Thursday, December 29, 2011

Free Conference - Ft. Wayne - January 16

On Monday, January 16, 2012, Redeemer will host a free conference. The theme of the conference is the on-going difficulties with Rome’s doctrine of the papacy and Pope Benedict 16th’s hermeneutics and theological process. This might strike some as strange since Benedict is the friendliest pope in memory and maybe since Luther’s excommunication. So also there have been requests that we re-think and re-evaluate the Confessional identification of the office of the papacy with the antichrist.

The Roman doctrine is more complicated than it first appears and Lutheran apologetics haven’t always been fair. We make no promise that we will answer all the issues fully. But we promise no cheap shots and will attempt to address them together, fraternally, and to seek to better understand the Holy Scriptures and the Confessions regarding these things.

The first address will be given by Rev. Heath Curtis, Gottesdienst Editor, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Worden, Illinois and Zion Lutheran Church in Edwardsville, Illinois. He will consider the doctrine of the antichrist in the Holy Scriptures as well as the confessional claims, in the context in which they were written, while evaluating whether or not these things still apply to the modern pope.

The second address, “Benedict 16th and the Hermeneutic of Continuity” will be presented by Rev. David Ramirez, assistant pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Illinois. From his own involvement in Vatican II to his time as the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the “hermeneutic of continuity” has been a central aspect of his Benedict’s Theology. It not only defines his interpretation of Vatican II, but also is the key to his understanding of history, doctrine, authority, and the nature of the church.

The conference itself is free, but lunch is not. We will order in pizza and take a collection to cover the cost for those who stay. You may, of course, choose to go elsewhere for lunch or to bring your own lunch. The conference will begin with the panelists at 11 but be preceded by an opportunity for Private Confession with Rev. Petersen in the Chapel beginning at 9:30 am and the Holy Communion at 10:30. We will also have the opportunity to learn better how to read and sing Gregorian chant as presented in the Brotherhood Prayer Book under the tutelage of the Rev. Dr. Ben Mayes at 3:30 pm and then to pray Vespers together from the Prayer Book in the Chapel at 4:30.

Here is the schedule:

Monday January 16, 2012 A+D

9:30 Private Confession available with Petersen in Redeemer's chapel

10:30 Low Mass in the Chapel

11:00-45 “Consideration of the Papacy in Light of the Confessions” by Rev. Heath Curtis

11:45 “Benedict XVI and the “Hermeneutic of Continuity by Rev. David Ramirez

12:30 Lunch - order in pizza, pitch in for costs

2:00 The Panel takes questions and considers statements from the floor

3:30 Gregorian practice/training with Dr. Ben Mayes for the LLPB Vespers

4:30 LLPB Vespers w/ Treasury Propers

Monday, December 26, 2011

Spot the error!

Have you received the CSL 2012 calendar yet? Instead of complaining about it, let's make it a game. The game is: spot the errors, in doctrine, practice, or fact. I'll go first: nice picture for February, Alma Mater! Thanks for supporting classic, traditional, Methodist practice!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blog + Beg = Bleg

I would be very appreciative if someone with access to the Graebner's essay, "Our Liturgical Chaos," could scan it in and email it to me. pastorcurtis AT gmail DOT com

Thanks in advance - and I promise to share it with others so your work will be worth the effort.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Just how many new pastors do we need again?

From the latest meeting of the LCMS Council of Presidents:

At the conclusion of the meeting, COP Secretary Rev. William Klettke, president of the New Jersey District, reported that 221 LCMS congregations were calling sole pastors; 37, senior pastors; and 45, associate or assistant pastors. He also reported that 430 congregations were listed as having temporary non-calling vacancies.
Numbers from all 35 LCMS districts were included in his report, Klettke said. He also noted that since the September COP meeting in St. Louis, districts had reported 21 new starts and seven closures.

What does this hold for May? I assume that those 37 congregations looking for senior pastors won't be looking for seminary graduates. That leaves 261 calling congregations. Do half of them really want seminary graduates? Doesn't there need to be some room for mobility among veteran pastors as well?

Given these numbers do we really need the SeminaryLite of SMP?

And those 430 "temporary non-calling vacancies"? What does one make of them? Didn't we used to keep track of "permanent non-calling" and "temporary non-calling"? Have we lumped those into one category now? I can't see a bail out fund of calls coming from them this spring.

Will the LCMS rationalize its seminary process? Can both seminaries survive without a new method of funding their mission? You've seen my plan for how to save them.

Some have argued that this dip in demand for pastors is like unto the dip in demand experienced during the Great Depression. Things will turn around, they say. But our problems are much deeper today than a mere lack of money in some congregations. In the 1930s we had a robust birth rate and (though we didn't know it then) we were just 10-15 years away from another influx of German Lutheran immigration and a cultural baby boom. None of those things holds for today. Surely it is passed time to face facts and plan for the future we are likely to have instead of kicking the can down the road. I do not envy our Synod's leaders at the district, Synod, and seminary level. I pray God gives them wisdom for the hard days ahead.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2012 Gottesdienst Liturgical Calendar is Up

Subscribers to the print edition should already have theirs by now, but here's the online version of our Gottesdienst 2012 liturgical calendar, in living technicolor.

Friday, December 9, 2011

AC XIV, again

Curiouser and curiouser. . .the CTCR has a new (now that new, I don't get over to their website that often, I'm afraid) document out responding to a couple of questions from the South Wisconsin District. The latter asked if it was appropriate under AC XIV for lay men to "regularly carrying out the duties of the pastoral ministry, viz., the public proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments." The answer was "not appropriate."

BUT! A Footnote! "It is clear from background information in the District President’s correspondence that this request does not pertain to questions about the service of “licensed lay deacons,” but about lay men “commissioned” by the congregation to carry out certain functions of pastoral ministry, such as public preaching and regular sacramental administration."

So the CTCR has at least said that it's not right, excuse me, "appropriate," for some laymen to pretend they are pastors. This is a step in the right direction. Dare we read into this carefully parsed statement a general tendency on the current CTCR to look afoul of the "licensed lay deacons" as well? After all, they Synod is only a collection of congregations. If a congregation can't "commission" somebody to pretend to be a pastor, then why can a bunch of congregations "license" a guy to do so?

Perhaps this fine statement from the systematics faculties is finally having its effect.

The upcoming District conventions will see several memorials to the Synod to get rid of lay ministry. The time to restore the Augsburg Confession in the Missouri Synod is now. Will the current leadership step forth boldly to do this? Oremus.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Faithful Lutheran Mission Needs a Chalice

There is a faithful LCMS mission start to Chinese immigrants in Evansville, IN, under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. Dr. Michael Paul. They are starting from the ground up and would like to buy a chalice. They have been offered free individual cups from the usual sources but want to start this new mission out right. Would you like to donate? Contact Dr. Paul at: paulm9 at gmail dot com.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More St. Nicholas

A very fine sermon from Dr. Stephenson.


Saint Nicholas

Heretic most hated
Spread the lie
Our Savior was created
Hearing of his fall from grace
Nicholas hit him in the face
Holy Father Nicholas

HT: Prof. W. Tighe

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hymns for this Church Year

Picking the hymns is the most stressful part of preparation for the Divine Service if you ask me. So I am a big fan of the hymn selection guide in the LSB volumes. Here are two more excellent resources.

* Here at Gottesdienst we have our own resident hymnologist, the Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch. Search his blog archives for all sorts of information and suggestions. I especially like his lists of hymns ordered by how many times his congregation sings them each year.

* Father David Juhl can't put his disc spinning days behind him and still loves to come up with a play list. He plans out the whole year's hymns and then kindly sends them to me - and now I'm sharing it with you here.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Snorting Horse

As a racehorse that snorts when the gate's latch is jangled by the jockey's aide as he fumbles with the lock, so the Christmas issue of Gottesdienst prepares itself to bolt onto the racetrack. The mailroom volunteers are like the horse's restless hooves: she can't wait to spring forth, and they can't wait to sort and carry the mailbags to the Post Office this week.

In this issue you will find the 2012 Gottesdienst Liturgical Calendar, and:

Two seasonal sermons
The Gospel in the Details
The Virtue of “Overstatement”
Two new poems
The Marcions Are Coming!
An Unfading Remembrance and Noble Heritage
The Best Preaching
Sixteen Years of Sabre-Bearers
GottesGuests at La Quinta January 17-20
In the Beginning: The Seventh Day

Not a subscriber yet? It's still very inexpensive ($15/year), so why not take care of that matter today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

30% Off DDSB & New Testament in His Blood

The publisher of Gottesdienst editors' choice is running a cyber Monday sale. Get Daily Divine Service Book, The New Testament in His Blood, and other titles from Dr. Eckardt or myself for 30% off with the code CYBERMONDAY305 at checkout.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Out of my depth

The most useful thing I've read about being a pastor in a long time. How to live a life out of your depth.

HT: The inestimable Lew Rockwell.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Contemptible Worship, Swedish Style

By Larry Beane

As if Lesbian "bishops" and gay porn in the cathedral weren't enough, here is the latest blasphemous attempt by the Lutheran (sic) "Church" of Sweden to engage the youth.

This about sums it up:
The church in Sweden has become increasingly progressive.  In 1958, it allowed its first female priests, and two years ago ordained its first openly gay bishop, Eva Brunne, and gave priests the right to wed same-sex couples.   
Idestrom says his modern Mass is a further development on the road of progress.
"People say this is exactly what the Church of Sweden needs," he said. "We need to develop the services so that we have a service also for people, mainly from the younger generation, who like this kind of music."
That's always the rationale for "contemporary worship."  And notice how it never stops with a few guitars, a flute, and a piano...
"There are churches who have U2 Masses, where they play music by U2, some have animals — horses and dogs and donkeys — and we have motor cycle Masses."
This is exactly what happens when the church forgets that worship is Gottesdienst (Swedish: Gudstjanst), God's service - a holy, supernatural, sacramental transaction in which the Lord gives His gifts to His people in Word and Sacrament, who in turn worship Him with reverence and gratitude for the sacrifice that has saved them from sin, death, and the devil.  Once that bond of mystery is broken, once the connection to the faith of our fathers is severed, there is not much left but a shallow and pathetic cry for attention that can quickly degenerate into a freak show.

At the heart of the matter, it's a first commandment issue.  Do we worship and submit to Christ?  Or do we worship ourselves and serve the god "entertainment"?  The liturgical butchers of the "Church" of Sweden have made it clear what is the object of their veneration.

HT: Dr. William Tighe

Speaking of Poetry . . .

This blew me away this morning, again from the Almanac:

The White
by Patricia Hampl

These are the moments
before snow, whole weeks before.
The rehearsals of milky November,
cloud constructions
when a warm day
lowers a drift of light
through the leafless angles
of the trees lining the streets.
Green is gone,
gold is gone.
The blue sky is
the clairvoyance of snow.
There is night
and a moon
but these facts
force the hand of the season:
from that black sky
the real and cold white
will begin to emerge.

"The White" by Patricia Hampl, from Resort. © Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1983. From The Writer's Almanac for November 12, 2011.

It is cold here, all the leaves are down, but the sun is shining and the sky is blue. The last two nights the sky has been clear, the moon full. Ms. Hampl just described my world and noted for me the sad foreboding reality that we are in our last "nice" days of the year: winter is coming.

Anyway, great poem.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Read Poetry for Better Preaching

Spurred on by my recent column in Gottesdienst, I’ve enjoyed a little series at Issues, Etc. with Rev. Todd Wilken on how to become a better preacher. In the midst of this, fellow Gotteseditor (that is edited by God and not the other way around) Rev. Jason Braaten put me on to the book Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media have Shaped the Messenger by T. Gordon David. It turns out, by the way, that Wilken has interviewed David. You can listen here:

You should read David’s book. $7.50 on the Kindle, which is deliciously ironic and also a great bargain.

In the course of the interview with Wilken, David advocates preachers reading poetry to become better preachers. I myself have advocated this for years. Once in a while some non-logophile preacher tries to take me up on it and then sends an e-mail asking, “How does one read poetry.” Generally, I’ve ignored those e-mails. But here is an attempt to help.

Step one: just do it. Subscribe to the Writer’s Almanac from NPR and read a poem a day. It is fast. It is easy. You don’t have to understand them or appreciate them. Just read them. Get into the habit. Sooner or later, one of them will make sense, one of them will hit you were you live.

Step two: go to the public library and get the audio course from the Teaching Company on listening to poetry. You might have to make an interlibrary loan request. You should know how to do that anyway. The public library is your friend.

If that spurs you on, I suggest you pick up poetry anthologies from the library. The Norton anthologies for English 101 are quite good. The notes are nice also.

I’ve ignored the question because I am not an English major: I simply love poetry. But I will now do a stupid thing and try to take you through a poem. Here is the poem from the Writer’s Almanac that landed in my in-box this morning.

When the War is Over
by W.S. Merwin

When the war is over
We will be proud of course the air will be
Good for breathing at last
The water will have been improved the salmon
And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly
The dead will think the living are worth it we will know
Who we are
And we will all enlist again

"When the War is Over" by W.S. Merwin, from The Lice. © Copper Canyon Press, 1993. Found at The Writer’s Almanac for November 10, 2011.

Read the poem out loud. Then read it again. Does it work? Maybe not. The poet is playing with you. The sense requires you ignore the line breaks and find the real breaks on your own. Here is how it should sound when read for sense:
When the war is over, we will be proud, of course.

The air will be good for breathing, at last.

The water will have been improved.

The salmon and the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly.

The dead will think the living are worth it.

We will know who we are.

And we will all enlist again.

The poem is lamenting the sad reality that war is inevitable, that we do not learn from history. It subtly mocks the idea that the dead think the living are worth it, that we are proud of our violence. The poem is told, remember, from the perspective that the war has not yet ended. This is the private in the trench trying to comfort himself. He might be one of those dead. He is desperate that air and water quality improve again, that the salmon return. He hopes his future pride will make it worth it, that if he lives his dead buddies don’t begrudge him. But he is sad, confused, uncertain in these bold statements.

That sadness and confusion, that bitter note at the end, that we don’t learn, that war will never end, etc, is conveyed by more than the words. It is conveyed also by the lacking punctuation and weird line breaks. The poet seeks to create an experience in you. The only way to participate with him is to meet him half-way. He wrote the poem now you have to read it, carefully, deliberately, more than once or even twice. You have to invest. Then it becomes clear and you are part of it.

The poem is about more than war. It is about the lies we tell ourselves, our attempts to comfort ourselves, and our realism, knowing, that it won’t work.
What this does for preaching is create an awareness of the power of words not just for their dictionary definition, but for the exact right word at the exact right place.

So there you go. There is the Petersen method of poetry reading. English majors may now assault in all their manliness.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


While I have been constantly updating Daily Divine Service Book to correct the typos that users have found in the first edition, it has always been my hope to eventually offer a fully reworked second edition. As you might imagine, this is a lot of work and I wanted to make sure that a full-blown second edition would really have something unique to offer. If I'm not going to be able to produce a product that is significantly different than the first edition, then I can make better use of my time.

Well, today I got an offer from Thomas Nelson publishing to allow me to use the New King James Version translation for the readings. But they are in this to make money and I don't know if the price they are asking is feasible. So, please see the poll at right to help me out with a little market research. And thanks in advance.


Harrison on Preaching

The other part of President Harrison's address to the open forum in Ft Wayne the other day is actually the more important part, in my opinion. What he says about the need to reform our preaching is spot on: Click here to watch.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What do you do all week?

The guys at the local bar/coffee shop/restaurant/town meeting place like to rib me since I only work one day a week. I retort that yes, I only work one day a week, but I only get two days off all year long.

This business of only working one day a week is, in my experience with myself and my friends in the ministry, where the parish antagonists are likely first to strike against the pastor: he's lazy, what does he do all week, why are we paying him so much for so little work, etc.

Thus it is good general advice to young pastors, a pastor in a new a place, or a pastor who can see some conflict on the horizon to keep a daily log of just what he does all week. Lawyers have to do this all the time: they have to show what they are doing every 15 minutes (every 10 minutes if your hourly is high enough) in a "billable hours" journal. It is really handy to be able to plop this down in front of the board of elders, the district president, or the antagonist in the parish - it cuts them off at the pass.

And there is an added benefit to keeping this journal for at least a month or so every year: it gives you a chance to review how effectively you are using your time. I've rearranged my schedule more than once based on what I saw in my habits. As every pastor knows, a "normal week" is hard to come by - but by keeping this journal you can devise a "normal week" as a goal to aim at, keeping in mind the sort of contingencies you've got to expect in your parish. FWIW, here's my "normal week."

Sunday: Set up at church: 6am; Bible Class 7:30; Divine Services 8, 9:30; Bible Class 10:45. Usually home by 12 or 12:30 and usually have the rest of the day free.

Office/Study/Visit Days (Mon-Thurs)
Daily Mon-Thurs: Prayer, Scripture reading, and study: about 1.5-2 hours where it fits. Usually morning, but also at noon or in the afternoon.

Monday: Morning: in the office - prep services, newsletters, communication with parishioners, parish planning, writing (for this blog, papers for presentations, etc - not sermons), etc. About a third of the year there is a women's Bible study from 9:30-10:30. During the school year, opening chapel at 8:30. Afternoon: visits, errands, more of the morning stuff. I often spend either the morning or the afternoon visiting the sick or putting out fires that I learned about on Sunday. Evening: maybe once a month on average I have a meeting on Monday night.

Tuesday: Men's Bible study early. Then opening at school at 8:30 during the school year. The rest of Tuesday looks a lot like Monday. It is often a good day to visit the far away shut ins. Once a month this is Winkel Day and school board meeting in the evenings. Tuesday evening is the night I also set aside for meetings with parishioners, visits of delinquents, writing notes, etc.

Wednesday: Every other month during the school year, chapel at 8:30. Lunch with my wife (I often don't eat lunch or eat it at weird times, always on the run and alone as I like to think while I eat. On Wednesday I bring in something special from the bar/restaurant/coffee shop and we have lunch together.) Prep for Wednesday night stuff. Evening: 5 - set up for DS; 5:30-6:15, set aside to hear confession; 6:30 DS; 7:00 - catechesis for government school kids and whatever adults are "in the system."

Thursday: Morning coffee at the bar to catch up on all the local "news" (that is, gossip and BS) with all the old men. This is the main place I learn who is angry with me, who is sick, etc. 8:00-10, opening and catechesis at the school. 10:00 - sermon writing. Afternoon: the long list of what hasn't been done yet this week, all the leftovers.

Friday: Scheduled day off. Especially during the school year I might be stretched into doing a shut in call this day, but I am pretty good about taking it completely off.

Saturday: More than half the time I also have Saturday basically off as long as Thursday went well and there is no sermon hanging over my head.

One thing you will notice about my schedule is the paucity of evening meetings. I am just blessed in this regard: my people hate meetings as much as I do.

This week is off to a normal start. It's Monday at 9:45 and here I am writing, with my study done for the day. Though not my prayers and Scripture reading! This is a perennial problem with me. I find it very easy to put that off until later in the day even though I am always happier when I do it first. I should repent. I have three people to check up on, but they can all either be dealt with via email or wait until the afternoon. Now it's time to get the Advent services figured out and maybe a shut in call this afternoon. Deer season is also coming up, so if I have extra time today I might get sermons done ahead of time. I should have tonight off to hang out with the family.

I honestly don't understand you guys who take Monday off instead of Friday. Do you ever really get it off, free and clear?


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sensible, Straight Talk from Fr. Harrison

In years past there has been much hand wringing about the decline of Missouri's membership. In these pages we have often argued the problem is a demographic one. I am gratified to see that we're not the only ones who have noticed. Thank you to Dr. Heidenreich for transcribing the following from Fr. Harrison. - +HRC

There are three things that are really hitting the Missouri Synod as much as anything. We're doing, I mean we're doing better than a lot of churches of course. But we've had a continuous slow decline over the last 50-40 years. I think 30 years ago was the last recorded yearly increase in our membership. Forty years ago, says Larry. That's all right, he'll, as he becomes president and becomes more and more of a fundraiser he'll become less and less of a historian. [Laughter] The biggest challenge we face is the birthrate. The birthrate of the Missouri Synod that is overwhelmingly white, descendent of European people in this synod - the birthrate of our church body has simply followed, mirrored, the broader birthrate of the United States among descendants of northern Europeans. That's a fact. There's hardly a single family out there that you're related to that has more children in the latest generation than it did in the previous generation. Now, do I expect any wholesale turnaround in this phenomenon? No, I don't. There are all kinds of intense pressures upon us. However, I think it's time for us to preach "Be fruitful and multiply." That's what the Bible says. And we ought to encourage young people and families who have the ability to have families. And encourage them. The church needs to be a place... It's no time to despise family ministries. It's no time to despise those kind of diakonic efforts in the church to care for marriages and families, etc. It's time to redouble our efforts in those areas and it's time to speak clearly that it's a good thing to have a large Lutheran orthodox family. If Muslims are having an average of 4.2 children a piece and we're having 2.1 children a piece, I would say God would be really happy if we'd bump it up to at least 4.2 per family. Don't quote me on that. [Laughter]

President Matthew Harrison, address at the ACNA-LCMS Open Forum, Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, Thursday, October 27, 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Advent Prayer Services

Advent rapidly approaches and with it the awkward question of what to do with those midweek prayer services that became popular in the mid-20th century. Here are a few ideas for the liturgically minded.

* If you don't already have a midweek Mass, that is the place to start. See if you can parlay these Advent services into a regular midweek low Mass. This is of great spiritual benefit to the congregation if for no other reason than to allow vacationers, shift-workers, etc., to catch a Divine Service if they have to miss Sunday. For propers, see DDSB.

* If you already have a midweek Mass or for some other reason want to keep this a prayer service, use it as an opportunity for the congregation to learn Vespers, Evening Prayer, or Compline.

As for liturgical themes, readings, psalmody, etc., here are three ideas to consider that avoid kitsch and idiosyncrasy, which often goes by the name "creativity" these days.

1. Saints. Andrew (Nov 30); Nicholas (Dec 6); Lucia (Dec 13); Thomas (Dec 21). One each for the four weeks of Advent with obvious tie-ins to the season and historic readings (which can be found in DDSB). That's hard to beat.

2. Treasury of Daily Prayer. This is our Lutheran Breviary and is wonderfully done. Take a look at the assigned readings for the weeks in Advent. Let the Writings guide and inspire your preaching. Also take a look at a Roman Breviary for more meditations from the Fathers as well as a little perspective on the history of the TDP's readings. For the actual service, I think picking one day's readings from the week for the service is the best idea, to go along with encouraging the whole congregation to take up this discipline in the home.

3. Previous Sunday's Epistle lesson. Traditionally, the Gospel serves as the text for the Sunday sermon with the Epistle playing only a supporting role. These midweek services are a fine time to preach on the Epistles, or LSB's OT lessons which are nicely focused on prophecies of Christ.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Report from the field

This comes from a newly ordained pastor somewhere in the Midwest. Many times before I've passed on the advice I got from the inestimable Fr. Ralph Tausz when it comes to introducing Lutheran ceremonies and liturgy to congregations with less than ideal histories in that regard. As with anything in the pastoral ministry: your mileage may vary. But here is one more man's experience.

"Things are going very well! Thanks for asking. I see positive strides in both the congregation as a whole, and especially in individual souls. For what it's worth, you were right about a congregation's tolerance for a pastor making immediate changes when they are accompanied by patient teaching, at least in my situation. We still have a ways to go, but I'm very optimistic."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Talking about the Liturgy

Here's a guest post from Fr. Mark Surburg, a colleague of mine here in the SID, though he serves a bit south of me, firmly in the Baptist Belt a good two hour drive outside of the St. Louis Metro Lutheran Zone. I think his words here are very beneficial - and I'll let them speak for themselves.


I am always interested to see how other pastors summarize the character and value of the liturgy as I look for new and better ways to present it to people. I have attached my own version of doing this in which I have attempted to draw upon what I have seen others done, while adding my own wrinkle here and there. - Fr. Mark Surburg

The Divine Service - God's gifts for us

Every Sunday we gather at church for the Divine Service. As we consider what happens on
Sunday morning, it is important that think about the service in the way of the Gospel. The focus
of Sunday morning is not on what we do (Law). Instead, the focus is on what God is doing
for us (Gospel). God comes to us with His gifts of the Means of Grace by which He delivers
forgiveness and strengthens us in the faith. The first move is from God to us. Then in turn,
as we receive God’s gifts, we respond with praise and thanksgiving. As the Apology of the
Augsburg Confession states: “Thus the service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good
things from God, while the worship of the law is to offer and present our goods to God … The
greatest possible comfort comes from this doctrine that the highest worship in the Gospel is the
desire to receive forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness” (IV.310). In order to recognize
this fact, Lutherans have called the Sunday service Gottesdienst, which means “Divine Service.”
This name reminds us that on Sunday, God serves us with His gifts.

The Liturgy of the Divine Service: God’s Word built around the Means of Grace

In ancient Greece, the word “liturgy” meant “public service.” The early church took this word
and used it to describe the fixed orders of service in which God comes to us and serves us with
His gifts. The liturgy of the Divine Service is made up of verses and phrases taken from Holy
Scripture. The liturgy is made up of Scripture and it has been built around the reading and
proclamation of God’s Word, and the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar. It highlights
and emphasizes the sacramental ways in which God comes to us and is therefore the best and
most natural setting for these gifts. The liturgy stresses the sacramental ways that God works,
and therefore it also emphasizes the incarnation because the sacraments find their origin in the
incarnate One, Jesus Christ.

The liturgy teaches the correct faith

What we believe, shapes and forms the way we worship. For example, churches who believe
that Christ gives us His very body and blood in Lord’s Supper place the Sacrament of the Altar
at the center of their worship service every Sunday, while churches who believe that it is only a
symbol do not usually celebrate the Lord’s Supper very often. The liturgy of the Divine Service
reflects exactly the faith of the catholic and apostolic Church that we believe.

At the same time, the opposite is also true. The way we worship shapes and forms what we
believe. The things we do, say and hear every Sunday determine what we believe. What a
church really believes can be learned from how they worship on Sunday morning. The weekly
use of the liturgy helps to form and shape us in the one true catholic and apostolic faith.

The Bible done right: again and again

The liturgy of the Divine Service is drawn from the Bible. However, it is possible to
misunderstand the Bible. Because the liturgy reflects the faith of the catholic and apostolic
Church, it is the Bible believed and understood correctly. In the liturgy, Law and Gospel are
properly distinguished as we admit our sins and receive Christ’s forgiveness in the Means

of Grace. The liturgy places Jesus Christ at the center and in doing so teaches it us that the
Christian faith is Christocentric – it is focused on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The liturgy
repeatedly points us towards the return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day (it is eschatological),
even as it assures us that we already now begin to experience a foretaste of God’s final salvation.

The liturgy teaches us these things, and it does so by exposing us to these truths every week.
There is an old saying that “repetition is the mother of learning.” The repetition of hearing and
singing the words of the liturgy each week teaches us the catholic and apostolic faith, and shapes
and forms the way we think about the faith. This is a process that begins with the smallest child
and continues all throughout our life. It is not a process that ever ends or is finished because the
words and phrases, movements and actions invite ever deeper understanding as we grow and
mature as Christians.

The liturgy: prayers that teach

The liturgy contains prayers that teach. In the liturgy we use the inspired prayers of the Psalms.
We also encounter prayers that use the language of the Bible and have been crafted by two
thousand years of Christian experience living the faith. These prayers teach us the Christian
faith. They also teach us how to pray by leading us beyond those things that we would say and
focus upon. They lead us beyond ourselves and support our prayer when don’t want to pray or
don’t know what to pray.

The liturgy preserves the faith (it keeps us catholic)

The liturgy teaches the correct faith. It also preserves the catholic and apostolic faith as it
is handed on from one generation to the next. The eternal and timeless truth of God’s Word
is preserved in the liturgy and this helps the Church to resist the spirit of the world in each
time period (the tyranny of “today”). As such, the liturgy of the Divine Service unites us with
the saints of the centuries before us who have sung and spoken the words of the liturgy (the
communion of saints). The liturgy binds us together with one another, and with the Christians
who have gone before us.

Lutherans are evangelical catholics. Lutherans are centered on the Gospel as we share in what
the universal church has believed and practiced. The liturgy confesses the truth of the Gospel
as it teaches and preserves the catholic faith. For this reason, the Lutheran church is a liturgical
church – it uses the liturgy of the Divine Service. As the Apology of the Augsburg Confession
states: “So in our churches we willingly observe the order of the Mass [the medieval name
for the Divine Service], the Lord’s day, and the other more important feast days. With a very
thankful spirit we cherish the useful and ancient ordinances, especially when they contain a
discipline that serves to educate and instruct the people and the inexperienced” (VII/VIII.33-34).

The reverence of the liturgy as we stand before God

The liturgy shapes worship with a profound reverence as we stand in God’s presence. The
biblical texts used; the use of song and chant; the fixed movements by pastor and congregation
(such as standing and bowing) help us to enter into God’s presence with reverence. They remind
us that in the Divine Service we stand before the holy God.

In the liturgy we experience the real world: the new creation

We live as Christians in the “now and the not yet.” While we look forward to Christ’s return on
the Last Day, we already now have received God’s reign in Christ and have received salvation.

In the liturgy we experience something different from the rest of the week. Yet as God comes to
us in His Means of Grace, what we are experiencing is the world as it really is. We encounter
God’s reign that has made us to be a new creation in Christ. We are joined together with all
the saints and the heavenly host as we experience heaven on earth. The liturgy emphasizes
the “now” of salvation, even as it points us forward to the return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day.

The liturgy is part of the Church’s culture that sets her apart from the world

Christ has called the Church out of the world and made her His own. The Church is present
where the Means of Grace are being administered. The Church is most herself when she is in
worship, and therefore she looks very different from the world when this is occurring.

The Church has her own culture – her own ways of speaking and acting – that separates the
Church from the world and marks her off as God’s people. The liturgy of the Divine Service
is a very important part of this culture that marks off the Church as God’s own people who
have been called out of the world. As visitors encounter the liturgy, they will often experience
something that they find to be different and foreign to them. This is not surprising because they
are encountering a different way of doing the world – God’s way. However in this recognition
there is an invitation to learn more about God’s way of doing the world and to join the culture of
God’s people.

The ceremony of the liturgy communicates in many ways

The ceremony of the liturgy – the movements by the pastor, the way the communionware is
handled, the vestments, paraments, candles, etc. – is part of the church’s culture. The ceremony
of the liturgy adorns the Means of Grace and sets them before us. It communicates the truth of
God’s Word to us in a variety of ways and embraces our bodily, physical existence in this time
and place.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lenten Sermon Series by Rev. Dan Dahling

By Larry Beane

No, Gottesdienst has not gone the way of the world where Christmas decorations appear before Reformation Day and by the beginning of Advent, the St. Valentine's Day paraphernalia makes its way to the shelves.

However, as we are approaching Advent and a new church year, some of y'all may be in planning mode.

One of the great benefits I enjoy as the Sermons Editor of the print edition is that I am exposed to quite a variety of sermons and preachers, approaches to texts, and different styles of proclaiming the Good News.  I have the honor to select a sermon or two for each quarterly issue.

Of course, there is a lot of great preaching out there.  I can't possibly include everything worth reading, studying, or meditating upon in only eight or so sermons a year.

So, I'm going to use Gottesdienst Online to present a Lenten sermon series (in outline form) graciously offered to us for publication by the Rev. Daniel Dahling of Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church in Decatur, Indiana.  In Pastor Dahling's own words:

I have a unique Lenten series that I wrote a few years back entitled “Jesus I will ponder now”. It is a series based on eight chorales written by Sigismund v. Birken & Johan Sebastian Bach. The sermon is structured around a hymn stanza or a chorale as the lines of the hymn become the outline of the sermon. The congregation sang the hymn verse as the sermon hymn and on occasion, the choir sang the verse. In this way the congregants were able to read the verse, sing it, and meditate on it during the service. The series was preached at Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church in 2006 and at St. John, Bingen during a vacancy in 2008. Would you be interested in reviewing or using this series?

So, with Pastor Dahling's blessing, I'm presenting below the overview and the sermons (six midweek, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday) as he preached them at Zion Friedheim in 2006.

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Celebrating our 168th Year

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

“Jesus I will Ponder Now”
A Lenten series based on six Chorales written by Sigismund v. Birken & Johan Sebastian Bach

March 1, 2006 - Ash Wednesday - Luke 18:31-34

Stanza #5       If my sins give me alarm
TLH #140       And my conscience grieve me
Birken             Let Thy cross my fear disarm
                        Peace of conscience give me
                        Grant that I may trust in Thee
                        And Thy holy Passion
                        If His Son so loveth me
                        God must have compassion

March 8, 2006 – Mid-week #2 – John 18:12-14

Stanza #3       Yet, O Lord, not thus alone
TLH #140       Make me see Thy Passion
Birken             But its cause to me make known
                        And its termination
                        Ah! I also and my sin
                        Wrought Thy deep affliction
                        This indeed the cause hath been
                        Of Thy crucifixion.

March 15, 2006 – Mid-week #3 – John 18: 15-27

From Bach’s         Peter gave it scarce a thought
St. John Passion    When he God rejected;
                        At Christ’s look, he fled, distraught,
                        Weeping and dejected.
                        Jesus fix Thy gaze on me,
                        True repentance teach me,
                        When Thou evil there doth see,
                        Through my conscience reach me.

March 22, 2006 – Mid-week #4 – John 19:5

From Bach’s         Jesu, who for me didst die,
St. John Passion    Livest now forever.
                        When my hour of death draws nigh,
                        Let me waver never.
                        May I e’er to Thee be turned,
                        O my faithful Savior!
                        Give me but what Thou hast earned,
                        More I do not pray for.

March 29, 2006 – Mid-week #5 – John 19:23-27

From Bach’s         He of everything took heed
St. John Passion    In his hour of dying
                        Caring for His mother’s need,
                        On His friend relying.
                        O man, do all things aright
                        Love God and thy neighbor,
                        Die then without pain and fright
                        Rest from care and labor.

April 5, 2006 – Mid-week #6 - John 19:31-37

From Bach’s         Help, O Christ, Thou God’s own Son,
St. John Passion    Through Thy bittern anguish.
                        That our wills with Thine be one,
                        Zeal for evil vanquish.
                        On Thy death and its true cause
                        Contrite thoughts will render,
                        And Though weak and full of flaws,
                        Thee our thanks will tender.

NB: M. Thursday 4/13/’06; G. Friday 4/14/’06; Easter 4/16/’06elp He

Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2006
Jesus I Will Ponder Now
Luke 18:31-34

Introduction: Today we begin a six week process of observing our Savior’s Passion, suffering and death during the discipline of Lent. Under the theme: “Jesus I will Ponder Now” we will focus on six aspects of the Savior’s Passion as rendered and presented in six beautiful Chorales – four of which were penned by Johan Sebastian Bach. It is my prayer that as we focus on Jesus’ suffering through Scripture and song we will grow in a deeper appreciation of what Jesus has won for us on the bloody and cruel cross of Calvary.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, Jesus explains to His disciples, “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” {V.31}
As we consider Jesus’ Passion we observe His work in terms of sin and grace.

I. If my sins give me alarm and My conscience grieve me.

A. It is sin which causes us to be alarmed

1. Sin of commission –committed and done by

a. Thoughts

b. Words

c. Actions

2. Sins of omission

a. When we had opportunity to do good but failed.

b. When we could have prevented sin but failed to act or didn’t want to get involved, or the time was not convenient.

B. Our conscience is troubled when we consider past wrongs, failures, and the nagging question, “What will God do to me at the end of my days?”

Transition: How do we receive a clean conscience and peace of mind? Our hymn verse gives us a clear answer.

II. Let Thy cross, my fear disarm peace of conscience give me.

A. The cross of Christ disarms our fears.

1. At The cross the wrath of an offended God was poured out on Jesus Christ God’s own Son.

2. Paul puts it this way; “God was in Christ reconciling us to the Father not counting our sins against us…” 2 Corinthians 5:19

3. As Christ has taken our sin there is nothing for us to fear.

B. Peace of conscience is what Christ alone can give.

1. He gives us His peace – “Peace I leave thee, My peace I give thee…” -John 14:27

2. This is the only peace which will sustain us – all other forms or attempts at peace - pale in comparison.

Transition: Christ suffered for us once for all. Yet the Devil will attempt to trip us up reminding us again and again of past failings. He will quote for us chapter and verse where we have sinned. That’s why we need a continued reminder of Christ’s work.

III. Grant that I may trust in Thee and Thy holy Passion.

A. All Jesus asks of us is to trust Him.

1. Trust is nothing more then another word for faith.

2. Faith is nothing more then taking God at His word.

B. We trust that what Christ accomplished at the cross is all that is needed to win for us salvation.

1. Jesus’ words: “It is finished!” says it all!

a. There is nothing left to be done. Jesus did it all at the cross.

b. Trusting in Jesus’ work and merit is what our faith must focus.

Transition: As we focus on what Jesus has done we learn an eternal truth – the love and compassion of Christ.

IV. If His Son so loveth me God must have compassion.

A. Smile - God loves you! Best summed up by Christ Himself in John 3:16-18

B. He has had compassion. The Passion of the Christ is motivated by the Father’s compassion for a fallen world. When He gave up His own Son He did the very best. The Father shows that;

1. He cares for us

2. He loves us

3. He sent us His own Son who redeemed this world to save us.

Conclusion: As we begin the discipline of Lent we focus on Jesus’ Passion. He has redeemed us lost and condemned creatures and has purchased and won us from sin, from death and from the power of the devil. A great and mighty wonder is to unfold during this Lenten season we watch in awe and wonderment.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Jesus I will Ponder Now
March 8, 2006
Mid-week #2
John 18:15
“Simon Peter also followed in Jesus’ path and another disciple”

Introduction: Following Jesus’ arrest in the garden Peter and John follow behind the soldiers as Jesus is lead to Annas. Annas just so happened to be the father-in-law of Caiaphas – who had been appointed to serve as high priest.

It wasn’t left to chance that Jesus was sent to have an audience with Annas. Annas was the principle player within the Jewish Council. He made sure to keep a power hold within the court, keeping tight control within his family power base.

History tells us that four of Annas's sons were among those who succeeded him. His son-in-law, Caiaphas, held office from A.D. 18 until 36, during the time of Jesus' active ministry.
Although others held the priestly office, Annas seems to have been the elder statesman and the power behind the throne.

Together these two men; Annas and Caiaphas, brokered much influence within the temple and the court - It was Caiaphas who had given counsel and warning to the Sanhedrin that it was expedient that one man should die for the sake of the people. -John 18:14

Peter and John follow behind – they desire to see what will occur next.

I. With Peter and John we view Christ’s Passion.

A. “Yet, O Lord, not thus alone make me see Thy Passion.”

1. During this holy season we meditate on what Christ did and endured to earn our salvation.

2. We mark His arrest, trial, suffering and crucifixion.

B. “But its cause to me make known and its termination.”

1. The cause for which Christ was arrested, tried, scourged and crucified was to win for me salvation.

2. When Christ died – all of our sin died. Our sins, with all evil lusts were all drowned and killed.

Transition: But we do more then merely observe Christ’s action. We recall, affirm and believe what Christ has done. He suffered and died that I may receive salvation and life.

II. We also recall the impact of Christ’s suffering.

A. “Ah! I also and my sin wrought Thy deep affliction.”

1. It was my sin and mine alone which caused Jesus to suffer and die.

2. It is my sin which caused me to be separated from the Father, from Christ, and my neighbor.

B. “This indeed the cause has been of Thy crucifixion.”

1. Christ suffered for me because I can do nothing to earn my salvation. My sin robs me of fellowship with God or with my neighbor. “Lord if You should mark iniquity who shall stand…” -Psalm 130:3

2. Because Christ has suffered for me and on my behalf I now enjoy the blessings that come from Christ’s bloody cross; salvation, forgiveness, life eternal.

Conclusion: Peter and John remain in the wings to see what will transpire next. What happens is that Jesus is abandoned by God and by men to take on our sin to Himself and thus win for us salvation. “Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood be for my soul the highest good.”*

- I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table” from The Lutheran Hymnal © 1940 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

March 15, 2006
Jesus I will Ponder Now
Mid-week #3
John 18:15-27

Introduction: The story of Peter is your story. It is also my story. Peter is so strong; so sure of himself, so bold – yet so often he stumbles, fumbles, flops and falls. Johan Sebastian Bach in a beautiful chorale tells a powerful account concerning Peter’s failure. Let’s see how the story unfolds.

I. “Peter gave it scarce a thought when he God rejected.”

A. Peter was so sure of himself. He felt secure in his faith.

1. After all, he was one of the twelve and of the twelve, one of the three whom Jesus gathered together to be part of His inner circle.

2. He was fixed firmly in his own ability to stand confidently with the Savior. Just hours before Jesus’ arrest in the garden Peter had pledged his loyalty to the Savior. “And [Simon Peter] said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death. But Jesus said, I tell you, Peter, before a [single] cock shall crow this day, you will three times [utterly] deny that you know Me.” - Luke 22:33-34

B. When he would eventually deny the Savior he thought he was only finding a limb on which to climb. It was for him a way of “saving face.” “I wasn’t really denying my Lord,” he could argue, “It was merely a case of “mistaken identity.” Peter said to the crowd, “You’re talking to the wrong man!”

1. What happens in our life? – Do we give a “false witness” when we, for example, compromise clear Biblical principles in order to fit in at work, or at school? What price will we pay to acquire acceptance, approval, acquiescence?

2. Every time we sin willfully we are doing nothing short of what Peter did on that fateful night.

3. Like Peter we often “give it scarce a thought” when we compromise principle for convenience or for what is expedient at the time.

C. We too are tempted.

1. In the beginning we are tempted [by the Devil] - to think - “it’s nothing.”

2. In the end we are told [again, by the Devil] - “it can’t be forgiven.”

Transition: It was bad enough for Peter to deny his Lord. But upon looking into the eyes of the Savior Peter was seized with guilt. Luke reminds us: “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord how He had said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.” (Luke 22:61) With one look Peter’s world crumbled!

II. “At Christ’s look he fled distraught, weeping and dejected.”

A. Confronted by his denial Peter was crushed.

1. This is what the Law does to us.

2. It is a necessary ingredient in preaching!

B. We too are crushed when confronted with the Law.

1. Nathan said to David “Thou art the man” - 2 Samuel 12:7

2. Contrition and repentance are necessary for restoration and forgiveness.

Transition: As Jesus fixed His gaze on Peter thus He must look on us.

III. We ask Jesus to “look on me” – “Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” – Psalm 51:11

A. “Jesus fix Thy gaze on me”

1. Press me, pursue me.

2. Never let me go! “I will never leave Thee nor forsake Thee” -Hebrews 13:5

B. “True repentance teach me” Remember the 5 “R’s” of repentance…

1. Responsibility – we own up to our sin.

2. Remorse – we are heart sorry.

3. Repair – we attempt to fix what we’ve broken - inasmuch as we are able.

4. Repeat not! – We don’t return to visit!

Note: These four steps; leading to repentance, come from Dr. Laura Schlesinger, she’s a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. She suggests; quite convincingly, that this is all we need to right a wrong. Yet, one component is missing. A 5th step is necessary; the final step, which separates Christians from the rest of the world; a step, which turns from following rules to establishing a relationship with God Himself. The 5th step necessary:

5. Reconciliation - through Christ alone!

Transition: Repentance is not merely a one time act – it must be a daily process. Thus we pray…

IV. “When Thou evil there doest see through my conscience reach me.”

1. Jiminy Cricket from Disney’s ‘Pinocchio’ would suggest to us; “let your conscience be your guide”

2. Our text would suggest even stronger let your conscience and the cruel and bloody cross of Calvary be your guide!

Conclusion: After the resurrection Peter and Jesus had another heart to heart meeting. Three times Jesus would ask Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” John would remind us in his gospel account, “Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him for a third time do you love Me?” – John 21:17

Roman Catholics maintain that Peter was the first Pope. To this day Protestant parishes in Europe will place a rooster instead of a cross on the top of their spires as a not so friendly reminder of Peter’s seedy past. Not much has changed over the years. Have there been instances in our lives when we have not acted as becomes a child of God? Have you had to be reminded of that moment only to relive it once again?

Each of us can recall those moments in our lives in which we are not proud! Peter’s’ denial crushed him – but what he found was restoration by the Savior!

Peter’s freedom came at a price – the price of Jesus’ life. To be crushed by conscience and the Law is never a pleasant thing. But Christ’s redemption leads to recovery – to be reconciled to the Father and also to each other – all has been made possible by the Savior’s amazing grace!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Jesus I will Ponder Now
March 22, 2006
Mid-week #4
John 19:5
When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, Behold the man!

Introduction: “Behold the man!” That’s what Pilate said. Who is this Jesus? How will you perceive Him? How will you react to Him? What has He done to deserve all this? Our chorale for this evening penned by Johan Sebastian Bach gives us much to contemplate.

I. Behold, the Savior of the world. Jesu, who for me didst die, Livest now forever.

A. Christ died –

1. He died for every sinner.

2. He died for me!

B. But now He lives –

1. Death could not hold Him.

2. He now lives and reigns through all eternity.

II. Behold Him who will hold us in death. When my hour of death draws nigh, Let me waver never.

A. Each must face death.

1. It is appointed for man once to die and after that face judgment. -Hebrews 9:72

2. Death is a curse which sinful humans have brought upon themselves. “The soul that sins it shall die.” - Ezekiel 18;4,20

B. Yet we can face death confidently in Jesus.

1. Because Christ defeated death by His own death we can now see death as a gate which leads to eternal life.

2. When facing our own demise terrors of conscience may seize us. Only Christ can keep us faithful. “Be Thou faithful until death and I will give Thee the crown of life.” - Revelation 2:10
III. Behold Him who will keep us. May I e’er to Thee be turned, O my faithful Savior.

A. By our own reason or strength we can not come to Him.

1. We are blind, dead and enemies of God.

2. Our sin prevents us.

B. Thus He sends us His Holy Spirit who…

1. Calls us - by the Gospel

2. Gathers us – into His body the Church

3. Enlightens us – with His gifts

4. Sanctifies us – keeps us holy

5. Keeps us – in the one true faith

IV. Behold him who will receive us into His glory. Give me but what Thou has earned, More I do not pray for.

A. What has Christ earned?

1. We now have peace with God.

2. We are given access to the Father’s throne - room of grace.

3. We have received forgiveness from all sin.

4. We’ve been given the hope of heaven with mansions glorious.

B. With all these gifts what more do we need?

1. The Christian can now be content.

2. There is nothing lacking for Christ has the sufficiency to supply us with all that we may ever need.


I am content my Jesus liveth still
In whom my heart is pleased.
He hath fulfilled the Law of God for me,
God’s Wrath He hath appeased.
Since He in death could perish never
I also shall not die forever.
I am content! I am content!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

I Am Content from The Lutheran Hymnal Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO © 1940

Jesus I will Ponder Now
March 29, 2006
Mid-week #5
John 19:23-27

Introduction: Hanging on a cross suspended between earth and heaven Jesus bore our sins in His body. In the midst of His cruel agony He provided for His mother’s care. John records for us the Savior’s word of dying concern. “When Jesus saw His mother, there and the disciple whom He loved, standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on this disciple took her into his home.” How beautifully Bach relates these events.

I. The death of Jesus was complete. “He of everything took heed In His hour of dying.”

A. All sin was paid for by Jesus’ vicious death.

1. There is not one sin left unaccounted.

2. The payment is marked: “paid in full!”

B. The proclamation of the cross is what frees us.

1. It is good news.

2. It is the power of God.

II. On the cross Jesus singles Mary out for attention. “Caring for His mother’s needs on His friend relying.”

A. He calls her “woman”.

1. A desire to spare her the hurt of “mother.”

2. He imparts a proper perspective – Mary will have to be saved like anyone else. She receives no dispensation!

B. He turns her over to John.

1. From that time on he became her son.

2. He provides for her taking her into his own house.

a. By way of history John will be the only disciple not to be martyred.

b. He will be exiled to the island of Patmos. – Revelation 1:9

III. By this act of love Jesus demonstrates the proper regard for family. “O man, do all things aright love God and thy neighbor.”

A. Jesus summed up the life of the Christian when He taught us;

1. “Love the Lord Thy God with all your heart, soul and all your might This is the first and greatest commandment.” - Matthew 22:37

2. “And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:38-39 There is no commandment greater than these.

B. “To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” - Mark 12:33

IV. Through Jesus’ example expressed to His mother He demonstrates a deep concern for others. Thus Bach concludes tonight’s hymn verse with these words; “Die then without pain and fright rest from care and labor.”

A. We can leave this world in death without pain or fright.

1. Christ bore our sins in His own body on the cross so that we will not have to suffer the terrors of a guilty conscience.

2. We receive Christ’s peace as He has secured for us peace with God.

B. Thus we rest from care and labor.

1. Luther possibly put is best when, in the conclusion to his morning and evening prayers he wrote: “Into Thy hands I commend myself [placing] my body and soul and all thing [into Thy care]. May Your Holy Angel [Spirit] be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me.”

2. This moved Luther to conclude in the morning the Christian should: “then go joyfully to your work” and in the evening we rest confidently: “then go to sleep at once and in good cheer.”

3. Here is evidence of a clear conscience; not based on what we do but rather on what Christ has finished. Our salvation is complete. We can rest in peace because our Father is at peace with Jesus’ work. At the cross and empty tomb Christ’s mission was accomplished!

Conclusion: Jesus showing compassion and care for His mother and His dear disciple has shown us how we too must act. Of the seven words Jesus spoke from the cross half of His last words are concerned with others. May His words and actions so move us to will and to do His good pleasure.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Jesus I will Ponder Now
April 5, 2006
Mid-week #6
John 19:37
They will look on the one they have pierced


When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died
My riches gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

The Passion of the Christ has been our focus through the sacred music of Johan Sebastian Bach these past three Wednesdays. We turn now to our final chorale – it is simply a prayer - that we may be one in Christ.

Help O Christ Thou God’s own Son
Through Thy bitter anguish
That our wills with Thee be one
Zeal for evil vanquish

I. We pray that our Will - may be one in the same as Christ’s. This we pray every time we pray the 3rd petition of the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy will be done” – Lord!

A. How is this done?

1. God’s good and gracious will is done among us by Himself – not us!

2. Specifically, when God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s name nor let His Kingdom come.

3. Those forces we contend with are the will of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.

B. God’s Good and gracious will is...

1. To strengthen and preserve us steadfast.

2. Keeping us faithful to His Word and faith unto our end. “Fear not, little flock, for it is Your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” -Luke 12:32

Transition: We pray that the Father’s will might be done in us. Viewing Christ’s Passion we render Him our thanks and praise.

II. Our focus thus is on Christ and His Cross

On Thy death and its true cause
Contrite thoughts will render

A. When we consider all that Jesus endured - His suffering, agony and bloody sweet we cry out for the Father to have mercy upon us.

1. With the beggar we cry, “Jesus, Master have mercy on me!”-Mark 10:47

2. Or, as the Kyrie would remind us; “Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord, have mercy.”

3. And, in the words of the Agnus Dei; “O Christ Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world have mercy upon us and grant us Thy peace.”

B. And we thank Him!

And though weak and full of flaws
Thee our thanks will render

1. Thank You Jesus, that you have taken
away my guilt and my sin.

2. Thank you Jesus, that You prayed;
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” -Luke 23:34

3. Thank You Jesus, who gave Stephen the
strength to pray; “Lord do not hold this sin against them!” –Acts 7:60 For this is how we ought to pray.

Conclusion: As we have pondered Christ’s holy Passion during this Lenten journey may we be moved to pray;

Grant that I may willingly
Bear with Thee my crosses,
Learning humbleness of Thee,
Peace mid pain and losses.
May I give thee love for love!
Hear me, O my Savior,
That I may in heaven above
Sing Thy praise forever.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

 When I survey the wondrous cross from The Lutheran Hymnal Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO © 1940

 Jesus I will Ponder Now from The Lutheran Hymnal Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO © 1940

M. Thursday
As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. –John 13:30

Introduction: In his St. John Passion J. S. Bach paints for us a picture of the arrest of Jesus which will trigger a series of events. These events will bring about the greatest travesty of justice – yet, at the same time will usher in the greatest demonstration of the Father’s love and faithfulness; faithfulness to His promise, faithfulness to His fallen children. For us; to receive the Father’s pardon, the Son of Man would have to be arrested, tried, crucified and killed.

Following the Passover celebration Jesus’ disciples sang a hymn. As they departed from the upper room - it was night. Christ the sinless Son of God is about to suffer for the crimes and sins of men.

I. “Christ through whom we now are blessed - knew no evil doing.”

A. In Christ we truly are blessed.
1. Blessed to know Him, blessed to be known by Him.

2. Blessed to have a relationship with Him.

3. Blessed to be brought into His family – the Church.

B. We are blessed because of Christ the sinless Son of God.
1. He knew no sin. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2. Yet He became sin for us. “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

3. He became a curse for us. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "--

4. That we might become the righteousness of God through Him. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord’.”

Transition: Christ the perfect holy Son of God blesses us. Our blessing came at the time of Jesus’ arrest when it was night.

II. “Him at night they did arrest - like a thief pursuing.”

A. His arrest happened at night. “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”
1. His arrest happened at night when the crowds who had come for the Passover festival would not so easily witness His arrest.

2. They arrested Jesus at night so they could hold a quick and speedy trial.

B. Like a thief they pursued Him.
1. How ironic – He who had committed no treachery becomes a wanted man; a thief, a criminal, a villain, a man they must pursue.

2. The enemies of the Christ will stop at nothing at having Him eliminated. It was necessary for this to happen they would argue. It was necessary for one man to die for the nation. “Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people. The leadership had had their fill – He must be eliminated.

Transition: Having made His arrest His trial is set.

III. “Led before the godless throng - falsely was convicted.”

A. Christ was convicted falsely.
1. Two witnesses came forward. “Many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”

2. Finally, the High Priest came forward and charged Him.
“The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.”

B. These leaders stirred up the crowd for a conviction of convenience. It served their end.

1. “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”

2. “So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” Pilate said “I find no fault in this man.”

3. But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

Transition: Having achieved their goal of a conviction the council will send Jesus to His death – But first He must be handed to the guard.

IV. “Laughed at, scoffed at, spat upon, - as the Word predicted.”

A. The guard will make sport of Him.
1. They want to publicly humiliate Him. “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.”

2. They want so show their utter contempt for Him. “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

B. This was all predicted for us in Sacred Scripture.
1. “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

2. “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth…”

3. “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself”.

Conclusion: After the Last Supper, events in our Lord’s life moved rapidly-- His prayer in Gethsemane, betrayal by Judas, arrest, mock trial, painful beating, the trudge to Golgotha and execution. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.” The events of Golgotha snuffed out the human life of Jesus, the Light of the World, as even creation was dark when He suffered.

Jesus, the innocent victim is sentenced to death – a death He did not deserve – yet a death He will bear for your salvation. In this most blessed Sacrament which He instituted before His arrest you receive the tokens of His sacrifice – His body, broken - His blood, shed - that you might receive absolution and clemency for your offenses. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us and grant us Your peace.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Good Friday
Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified – John 19:16

Introduction: Hanging on a cross - suspended between earth and heaven - the Son of man suffers – as no one has ever suffered – before or since. Stricken, smitten and afflicted see Him hanging on that tree – He hangs there - for you and for me.

We have come to the end of our series – Jesus I will ponder Now. Today we witness Jesus as He offers Himself as a sacrifice for the life of the world. The old song sings:

1. Make me see thy great distress,
Anguish and affliction,

A. The distress of Jesus is one no one has ever experienced. The physical torture was tremendous. But even greater was the spiritual torments He received. On that bloody and cruel cross Jesus was abandoned by God and by men.

B. Thus the Savior’s affliction and anguish was the highest cruelty. The wrath of an angry and offended God was poured out on the Son of man on a hill called Calvary. Heaped upon Him was a double load.

1. He suffered as no man should.

2. He suffered innocently the righteous for the

Transition: Jesus suffered great distress, anguish, and affliction. He suffered in time so we could be in bliss with God eternally.

2. Bonds and stripes and wretchedness
And Thy crucifixion;

A. Mel Gibson’s movie the “Passion of the Christ” is a vivid portrayal of the Roman style of execution called crucifixion. It is a rendering of what took place in Jerusalem during those short three hours on Good Friday. This movie is an apt depiction of what crucifixion was really like. No wonder the world feared the Romans! No wonder some still today can not bear to see it. No wonder the Romans had a law which read: Roman citizens may not be crucified. The scourging, whippings and beatings Christ endured was pure violence.

B. And yet, Gibson’s film is not “gratuitous violence.” To the contrary - there is a higher good which comes from the sufferings and the passion of the Christ.

1. Your sins, oh man, are gone. Your sins are buried in the tomb of Christ never to be seen again.

2. He separates them as far as the east is from the west and He remembers your sin no more.

3. There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ who was crucified. This is why we call this day Good Friday, for on a Friday - in time - the Son of God suffered to set you free.

Transition: Why mark these sacred hours when Jesus the Christ suffered? Why does every faithful Christian church station a cross prominently? What it the significance of the cross?

3. Make me see how scourge and rod,
Spear and nails did wound Thee,

A. It was a human who transgressed God’s law. When the Father said, “Of all the trees you may eat. But of the tree in the midst of the garden you will not eat, lest you die.”

B. It was a human who believed the lie when the tempter said, “you will not die, for the Lord knows in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing the difference between good and evil.”

C. It was a human who disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit.

D. Therefore it had to be a human who would suffer in your stead. Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a human mother became the Father’s only attempt and the only hope for the human race to be free from sin. There is no other plan. There is no other way. There is no other hope except through Christ. This is what prompted St. Paul to write, “I determine to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Transition: What is the significance of the cross? The hymn writer sums it up in thirteen powerful words.

4. How for man Thou diedst O God,
Who with thorns had crowned Thee.

A. Sacred Scripture is quite clear. “There is salvation in no
one else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

B. Here we see that great exchange God’s mercy and forgiveness purchased at the cross of His own Son! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

C. “No other child, no other Savior, Can ever help this sinful earth. Then take the Gift the Father sent us And spread the Story of His Birth.” That’s what our children said to us this past Christmas Eve. Good Friday assures us of a Merry Christmas! The birth of a baby means the death of a man – and that miserable death has saved us!

Conclusion: Come now, come weary sinner, come to the foot of the cross for all things are now ready!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +