30 June 2022
29 June 2022
Therefore, those who are unable to lead a single life ought to marry. No human law, no vow, can destroy God’s commandment and ordinance. For these reasons the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.—AC XXIII:7-9
*Fitting upon the Festival of Sts. Peter and Paul. St. Peter was regarded as the first bishop of Rome, and we know for a certainty from Scripture that he was married and that his wife travelled with him. When a human tradition clashes with the Sacred Scriptures…so much the worse for the human tradition! The Church is bound to what the Word reveals.
28 June 2022
27 June 2022
26 June 2022
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
God sings over his beloved children a lullaby (albeit a loud one) to comfort their hearts. And so Christians have ever taken up the same method of singing to comfort to one other in the spirit of St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” The hymns we look at today fall into an old category that has disappeared from our modern hymnals but that used to be called hymns of “cross and comfort.”
Our first hymn just so happens to be my favorite. My wife knows that she has to have this sung at my funeral, and so as not to forget that, she had its opening line tattooed upon her back! Well, okay, it just might also be her favorite hymn too. How many of you find #708 is your favorite hymn too? Raise your hands. Excellent. The rest of you are wrong. Repent.
#708 Lord, Thee I Love
Sigh. We can all go home now, right? Come, Lord Jesus! Our next hymn was written by Catherina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (d. 1768) and is also a meditation upon a psalm, this time the Reformation Psalm, 46, specifically verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.” So here the Christian speaks to her heart the sweet promises of God: that God is for us unchangeably. That He knows what’s up with the twists and turns of our earthly pilgrimage and we can trust His leading. That He is the comfort in the face of the departure of dearest friends and family. That at the end, we will be forever with the Lord. The tune is Sibelius’ profoundly moving Finlandia.
#752 Be Still, My Soul
Whenever I think of our next hymn, I think of an Advent sermon of Dr. Luther’s in which he said: “It is well with a man who belongs to an eternal kingdom. He can dance through life forevermore.” That sentiment is captured perfect by Cantor Johann Lindemann (d. 1631) in his marvelous “In Thee Is Gladness.” You see, in Jesus, the Christian will always have a reason for joy, even “amid all sadness” and so we join in all heaven’s rejoicing. And, by the way, I challenge you to keep your feet from moving and your body from swaying as you join in Giovanni Gastoldi’s jaunty tune. You’re going to end up dancing, I know you are. How could you not? You too belong to an eternal kingdom!
#818 In Thee Is Gladness
Told you; you ended up dancing, didn’t you? Next up is a very different flavor of comfort. It comes to us from the pen of the immortal Paul Gerhardt, another Lutheran pastor who ended up knowing quite a bit about suffering and cross-bearing. He lived through the ravages of the 30 years war; he, like Schalling, lost his parish in Berlin because he would not swerve from his ordination vows, he ended up burying his beloved wife as well as four of his five children. Yet from this man like from none other rose up a body of hymnody of a quality that still astounds even centuries later. Of his 134 German hymns, 29 are hymns of cross and comfort, and this perhaps the greatest in that collection. I should note that with all the sorrows, he was blessed to have a great working relationship with two outstanding musicians: first, Johann Crüger and then, Johann Ebeling. This tune is by the latter.
#756 Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me
Well as you just sang: “for I am His dear lamb” and the next hymn will rejoice in that beautiful imagery. It’s one of several English paraphrases of Psalm 23, which is THE psalm that Christians have sung to themselves and to each other through many valley of the shadow of death. This paraphrase is by Henry W. Baker (d. 1877), an Anglican clergyman, and he was the driving force behind the very famous Anglican hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern. Of this setting, another famous Anglican priest, John Ellerton noted, that this really is the best of the paraphrase of the psalm. And it even captures a little bit of the LXX or Vulgate translation of the Psalm with “Your cup of inebriation; how pleasant it is” coming through with “and oh, what transport of delight from Thy pure chalice floweth.”
#709 The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Divine comfort indeed. Now for a contemporary hymn of cross and comfort, written by Joyce Anstruther (though her published name is Jan Struther, d. 1953). She actually started with the Irish melody SLANE and wrote the words to fit, by imaging how they’d impact a child sitting in the pew. It is a child’s comfort that rings through this that runs through the day as an image of our life, our earthly pilgrimage, which has its dawn, its day, its evening, and its sleeping.
#738 Lord of All Hopefulness
I’ll not forget the day that Stormy Greer walked into my office with that look on his face. I was pastor of a small parish at the time, and Stormy’s family was one of our cornerstones, his wife was also my organist. And he began by saying: “What God ordains is always good.” You see, they were moving and we were going to lose them and it would be very hard on our whole parish family. That Stormy turned immediately to this hymn and rattled off its opening lines shows how deeply Samuel Rodigast’s words sink in. He had written it originally for a friend whom he thought God was taking away with serious illness, but the ailing musician improved and actually wrote the tune for this text upon his sickbed. How amazing is that? Pachelbel’s partita on this tune is one that I look forward to hearing every year at our parish, and Gunter Stiller claims that Bach used this hymn in his Cantatas more than any other. Let’s stand and belt it out to our good and gracious Lord God!
#760 What God Ordains Is Always Good
“This is my comfort in my affliction; your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50. A huge thank you to Professor Jonathan Kohrs for his leadership on the organ and to Pastor Leonard Payton for the fine work upon the piano. Let’s give them a nice round of applause!
Sermon #1,555: St. Luke 14:15-24 (Historic Gospel)
6-26-22, Trinity 2, Hope-Leander TX
“INVITED BY THE GOSPEL”
Sermon Text, St. Luke 14:15-24 (v. 16-17). 16 [Jesus] said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 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.’ ”
Lord, this is Your Word and these are Your words. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. By Your Word of truth, lead us on the way of truth to be eager to sit at Your feast of salvation, Make us eager to invite others, and bring them too. Amen!
Dear people loved by God in Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This week the big news was that the Supreme Court decision was announced, overturning Roe v. Wade. It cancelled the so-called constitutional legality of abortion. But there was a reaction that was heartbreaking to see: people threatening violence and shouting in favor of keeping the “right” to kill the weakest and littlest. A deafening chorus of angry people, effectively saying to children in the womb: “We don’t want you.”
How opposite of that is what we see from Jesus in this parable. The words Jesus puts in the mouth of the master, who represents God, are about how He wants everyone. Not just the ones who have it all together, but the downtrodden and the ones who are nothing but trouble, “the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” He wants them too. He wants everyone.
That’s what it means to be invited: to be wanted. All through this parable the master is inviting.
Jesus says he “invited many.” The word for invited here is actually “called.” The first thing we learn about the Holy Spirit in the catechism is that “He has called me by the gospel.” When God calls you, He’s just inviting you. It means He wants you. The Gospel is the way you know that He wants you. So He makes sure you hear this loud and clear, that you are wanted,
Invited, By the Gospel
I. His invitation can be rejected. Jesus’ parable starts out as an answer to this man at the table who says, rather smugly: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” He seems to be expecting a pat on the back from Jesus. Instead Jesus tells this parable which is a warning. A warning not to reject the invitation and lose the kingdom.
Jesus seems to be implying that this man is in danger of rejecting the invitation. Which seems odd because he’s there at the table with Jesus. But if you think that “accepting” the invitation is something you get credit for, then it isn’t grace, which means it isn’t true saving faith. That would be rejecting God’s gift. Jesus isn’t being hard on the man. He tells this parable because He cares about him. He cares about you too.
So, the invitation. Jesus says: “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.” Actually He says the man “made” this great supper, prepared it, and tells his servant to tell the “many” who are invited that “everything is now ready.” This is Jesus’ first point, the preparing. It’s about the salvation God’s prepared. The Father so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Christ came down from heaven and did all the work to save us. Then the Holy Spirit does His part: to call (invite) people by the Gospel, by Word and Sacrament. The standard ELS invitation to the Lord’s Supper is for the pastor to say this verse from Jesus’ parable: “Come, for all things are ready.”
So this is all beautiful, the careful preparing of our salvation, but then in Jesus’ story we see a sad result. All we hear are excuses. One doesn’t come for this reason, one doesn’t come for that reason. Now, we get exasperated with these people, but the truth is it’s exactly how we are, how we are by nature.
If you find this hard to believe, if you love to come to church, you love Jesus and His Word, you think it’s just natural. But it isn’t. The fact that you feel this way is a sign that the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding you, that He has success in changing and melting your stubborn heart. But if you get bored with God’s Word, if you find other things to do, if you get embarrassed by the Bible’s teaching, if you lose patience with people, make excuses – that’s how we naturally are!
We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus or come to Him. All we are able to do is reject the invitation. What we’re good at is excuse-making! Now, this frustrates us about ourselves and it frustrates us when we see it in others.
Because this frustrates us, we’re tempted to use the Law to overcome it. God’s way of invitation seems weak. So for some people even a religion like Islam or Mormonism looks attractive at this point, at least some elements of it. Because these religions use threat and guilt and force to produce godliness. Their results look better. But it’s only outward righteousness. It doesn’t produce confidence before God, or give peace.
But we’re tired of the excuses people make, we’re tired of the excuses we make, we’re tired of shoddy Christianity. So we turn to the Law. We guilt others, we guilt ourselves, into better behavior. We look to what we do. Where we are lacking, we depend on our determination to do better. See how the devil gets you to force your way into God’s kingdom, not to be content with God’s inviting. He makes a new god for you: your own obedience. But in the end, we’re fooling ourselves. Your works of the Law aren’t the way in; they would leave you outside. But now for the truth that does comfort:
II. His invitation is His declaration that He wants you. This is the Gospel. It’s the only way He brings people in, keeps us in.
The part of Jesus’ story where this comes out is when the master sends His servant to “bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” These are people who can’t bring themselves. They’re helpless. That’s how we are, Jesus is saying. It’s consistent with the rest of Scripture that teaches that you are totally unable by your own ability, reason, or strength to come to faith in Jesus or even to keep and hold onto this faith.
Now for the big finish: We hear the master say: “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in.”
Now this sounds wrong. Dragging them in, it sounds like forcing, exactly what God doesn’t do! But it isn’t an outward forcing, like dragging someone to church. It isn’t the work of the Law that does this. Jesus is here describing the power of the Gospel. That’s what the invitation is: only gospel. The message of the Law, of obedience to the commandments, can never bring someone into the kingdom. It can only prepare you to hear the Gospel. Only the Gospel can convert someone, and it isn’t a message of anger but purely a message of God’s love.
But the Gospel is not just magic, as if you just speak it and all this will happen. The Gospel has power, but it is the power of God to bring salvation. God is involved. The Holy Spirit is a hard worker. So this “compelling” is the hard work of speaking the Word to a heart that doesn’t want to hear it.
It’s the work of “forcing the sins into the conscience” (Luther: Church Postil), so that you’re forced to acknowledge your sins, and your conscience is weighed down and burdened and finding no peace, and all this is so that you are ready to hear that there is a Savior for you, Christ who has done it all, paid it all, to free you from your sin, to lift your load, to forgive it all!
You never would believe it. You never could believe it. But Christ looks at you in your sins and through His called servant He says He wants you. You! He invites you to be with Him. His invitation is something that He brings you to accept. It’s grace!
The Gospel that you hear is Jesus inviting you. All the time. That’s what life in His kingdom is: always being invited. There is no time when He’s not inviting you. In Your baptism He invited you,so each time we begin “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the baptism words, it’s a sign that He’s inviting you, He wants you, you’re His child.
When you hear His Word, hear what He your Savior did, He did it for you! He’s inviting you as you read or hear His Word.
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ words “This is My body …” etc., certainly do something to the elements; through the words the bread is now also His body and the wine is His blood. But His words of institution also do something to you, and I love how speaking the words behind this altar, facing the congregation, it’s obvious that as you hear “this is My body given for you … this is My blood shed for you for the remission of sins,” Jesus, who is speaking in the Lord’s Supper, is inviting you.
He’s always inviting you. So this is how to think of yourself: you are “the invited one.” You are one who is wanted, by God! This is really how heaven sees you. This parable is showing us a preview of heaven, which Scripture pictures as a great supper, where we’ll see all the people He’s invited and brought in.
This teaches us to see everyone else as “an invited one.” Not as people who are better or worse than you. Not as people who irritate you or who are irritated by you. That’s all gone, see, if we all are invited, wanted, by Him!
He calls you to see the other person as one invited by Him, one to whom He speaks the Gospel, which removes sin. His invitation is not for you alone, to remove your sin. It also removes everything that stands between you and others. His invitation calls you to not give up on anyone, but emblazoned on them you are to see: “Invited!” Which is emblazoned on you. You are the same. We are united. By His invitation. All, together, wanted by Him. Amen!
25 June 2022
Just as the earth puckered its mouth,
each bud puffing out from its knot,
I changed my shoes, and then drove south.
Up past the Blue Mountains, where
Pennsylvania humps on endlessly,
wearing, like a crayoned cat, its green hair,
its roads sunken in like a gray washboard;
where, in truth, the ground cracks evilly,
a dark socket from which the coal has poured,
Somebody who should have been born
the grass as bristly and stout as chives,
and me wondering when the ground would break,
and me wondering how anything fragile survives;
up in Pennsylvania, I met a little man,
not Rumpelstiltskin, at all, at all…
he took the fullness that love began.
Returning north, even the sky grew thin
like a high window looking nowhere.
The road was as flat as a sheet of tin.
Somebody who should have been born
Yes, woman, such logic will lead
to loss without death. Or say what you meant,
you coward…this baby that I bleed.
24 June 2022
Our churches teach that although God creates and preserves nature, the cause of sin is located in the will of the wicked, that is, the devil and ungodly people. Without God’s help, this will turns itself away from God, as Christ says, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character.”—AC XIX
23 June 2022
21 June 2022
20 June 2022
16 June 2022
15 June 2022
14 June 2022
13 June 2022
11 June 2022
10 June 2022
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
And so it seems to me that the art of living gracefully is to learn gratitude toward God for the gifts given and then taken, for the memories created and cherished, for the moments which in retrospect shine with a heavenly happiness that we may not even have heeded as they transpired. C. S. Lewis in his space trilogy notes how prone we are to destroy a present joy because it is not the joy we had anticipated or expected. “The fruit you are eating is always the best fruit.” Rather than moaning that the apple tastes not like the orange I had anticipated, I must learn to savor the apple for what it is, for it is also a gift, for which I can bless God.
O Lord God, help us to see all as gift. Help us to become habituated to all the deaths of life and to the death when You shall even take away our breath. Fill us all with gratitude for each undeserved joy. Help us to fearlessly clasp your hand, and walk with You the road to home with gratitude for all You give and for all You take away, but above all for all that awaits us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[Of the Schwenkfeldians]: The ministry of the Church—the Word preached and heard—is not a means by which the Holy Spirit teaches people and works in them saving knowledge of Christ, conversion, repentance, faith, and new obedience.—FC XII:30
09 June 2022
08 June 2022
07 June 2022
06 June 2022
05 June 2022
03 June 2022
02 June 2022
Few receive the Word and follow it. Most despise the Word and will not come to the wedding. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God’s foreknowledge, but the perverse human will. The human will rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Spirit, which God offers it through the call. It resists the Holy Spirit who wants to be effective, and who works through the Word, as Christ says, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under wings, but you would not!”—FC SD XI:41