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The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

 

July 1, 2018

 

“Defending the Faith”

 

1 Peter 3:8-15

 

Click here to listen audio of this sermon.

 

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;  not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.  For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.   For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.  And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.  And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:8-15

 

Years ago, my cousin Idella was visited by a door to door evangelist at her home in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Idella is Minnesota nice, so she was kind enough to let the young man talk for a while.  He talked about himself.  He displayed an air of arrogance.  He wanted to tell her how God had changed his life!  Idella told me that she was tempted to say to the young man, “Well, if God did that to you, I don’t want him doing it to me!”

 

How often evangelism, witnessing, sharing the faith – whatever you want to call it – is more about the one doing the talking than it is about Jesus.  The reason for the hope that is in us is not our changed life.  It is the gospel.  The gospel tells us that God forgives us all our sins, receives us into his favor, and promises us eternal life, not because of our changed lives, but because of his great love in Christ our Savior who has redeemed us with his blood.  This gospel is ours through faith alone.  Through faith in Christ we have hope.

 

Be ready to defend this gospel!  Be ready to confess it!  Don’t be afraid.  How can we not confess what we believe?  But before we go any further in talking about making this confession, let’s talk about how we can gain or lose the opportunity to do so.

 

I have gone door to door.  When I attended Concordia Lutheran Junior College in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a number of us students traveled to Arlington Heights, Illinois, and, with other Lutheran college students, underwent a couple of hours of training on how to make door to door visits.  We were taught how to share the gospel.  We would introduce ourselves and ask them if we could ask them a couple of questions.  The first question was: “If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?”  The second question was: “If you died and met Jesus and he asked you why he should let you into his heaven, what would you say?”  The questions were designed to ascertain what the people we were visiting believed.  They did a pretty good job of smoking out the worksrighteous, that is, people who believe that they become righteous before God by their own works.  When we said that we could know with a certainty that we were indeed going to heaven, many people would become angry, thinking that we were boasting of how good we were.  In fact, we were confessing how gracious God is.

 

As I look back at those visits some forty five years later, it occurs to me than the negative reaction we sometimes received was not on account of what we said.  It was on account of who we were to say it.  Who were we?  A bunch of know-it-all religious college kids who didn’t even live in Arlington Heights.  They didn’t ask us for a reason for the hope within us.  They didn’t even know us!

 

Don’t misunderstand.  I am not criticizing making cold calls.  It can bear good fruit.  Some folks are very good at it.  Most are not.  But when St. Peter tells us in our text always to be ready to give a defense of the hope within us, he’s not telling us to make cold calls.  He’s not telling us to do door to door evangelism.  He’s talking about answering questions.  But who is going to ask questions about the hope we have if we give no indication that we have any hope?

 

There is much confusion about what it means to share the gospel or confess the faith.  Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Preach the gospel.  Use words if necessary.”  This is falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi who said no such thing.  Whoever came up with it was wrong.  Words are necessary to preach the gospel.  Words are necessary to confess the gospel.  Words are necessary to give a defense to anyone who asks us a reason for the hope we have.

 

This is because the gospel is not our good deeds.  It is not our life.  It is God’s good deeds.  It is God’s life.  The gospel isn’t a law given us to obey.  It is a message that is spoken with words.  We cannot give a reason for the hope we have without saying something.

 

But who is going to ask?  Who is going to listen?  Nobody is going to ask a Christian about the hope he has unless the Christian gives evidence that he has hope.  That evidence is the life of faith that we live with one another.  Jesus said that the world would know we are his disciples – we are Christians – if we love one another.  The life of love is grounded in the truth.

 

St. Peter writes that we should all be of one mind.  This doesn’t mean being of the same opinion on every subject.  It does mean being united in God’s truth.  We confess the same thing.  St. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 1:10,

 

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

 

We cannot be of the same mind and judgment if we are not receiving the same spiritual nurture.  This is why the foundation of our Christian lives is laid in church.  If you want to learn and to put into practice the virtues that St. Peter lists here in our text – and you do, because you’re a Christian – you must know that you cannot do so without receiving from God his saving truth.  The pure doctrine of God’s word unites us.  It makes us of the same mind.  God joins us together as one.  We are reconciled to him and through him to one another.  The truth that unites us is not just propositions to be parroted, but the forgiveness of our sins by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus.

 

No Christian is any better than any other Christian.  He or she may have gifts others don’t have, but the idea that this Christian should be elevated above that Christian is the source of endless friction and conflict.  If you think you’re better than others or others are better than you, answer me this: is your baptism better?  Is your gospel better?  Is the Lord’s Supper of which you partake better than that of your brothers and sisters?  The unity we enjoy – being of one mind – comes out of what we have received from God.

 

What follows from this is compassion, brotherly love, tenderheartedness, courtesy, and a life of blessing those who do us wrong.  All of these wonderful virtues don’t arise in our hearts simply because we want them to.  They are the fruit of the pure gospel that we have received together.

 

The gospel is a message of God’s undeserved kindness.  It produces the fruit of kindness.  When your heart is kind, you don’t look for a fight.  You don’t seek out the opportunity to stick it to the one who’s done you wrong.  The love that marks our lives does not practice deceit.  We aren’t afraid of what people can do to us because God’s ears are open to our prayers and he opposes those who do evil.  Christians fear God.  They don’t fear what men can do.  As Isaiah the prophet writes:

 

[Do not be] afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.

The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow;

Let Him be your fear,

And let Him be your dread.  Isaiah 8:12b-13

 

When your treasures are in heaven, no early power can steal them from you.  That is the hope we have.  When people ask us a reason for it, we defend it.  St. Peter says we should always be ready to defend it.  We make ourselves ready by sanctifying God in our hearts.  To be holy is to be sinless and separated from sin.  God is holy.  We can’t make him holy.  What we do is acknowledge his holiness and set him apart from all other things.

 

You will not be able to give a defense of your Christian convictions unless your Christian convictions are more important to you than the praise or acceptance of others.  If you are worried about how others will perceive you, you cannot confess anything at all.  St. Peter says to say what you say with meekness and fear.  Be humble and respectful.  But be clear and direct.  Shillyshallying is no good defense of anything.  Christians confess!  They assert!

 

In one of the most important religious debates in history, between Erasmus from Rotterdam and Martin Luther on the freedom of the will (with Luther taking the biblical position that we are by nature spiritually bound as slaves to the lies of the devil and are powerless to set ourselves free), Erasmus chided Luther for being so assertive.  Here is how Luther replied:

 

For it is not the mark of a Christian mind to take no delight in assertions; on the contrary, a man must delight in assertions or he will be no Christian. And by assertion—in order that we may not be misled by words—I mean a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, maintaining, and an invincible persevering . . . I am speaking . . . about the assertion of those things which have been divinely transmitted to us in the sacred writings . . . Let Skeptics and Academics keep well away from us Christians, but let there be among us “assertors” twice as unyielding as the Stoics themselves. How often, I ask you, does the apostle Paul demand that . . . most sure and unyielding assertion of conscience? In Romans 10[:10] he calls it “confession,” saying, “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” And Christ says: “Everyone who confesses me before men, I also will confess before my Father” [Matt. 10:32]. Peter bids us give a reason for the hope that is in us [I Peter 3:15]. What need is there to dwell on this?   Nothing is better known or more common among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions and you take away Christianity.

 

Our Christian hope is grounded in the promises of God.  He who overcame sin and death on Calvary and rose from the dead with the devil crushed under his feet has won eternal life for us and given it to you.  Our hope is not a feeble wish, but a confidence God himself has given us.  So we confess, we assert, we defend our Christian hope, and leave the rest up to God.

 

Amen.

 

Pastor Rolf Preus

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Christ calls men to go into the world to fish for men and make them part of His kingdom in the Holy Christian Church. Thus, the Church and the Office of the Holy Ministry go hand in hand and the nets with which they are given to fish are Word and Sacrament.   [Rev. Kurt Hering]

 

 

A READING FROM THE BOOK OF CONCORD
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
GOSPEL LESSON: Luke 5:1–11
THE DEFENSE OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION
ARTICLES VII & VIII: OF THE CHURCH

 

1] The Seventh Article of our Confession, in which we said that the Church is the congregation of saints, they have condemned, and have added a long disquisition, that the wicked are not to be separated from the Church since John has compared the Church to a threshing-floor on which wheat and chaff are heaped together, Matt. 3:12, and Christ has compared it to a net in which 2] there are both good and bad fishes, Matt. 13:47. It is, verily, a true saying, namely, that there is no remedy against the attacks of the slanderer. Nothing can be spoken with such care that it can escape detraction. 3] For this reason we have added the Eighth Article, lest any one might think that we separate the wicked and hypocrites from the outward fellowship of the Church, or that we deny efficacy to Sacraments administered by hypocrites or wicked men. . . . 5] . . . the Church is not only the fellowship of outward objects and rites, as other governments, but it is originally a fellowship of faith and of the Holy Ghost in hearts. [The Christian Church consists not alone in fellowship of outward signs, but it consists especially in inward communion of eternal blessings in the heart, as of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of the fear and love of God]; which fellowship nevertheless has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. . . . And this Church alone is called the body of Christ, which Christ renews,sanctifies and governs by His Spirit, as Paul testifies, Eph. 1:22 sq., when he says: And gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, 6] the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. Wherefore, those in whom Christ does not act [through His Spirit] are not the members of Christ. . . . 7] . . . Neither have we said anything new. Paul has defined the Church precisely in the same way, Eph. 5:25f , that it should be cleansed in order to be holy. And he adds the outward marks, the Word and Sacraments. For he says thus: Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. . . .” we have presented this sentence almost in the very words. Thus also the Church is defined by the article in the Creed which teaches us to believe that there is a holy Catholic Church.

 

The text used here is from Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: German-Latin-English. These texts are in the public domain, can be found online @  http://bookofconcord.org, and may be freely copied.

 

 (You may download a letter size pdf file The Fifth Sunday after Trinity Bulletin Insert from this link.)

 

Rev. Kurt Hering’s objective is to make a connection between the “Gospel Text For The Day” (usually) and the Book of Concord in order to help pastors make connections for their parishoners that help them understand how the BoC sets forth the faith once delivered to us in Scripture for the life of the Church. The vast majority of Lutherans simply have never had that done for them, largely because a pastor only has so much time for a sermon and getting everything ready for Sunday in addition to his weekly work with Christ’s sheep.
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Good works and the suffering of Christ and the Christian go hand in hand, indeed they are “the firstfruits” of the Spirit of which Paul speaks. To live in Christ is to suffer for the sake of serving one’s neighbor and brother.  [Rev. Kurt Hering]

“The Crucified Christ Enframed with Scenes of Martyrdom of the Apostles,”

oil on canvas by Frans the younger Francken
Public Domain

 A READING FROM THE BOOK OF CONCORD
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
GOSPEL LESSON: Luke 6:36–42
FORMULA OF CONCORD: SOLID DECLARATION
ARTICLE IV.12: GOOD WORKS

7] . . . it is God’s will, order, and command that believers should walk in good works; and that truly good works are not those which every one contrives himself from a good intention, or which are done according to traditions of men, but those which God Himself has prescribed and commanded in His Word; also, that truly good works are done, not from our own natural powers, but in this way: when the person by faith is reconciled with God and renewed by the Holy Ghost,….

8] … the good works of believers, although in this flesh they are impure and incomplete, are pleasing and acceptable to God, …

9] Therefore, of works that are truly good and well-pleasing to God, which God will reward in this world and in the world to come, faith must be the mother and source; and on this account they are called by St. Paul true fruits of faith, as also of the Spirit. 10] For, as Dr. Luther writes in the Preface to St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: Thus faith is a divine work in us, that changes us and regenerates us of God, and puts to death the old Adam, makes us entirely different men in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers, and brings with it [confers] the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, powerful thing that we have in faith, so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing. 11] Nor does it ask whether good works are to be done; but before the question is asked, it has wrought them, and is always engaged in doing them. But he who does not do such works is void of faith, and gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith nor what good works are, yet babbles and prates with many words concerning faith and good works. 12] [Justifying] faith is a living, bold [firm] trust in God’s grace, so certain that a man would die a thousand times for it [rather than suffer this trust to be wrested from him]. And this trust and knowledge of divine grace renders joyful, fearless, and cheerful towards God and all creatures, which [joy and cheerfulness] the Holy Ghost works through faith; and on account of this, man becomes ready and cheerful, without coercion, to do good to every one, to serve every one, and to suffer everything for love and praise to God, who has conferred this grace on him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.

 The text used here is from Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: German-Latin-English. These texts are in the public domain, can be found online @  http://bookofconcord.org, and may be freely copied.

 

 (You may download a letter size pdf file The Fourth Sunday after Trinity Bulletin Insert from this link.)

Rev. Kurt Hering’s objective is to make a connection between the “Gospel Text For The Day” (usually) and the Book of Concord in order to help pastors make connections for their parishoners that help them understand how the BoC sets forth the faith once delivered to us in Scripture for the life of the Church. The vast majority of Lutherans simply have never had that done for them, largely because a pastor only has so much time for a sermon and getting everything ready for Sunday in addition to his weekly work with Christ’s sheep.

 

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[Photo of Sahar Sadlovsky Gold and child used by permission of Sahar Sadlovsky Gold. Thank you!]

The child is with her father. He holds her in his lap. He looks at the Book of Concord. She looks at the Book of Concord.

She cannot read.

Don’t be so sure. She might not be reading the Book of Concord yet, but she is reading her father. She is reading her importance to him, felt and understood by his sitting still with her, his holding her. She is reading the book’s importance to her father. He seems interested in it. She wants to see what he sees. It will be some years before she does see it, but she is on her way in this: the influence of her father.

Influence of fathers is built into nature. But it also is developed into this or that direction by nurture. Nature and nurture together. Start early nurturing what nature gave you, the natural influence of fathers with their children.

This is a precious photo, and every father of a young child can do this. It takes no special competence, no class at the church, no past role model. From plain, natural, fatherly affection for your child, just start. Doing at all is the right way of doing.

If you are uncertain, let me give you a collection of encouragements to overcome what scares you.

1.  God is for your children, and God is for you as father.

2.  The Catechism is simple, and using it is simple.

3.  Your influence is built into nature.

4.  Repetition is effective.

5.  Children like to answer questions.

6.  Your own faith and confidence in Christ will grow.

To read a little more about these encouragements, see Encouragement for the Scared Father

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Fourth Sunday after Trinity

June 24, 2018

“The Glory to be Revealed in Us”

Romans 8:18-23

Click here to listen to audio of this sermon.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:18-23

We confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  What will that life everlasting be like, when Jesus comes to take his church home?

St. John describes heaven in Revelation 21:3-4:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The old order of things is that order of things in which death reigns.  God warned Adam.  “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  He ate.  He died.

All mankind fell in Adam’s fall

One common sin infects us all

From sire to son the bane descends

And over all the curse impends.

Through all man’s powers corruption creeps

And him in dreadful bondage keeps;

In guilt he draws his infant breath

And reaps its fruits of woe and death.

The doctrine of original sin makes people angry, but the Bible teaches it and so we must teach it.  Everyone who has ever been born with the sole exception of the virgin-born Son of God was conceived and born in sin, spiritually dead, blind, and hostile to God.  We die because we are sinners.  Sin is the reason for sorrow, mourning, crying, and pain.

The creation God made was very good.  The problem with the created world is not that it is created.  The problem is sin.  That’s not God’s fault.  It’s our fault.  Sin not only corrupts our nature; it corrupts all of nature.

Christ came into this world to take away sin.  We Christians say that he succeeded.  We believe what the Bible says about Jesus and, based on the Bible, we claim that he is our righteousness.  We claim that on account of his obedience and his suffering he has fulfilled all righteousness.  The gospel of Christ reckons us to be righteous.  What God says is so.  We are righteous.

But are we, really?  Earlier in this Epistle, St. Paul described his spiritual struggles, which are ours as well:

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Romans 7:15-19)

God says we are righteous, but we are burdened with sin.  Are we good or are we bad?  Do we do the good we want to do?  Or do we do the evil that we don’t want to do?  Who will deliver us from these bodies that are infected with sin and death?

Jesus will.  He won’t deliver us from the sin in our bodies by tossing aside our bodies.  God didn’t take on our flesh and blood only to abandon our bodies to the grave to let them rot.  God wasn’t incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and made man to destroy flesh and blood.  He did so to redeem us, flesh and blood, body and soul.  God was incarnate.  The Word became flesh.  He was made man.  He assumed our human nature.  What he assumed he redeemed.  What he redeemed he will raise up on the last day.  He will glorify his Christians.

St. Paul writes:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Original sin is not a popular teaching, but to deny it is to deny heaven.  Popular views of heaven feature the glory of heaven as being out there, and not in here.  But see how the Bible describes heaven.  There is no death, no curse, no mourning, no crying, no pain, and no sorrow.  What has happened here?  The sin within us is purged.  It is gone forever!  Glory will be revealed in us.  Within!

Think of it!  You won’t get mad at anybody ever.  You won’t lust after what isn’t yours.  You won’t resent not getting what you thought you wanted.  You won’t hate anybody.  You will have no desire to do anything wrong.  That’s glory.  That’s inner glory.  That glory will be revealed in us Christians when Jesus returns, the dead are raised, our bodies are changed, and we are confirmed in the righteousness reckoned to us by the gospel.

God speaks and so it is.  But it doesn’t appear to be as he says.  In Christ we are righteous right now.  Through faith in him heaven is our home – as if we were already there.  But we still sin and we feel it.  We’re not in heaven yet.  The curse has been lifted, but it remains.  There is an already and not yet feature of our lives in this world.  We are redeemed, but we will be redeemed.  Not only we, but the whole creation groans in anticipation of our final redemption.  When these dying bodies are fully redeemed and become immortal and unperishable bodies, then all of creation will be released from death and the curse of sin.

When God joined this world, he didn’t become a plant or an animal.  He didn’t become mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, or oceans.  He became a human being.  We were made in God’s image.  We are the crown of his creation.  All creation waits in anticipation of our final redemption.  When we are glorified, then the created world will be glorified as well.  That’s heaven.

The lion will lie down with the lamb.  The child will play with the cobra.  There will be no death and no violence.  There will be no sin and no curse of sin.  The sufferings we suffer now cannot compare to the glory we will experience.  It will be within us, for our hearts will be pure and nothing evil will ever enter into us again.

Jesus teaches us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow him.  It is the cross of persecution.  God’s word is not always popular, but we confess it.  The moral standards of our culture attack God’s teaching taught in the Bible.  If you agree with God and say so, you will be called a bigot and a hater.  The popular religion denies God’s anger and turns sin into dysfunction, something we can fix.  To teach that everyone is a sinner in dire need of a Savior and that Jesus is the only Savior sinners have is to challenge the popular religion of our culture.  To confess this openly is to invite persecution.  That hurts.

But what hurts more is the suffering within us that we bring upon ourselves.  When we live as if we were not what God has pronounced us to be, we suffer disconnect.  It is as if our lives are one big contradiction.  When we look back to Calvary and Christ’s resurrection, we see our victory over our sin.  Jesus brings Calvary and the open tomb to us every Sunday, feeding us with his body and blood.  As we look back, we also look forward.  We look forward to the day when we will feel no sin, remember no guilt, and experience nothing less than pure joy in the presence of the holy God.  We look ahead.  We live in anticipation.

That’s how we can learn to live lives that show mercy to others.  What we need (and we need it every day of our lives) is an attitude adjustment.  Where does the judgmental and condemnatory spirit come from?  Why do people hold grudges and refuse to forgive?  Those who live under judgment judge.  Those who feel condemnation in their hearts feel the need to condemn others.  Only the one who has received mercy can give it to others.

Already, but not yet.  We are already redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  He paid the price to free us and he freed us.  We have been delivered from God’s anger and live under his grace.  He is smiling on us.  But if that is true, why do we suffer?  If God is love, why should anyone suffer?  Many deny God’s existence by arguing that a loving God couldn’t possibly permit the suffering that exists in this world.

But the loving God we know in Christ has already confronted the suffering that exists in this world.  He hasn’t given us instructions on how to eliminate evil in society or even in our own hearts.  He does it.  But until our final redemption, when the bodies in which we live are fully purged of all sin, and mortality is replaced by immortality, perishable by imperishable, we must wait.

We wait in hope.  Hope is a God-given confidence in the future we cannot see.  No suffering we experience in this life can compare with the glory to be revealed in us on the last day.  Heaven is not a dream.  It is our true home.  It is not a wish.  Jesus promised to prepare it for us.  He promised to return and to bring us into the perfect joys of heaven.

Why should cross and trials grieve me?

Christ is near with his cheer, never will he leave me.

Who can rob me of the heaven

That God’s Son for me won when his life was given?

No one can.

Amen.

Pastor Rolf Preus

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A voting delegate to a synodical convention has a duty to vote well. To vote well, one needs to study and understand the reports, overtures, and resolutions, and then vote scripturally, confessionally, conscientiously, prayerfully, and in brotherly consultation with the saints.

This duty has weight. It is not so easy. Contributing to the weight are:

  • The number of reports, overtures, and resolutions.
  • The range of subjects and the categories of those subjects.
  • The volume of the printed materials.
  • The historical backgrounds of some of the issues.
  • The disagreements surrounding many overtures.
  • The inadequate qualifications of delegates as to education, experience, etc. to deal with some of the issues, balanced by the problems that would arise if lay people were not allowed to be voting delegates.
  • The bylaws and procedural rules that affect the way the convention does its business.

It is a pretty complex, deep plush, and expansive tapestry.

For the 2016 convention in Milwaukee, I did what I thought was my best to prepare, but still am disappointed in my performance.

Facing the onset of the 2019 convention, I decided to up my game. A couple of the new tools in my kit bag is a table of the resolutions in the First Edition of Today’s Business and a table of the overtures in the Convention Workbook. Each of these is simple. Each has just two columns. The left column simply lists the resolutions or overtures. The right column is blank for my brief notes to remind me of how I plan to vote and my reasons.

It must sound bad that a delegate could forget how he or she was intending to vote or the reasons for so voting. But it’s a reality. There are many overtures or resolutions that have similar sounding titles. It can become a problem to keep them straight. Sometimes the reason for opposing a resolution or overture that sounds basically good can be non-obvious from a casual reading. Good or bad, we might as well at least admit the truth, and try to do something about it. Hence, the tables.

The tables provide another benefit. They make it more likely that a person using them actually articulates his or her thoughts on the issues. In a few case, the exercise can change one’s my mind about an overture or resolution.

Sometimes we think we are the only one with a certain problem. Often that is not true, and our embarrassment is needless. So I will risk the shame of the disclosure I have made here, since there could be more like me, and go a step further by offering the two tables to other struggling lay delegates. Here they are:

May the Lord of the Church bless and guide you as you prepare to participate in the convention.

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Part III, Article III. Of Repentance.

1] This office [of the Law] the New Testament retains and urges, as St. Paul, Rom. 1:18 does, saying: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Again, Rom 3:19: All the world is guilty before God. No man is righteous before Him. And Christ says, John 16:8: The Holy Ghost will reprove the world of sin.

2] This, then, is the thunderbolt of God by which He strikes in a heap [hurls to the ground] both manifest sinners and false saints [hypocrites], and suffers no one to be in the right [declares no one righteous], but drives them all together to terror and despair. This is the hammer, as Jeremiah 23:29 says: Is not My Word like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? This is not activa contritio or manufactured repentance, but passiva contritio [torture of conscience], true sorrow of heart, suffering and sensation of death.

3] This, then, is what it means to begin true repentance; and here man must hear such a sentence as this: You are all of no account, whether you be manifest sinners or saints [in your own opinion]; you all must become different and do otherwise than you now are and are doing [no matter what sort of people you are], whether you are as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you may. Here no one is [righteous, holy], godly, etc.

4] But to this office the New Testament immediately adds the consolatory promise of grace through the Gospel, which must be believed, as Christ declares, Mark 1:15: Repent and believe the Gospel, i.e., become different and do otherwise, and believe My promise. And John, preceding Him, is called a preacher of repentance, however, for the remission of sins, i.e., John was to accuse all, and convict them of being sinners, that they might know what they were before God, and might acknowledge that they were lost men, and might thus be prepared for the Lord, to receive grace, and to expect and accept from Him the remission of sins. Thus also Christ Himself says, Luke 24:47: 6] Repentance and remission of sins must be preached in My name among all nations.

7] But whenever the Law alone, without the Gospel being added exercises this its office there is [nothing else than] death and hell, and man must despair, like Saul and Judas; as St. Paul, Rom. 7:10, says: Through sin the Law killeth. 8] On the other hand, the Gospel brings consolation and remission not only in one way, but through the word and Sacraments, and the like, as we shall hear afterward in order that [thus] there is with the Lord plenteous redemption, as Ps. 130:7 says against the dreadful captivity of sin.

When the Law does its proper work it convicts us of our sins and crushes us to dust (Jeremiah 23:9-40, John 16:4-15, Romans 1:18-32, Romans 3).  The Law produces contrition, which is the first part of Repentance.  In contrition you see your sin and desire to do better, even though you may not be capable of doing so.

This is where the second part of Repentance comes in.  Namely faith that trusts the promises of God. Repentance is always proclaimed along with an appeal to faith (Mark 1:1-5, Luke 24:36-49).  The Law must always be followed by the Gospel.  Else the sinner will be left in utter despair, as happened with Saul and Judas (1 Samuel 31, Mathew 27:1-10).

The Law always kills and will leave a person in death if the Gospel is not proclaimed.  Repentance cannot be complete if there is no promise to hold to. Judas was certainly contrite, but he had no faith in the promise and thus lost his eternal salvation.  If only the priests had done their job properly and preached the Gospel Judas might have heard the Gospel and been saved. After all Jesus died for Judas’s sins as well.

It is a great blessing that the Gospel comes to us in a variety of means in the Word and Sacraments.  It gives consolation against all doubt and gives us the promise of forgiveness to cling to.  The Holy Spirit working through the Gospel even generates the faith that trusts the promise and completes true Repentance. For where there is no faith there is no true Repentance (Psalm 130).

9] However, we must now contrast the false repentance of the sophists with true repentance, in order that both may be the better understood.

Of the False Repentance of the Papists.

10] It was impossible that they should teach correctly concerning repentance, since they did not [rightly] know the real sins [the real sin]. For, as has been shown above, they do not believe aright concerning original sin, but say that the natural powers of man have remained [entirely] unimpaired and incorrupt; that reason can teach aright, and the will can in accordance therewith do aright [perform those things which are taught]; that God certainly bestows His grace when a man does as much as is in him, according to his free will.

11] It had to follow thence [from this dogma] that they did [must do] penance only for actual sins, such as wicked thoughts to which a person yields (for wicked emotion [concupiscence, vicious feelings, and inclinations], lust and improper dispositions [according to them] are not sins), and for wicked words and wicked deeds, which free will could readily have omitted.

12] And of such repentance they fix three parts, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, with this [magnificent] consolation and promise added: If man truly repent, [feel remorse,] confess, render satisfaction, he thereby would have merited forgiveness, and paid for his sins before God [atoned for his sins and obtained a plenary redemption]. Thus in repentance they instructed men to repose confidence in their own works. 13] Hence the expression originated, which was employed in the pulpit when public absolution was announced to the people: Prolong O God, my life, until I shall make satisfaction for my sins and amend my life.

14] There was here [profound silence and] no mention of Christ nor faith; but men hoped by their own works to overcome and blot out sins before God. And with this intention we became priests and monks, that we might array ourselves against sin.

15] As to contrition, this is the way it was done: Since no one could remember all his sins (especially as committed through an entire year), they inserted this provision, namely, that if an unknown sin should be remembered later [if the remembrance of a concealed sin should perhaps return], this also must be repented of and confessed, etc. Meanwhile they were [the person was] commended to the grace of God.

16] Moreover, since no one could know how great the contrition ought to be in order to be sufficient before God, they gave this consolation: He who could not have contrition, at least ought to have attrition, which I may call half a contrition or the beginning of contrition; for they have themselves understood neither of these terms nor do they understand them now, as little as I. Such attrition was reckoned as contrition when a person went to confession.

17] And when it happened that any one said that he could not have contrition nor lament his sins (as might have occurred in illicit love or the desire for revenge, etc.), they asked whether he did not wish or desire to have contrition [lament]. When one would reply Yes (for who, save the devil himself, would here say No?), they accepted this as contrition, and forgave him his sins on account of this good work of his [which they adorned with the name of contrition]. Here they cited the example of St. Bernard, etc.

18] Here we see how blind reason, in matters pertaining to God, gropes about, and, according to its own imagination, seeks for consolation in its own works, and cannot think of [entirely forgets] Christ and faith. But if it be [clearly] viewed in the light, this contrition is a manufactured and fictitious thought [or imagination], derived from man’s own powers, without faith and without the knowledge of Christ. And in it the poor sinner, when he reflected upon his own lust and desire for revenge, would sometimes [perhaps] have laughed rather than wept [either laughed or wept, rather than to think of something else], except such as either had been truly struck by [the lightning of] the Law, or had been vainly vexed by the devil with a sorrowful spirit. Otherwise [with the exception of these persons] such contrition was certainly mere hypocrisy, and did not mortify the lust for sins [flames of sin]; for they had to grieve, while they would rather have continued to sin, if it had been free to them.

As a contrast and to make a point we will now look at how Repentance is seen by the Roman Catholics.  The foundation of it all is a false understanding of Original Sin.  Roman Catholics are semi-Pelagian. They believe that the will can make a start back to God.  To them sins of the mind are not truly sins but rather only sins that you actually do.  Thus one could think lustful thoughts about a woman, but it was not truly sin until one actualized them.  In a brief, they deny concupiscence.

Repentance for the papists has three parts: contrition, confession, and satisfaction  For them repentance is a work of man not God.  It is the work by which man merits the forgiveness of God.  No mention of Christ or faith at all. For this reason people became monks and priests, as they thought by these works they could pay for their sins. Luther knew this fact all too well.

In the first part contrition for the papists was only an admission that one had done a sin.  Not an actual feeling of being sorry for it or wanting to reform one’s life. You only had to make start.

Thus the vain distinction between attrition and contrition. Luther points out rightly that attrition is completely made up and no one really understands what is meant by it.  So if you said you were sorry, you were forgiven without any intent to reform.  As long you did good works, that would earn your way in.  Because the Gospel was weak and seemed to be foolish, man concocted this insane notion of attrition (1 Corinthians 2).  They did not grasp the depth of their problem or God’s solution.

Attrition essentially excuses the sinner similar to a child saying they were sorry but not really meaning it.  It is another version of ex operae operato (by the work worked). By saying the magic words one could get out of jail free. One would have simply laughed and went on sinning if one was not struck to the heart by the Law.  So in fact contrition by the papists is merely hypocrisy.

19] As regards confession, the procedure was this: Every one had [was enjoined] to enumerate all his sins (which is an impossible thing). This was a great torment. From such as he had forgotten [But if any one had forgotten some sins] he would be absolved on the condition that, if they would occur to him, he must still confess them. In this way he could never know whether he had made a sufficiently pure confession [perfectly and correctly], or when confessing would ever have an end. Yet he was pointed to his own works, and comforted thus: The more fully [sincerely and frankly] one confesses, and the more he humiliates himself and debases himself before the priest, the sooner and better he renders satisfaction for his sins; for such humility certainly would earn grace before God.

20] Here, too, there was no faith nor Christ, and the virtue of the absolution was not declared to him, but upon his enumeration of sins and his self-abasement depended his consolation. What torture, rascality, and idolatry such confession has produced is more than can be related.

Confession under the Roman Catholics required the listing of all sins.  Even ones you could not remember. For while they gave a blanket statement saying your forgotten sins were covered, nevertheless if your recalled them later then you had to confess them.  Thus the first “forgiveness” was not really forgiveness at all as it was only good for as long as you had forgotten the sin. Even then it was questionable if that was efficacious. Thus the more you confessed the more certain your salvation as only the forgiveness given to confessed sins counted.

There is no faith in this, but rather purely the work of the one confessing.  The efficacy of the forgiveness depends on the completeness of the confession.  No Absolution was declared either and no consolation given. If one was truly contrite, there was no promise for faith to hold to other than the promise that if you confess more the more you would be forgiven.  Confession became a work to merit forgiveness.

21] As to satisfaction, this is by far the most involved [perplexing] part of all. For no man could know how much to render for a single sin, not to say how much for all. Here they have resorted to the device of imposing a small satisfaction, which could indeed be rendered, as five Paternosters, a day’s fast, etc.; for the rest [that was lacking] of the [in their] repentance they were directed to purgatory.

22] Here, too, there was nothing but anguish and [extreme] misery. [For] some thought that they would never get out of purgatory, because, according to the old canons, seven years’ repentance is required for a single mortal sin. 23] Nevertheless, confidence was placed upon our work of satisfaction, and if the satisfaction could have been perfect, confidence would have been placed in it entirely, and neither faith nor Christ would have been of use. But this confidence was impossible. For, although any one had done penance in that way for a hundred years, he would still not have known whether he had finished his penance. That meant forever to do penance and never to come to repentance.

24] Here now the Holy See at Rome, coming to the aid of the poor Church, invented indulgences, whereby it forgave and remitted [expiation or] satisfaction, first, for a single instance, for seven years, for a hundred years and distributed them among the cardinals and bishops, so that one could grant indulgence for a hundred years and another for a hundred days. But he reserved to himself alone the power to remit the entire satisfaction.

25] Now, since this began to yield money, and the traffic in bulls became profitable he devised the golden jubilee year [a truly gold-bearing year], and fixed it at Rome. He called this the remission of all punishment and guilt. Then the people came running, because every one would fain have been freed from this grievous, unbearable burden. This meant to find [dig up] and raise the treasures of the earth. Immediately the Pope pressed still further, and multiplied the golden years one upon another. But the more he devoured money, the wider grew his maw.

Later, therefore, he issued them [those golden years of his] by his legates [everywhere] to the countries, until all churches and houses were full of the Golden Year. 26] At last he also made an inroad into purgatory among the dead, first, by founding masses and vigils, afterwards, by indulgences and the Golden Year, and finally souls became so cheap that he released one for a farthing.

27] But all this, too, was of no avail. For although the Pope taught men to depend upon, and trust in, these indulgences [for salvation], yet he rendered the [whole] matter again uncertain. For in his bulls he declares: Whoever would share in the indulgences or a Golden Year must be contrite, and have confessed, and pay money. Now, we have heard above that this contrition and confession are with them uncertain and hypocrisy. Likewise, also no one knew what soul was in purgatory, and if some were therein, no one knew which had properly repented and confessed. Thus he took the precious money [the Pope snatched up the holy pence], and comforted them meanwhile with [led them to confidence in] his power and indulgence, and [then again led them away from that and] directed them again to their uncertain work.

28] If, now [although], there were some who did not believe [acknowledge] themselves guilty of such actual sins in [committed by] thoughts, words, and works,—as I, and such as I, in monasteries and chapters [fraternities or colleges of priests], wished to be monks and priests, and by fasting, watching, praying, saying Mass, coarse garments, and hard beds, etc., fought against [strove to resist] evil thoughts, and in full earnest and with force wanted to be holy, and yet the hereditary, inborn evil sometimes did in sleep what it is wont to do (as also St. Augustine and Jerome among others confess),—still each one held the other in esteem, so that some, according to our teaching, were regarded as holy, without sin and full of good works, so much so that with this mind we would communicate and sell our good works to others, as being superfluous to us for heaven. This is indeed true, and seals, letters, and instances [that this happened] are at hand.

29] [When there were such, I say,] These did not need repentance. For of what would they repent, since they had not indulged wicked thoughts? What would they confess [concerning words not uttered], since they had avoided words? For what should they render satisfaction, since they were so guiltless of any deed that they could even sell their superfluous righteousness to other poor sinners? Such saints were also the Pharisees and scribes in the time of Christ.

Finally there is Satisfactions, which must be done to merit the forgiveness.  However, no one knew how much satisfaction had to be done, as with contrition.  Thus you were directed to do some token satisfaction and the rest of remanded to Purgatory

This entire concept of satisfactions to merit forgiveness and time out of purgatory led to indulgences which then were warped to gain money for the pope and bishops.  The pope, to make more money, would concoct greater and greater indulgences and satisfactions. It even got to the point of mimicking the jubilee years of the Israelites (Leviticus 25).

All of this was in vain as people still doubted their salvation. They doubted that they had done enough or paid enough for indulgences to escape purgatory.  Thus additional works were heaped on.

To make matters worse some did think they had done enough, and had super abundant works.  They had become perfect in this life and thus the works they did could be applied to others.  Even though they still sinned, they hid their sins and showed only their goodness and righteousness.  Adding their merits to the treasury of merits under the pope. These high and mighty men did not need think they needed repentance, similar to the scribes and Pharisees of Christ’s own day (Matthew 23).

30] Here comes the fiery angel, St. John [Rev. 10], the true preacher of [true] repentance, and with one [thunderclap and] bolt hurls both [those selling and those buying works] on one heap, and says: Repent! Matt. 3:2. 31] Now, the former [the poor wretches] imagine: Why, we have repented! The latter [the..

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Trinity Three Sermon

June 17, 2018

“Father’s Day”

Luke 15:11-32

CLICK this link to listen to audio of this sermon.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.  Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.  ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’  ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32

Today is Father’s Day.  It is appropriate that we read and discuss this story Jesus told about a father and his two sons.

Last week it was my privilege to be interviewed on a radio program called Issues, Etc.  The topic was patriarchy.  The word patriarchy means the rule of fathers.  If you have ever run across this word, the chances are that it was used in a negative way.  Patriarchy is supposedly sexist, misogynistic, mean, abusive, and a few other bad things as well.  Those who attack patriarchy claim that only when we are rid of the distinctions between men and women, especially the outdated notion that a father is the head of the home, will we be free from abuse, repression, and inequality.

Now it is true that there are vicious and cruel patriarchies all over the world.  Wherever Islam has been imposed on a people, the women have suffered.  But the Christian teaching about patriarchy is shaped by the gospel.  The gospel of God’s undeserved kindness toward unworthy sinners is beautifully pictured for us in the story of the prodigal son.

The man has two sons.  The first son treats him with disdain.  He demands his inheritance.  Now you don’t get your inheritance until the one from whom you receive it is dead.  That’s the way it works.  So, when the son demands his inheritance it is as if he is telling his father to drop dead.  The young man wants his father’s wealth, but he doesn’t want his father.  And so it is with those who want the blessings God gives, but would rather run away from God than to run to him.  They inevitably abuse the gifts God gives them.

The boy’s wealth did not last long.  He lived to please himself and eventually found himself broke.  The only job he could find was as demeaning a job as there could be: to feed pigs, an unclean animal.  He was so desperate, so hungry, that he would gladly have eaten the pigs’ food.

Then he remembers.  He remembers his father.  This young man is a picture of a Christian who has fallen away from the faith and is on his road back to the faith.  He’s not quite there yet.  He recognizes his sin.  He knows he is to blame for the mess he made of his life and that he doesn’t deserve anything good from his father.  He resolves to confess his sin to his father.  He knows that his father is full of mercy.  That’s why he has the courage to return to him.  He knows his father will provide for his needs.  He rightly figures that his father’s servants are better off than he is, with plenty to eat.  What he doesn’t quite understand, however, is the depth of his father’s love.  He is willing to be a servant.  He will not claim the right of a son.  He is too ashamed to ask for it.

But look at his father’s love!  He sees him coming.  He’s been waiting for him.  He runs out to meet him.  He kisses him.  The son begins to make his confession.  He confesses his sin.  He confesses he is not worthy to be called his son.  But before he can ask to be made a servant – which was all he could have hoped for – his father treats him as a son.  He puts the best robe on him, a ring on his finger, and sandals for his feet, and kills the fattened calf to prepare a feast and throw a party to celebrate his lost son’s return.

This is the Father’s love.  If you are the sinner who has seen his own wretchedness, the depth of his guilt, and his utter unworthiness, this love is the most wonderful thing in the world.  You offended and despised your father.  You dismissed his law and scorned his teaching.  You traded off his love for selfish pleasures.  All you can offer him is your guilt and unworthiness.  What does he do?  He receives you back.  He doesn’t scold you.  He doesn’t put you on trial.  He doesn’t make you prove yourself worthy.  What a wonder!  Who can understand such a love?

The older son didn’t understand it.  He resented it.  He thought it was wrong.  He was angry.  He thought his father was unfair.  He won’t call his brother his brother.  His father refers to him as “your brother,” but the older son, speaking to his father, calls him “this son of yours.”  What is unfair?  The older son had been slaving away under the father’s authority and had been given nothing for his efforts, while the younger son had been living an irresponsible life of blatant disobedience to his father and he was being treated better!

The father’s appeal to the older son is an appeal to love.  Can’t you see?  Your brother was dead.  Now, he’s alive.  He was lost.  Now, he’s found.  How can we not celebrate when a sinner repents of his sin?

The older son despised God’s grace.  He saw it as license to sin.  He saw God’s law as a burden to be borne.  And he bore it.  He was living under the law; not under grace.  In a sense, both brothers were suffering from the same thing.  The younger brother left his father by disdaining his law and trampling it under foot.  He couldn’t get rid of the law, however.  It convicted him as guilty and unworthy.  The older brother looked at his obedience to the father’s law as the means of obtaining status in the family.  That left him embittered and disillusioned.  Those who reject God’s law, feed their flesh, and refuse to repent of their sin are outside of the father’s love.  Those who rely on their obedience to God’s law and slave away under it are likewise outside of the father’s love.  The father’s love is there where there is no repentance.  But no one can know this love or receive this love except through repentance.

Father’s Day could just be a way for merchants to make money selling stuff.  Or, we could regard it as an opportunity to reaffirm what a true, genuinely Christian, patriarchy is all about.  Obviously, if the father is the head of the home the children are required to obey him.  His wife, the mother of the children, is to submit to him.  In this way she teaches the children respect.  But if Christ, who is the father in this parable, is to teach us Christian fathers how to be fathers, we must listen to this story, paying close attention to the father’s behavior.  As we do, we learn three things that God would have us know about godly patriarchy.

First, the father doesn’t excuse the prodigal son’s sins.  Neither should we.  It isn’t fatherly love to excuse our children’s sins and to redefine sin so that our children will no longer be guilty of it.  Nowhere in this parable do you see a hint of the father condoning the younger son’s sinful conduct.  In fact, he said that this boy was dead.  He was lost.  That’s the father’s view of sin.

Second, the most important authority of the father is the authority of the gospel.  How was the prodigal restored as a son?  If he had had his way, he wouldn’t have been a son, but only a servant.  He was restored by the grace of the father.  The father covered up the son’s sins, not by excusing them, but by forgiving them.  He forgave without requiring any payment.  The Christian father looks to Jesus and sees him pay the payment for sin on the cross.  He shares that forgiveness with his family.  He insists that that forgiveness is the final word.

This brings us to the third lesson this story teaches us about Christian fatherhood.  Christian fathers teach their children to love each other.  We regard one another, not as servants under trial, or sinners to be judged, but as saints.  We were walking the walk to death and damnation.  Left to our own devises, we would be bound in the chains of sin and death.  But God saw our misery, had mercy on us, forgave us, drew us back to him, converted us, and honored us.  He put the best robe on us: the robe of Christ’s blood-bought righteousness.  This is how we treat one another.  A son or daughter of God is a brother and a sister.  Jesus says that what we do for one of the least of these, we do for him.

Christian patriarchy isn’t men bullying their wives and children.  It is Christian fathers imitating their Lord Jesus.  They teach their families to find rest and peace in his wounds.  Their homes are refuges for the lost.  Forgiveness is given freely.  It binds the family together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.

Amen.

Pastor Rolf Preus

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This is how and where God the Son “receives sinners and eats with them”—He pours out God the Holy Spirit in the ministry of His holy Christian Church to forgive them, and make them holy.  [Rev. Kurt Hering]

 

A READING FROM THE BOOK OF CONCORD
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
GOSPEL LESSON:  Luke 15:1–10
LARGE CATECHISM
PART 2: APOSTLES’ CREED ARTICLE III

54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.

55] Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.

56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. . . .

57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.

59] Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts.

 The text used here is from Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: German-Latin-English. These texts are in the public domain, can be found online @  http://bookofconcord.org, and may be freely copied.

 

 (You may download a letter size pdf file The Third Sunday after Trinity Bulletin Insert from this link.)

Rev. Kurt Hering’s objective is to make a connection between the “Gospel Text For The Day” (usually) and the Book of Concord in order to help pastors make connections for their parishoners that help them understand how the BoC sets forth the faith once delivered to us in Scripture for the life of the Church. The vast majority of Lutherans simply have never had that done for them, largely because a pastor only has so much time for a sermon and getting everything ready for Sunday in addition to his weekly work with Christ’s sheep.
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It is politically incorrect in our time for me to say with any certainty that the man is the head of the house. Far too often I hear the joke, “she wears the pants in this house,” or “no, she’s the boss.” On some matters, I understand (happy wife, happy life, right?), but as of late, as I reflect on past experiences in my mind, I have found it to be an excuse for men to be lazy and put aside their God-given responsibilities which are written into creation. God has given to men the headship of the family to lead it in the way it should go. With this sort of joking rhetoric, men are not taking seriously the curse given to women in the fall. Genesis 3: 16.  God cursed all women with a desire to rule over their husbands, thus making their godly and honorable submission to them severely more difficult and labored. What of god-fearing men? Has it become so light a thing to reenact the fall into sin? What good came of Adam’s silence as he stood next to his wife as the devil tempted her? He ignored his responsibilities from God and the word of God was supplanted in his heart by the word of the devil. 

Now, I do understand, being married myself, that there are things which women typically do better than men. I appeal to Ana’s judgement when the time is right and appropriate. There are many times when both of us should step aside from the person asking us a question in order to consult one another’s opinion on the matter. This publicly confesses before the world an image of a godly husband who tenderly listens to the desires and needs of his wife and a godly wife who humbly submits to her husband.  

In matters of faith, the father is incredibly influential, whether he leads toward God and His word or away from Him by his negligence of the word and godly-living. My young boys need to witness a father who takes seriously the responsibility to lead his family in the way of righteousness. They will have plenty of examples of fathers who have gone down the wide road which leads to hell. They will see all sorts of men who, because of selfishness, greed, and licentiousness, will fail to be the example of Christ to their families.  They will see men treating headship like rank tyranny. They will see and hear men speaking poorly about their wives and complaining about their marriages. Sadly, they will have friends with parents who are divorced; some, more than once. Christian fathers must fight against what will overwhelm our young men and women in the realm of headship. None of what they will see from the world should be found in their Christian father because Christ did not set out to abuse, physically or verbally, His bride the Church. Rather, He joined Himself to her into death, leaving His father and mother, in order to raise her up and present her as holy and blameless without spot or wrinkle. Read at length these words in Ephesians 5. What has been written here is also testified to by the Apostle Peter who wrote, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” 1 Peter 3:7.

So, when I write about headship, I am referring to that which all men must learn from Christ’s example.  This, to be clear, is not some sort of mutual submission. Jesus does not submit to the will of the Church (Oh, how problematic that would have been), but He leads the Church forth in holiness and righteousness. He speaks well of her before His Father.  Although her sins are many, he forgives them and covers them up. Any and all men who wish to serve the Lord in holiness, must submit not to their wives, but to God, the Father Almighty. In John 14, Jesus says to His disciples on the night when he was to be betrayed, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” When we hear in English, “keep”, I often find people believe it to mean obey. Certainly, Christ does tell us to obey His word, but here this word in Greek means to guard or watch over. To be the Head of the Household, the spiritual head of the family, requires a great work in devoting oneself to the study of the Word of God so that the whole family learns to guard it with their lives. No man who enters into marriage, whether young or old, can deny in good conscience that God demands of him to enter into faithful catechizing of his house. If a man refuses such, he should be admonished, lest he be allowed to despise the head of the Church, his living example, Jesus Christ. 

Blessed is the man who does catechize his family leading all in the way of truth. His wife is his quiver and his children are the arrows which fill it. The man’s quiver holds tightly to him, guarding and protecting the arrows at all times, keeping them sharp and ready for all attacks of the evil one. When it is time to go out to meet the enemy at the gate, the man who has readied his family with God’s Word goes out with confidence, for the Lord goes with him (Psalm 127). He knows whether he lives or dies, or whether his wife or children live or die, they are with the Lord. So start now and waste no more time. 

Handling the Word of Truth can be a little daunting. You may ask, “Where do I start?”  Martin Luther crafted the Large and Small Catechisms to be of aid to fathers and mothers, but most especially to fathers. In the Small Catechism, he begins each section with, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.” It is no mistake that Luther’s Small Catechism does not have “wife/husband” in the explanation of the First Article of the Creed. He leaves it “wife”.  He wrote it expecting husbands and fathers to be the instructors of the faith. He would begin with the primary texts, for example, the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and so on.  Then, when his children grew up (even as young as 3 and 5, like mine) they would begin to ask, “Daddy, what does this mean”, to which the father would give the faithful and cheerful answer, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures…. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children….” This is no mistake.  Luther wishes to set forth the godly example of headship even within the context of the Small Catechism. Now the journey of true and godly headship has begun, but it can go even further. 

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could reverse this negative view on godly headship of the man? Granted it won’t be easy to do in today’s hostile climate, but it begins in friendly conversations. Husbands, when other men are complaining about their wives don’t join them, but share the incredible nurturing nature of your wife who submits joyfully to you because of her faith in and reverence for Christ, the head of the Church. Tell them what fantastic work she does in teaching the children when you leave the house. Tell them you don’t fear that they will be led astray in your absence. Wives, when you are gathered around your friends who are tearing down their husbands, tell them how tender and compassionate your husband is toward you and the children. Explain to them how he listens to you and, then, proceeds to make decisions which he believes are best for the whole household. Together, work toward the common goal of making these things easy to say because they are the reality of your marriage. Most importantly confess your sins and failures to one another. Then, give to the other the forgiveness of Christ so that sins may be covered and only blamelessness may be seen by all. 

If what I have written seems unattainable for your marriage, do not lose hope. Read the Word.  Then, go and confess your sins to your spouse. Show your spouse by Scripture where you have failed in your duty. Then, show your spouse her sins. If she repents, your marriage will only be strengthened in Christ who covers your sins by His blood. Should she not repent, then it is time to seek out your pastor together. Remain hopeful in and through all difficulties, praying to the Lord for strength, wisdom, and council, knowing that the Lord is at work through the word to lead all men to the knowledge of truth.   

Though I have not desired to take up the responsibilities of women in this article, I wish to say this much. When a man has failed in his responsibility, his wife should hold him accountable. Until such a time when he will resume his responsibilities, she should, in his stead, faithfully teach her children, just as she would do when he leaves the house for work or travel. In this way, the children are not left without the hope of salvation. As it says in 1 Timothy 2, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” A faithful woman will continue to teach her children, even if her husband has failed in his duty. 

Finally, husbands, treasure your godly wife. Always remind her of the gift which she is to you from God. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12.

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