainsaw and cuts that big tree down.  What is left?  Only a stump.  Now when you go out to see that big old tree that you loved all that’s left is the stump.  If it ever grows back, it won’t be in your lifetime.  That tree is gone, along with the tire swing, the Kool-Ade, and the happy memories.

 

That is what happened to David’s house.  The house of David was a big beautiful tree that had been cut down.  And the Son of David that brings peace never came.

 

But Isaiah says: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  A little branch came up from the stump of David’s house.  If you came out to see the tree that had been there before, you wouldn’t even look at it.  You’d say, “If only we could have the old oak tree whose shade we played in as children.”  You wouldn’t even see the twig sprouting from its roots.

 

That little twig was Jesus.  His mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph were from the house of David.  They weren’t kings and queens anymore.  The glory of David’s house was a thing in the history books; nobody remembered.  Nobody cared.

When they went to Bethlehem to be taxed by a foreign king there wasn’t even a place for them to stay.  Mary gave birth to Jesus in a barn or maybe a cave where they kept animals.  Jesus was just a little twig growing from the stump of a once great tree.

 

But Isaiah prophesied that this branch from Jesse’s roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  (Is. 11:1-2)  Jesus would “bear fruit” because He had something that the great branches of David’s house that had been before Him did not have.  The Spirit of the Lord rested on Him.  The same Spirit that hovered over the empty waters at creation, in which there was no life, the same Spirit who caused order to come out of the chaos and life to spring forth out of barren darkness—rested on this little branch.

Though He was small and unimpressive as humans see things, in this little shoot was all the glory and power of God.  “In Him all the fullness of [God] dwells bodily”, St. Paul wrote in the epistle to the Colossians [2:9].  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through Him and in Him all things hold together…” [Col 1:15-17]. 

 

This twig is the living God in our flesh, the God of abundant life in the body of a newborn.  And so this little branch that seemed like nothing bore fruit that the great tree of the house of David, with all its grandeur, had not been able to bear.

 

The fruit Jesus bore was a life of complete obedience to God, of utter purity, a life that earned God’s seal of approval, His honor.  And this priceless gem, never before seen by the world—a human life lived in unity with God—Jesus gave away.  He offered up this precious life on behalf of those who had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  He offered it in exchange for the lives of all who had rebelled against God, of whatever stripe… He laid that life aside as though it were not His, and took up the guilty verdict that belonged to all of His brothers, and was condemned for our unfaithfulness.  He endured the agony of body and the anguish of soul that was the just reward for the lives we have lived.  In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether in earth or heaven, making peace through the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:19-20)

 

That is how Jesus is the king of Peace.  He made peace for us with God.  It is a perfect peace that cannot be added to or undone by you or me.  Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah prophesied in a later chapter [Is. 53:5].

 

If you’ve lived long enough, I am sure that there has been a time when you longed for peace—when your heart was full of anger or anguish or fear.  Many of us have repeatedly cried out to God for peace.  And some of you have probably had the experience of longing to feel that you were at peace with God.

 

That longing need no longer gnaw at you.  This King, this little shoot from the stump of Jesse, has made peace with God for all people.

 

Your sentence has been served in full by this strange king of peace, when He was forsaken by God for your sins, and when He shouted in victory “It is finished.” [John 19:30]  God is reconciled to you by this King, and desires you to no longer hide from Him, flinch at His presence—but be reconciled and enter back into Paradise through the gift of His Son.

 

++

 

That is how Jesus won His Kingdom of Peace.  After He conquered in the battle with Satan, He ascended to His Father’s throne and began to reign.

 

But of course we don’t see Jesus reigning.  What we see is those who refuse to accept Him as King behaving as though the world was theirs.  How is Jesus reigning?

 

Isaiah says: He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked. [Is. 11:3-4]

 

In paintings a king often holds a scepter or a staff in his hand.  It symbolizes the power by which a king maintains justice, defending the innocent and punishing those who oppress the weak.

 

Jesus does not hold a staff in His hand.  His scepter comes from His mouth.  The rod of His mouth by which He reigns in justice is His Word.

 

That sounds like a joke to the world and even to our own flesh.  We know very well that evil is not restrained with words—it takes guns, tanks, missiles, armies.

 

But the rod of [Jesus’] mouth and the breath of His lips are not like everyone else’s words.  With the rod of His mouth He laid the foundations of the earth; by the breath of His lips He stretched out the heavens.  By the breath of His mouth He breathed into Adam’s nostrils and the man of dust became a living being.  He speaks and it comes to be.  His Words spoken in time are reality now and forever.  Whether people listen or refuse to hear, the judgment Jesus pronounces through the Scriptures, through His preachers, will endure until it becomes visible on judgment day.  The one who rejects me and does not receive My Words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day, he said in the gospel of John [12:48].

 

Jesus reigns.  When He condemns the evil one, the demons, false teachers, unbelievers, it is not just an opinion.  He slays the wicked with the breath of His mouth; the reality of His judgment will appear on the last day,  In the same way, He gives justice to the poor by the rod of His mouth.  Poor sinners who come desire relief from the oppression of sin and the devil receive a favorable decision from the King of Peace.  He finds in their favor.  He declares them innocent of all Satan’s accusation, free from condemnation and sin. From heaven Jesus extends the scepter of His Word and justifies us, the ungodly.  When you hear this happening, you can be sure that you are in the presence of the King of Peace as He reigns.  And when you believe His judgment, you know that you are in His Kingdom.  And though His Word seems insubstantial to our eyes, be sure that it is more powerful and more real than the barrel of a gun, than an open grave.  This Word is the power of the living God.  What it declares, happens.  When it justifies you and says you have peace, rejoice!  It is more sure than the ground beneath your feet.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Victory Remained With Life. 16th Sunday after Trinity, 2016.

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

widow-of-nain-waterford.jpg16th Sunday after Trinity (10:45 Church Picnic Service)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 7:11-17

September 11, 2016

“The Victory Remained with Life”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

It was a strange and dreadful strife

When life and death contended;

The victory remained with life,

The reign of death was ended.  LSB 458

 

 

I imagine everyone here who was alive will never forget what happened fifteen years ago on this day.  Strange and dreadful strife appropriately describes what I saw on tv all day that day in 2001, and for the next several weeks.  It was strange—the world felt strange for weeks afterwards.  Strange to watch an airliner come screaming into a skyscraper and explode into an orange ball; strange to watch Manhattan fill with atomized concrete and pieces of paper—who knew that that was what comes out of a skyscraper when it falls—white paper everywhere!  It didn’t feel real.

 

It didn’t feel real because the World Trade Center and the New York Stock Exchange and the giant metropolises of our country and the airports that enable people to do business one side of the country in the morning and go home in the evening—that’s what feels real to us.  What happened on September 11th in 2001 was—for just a day—we saw how fragile our reality is. For a second we sensed that our reality is not real.

 

They said on the news people went back to church for a little while after the attacks.  Maybe that’s because people realized that our American way of life—represented by skyscrapers and jet airlines and megalopolises and stock exchanges—aren’t God.  Some fanatics screaming Allahu akbar fly four planes the wrong way and two of the world’s tallest buildings collapse, one of the most important cities in the world shuts down, and the whole country goes into shock.  The gods we trusted in didn’t fall over; they just swayed a little.  But for a second we realized they are false gods.  There is another God who can knock them over in a second.  It inspired dread in the whole country.  Every time we saw replayed on television the flying into the tower—something that isn’t supposed to happen!—it was a voice that said, There is another God who with a flick of His finger can destroy this whole country.  He can destroy the whole world if He wants to.  And He just let us know that He might not be happy with us.

 

We saw death that day.

 

Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.  He said that when he saw the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima he thought of a passage from a Hindu scripture: I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. 

 

Death destroys worlds on a smaller scale every day.  The widow from Nain who lost her son, for instance.

And sometimes death destroys the worlds of people who haven’t died.  People who live in marriages where love has died and they have stopped hoping that it can be brought back to life.  People whose life has been interrupted, scarred, by illness, chronic pain, or depression.  People who had bright idealistic hopes to accomplish something with their lives who now laugh bitterly at their youthful selves.

 

A surprising number of people say things like, “I think God hates me” in response to death or suffering.  You hear it expressed more frequently than you’d expect by people that aren’t religious at all.

 

The voice that whispers that God hates us is closer to the truth than the voice that says God never would do anything so harsh.  The truth is that everyone who sins provokes God’s anger and hatred, comes under His curse.  Paul writes in Romans chapter 5, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…” (Romans 5:10).  We were God’s enemies, Paul writes to the Christians at Rome—not just that we hated God, but He hated us, because we followed the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.  Among these we all once lived…following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  (Ephesians 2:2-3).  Doing what comes naturally, following the desires of our bodies and our minds, we, along with the whole world, were following the devil and were “children of wrath”.  God was full of anger toward us.  He was angry enough with us to give us pain in this life, kill us, and sentence us to eternal torment.  All this because we followed the desires of body and mind that we were born with, desires which add up to wanting to be like God, to do what pleases us and answer to no one.

 

God was angry with us, angry enough to destroy our worlds.  And He had been angry for a long time with us.  And has anything changed?  Has God gotten over His anger?  From what we can see in the world, there is no reason to think so.  People still die; they are still receiving the wages of sin (Romans 6). 

 

And the widow from Nain?  Sin had just cut her a check too.

 

The truly terrible thing about coming to the knowledge of sin is that—unless God’s heart is changed—there is no relief and no way out.  The teachers of the Jews told people that repentance would atone for their sins and bring about a change in God’s heart toward them.  But who could be sure they had repented enough to change God’s heart?  The only sure way would be to never sin again.  The widow, if she believed what the rabbis taught, couldn’t be sure if her son was in heaven or hell, nor which way she would go when she followed after her son into death.

 

Now the rabbis said that people should join in any funeral procession they came across.  To do this was to do something that found favor with the Lord; it was good in His eyes, and it would help take away His anger at your sins or increase His love for you.

 

Jesus, who is the Lord, doesn’t do what He’s supposed to do.  He doesn’t get out of the way. Instead He has compassion on her, which is to say He feels her grief like a stab in his own stomach.  He says, “Don’t cry.”  He moves past her, up to the stretcher on which men are carrying the body of her son, and reaches out and touches it.  They suddenly stop.  They are probably in shock that he would touch the dead body and contaminate Himself with the uncleanness of sin and death.  Then Jesus simply says, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”  And the man sits up and starts to speak, and Jesus gives him back to his mother.

 

The crowd’s response to this is interesting.  They call Jesus a great prophet and say that God has visited His people.  They are also stricken with fear, but they still praise God for the miracle.

 

That they are afraid is not surprising, really.  To see a man tell a dead man to rise, and the dead man does so—that would shake your world more than the twin towers falling.  If the technology and wealth are reality to us, death is even more so.  To see someone dismiss death with a few words is to behold power.   When they say “God has visited His people,” they are more right than they know.  They think it means that God has sent a great prophet through whom He will work to deliver them.

 

But a prophet, like Elijah, doesn’t raise the dead like this.  A prophet calls on God, and God in answer sends His limitless power to raise the dead.  But Jesus didn’t do that; He spoke the word that raised the young man from the dead Himself.  They are afraid when they see Jesus as a prophet who can pray to God to raise the dead and be heard.  They cannot fathom that in the man they see all the fullness of God dwells bodily (Colossians 2).  If they could they would probably run.

 

But God is not there in human flesh to destroy or to give out the due reward for our sins.  He is here to change the reality of death.

 

He is on earth to reconcile God and human beings.  To take away God’s anger toward us and replace it with love and favor.  To take away God’s anger toward mankind means to take away sin.  And where sin and God’s anger is taken away, death goes with them.

 

Jesus doesn’t preach in this Gospel.  This is an illustration of His preaching.

 

Jesus didn’t preach like Moses; He still doesn’t preach that way today.  His preaching was not about what you should avoid, what God wants you to do, the rewards and punishments that go with obedience and disobedience.  The substance of Jesus’ preaching was Himself.

 

I have come, He preached and still preaches, to make a sacrifice to God.  I offer up my life of holy obedience, and my agony and dying, to God for you.

 

When Jesus is dragged out through the gates of Jerusalem carrying His cross to the place of His death and burial, God will impute to Him the sins of the world.  And Jesus will feel the agony of those sins and God’s anger as He hangs on the cross.  He will feel the sins of the world as His own sins, and the wrath of God as His own wrath, and cry out that He is forsaken by God.  Until He gives up His spirit and hangs dead on the cursed tree.  And by submitting to sin, death, and God’s wrath, He undoes it—this reality that is the only one the world knows.

 

But by this suffering God will be reconciled to the world and all the sinners in it.  And that is how things stand now.  People can’t figure this out from looking at the world.  They can only learn this in the church where Jesus continues His prophetic ministry through the pastors who preach Christ (and not the wisdom of men.)  The message is that God is reconciled to the world and no longer counts the sins of men against them.  Which is to say, God has forgiven the world and all the sinners in it.  His anger has been discharged.  Our sins have been blotted out.  When Jesus offered up His holy life, His agony and His death, God’s anger against us was spent, and His favor came in its place.

 

The debt of our sins was paid and the price for our release, and the receipt was Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

 

And if sin and God’s anger has gone, then so has the power of death.  Death is different for those who believe in Christ.

 

The grave is no longer a place of uncleanness.  It is a holy place, sanctified by the body of the Holy One who laid there before us and was resurrected in glory.  So our grave is the holy place out of which we will rise imperishable, never to die, never to weep, never again to sin.

 

And dying no longer has the sting and terror of God’s wrath, the despair of being abandoned for those who believe in Christ.  God’s wrath ended on the cross, that Jesus was forsaken once, so that God will never forsake us.

 

And the deaths we experience in life also are not death to Christians who cling to Jesus.  Neither pain, nor sickness, nor failure can separate us from the joy, life, and victory we have in Him.  In Jesus we have God’s good pleasure; in Him God says of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant”—because Jesus has done well.  Because of what Jesus has already done for the world, God regards and declares us to be righteous in His sight, overruling the accusation of our conscience, the raised voices of those who know our sins, even the curse of the Law on our works.

 

This meeting of the two crowds was a foreshadowing of the strange and dreadful strife that happened on Calvary.  There were crowds there too, but only two wrestlers—the eternal Son, pinned to the tree and forsaken by God, and Satan, wanting to hold all people in bondage to sin and death.  It was a strange and dreadful strife…

 

The victory remained with life. A new reality emerged from this struggle. It appeared that Satan had won, that He had claimed Jesus with all the men who had come before Him.  They took Him down from the cross.  No one stopped the funeral procession.  They laid Jesus in the tomb and rolled the stone to shut it.  And then…you know the rest of the story.  Those who go to the tomb to mourn, honor the dead, pay their debt to death, find that the world has changed.  The tomb is empty.  The book recording the world’s transgressions has become clean white paper. The victory remained with life; the reign of death was ended. 

 

When we come out of our graves we will see how true that hymn is.  A little rest in the earth.  Then these mortal bodies will put on immortality.

 

A little cross and suffering here with our Lord.  Then God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

 

But we should not forget that life is ours now before the resurrection.  It lives within us, in these jars of clay that break so easily.  And when they break it shows the more clearly that the life within us is not from us.  When you break, and your world is destroyed by death, God is giving you a new world, and bearing witness to this world of the life of the world to come.

 

 

Holy Scripture plainly saith

That death is swallowed up by death;

Its sting is lost forever.

Alleluia!  LSB 458

 

The peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Spiritual Hunger. Second Sunday after Trinity 2016

jesus banquetSecond Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 14:15-24

June 5, 2016

“Spiritual Hunger”

 

Iesu Iuva

On Friday I was at Sunny Hill nursing home, where the Missouri Synod Lutheran churches around Joliet have a service each week for the people who live there.  After the service I gave communion to a member of St. Peter who lives there.  I was taking the elevator up from the lower floor and a lady got in.  I heard a little accent in her voice that I thought I recognized, and I asked her if she was from Africa.  No, she said, Trinidad (which is an island near South America).  I told her how my grandpa and uncles lived in Africa, so I always ask people when they sound like they’re from Africa.  “Oh,” she said, “where in Africa did your uncles live?”  “Zambia and Zimbabwe,” I said.  She said, “I went on a mission trip to Zimbabwe not too long ago.”

 

“Yes, there is a great spiritual hunger there,” she said.  “People have great joy in serving the Lord and a great desire to hear His Word.  Here, in order for people to worship properly you have to spend time coaxing them, cranking them up.”

 

I thought about this after we talked.  I am sure that if we got into what proper, acceptable worship to God is, we would not have agreed.  Emotion and excitement are not what makes worship acceptable to God.  True worship is in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), says Jesus.  That doesn’t mean that we are emotional in our worship; it means that we have true faith in Christ as our Savior.  From this faith in Jesus that our sins are forgiven comes thanksgiving toward God.

 

Still, she had a point.  Acceptable worship of God can’t mean that we simply show up and say words in which neither our hearts nor our minds are engaged.  Acceptable worship of God—faith in Christ—affects our hearts, our words, and our actions.  Believing that our sins are forgiven, that we are saved, must produce joy and thanksgiving—and joy and thanksgiving toward God—how can it not affect the way that we sing, the way we listen to God’s Word, the way we treat each other?

 

By all accounts, there is a great spiritual hunger in Africa and places in Asia.  These have been mission fields for a long time.  In many places the missionaries worked for years and saw few results.  But now a harvest is coming in.  I often hear and read from Lutheran missionaries in Africa that the pastors eagerly desire to be trained more fully in Lutheran doctrine and to have the Lutheran Confessions and other theological works in their languages.  Meanwhile the people in the churches come in great numbers to be baptized, to hear the Word of God, and to receive our Lord’s body and blood.  It must be exciting to see so many people turning to God and desiring what He offers in the Gospel.

 

But how are things in our country?  It’s not so easy for us.  People don’t appear to be very interested in spiritual things.  There was a time when people came to church on their own.  Now, with younger people, they don’t.  And if the church goes to them—which, to be sure, we don’t do like we should—sometimes we find that people are opposed to Christianity.  More often, it seems that people are able to “take it or leave it.”  They aren’t necessarily hostile, if you don’t say anything that offends them.  They just don’t care that much.

 

But it’s not just outside of the Church.  There is a lack of spiritual hunger inside the Church as well—isn’t there?  Real hunger isn’t a pleasant feeling, but it has a purpose—to make you eat.  Eating is necessary to maintain life, but it’s also necessary to grow.  On earth, there are no Christians that are full-grown.  When we are perfectly in the image of Jesus and there is no sinful flesh left in us, then we will be full-grown.  But if you are not yet perfectly like Christ, you still have to grow.  And yet most Christians don’t eat enough spiritual food to grow; they come and hear the Word and receive the Lord’s Supper on Sundays, or on Sundays when they aren’t doing something else.  But they don’t continue to learn God’s Word after they are confirmed.  They don’t read the Bible in their families and privately.  Most of us don’t know Scripture and Christian doctrine as well as we did when we were confirmed.  Others who do often neglect prayer and devotion, so that we are weak in spirit—not having grown in the life of prayer and lacking in love and trust in God in affliction.  Then we wonder why our lives as Christians are so disappointing and why the Church seems to be dying in our country.

 

One way to look at Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 that we heard is to see it as a parable about the lack of spiritual hunger and the consequences of this lack.

 

In the parable, Jesus is eating at a Pharisee’s house.  One of the guests at the table with him expresses what appears to be a very devout, pious desire.  “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  (Luke 14:15)  The man talks like he would give anything to participate in God’s kingdom.  But Jesus tells this story to show the hypocrisy of his statement: God has invited you to the banquet of His kingdom, Jesus is saying, but you are refusing to come.

 

Jesus begins his parable like this: “A man once gave a banquet and invited many” (Luke 14:16).  It’s pretty obvious who this “man” is—it’s God.  God is constantly feeding people throughout the Scripture, and He constantly makes invitations to people to come to Him and receive rest and refreshment.  God also promises throughout the Bible that the day is coming when He will prepare a great feast, a great celebration, and all who come and eat His food will live forever.  The great example of this is the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 25: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” (Isaiah 25:6-8)

 

You see the way Isaiah describes this feast.  God isn’t offering a crust of bread or peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.  He makes a feast of “rich food”, of “well-aged wine.”  This is a banquet for kings that God is making.  And besides the exquisite food is the honor of the host.  If you are invited to a banquet at the White House, you don’t go just because you know the food will be good.  You go because of the honor of being invited to the White House by the most powerful person in the world.

 

God has also made a banquet and invited many people.  To be invited is an honor higher than any of the honors in the world.  And besides this He puts exquisite food on the table.  The food of God’s banquet is the Gospel of His Son.  He spreads out before us a table of spiritual delicacies—forgiveness of our sins, righteousness before God, rescue from hell and the devil, the right to be sons of God and sit at His right hand, the gift of His Spirit.  And all these come to us through His Son—God with us, God who became fully man, who fulfilled the law, bore our sins as His own, received our condemnation, and rose again with sin and death destroyed forever.  Jesus is given to us as our spiritual food and drink in the Gospel.  By faith in Him we live, by faith in Him we eat His body and drink His blood and receive eternal life.

 

“And at the time for the banquet He sent His servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” (Luke 14: 17)  That had already happened to the Pharisees and the leaders of the Jews.  They had been invited a long time ago to this feast.  God had promised their forefather Abraham that one of his descendants would bless the whole world, taking away the curse of sin and death.  During the Advent midweek services for the past several years we have looked at the many promises God gave throughout the Old Testament concerning the Messiah of the Jews, the Christ.  But now everything is ready.  John the Baptist came and announced this to the Jews and told them to repent and be baptized to be ready for the Messiah and God’s banquet that would come through Him.

 

You also have been invited to God’s banquet.  An alternate translation for the word “invited” in the reading is “called.”  In the Small Catechism we learned to say about the 3rd article of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe that 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…

Whenever you have heard the good news of Jesus’ death for your sins, the Holy Spirit was calling you, inviting you, to believe in Jesus, that He died for your sins, and to receive His gifts.  When you were baptized, that also was God’s call and invitation to you.  He was pledging that eternal life and the forgiveness of sins was yours, just as the circumcision of the Jews was God’s pledge that His Son and all His benefits were theirs.

 

But what happens when God’s invitation goes out and tells people, “Everything is ready?”  Jesus says, “But they all alike began to make excuses.” (Luke 14:18)  One asks to be excused because he just bought a field, another because he just bought some oxen, and another because he just got married.  Jesus is telling the Pharisees at the table that this is what they, and the leaders of the Jews, have done.  They were invited by God to His banquet and were told: Everything is ready right now.  But they made excuses instead of coming.  The Jewish leaders were preoccupied with their jobs, their honor, with earthly possessions and desires.  The religious leaders didn’t want to be baptized by John or follow Jesus because to do so would jeopardize their position.  They would be admitting that their religious lives were not enough to make them righteous before God.  Besides this they saw that Jesus was despised and didn’t have an earthly glory or kingdom and realized that to believe in Him would mean risking or losing their honor, their wealth, their prestige.

 

These were not unfounded fears.  It’s true that to believe in Christ puts our honor, wealth, and security at risk.  This is part of the reason that people don’t want to be Christians today, or leave churches that teach false doctrine.

 

Yet these fears also reveal a lack of spiritual hunger.  A person who knows that he is a sinner and that without the forgiveness of sins he is lost doesn’t think about what he will lose on earth.  He runs to the promise of forgiveness, come what may.

 

Yet how often it’s the case for us Christians that we put temporary goods over eternal blessings.  Often we aren’t willing to sacrifice temporary comforts for the feast that God spreads before us.  We think, “I already know that Jesus died for me and I’m forgiven, so it won’t matter if I don’t read the Bible, or if I skip church this once, or if I don’t take the opportunities to learn God’s Word and worship that are offered.”  But believing the Gospel shouldn’t extinguish our spiritual hunger.  If we believe in Jesus and the forgiveness of our sins, we should long for more of Jesus and His gifts.  And as we receive more—as we read Scripture and hear preaching—it will reveal our need more clearly.  God’s Word reveals more and more of our sinful nature and our inability to overcome it; it reveals our lack of fruit.  God reveals this to us in His Word so that He can satisfy our hunger.  As we see our sinfulness more clearly He shows us Jesus more clearly, so that we find our comfort in Him and His work alone.

 

So what happens when those invited send back their excuses?  The owner of the house becomes angry.

 

‘Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’  And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’  And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and the hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” (Luke 14:21-24)

 

So what does the master do?  He has a house all set for a banquet.  Everything is ready.  The linens are on the tables, the wine is poured, the meat is ready.  But all the invited guests have refused to come.  Does he cancel the banquet?  No, he insists that his house should be filled.  So he has his servant gather up all the outcasts, the dregs of society to fill his house—the poor, blind, lame, crippled.  And since there is still room, he has the servant go outside the city and compel people from the highways to come to the banquet.

 

God did this with the Jews.  When the leaders of the Jews refused to come to Christ, God gathered the outcasts of Israel.  The poor, uneducated fishermen became Jesus’ disciples.  Tax collectors and sinners came into God’s banquet and ate His rich food and drank His aged wine.  They received the forgiveness of sins through Jesus and became righteous before God.  Then God sent the apostles outside of the people of Israel to the pagan gentiles who were far from God, didn’t know the Scriptures, and worshipped idols.  And these debased people—which includes us and our ancestors, who worshipped stones and statues and trees instead of the living God—came into God’s house, received the righteousness of Christ, were washed in His blood, and took their place among the righteous—Abraham and Moses and the prophets.

 

That is the end result of rejecting God’s Word; the end result of the lack of spiritual hunger.  When people persistently refuse God’s invitation through the Gospel, He takes it away.  Maybe we think the worst thing God could do to a country is let it be torn apart by violence, or impoverished through bad government, or let it be stricken by disease.  No.  The worst way God’s anger could strike us is if He takes His Word away.

 

Without His Word we can’t receive the forgiveness of sins; without His Word we can’t come to faith in Christ or stay in it.  Yet so often we treat God’s Word not as a gracious invitation to eternal life, but as an interruption of the other things we would rather do, or even as a burden.

 

Yes, we do this, even the most devout.  And so God makes His invitation again today: Everything is ready!  Come to the banquet!

 

If you have neglected His Word.  If you are spiritually poor, blind, and crippled, so that you think there is no way that you belong in God’s house, eating as His guest.  If you have at times acted as if you had other things to do that were more important than coming to the banquet God has provided, behaved arrogantly.

 

He doesn’t insist that you make your heart better.  He simply says, “Come, everything is now ready.”  It is a free invitation—there is no cost.  God has taken away your sins at His own cost, the cost of His Son. You only have to come and eat and drink—that is, believe that all your sins are forgiven through the suffering of Jesus.

 

If you don’t feel hunger—your sins don’t bother you particularly, you don’t feel your need as you should—still He invites you.  Realize that this lack of hunger is itself a great sin.  Then come, take your place with the crippled and the blind in God’s house.

 

God is gracious.  He wants His house to be full for this feast, so there is room for each one of us who wants to come.

 

And what a table He prepares for us!  “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, [that] God has prepared for those who love Him!”  (1 Corinthians 3:9)  The joy that we will have when we dwell with God in heaven we don’t know yet.  There are not words on earth to express it.  Yet we have the beginning of this feast now.  Maybe it’s appropriate to say God gives us hors d’oeurves?

 

Before our eyes He portrays His Son crucified for our transgressions, declaring, “It is finished!”  His call and invitation is to take Jesus at His Word.  In the Sacraments and the Word, He gives us the promise that the forgiveness of our sins is accomplished.  Along with that promise comes the promise of eternal life, resurrection from the dead, and union with the Triune God.

 

Whoever you are, come, says God, for everything is ready.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Good News for Parents

May 20, 2015 1 comment

The Gospel for parents who fail.

http://www.mbird.com/2015/05/absolved-parenthood/

The Gospel for the Unforgivable

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

cranach jesus adulteress 1532reposted from Chad Bird’s blog “The Flying Scroll”

They walked to the gallows together, pastor and penitent.  Each step up took them closer to the fall–the abbreviated, fatal fall to come.  As the criminal stood above the trapdoor that, moments later, would open to rope him into eternity, an officer asked him if he had any final words.  ”I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul,”  he said.  Then, turning toward the man who had been the shepherd of his soul during his incarceration, who had been his confessor, his preacher, and the one from whose hand he had received the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper, he said, ”I’ll see you again.”  Then noosed, hooded in black, and legs tied, he dropped out of this world into another.

As gripping as this account is, no doubt many similar scenarios have played out in the course of history, where condemned men have found repentance and faith when certain death looms nigh.  What makes this story remarkable is that this man, along with many others who were hanged that day, was among the most hated men in human history, guilty of atrocities so horrific only words forged in hell could adequately describe them.  These were Hitler’s men.  His closest confidants.  His very own pack of wolves.  Yet in the months leading up to their executions or imprisonments, many of them had been transformed from Hitler’s wolves into Christ’s lambs thanks to the ministry of a farm boy from Missouri, who grew up to be a pastor, and who reluctantly agreed to be the chaplain of the fifteen Protestant war criminals during the Nuremberg trials at the close of World War II.

Henry Gerecke was in his early 50′s when he went, cell by cell, to introduce himself to his infamous ‘congregation’ and to invite them to chapel services.  Some refused, others wavered, and still others promised to be there.  Of the fifteen chairs set up for the first service, thirteen of them were filled.  Scriptures were read, sermons preached, hymns sung, prayers prayed.  And, through it all, hearts were changed.  Soon some of the very lips that had once barked, ”Heil Hitler!” spoke a repentance-confessing, faith-affirming Amen as they knelt to eat and drink the body and blood of their forgiving Lord.  They expressed a desire for their children to be baptized.  One of them, though he began reading the Bible to find justification for his unbelief, ended up being led to faith by the very same divine words.  So reliant did these men become upon their pastor that, when a rumor surfaced that he might be relieved of his duty and allowed to return home, they wrote a letter to Mrs. Gerecke, begging her to ask him to stay.  On that letter were the signatures of all these former Nazis, men who had enjoyed power and rank, now humbly beseeching a housewife in America, who had not seen her husband for two and a half years, to let him stay.  In her brief reply, “They need you,” is packed a whole volume about sacrifice and love.

Pastor Gerecke’s story has already been told (see links below), but it deserves to be retold, again and again, to every generation, for two very important reasons.  The first has to do with the men to whom he ministered, the ones who repented and believed in Christ.  The scandal of Christianity is not that these men went to heaven; it is that God loved them so much that he was willing to die to get them there.  Had it been a human decision, many would have thrown these men, guilty of such atrocities, into the flames of hell.  But the truth is that people are not condemned because they murder, or steal, or lie, but because they reject Jesus as the one who has already endured hell for them on the cross, and earned a place for them in heaven.  There is no one who is so vile that he is beyond redemption, because the redemption of Christ envelops all people.

Another reason Pastor Gerecke’s story needs to be remembered involves his vocation, and those who share it.  What pastor, knowing he was about to visit men such as these, would not have struggled to find any hope in their possible repentance?  But Gerecke visited each cell anyway, invited each man to hear the Word, and left it to the Spirit to do the work of making new creations of these hardened criminals.  Nor did he mince words, surrender his convictions, or water down the truth for them.  On the evening before he was to be hanged, one of the men, Goering, asked to be communed, just in case he was wrong and there was some truth to the Christian claims.  But Gerecke refused to give the Sacrament to one who so obstinately refused repentance, and treated the Supper as if it were an edible, just-in-case, insurance policy.  When Christ calls men into the office of the holy ministry, he calls them to be faithful—not successful, not popular, not practical, not winsome, not cool, but faithful.  They are to preach even when they doubt it will bear fruit.  They are to give the word of Christ to sinners, and let the Christ of that word do his work.  And he does.  He convicts, he calls, he saves, he baptizes, he feeds, and, finally, he welcomes one and all into his kingdom with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In 1961, at the age of sixty-eight, Pastor Gerecke passed from this life into the next.  He entered that innumerable company of saints who had gone before him, some of whom had been among his flock during his years of ministry, one of whom, atop the gallows, had promised, “I’ll see you again.”  And he did.

Online Resources:

I strongly urge you to click on one or all of the links below to read Pastor Gerecke’s story.  The details and quotes I included above are from these resources.

Gerecke’s story, in his own words, was published in the Saturday Evening Post, 1, September, 1951, pp. 18-19, under the title, “I walked to the Gallows with the Nazi Chiefs.”  Click here to read his story:  http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=54c3a380-d341-4df2-92f0-e25631014730%40sessionmgr4&vid=2&hid=18

Don Stephens, in War and Grace:  Short biographies from the World Wars, (Evangelical Press, Faverdale North, Darlington, DL3 0PH, England) devotes a chapter to Gerecke and his ministry.  The chapter is available online at:  http://www.messianicgoodnews.org/henry-gerecke-chaplain-to-nazi-war-criminals/

In 1950, Gerecke was called to be Assistant Pastor at St. JohnLutheranChurch, Chester, IL.  That congregation’s website includes audio files of Pastor Gerecke speaking about his experience.  These can be listened to by following the link below, and clicking on the audio files on the right side of the website. http://www.stjohnchester.com/Gerecke/Gerecke.html

http://birdchadlouis.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/from-hitlers-wolves-to-christs-lambs-how-lutheran-pastor-henry-gerecke-brought-the-gospel-to-hitlers-highest-ranking-disciples-before-their-executions/

 

The Glory of the Office Of the Preaching of the Gospel–Trinity 12 (Walther)

August 18, 2013 2 comments

walther3Trinity 12

St. Peter Lutheran Church

2 Corinthians 3:4-11

August 18, 2013 (Rally Day, Installation of Teachers)

“The Glory of the Office of the Preaching of the Gospel”

(abridged and adapted from C. F. W. Walther, “Sermon on the 12th Sunday after the Festival of the Holy Trinity”, Brosamen, Concordia: St. Louis, 1876.  Pp. 172-183)

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This morning we consider the Epistle taken from 2nd Corinthians.  In it Paul praises his office, the office of the preaching of the Gospel.  Oftentimes when a pastor has someone else preach for him, he will ask the guest preacher to preach on a topic that his congregation needs to hear about but will be better able to hear from someone else.   Because of this I decided to borrow from a sermon preached on this text by Carl Friedrich Walther, the founding father of our synod.   Today he will be our guest preacher.

 

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus!  he begins.

 

In the Epistle, the Apostle Paul praises his office as one of overflowing glory.  He does this because false teachers had come into the midst of the Corinthians, who tried to belittle Paul’s office.  They intended to hinder the blessing that comes through the office of preaching the Gospel by doing this.

 

Now in our day too, especially here in America, the office of the preaching of the Gospel is nearly everywhere an object of scorn.  Because of this the blessing of the Word of God both inside and outside the Church is hindered more than one can imagine.  Permit me today to follow in the footsteps of the apostle and praise my office before you.  I speak to you today

 

Concerning the exaltation and glory of the office of the preaching of the Gospel,

In particular

 

  1. 1.        Of its exalted purpose and goal, and
  2. 2.       Of the glorious means which have been given to it in order to accomplish this goal.

  Read more…

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