Thursday after Pentecost 15
Commemoration of Zacharias and Elizabeth
September 5, 2013
The Lord be with you
This coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday after Pentecost. If you have read the newsletter for September, you know it is also Grandparents Day. Grandparents Day is not an official liturgical holiday and is of recent origin, being the result of the work of a West Virginia housewife named Marion Lucille Herndon McQuade. Through her efforts, West Virginia’s Governor Arch Moore declared the first Grandparents Day in 1973. McQuade then began her national campaign, contacting elected officials, church leaders, and so on. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation establishing the first national Grandparents Day. McQuade’s primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly people in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. The day is always the Sunday following Labor Day. The September date was selected to reflect honoring those who are in the “Autumn” of their lives. While there is no “Grandparents Day” on the liturgical calendar, there certainly are grandparents in the Bible. We will remember that fact, and our grandparents in general, in our prayers Sunday with a collect for Grandparents.
We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper Sunday. To prepare for receiving the Sacrament you may read the section on the “Sacrament of the Altar” from Luther’s Small Catechism and found on page 326 of the hymnal. For our liturgy we will use Divine Service 3 (page 184). We will continue to use this setting for the Lord’s Supper until Advent. Our appointed lessons are: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 1-21, and Luke 14:25-35. My sermon text will be Philemon 6. The sermon is titled “Your Gospel Life.”
Our opening hymn will be “‘Come, Follow Me,’ the Savior Spake” (LSB 688). The sermon hymn will be “May We Thy Precepts, Lord, Fulfill” (LSB 698). Our closing hymn will be “Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise” (LSB 917). Our distribution hymns will be “Come, Let Us Eat” (LSB 626), “The Man is Ever Blessed” (LSB 705), “Wide Open Stand the Gates” (LSB 917).
As has been announced, starting Sunday, September 15, we will be modifying our opening moments as we gather to worship. Greetings, worship announcements, and prayer requests will begin around 10:25 so our opening hymn can begin closer to 10:30.
Below is a video of our first distribution hymn, “Come, Let Us Eat.” It is of a bell and voice choir. To be honest, it isn’t the best, but because I’m having trouble with YouTube, it is the best I could get.
In our prayers, we will remember the Archbishop of Constantinople and their leader the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. We will remember the persecuted believers in Sri Lanka. We will remember Andy and Stephanie Jones, our missionaries in Germany. We will continue to remember the churches in our denomination. This week we lift up before our Lord St. Matthew, Bel Air, MD; Pilgrim, Bethesda, MD; First & Trinity, Bowie, MD; and Incarnate Word, Florence, SC. We will continue to remember all those who have been misled by our cultures advocacy of sexual immorality and abortion. We ask, not only that the Lord turn our country around, but also that he bring healing to the lives damaged by our current culture. We will remember the modern slave trade and ask God to bless all efforts pleasing in his sight to end this sinful practice. We will remember the Lutheran Malaria Initiative as we seek to end Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. We will remember our grandparents.
In our Sunday morning Bible study we are in our third read through of the Gospel of Luke. We are using the “book” method of studying Luke. This means we are giving our own titles to the book, and small sections, seeking to capture in our own words, the message of Luke. Currently we are giving a title to each chapter. Everyone is welcome to join us and provide your own titles. In discussing our titles and why we like them, we are discussing the themes of Luke. Bible study begins at 9:00 am.
Preview of Lessons
For those who think my sermons (which average 18 minutes) are long, consider this: The book of Deuteronomy is a collection of five sermons given by Moses. The book is 33 chapters long. Each of his sermons were certainly longer than mine! This reading comes from the final sermon. (Actually the last chapter isn’t from Moses, but is a wrap-up of the life of the prophet/leader.) Moses reaches the apex of his message and urges the people to remain faithful to God by being faithful in keeping his “commandments and his statutes and his rules.” If they do this, then the promise is that they will be blessed by God. If, on the other hand, they abandon the Lord for idols, then death awaits them. Subsequent history reveals that they didn’t remain faithful. We might be inclined to think of the Old Testament Israelites as weak, fickle, unfaithful, and deeply flawed people. We then might be tempted to think of ourselves as superior to them morally and spiritually. The hard and unpleasant fact is that we are not better. If we were part of that Old Testament nation, we would have done no better. If they lived today, they would be just like us. These people never thought they were doing something wrong. The fallen human heart can always find a way to justify sin, which is what they did and what we do. The only way to understand when we violate God’s commandments, statutes and rules is by listening to him as he speaks to us in his word, the Bible. But those commandments only reveal how far short we fall. They always expose our sin. They never give the power to keep them. Therefore God gave the Israelites the sacrificial system, which pointed to the ultimate sacrifice – Jesus, for forgiveness. For us today, we still fall short and deserve nothing but death. But, symbolically speaking, the sacrificial system is still in place, that is, the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. By grace through faith in him we have forgiveness and life.
No, the reference above is not missing a chapter reference. Philemon is one of those books that are so short it isn’t divided into chapters. The main purpose of the letter is to bring about reconciliation between Philemon and his runaway slave, Onesimus. Many of the commentaries on this book talk about slavery in Roman days (which had some very stark differences from the slavery in American history) and then might move the conversation to modern employee/employer relationships. As helpful as this discussion is, it tends to ignore the modern slave trade and that the conditions of modern slaves are far worse than the conditions of most Roman slaves or antebellum American slaves. It is important to note that it was the influence of the Church that ended slavery in the Roman Empire. There is a natural discontinuity between the thought that God made all humanity in “the image of God,” only to have one segment of humanity enslave a different segment. Once the African slave trade began, due strictly to the greed of fallen humanity, it was again Christians who led the charge to eliminate it. I recommend the movie “Amazing Grace.” It tells the story of how the English slave trade was outlawed. For those who are Revolutionary war history buffs, you will recognize Tarleton in the British Parliament, who fought to retain slavery. (It seems he was often on the losing side.) It is true that God permitted a form of slavery, but only as a concession of human sinfulness. He does not endorse it, nor does our denomination. In fact, we have taken a clear stance against slavery. While Roman slavery forms a backdrop for this letter, the letter is not about slavery. It is about reconciliation, and it is on that the sermon will focus.
Jesus focuses on the cost one pays as his disciple. This is not the cost to become a disciple. Christ paid that himself on the cross. However, life as a believer has its crosses. Such crosses may come from one’s own family, where one lives, where one works, or even right out of left field. No matter where the challenge to our loyalty to Christ comes from, Christ calls us to remain faithful to him. This puts us in the same place as the Old Testament Israelites in our first lesson. You have family visiting from out of state. Do you stay home on Sunday or attend worship services? Who do you value more? Your boss tells you that, if you want that promotion, you have to work Sundays. What do you value more, Christ or your paycheck? The professor tells everyone that anyone who believes in the Christian God is a fool. Do you cave, or do you remain true to Your Savior? As in the Old Testament, knowing what is right is not enough. All that will do is tell us every time we fail. The strength for a Christian life flows from God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s love for us. This is not to excuse our sins. It is, though, to assure us that we can always find forgiveness from the very person who, from the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Remember, Christ makes us disciples, and he remakes us disciples every time we fail. He does this through his forgiveness.
Lesson Synopsis (from the LC-MS)
Christ Jesus Has Paid the Cost of Discipleship for You
A disciple of Jesus Christ will “bear his own cross” (Luke 14:27) and follow the Lord through death into life. Discipleship is costly because it crucifies the old man with “all that he has” (Luke 14:33), in order to raise up the new man in Christ. The disciple disavows “his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life” (Luke 14:26) in deference to Christ. That way of the cross is impossible, except that Christ Jesus has already paid the cost. His cross is set before you as “life and good, death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). Taking up His cross is to “choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him” (Deut. 30:19–20). To live that life in Christ is also to bear His cross in love, “that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord” (Philemon 14).
- The Board of Evangelism will meet Sunday after our worship service.
- If your grandparents are still alive, you may want to give them a call Sunday. It is, after all, Grandparents Day.
- The September newsletter is posted on this blog. Just go to the newsletter link.
- Remember, winter is coming on. We still need to raise the money for a new heater.
Well, I pray we will see you Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert