Thursday, October 24, 2013

Worship Notes for Reformation Sunday - 2013

Thursday after Pentecost 22
October 24, 2013

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday will be celebrated as Reformation Sunday at Lamb of God. Of course, the Reformation is that key moment in time when Protestantism in general was born. In light of this, it is somewhat surprising that Lutheran’s are the only ones I know of that recognize this history shaping movement on their liturgical calendar.

Reformation Day is October 31 because that is the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door in 1517. Those 95 Theses sparked the Reformation. If one should read those theses, one would be amazed at how Roman Catholic Luther still was. That would change, as any reader of the Augsburg Confession (1530) can see. The light of the Word of God, along with the light from the Church Fathers, cast out the shadows of current theological opinions and ushered in a new age.

Most often we celebrate the Reformation with a special liturgy. However, one of the hallmarks of the Reformation was a reformation in the liturgy. Over the centuries many misleading, and even false, practices had crept into the regular Sunday liturgy. Just a few examples were prayers to the deceased, prayers seeking to assist the deceased, restricting the Lord’s Supper to only the clergy, and prayers that gave the impression that the Lord’s Supper was our work. Luther, and others, went over the current liturgy with a find tooth comb, removed the dross, kept the gold and silver, and bequeathed to the Church a form of the Western Rite that most Protestant Churches that are liturgical follow to one degree or another (everyone “tweaks” it a bit). To honor the Reformation liturgical renewal, this year we will use Divine Service 3 (page 184) with just a tweak or two from our normal practice. This is a communion service. To prepare you may review the “Christian Questions with Their Answers” found in most any copy of Luther’s Small Catechism (page 329 in the Lutheran Service Book).

The most obvious “tweak” in Sunday’s service will be the Introit. Instead of Pastor speaking it, the congregation will chant it. The words of the Introit will be included in an insert.

Our opening hymn will be “Faith and Truth and Life Bestowing” (LSB 584). Our sermon hymn will be “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 655). Our closing hymn will be “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (LSB 657). This is the Bach arrangement of Luther’s great hymn. The distribution hymns will be “The Law of God Is Good and Wise” (LSB 579), “The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace” (LSB 580), and “Come, Let Us Eat” (LSB 626).

Our readings will be Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, and John 8:31-36. The sermon text will be John 8:31-32. The sermon is titled “Informational or Transformational.”

Below is a video of our sermon hymn, “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word.” The words are included. You will notice that Rachel, “The Lutheran Warbler” has made some changes.

We continue in the Gospel of Luke in our Sunday morning Bible study. All are welcome. Bible study begins at 9:00 am.

Preview of Lessons

Revelation 14:6-7
This is the traditional epistle lesson for Reformation. John sees an angel flying “directly overhead” which carries the “eternal gospel” that is proclaimed to everyone. Some of Luther’s more ardent admirers identified this angel as Martin Luther himself. They weren’t as “out there” as you might first think. This angel represents all the messengers of the Gospel as they spread the life giving message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Remember, the word “angel” means “messenger.” So this angel does represent Luther, it just doesn’t represent only Luther. Every generation has its “angels” that proclaim the “eternal gospel.”

Romans 3:19-28
There is a fundamental distinction in the Bible which Lutheran’s call “Law and Gospel.” One might say commands and promises or some other contrasting pair. This reading brings this distinction our clearly. There are passages that seem to consign all humanity to hell. We are a hopeless lot that can never live up to the objective standards established by our Creator. The second group of passages is full of grace and mercy. Our shortcomings are forgiven, forgotten, erased. Heaven’s door is opened and we are welcomed home. So do we have a frowning God, waiting to cast us into hell, or a loving God who forgives and welcomes us into his family? The answer is, “yes.” Those who receive faith in Jesus enter into God’s grace and see the “smiling God.” Those who reject God’s grace in Christ are left with the “frowning God.” This is not God’s choice or desire. God would have all be saved. But those who turn from his love in Christ Jesus are left with condemnation.

John 8:31-36
The text for Sunday’s message is taken from this reading. Jesus is speaking of the power of his word. However many do not understand him, even those who might be described as believers. Thank the good Lord that perfect understanding is not a requirement for eternal life. That is not an excuse to remain ignorant. False belief is still false, it is still displeasing to God, it is still sin, but it is forgivable sin. It reminds me of the words suggested in Lutheran Worship for the pastor to use in blessing people after receiving the Lord’s Supper: “The body and blood of our Lord strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting. Go in peace. Amen.” Notice the pastor does not say “in the true Lutheran faith.” Sure, we think we have it right, but just in case we are off center here or there, we ask to be preserved in the pure Christian faith. This, by the way, is why I continue to use this blessing instead of the one in LSB (which shows an influence from Australian Lutheranism, a genuine expression of Lutheranism but having embraced some ideas that are not pan-Lutheran.)

Lesson Synopsis (from the LC-MS)
The Son of God Has Set Us Free from Sin and Death by His Grace
(There is actually a reading option for the Gospel lesson Sunday. I chose the one from John. The other option is Matthew 11:12-19). The following synopsis reflects both readings.)
Wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19), and the true Wisdom of God, Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, justifies us by His deeds. He prepares His way by the preaching of repentance, but He has suffered the violence of the Law and voluntarily handed Himself over to violent men, that we might eat and drink with Him in His kingdom and “remain in the house forever” (John 8:35). For He is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19), and He has rescued us by His grace from the slavery of sin and death. By the proclamation of His eternal Gospel “to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev. 14:6), “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law” (Rom. 3:21), “that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). And by hearing the Gospel of Christ Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:25), “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

On Sunday mornings our Bible study hour begins at 9:00. The Prelude begins around 10:20. Our opening worship moments begin around 10:25. Our opening hymn begins around 10:30.

Well, I hope we will see you Sunday.

Blessings in Christ,

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