June 7, 2011
The Lord be with you
This coming Sunday is the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. Our lessons will be Hosea 5:15-6:6, Romans 4:13-25, and Matthew 9:9-13. The sermon is titled “God’s Welfare,” and is based on the lesson from Romans. The text is Romans 4:16. We will be using the third setting of the liturgy (page 184 in the hymnal). We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. If you desire to attend you may prepare by reading the section on the Lord’s Supper from Luther’s Small Catechism.
Because we sing hymns during the distribution of the Lord’s Supper, we always have more hymns in a service where we share Communion. This Sunday our opening hymn will be “God Himself Is Present” (LSB 907). Our sermon hymn will be “Thanks to Thee, O Christ, Victorious” (LSB 548). Our closing hymn will be “Go, My Children, with My Blessing” (LSB 922). Our distribution hymns will be “O God of Love, O King of Peace” (LSB 751), “When I Behold Jesus Christ” (LSB 542), and “O Lord, We Praise Thee” (LSB 617).
The following video is of our opening hymn, “God Himself Is Present.” It is being sung by Messiah Lutheran in Wisconsin. “God Himself Is Present.” was written by Gerhard Tersteegen and first published in 1729. Tersteegen’s theology was Reformed but, because he had not been ordained as a minister, his meetings for “awakened souls” were never really accepted by the mainstream Reformed Church. Due to this “outsider” position, though he wrote 111 hymns, not a single one was accepted until a century after his death. He now is considered to be one of the three most important Reformed hymn-writers to have lived. For us, this hymn first appeared in The Lutheran Hymnal and has been in each of our hymnals ever since.
Our Sunday morning adult Bible study is continuing its study of the Gospel of Matthew. We will are in chapter 5 (the Sermon on the Mount). Our Education Hour begins at 9:00 AM and everyone is invited to come.
Preview of the LessonsHosea 5:15-6:6: Hosea is one of the so-called “minor” prophets. This does not mean he is an unimportant prophet. The writing prophets are divided into two groups, “major” and “minor,” based only on how long their books are. Isaiah’s book (a major prophet) fills an entire scroll. All twelve of the minor prophets fit on one scroll. Because all the minor prophets were grouped onto one scroll, they cover a very wide time frame. Hosea was active from 750 to 715 BC. He prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and saw the fall of that Kingdom to the Assyrians in 722 BC. The book itself is a collection of oracles and it is difficult to determine why they were compiled in the order we have them.
“Hosea’s message is not for the faint of heart. His descriptions of prostitution, war, substance abuse, and corruption easily match the worst police and news reports of our day. He reminds us that simple neglect of what is wholesome and blessed leads to wholehearted sin and self-destruction. Wealth and armies do not deliver a nation. Only the Lord can redeem and restore us. Hosea shows how the spiritual dry rot that caused Israel to collapse contrasts fully with the generous dew of God’s life-giving mercy” (The Lutheran Study Bible, page 1428).
This lesson begins with God depicted as a Lion returning to his den. The idea is that God, due to the apostasy of his people, withdraws far from Israel. When Israel repents, God will return. Chapter 6 starts out with the people recognizing their sins. Verses two and three then has the people anticipate deliverance from God. In verse four God speaks. In it we discover that the repentance of the people is far from wholehearted, in spite of their words. So God sends prophets to straighten them out (verse 5). What God desires, but does not get, is “steadfast love and … the knowledge of God” (verse 6). Jesus quotes verse 6 in our Gospel lesson for the day (Matthew 9:13) against the Pharisees. True faith is always more than a Sunday morning thing. This passage does not undermine the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath Day.” True faith does gather with others to worship God. However, true faith is never parked at the church doors.
Romans 4:13-25: Paul continues to make the vital distinction between the Law and the Gospel. We are, by our fallen nature, legalists. Because this feels natural we seek to justify it with the Bible. Paul demonstrates that Abraham was saved, not based on keeping the Law but based on faith in the promises of God - in other words, the Gospel. So it was not Abraham’s deeds that made him righteous but “his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’” (verse 22). This does not contradict our Old Testament lesson for Hosea never says we are saved by our good deeds. What Hosea says (as well as Paul and Jesus) is that true faith results in actions.
Matthew 9:9-13: It is easy to love people in the abstract, to speak of the “brotherhood of man.” It is quite a different thing to put it into practice when you are face to face with someone you consider unworthy in some way. They may lead a life that is despicable in your eyes and so you shy away, do not offer assistance, and generally look down upon those who do minister to them. Perhaps it is people with AIDS, or homeless people, our ignorant people, or people with different religious convictions, or people with a different racial background, or people with different political views, or something else. To reach out to such people in love and faith, when you “know” that you are wasting your time, is more than many people can bear. Once you get this idea, once you can think of your own personal “untouchables,” then you can relate to the shock of the Pharisees in this lesson when Jesus shows compassion to “tax collectors and sinners.” It is easy to forget the reckless nature of God’s love. Jesus died for all, even though many will reject him and his offer of forgiveness. In this lesson Jesus calls Matthew, a despised tax collector for the Romans, to become a disciple. Matthew goes on to write the very book in which we find this story. God’s reckless love doesn’t always result in loyal followers. The same reckless love was given to Judas and Old Testament Israel, but ended with betrayal in both cases. However, whether it ends with betrayal or a disciple, we are to be conduits of God’s love in Christ Jesus to all. After all, he showers that same reckless love on us.
Tidbits• The board of Evangelism will meet Sunday after the worship service.
• This coming Monday our Greek club will meet.
Well, I pray I will see you Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert