Sermon for March 26 2017 The Third Article p.322

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the

forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in

Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel,

enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on

earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all

believers.

On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all

believers in Christ.

This is most certainly true.

 

Last week we discussed how the Christian faith confesses that Salvation is by Christ alone.  This truth is further addressed in the third article of the creed on which we meditate today; not only how we are saved, but how we are converted and brought into the Christian faith.

 

For some people the third article would seem almost like an addendum, or a post script, just something that the early Christians added on to round out the creed.  But as we look deeper into the third article we realize the profound nature of what it is we confess in these words.

 

Luther builds a bridge in his explanation of the second and third articles as he says, I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.  This is what we discussed last week, that we cannot make any decision or do any work on our part to have saving faith in Jesus.  If then we can do nothing either to save ourselves or accept that salvation, how then does that salvation come to us?  Luther explains, “but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith”

 

But the calling of the Holy Spirit is not like a mother calling a child in for dinner.  The calling of the Holy Spirit by the Gospel  is effectual in itself.  The Holy Spirit through the Gospel of God convicts and repents the unbeliever, turning him or her away from sin and to Christ.  St. Paul addresses this in his letter to the Romans saying, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? and “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Thus it is through the effective word of God that the Holy Spirit creates faith in the individual.

 

Having called you by the Gospel, having created in you saving faith, the Holy Spirit also lavishes upon you all of the tremendous gifts that come with being a child of God, he sanctifies you (indeed makes you holy), and keeps you in the faith. Quite literally the Holy Spirit makes you holy through the fellowship of the church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.    That’s a lot to think about isn’t it.  To put it simply, through the word of God, the Holy Spirit calls you into the fellowship of believers, placing you square in the church’s lap, “where he preaches to you and brings you to Christ.”

You see the church is a unique community in our world.  She is rightly understood as mother church, bride of Christ, in whom believers are born and nurtured.  This church like any family has its own language, customs, and personality.  Therefore when a “church” deviates from this language, customs, and personality of mother church it must be called back to her as a wayward child.

 

It is in mother church that the holy spirit enlightens you with his gifts.  Within the church the believer is taught by God’s Word, cleansed in Holy Baptism, nourished in the Lord’s Supper, and admonished, encouraged, and supported, by brother and sister.  Hmm…sounds like a community or family to me.

 

Therefore it is only in the church that the Holy Spirit does these things.  As Lutherans have confessed for 500 years, “the church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.”  Thus we do not receive forgiveness of sins at the campground or on the golf course, or just by “feeling it in my heart”, but from Christ through the mouth of the pastor.  We are not washed clean of our sin at the pool or in our bathtub, but only in the font where through water and word Jesus saves us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. We do not truly eat and drink the Lord’s supper anywhere but only where it is done according to Christ’s command.

 

Though we are part of Christ’s church, and though we are righteous in God’s sight, we are nevertheless, still sinners.  Though we are made holy, we do not live holy lives.  Luther writes, “now, however, we remain only halfway pure and holy.  The Holy Spirit must always work in us through Word, granting us daily forgiveness until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness.”  Thus the Holy Spirit must daily remind us of our baptism, regularly teach us and enlighten us through God’s Word, regularly feed us in the Holy Supper, that we may be strengthened and preserved in the true faith unto life everlasting.  As this happens our community, our fellowship, our love of our brothers and sisters in Christ grows.  Think of the family that regularly eats supper together or the family that only sees one another as they pass going to the next activity.  Therefore as the church gathers around God’s Word, her members worshiping together, and serving each other, she sees a true community of saints.

 

This community is simply a foretaste of the community of saints in eternity.  There we will see the enduring result of those whom the Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified, as we confessed, “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  Here we confess, that “On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”  This is not some T.V. type heaven with spirits floating on clouds, or winged people standing and singing how great thou art.  We confess in this creed that on the last day Jesus will come and raise all of the dead, believers and unbelievers, that all will be raised not as spirits but in the flesh, and that all believers will enter everlasting life, not as angels, but as people, the crown of God’s creation.

 

Beloved in Christ, the Apostle’s creed is not just a statement of what we believe nor is it just something which we drone in church twice a month, “These three articles of the Creed, therefore, separate and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth…because we see here in the creed how God gives himself completely to us, with all his gifts and power…” Amen!

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Sermon for March 19 2017 The Second Article p.322

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was

buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended

into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will

come to judge the living and the dead.

 

What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from

eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

 

There are many “-isms” in the Christian world today that address salvation.  Pelagianism, named after a heretical priest in the early church, teaches that you can be saved by simply being a good person, you can on your own keep all of God’s commandments.  This is the common belief of many Christians and non-christians alike.  Semi-pelagianism, very common in many Christian churches teaches that by some action on your part you have to get the salvation ball rolling and then God will finish it up.  Synergism, the predominant view in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, is that God does the initial saving in Jesus, but you have to live rightly to earn your salvation.  Notice that each of these “isms” puts some or all of the onus for your salvation, on you.  There is one “ism” however, that is only about Jesus; Monergism, literally holds that the grace of God is the only efficient cause in beginning and effecting salvation.  In other words, Almighty God is the sole source and cause of the salvation of the individual.  It is this “ism” that we confess in the Apostle’s creed that we meditate on this morning, as well as the Nicene Creed which we will speak together later.

 

As we read the second article of the creed together a brief moment ago, did you notice where YOU were mentioned?  No?  The reason is quite simple, just as the first article confessed the merciful, creative act of the Father FOR YOU, the second article confesses the merciful , re-creative act of the Son FOR YOU.  So important is this absolute truth, that Martin Luther called it the Article of Faith on which the church must stand or fall.  It was this article of faith, whether or not Jesus’ death was sufficient for your salvation, that was the spark that ignited the reformation which we celebrate this year.

 

With all of this in mind, Luther explains this very important article of the creed like this, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

 

Luther’s explanation helps us to understand what St. Paul was describing in his letters to the Ephesians

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But[b] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”

 

and Colossians

 

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. “

 

You see, in our confession of Jesus as our redeemer, we confess that we are in need of redemption.  If we could play any role in our salvation, from doing works to making a decision for Jesus, then Jesus efforts would not be enough.  Instead Jesus has purchased and won you.  Jesus has paid the price fully for you.  Jesus has suffered and died FOR YOU.  Jesus was raised for YOU.  Jesus descended into hell and proclaimed his victory FOR YOU.  All of this, Jesus did FOR YOU, that that YOU may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. You are the passive recipient!

 

Now, here this morning Jesus has more FOR YOU.  Here this morning Jesus gives himself FOR YOU once again.  He will say to you Take, Eat, this is my body given FOR YOU; Take, drink, this is my blood, shed FOR YOU, for the forgiveness of sins.

 

So let’s review our isms again.  Is this Pelagianism, where you can fulfill God’s commands, good enough to earn heaven?  Is this Semi-pelagianism, where you get the ball rolling and Jesus will clean up behind you?  Is this Synergism, where God gives you a generous push and you are expected to finish it off?  No!  Beloved in Christ, our confession, our creed, shouts to us Monergism, God himself as the only efficient cause in beginning and effecting salvation.  Jesus himself, given FOR YOU, to redeem you, a lost and condemned person.

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Sermon for March 12 2017 The First Article p.322

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given

me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still

takes care of them.

He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children,

land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support

this body and life.

He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

 

As I pastor, I hear it a lot when speaking to people of other denominations, “Deeds, not creeds”.  The idea is that this doctrine stuff, this stuff about what we believe is irrelevant in comparison with what we do in our world.  This mindset, while common, is not biblical, nor it is Christian.  Creed, from the Latin Credo meaning “I believe” is a statement of what God’s church believes about him.  Over the centuries, the Christian church has engaged several creeds, many of which were developed, such as the Nicene Creed we use on communion Sundays, and the Athanasian creed that we use on Holy Trinity Sunday, to combat and overcome false teaching about the true God.

 

From the time of God’s choosing the Israelites to be his people, Jews have confessed the “creed” called the Shema “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Such a creed not only set the foundation for the Apostle’s Creed on which we meditate today, it also is echoed in the First article of the creed which we just confessed; I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  For the last 2000 years, these words have been spoken by Christians.  In the early centuries, however, these words seemed to have more meaning for the church. Catechumens; learners of the Christian faith, were not permitted to even speak these words in the service until they had been thoroughly catechized/taught, just what they mean.  This was very important because as the Christian church grew a far greater percentage of her members came from pagan religions whose “creation” myths were embarrassingly complex and convoluted in comparison with the simple truth of God’s word.  This, with the very real chance of persecution and dying for the faith, may understanding and confessing the Scriptural truth of God as creator even more imperative enabling the new believer both to confess Almighty God before fellow believers and also persecutors, and also to stand firm in the hope of God even in the face of death.

 

Yet as important as this creed was for the early church, it is of far greater import for the church today, for the attacks on the faith, while not often physical, are no less insidious or dangerous. From the advent of Mr. Darwin, and the Rationalist movement, we are now encouraged, in fact taught, to disregard the bible, especially the book of Genesis, as mythological mumbo jumbo.  Instead, our faith is to be replaced by a different faith in evolution; the idea that humans evolved from dim-witted primates. Yet, based upon the evidence that we can see in our daily lives, and on internet fails, we can easily see that there has been no change, humans are still dim-witted, and in fact we may actually be regressing instead of pro-gressing!

Yet, if we deny Almighty God as our creator, and deny the scriptural account of creation as truth, we are left in limbo regarding not only scripture but also salvation!  How can we have faith in a god who would lie to his people about their origin?  How can we depend upon a god so weak that He is unable to do what he claims?  So our confession, our creed, our “I believe”, is in the True, Triune God, who made both the heavens and the earth.

 

Believing not only in the faithfulness of Almighty God, and His Word, we can better understand the meaning of this article as presented by Dr. Luther, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.

 

Notice here that Luther demonstrates that the father not only has made you, you whom he foreknew before the foundation of the world, he also cares for you.  “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

 

We might be likely to doubt this as we look at our aging bodies, our dwindling bank accounts, and the like, yet Luther encourages us to consider all that our Lord provides for us.  Notice also how similar this is to Luther’s explanation of the 9th & 10th commandments on which we meditate two weeks ago.

 

As if this were not enough, our creator God also, “defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”  Beloved in Christ, there is no other religion that can say this creed.  None.  Every other religion understands its god or gods to trade favours, to give blessings only in return for receiving blessings.  Jesus, however, describes the true God this way, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  There is no merit or worthiness that can earn God’s blessings, if that were so, boy wouldn’t that make it easy to tell who was a Christian!

 

It is at this part of the explanation that Luther’s words about our creator take on a whole new understanding.  For the father defends me against all danger and guards and protexts me from all evil.  Here Luther is not simply discussing an angry neighbour or a blown tire.  Luther is speaking of the Evil one.  Even as the Father made the heaven and earth, through His Word, Jesus, by whom all things were made, so also the father re-creates, indeed makes all things new, through His Word Jesus.  Where Satan was victorious in the garden of eden, by means of a tree, his temptation leading to sin which condemned all of creation, the Father sent Jesus to be victorious in garden, by means of a tree, where Jesus, condemned and cursed in your place, hung on a tree, overcame the evil one.  Through his death, the old is gone.  Through Jesus resurrection the new has come.  You now are in Jesus a new creation, forgiven, redeemed, and restored.  Because of this the father continues to defend you against all spiritual danger and protects you from the evil one here today.  As Adam was overcome and defeated by eating, so also you overcome and are protect through eating, not some unknown fruit, but the very body and blood, given and shed for you.  In this way you are strengthened and preserved in the true faith.

 

Finally, this very truth informs the truth confessed in the earlier parts of the explanation. For while Almighty God has given you your body and soul, etc, on the last day, he will give you a glorified body reunited with your soul which he will care for eternally.  As he gives you clothing, etc.  He has already given you the robe of righteousness, a faithful spouse in Jesus, glorious food and drink in the marriage feast of the lamb and an eternal abode.  These he will richly provide eternally.

 

Beloved in Christ, in contrast with our Christian friends, it’s not “Deeds, not creeds”, but rather “Creeds, about God’s deeds.” For this doctrine stuff, this stuff about what we believe is not irrelevant, but the very foundation of all we are and do in our world.   Let us then with one voice confess before God and man the Apostle’s creed…

 

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Sermon for March 5 2017 Close of the Commandments

The Close of the Commandments

What does God say about all these commandments? He says: “I, the Lord your God, am a

jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation

of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and

keep My commandments.” [Ex. 20:5–6]

What does this mean? God threatens to punish all who break these commandments.

Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace

and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and

trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.

The Close of the Commandments.  This isn’t really the close of the commandments, yet Luther uses these verses as a summary of them for an important reason.  These are always what’s left out on those cutsy 10 Commandment nick-nacks that we love to buy and set in our living rooms.  Though after our recent meditations on those same commandments we might not find them so cute and nick-nacky.  While giving his people his commandments which proscribe how they are to live, and describe who they are as God’s people, he includes this in his the first commandment, ““I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

 

We aren’t used to hearing such things from God.  Many people still consider God little more than a wise old man, or a Nicholas Sparks type of boyfriend.  To hear God describe himself as jealous is hard for us to hear and difficult to believe.  Yet if we consider again our meditation of the Lord’s commands perhaps His words will seem easier to understand.  You see ANY violation of any commandment of God is always also a violation of the First Commandment You shall have no other god’s.  Any thought word or deed on our part that in anyway deviates from God’s will shows that we fear love and trust in something other than God himself.  Perhaps this is the reason why God uses such intimate terms in describing his relationship with his people.  He calls believers His bride, and accuses Israel again and again of adultery and fornication with other gods. Perhaps now we can better understand the reality of God’s jealousy.  Our sin, our violation of God’s commands is equated to having intimate relations with someone other than our husband; certainly a cause for jealousy is it not?

 

Yet God not only reveals his jealous but his punishment for a wayward bride, “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me…” Luther explains it this way, “God threatens to punish all who break these commandments.”  Again doesn’t seem much like the wizened old man or the Jesus is my boyfriend idea does it? Now perhaps what really offends us however in God’s words are that he would punish the children for the sins of the fathers. This doesn’t seem right does it?  But God is not punishing innocent children for the sins of others, rather he is showing that the sin and adultery of the parents against God will be passed down to their children and they too will suffer.  Therefore those who fail to pray for their children, bring them to ongoing instruction and nurture in the Christian faith, and encourage them toward the faithful reception of the Lord’s supper virtually condemn their children to hell.  For this reason Luther writes, “Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them.”

Yet the Lord also says, “but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and

keep My commandments.” Of this Luther writes, “But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.”  I don’t know pastor, this sounds a little works righteous doesn’t it?  Nope!  Not at all.  We must consider these words in light of what has already taken place.  St. Paul reminds us that as Christ’s church, we are his very bride, saying, “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  You see as a Christian, you are already God’s bride, he has made you his own, for he purchased you upon the cross, paying for your sins of adultery and idolatry, your violations of his every commandment, with his own very body and blood.  It is in this death, that you were baptized, cleans by washing with water through the word.  As Christ’s bride then, his holy commands, are a description now of who you are in him.  You see Jesus kept the law perfectly in your stead, paid for your failure to do so, and has given to you his righteousness, so that the father now looks at you as one who also has kept the law perfectly.  Therefore, he desires you to live what you already are, to live as one who has kept the law because in Jesus you have already done so.

 

Now you might say, but pastor, you always tell us that we can’t keep them perfectly, now you’re telling us that we have too?! Not at all.  Your lord knows that the old Adam still rebels and cannot, indeed WILL NOT keep God’s holy commands.  Yet because of Jesus keeping of the law, because of his blood shed for you, he desires you to live in what he has already done and therefore forgives you for every instance when you fail.  Still confused?  Perhaps St. Paul might explain it better, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

 

Beloved in Christ, the 10 commandments are not cutsy nick-nacks to be bought and set in our living rooms.  They indeed proscribe how you are to live, but more importantly they describe who you are as God’s people. He does not give them to you for your harm, but that he might show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.” For you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them. Amen!

 

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Sermon for February 26 2017 Transfiguration Ninth and Tenth Commandments p. 322

The Ninth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our

neighbour’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be

of service to him in keeping it.

The Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox

or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away

our neighbour’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and

do their duty.

Covet is one of those words which is rarely used today.  Webster’s Dictionary defines it as to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably. The Hebrew word here indicates desire in bad sense of inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire, of lustful desire

Therefore we can see that coveting is far more than admiration or appreciation what another person has; coveting is more like a lusting after that person or thing to the extent that you might actually do something about it. Perhaps the most well known example of such coveting is King David, who coveted Uriah’s wife so intensely that not only did he commit adultery with her, he eventually had Uriah killed to cover up his sin.  To a large extent, this intense level of coveting is definitely something which occurs quite regularly in our world today isn’t it?  In Jesus day, it was not unheard of for a man to take an interest in another man’s wife and try to lure her away from her husband.  If he was successful, divorce was so easy he could simply tell his wife he was divorcing her and take the new woman as his wife.  In much the same way this occurs in our “enlightened” era with little more than a “how do you do.” Businesses do the very same thing as they scheme to steal employees from their competitors.  There are times when unscrupulous government officials and business will purposely devalue a property in order to procure a choice property and a much lower price.  Perhaps we ourselves have done such things hoping to gain for ourselves what rightly belongs to our neighbour.

Luther’s explanation addresses these things leaving us little wriggle room in our behaviour, yet he also points us to what we are to do, and how we are to do it.  The phrases, “but help and be

of service to him in keeping it.” And  “but urge them to stay and do their duty.” Require us to curb our old Adam to repent of our covetous desires and instead to assist our neighbour in caring for and increasing what he has.  Integral to this is contentment in what we have been given by God.  When we recognize that our house, spouse, children and all our possessions are from God, that he has given them to us both for our benefit and theirs, we recognize that the grass only looks greener on the other side of the fence because we have turned away from the lush acreage around us. Therefore when we instead look and see the tremendous blessings our Lord has given us, though they may not seem to meet our standards, we see that their value and worth far exceed that which we would covet.

 

This recognition then leads us to help our neighbour appreciate those same blessings given to him or her by our Lord.  For when our neighbour covets that which the Lord has given another we are called to point out to him or her those blessings which he already possesses.  If the Lord has not yet granted him or her those particular blessings it is our privilege to encourage him or her to seek that which the Lord would give and not to work to take from another.  It also requires that when presented the opportunity we should help our neighbour to strengthen what is already there.  Is his marriage struggling then we are to do what we are able to help not harm the marriage.  Is she struggling to keep up with her house payments?  We are called, within our intellectual or financial means to assist her in retaining her house.  Is our competitor not recognizing a gifted employee?  We are to alert him to this failure that his business may thrive and his employee receive her just due.

 

Even within the church we face these struggles do we not?  One church may look at another, at the members that belong and perhaps suggest that they come to the first church, because their worship is cooler, their message more relevant, and their donuts are tastier, seeking to take our neighbours beloved lamb away.  Once church may look at another and covet the large building, the massive budget, and the full parking lot, and abandon its solid teaching in order to achieve what her neighbour has.

 

But you dear beloved, your Lord has granted you more than a full parking lot, dollars, and donuts.  Your Lord has granted you forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He has given you his own Holy Word and His Holy Sacraments, by which he forgives you and strengthens you, and grants you grace of greater value than all of our worldly desires.  These he gives to you, because the Lord your God is a jealous God.  He has called you to be his own, and he seeks to preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting.  He purchased you by the blood of Jesus shed upon the cross and he forgives you all of your sins.  In the same way your Lord then seeks to “but help you and be of service to you in keeping it.”  Therefore he calls you to his word and to his house that you might continue to receive that which he bestows, and that which is of greater value, than all other blessings.

 

Beloved in Christ, it would seem to many that these commandments are “no-brainers” in our modern parlance.  But in truth the only no brainer is that God himself has given you these and all commandments that you might fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Amen.

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Sermon for February 19 2017 The Eighth Commandment p. 322

The Eighth Commandment

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our

neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him,

and explain everything in the kindest way.

 

This commandment, on the face of it, seems rather straight forward and easy, until we speak Luther’s explanation.  If we just take the commandment at face value, we would simply read it as, tell the truth on the witness stand, and be done with it.  But Luther gives us this pesky explanation which, addresses some of our favourite things to do, and it is with these that we find ourselves frustrated.

 

With Luther’s explanation, the eighth commandment takes on a whole new dimension in our lives, for it addresses far more than the others the word part of our confession of sinning by thought word and deed.  Remember the old saying Sticks and stones may break my bones…..?  This of course was an attempt on the speaker’s part to deflect in whole or in part the destructive nature of words spoken against him.  The truth is that words can be more devastating and have longer-lasting effects than physical violence.

St. James brings this to mind as he says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Or consider Jesus own words when he says,

45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” And “18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander”

So you see it is words that can be more devastating in their power than the strongest physical blow.  For this reason then Dr. Luther explains this commandment saying, “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”  If we think about it enough we can probably write volumes on how we ourselves violate this commandment each day.  How often have we gossiped about our neighbour?  How often have we told everyone other than our neighbour about his perceived sin against us, refusing to speak to him out of fear of “conflict”?  How often do we assume the worst in our neighbour, refusing them the chance to explain, because “we already know the truth’? How often do we say unkind things about our neighbour behind her back that we are too cowardly to say to her face?  You see these are just a few of the ways by which we violate God’s command, and many of these you confessed this morning as you confessed sinning, in Word.  Each of these and more can cause near irreparable damage to psyches and relationships, despite their seeming insignificance.  Marriages have been destroyed simply by a wrong word uttered in anger or frustration.  Families split apart by a misunderstanding that grew too large.  Congregations have been torn asunder simply because of a bee under a bonnet that burned reputations and bridges.  Depression and despair are often exacerbated by anger and animosity toward friends and loved ones.

 

Truly few, if any, of us gathered here have escaped the effects of false words uttered by ourselves or others.  For this reason we are urged to but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.  This is incredibly difficult in many instances because we are called to fight against our old adam, our sinful condition, which would have us immediately join in the gossip, speak unkindly, and assume the worst of all our neighbour does.  It is so much easier for us to buy into the madness.  But just as words can be a cause of destruction, words can also be a source of restoration and peace.  When someone comes to us with words of anger or concern about our neighbour it is our place to immediately extinguish those sparks and to counsel this person to take their issues to the subject of this words, and if necessary, serve as the mediator between them.  When we ourselves have issues with our neighbour our words must be above board and gentle, that our relationship with her might be restored and strengthened.  When rumours and allegations come our way concerning our neighbour we are to assume the best and endeavour to assist our neighbour in enhancing his reputation in all instances.

 

The greatest means given to us to do these things is, no coincidence, words; indeed THE WORDS, words of forgiveness.  I forgive you!  There are no other words that have the power to restore and redeem.  These simple words spoken from one to another do more than brush away offense, they indeed forgive that offense make it as though it never occurred and set the foundation for recovery and renewal.  There is no greater evidence of this than the Word of God who gives these words this power.

 

For Jesus himself is the very word of God, spoken at creation, by whom all things were made and through whom all things are made new.  Jesus is he who looked upon your violation of God’s commandments, your lies, betrayal, slander, and the like, and took them into himself, where they were crucified with him upon the cross.  There on the cross, Jesus also spoke words of forgiveness saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” and also “It is Finished!”  There Jesus purchased forgiveness for all of your sins, of thought, WORD, and deed, and through His word, he gives you the same, saying “I forgive you all of your sins.”  By his word combined with water Jesus has restored you in holy baptism, and by his word joined to bread and wine, Jesus forgives you and strengthens you in the true faith.  If this were not enough, even now, while Satan, the accuser, would through words recount before the father, your myriad sins, Jesus, the Word of God, your advocate, pleads his own blood before the father, defending you, speaking well of you, and explain everything in the kindest way, for in his blood you are not guilty and your reputation is renewed.

 

The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  Yet in Christ, from the tongue may also proceed words of forgiveness and life. Amen!

 

 

 

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Sermon for February 12 2017 The Seventh Commandment p. 321

The Seventh Commandment

You shall not steal.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

 

A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  Most of us hear have either heard, or said, something quite similar, if not this exactly.  This sentiment has long been the foundation of negotiations between employee and employer to ensure that neither is cheated out of his due.  But this is just one of the areas affected by our Lord’s seventh commandment, “You shall not steal.”  Within this commandment is the prohibition against stealing in anyway the income or possessions of another.  But what motivates our sinful hearts toward theft?  Jesus addresses this as he does the motivation of all of our sinfulness saying, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” The ultimate motivation for theft is our sinful desire for stuff, whether money or goods, and our in ability to find contentment in what has been given to us.  Thus our sinfulness causes us to desire and/or take from our neighbour what does not belong to us.  We seek to store up treasures for ourselves here on earth, rather than treasures in heaven.

 

Consider how this works in our daily life.  True perhaps you are not a professional thief, skilled in burglary or robbery, but let us consider if we may, just how we truly steal from our neighbour without truly understanding it.  The employee who spends more time playing solitare on his phone than working is stealing from his employer.  The employer who refuses to grant that raise to a hard working employee is stealing as well.  But there are other ways such as illegal photocopying in violation of copyright, downloading unpurchased music (or as we did when I was young copying another’s cassette tape), or charging more than a products worth, which seem innocuous to us which are also stealing. For such things prevent the originator of the product from receiving his or her due. In the same light, keeping that extra pop that fell from the vending machine, or that extra dollar that you were given in change, are also just as sinful in the sight of God as a $2 million bank robbery.  That’s right, those seemingly little things, of which only we know, are just as heinous in God’s eyes as those horrible things with which we wouldn’t associate.  But this isn’t how our world views things is it, nor is it how we would like to understand things.  Therefore as the old saying goes, “the truth hurts.”

 

What is more is that as Luther explains this commandment he not only addresses how we should not act toward others and their possessions, he actually encourages us to live contrary to our own desires, indeed to “help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.” This really takes the cake doesn’t it.  It’s bad enough to recognize that my minor indiscretion is actually a big sin, but now, we are also required to actually help our neighbour regarding his possessions?  How are we supposed to do that?  First and foremost we recognize that all that we have is not actually ours from the beginning, just as all that belongs to our neighbours isn’t truly his.  Rather, all things, material, physical, and the like belong to our heavenly father, who in his grace and mercy has given all of these things to each person for his benefit. With this recognition we understand that just as he has provided these things for our good out of his own abundance he can and will continue to supply our needs without fail therefore alleviating the temptation to take what is not ours knowing that our Lord will provide far beyond measure.  Secondly, we make every effort to deal honestly and fairly with our neighbour, if we are an employee we give our full and complete effort, if we are an employer ensure fair and adequate compensation.  We are to consider whether our dealings with producers and products provide complete compensation for services rendered.  We are to endeavour to comply with the laws of the land regarding ownership of arts and music.  But these are only some of the ways.  Should we see damage done to, or cause damage to, our neighbours possessions we should immediate address it.  Should there be a bank error in our favour or an extra burger placed in our lunch bag, we must immediately bring it to their attention so that proper accounting may be done.  We are even called to safeguard our neighbour’s money and possessions from any and all loss, to the best of our ability.  This may even bring to mind the recent CEF debacle, reminding us of our own complicity in business ventures gone awry.

 

But just as we are not to take our neighbours money or possessions, but improve and protect them, we are called once again to remember the source of all of these material goods which can become our gods.  Your heavenly father who has made you his own, also provides for you those things you need according to HIS will, not yours.  The possessions of this world are neither your own, nor do they have eternal significance.  Consider Jesus words, ““Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  These treasures are quite simply life and salvation, their worth, far greater than a simple TV or a new truck.  Jesus himself purchased these things for you at the cost of his very own blood; indeed a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and he gives them generously, they cannot be taken in any dishonest way.  In his merciful desire to comfort you with this certain fact, he lavishly pours them out to you in his Holy word and sacraments which forgive you your sins, and strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting.   He then safeguards them for you through his servant.

 

Beloved in Christ, the worldly treasures and possession of ourselves and our neighbour are neither ours nor theirs, and therefore our desires should not be to gain more.  Rather our Lord who grants them has far better treasures to bestow on you freely out of his own mercy!  Amen!

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