Sermon for 1st Sunday in End Time: Reformation November 1, 2020
Text: Matthew 11:12-15 Historical Series Gospel 20:2221
Theme: A True Reformation: When the Gospel Grabs Hold of You
If I asked you to pick a word that best describes you in your life of faith, which word would you choose? I’ll give you some suggestions in order to help get you thinking about it.
In his Epistle to the Galatians (5:23), Paul describes the Christian life as marked by the fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” It is also marked by boldness, confidence, persistence, etc. What characteristic from these or others best describes you in your life of faith?
Did anyone consider “forceful”? How about “violent”? Whoa! Violent? Christians aren’t supposed to be violent people! They are to be loving, gentle, and kind, patient, self-controlled, and long-suffering, right? Those are the characteristics that we ask the Holy Spirit to work in us, aren’t they? Yes. But then, what should we do with our text when Jesus said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful people lay hold of it”? Some English translations like the King James Version read, “And the violent take it by force.” What could that mean?
It could describe people who hate Christ, oppose the Gospel, and turn on believers who seek to bring it to others. King Herod imprisoned John the Baptist and beheaded him. Caiaphas blasphemed Jesus and condemned Him to death. Saul, before his conversion to Paul, attacked Christians in order to destroy Christianity. And Jesus warned us in today’s Gospel Lesson: “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be on guard against people….They will whip you…Brother will hand over his brother to death, a father will do the same….You will be hated by all people because of my name” (Mt.10:23f). The Kingdom of God suffers at the hands of violent men who forcefully oppose Christ.
Yet, the phrase “the violent take it by force” could also describe the follower of Christ. As a Christian you are to be relentless in grasping to yourself the eternal treasures of God’s Kingdom of Grace. Martin Luther once said, “Run with might, wrestle, and strive, for God does not want the weary, bored, satisfied souls, but the hungry and thirsty who press forward and struggle for it (Mt.5:6)” (LW, Vol.38,. p.101).
Are you forcefully grabbing the Gospel to yourself, striving with all your might, relentlessly pressing forward with it? When the Gospel grabs hold of you like that, a true Reformation takes place.
I. As it forcefully worked in the past…
That’s how it worked in the past in forceful ways. For example, over 170 years ago a determined figure hurried down a street in Basel, Switzerland. It was a young Johannes Muehlhaueser, a founding father of the Wisconsin Synod. Just 26 years old, he scurried along, bent on seizing a weighty task. What he was about to do would not gain world-wide recognition, nor would it bring him great wealth. But it was a task that would change the course of his life and that of the church. God was about to take him far away for his life’s work, over 5,000 miles, on a journey that passed through New York to Milwaukee, WI. His purpose? To found Lutheran congregations in the new world.
To found a church in those days, let alone a Lutheran church, was no small task, for the greatest part of American society leaned on human sense and reason to survive in the wild new land. And others had no religious sense at all, let alone faith. Spiritual life on the American frontier was in a sad state of affairs with few pastors. So the task of bringing the Gospel was no easy matter.
Added to that in the mid 1800s a cholera epidemic swept through the land, especially the cities. Thousands died. What should the minister do? Should he hide or flee like so many had? But if he did, who would take care of the spiritual needs of the sick and the dying? How many souls would be lost for all eternity? No! Men like Muelhaueser forced themselves to stay to proclaim the Gospel
Others like Jakob Aal Ottesen, one of the founding fathers of the old Norwegian Synod from which the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) sprang, came to America because Norwegian settlers pleaded for help. He was called to serve 3 congregations in the northern WI city of Manitowoc, as well as 8 to 10 other mission stations that lay between Green Bay and Milwaukee – a distance of 120 miles. Think of that, one man serving 13 groups of people hungering to hear the Gospel.
This was pioneer work of the most trying kind that demanded a bold and burning love for God’s Kingdom, confidence in faith, and relentless willingness to exert one’s self. Incessant travel on horseback, 30 to 50 miles a day, along the rough shores of Lake Michigan or on silent trails that led through trackless forests, often in the cold of winter, to bring the Gospel of Christ to souls who needed the Savior.
There were others with names like Walther, Hoeneke, Bading, Koren, Preus, and above all, Martin Luther. Who could forget October 31, 1517, when, with great determination and purpose he nailed the Ninety-five Theses on the church day, eagerly calling for a spirited debate on the abuses of selling indulgences in his day? Or how about that day in 1521 when a stalwart Luther stood alone before the Emperor at a place called Worms? Eager at what he thought was a chance to defend the saving doctrines of the Scriptures, he instead was ordered to be silent and recant all the sermons and books he had written to show men the way of salvation in Christ alone. How could he take it all back, for the Gospel had grabbed hold of him and would not let go. How could he lose it, or allow the truth to be stifled? Quietly he began, yet with ever-growing forcefulness he spoke, “Unless I am convinced by the Scriptures, I cannot, I will not recant. My conscience is bound by the Word of God. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”
Boldly, forcefully, in “violence” to themselves, men went forth against all odds, like John the Baptist, preaching repentance and faith. They founded church after church, wrote book upon book, preached sermon after sermon, from Europe to Asia to the backwoods of America, Africa, Australia, Asia and beyond. They fought for God’s truths, organized synods, schools, and seminaries to carry it forward.
But it is not the men or their lives that we celebrate today. It is “the Gospel, of which we are not ashamed, for it alone is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.” When the Good News of a Savior who restores us to God is heard, it grabs hold of the heart and won’t let go. It works in Christians to become forceful, dare we say “violent” people as we eagerly and joyfully grab hold of it and let nothing stop us in advancing its saving proclamation.
Men, women, and children with a burning zeal, snatching to themselves the Kingdom of God by faith! That’s the way that you and I are to be in faith. That’s what happens when the Gospel grabs hold and the Spirit forcefully goes to work in people’s hearts. It’s a loving “violence” that makes our Lord smile. That’s the way it forcefully worked in the past. And as it worked that way in the past…
II. …so it still works in the present.
Look around you, dear friends, at the state of the world today. How godless it appears during this pandemic! How often do you hear leaders call upon God to overcome this epidemic for us? How often do you hear leaders urging our people to return their hearts to faith in Christ?
How about the Church? What’s it like? It doesn’t look so good either. Violent men and women in sheep’s clothing are trying to destroy it and the pure teaching of the Scriptures again. Perhaps Paul described it best when he wrote, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal…having a form of Godliness but denying its power” (2Tm.3:1f). Isn’t that a fair description of the spiritual life of many today?
Are we in need of the godly “violence” and loving forcefulness that was prominent in the past? Where is such strength today?
Some think that the strength of the church lies in numbers, some think in wealth, and others think in a winsome personality. But the power of God’s Kingdom is not found there, and no one shall ever be saved because one’s church was a large, wealthy, or socially influential one, or because its members were friendly or kind. You will never save others by pursuing these means alone. But you will save them by faithfully preaching God’s Word of Grace in Christ. So it was that Paul admonished, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction for a time is coming when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim.4:2f).
Preach the Word that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rm.3:23). “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith…for the just shall live by faith” (Rm.1:17). Freedom by God’s grace, by faith! Redeemed from sin, death, the devil, and all evil that plagues us – only in the Savior! It’s God’s Good News of forgiveness and life that grabs hold of hearts. Therein lies the power of salvation today, just like it did in the past – in the message of Christ crucified – Christ alone!
So, by God’s help we must be lovingly forceful like the men of old, in grabbing these saving truths to ourselves and in boldly proclaiming this Gospel, for men are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, by the Word of Christ alone. As the faithful proclamation of that Gospel worked forcefully in the past, it stills works that way in the present. It is the only means through which the soul is saved. And when that happens, A True Reformation take place – As the Gospel Grabs Hold of you and you won’t let it go. God grant it in our lives of faith and in the lives of many others; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Zion Lutheran Church of Springfield
(Member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
4717 S Farm Rd 135 (Golden Avenue)
Church phone: 417.887.0886 Pastor’s cell phone: 417.693.3244
www.zionluthchurch.com Email Address: email@example.com
The First Sunday of End Time: Reformation November 1, 2020
“Whoever endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22
F o r O u r V i s i t o r s
We extend a warm and sincere welcome in our Savior’s name. Please sign our guest book, located to the right just outside the sanctuary. If you desire more information about Zion or are in need of spiritual guidance, please call upon our pastor at any time. We are delighted to have you join us today and invite you to return soon.
U p o n E n t e r i n g G o d’ s H o u s e
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea….Come and see the works of the LORD….The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46).
W h a t T h i s S u n d a y i s A b o u t
This morning’s worship is based on the outline of “The Deutsche Messe,” The German Mass and Order of Service, arranged by Martin Luther in 1526. The term “Mass” comes from the Latin word “mitto,” which means “to send.” It was spoken at the end of the service as the pastor dismissed the congregation and “sent” them into the world as witnesses for Christ.
In arranging the service, Luther’s intent was two-fold: 1) to place the worship service into the language that his people understood and in which they could participate; and 2) to purify it from the doctrinal and devotional abominations and features that had been added.
The parts of today’s service which are marked with an * indicate parts that were not included in the simplified worship service that Martin Luther wrote for the German people. Those with the asterisk were additions to the service which later developed in America. Luther’s service for the German people included an order of Holy Communion that was shorter than the one we use normally use in our day.
On Reformation Sunday we thank God for the gift of His Word and His preservation of it throughout history. It is a strong and powerful Word that carries the message of salvation straight to the heart. Through it He calls each of us to be His redeemed children. With it He blesses us for time and eternity in the love we have received from Him. By it He enables us to stand firm in faith to the end.
The Order of Service
Based on the outline of a Service by Martin Luther with explanations.
The Introit (Entrance Psalm or Hymn): “Thy Strong Word” 280
As was common in the worship service of the day, Luther began the service with an Entrance Psalm. This was a psalm or hymn chanted by the choir as the clergy entered. There were not many hymns sung by the congregation before Luther’s day. Luther opened the service to congregational participation by providing hymns based on psalms. They replaced those chanted only by the choir.
Please Stand (We stand in humility before heaven’s King in reverence and obedience to Him.)
Pastor: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
*The Confession of Sins
Luther did not place a Confession of Sins into the service. The early Lutheran Church continued the practice of private confession and absolution. However, it was not the same as the Roman Sacrament of Penance in which those who confessed their sin were given works of satisfaction to make in order to reconcile the sinner to God and avoid temporal punishment. The addition of confession and absolution for all at the beginning of the service became part of the Lutheran liturgy in America with the introduction of “The Common Service” of 1888.
P: Let us confess our sins to God:
C: O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve Your punishment now and forever. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.
P: Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Kyrie Eleison
The Kyrie is a cry for God’s mercy and help. It expresses the confidence of faith that God will hear and answer our prayers. “Kyrie Eleison” is Greek for “Lord, have mercy.” It was utilized more as an invocation to the upcoming prayer than as a response to the confession of sins.
The Prayer of the Day, historically known as “The Collect”, is an ancient set of prayers “collected” together. They summarize all the petitions of God’s Church, using a pattern noted for its brevity, beauty, and poetry that consist of: 1) the addressing of God; 2) the basis for approaching God, or an attribute of God; 3) the petition; 4)the reason for the petition; 5) the closing doxology. Each Sunday has its unique Prayer of the Day, striving to reflect the theme of the Gospel Lesson of the day.
Please Be Seated
The Lessons of the Day
Luther retained the centuries-old list of Scripture Lessons appointed for specific Sundays and festivals. He also retained the practice of chanting the readings, although he modified the chant melodies to fit the German language. Each person speaking in the Gospel Lesson (e.g., Jesus, apostles, Pharisees) had their own melody that identified to the listeners who was speaking. Luther saw chanting as a means of minimizing the personality of the reader and of adorning and focusing attention on the words of the lesson. In addition, the sung voice carried more easily in the large churches of Europe.
Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5:1-6 Stand firm in faith that we are saved by Christ alone.
1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not allow anyone to put the yoke of slavery on you again. 2 Look, I, Paul, tell you that if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I testify again to every man who allows himself to be circumcised that he is obligated to do the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law are completely separated from Christ. You have fallen from grace.
5 Indeed, through the Spirit, we by faith are eagerly waiting for the sure hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters. Rather, it is faith working through love that matters.
The Hymn: “We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost” 190
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 10:16-23 Whoever stands firm in faith to the end will be saved.
16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on guard against people. They will hand you over to councils, and they will whip you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought into the presence of governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 Whenever they hand you over, do not be worried about how you will respond or what you will say, because what you say will be given to you in that hour. 20 In fact you will not be the ones speaking, but the Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you. 21“Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father will do the same with his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by all people because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. 23 And when they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. Amen I tell you: You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
The Creed: “We All Believe in One True God” 270
The Sermon: Matthew 11:12-15 (The traditional Gospel Lesson for Reformation Sunday)
“A True Reformation: When the Gospel Grabs Hold of You.”
The offering is not taken during the service, but is deposited in the offering plates
at the door as the individual Christian leaves the sanctuary.
The Lord’s Prayer Paraphrase
After the sermon a public paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer and admonition for those who were to partake of the sacrament followed. Whether they were read in the pulpit immediately after the sermon or at the altar, Luther left to the individual officiant’s judgment. It seemed that the ancients did so in the pulpit so that it was still the custom to read general prayers or the Lord’s Prayer in the pulpit. He asked that the wording of both would follow a prescribed manner for the sake of the common people lest the officiant “do it one way today and another tomorrow and so parade his talents and confuse the people so that they can neither learn nor retain anything.”
The Admonition to Receive Holy Communion
The Office of Consecration
It seemed to Luther that immediately after the consecration of the bread, Jesus administered it before blessing the cup. He based that on the accounts of the Lord’s Supper from Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25. After the bread was taken, then the cup was blessed and administered while the German Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, or other hymns were sung. The elevation of the elements was retained because the act went well with the Sanctus and signified that Christ commanded us to remember Him, elevating Him by faith in our hearts and minds through Word and Sacrament. We do not worship the bread or the wine. But we receive in faith, gratitude, and reverence the body and blood of Christ along with the bread and wine for forgiveness. The elevation was later abolished in the Lutheran Church in 1542 because the idea of worshiping the elements had slipped back into many people’s thinking. The men and the women at the time of the Reformation communed separately.
The Sanctus: Isaiah, Mighty Seer in Days of Old
It appears that this hymn, known as the German Sanctus, or another appropriate hymn was sung as the people came forward during the distribution of the bread before the cup was blessed. Then, while the cup was later blessed and administered, other appropriate hymns would be sung.
The Communion Collect
Luther directed the clergy to use the words of blessing which God gave to His Old Testament priests to bless the people of Israel.
*The Closing Hymn: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” 200
Modern day Lutherans found the end of this service to be too abrupt to their liking. A closing hymn was added by Scandinavian Lutherans in the 1800s.
Those parts of today’s service marked with an * indicate parts that were not included in the simplified worship service that Martin Luther wrote for the German people in 1526. Those with the asterisk were either a part of the earlier Latin service or were additions to the service that later developed in America.
Today’s Organist: Jane Rips Today’s Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann
Luther’s final words on using this order of service: “This or any other order shall be so used that whenever it becomes an abuse, it shall be straightway abolished and replaced by another, even as King Hezekiah put away and destroyed the brazen serpent….For the orders must serve for the promotion of faith and love, not to the detriment of faith. As soon as they fail to do this, they are invalid, dead, and gone….An order is an external thing. No matter how good it is, it can be abused. Then it is no longer an order, but a disorder….But the validity, value, power, and virtue of any order is in its proper use. Otherwise it is utterly worthless and good for nothing. God’s spirit and grace be with us all. Amen.”
(Many of the notes for this service were drawn from Volume 53 of Luther’s Works – the American Edition)
C a l e n d a r & A n n o u n c e m e n t s f o r Z i o n
Divine Worship Service with Holy Communion – online
|Pastor will attend the Fall MN District Council and Circuit Pastors…||…Meetings Mon.-Tues. in Minneapolis, MN. He will return Tuesday night||
| 11 am
Midweek Bible Class
Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Dea Windsor; Clyde & Sharon Johnson; the Dave Ballou, at home; Greg Miller; Casey Milam & family; Felicia Nichols’ brother’s family and father; Bill Buchanan; Lois Wiese; Norine Richardson; Barbara Long; Jodi Milam recovering from knee replacement surgery; Jodi’s sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and other family hospitalized and at home with COVID 19.
Forward in Christ’s latest issue for November has arrived. There are copies for family and friends on the credenza in the narthex. Also, the next edition of Meditations daily devotions beginning the end of November will be found there.
Monday-Tuesday, November 2-3 – Pastor attends the Minnesota District Circuit Pastors’ Meetings
Thursday, November 26 – Thanksgiving Day Worship Service 10 am
Next Sunday’s Lessons:
Last Judgment: Daniel 7:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:31-46
Points to Ponder: The following are examples of a few of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses regarding the abuses which had crept into the church, by which he called for a debate on the issues:
#1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying, “Repent ye,” intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence.
#3. It does not refer solely to inward penitence; nay, such inward penitence is naught unless it outwardly produces various mortifications of the flesh.
#21 Those preachers of indulgences are in error who say that by the indulgences of the Pope a man is loosed and saved from all punishment.
#27 They preach human doctrine who say that the soul flies out of purgatory as soon as the money, thrown into the chest, rattles.
#37 Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and of the Church, given him by God, even without letters of indulgence.
#43 Christians should be taught that he who gives to a poor man or lends to a needy man does better than if he buys indulgences.
#62 The true treasure of the Church is the holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
#94 Christians are to be exhorted to strive to follow Christ, their Head, through pain, death, and hell.
#95 And thus to enter heaven through many tribulations rather than in the security of peace.
From Martin Luther’s Day to the present, October 31, 1517 has been considered the birthday of the Reformation. At noon on this Eve of All Saints’ Day (“All Hallows E’en”; “Holy Evening”), Luther nailed on the Castle Church (Schloss Kirche) door, which served as a bulletin board for faculty and students of the University of Wittenberg, his Ninety-five Theses, as his Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences has commonly been called. He intended that these theses serve as a basis for a scholarly discussion with his colleagues at the university and other learned men. His act may have been prompted by the fact that people were gathering in Wittenberg to adore the collection of religious relics (bones of the saints, pieces of the cross, etc.) on All Saints’ Day, Nov.1.
At the same time a Dominican monk named John Tetzel was causing a great stir with his sale of indulgences (pardon from temporal punishment and satisfaction for sin). In Luther’s own words: “This same Tetzel now began to peddle indulgences. With might and main he sold grace for money as dearly or as cheaply as he could. At the time I was preacher here in the cloister and was filled as a new doctor with an ardent love for the Scriptures.
“When many people from Wittenberg ran after indulgences, I did not know what indulgences were, but no one else knew either. I carefully began to preach that one could do something better and more certain than to purchase indulgences….At first I let everything continue its course. Then it was reported that Tetzel was preaching some cruel and terrible propositions, such as the following:
– He had grace and power from the Pope to offer forgiveness even if someone had slept with the Holy Virgin Mother of God, as long as a contribution would be put into the coffer;
– Furthermore, the red Cross of Indulgences and the papal coat of arms on the flag of the churches were as powerful as the Cross of Christ;
– Moreover, even if St. Peter were here now he’d have no greater grace or power than (Tetzel) had;
– Furthermore, he would not want to trade places in heaven with St. Peter, for he (Tetzel) had redeemed more souls with his indulgences than Peter with his sermons;
– Furthermore, if anyone put money into the coffer for a soul in purgatory, the soul would leave purgatory for heaven in the moment one could hear the penny hit the bottom;
– Also the grace of indulgences is the grace by which man is reconciled with God;
– Furthermore, it is not necessary to show remorse or sorrow or do penance for sins when purchasing indulgences or a letter of indulgence. He even sold indulgences for future sins.
Such abominable things he did abundantly. He was merely interested in money.”
(1541 WA 51,538)
In the 95 Theses Luther applied his evangelical theology to indulgences. He hoped thereby to find an answer to a problem which had disturbed him and other sincere Christians for a long time.