July 27, 2011
The Lord be with you
The “big” news about the next two Sundays is that Pastor James Roseman will be filling in for me (Pastor Rickert) as I visit other churches in our circuit in my roll as Circuit Counselor. Rev. Roseman has now shared the Lord’s word with us on several occasions and everyone agrees that his sermons are excellent.
This coming Sunday is the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the Commemoration of Joseph of Arimathea. We will be using Matins for our liturgy (page 219). In Matins we use the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the Introit, which is Psalm 119:153-160 (antiphon v. 154). The other appointed lessons are: Jeremiah 28:5-9, Romans 7:1-13, and Matthew 10:34-42. At this point in time I have not heard from Pastor Roseman what his sermon title is or if he desires any changes in the hymns I have already picked out. All this is to say that some of the following information is tentative.
Our opening hymn will be “Come Down, O Love Divine” (LSB 501). The sermon hymn is the one we are learning this month, “Rise, Shine, You People” (LSB 825). Our closing hymn is “God of Grace and God of Glory” (LSB 850). I am going to repost the same video that we had last week of “Rise, Shine, You People” because it is the only video I can find of this hymn. If you would like a little background on the hymn, check out last weeks worship notes.
The hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” was written by Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969). He served as a pastor in both Baptist and Presbyterian churches and a professor at Union Theological Seminary. He was known as a liberal theologian and resigned his position at Union Seminary instead of signing the Westminster Confession, which is a confession that embodies the theology of John Calvin. Through his radio broadcasts and books Fosdick influenced thousands of people. The hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” was written for the opening service of Riverside Church in New York City, October 5, 1930. This is another example of the church’s ability to use great hymns, no matter who wrote it. “God of Grace and God of Glory” can be found in the hymnals of both “conservative” and “liberal” congregations.
As noted above, I will not be at Lamb of God for the next two weeks. My adult Bible class, which is going through the Gospel of Matthew, will therefore be taking a two week break. We will resume Sunday, August 14, at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.
Preview of the LessonsJeremiah 28:5-9: For general background on the book of Jeremiah read last weeks worship notes. This reading takes place in the year 593 BC, having been carefully dated in 28:1. Babylon, after years as a second rate power, had thrown off the Assyrian yoke and defeated their former masters. After taking over all the territory of Assyria, the Babylonians continued to expand their power. The other major world power at the time was Egypt, who would lose out in the power struggle and come under Babylonian control. Babylon attacked and defeated Judah in 597 BC (2 Kings 24). They plundered the temple and the king’s wealth, and deported thousands including the king and his family. However the city was left standing, including the temple. The Babylonians also left a number of the major religions items and other temple equipment so the people could continue to worship God. However Zedekiah, the man Nebuchadnezzar left in charge, rebelled and the Babylonians returned in 586 BC, deported all but the poorest in the land, and leveled Jerusalem including the city walls and the temple (2 Kings 25). So this reading falls between the first invasion of Judah by Babylon and the second invasion which left Jerusalem utterly destroyed.
God had sent Jeremiah to tell the people to accept the rule of Babylon as coming from the LORD and if they rebelled it would mean their destruction. Jeremiah symbolized the Babylonian rule by putting a yoke on his own neck (Jeremiah 27). Hananiah, who is called a prophet, contradicted Jeremiah. He said that the Babylonians would be defeated within two years, that all the treasures of the Jews would be returned, and that even the deported king would come home. He spoke in the name of the LORD. This is where our reading picks up and it presents a problem we continue to have. Hananiah was a false prophet. He said everything the people wanted to hear and he said his message came from the one and only true God. He lied. He also called God’s true prophet a liar. The people had to choose and in the end they chose Hananiah. Many today are modern-day Hananiahs. They tell the people what they want to hear (God wants you to be rich, God will cure you of your major and minor illnesses, America and Americans are loved by God above all others, there is no need to repent because God loves you just the way your are, etc.) and they do it in the name of the one true God. They even call those who proclaim God’s word in its purity liars. As in the days of Jeremiah, people today continue to be deceived. In verses 12 through 17 God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him point blank that it is Hananiah who is a liar and that he would die that very year, which he did (28:17).
What makes this reading really stand out, and what I expect most preachers that use this text will focus on, are Jeremiah’s words in verses 8 and 9. Jeremiah points out that the true prophets of old prophesied “war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.” He goes on to say, “the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.” In the immediate context Jeremiah is saying “the proof is in the pudding” or “time will tell” who is really proclaiming God’s word. There is one standard for those who claim to have a direct word from God, complete accuracy. That accuracy is two-fold. Anything they say will happen must happen (Deuteronomy 18:22). The second aspect is that he teaches nothing that leads you away from the true God, contradicting the already revealed word of God we have in the Bible (Deuteronomy 13:1-4). The other aspect of this text I expect will be brought out is that the “prophet who prophesies peace” is ultimately Jesus. He not only proclaimed peace but by his atoning work established that peace.
Romans 7:1-13: Paul is continuing his major theme of the distinction between Law and Gospel, extending his sub-theme of baptism which he began with chapter 6. As we saw there, baptism is Gospel, not Law. In our baptism God united us with Jesus; especially noted was his death and resurrection. Thus the damming grip of the Law is broken and we are to live in the power of our baptism. In 7:1-6 Paul explains this by means of an analogy. According to the Law a woman who sleeps with someone other than her husband is an adulteress. However, if her husband is dead she is free to marry another man and sleep with him. She is not an adulteress. Paul explains his analogy beginning in verse 4. The general idea is that, being united with Christ in our baptism, we died to our first husband (the Law) and married our second husband (the Gospel). This new relationship, established in our baptism, is created “in order that we may bear fruit for God” (4). The fruit of living with the first husband (Law) is death. That first “husband” “held us captive.” In other words, the Law is a harsh taskmaster. But we have “died” to that “husband” (6) in our baptism. (All the death and resurrection images are baptismal, building on 6:1-11.)
In verse 6 Paul writes “so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The word translated “written code” is literally translated “letters,” as in letters in the alphabet, or a letter like one you write, or some other written document. Some have used this as an excuse to throw out the Bible. In other words, they see the “Spirit” and the “word” as polar opposites. Paul surely does not mean this. He wrote in Ephesians 6:17 that we are to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” We also read in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” What he means is that the power of the Christian life is not found in our Old Man seeking to be good enough for God by obeying the Law. In stead the power for the Christian life is found in the Spirit working through the Gospel.
In verses 7-12 Paul expounds on the problem of living by the Law. No matter how good we try to be the Law keeps pointing out how we are not good enough. It is like the preverbal carrot on a stick. The carrot is dangled in front of the horse and the horse keeps moving forward trying to reach the carrot. But with every step the horse moves forward the carrot also moves forward. So the Law says, “Do this and you will live,” but you find that you can never truly keep the Law, there is always more to “do.” Those who think they do keep the Law perfectly have either watered down the Law (no matter how stick they may be) or they are remarkably non-self-aware.
Matthew 10:34-42: This is another section of Jesus’ teaching to the Apostles just prior to them going out on a mission trip. In last weeks Gospel lesson we read a different portion of this address. Verses 34-39 are quite jarring to those who do not know the words of Jesus. He speaks of himself and his work as being divisive. In this context it is because Jesus claims first place in our hearts. There are many who lay claim to our allegiance: mother, father, brother, sister, wife, children, work, nation, political party, neighbor, friend, etc. Jesus does not share the top spot. I’m reminded of an incident with my son and one of his former bosses. The boss told him, “As long as you work here this store is your church and I am your god.” To my son's credit he told his boss, “Thank you for making it easy for me to quit,” and he did. Christ is the dividing line. Because of him we must pick up the cross he gives us and follow him (38). However, in doing so, we find life (39).
For those of us who are focused on salvation by grace through faith verses 40-42 can seem quite difficult because Jesus speaks of receiving our reward. A reward seems like something we earn or merit, but that seems to run against salvation by grace through faith. However the problem is easily resolved. Jesus is not speaking of salvation as a reward. These “rewards” are received by someone who has already come to faith. (Remember he is speaking to his Apostles, who believe in Jesus.) When we are in heaven everything will not be a bland sameness. The God who created mountains and deserts, oceans and great parries, some people who are 7 feet tall and others who are 5 feet tall, some who are “black” and others who are “yellow,” does not obliterate all distinctions when we are in glory. That which we do for the Lord in this life is remembered in heaven and the “reward” is way out of proportion to the service rendered. In this life we carry our appointed cross, in the life to come we live in glory beyond our comprehension.
Tidbits• The August Newsletter will be available Sunday. It will be posted on the blog before Sunday.
Well, I pray God's grace, love and mercy will fill the hearts and lives of all who gather to worship the Lord at Lamb of God Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert