Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Worship for Pentecost 23 - 2011

Wednesday after Pentecost 22
November 16, 2011

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost according to the liturgical calendar used by most LC-MS congregations. Other liturgical calendars can identify the day as Christ the King, Last Sunday of the End Time, and the Last Sunday of the Church Year. I would not be surprised if many churches that use the same calendar as Lamb of God still use one of the other names for this Sunday. I can’t blame them. The other names are far “cooler.” But, no matter what you call the day, the appointed lessons for the day will deal with the End Times.

As one of the alternate names suggests, this is the last Sunday in the Church Year. The Sunday following (November 27) will be the first Sunday in Advent. Therefore this coming Sunday marks the end of “ordinary” time and we are moving into the festival half of the church year. In the USA the first service will be a Thanksgiving one. Thanksgiving is not a liturgical holiday but a national one. However it always falls at the beginning of the festival half of the Church Year and so becomes the first service churches have in that half of the Church Year. This is only true in the USA. Other nations also often have an annual Thanksgiving celebration, but they just choose some other day in the year.

We will be using Matins for our liturgy (LSB page 219) so we will be using the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the Introit. The lessons are: Psalm 95:1-7, antiphon v. 7a; Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; and Matthew 25:31-46. The sermon text will be Matthew 25: 31 and is titled “Judgment.” Our Opening Hymn will be “The Clouds of Judgment Gather” (LSB 513). Our Sermon Hymn will be “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near” (LSB 508). Our Closing Hymn will be “Built on the Rock” (LSB 645).

The video below is of the LutheranWarbler singing and playing our closing hymn, “Built on The Rock.” It was written by Nikolia Fredrik Severin Grundtvig and translated into English in 1909 by Carl Dövig. Grundtvig was born in Denmark in 1783. He died in 1872. He wrote so many poems and hymns that it took five volumes to publish them upon his death. Only two, however, made it into the Lutheran Service Book, this one and “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage” (LSB 582). Some have called him “the most important Scandinavian hymn-writer of the 19th century.”

Our adult Bible class this coming Sunday will pick up at Matthew 11:2. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.

Preview of the Lessons

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24: Ezekiel’s career began about seven years prior to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 BC, and concluded around 570, almost 20 years after the deportation of the Jews. Ezekiel is one of the most difficult books in the Bible to understand. The rabbis of the Jews said a person should not read the beginning and ending few chapters until they were 30 years-old, that is, until they had a mature enough faith to not misunderstand it. The idea that a reader should have a good understanding of biblical teaching before tackling Ezekiel is sound. Many false ideas that circulate among Christians, that twist portions of this book, could be brought back into line with the Bible if this rule was observed. Ezekiel was a priest and so lived to see his beloved Temple destroyed by the Babylonians. Some of his imagery is drawn from his priestly background. He also engages in physical acts which are prophetic. His language can be shocking, using sexual images. These sexual images depict the unfaithfulness of Israel in quite graphic terms. Ezekiel 34:1-10 is a strong condemnation from the Lord against the “shepherds of Israel.” This is a metaphor for the priests, Ezekiel’s co-workers in the Temple. It is also a strong word for pastors and denomination leaders. God is watching and God expects us to be faithful. If we do not care for the “sheep” (the parishioners) God will judge us for our unfaithfulness. Even though the “shepherds” have proven to be unfaithful, the “sheep” are not abandoned. Picking up with verse 11, God promises to search for the “sheep” himself. Verses 11 through 16 ultimately are about the Last Day, when all the dead will be raised and those who have been brought to faith in Christ enter eternal joy. However it is also about the “in-time” reality that the Church (which is the Body of Christ) reaches out with God’s love and grace, bringing all that receive God’s mercy into God’s fold. The prime example of both of these gatherings is Jesus. In-time he came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). At the end of time he will return to gather his sheep into eternal pastures. Verses 17-19 are a warning to “sheep” (parishioners). There are those who seem to specialize in troubling congregations. Many problems in churches are caused by members, not the pastors. God is watching you also, and judgment awaits those who will not repent. Verses 20-24 are God’s solution. Not surprisingly, it is the same solution – Jesus. God will set up Jesus as the “shepherd” who will protect the “sheep” from those other sheep that would prey on the weak, and ensure that they receive their food (word and sacrament). So, basically, the appointed reading kind of skips over the Law portions of Ezekiel and focuses us on the Gospel portions. The closing verses of Ezekiel are also Gospel, looking forward to the blessings of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28: This chapter is sometimes called the “Resurrection Chapter” of the New Testament. In verses 1-11 Paul covers the highlights of his gospel message. A point he emphases is all the people Jesus appeared to after his resurrection. The rest of the chapter unpacks the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus for us. Those who deny the resurrection of Jesus deny a critical element in the Christian Faith, a linchpin, a foundational truth. It is, in reality, a denial of Jesus himself. It is so important that it is in all three of the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian). This particular pericope focuses on the connection between Jesus resurrection and our own on the Last Day. Our Lord’s resurrection means that he will return, raise the dead with bodies, and rule for all eternity. Denying Jesus resurrection, then, is tantamount to denying his return, denying our physical resurrection, and denying Jesus as God in the flesh who rules all things. For those who have faith in the Resurrected Christ, this passage is pure gospel, the promise of our future is secure, as secure as the physical resurrection of Jesus is sure.

Matthew 25:31-46: Sunday’s sermon is based on this passage so I’m not going to say much. The whole chapter deals with the Second Coming of Jesus. In these verses, Jesus describes the Last Day with a courtroom scene. Humanity gathers before him, separated into two groups. The evidence of their faith is examined. Those who have faith, and therefore expressed their faith in various “good works,” are invited into heaven. Those who lack faith, and therefore have no “good works” to be examined, are expelled. Those who lack faith will go to “eternal punishment” but those who receive the righteousness of faith will go into “eternal life.” A key difference between this week’s reading and last weeks’ is that the nature of our “good works” come into sharper focus.


• After our worship service Sunday we will have a voters’ meeting. At this meeting we will be voting on our budget for the coming year. We will also be voting on whether we want to nominate various people from around our circuit for district positions. Finally we will be casting our vote for Circuit Counselor. The selection of Circuit Counselors is different from other district positions. For those other positions congregations and circuits nominate individuals and the district, in convention, elects individuals to fill the various rolls from those who have been nominated. The position of Circuit Counselor is filled by the member congregations of the Circuit in question and the district convention ratifies the selection made by the Circuit.

• Information for the December newsletter is due Sunday.

• Next week we will have a Thanksgiving worship service on Wednesday, at 7:00 PM. This is our custom at Lamb of God. The office will be closed for the national holiday Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 24).

Junior Confirmation class has been meeting on Wednesdays this year. For the Advent season the students will be attending the Advent services and writing a paper on each of the homilies.

• Our first Wednesday Advent service will be November 30. We will again offer a service at 12:15 PM and a second service at 7:00 PM. The evening service will be preceded by a soup supper, which will begin at 6:15 PM. .

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

No comments:

Post a Comment