August 11, 2011
The Lord be with you
This coming Sunday is the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. We will be using the third setting of the morning service with communion (page 184). The appointed lessons are: Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. The sermon, again based on the epistle lesson, is titled “Led by the Spirit.” The text is Romans 8:14. Our opening hymn will be LSB 825, “Rise, Shine, You People.” This will be the last week we will sing this hymn (at least for a while). The sermon hymn will be LSB 496, “Holy Spirit, Light Divine.” Our closing hymn will be LSB 507, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Our distribution hymns will be LSB 626, “Come, Let Us Eat,” LSB 744, “Amazing Grace,” and LSB 712, “Seek Ye First.”
The video is of the sermon hymn, “Holy Spirit, Light Divine.” It is being sung by St. Lorenz Lutheran church. The video includes the prelude and so the congregation doesn’t begin to sing the hymn until over three minutes into the video. The hymn was composed by Andrew Reed (1788-1862), the son of a watchmaker. His father had hoped Andrew would also become a watchmaker, but the work wasn’t to his taste. In stead he wanted to become a minister, which is what he did. Originally this hymn had eight verses. Most hymnals include four of them. Our hymnal includes five. The verse we have retained but dropped by most, is verse 3:
Holy Spirit, pow’r divine,
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine;
In Thy mercy pity me,
From sin’s bondage set me free.
I think it is worth keeping. What do you think?
We will resume our adult Bible class Sunday, picking up in the Sermon on the Mount. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.
Preview of the LessonsIsaiah 55:10-13: Isaiah is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament” because of his frequent and explicit prophecies about Jesus. In this short reading Isaiah is speaking of the power of God’s Word. He does so through metaphor. The word is like rain, which accomplishes it purpose of watering the earth. God’s Word accomplishes its purpose, which is to build the Church. The word is one of the chief means by which the Spirit converts and strengthens us (the Sacraments are the other Means of Grace). Verses 12 and 13 speak in terms of Paradise restored.
Romans 8:12-17: In the “continuous” reading from Romans found in our lectionary, Romans 8:1-11 is skipped over. It is an important bridge to Sunday’s lesson. Paul, in Chapter 7, had written about the struggle all Christians have between our Old and New Man (nature, creature). He ends by reminding us of the victory we have in Christ, the victory we were united with in our baptisms. Because of these objective realities Paul begins Chapter 8 by telling us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He is moving on to life in the Spirit, so we need to remember the source … God’s grace. Romans 8:1-11 brings up an important point in understanding the Bible, Context is King. In Lutheran circles we are used to using the words “Law” and “Gospel” with very specific theological meanings. There are plenty of examples in the Bible where these words are associated with our standard understanding. However in Romans 8:1-11 the word “Law” is used in a broader way. Some have suggested that a better way to translate the Greek here is with the word “principle.” That works in some of the cases, but not all and, if you translate the Greek sometimes with “law” and sometimes with “principle” the English reader might miss the tight development of thought Paul is presenting. Pay attention to the context and you should do fine. Another challenge is found with the words “flesh” and “spirit.” Many tend to understand them as “corporal” and “non-corporal.” This is clearly not the understanding here. Paul says his “corporal” Roman readers are “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” as he writes to them. “Flesh” is still being used in an “ethical” way, meaning non-regenerated, non-Christian, non-baptized, learning and adhering to the ways of the world, and things like that. Being “in the Spirit” is the opposite.
The big point in these verses is that, because we are all sinners, we are unable to save ourselves. Therefore the Father sent his Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, in order to condemn sin through his atoning work. The result is that we baptized children of God have been set free from a life of death and are called to live according to the Spirit. We are called to set our minds on the things of the Spirit and not on the things of death (the ways of the world, the fallen flesh, the devil, etc.) Setting ones minds on the things of the Spirit involves being in the word, devotions, worship, the Lord’s Supper, a good hymnal, and the like. When Paul writes, “You … are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” he is again drawing us back to our baptisms. It was then that we died to sin and were raised by the Spirit to new life. There are more baptismal references here also. If someone asks you, “Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit,” the biblical answer is “Yes, it happened when I was baptized by water and the word in the name of the Triune God.”
Sunday’s lesson begins with the words, “So then, brothers …” What that means is that what follows in the reading is built on what Paul has just said (actually on all he has said for everything has led up to this point in the book). So if we want to truly understand what Paul means when he says we are led by the Spirit, we need to keep what he has already said in mind.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23: The placing of this lesson is interesting. In Matthew 12:46-50 Jesus’ mother and his brothers (actually half-brothers) were seeking to speak with him. Jesus counters by pointing to his disciples and saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” How do we know what that will is? Do we rely on our own feelings? Do we rely on our own moral compass? Do we rely on the corporate sense of right and wrong prevalent in our current culture? Do we rely on some charismatic preacher who can sway thousands? Matthew 13 has a series of parables about the Kingdom of God. The general feel then is that the Spirit works through the word to make disciples, to make us our Lord’s “brother, sister, and mother.” Interestingly, then, the chapter ends with Jesus being rejected by the people of Nazareth because of Jesus’ words. Chapter 14 begins with the death of John the Baptist. Those who reject the Word do not remain passive. The particular parable recorded in this lesson has been called the Parable of the Sower. Once again it accents the power of God’s word and is a great companion passage to our Old Testament lesson.
The Parable of the Sower is so familiar that we can miss some of the outlandish aspects of it. For example the Sower casts his seed recklessly about. He almost seems to be aiming at places where the seed will not grow, or grow well. No farmer was ever so careless. The seed, though, represents the Word of God by which the Spirit works faith in hearts. The message is that we do not determine who will or will not be drawn to faith. Our job is to broadcast the word. The Spirits job is to cause the seed to take root. Sometimes preachers focus on the different types of ground the seed is cast on and ask, “What kind of ground are you?” The implication is that if we are not good soil we should do something about that to change the type of soil we are. However dirt never changed itself. The active agents in this parable are the Sower and the Seed. The parable doesn’t teach us to somehow change the type of dirt we are (which would be a “my good works add to my salvation" theology). The point is that we are dependent on the Sower and the seed for salvation and the fruit we bear. The parable also reveals that there is a whole host of threats arrayed against the disciple, seeking to rob us of our faith. We need to be grounded in the Word to remain faithful. As Jesus says, “the one who hears the word and understands it, he indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Tidbits• Sunday is the last day to return your Backpacks. I will take them to Jesse Boyd Elementary School on Monday (which is also the first day of classes). Most of the backpacks have already been returned and checked. I wish to thank everyone in advance for helping with this annual project of ours. In the service Sunday we will dedicate these backpacks and supplies at the beginning of the service, asking God to bless the children who receive them and help their families to see this as an extension of God’s love in Christ Jesus for them.
• I noticed a fare amount of the baked goods from last Sunday’s LWML Bake Sale was in the refrigerator. I assume that means that they will be available this Sunday. So bring some extra cash Sunday.
• Our Cub Council will meet Sunday after church. We will be planning the coming year’s activities.
• I have set Sunday, August 21, as the time for a meeting with the parents of our 2011-2012 Jr. Confirmation class. We will be settling on day and time for Jr. Confirmation for the year and student material will be handed out. The meeting should last no more than fifteen minutes.
Well, I pray I'll see you Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert