Saturday, November 29, 2014

Who, Me?


"I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, 'Go.'" Amos 7:14-15

In the credits of every movie, someone is noted as having been in charge of casting the roles of the actors. It takes talent to match an actor to a specific role. Hollywood would likely have disagreed with God's choices in the Old and New Testaments. Moses would have been too old; Samuel, too young; Ruth, too foreign. Peter would have been too mouthy; James and John, to temperamental; Paul, too hostile to the Church.
  There's no accounting for God's odd way of accomplishing His will through people we would not have chosen to do the job. But His ways aren't our ways. That's something to think about when He calls on us to do something and we think He should look elsewhere.
  It takes much prayer before we accept the task He gives us, perhaps not as gladly as we should. But by depending on His amazing grace and power, we can accomplish it.
  Prayer: Lord, You accomplished the Father's will, even when it cost You suffering and death. Forgive us our unbelief and hesitation when called on to do His will. Amen. [Black Friday's Portals of Prayer devotional reading]

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Advent of Our King - Bible Study

The Advent of Our King
Luke 19:28–40; Philippians 2:5–11; Ephesians 4:22–24; Daniel 7:13–14
(Lutheran Service Book 331)
Text: Charles Coffin (1676-1749)

The advent of our King
    Our prayers must now employ,
And we must hymns of welcome sing
    In strains of holy joy.

The everlasting Son
    Incarnate deigns to be,
Himself a servant’s form puts on
    To set His servants free.

O Zion’s daughter, rise
    To meet your lowly King,
Nor let your faithless heart despise
    The peace He comes to bring.

As judge, on clouds of light,
    He soon will come again
And His true members all unite
    With Him in heav’n to reign.

Before the dawning day
    Let sin’s dark deeds be gone,
The sinful self be put away,
    The new self now put on.

All glory to the Son,
    Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever one
    Through all eternity.

One of the things I love about historic hymnody (there is more than one thing) is the subtle ecumenical nature of the genera. Many people will say, “This is a Baptist hymn” or “That is a Lutheran hymn,” or whatever denomination they think the hymn represents. To some extent, that kind of identification is valid. But, in the most important sense, that type of identification is not valid. Hymns travel across denominational boundaries. This is especially true of hymns that are solidly biblical. “The Advent of Our King” is a great example of this.
Charles Coffin (1676-1749)
Charles Coffin (1676-1749) was a Frenchman, university professor and rector, and a dedicated Roman Catholic. This “Roman Catholic” hymn appears in 44 hymnals currently that are used in Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian and other Reformed congregations, and independent churches. How can this be? Coffin’s hymns (he wrote about 100) are characterized as “direct and fitted with the spirit of grace.” They have also been described as “remarkable … for their pure latinity (having a Latin style) and scripturalness.” It is their scripturalness, their spirit of grace, and clarity that has given Coffin’s hymns their broad appeal. The same holds true for his “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry,” which is LSB 344.

Advent is a “penitential” season. In repentance for our sin we prepare ourselves for Christ, who came to “set His servants free” from sin, death and the power of the devil. Therefore our hymn urges us to not let our “faithless heart” despise his coming and the gifts he brings.

There are three main “advents” (“advent” means “coming”) we remember during this season, the advent of Christ in time around 2000 years ago; the advent of Christ at his second coming, and the advent of Christ into our lives through the gift of faith. Each advent receives attention in this hymn. The coming 2000 years ago is remembered in verse two. Verse three remembers his coming into our lives. Verse four remembers his coming at the end of time. Verse five draws from his second coming and his coming into our lives. The final verse, which is doxological, captures all three main advent comings.

While we remember the coming of Christ at Christmas, into our lives through faith, and look forward to his coming at the end of time, these are not the only “comings” of Jesus. Coffin deftly weaves allusions to Jesus’ humble coming to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday into this hymn (Luke 19:28-40). One parallel is that both comings include a miracle. Of course the miraculous obtaining of the donkey isn’t in the same class as the virgin birth, but they are both miracles. The humble arrival of Jesus on a donkey compares to the humble surroundings of the birth of our Lord. Coffer connects these two events in verse three: “O Zion’s daughter, rise to meet your lowly King.” We here are Zion’s daughter and we, like the Judeans of the first century, rise to greet our king. The “faithless heart” that despises the coming of the King of peace would correspond to the Pharisees in the Palm Sunday story, or Herod in the Christmas story (Matthew 2:15-19). Another crowd that praises Jesus, to which to which we may join our “hymns of welcome” would be the angels in the Christmas story (Luke 2:8-15).

In verse two Coffer speaks of the Incarnation by saying Jesus “a servant’s form” put on. He got these words from Saint Paul. Paul wrote,

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Paul tells us the reason Jesus did this, the reason for the Incarnation, the reason for Christmas. Jesus humbled Himself so that as a human being, he could become “obedient to the point of death,” keeping God’s Law perfectly for us and paying for our sins on the cross. While Coffer doesn’t specifically mention the cross, he alludes to it. “Let sin’s dark deeds be gone” and “Who comes to set us free” are phrases that receive their meaning because of the atoning death of Jesus and the new life offered through his death.

In Luke 19:38 we read, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This is what the crowds shouted as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Coffin picks up on this peace in his third verse. However, Jesus doesn’t come to bring political peace between nations. That would be directly opposite of what he said in places like Matthew 24:6 or John 14:27. Jesus brings heavenly peace, a peace between God and humanity founded on the forgiveness God the Father gives to those who believe that his Son earned it for them. This is a peace that transcends human battle fields.

As I mentioned above, verse four deals with the Last Day. It reflects passages like Daniel 7:13-14. (Daniel 7:9-10 are also related.) We read,

13          “I saw in the night visions,

            and behold, with the clouds of heaven
                        there came one like a son of man,
            and he came to the Ancient of Days
                        and was presented before him.
14          And to him was given dominion
                        and glory and a kingdom,
            that all peoples, nations, and languages
                        should serve him;
            his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
                        which shall not pass away,
            and his kingdom one
                        that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel sees the “Ancient of Days,” who is the Father. In the vision Daniel sees the Father in heaven bestowing all of His power and glory on His Son. So, when Christ returns “As judge, on clouds of light” he possesses this divine dominion and glory.

Both Saint Paul and Coffin speak of putting off our “old self” and putting on “the new self.” Coffin does so in verse five. Paul does so in places like Ephesians 4:22-24.

22[T]o put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Verse 23 is key to understanding Paul’s thinking. He is talking about the renewal that takes place through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, working through the Gospel, sanctifies Christians, making them righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ. This enables Christians to strive earnestly to live according to Jesus’ teachings. We leave our old, sinful lives behind and live as Christ’s new people.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Worship Notes for Advent 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Day
Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. It is also the Festival of St. Andrew, Apostle. As a rule of thumb, festival readings are substituted for the regularly appointed readings when the festival falls on a Sunday. While this is the traditional practice, at Lamb of God we will celebrate this Sunday as the First Sunday in Advent.

There is an interesting thing about the Festival of St. Andrew, Apostle, from a liturgical perspective. It determines the beginning of Advent. The festival is always November 30. Advent begins on the Sunday closets to this Festival. You can’t get any closer than the actual day.

For more about this Festival just click on this name: Festival of St. Andrew, Apostle. It will take you to a post I made back in 2011.

We will be using Matins for our liturgy Sunday (page 219). This service uses the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the Introit. Our readings Sunday, then, are Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 11:1-10 and Psalm 80:1-7. The antiphon for the Psalm is verse 7. It is also the text for the sermon. The sermon is titled “The Advent of our King.”

Matins offers two choices for the canticle that follows the sermon, the Te Deum and the Benedictus. The Benedictus is the song Zechariah sang at the birth of John the Baptist. As this seems more in tune with the Advent season, we will use the Benedictus for our canticle.

Our opening hymn will be “The Advent of Our King” (LSB 341). Our sermon hymn will be “Arise, O Christian People” (LSB 354). Our closing hymn will be “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” (LSB 347).

Below is a video of our opening hymn, “The Advent of our King.”

I don’t know if I will get a Bible study based on one of the hymns this week.

Below is a summary of the scripture lessons provided by the LC-MS, followed by the readings themselves. The summary does not take into account the Psalm.

The Lord Jesus Comes in Meekness and Humility to Save Us
 Although we pray that God “would rend the heavens and come down” (Is. 64:1), that He would take vengeance against our enemies, we ourselves “have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is. 64:6). We have continued in our sins for “a long time, and shall we be saved?” (Is. 64:5). Yet, the Lord does not punish us in anger. He comes in voluntary meekness and humility to save us by His grace. Just as He once came into Jerusalem to sacrifice Himself for us upon the Cross (Mark 11:4–8), He still comes to His Church with the fruits of His Passion. By His ministry of the Gospel we are “enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge,” and so He will “sustain you to the end” (1 Cor. 1:5, 8).  Although “heaven and earth will pass away,” His words “will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).  As He sends disciples to call us to Himself in the fellowship of His Church, so will He “send out the angels” to gather us and all of His elect “from the ends of the earth” to Himself in heaven forever (Mark 13:27).

Isaiah 64:1–9
64:1        Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
                        that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2           as when fire kindles brushwood
                        and the fire causes water to boil—
            to make your name known to your adversaries,
                        and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3           When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
                        you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4           From of old no one has heard
                        or perceived by the ear,
            no eye has seen a God besides you,
                        who acts for those who wait for him.
5           You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
                        those who remember you in your ways.
            Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
                        in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6           We have all become like one who is unclean,
                        and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
            We all fade like a leaf,
                        and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7           There is no one who calls upon your name,
                        who rouses himself to take hold of you;
            for you have hidden your face from us,
                        and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

8           But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
                        we are the clay, and you are our potter;
                        we are all the work of your hand.
9           Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
                        and remember not iniquity forever.
                        Behold, please look, we are all your people.

1 Corinthians 1:3–9
3           Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4           I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—6even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—7so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 11:1–10
11:1        Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Psalm 80:1-7 (7)
80:1        Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
                        you who lead Joseph like a flock.
            You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
2                       Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
            stir up your might
                        and come to save us!

3           Restore us, O God;
                        let your face shine, that we may be saved!

4           O Lord God of hosts,
                        how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
5           You have fed them with the bread of tears
                        and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6           You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
                        and our enemies laugh among themselves.

7           Restore us, O God of hosts;
                        let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Some Quick Notes:

  • The Choir will be singing Sunday. They rehearse following our Wednesday Advent services.
  • The newsletter will be posted before Sunday. Print copies will be available Sunday.
  • The Thanksgiving Eve sermon has been posted on the sermons page of the blog.
  • Don’t forget to “follow” the blog.
  • Soup suppers and Advent worship services begin this coming Wednesday. Soup’s on at 6:15 pm. Worship starts at 7:00. Choir practice begins at 8:00.
  • Sunday, December 7. The LWML will have their Christmas party.

Well, I pray we will see you in worship.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

Monday, November 24, 2014

Worship Notes for Thanksgiving Eve, 2014

Monday after the Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 24, 2014

The Lord be with you

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Properly speaking, this is a national holiday. That being said, giving thanks to the Lord for his many blessings is always appropriate and it is a real blessing that we have the tradition in the USA of setting aside the fourth Thursday in November to do so. We, like most churches in our country, will take advantage of this by offering a special worship opportunity.

As Thanksgiving Day is often filled with family activities, we will have our Thanksgiving service on Wednesday, November 26. Our service will begin at 7:00 pm.

With Feasts and Festivals in the Church Year, it is traditional to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. However Thanksgiving Day is not a Church Year festival but a National Holiday. Therefore our Thanksgiving service will not offer the Lord’s Supper. We will be using the service of Evening Prayer for our liturgy (LSB page 243).

While the lectionary does not assign a specific day for a thanksgiving service, it does recognize that believers will want to have such services. It therefore offers scripture lessons for just such a service, and we will be using them. They are: Psalm 100; Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Philippians 4:6-20 and Luke 17:11-19. The sermon will be titled “Thanks for What?” The text will be Deuteronomy 8:10.

Our opening hymn will be “We Praise You, O God” (LSB 785). Our sermon hymn will be “Now Thank We All Our God” (LSB 895). Our closing hymn will be “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (LSB 790). We will also use a few of the verses from “We Give Thee But Thine Own” (LSB 781) for our offertory.

Below is a video of a Lutheran congregation singing “We Praise You, O God” in a 2011 Thanksgiving Day service.

A Bible study based on this hymn will also be posted.

Below is a summary of the scripture lessons provided by the LC-MS, followed by the actual readings.

We Praise God for Sustaining Life in and through His Word
The nation resounds with thanksgiving for the earth’s bountiful harvest, crops of wheat and grains, all beneath the canopy of God’s almighty care. But “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3). The Church is the vessel through which the Word of God penetrates the world with its Law and Gospel. It is this divine Word that proclaims Jesus as the sole source of life, health and wholeness. It is Jesus who heals lepers with His Word: “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:11–19). Of the 10 cleansed, only one expresses thanksgiving back to Jesus. But true gratitude proceeds from a heart sustained by faith. Jesus bids this one Samaritan to “rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” So also, we are sent from the Divine Service, bolstered in our faith by baptismal and Eucharist blessing to be thankful in our circumstances of plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Phil. 4:6–20).

Deuteronomy 8:1-10
8:1            “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

Philippians 4:6-20
6[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8           Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
10          I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
14          Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 17:11-19
11             On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

A Quick Note:

  • The first Choir practice for our seasonal choir will follow the Thanksgiving Eve service. All who have a song in their hearts are encouraged to join.
Well, I pray we will see you in worship.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert