Thursday, September 20, 2012

Worship for Pentecost 17 - 2012

Thursday after Pentecost 16
September 20, 2012

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the 17th Sunday after Pentecost. The appointed lessons are: Jeremiah 11:18-20; James 3:13-4:10; Mark 9:30-37. For our liturgy we will be using the first setting of the Divine service (page 151). This is a communion service. Our opening hymn is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (LSB 656). This is the older rhythm, composed by Luther, and has a more rugged tempo and feeling. The sermon hymn is the one we are learning this month, “One Thing’s Needful” (LSB 536). Our closing hymn is “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (LSB 662). Our distribution hymns are: “Rise, My Soul, to Watch and Pray” (LSB 663 ); “O Lord, We Praise Thee” (LSB 617); and “Children of the Heavenly Father” (LSB 725). The sermon text is James 4:7, and the sermon is titled “Stealth Combat.”

In our public prayers we will continue to lift up other Christian denominations and their leaders. This Sunday we will remember the various Presbyterian churches, The Presbyterian Church (USA), the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, along with their leadership. We continue to pray for our LC-MS missionaries around the world. This month we remember Ginger Taff-Lagergren, who is in South Africa. She specifically asks us to petition the Lord to use her to spread His love and that she would be a help to others with challenges in their day-to-day lives. We ask the Lord to protect Ginger and keep her in good health, so that she may serve to her fullest capacity. Finally, we also thank the Lord that Ginger has answered His call to serve in South Africa.

We will remember the persecuted believers in Tajikistan. It is a small, land-locked country in Central Asia, bordered by China, Afghanistan, and other countries. Religiously, the country is Sunni Muslim 85%, Shia Muslim 5%, other 10%. In that 10% are roughly 230,000 Christians, mostly Russian Orthodox, though there is at least one Lutheran congregation, a few scattered Baptist and Roman Catholics, and other groups. Tajikistan has a history of treating the minority faiths well, though a recent law putting greater restrictions on them has caused some concern. While Muslim extremists are generally not tolerated, concern over the conversion of Muslims to Christianity has raised tension.

We will also remember, in our prayers, our sister SED congregations: Redeemer, Baltimore, MD; Resurrection, Baltimore, MD; St. James, Baltimore, MD; St. Thomas, Baltimore, MD; and Risen Christ, Myrtle Beach, SC. We will continue to remember those who have been misled by our cultures acceptance of abortion and advocacy of sexual immorality, asking God’s grace for their lives that they may be healed and restored by the Holy Spirit. We will also continue to remember those trapped in the modern practice of slavery and ask God to bless all efforts that are pleasing in his sight to end this sinful practice. We will also remember the Lutheran Malaria Initiative’s effort to end malaria in Africa by 2015.

Below is a video of “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” our opening hymn.

Our adult Bible class meets at 9:00 Sunday morning. We are currently in Matthew 27. The chapter has the death of Judas, Jesus before Pilate, soldiers mocking Jesus, our Lord’s crucifixion, death and burial. In other words, we are almost through the book. Join us for these pivotal events in world history.    

Preview of the Lessons

Jeremiah 11:18-20:         This is a wonderful passage to discuss different approaches to the Bible, because it “works” well with several different presuppositions. Before we get to those approaches, we should first know that Jeremiah lived in a time of dramatic spiritual decline in Judea. He warned the people that Babylon would come and defeat the people as God’s just judgment. He also urged the people to submit to Babylon, and then Babylon would treat them with real mercy. Needless to say, Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor by many, especially those of the ruling class. There were plots against him, he was arrested, abused, etc. However, he lived to see the Babylonian invasion and the deportation of those who opposed him. Still refusing to submit to Babylonian control, a group of Jews murdered the Babylonian governor and his guard, kidnapped Jeremiah, and fled to Egypt. (You should now read the text to understand the rest of these notes.)

The first approach assumes no divine intervention. Jeremiah was a very intuitive individual who could tell which way the wind was blowing. He took this insight as a gift from God, and warned the people. He, through some confidant, hears of the plots against him, and takes it as a warning from God. However, Jeremiah is confident in God’s ultimate vindication. People in this camp might even think verse 20 was written after the Babylonian conquest of Judea, and the writer saw that as the vindication. The interpreter may apply it in a sermon as he sees fit.

The second approach accepts phrases like “The Lord made it known to me” to indicate a revelation from the Sovereign God to Jeremiah. The accent falls on man’s inability to thwart the plans of God. In the end, God is judge. Jeremiah is a righteous man. Application might be to trust in God and his ultimate justice, or perhaps to be righteous in an evil age.

The third approach also accepts phrases like “The Lord made it known to me” to indicate a revelation from God to Jeremiah. However the text (and indeed the entire life of Jeremiah) is viewed as being Christ-centered. As Jeremiah warned the people of their sins, and the consequences of their sins, so did Jesus. As the leaders plotted against Jeremiah, so the leaders plotted against Jesus. As Jeremiah was vindicated when his words proved true, so Jesus was vindicated when his words proved true on Easter Sunday. The vengeance of God is executed on Jesus as he hung on the cross. This Christ-centered understanding was God’s intention when he inspired Jeremiah to write. The application is that Jesus is our redeemer who has born our sins that we might enter heaven by grace through faith.

As a guiding principle, the third approach take passages like “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27) and “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me [Jesus] (John 5:39). It is the third approach to Scripture that we use at Lamb of God.

James 3:13-4:10:  The book of James has been misunderstood as saying that salvation is granted through a combination of works and faith. He never says that, but people have that misunderstanding. What he says is that a living faith in the living Christ produces results in the lives of the believer. A dead “faith,” that is, an acknowledgement of certain facts but lacking trust in those facts, does not produce results. Such a “faith” even the devils have. The know who Jesus is, but fear him instead of trust in him. I happen to be one of those who believe that James was one of the very first books written in the New Testament, and Paul’s accent on grace flowed, in part, from a misunderstanding by many of James’ epistle. (Others think of it in reverse.)

The fruit of faith is very counter-cultural. Selfish ambition, boasting, fighting for your rights, and so on, are all lauded by fallen human nature. Meekness, gentleness, mercy, etc., are all viewed as weakness, and even with contempt. The world, our sinful nature, and the devils, all promote the aggressive, negative, me-first, attitudes. The spirit of Christ leads us in the paths of peace, mercy, understanding, reasonableness, and so forth. To put it in the words of Christ and Moses, the Christian Faith leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This love is not part of the foundation of our salvation. It is the result of being built on the foundation of salvation, on Jesus.

The devil is always seeking to lure us back to the ways of the world, the ways of enmity, pride, greed, vengeance, anger, and so forth. James, though, tells us to resist the devil, and he will flee from us. This is done through the power of a repentant heart, a heart that has been cleanses by grace through faith, a heart that trusts in Jesus, a heart that has been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. It does not depend on itself, but on Jesus. If we seek to resist the devil by our own might, we fall into his trap. Instead, we humble ourselves before the Lord only to discover that he will exalt us.

Mark 9:30-37:       This lesson ties in with both the OT lesson and the Epistle lesson. First, like Jeremiah, Jesus is aware that evil men are plotting against him, and he knows he will be vindicated through his resurrection. Many have wondered why the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying as he was so plain. Well, the text doesn’t tell us, so it is just speculation. First, being raised from the dead isn’t a normal thing. Second, Jesus did speak in metaphors and parables all the time, and the disciples had a hard time with many of them. Third, death of the Messiah just wasn’t on the first century Jewish radar. Put that together, and they didn’t understand Jesus.

The reading ties in with the Epistle lesson because the disciples are arguing about who was the greatest among them. This is the very sort of thing that James warns about. Jesus uses a child, who is basically powerless and has to do what they are told, to make his point that we are not to seek after worldly greatness, but to be servants of all. Notice the word “all.” He doesn’t call us to only be servants to our own, but all people. Just as Christ came for all, even those who reject him, so we care for all people, even those who reject Jesus. When we serve the weak and powerless especially, we serve Christ.

  • The Board of Evangelism will meet after the worship service, Sunday

  • We are sponsoring a Pancake Breakfast, Saturday, October 27, at the Fats restaurant ( in Boiling Springs, to support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI). Members are asked to sell tickets for $7.00 (of which $4.00 will go to LMI and $3.00 will go to Fats to cover their costs) for this event. Tickets will be available Sunday. Additional help will be needed in the form of greeters who will also sell tickets at the door and/or accept donations. You can expect more information over the next two months on this blog about our Pancake Breakfast and LMI.

Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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