Third Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for Augsburg Confession Sunday

Psalm 138bible

1     I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the kings I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

4     All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.  They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.

6     For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

7     Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;  you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

8     The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;  your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.  [1]

Isaiah 55:6-11 The word of God will not return empty

55:6 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;      let the wicked forsake their way,

and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8     For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10   For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,     so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. [2]

Matthew 10:24-33 What you hear in the dark, speak in the light

Jesus taught the Disciples: 

10:24         “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If others have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!”

26   “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

28   “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

29   Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.   And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

32   “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;  but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” [3]

Galatians 1:1-12  The True Gospel

Ga 1:1       Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the members of God’s family who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

6     I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!  As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

10   Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. [4]

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ps 138:1–139:title). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Is 55:6–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Mt 10:24–34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:1–12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Sermon for Augsburg Confession Sunday

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Paul writes to the Church of Galatia and to Christians through the age, ‘even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!  As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!” 

Let’s  join in a word of  prayer:
O God our loving Father, as we worship our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, even in our continuing isolation we acknowledge the true Gospel that proclaims the living presence of your Son and your Spirit in us, around us, revealing your love to us.  Remind us, as we read today, of the journey of our Lutheran forebears who struggled to bring this Gospel to light in the face of an unyielding church, and an unbelieving world.  Sustain us in the Scriptures and confessions of the Lutheran Church as we hold onto the reality that our lives matter and we  show your love to those around us.  O God our Father, receive our praises to your glory in the presence of  our risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and  our ever present comforter, Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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David:0414521661

During these troubling times with isolation from the COVID-19, we may have trouble holding onto the reality that our lives matter – to God and to each other.  We see around us raised arms and voices proclaiming that ‘Black lives matter’, ‘LGBTI lives matter’, ‘the life of nature matters’, until the cacophony of angry voices simply become noise in the background of our broken world.  Where social media seems almost more important that lives themselves.

I can imagine the same conditions prevailing during various times in the life of people and society in the cycle of life.  Let’s just look at life in the time of the monk Martin Luther.  From 1347 to 1665, the Black Death is responsible for about a billion deaths in Europe, presenting an ever-present threat of pandemic.  Turmoil in the political landscape of the Holy Roman Empire as factions vied for power and control, and the Pope of the Church pitted against the Emperor of Europe.  In all this environment, I am convinced that people throughout Europe were having trouble holding onto the reality that their lives mattered.

I am convinced that as he struggled with the purpose and value of life, Martin Luther held the words of Paul to the Galatians in his heart.  He called for a return to the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to find value in every life.  That every life matters to God, and should matter to each other.  A protest in the face of an unyielding reliance on the traditions of the church of the day.  What would normally have been ignored and dismissed as the rantings of a lunatic monk, found its audience by the grace of  God our Father. 

The initial protest was distributed by an unwitting ally of Luther’s.  With the Guttenberg Printing Press, Luther’s original protest received attention. 

The dialogue in letters, documents and sermons by Luther that followed were quickly given wide distribution.  Until the court of Emperor Charles 5th and Pope Clement called for Luther to cease and even recant his writings.  Upon which Luther had to take a stand and was declared a heretic and outlaw in 1521.  Luther discovered that his life mattered.  Had the efforts of Luther ended there, I suspect his legacy would have fallen into oblivion.  But a large population heard, read, and revisited the Scriptures translated by Luther into the common language, among them the noted princes, electors, and administrators of the Holy Roman Empire. 

The result was a call from the Emperor and Pope to gather these nobles together to call them to account.  This call was taken seriously, as the spiritual leaders of the reformation conferred, advised by Luther and led by Luther’s protegee Philip Melanchthon.  They documented a confession of their beliefs drawn from the treasure of the Scriptures.  And the Augsburg Confession became a reality as the foundation document of the reformation.  Words proclaiming that ‘Life Matters’.  Life in Christ Jesus matters.  Life in the fellowship of believers matters. 

But the call for reformation thinking goes back as far as Isaiah, from whom we read this morning:  ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’  Lives matter to God our Father.

From the time of creation, the cries for people to take seriously their relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have been fraught with risk.   Prophets were killed, Apostles were martyred, and Evangelists were often ignored, suppressed or even stoned.  So it was with courage and trepidation that the leaders in Germany gathered before Emperor Charles 5th to present the tenants of their faith.  They were prepared to sacrifice their lives rather than sacrifice their Bible-based belief in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.  Lives that found meaning and purpose only in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Lives built on anything less than Christ Jesus become more and more difficult to find meaning.

Those leaders of the Reformation must have heard our Saviour when he spoke through the reading from Matthew this morning, ‘”If others have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!  So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  …  Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;  but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”

Paul must also have taken these words to heart.  He certainly was no social pleaser, but a bondservant of Christ. Like the early reformers, his message would not change to accommodate adversaries. As the servant of Christ, he preached the truth revealed to him by Christ.  In Galatians, we can almost feel the passion of his plea: ‘If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.’ 

And in 1st Corinthians, we receive this same passion:  ‘I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’  (1 Corinthians 15:1–4 NIV)

Like the early reformers, Paul’s objective in life was to do the will of Christ, to live his life in service to his King.  That his life mattered. This reality strengthened him to hold fast to his message and kept him from adapting it to cater to others, or to the human traditions of the church.

It’s like one professional violinist who was giving a concert. When he finished, the crowd jumped up from their seats and gave him a standing ovation. He had delivered a magnificent performance. The young violinist, with tears coming down his cheeks, walked off the stage, dejected. The stagehand saw him and said, ‘Why are you so sad? Those people are going crazy out there and you are crying. I don’t understand.’

‘Do you see the one man in the centre down there? He is still sitting.’ 

The stagehand said, ‘Yeah, so what? There are two thousand other people who are standing.’

‘This is true, but you don’t understand. That man down there in the middle is my dad. He’s also my violin teacher. If he doesn’t stand, it doesn’t matter what two thousand other people do.’

If God doesn’t applaud when he sees how we live our lives, it doesn’t matter what everybody else does.  But with faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, we can hold to the promise and the hope that God our Father will stand and applaud when he sees his Son living within us.  Our mission in life is to let the love and the light of Christ shine through our lives.  And so we continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will set our heart and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father.

The grace and peace of our Triune God, keep our hearts and minds in our living Lord, Christ Jesus, as we praise God our Father and live in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Rev David Thompson

The Augsburg Confession

Philip Melanchthon (1530)

Introduction

In 1530, Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, called together the princes and cities of his german territories in a Diet at Augsburg. He sought unity among them to fend off the attacks of Turkish armies in Eastern Austria. He called upon the Lutheran nobility to explain their religious convictions, with the hope that the controversy swirling around the challange of the Reformation might be resolved. To this end, Philip Melanchthon, a close friend of Martin Luther and a Professor of New Testament at Wittenberg University, was called upon to draft a common confession for the Lutheran Lords and Free Territories. The resulting document, the Augsburg Confession was presented to the emperor on June 25, 1530.

The confession was presented to Charles V in both Latin and German. Minor differences between the two texts exist. Some editions published today print english translations from both. Our texts come from an edition published in 1930s by the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, under the title: Concordia Triglotta

Contents

Preface to the Emperor Charles V.

Most Invincible Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Clement Lord: Inasmuch as Your Imperial Majesty has summoned a Diet of the Empire here at Augsburg to deliberate concerning measures against the Turk, that most atrocious, hereditary, and ancient enemy of the Christian name and religion, in what way, namely, effectually to withstand his furor and assaults by strong and lasting military provision; and then also concerning dissensions in the matter of our holy religion and Christian Faith, that in this matter of religion the opinions and judgments of the parties might be heard in each other’s presence; and considered and weighed among ourselves in mutual charity, leniency, and kindness, in order that, after the removal and correction of such things as have been treated and understood in a different manner in the writings on either side, these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, that for the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Christian Church.

And inasmuch as we, the undersigned Elector and Princes, with others joined with us, have been called to the aforesaid Diet the same as the other Electors, Princes, and Estates, in obedient compliance with the Imperial mandate, we have promptly come to Augsburg, and — what we do not mean to say as boasting — we were among the first to be here.

Accordingly, since even here at Augsburg at the very beginning of the Diet, Your Imperial Majesty caused to be proposed to the Electors, Princes, and other Estates of the Empire, amongst other things, that the several Estates of the Empire, on the strength of the Imperial edict, should set forth and submit their opinions and judgments in the German and the Latin language, and since on the ensuing Wednesday, answer was given to Your Imperial Majesty, after due deliberation, that we would submit the Articles of our Confession for our side on next Wednesday, therefore, in obedience to Your Imperial Majesty’s wishes, we offer, in this matter of religion, the Confession of our preachers and of ourselves, showing what manner of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure Word of God has been up to this time set forth in our lands, dukedoms, dominions, and cities, and taught in our churches.

And if the other Electors, Princes, and Estates. of the Empire will, according to the said Imperial proposition, present similar writings, to wit, in Latin and German, giving their opinions in this matter of religion, we, with the Princes and friends aforesaid, here before Your Imperial Majesty, our most clement Lord are prepared to confer amicably concerning all possible ways and means, in order that we may come together, as far as this may be honorably done, and, the matter between us on both sides being peacefully discussed without offensive strife, the dissension, by God’s help, may be done away and brought back to one true accordant religion; for as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, we ought to confess the one Christ, after the tenor of Your Imperial Majesty’s edict, and everything ought to be conducted according to the truth of God; and this it is what, with most fervent prayers, we entreat of God.

However, as regards the rest of the Electors, Princes, and Estates, who constitute the other part, if no progress should be made, nor some result be attained by this treatment of the cause of religion after the manner in which Your Imperial Majesty has wisely held that it should be dealt with and treated namely, by such mutual presentation of writings and calm conferring together among ourselves, we at least leave with you a clear testimony, that we here in no wise are holding back from anything that could bring about Christian concord, — such as could be effected with God and a good conscience, — as also Your Imperial Majesty and, next, the other Electors and Estates of the Empire, and all who are moved by sincere love and zeal for religion, and who will give an impartial hearing to this matter, will graciously deign to take notice and to understand this from this Confession of ours and of our associates.

Your Imperial Majesty also, not only once but often, graciously signified to the Electors Princes, and Estates of the Empire, and at the Diet of Spires held A. D. 1526, according to the form of Your Imperial instruction and commission given and prescribed, caused it to be stated and publicly proclaimed that Your Majesty, in dealing with this matter of religion, for certain reasons which were alleged in Your Majesty’s name, was not willing to decide and could not determine anything, but that Your Majesty would diligently use Your Majesty’s office with the Roman Pontiff for the convening of a General Council. The same matter was thus publicly set forth at greater length a year ago at the last Diet which met at Spires. There Your Imperial Majesty, through His Highness Ferdinand, King of Bohemia and Hungary, our friend and clement Lord, as well as through the Orator and Imperial Commissioners caused this, among other things, to be submitted: that Your Imperial Majesty had taken notice of; and pondered, the resolution of Your Majesty’s Representative in the Empire, and of the President and Imperial Counselors, and the Legates from other Estates convened at Ratisbon, concerning the calling of a Council, and that your Imperial Majesty also judged it to be expedient to convene a Council; and that Your Imperial Majesty did not doubt the Roman Pontiff could be induced to hold a General Council, because the matters to be adjusted between Your Imperial Majesty and the Roman Pontiff were nearing agreement and Christian reconciliation; therefore Your Imperial Majesty himself signified that he would endeavor to secure the said Chief Pontiff’s consent for convening, together with your Imperial Majesty such General Council, to be published as soon as possible by letters that were to be sent out.

If the outcome, therefore, should be such that the differences between us and the other parties in the matter of religion should not be amicably and in charity settled, then here, before Your Imperial Majesty we make the offer in all obedience, in addition to what we have already done, that we will all appear and defend our cause in such a general, free Christian Council, for the convening of which there has always been accordant action and agreement of votes in all the Imperial Diets held during Your Majesty’s reign, on the part of the Electors, Princes, and other Estates of the Empire. To the assembly of this General Council, and at the same time to Your Imperial Majesty, we have, even before this, in due manner and form of law, addressed ourselves and made appeal in this matter, by far the greatest and gravest. To this appeal, both to Your Imperial Majesty and to a Council, we still adhere; neither do we intend nor would it be possible for us, to relinquish it by this or any other document, unless the matter between us and the other side, according to the tenor of the latest Imperial citation should be amicably and charitably settled, allayed, and brought to Christian concord; and regarding this we even here solemnly and publicly testify.

Article I: Of God.

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that “Word” signifies a spoken word, and “Spirit” signifies motion created in things.

Article II: Of Original Sin.

Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

They Condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

Article III: Of the Son of God.

Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men

He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin.

The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.

Article IV: Of Justification.

Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Article V: Of the Ministry.

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

Article VI: Of New Obedience.

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17, 10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.

Article VII: Of the Church.

Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6.

Article VIII: What the Church Is.

Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, etc. Matt. 23, 2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.

Article IX: Of Baptism.

Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper.

Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

Article XI: Of Confession.

Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Ps. 19, 12.

Article XII: Of Repentance.

Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that some may attain to such perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.

Article XIII: Of the Use of the Sacraments.

Of the Use of the Sacraments they teach that the Sacraments were ordained, not only to be marks of profession among men, but rather to be signs and testimonies of the will of God toward us, instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. Wherefore we must so use the Sacraments that faith be added to believe the promises which are offered and set forth through the Sacraments.

They therefore condemn those who teach that the Sacraments justify by the outward act, and who do not teach that, in the use of the Sacraments, faith which believes that sins are forgiven, is required.

Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.

Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.

Article XV: Of Ecclesiastical Usages.

Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquillity and good order in the Church, as particular holy-days, festivals, and the like.

Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance was necessary to salvation.

They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to propitiate God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. Wherefore vows and traditions concerning meats and days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the Gospel.

Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs.

Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.

They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians. They condemn also those who do not place evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but in forsaking civil offices, for the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart. Meanwhile, it does not destroy the State or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates and laws save only when commanded to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5, 29.

Article XVII: Of Christ’s Return to Judgment.

Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.

They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.

Article XVIII: Of Free Will.

Of Free Will they teach that man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. “Good” I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being. “Evil” I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.

They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching “the substance of the act.” For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.

Article XIX: Of the Cause of Sin.

Of the Cause of Sin they teach that, although God does create and preserve nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, that is, of the devil and ungodly men; which will, unaided of God, turns itself from God, as Christ says John 8, 44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.

Article XX: Of Good Works.

Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good Works. For their published writings on the Ten Commandments, and others of like import, bear witness that they have taught to good purpose concerning all estates and duties of life, as to what estates of life and what works in every calling be pleasing to God. Concerning these things preachers heretofore taught but little, and urged only childish and needless works, as particular holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like. Since our adversaries have been admonished of these things, they are now unlearning them, and do not preach these unprofitable works as heretofore. Besides, they begin to mention faith, of which there was heretofore marvelous silence. They teach that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin faith and works, and say that we are justified by faith and works. This doctrine is more tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation than their old doctrine.

Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning faith, which ought to be the chief one in the Church, has lain so long unknown, as all must needs grant that there was the deepest silence in their sermons concerning the righteousness of faith, while only the doctrine of works was treated in the churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning faith as follows: —

First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christs sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2, 6, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14, 6.

This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, Eph. 2, 8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, etc.

And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of man’s works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.

But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced, nevertheless God- fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom. 5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole doctrine is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience, neither can it be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.

Heretofore consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works, they did not hear the consolation from the Gospel. Some persons were driven by conscience into the desert, into monasteries hoping there to merit grace by a monastic life. Some also devised other works whereby to merit grace and make satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very great need to treat of, and renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the end that anxious consciences should not be without consolation but that they might know that grace and forgiveness of sins and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ.

Men are also admonished that here the term “faith” does not signify merely the knowledge of the history, such as is in the ungodly and in the devil, but signifies a faith which believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of the history — namely, this Article: the forgiveness of sins, to wit, that we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through Christ, truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him, and calls upon God; in a word, he is not without God, as the heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this Article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from Him. Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the word “faith,” and teaches that the term “faith” is accepted in the Scriptures not for knowledge such as is in the ungodly but for confidence which consoles and encourages the terrified mind.

Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of God. It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended, and that, for nothing. And because through faith the Holy Ghost is received, hearts are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to be able to bring forth good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is the mother of a good will and right doing. For man’s powers without the Holy Ghost are full of ungodly affections, and are too weak to do works which are good in God’s sight. Besides, they are in the power of the devil who impels men to divers sins, to ungodly opinions, to open crimes. This we may see in the philosophers, who, although they endeavored to live an honest life could not succeed, but were defiled with many open crimes. Such is the feebleness of man when he is without faith and without the Holy Ghost, and governs himself only by human strength.

Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine is not to be charged with prohibiting good works, but rather the more to be commended, because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith human nature can in no wise do the works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith it does not call upon God, nor expect anything from God, nor bear the cross, but seeks, and trusts in, man’s help. And thus, when there is no faith and trust in God all manner of lusts and human devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ said, John 16,6: Without Me ye can do nothing; and the Church sings: Lacking Thy divine favor, There is nothing found in man, Naught in him is harmless.

Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.

Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country; For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.

This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. There is, however, disagreement on certain Abuses, which have crept into the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed; because even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere, neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same; although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. But it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some extent corrected.

ARTICLES IN WHICH ARE REVIEWED THE ABUSES WHICH HAVE BEEN CORRECTED.

Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. Nor should Your Imperial Majesty believe those who, in order to excite the hatred of men against our part, disseminate strange slanders among the people. Having thus excited the minds of good men, they have first given occasion to this controversy, and now endeavor, by the same arts, to increase the discord. For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from common rumors or the revilings of enemies. But it can readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.

Article XXII: Of Both Kinds in the Sacrament.

To the laity are given Both Kinds in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, because this usage has the commandment of the Lord in Matt. 26, 27: Drink ye all of it, where Christ has manifestly commanded concerning the cup that all should drink.

And lest any man should craftily say that this refers only to priests, Paul in 1 Cor. 11,27 recites an example from which it appears that the whole congregation did use both kinds. And this usage has long remained in the Church, nor is it known when, or by whose authority, it was changed; although Cardinal Cusanus mentions the time when it was approved. Cyprian in some places testifies that the blood was given to the people. The same is testified by Jerome, who says: The priests administer the Eucharist, and distribute the blood of Christ to the people. Indeed, Pope Gelasius commands that the Sacrament be not divided (dist. II., De Consecratione, cap. Comperimus). Only custom, not so ancient, has it otherwise. But it is evident that any custom introduced against the commandments of God is not to be allowed, as the Canons witness (dist. III., cap. Veritate, and the following chapters). But this custom has been received, not only against the Scripture, but also against the old Canons and the example of the Church. Therefore, if any preferred to use both kinds of the Sacrament, they ought not to have been compelled with offense to their consciences to do otherwise. And because the division of the Sacrament does not agree with the ordinance of Christ, we are accustomed to omit the procession, which hitherto has been in use.

Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of Priests.

There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract matrimony. First, because Paul says, 1 Cor. 7, 2. 9: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn. Secondly Christ says, Matt. 19,11: All men cannot receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1, 28. Nor is it in man’s power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this creation. [For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man’s law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.

It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men. For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3, 2, that a bishop should be chosen who is the husband of one wife. And in Germany, four hundred years ago for the first time, the priests were violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered such resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to publish the Pope’s decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the tumult raised by the enraged priests. And so harsh was the dealing in the matter that not only were marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by the Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are known frequently to have expressed misgivings that such enforced celibacy and depriving men of marriage (which God Himself has instituted and left free to men) has never produced any good results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much iniquity.]

Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man’s nature is gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany.

Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to be wished were done also in this matter. And it is to be expected that the churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.

But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against the marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored. But now men, and that, priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the Canons, for no other cause than marriage. Paul, in 1 Tim. 4,3, calls that a doctrine of devils which forbids marriage. This may now be readily understood when the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.

But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can it be done by any vow. Accordingly, Cyprian also advises that women who do not keep the chastity they have promised should marry. His words are these (Book I, Epistle XI ): But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts; they should certainly give no offense to their brethren and sisters.

And even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have taken vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally been the case.

Article XXIV: Of the Mass.

Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Cor. 14,2. 9, but it has also been so ordained by man’s law. The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. For none are admitted except they be first examined. The people are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. [In this connection they are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.] This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us.

But it is evident that for a long time this also has been the public and most grievous complaint of all good men that Masses have been basely profaned and applied to purposes of lucre. For it is not unknown how far this abuse obtains in all the churches by what manner of men Masses are said only for fees or stipends, and how many celebrate them contrary to the Canons. But Paul severely threatens those who deal unworthily with the Eucharist when he says, 1 Cor.11,27: Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. When, therefore our priests were admonished concerning this sin, Private Masses were discontinued among us, as scarcely any Private Masses were celebrated except for lucre’s sake.

Neither were the bishops ignorant of these abuses, and if they had corrected them in time, there would now be less dissension. Heretofore, by their own connivance, they suffered many corruptions to creep into the Church. Now, when it is too late, they begin to complain of the troubles of the Church, while this disturbance has been occasioned simply by those abuses which were so manifest that they could be borne no longer. There have been great dissensions concerning the Mass, concerning the Sacrament. Perhaps the world is being punished for such long-continued profanations of the Mass as have been tolerated in the churches for so many centuries by the very men who were both able and in duty bound to correct them. For in the Ten Commandments it is written, Ex. 20, 7: The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. But since the world began, nothing that God ever ordained seems to have been so abused for filthy lucre as the Mass.

There was also added the opinion which infinitely increased Private Masses, namely that Christ, by His passion, had made satisfaction for original sin, and instituted the Mass wherein an offering should be made for daily sins, venial and mortal. From this has arisen the common opinion that the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act. Then they began to dispute whether one Mass said for many were worth as much as special Masses for individuals, and this brought forth that infinite multitude of Masses. [With this work men wished to obtain from God all that they needed, and in the mean time faith in Christ and the true worship were forgotten.]

Concerning these opinions our teachers have given warning that they depart from the Holy Scriptures and diminish the glory of the passion of Christ. For Christ’s passion was an oblation and satisfaction, not for original guilt only, but also for all other sins, as it is written to the Hebrews, 10, 10: We are sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all. Also, 10, 14: By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. [It is an unheard-of innovation in the Church to teach that Christ by His death made satisfaction only for original sin and not likewise for all other sin. Accordingly it is hoped that everybody will understand that this error has not been reproved without due reason.]

Scripture also teaches that we are justified before God through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. Now if the Mass take away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act justification comes of the work of Masses, and not of faith, which Scripture does not allow.

But Christ commands us, Luke 22, 19: This do in remembrance of Me; therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of those who use the Sacrament should remember what benefits it receives through Christ, and cheer and comfort the anxious conscience. For to remember Christ is to remember His benefits, and to realize that they are truly offered unto us. Nor is it enough only to remember the history; for this also the Jews and the ungodly can remember. Wherefore the Mass is to be used to this end, that there the Sacrament [Communion] may be administered to them that have need of consolation; as Ambrose says: Because I always sin, I am always bound to take the medicine. [Therefore this Sacrament requires faith, and is used in vain without faith.]

Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the Sacrament, we hold one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the Sacrament, also on other days, when it is given to such as ask for it. And this custom is not new in the Church; for the Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any private Mass, but of the common Mass [the Communion] they speak very much. Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at he altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others. And it appears from the ancient Canons that some one celebrated the Mass from whom all the other presbyters and deacons received the body of he Lord; for thus the words of the Nicene Canon say: Let the deacons, according to their order, receive the Holy Communion after the presbyters, from the bishop or from a presbyter. And Paul, 1 Cor. 11, 33, commands concerning the Communion: Tarry one for another, so that there may be a common participation.

Forasmuch, therefore, as the Mass with us has the example of the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disapproved, especially since public ceremonies, for the most part like those hitherto in use, are retained; only the number of Masses differs, which, because of very great and manifest abuses doubtless might be profitably reduced. For in olden times, even in churches most frequented, the Mass was not celebrated every day, as the Tripartite History (Book 9, chap. 33) testifies: Again in Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday the Scriptures are read, and the doctors expound them, and all things are done, except the solemn rite of Communion.

Article XXV: Of Confession.

Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved. And the people are most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution, about which formerly there was profound silence. Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as being the voice of God, and pronounced by God’s command. The power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences, also, that God requires faith to believe such absolution as a voice sounding from heaven, and that such faith in Christ truly obtains and receives the forgiveness of sins. Aforetime satisfactions were immoderately extolled; of faith and the merit of Christ and the righteousness of faith no mention was made; wherefore, on this point, our churches are by no means to be blamed. For this even our adversaries must needs concede to us that the doctrine concerning repentance has been most diligently treated and laid open by our teachers.

But of Confession they teach that an enumeration of sins is not necessary, and that consciences be not burdened with anxiety to enumerate all sins, for it is impossible to recount all sins, as the Psalm testifies, 19,13: Who can understand his errors? Also Jeremiah, 17 9: The heart is deceitful; who can know it; But if no sins were forgiven, except those that are recounted, consciences could never find peace; for very many sins they neither see nor can remember. The ancient writers also testify that an enumeration is not necessary. For in the Decrees, Chrysostom is quoted, who says thus: I say not to you that you should disclose yourself in public, nor that you accuse yourself before others, but I would have you obey the prophet who says: “Disclose thy self before God.” Therefore confess your sins before God, the true Judge, with prayer. Tell your errors, not with the tongue, but with the memory of your conscience, etc. And the Gloss (Of Repentance, Distinct. V, Cap. Consideret) admits that Confession is of human right only [not commanded by Scripture, but ordained by the Church]. Nevertheless, on account of the great benefit of absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is retained among us.

Article XXVI: Of the Distinction of Meats.

It has been the general persuasion, not of the people alone, but also of those teaching in the churches, that making Distinctions of Meats, and like traditions of men, are works profitable to merit grace, and able to make satisfactions for sins. And that the world so thought, appears from this, that new ceremonies, new orders, new holy-days, and new fastings were daily instituted, and the teachers in the churches did exact these works as a service necessary to merit grace, and did greatly terrify men’s consciences, if they should omit any of these things. From this persuasion concerning traditions much detriment has resulted in the Church.

First, the doctrine of grace and of the righteousness of faith has been obscured by it, which is the chief part of the Gospel, and ought to stand out as the most prominent in the Church, in order that the merit of Christ may be well known, and faith, which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake be exalted far above works. Wherefore Paul also lays the greatest stress on this article, putting aside the Law and human traditions, in order to show that Christian righteousness is something else than such works, to wit, the faith which believes that sins are freely forgiven for Christ’s sake. But this doctrine of Paul has been almost wholly smothered by traditions, which have produced an opinion that, by making distinctions in meats and like services, we must merit grace and righteousness. In treating of repentance, there was no mention made of faith; only those works of satisfaction were set forth; in these the entire repentance seemed to consist.

Secondly, these traditions have obscured the commandments of God, because traditions were placed far above the commandments of God. Christianity was thought to consist wholly in the observance of certain holy-days, rites, fasts, and vestures. These observances had won for themselves the exalted title of being the spiritual life and the perfect life. Meanwhile the commandments of God, according to each one’s calling, were without honor namely, that the father brought up his offspring, that the mother bore children, that the prince governed the commonwealth, — these were accounted works that were worldly and imperfect, and far below those glittering observances. And this error greatly tormented devout consciences, which grieved that they were held in an imperfect state of life, as in marriage, in the office of magistrate; or in other civil ministrations; on the other hand, they admired the monks and such like, and falsely imagined that the observances of such men were more acceptable to God.

Thirdly, traditions brought great danger to consciences; for it was impossible to keep all traditions, and yet men judged these observances to be necessary acts of worship. Gerson writes that many fell into despair, and that some even took their own lives, because they felt that they were not able to satisfy the traditions, and they had all the while not heard any consolation of the righteousness of faith and grace. We see that the summists and theologians gather the traditions, and seek mitigations whereby to ease consciences, and yet they do not sufficiently unfetter, but sometimes entangle, consciences even more. And with the gathering of these traditions, the schools and sermons have been so much occupied that they have had no leisure to touch upon Scripture, and to seek the more profitable doctrine of faith, of the cross, of hope, of the dignity of civil affairs of consolation of sorely tried consciences. Hence Gerson and some other theologians have grievously complained that by these strivings concerning traditions they were prevented from giving attention to a better kind of doctrine. Augustine also forbids that men’s consciences should be burdened with such observances, and prudently advises Januarius that he must know that they are to be observed as things indifferent; for such are his words.

Wherefore our teachers must not be looked upon as having taken up this matter rashly or from hatred of the bishops, as some falsely suspect. There was great need to warn the churches of these errors, which had arisen from misunderstanding the traditions. For the Gospel compels us to insist in the churches upon the doctrine of grace, and of the righteousness of faith; which, however, cannot be understood, if men think that they merit grace by observances of their own choice.

Thus, therefore, they have taught that by the observance of human traditions we cannot merit grace or be justified, and hence we must not think such observances necessary acts of worship. They add hereunto testimonies of Scripture. Christ, Matt. 15, 3, defends the Apostles who had not observed the usual tradition, which, however, evidently pertains to a matter not unlawful, but indifferent, and to have a certain affinity with the purifications of the Law, and says, 9: In vain do they worship Me with the commandments of men. He, therefore, does not exact an unprofitable service. Shortly after He adds: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man. So also Paul, Rom. 14, 17: The kingdom of God is not meat and drink. Col. 2, 16: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the Sabbath-day; also: If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances: Touch not, taste not, handle not! And Peter says, Acts 15, 10: Why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Here Peter forbids to burden the consciences with many rites, either of Moses or of others. And in 1 Tim. 4,1.3 Paul calls the prohibition of meats a doctrine of devils; for it is against the Gospel to institute or to do such works that by them we may merit grace, or as though Christianity could not exist without such service of God.

Here our adversaries object that our teachers are opposed to discipline and mortification of the flesh, as Jovinian. But the contrary may be learned from the writings of our teachers. For they have always taught concerning the cross that it behooves Christians to bear afflictions. This is the true, earnest, and unfeigned mortification, to wit, to be exercised with divers afflictions, and to be crucified with Christ.

Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors that neither satiety nor slothfulness tempt him to sin, but not that we may merit grace or make satisfaction for sins by such exercises. And such external discipline ought to be urged at all times, not only on a few and set days. So Christ commands, Luke 21, 34: Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt. 17, 21: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says, 1 Cor. 9, 27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. Here he clearly shows that he was keeping under his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to have his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual things, and for the discharge of duty according to his calling. Therefore, we do not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions which prescribe certain days and certain meats, with peril of conscience, as though such works were a necessary service.

Nevertheless, very many traditions are kept on our part, which conduce to good order in the Church, as the Order of Lessons in the Mass and the chief holy-days. But, at the same time, men are warned that such observances do not justify before God, and that in such things it should not be made sin if they be omitted without offense. Such liberty in human rites was not unknown to the Fathers. For in the East they kept Easter at another time than at Rome, and when, on account of this diversity, the Romans accused the Eastern Church of schism, they were admonished by others that such usages need not be alike everywhere. And Irenaeus says: Diversity concerning fasting does not destroy the harmony of faith; as also Pope Gregory intimates in Dist. XII, that such diversity does not violate the unity of the Church. And in the Tripartite History, Book 9, many examples of dissimilar rites are gathered, and the following statement is made: It was not the mind of the Apostles to enact rules concerning holy-days, but to preach godliness and a holy life [, to teach faith and love].

Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows.

What is taught on our part concerning Monastic Vows, will be better understood if it be remembered what has been the state of the monasteries, and how many things were daily done in those very monasteries, contrary to the Canons. In Augustine’s time they were free associations. Afterward, when discipline was corrupted, vows were everywhere added for the purpose of restoring discipline, as in a carefully planned prison.

Gradually, many other observances were added besides vows. And these fetters were laid upon many before the lawful age, contrary to the Canons.

Many also entered into this kind of life through ignorance, being unable to judge their own strength, though they were of sufficient age. Being thus ensnared, they were compelled to remain, even though some could have been freed by the kind provision of the Canons. And this was more the case in convents of women than of monks, although more consideration should have been shown the weaker sex. This rigor displeased many good men before this time, who saw that young men and maidens were thrown into convents for a living. They saw what unfortunate results came of this procedure, and what scandals were created, what snares were cast upon consciences! They were grieved that the authority of the Canons in so momentous a matter was utterly set aside and despised. To these evils was added such a persuasion concerning vows as, it is well known, in former times displeased even those monks who were more considerate. They taught that vows were equal to Baptism; they taught that by this kind of life they merited forgiveness of sins and justification before God. Yea, they added that the monastic life not only merited righteousness before God but even greater things, because it kept not only the precepts, but also the so-called “evangelical counsels.”

Thus they made men believe that the profession of monasticism was far better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was more meritorious than that of magistrates, than the life of pastors, and such like, who serve their calling in accordance with God’s commands, without any man-made services. None of these things can be denied; for they appear in their own books. [Moreover, a person who has been thus ensnared and has entered a monastery learns little of Christ.]

What, then, came to pass in the monasteries? Aforetime they were schools of theology and other branches, profitable to the Church; and thence pastors and bishops were obtained. Now it is another thing. It is needless to rehearse what is known to all. Aforetime they came together to learn; now they feign that it is a kind of life instituted to merit grace and righteousness; yea, they preach that it is a state of perfection, and they put it far above all other kinds of life ordained of God. These things we have rehearsed without odious exaggeration, to the end that the doctrine of our teachers on this point might be better understood.

First, concerning such as contract matrimony, they teach on our part that it is lawful for all men who are not fitted for single life to contract matrimony, because vows cannot annul the ordinance and commandment of God. But the commandment of God is 1 Cor. 7, 2: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Nor is it the commandment only, but also the creation and ordinance of God, which forces those to marry who are not excepted by a singular work of God, according to the text Gen. 2, 18: It is not good that the man should be alone. Therefore they do not sin who obey this commandment and ordinance of God.

What objection can be raised to this? Let men extol the obligation of a vow as much as they list, yet shall they not bring to pass that the vow annuls the commandment of God. The Canons teach that the right of the superior is excepted in every vow; [that vows are not binding against the decision of the Pope;] much less, therefore, are these vows of force which are against the commandments of God.

Now, if the obligation of vows could not be changed for any cause whatever, the Roman Pontiffs could never have given dispensation for it is not lawful for man to annul an obligation which is simply divine. But the Roman Pontiffs have prudently judged that leniency is to be observed in this obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have dispensed from vows. The case of the King of Aragon who was called back from the monastery is well known, and there are also examples in our own times. [Now, if dispensations have been granted for the sake of securing temporal interests, it is much more proper that they be granted on account of the distress of souls.]

In the second place, why do our adversaries exaggerate the obligation or effect of a vow when, at the same time, they have not a word to say of the nature of the vow itself, that it ought to be in a thing possible, that it ought to be free, and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? But it is not unknown to what extent perpetual chastity is in the power of man. And how few are there who have taken the vow spontaneously and deliberately! Young maidens and men, before they are able to judge, are persuaded, and sometimes even compelled, to take the vow. Wherefore it is not fair to insist so rigorously on the obligation, since it is granted by all that it is against the nature of a vow to take it without spontaneous and deliberate action.

Most canonical laws rescind vows made before the age of fifteen; for before that age there does not seem sufficient judgment in a person to decide concerning a perpetual life. Another Canon, granting more to the weakness of man, adds a few years; for it forbids a vow to be made before the age of eighteen. But which of these two Canons shall we follow? The most part have an excuse for leaving the monasteries, because most of them have taken the vows before they reached these ages.

Finally, even though the violation of a vow might be censured, yet it seems not forthwith to follow that the marriages of such persons must be dissolved. For Augustine denies that they ought to be dissolved (XXVII. Quaest. I, Cap. Nuptiarum), and his authority is not lightly to be esteemed, although other men afterwards thought otherwise.

But although it appears that God’s command concerning marriage delivers very many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce also another argument concerning vows to show that they are void. For every service of God, ordained and chosen of men without the commandment of God to merit justification and grace, is wicked, as Christ says Matt. 16, 9: In vain do they worship Me with the commandments of men. And Paul teaches everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought from our own observances and acts of worship, devised by men, but that it comes by faith to those who believe that they are received by God into grace for Christ’s sake.

But it is evident that monks have taught that services of man’s making satisfy for sins and merit grace and justification. What else is this than to detract from the glory of Christ and to obscure and deny the righteousness of faith? It follows, therefore, that the vows thus commonly taken have been wicked services, and, consequently, are void. For a wicked vow, taken against the commandment of God, is not valid; for (as the Canon says) no vow ought to bind men to wickedness.

Paul says, Gal. 5, 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from grace. To those, therefore, who want to be justified by their vows Christ is made of no effect, and they fall from grace. For also these who ascribe justification to vows ascribe to their own works that which properly belongs to the glory of Christ.

Nor can it be denied, indeed, that the monks have taught that, by their vows and observances, they were justified, and merited forgiveness of sins, yea, they invented still greater absurdities, saying that they could give others a share in their works. If any one should be inclined to enlarge on these things with evil intent, how many things could he bring together whereof even the monks are now ashamed! Over and above this, they persuaded men that services of man’s making were a state of Christian perfection. And is not this assigning justification to works? It is no light offense in the Church to set forth to the people a service devised by men, without the commandment of God, and to teach that such service justifies men. For the righteousness of faith, which chiefly ought to be taught in the Church, is obscured when these wonderful angelic forms of worship, with their show of poverty, humility, and celibacy, are cast before the eyes of men.

Furthermore, the precepts of God and the true service of God are obscured when men hear that only monks are in a state of perfection. For Christian perfection is to fear God from the heart, and yet to conceive great faith, and to trust that for Christ’s sake we have a God who has been reconciled, to ask of God, and assuredly to expect His aid in all things that, according to our calling, are to be done; and meanwhile, to be diligent in outward good works, and to serve our calling. In these things consist the true perfection and the true service of God. It does not consist in celibacy, or in begging, or in vile apparel. But the people conceive many pernicious opinions from the false commendations of monastic life. They hear celibacy praised above measure; therefore they lead their married life with offense to their consciences. They hear that only beggars are perfect; therefore they keep their possessions and do business with offense to their consciences. They hear that it is an evangelical counsel not to seek revenge; therefore some in private life are not afraid to take revenge, for they hear that it is but a counsel, and not a commandment. Others judge that the Christian cannot properly hold a civil office or be a magistrate.

There are on record examples of men who, forsaking marriage and the administration of the Commonwealth, have hid themselves in monasteries. This they called fleeing from the world, and seeking a kind of life which would be more pleasing to God. Neither did they see that God ought to be served in those commandments which He Himself has given and not in commandments devised by men. A good and perfect kind of life is that which has for it the commandment of God. It is necessary to admonish men of these things.

And before these times, Gerson rebukes this error of the monks concerning perfection, and testifies that in his day it was a new saying that the monastic life is a state of perfection.

So many wicked opinions are inherent in the vows, namely, that they justify, that they constitute Christian perfection, that they keep the counsels and commandments, that they have works of supererogation. All these things, since they are false and empty, make vows null and void.

Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.

There has been great controversy concerning the Power of Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of the Church and the power of the sword. And from this confusion very great wars and tumults have resulted, while the Pontiffs, emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have instituted new services and burdened consciences with reservation of cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken to transfer the kingdoms of this world, and to take the Empire from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in the Church by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers, for the comforting of men’s consciences, were constrained to show the difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of God’s commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as the chief blessings of God on earth.

But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments. For with this commandment Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20, 21 sqq.: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Mark 16, 15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.

This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government. For civil government deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break into the office of another; Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers concerning the form of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, John 18, 33: My kingdom is not of this world; also Luke 12, 14: Who made Me a judge or a divider over you? Paul also says, Phil. 3, 20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 2 Cor. 10, 4: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the casting down of imaginations.

After this manner our teachers discriminate between the duties of both these powers, and command that both be honored and acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God.

If bishops have any power of the sword, that power they have, not as bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by human law having received it of kings and emperors for the civil administration of what is theirs. This, however, is another office than the ministry of the Gospel.

When, therefore, the question is concerning the jurisdiction of bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Again, according to the Gospel or, as they say, by divine right, there belongs to the bishops as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of the Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this without human force, simply by the Word. Herein the congregations of necessity and by divine right must obey them, according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth you heareth Me. But when they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then the congregations have a commandment of God prohibiting obedience, Matt. 7, 15: Beware of false prophets; Gal. 1, 8: Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed; 2 Cor. 13, 8: We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the Canonical Laws command (II. Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap. Oves). And Augustine (Contra Petiliani Epistolam): Neither must we submit to Catholic bishops if they chance to err, or hold anything contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.

If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in hearing and judging certain cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc., they have it by human right, in which matters princes are bound, even against their will, when the ordinaries fail, to dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of peace.

Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of ministers, etc. They that give this right to the bishops refer to this testimony John 16, 12. 13: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth. They also refer to the example of the Apostles, who commanded to abstain from blood and from things strangled, Acts 15, 29. They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord’s Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments!

But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree anything against the Gospel. The Canonical Laws teach the same thing (Dist. IX) . Now, it is against Scripture to establish or require the observance of any traditions, to the end that by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit grace and righteousness. For the glory of Christ’s merit suffers injury when, by such observances, we undertake to merit justification. But it is manifest that, by such belief, traditions have almost infinitely multiplied in the Church, the doctrine concerning faith and the righteousness of faith being meanwhile suppressed. For gradually more holy- days were made, fasts appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of saints instituted, because the authors of such things thought that by these works they were meriting grace. Thus in times past the Penitential Canons increased, whereof we still see some traces in the satisfactions.

Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to the command of God when they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and like things, and burden the Church with bondage of the law, as if there ought to be among Christians, in order to merit justification a service like the Levitical, the arrangement of which God had committed to the Apostles and bishops. For thus some of them write; and the Pontiffs in some measure seem to be misled by the example of the law of Moses. Hence are such burdens, as that they make it mortal sin, even without offense to others, to do manual labor on holy-days, a mortal sin to omit the Canonical Hours, that certain foods defile the conscience that fastings are works which appease God that sin in a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by the authority of him who reserved it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only of the reserving of the ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the reserving of the guilt.

Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon the Church for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, Acts 15, 10, forbids to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, and Paul says, 2 Cor. 13, 10, that the power given him was to edification not to destruction? Why, therefore, do they increase sins by these traditions?

But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of such traditions, as though they merited grace or were necessary to salvation. Paul says, Col. 2, 16- 23: Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days. If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste not; handle not, which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men! which things have indeed a show of wisdom. Also in Titus 1, 14 he openly forbids traditions: Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men that turn from the truth.

And Christ, Matt. 15, 14. 13, says of those who require traditions: Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind; and He rejects such services: Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up.

If bishops have the right to burden churches with infinite traditions, and to ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does it call them “doctrines of devils”? 1 Tim. 4, 1. Did the Holy Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?

Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things necessary, or with an opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the Gospel, it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to institute or exact such services. For it is necessary that the doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches, namely, that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to justification, as it is written in the Epistle to the Galatians, 5, 1: Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. It is necessary that the chief article of the Gospel be preserved, to wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in Christ, and not for certain observances or acts of worship devised by men.

What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in the house of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for bishops or pastors to make ordinances that things be done orderly in the Church, not that thereby we should merit grace or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin to break them without offense to others. So Paul ordains, 1 Cor. 11, 5, that women should cover their heads in the congregation, 1 Cor. 14, 30, that interpreters be heard in order in the church, etc.

It is proper that the churches should keep such ordinances for the sake of love and tranquillity, so far that one do not offend another, that all things be done in the churches in order, and without confusion, 1 Cor. 14, 40; comp. Phil. 2, 14; but so that consciences be not burdened to think that they are necessary to salvation, or to judge that they sin when they break them without offense to others; as no one will say that a woman sins who goes out in public with her head uncovered provided only that no offense be given.

Of this kind is the observance of the Lord’s Day, Easter, Pentecost, and like holy- days and rites. For those who judge that by the authority of the Church the observance of the Lord’s Day instead of the Sabbath-day was ordained as a thing necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted. And yet, because it was necessary to appoint a certain day, that the people might know when they ought to come together, it appears that the Church designated the Lord’s Day for this purpose; and this day seems to have been chosen all the more for this additional reason, that men might have an example of Christian liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.

There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of the law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the Sabbath-day, which all have sprung from the false belief that there must needs be in the Church a service like to the Levitical, and that Christ had given commission to the Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the righteousness of faith was not taught clearly enough. Some dispute that the keeping of the Lord’s Day is not indeed of divine right, but in a manner so. They prescribe concerning holy-days, how far it is lawful to work. What else are such disputations than snares of consciences? For although they endeavor to modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can never be perceived as long as the opinion remains that they are necessary, which must needs remain where the righteousness of faith and Christian liberty are not known.

The Apostles commanded Acts 15, 20 to abstain from blood. Who does now observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not; for not even the Apostles themselves wanted to burden consciences with such bondage; but they forbade it for a time, to avoid offense. For in this decree we must perpetually consider what the aim of the Gospel is.

Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and from day to day many go out of use even among those who are the most zealous advocates of traditions. Neither can due regard be paid to consciences unless this mitigation be observed, that we know that the Canons are kept without holding them to be necessary, and that no harm is done consciences, even though traditions go out of use.

But the bishops might easily retain the lawful obedience of the people if they would not insist upon the observance of such traditions as cannot be kept with a good conscience. Now they command celibacy; they admit none unless they swear that they will not teach the pure doctrine of the Gospel. The churches do not ask that the bishops should restore concord at the expense of their honor; which, nevertheless, it would be proper for good pastors to do. They ask only that they would release unjust burdens which are new and have been received contrary to the custom of the Church Catholic. It may be that in the beginning there were plausible reasons for some of these ordinances; and yet they are not adapted to later times. It is also evident that some were adopted through erroneous conceptions. Therefore it would be befitting the clemency of the Pontiffs to mitigate them now, because such a modification does not shake the unity of the Church. For many human traditions have been changed in process of time, as the Canons themselves show. But if it be impossible to obtain a mitigation of such observances as cannot be kept without sin, we are bound to follow the apostolic rule, Acts 5, 29, which commands us to obey God rather than men.

Peter, 1 Pet. 5, 3, forbids bishops to be lords, and to rule over the churches. It is not our design now to wrest the government from the bishops, but this one thing is asked, namely, that they allow the Gospel to be purely taught, and that they relax some few observances which cannot be kept without sin. But if they make no concession, it is for them to see how they shall give account to God for furnishing, by their obstinacy, a cause for schism.

Conclusion.

These are the chief articles which seem to be in controversy. For although we might have spoken of more abuses, yet, to avoid undue length, we have set forth the chief points, from which the rest may be readily judged. There have been great complaints concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, and the abuse of excommunications. The parishes have been vexed in many ways by the dealers in indulgences. There were endless contentions between the pastors and the monks concerning the parochial right, confessions, burials, sermons on extraordinary occasions, and innumerable other things. Issues of this sort we have passed over so that the chief points in this matter, having been briefly set forth, might be the more readily understood. Nor has anything been here said or adduced to the reproach of any one. Only those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was necessary to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches.

The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our teachers. If there is anything that any one might desire in this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present ampler information according to the Scriptures.

Your Imperial Majesty’s faithful subjects:

John, Duke of Saxony, Elector.
George, Margrave of Brandenburg.
Ernest, Duke of Lueneberg.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony.
Francis, Duke of Lueneburg.
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt.
Senate and Magistracy of Nuremburg.
Senate of Reutlingen.

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Second Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for 14 June 2020

 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 Jesus sends out the Twelvebible

‍35‍ Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  ‍36‍ When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  ‍37‍ Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  ‍38‍ Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

10   He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

‍2‍ These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;  ‍3‍ Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;  ‍4‍ Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

‍5‍ These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  ‍6‍ Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  ‍7‍ As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’  ‍8‍ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.[1]

 

Second Reading:  Romans 5:1-8 Christ died for the ungodly

‍‍‍ 5    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  ‍2‍ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  ‍3‍ Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  ‍4‍ perseverance, character; and character, hope.  ‍5‍ And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

‍6‍ You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  ‍7‍ Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  ‍8‍ But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

[2]

[1]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 9:35-10:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 5:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[1]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 9:35-10:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[1]The Holy Bible  : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 5:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

                              Sermon for 14 June 2020

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

As we worship God with our eyes, hearts, minds and spirits, God invites us into his presence, and we share the words of the Psalmist  “Shout praises to the Lord, everyone on this earth. Be joyful and sing as you come to worship the Lord!  You know the Lord is God!  He created us, and we belong to him; we are his people”.

I welcome everyone as we join our hearts together in our forced isolation, and offer a warm welcome to all who are visiting our webpage at St Peter’s in Port Macquarie. 

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David:0414521661

Let’s join in a word of prayer:
O God our Loving Father, we ask that your presence and strength be felt in the lives of all who are eager know you, love you, trust you, and care for each other.  May we show your compassion and kindness to those who touch our lives, even as we are confronted by fear, hatred, confusion and violence erupting against the inequalities and injustice of this broken world.  You invite us to continue our journey to eternity, as You lead us to keep our destiny in view, and as You call us to invite others to join us in the journey.  May your love be a constant source of guidance and comfort.  O God our Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It occurs to me, that during this current isolation, topped off by the recent outcry  against injustice and inequality of the world order, we might be wondering how we can ever made a difference.  During a Get Real conference that I attended some years ago here in New South Wales, I was confronted with a new definition of mission that I have held onto during my ministry.  Well, at least a definition I had not considered before that time.   As Christians we have a common destiny – a common destination.  Eternity with our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Where our names are recorded in the book of life.  And right beside each of our names, I visualise a gold star, with faith written in the heart of it.  A golden star placed there beside our name when we were baptised.  A golden star that will not be tarnished, even as we recognise our failures and shortcomings, living in a broken world.  That golden star is polished every time we rely on our faith in Christ Jesus to carry us through.

Life for a Christian is a journey together with others, keeping the destination in view.    In all that we do, we keep heading toward this common destination.   What we commonly call ‘Mission’ is simply inviting others to join the journey.   Mission is simple, when we have our destination clearly in view, and we have the support of others who are with us on the journey.  We live our faith, and show our compassion wherever we are, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.  But mission becomes impossible drudgery when we feel alone and our vision becomes confused by all that happens around us in this broken world.

Today’s  reading from Romans is a vivid portrayal of the essential pattern of God’s relationship to people.  First we are loved. ‘God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’

Through God’s love, we are gifted and blessed. ‘Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand’.

Then we are invited to respond to that love.  To enter into that loving relationship where even more blessings are promised. ‘We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.’

 And finally, we are called to persevere even during the tough times to witness God’s love to others. ‘we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  ‍ perseverance, character; and character, hope.  ‍And hope does not disappoint us’.

By showing God’s love for us, we witness that God loves each of us and want’s to bless our lives. ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’.  As Jesus said, in Matthew 10:32 ‘“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven”’.  (The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 10:32))

God entered humanity in Christ Jesus – and he died for us upon the cross so that we might be set right with Him.   Jesus invites us to follow in his path, assisted by his presence – so that we might indeed be made whole – and others with us. And we respond by placing our trust in him.

Gift; Blessing, Call, Response.   

It is circular, and it is constant until we reach our destination at heaven’s gate, but notice the order of things.  Freely says Jesus you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8).  Gift, blessing, call, response.

We are loved – first and foremost we are loved. There is nothing that we have to do to earn it. There are no great feats to accomplish before God fulfills his promise to make us his children, by faith in his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.  Before God blesses us with the presence of his Holy Spirit to encourage and uplift our spirits with his word and his sacrament.

Only after we have received his love is there any hint of a demand.  We are invited after the love is shown – to love in return, to love and be loved.  Obedience is our joyful response to God’s gracious gift of his love.  And what does obedience demand?  Once Jesus was asked  what we must do to be saved. ‘They asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Jn 6:28–29))

As the Gospel reading for today tells us, when Jesus journeyed through his life in humanity, ‘he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’.  No one can say that God does not know what we go through in our journey through this life.  And ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness’. Jesus blessed many with a gift of healing, of learning, of wholeness.  The only response to such a blessing is to trust in the giver of the gift.  God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Only after blessing those who followed with the gift of wholeness, did  Jesus call a few to action.  His disciples.  Again from the Gospel, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

We are often called to pray for special things.  We are given a strong intuition to pray, and we are given a desire to take these things to God in prayer.  But we are also prepared in prayer for God to respond to our needs.  Given the will to join in, to participate in the solution, and sometimes to lead.  God gives us this gift by his Holy Spirit.  He blesses us with the ability to respond, and then He calls us to put our response into action.

When Jesus asked the Disciples to pray, He already knew what the response to this prayer would be.  He had been preparing the disciples to respond to God’s answer to the call for workers in the harvest.

He taught them first, He showed them his own example, He gave them the will to respond, and He empowered them with spiritual authority.  Jesus gave them some final instructions, and sent them on  their way.  Fully prepared to respond to God’s call.

Gift, blessing, call, response.  As Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give”.

This call to the Disciples was both a call to action and a prophecy.  A prophecy relating to every Christian, of every time and place.  A call to pray for God to send workers into the harvest.  A call to be ready to be sent as workers into the harvest. 

A call to keep our destination firmly in our mind, to journey together through life, and to invite others to join us in the journey. 

We are called to be disciples.  And disciples have met opposition while responding to the call to mission in every age.  Some with open hostility, some with subtle condemnation, and still others with indifference.  But the good news of Jesus Christ has not been silenced in 2000 years, and will be heard above the commotion around us in our broken world. 

We may not have been given the same authority ‘to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness’, but be assured that as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:  ‘God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’  And God will sustain us to be his witnesses in our generation, no matter what the conditions of life will be in our broken world.  Witnesses by our simple words of faith, by our actions of compassion, and by our attitudes of faith-filled living.

Gift, blessing, call, response.   As we consider these, may the grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   AMEN.

Rev David Thompson.

Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Luke 21:10-12,18,19
He went on to say, “Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and plagues everywhere; there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky. Before all these things take place, however, you will be arrested and persecuted; you will be handed over to be tried in synagogues and be put in prison; you will be brought before kings and rulers for my sake. …. But not a single hair from your heads will be lost. Stand firm, and you will save yourselves.

Interruptions

Interruptions can be annoying. You are watching a movie on TV and just when the story is getting exciting an advertisement comes on destroying the moment.
You decide that it’s about time you replied to the letters thatdhuff you have received. No sooner do you get started and someone in the family is hungry, can’t find something, want some help or just want to talk, and there goes all you good intentions. Sometimes interruptions, though initially annoying, can be creative and constructive.

A pastor tells the story of how he was interrupted by a phone call at a youth meeting where he was leading a Bible study. The pastor admitted that he felt annoyed being interrupted at a critical moment when he was coming to the main point of the study and the young people were following him intently. He was gone for the rest of the meeting. Some members of the group expressed their annoyance that the pastor had even answered his phone. The pastor came back just as everyone was leaving and told them that an unknown young man had been on the line. He had decided to take his own life but wanted to give someone – anyone – one last chance at arguing why he should continue to live. The interruption to the Bible study interrupted and stopped this young man’s intentions.

The whole story of the Bible can be looked at from the viewpoint of interruptions.
The devastating effects of sin interrupt the peace and harmony of life in the Garden of Eden.

Sin interrupts God’s plans for the world and so he interrupts sin by becoming a human being who lives among us filled with grace and truth and dies for us.

Jonah was fleeing from God who had commanded him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. His escape was interrupted by God’s big fish that swallowed him and while in the belly of the fish he repented and then went on to Nineveh.

God’s people were caught in sin and were drifting away from God and so he sent the prophets to interrupt their drift away from him and bring them back into a relationship with their Creator and Saviour.

The story of Jesus in the gospel is one of interruptions.
The announcement of the birth of Jesus interrupts a young girl’s life and her wedding plans. The silence of the night is interrupted when angels announce the birth of the Messiah.

Jesus’ sermon is interrupted by a man with an evil spirit. The sermon gives way to the power of God which interrupts the power of Satan in this man’s life and with just one word from Jesus the evil spirit is cast out.

As the disciples stroll into the town of Nain enjoying a friendly chat with Jesus and listening intently to what Jesus had to say about the kingdom of God, they are interrupted by the loud wailing and crying as a group of mourners pass by. Death is always a powerful interruption to our well-laid plans. This funeral procession and the mourners’ grief are interrupted as Jesus restores life to the dead man and gives a promise that all of us who believe will one day experience this same interruption to death when we are raised to life.

A traitor friend who needs to go and sell his Lord for the price of a slave, interrupts Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples. This same traitor and the armed guards interrupt Jesus’ prayers in the Garden. And finally the sadness and confusion after Jesus’ death is interrupted by the news that he has risen. His tomb is empty.

Interruptions are events in our lives that can’t be forced back any more than the sea can be kept 3 metres from the shore line.

In my ministry I have seen many interruptions in people’s lives.
A young 21-year-old, fit and popular with his mates, passes away during the night with an athsma attack.
An 8-year-old just disciplined by his father ran out on the road and was killed by a passing car.
The life of a young mother is interrupted as disease invades.
Without a doubt some interruptions are painful.

On the other hand interruptions can bring joy.
The Holy Spirit interrupts a young man’s life and points him to Jesus.
The birth of a baby interrupts the life a couple but it is an interruption they have waited for.
The progression of disease is interrupted by a miraculous recovery.
A married couple interrupt the downward spiral of their relationship.

Today’s difficult gospel text makes us aware of the interruption that will affect the whole world. Jesus is leaving the temple and he is looking around at one of the most magnificent structures in the world at that time. He tells his disciples that this grand monument will be destroyed. We know that this happened at the hands of the Romans, but even if the Romans hadn’t touched the building, the forces of earthquake, fire, storm, and neglect would lead to the ruin of the temple much the same as the once magnificent structures in Greece and Rome. The history of the temple will be interrupted and brought to an end, he says, and it was.

He goes on and says that everything we cherish, every institution and tradition, every treasure that we count on and store up will be interrupted and brought to an end. Wars, earthquakes, famines, and other disasters in nature, persecutions when family members will rise up against other members of a family, will interrupt our way of life and the peace we enjoy. Families will be interrupted, businesses will be interrupted, governments will be interrupted.

We can see this happening in our world.
Peace and safety in our world and in our community are very fragile things and can easily be interrupted by hostility, bloodshed, robbery and fear.
The place that Christ had in the hearts of the people of our nation has been interrupted and replaced with all kind of other religious values that can easily be understood as Christian or compatible with Christianity when clearly they are false.
The strength and harmony in families has been interrupted and eroded by violence in the home, divorce, pressures, stresses, rebellious children, and the need for parents to work longer and harder.

The interruptions that we experience almost on a daily basis are reminders that things in this world are very uncertain. We are reminded that at any time our own life will be interrupted and that there will come a time when the history of our world will be interrupted. This last and final interruption will happen when Jesus comes again and this world will pass away.

When you think about it, the interruptions that we experience in life can make us feel very insecure and uncertain. But I want to make it clear to everyone today that there is one thing that will never be interrupted, that is, the love that our Father in heaven has for us.

St Paul says, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Whoever believes and trusts in Jesus and his saving work on the cross,
and whoever holds on to the Good Shepherd’s hand as they walk life’s journey, and listens to his voice and follows his ways when everything else passes away will receive the crown of eternal life. Even though the history of our world will be interrupted, nothing is able to interrupt God’s love for us.

The Bible states clearly that the saving work of Jesus endures for all time and that God has promised that because of Jesus he will not hold our sin against us, that he has established an eternal covenant of love with us and that he will stand beside and help us no matter what kind of interruption will disrupt our lives.

Nothing can destroy this fact. All kinds of disasters may happen to us in our lives and to our world, but that one fact stands forever. God loves us and his saving work will not be interrupted.

When Jesus could see only death ahead interrupting his life on this earth he turned to the heavenly Father in prayer. He was led to see that there was no way he could avoid what was about to happen but he was strengthened by God and enabled to endure what had to be endured. Likewise we are strengthened.

No amount of interruption in our world can take away from us the grace and love of Jesus. It is that love that he has given to us freely on the cross that will stand by us when disasters in our world threaten us and overwhelm us like a giant tidal wave. Every possession, every power and authority, everything that we cherish in this world will disappear some day, either at our death or when the last day comes, but what will not disappear is this – God’s kingdom and our place in it as citizens of heaven and heirs of eternal life.

When Christ bursts into this world on the last day, that will be the last interruption that we will ever experience. There will no more interruptions by sickness, death, wars, natural disasters, accidents, crime or whatever. We will be taken into God’s presence and join those gathered around the throne of God.

The words of the psalm are very helpful when we think of this final interruption, “We will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence. … The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge (Psalm 46).

In the meantime we need to deal with the interruptions that take place in our everyday life, especially those interruptions that bring us fear and grief. The apostle Paul had to deal with these kinds of interruptions often. Shipwrecks, jail, hostile people, sickness interrupted him in the work God had given him to tell the good news about Jesus. But nothing interrupted his trust in Jesus.

How easily is our faith in Jesus interrupted?
How readily do we allow our pet sins interrupt the newness that we have in Christ?
How often do we allow or even try to find interruptions that keep us away from reading God’s Word, praying and worshipping together with our fellow believers?
How willingly do we allow our sinful nature and Satan interrupt our walking God’s ways?

God grant that the Holy Spirit would interrupt every sin, every temptation, every fear and doubt, and remind us everyday that God’s love for us is uninterruptible. God grant that our commitment and faith be as uninterruptible as God’s commitment to us.


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

 

Twenty second Sunday after Pentecost

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God, speak to us and bless the words we hear, the thoughts we accept, and the meditations of our hearts that we receive.  Let them be of value to us and be acceptable to You.  Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord,  Amen.

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David:0414521661

 One day late in the afternoon a missionary in Africa had a surprise visit. When he entered his small hut he discovered a very large python on the floor. He left the hut and went to his truck and returned with his pistol.

Even though he had his gun, he still had one important problem. He only had one bullet left in the gun. He could not afford to miss. All of his skill would be required in order to rid his hut of this deadly creature. If he missed, there was no telling what would happen next. He took careful aim and pulled the trigger ever so gently. He shot the python in the head. The python, which would soon die, was at this point only wounded. It still had some life and some fight within itself. The python began to throw itself violently about. The missionary left the hut and listened for some time as the python broke furniture and destroyed lamps and other personal items as it unleashed one last burst of energy. After some time, things got quiet and the missionary assumed that the snake was dead. When he went back into his hut he found the snake was indeed dead, but his home was in shambles. (Source: Dr. James Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.), p. 194. Used by permission.”)

 I suspect this is a reminder of our spiritual battles with the enemies of God. The victory has been won in Jesus Christ.  But until his return, the battle continues, making a mess in our ordered Christian lives. So, let’s rejoice in the knowledge that Christ has won the battle, and keep our brooms and mops of prayer and fellowship and Scripture handy to face the mess of living in our broken world.

 Even in the freedom we enjoy in Australia, we face the mess of living in a society which, for the most part, fails to recognise the Lord of all life. Paul faced an even more severe mess in Thessalonica.  He had shared encouragement with them in his first letter.  That although they faced the persecution of unbelievers around them, they would be blessed when Christ returns.

He wrote to them that, ‘you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.’  (1 Th 1:9–10 NIV)

It appears this letter so impressed them, that many simply gave up the fight against their mess, and just decided to wait for Christ’s return.  In his first letter, Paul wrote, ‘the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.’  (1 Th 4:16–18 NIV)
We know the devil works to turn every encouragement into discouragement.  Like the python, writhing and pulsing with dying energy. Rumours started flying among the believers from false teachers.  Rumours that Christ had already come.  That these believers in Thessalonica were the ones left behind for judgement.  That they missed out on being with Christ Jesus forever.And so, Paul writes this second letter to the Thessalonians, trying to straighten some of the mess left behind by these rumours. 

He now writes, ‘Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers,  not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way.’

 And then Paul reminds them of some very specific and frightening events that will precede the end times.  Things he had shared with them when he visited Thessalonica.   He isn’t trying to give any indication about the timing of the end, but only to relieve their fears, that it had already happened.  Those events surely have not even happened yet today. 

 And even when they do happen, they will only be the  markers of God’s plan for the transition of the world’s time into God’s eternity.   God is in control.  And, as Jesus himself said,  ‘God is God of the living’.  God cares about us and moves us ever closer to the time when we will be with him in perfect eternity.  Every day that I wake up in the morning, I give thanks to God that I am one day closer to eternal life with him.  And then I get out of bed and begin to live the day with all the energy, faith, and caring that I can muster. As I live out the day, I make my mistakes and then turn to God’s Holy Spirit to guide me in my attitudes, actions, and the words I use.   

 As we approach the end of the Church year, and enter Advent, we will be sharing a number of readings proclaiming the end of times, and the beginning of God’s eternity.  But as Paul shares, we shouldn’t get too upset and disturbed by these readings.  They are a reminder that this age will not last forever, and God has the final victory over even time itself.

 Even so, unlike the Sadducees who discounted any kind of life after death, we wonder what eternity will be like.  It’s hard for us to imagine what heaven will be like.  What an eternal future in the presence of God will be.  It’s a human trait to be curious about the future.    A popular song recently captured our imagination, in words directed toward Christ Jesus.

 I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side.  I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me.  Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel.  Will I dance for You Jesus, or in awe of You be still.  Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall.  Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all – I can only imagine. As human beings, we are not yet able to grasp the complexities or the pleasures of the resurrection and the life beyond. Sometimes all we can do is recognize the mystery of the unknown and the limitations of our own understandings.

 The apostle Paul writes “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully”.  God of the living created human life, complete, with a future in mind. 

God has provided life after death for those who respond to his love.  Until that time is fulfilled, we will just have to accept the promises of God with faith.  Let’s hold onto the hope, that the heart and soul of the relationships we hold sacred in this life will be affirmed in eternity.  I can only imagine that the love that we hold for each other as family, friends and neighbours will surely accompany us into eternity. In any case, we can take comfort that Jesus has already made the way for us to be included in the resurrection.  By His sacrifice on the cross, He gives us forgiveness for our sins and a renewed relationship with God.  And as Jesus said in the reading,  Our God “is the God of the living, not the dead.

 May God the creator of time and controller of destiny give each one of us today unfaltering trust in our living Lord and Saviour.   Trust to allow Jesus to help us hold in our hearts the faith that He gives to us as a gift.  Trust to allow the Holy Spirit guide us in our challenge of Christian Living, even in the mess of our broken world.  Trust also to help us yield our lives to God with Joy in our hearts.  Trust to follow our God of the living into eternal life with Him.

 May the grace and peace of God, which passes all our human understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the calm assurance of eternal salvation in our living Lord, Christ Jesus.   Amen.

David Thompson.

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: 2 Timothy 3:15-17

 

The Holy Scriptures are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.      

Embarrassed by your Bible?

 

The apostle Paul knew that he would soon face execution. The words of our text are his last word to the young pastor who will carry on spreading the gospel. Paul knew that soon Timothy would have to continue without his mentor. And so he encourages the young pastor to keep on witnessing faithfully to Jesus, to hold on to the teachings of the Good News, and to carry on as teacher and preacher in the face of opposition and persecution.bob


Paul reminds young Timothy that Scripture is inspired by God and it tells us about God and his relationship with us, his people.

Let’s think of the Bible as being like a telescope.

With a telescope things that are a long way off can be brought closer and every detail can be seen as if that far away object were right there in front of you – so close in fact that you feel as if you could reach out and touch it.

Like a telescope the Bible brings in really close things that seem to be a long way off.

The Bible gives us a close up look at God and what he is like.

It shows us that all people have been made by God and that he has a special connection with each one of us. He made us all as individuals, given each of us abilities, treasures each of us and knows us intimately.

The Bible also shows us what God thinks of our sin.

It gives us a look into the heart of God as it aches for his fallen people and will do anything to bring them back to him.

The Bible gives us a close up look at God’s unquenchable love for us.

It tells us how that love sent his Son Jesus to the cross of Calvary just because he loves us so much – because of his deep desire that everyone would come to experience that peace and joy that comes from knowing that we have a God who never gives up.

The Bible is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to show us the way of salvation.

It is through the message of the Bible that we are led to repentance, given forgiveness, the hope of salvation, the promise of eternal life, brought into God’s family and made members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

It is through the Bible the Holy Spirit confronts and challenges to be who God intends us to be as well as comforts and encourages us when the going gets tough for the followers of Jesus.

The Bible gives us a close up look at what the Christian life should be like. It provides us with guidelines and gives us the tools to measure the kind of life that is pleasing to God.

We can be so easily led astray by the confusing values of the world around us so it is important to have the Bible to guide us and provide us with the right motives. This close up view of what the Christ-like life is like guides, directs and points the way for us and for our children. It urges us to build our life upon its message so we will love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbour as ourselves.

As Paul said, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, and giving instruction for right living so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.

Whether we have grown up in the church and attended Sunday School and had our parents read the Bible stories to us, or we joined the church later in life and through sermons, classes and Bible Studies heard the Gospel message, in either case the Holy Spirit has used the Holy Scriptures to give us the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you have ever been given a really old Bible – perhaps a handed down family Bible: If that Bible could talk, I wonder what it would tell us about how it has been used over the years.

Perhaps it has been a family Bible and every evening the family would gather around it and listen intently as the father or mother read from its pages.

Perhaps it may have belonged to a pastor or was a pulpit Bible and read every Sunday in Church Services.

Perhaps it was used by a Sunday School teacher or a school teacher to retell the exciting stories of the Bible to his/her students.

Perhaps it belonged to an elderly person who with failing eyes read passages of comfort and hope as he or she saw their earthly life coming to a close.

Perhaps parts of that Bible were well worn. Maybe this was a reader’s favourite part of the Bible.

On the other hand, because most of the book is in such good condition for its age maybe it has simply sat on a shelf or in a cupboard for many of those years.

If such a book could talk what would it say about how its owner regarded the Word of God? What would it say about how its pages were read, and how the reader grew in wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?

If your Bible could talk, how would it describe your use of the Word of God? Would it feel loved and treasured; well-worn, well-used, dog-eared and valued?

Or would it feel neglected and ignored; almost brand-new, untouched, dusty, and disused for most of the time?

If our Bibles could talk, would they embarrass us? When it comes to Bible neglect many of us would have to plead guilty. It’s not too hard to relegate reading the Bible to the bottom of our list of priorities in a day.

Some may be guilty of Bible abuse – treating it as a book of proof texts to back up an opinion no matter how off beat that opinion might be.

Some people treat the Bible like a set of dice – when a decision has to be made open up to a page wherever your eye falls that is the basis on which a choice is made. (Quite a risky practice).

Some see it as a book of magic. When things aren’t going well the Bible is opened hoping that somehow it will provide the solution you are looking for: but when things turn out ok and the crisis is over, the Bible is put back on its dusty shelf.

The Bible is about God and his relationship with us and our relationship with him. Two people can hardly establish a healthy relationship when the only time they communicate is when there is a crisis and then only in short, sharp sentences. If people approach the Bible with this kind of take it or leave it attitude they are bound to have difficulty with knowing

  • what is God’s will in their lives,
  • what is the way God wants them to live,
  • how God views their sin,
  • how he forgives and heals,
  • how to make good choices that are not only God-pleasing but also lead us to a happy and healthy existence.

You may know of people who have hardly opened a Bible since their confirmation classes.

God’s Word can only have a long term effect on our lives through regular contact with it. You might check your teeth in a mirror. They might be discoloured and in bad need of some proper care. A quick scrub with a toothbrush and paste will only do so much. You need regular cleaning morning and night, day after day. There is a cumulative effect of regular teeth hygiene.

You might notice that your clothes are beginning to shrink and that you need less fatty foods and more exercise. Experts warn against so called “crash diets”. They might have an instant effect, but if you want to have a long lasting effect, then you need to change your eating and exercise habits.

Likewise the best way to read the Bible is not through some kind of crash diet, but through a regular long-term prayerful diet of the Scriptures. That’s not to say that reading chapter after chapter is the best way to go. Maybe just a verse is all we need and we ask ourselves,

  • ‘What are the words really saying to me? Do I understand them?’
  • ‘What is God trying to tell me through these words?’
  • ‘What is God telling me about my sin, his love for me, or the way I am living the Christian life?’
  • ‘In what way will God’s message to me make a difference in my life?’

And finally pray that this Word from God will have a powerful impact on your life.

But you and I know that even before we get to the second question or third at the best, we have become distracted. Our minds wander. Something sparks off a memory or a job that needs to be done or something that will happen in the day ahead. Satan just loves to fill our heads with all kinds of distractions to keep us away from hearing what God has to say and then above all seeing how important this is for our lives. Too often he fools us into thinking that all we need to do is read a bit or listen to a bit but the application for us in our situation is side tracked by all kinds of other thoughts.

If that is the case then go back to the words on the page in front of you. Focus on them again. Let those words bring you back to God and hearing again what he is saying to you. Be open to the power of the Holy Spirit to help you do this – after all that’s what he does best – leading you to God’s Word and making it real for the place you are in at that very moment. He may need to do this several times in one session since we are distracted so easily.

More than any preceding generation we have been flooded with so many Bibles published in so many translations and in so many editions, and with so much devotional material. There really is no reason why we should be embarrassed if our Bibles could speak.

Thank God that in his Word to us he tells us that even lazy and distracted Bible readers can be given a fresh start. Jesus died even for those who have all these wonderful, full colour resources at our fingertips but are still “too busy” to use what we have available to us.

Jesus even forgives those who have heard sermons like this before and have decided to make a firm resolution to do something about it, but it never gets any further than that. The Bible is God’s Good News of love for us. In it we find forgiveness for our failure. Jesus died to take away our guilt and to declare us right and ready to hear what he has to say.

Thank God for his Word. Without it we would be lost and not have any idea of the salvation that we have through faith in Christ Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you read and reflect upon that Word, that you may find strength, encouragement, direction and hope for your lives and above all that you may find in it the living Word, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Amen

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Luke 17:15-16

 

When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.    

Frank Selak, a Croatian music teacher, began his lucky or unlucky streak (depending on how you look at it) in 1962 on a train going from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik.  The train inexplicably jumped the tracks and fell into an icy river killing 17 passengers. Frank managed to swim to the shore.20180311_103505 (1)

A year later while travelling on a plane, its door flew off and Frank was sucked out of the plane. He woke up in a hospital.  He had fallen into a haystack.

Then in 1966, Frank was on a bus that went off the road and into a river.  Four people were killed, but he suffered only minor injuries.

In 1970, his car caught on fire.  He stopped it and got out just before the whole car blew up.  In 1973 Frank was driving another car when a faulty fuel line sprayed petrol all over the engine and flames blew through the air vents. His only injury was the loss of most of his hair.

In ’95 he was hit by a bus but only sustained minor injuries.  Finally in 1996 he was driving on a mountain road when he went around a bend and saw a UN truck coming right at him.  His Skoda went through a guardrail and he jumped out at the last minute and watched his car explode 100 metres below him.

In 2003, Frank bought a lottery ticket for the first time in 40 years at the age of 74. He ended up winning $1 million.  He had a much needed hip replacement, bought a big house and everything that a million dollars could buy in Croatia.  In the end he gave it all away and went back to his small village and the simply lifestyle he had always been accustomed to.  Frank Selak has been dubbed “the luckiest man alive”.  The other lesson to be learnt from this story is – don’t get into any bus, train, plane or car with Frank Selak – he is the “unluckiest man to still be alive”

Luck is that indefinable and illusive thing that sometimes brings good fortune and sometimes doesn’t. You might say the terrorist who didn’t pay enough postage on a letter bomb experienced some bad luck. It came back with “Return to Sender” stamped on it.  Forgetting it was the bomb; he opened it.  

Have you said when you were almost run down crossing the street – “Boy, that was a lucky escape,” or comment about someone’s bad luck as one thing after another goes wrong.

Some people however, don’t believe in luck. They say, “You get what you deserve”.  Everything that happens to us is a reward or a punishment for the amount of effort that is put in. If you work hard, invest a lot of time and energy into something, you will get back what you have put into it.   

There are some who think that Christianity works this way. If you do good things, don’t annoy other people, live respectable lives, pray (when you need help), believe in “someone up there”, have your kids done (that is baptised) then you will live a happy and comfortable life.

On the other hand, those whose do evil and who live immoral lives can’t expect to be happy and prosperous. After all, you get what you deserve! 

This view of life runs into difficulty when good people suffer, or a slacker wins a lot of money. 

Have you noted that up to this point I haven’t mentioned God in this sermon? That’s because the belief that we get what we deserve and that good and bad are the result of luck or coincidence, have nothing to do with God. There is no room for God who gives generously and excessively even though we don’t deserve such abundance.  The God of the Bible doesn’t just give to good people or to people who in some way deserve to be treated better, he is gracious and generous to everyone whether they realise it or not.

The biblical concept of our heavenly Father giving us everything that we need, is absent from the thinking of many people these days. There is no thought given to what the Bible says about God being

  • the supplier of our daily bread,
  • the giver of our abilities,
  • the provider of everything that we need to live happy and peaceful lives.

For many people God doesn’t figure into how we are able to live so well every day.  Rather they say,

  • I get it because I deserve it;
  • I am well to do because I have earned it;
  • I get what I need because I have put in the hard hours working for it.

The Bible looks at things this way.  It sees God right in the middle of everything that happens.  It is stated again and again that

  • God put me together inside my mother,
  • God has given me my brain, my skills, and made me who I am,
  • God is leading me,
  • God is protecting me,
  • God is supplying me with daily food,
  • God heals me,
  • God is guiding the rulers,
  • God is helping his people,
  • God sends the rain and provides the harvest.

In fact, everything is seen as coming from the generous hand of God.  He doesn’t give because people have deserved it, in fact, we see so often that he gives even when people are downright awful. Look how he provided daily food to the whining and faithless people of Israel when travelling to the Promised Land.

The Bible also says that we ought to recognise God’s loving hand even when things aren’t going well for us.  Even though we can’t see it at the time, be assured that God is not handing out what we deserve. Somehow, God will use the present trials to bring us blessing.  Meanwhile in the midst of suffering we know that God is nearby, ready to help and support us until we come through to the other side.

When is the next big anniversary of this church? An anniversary is a great event. We could do a lot of chest beating and back patting and congratulating ourselves what a great job we have done here in this community.  But when you read the history of the Lutheran Church from its early days it has been a struggle and at times the flame almost went out.  We can only say in the end that in spite of the failings of the people, God is at the centre of what has happened here.  God has provided the people, the resources, and the help.  God has been the source of the wisdom, the faith, the commitment, and the right timing and the faithful realised this and gathered week after week to thank God for his leading.  

We heard in the Gospel reading before the story of the ten lepers, who called out to Jesus for help and were healed.  Only one returns. Only one can see that God is somehow involved in his restoration to health and returns to say thank you.  And Jesus makes a point of it.  “There were ten men who were healed.” he says, “Where are the other nine?”  And then Jesus commends the one who came back to say thanks because in expressing his gratitude he was recognising that not only was he healed, but who it was that had healed him.  The ex-leper didn’t know how it all happened, it wasn’t just good luck and it certainly wasn’t what he deserved, but he knew that somehow God had done something marvellous. He put God back into the centre of his thinking.

We put God back into the centre of our lives when we say at the end of hectic week, “Thank you God for helping me through this past week”. 

When we say grace before a meal, we put God back at the centre when we say, “Thank you God for this food”. 

We put God back at the centre when we say, “Thank you for the people you have placed in my life to love me and care for me – my family, my friends, and my church family”. 

When our good health is restored, we put God back in the centre when we thank him.

When the path through life is tough going and we don’t know where it will lead us we put God back into the centre when we look at the cross, are reminded of his love for us and place our future in his hands.

When we are weighed with fear and the trouble that sickness and death bring, we put God at the centre who gives us hope for the future when we thank Him for his love.

In a way, we can say that we see the things, events and people in our lives in a different way to the rest of the world. We see that God in one way or the other is behind everything that happens.

God has been excessively generous to us.  He has been generous for no other reason than to support and promote his work. Whether through a Lutheran World Service Appeal, or the offering plate to support mission work here and overseas, the training of workers for the church, or the work of the local congregation, God has made us rich so that we can richly bless others. 

If, for you, things operate on a “you get what you deserve” principle, then you have no need to say thank you for anything.

If everything is purely luck and you are ready to deal with whatever luck brings, there is no need to say thank you, except “thank my lucky stars!”

However, if you see God as being in everything, generously pouring out his blessings, sometimes in ways that are easy to see, sometimes in ways that are difficult to see, then join with the Samaritan leper who saw himself as totally unworthy of receiving anything from Jesus at all and yet receiving so much. 

He fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him for the new beginning and the restoration of his life.  But this was more than just a healing of a man’s body.  Jesus said, “Get up and go; your faith has made you well.”  This healing has far wider implications.  This one Samaritan leper saw the deep love of Jesus, the love that would take him to the cross; the leper saw in Jesus the love that saves. 

This encounter with the love of God meant that this leper would never be the same.  He truly was the luckiest man alive. 

With faith in Jesus and trust in his love for us and with Jesus at the centre of our lives then you and I are the luckiest people on this planet.

Amen

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Luke 17:5,6

The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith greater.” The Lord answered, “If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it would obey you’. 

Faith the size of a mustard seed

A small congregation built a new church on a piece of land left to them by a church member.

Ten days before the new church was to open,johnmac but their world came crashing down when the local building inspector arrived and informed the Pastor that unless they double the number of parking spaces, they would not be able to use the new church.

Unfortunately, the new building had used every square centimetre except for a rather steep hill behind the church.

In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move that rocky hill. Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had “mountain moving faith.”

They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved before the scheduled opening dedication service.

At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation’s 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o’clock the pastor said the final “Amen”. “We’ll open our new church next Sunday as scheduled,” he assured everyone. “God has never let us down before, and I believe he will be faithful this time too.”

The next morning as the Pastor was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door and a rough looking construction foreman entered. “Excuse me, Reverend. I’m from a Construction Company.

We’re building a huge shopping mall. We need some fill – in fact, heaps of fill. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that rocky hill behind the church?

We’ll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge. We need to do this now to allow it to settle properly.” Well, the little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned (Source unknown).

Wow. When you first hear this story it’s easy to say that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said, ‘If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it would obey you’.

In other words, through faith we can move mountains.

But is that right?

Is that a correct conclusion?

Was it their ‘mountain moving faith’ or the length of time they spent in prayer that in the end gave them what they were seeking?

Were those 24 people super heroes of faith and so moved the mountain?

The disciples were facing their own mountains that needed moving.

In the previous verses Jesus had been talking about the effect that sin has on our lives.

Firstly, Jesus warns that anyone who causes another person to sin would be better off if a huge rock were tied around his neck and thrown overboard somewhere in the deepest part of sea.

The disciples were worried about this and quite rightly.

Who hasn’t caused someone to sin?

Who hasn’t said and done things that have caused others to be hurt, fell alienated, angry, hateful, and unforgiving?

If that weren’t enough Jesus goes on to say more. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

It’s a difficult thing to talk to someone – rebuke someone – whose lifestyle does not reflect their position as a child of God. Jesus goes on to say even more.

When a person says he/she is sorry, Jesus says there is to be no limit to the number of times we are to forgive that person.

Very possibly he could be asking for forgiveness for the same or a similar sin over and over and over again.

Jesus says in no uncertain terms, ‘You must forgive him’.

That kind of forgiveness goes right against our human nature.

That person who keeps on offending us doesn’t deserve forgiveness and yet Jesus pronounces some dire consequences on those who can’t overcome their need for revenge and be forgiving.

The disciples had a problem – you might say they had their own mountain that needed moving.

They recognised their own sinfulness and their failure to live up to their calling as people who belong to God and disciples who claim to follow their master and do his will.

So, they come to Jesus with all this on their minds and say, “Make our faith greater!

Give us a greater amount of faith so that we will be able to do the things that you have asked of us”.

They felt that an increase in their faith would enable them to move the mountain of sin that was getting in the way of their faithful discipleship.

And what does Jesus do – how does he answer their prayer?

Does he lay his hands upon them and pray and give them more faith?

Does he snap his fingers and grant them a double dose of his Spirit and faith?

Does he give them ‘mountain moving faith’ so that they could remove all obstacles that got in their way?

No, he doesn’t – instead he says to them, “If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it would obey you”.

The point Jesus is making is that they have already been given faith.

Even a tiny faith the size of a mustard seed is enough as far as God is concerned.

The size of faith doesn’t matter because God is the one doing the moving.

If it is my faith that moved the mountain, then the bigger the mountain the more faith I would need to move it.

The bigger the obstacle the more strength I’d need to climb it.

The more serious the illness a faith even greater would be required to overcome it.

The more serious the sin the more faith I would need in order to have it forgiven.

That kind of thinking kind of makes sense, but that’s not how faith works. In fact, faith doesn’t do the work at all. And thank God for that.

God is the one doing the work through faith. Think of faith as the key that opens the door to God acting in our lives.

If I have a bigger key ring than you do, does it matter?

The size of a key ring doesn’t matter – key rings don’t open doors but it’s that little key on the ring that opens doors.

Even a little faith opens the door for God to move the mountains and trees and even our hearts.

So, what Jesus is saying to his disciples, who asked for their faith to be increased, is that even if they have the smallest amount of faith, they can do great things.

Even the smallest faith can grasp what God has and is doing in our lives;

even the smallest faith is able to recognise the ways that God is able to make changes in lives and in our world through us.

We have all met people who have lived through very difficult times, and no doubt many of us have thought about the great faith they must have had to come out of their troubles as well as they have.

We may even have said to them – with respect and admiration, ‘I don’t think I could have faced what you have faced. I admire your great faith.’

In response to this I have heard people say, ‘My faith is no greater than anyone else’s. I just didn’t know what faith I had until I needed it. God helped me, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have made it.’

Jesus didn’t need to increase the size of the faith of the disciples. They already had faith.

He assures them of that and states that, even though their faith may be small, God can accomplish great things through them.

And we know that he did. They went on to share the Good News about Jesus even in the face of some strong opposition, being brought before rulers and judges, being imprisoned and killed.

Didn’t Paul say when he was recalling some of the difficulties he had to face as an apostle, “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me” (Phil 4:13).

He doesn’t talk about how great his faith in God was, but rather he talks about what his faith was focussed on.

There are times when our confident, perhaps even over confident faith, is brought crashing down because of what is happening in our lives.

There are times when our faith seems so trivial and weak in the face of gigantic threats to our health, our family, our self-worth.

But no matter what size and strength we consider our faith to be at any given moment, faith as small as a mustard seed (and that’s pretty small) is able to uproot a mulberry tree (which has an extensive root system, and plant (not dump) it into the sea and still expect it to bear mulberries.

Years ago, I was asked by the parents of a child who was severely intellectually disabled whether their child would have enough faith and understanding to come to Holy Communion.

My answer: ‘I wasn’t particularly concerned about understanding. Their child may never be able to express what she believed in words.

But as far as God is concerned a faith the size of a mustard seed is all that is needed for him to be able to do great things in their child’s life.’

What a joy it was for all those at church, especially the parents, to see the outstretched hands of this child, waiting for them to be filled with the love of God through the body and blood of Jesus in the sacrament.

Praise God that in spite of our sins he has given us faith – even faith as small as a mustard seed.

And God working through the faith he has given us will defeat the devil’s temptations to sin, he will help us overcome the obstacles we face when forgiveness is required.

God working in us through faith can move mountains and trees and even our own hearts for his glory. Faith is powerful, because the Christ in whom faith believes is powerful.

Faith, even one that is described as being the size of a mustard seed, relies on Jesus, his love and strength. This kind of faith enables us to rise above the most threatening circumstances.

To repeat Paul’s words, “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me” (Phil 4:13).

Let’s not twist all this around in order to convince ourselves that now we don’t need to take faith and prayer and the study of God’s Word seriously.

But realize that you already possess more than enough of what’s needed to change your life, your heart, your family, your community, even your world.

In summary, today we are being asked not how much faith do we have but rather what are we doing with the faith that God has already given us?

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

Sixtheenth Sunday after Pentecost

    Luke 16:19-31
  :Gifted to give

What would you do if you unexpectedly received one million dollars? Would you automatically think of giving some of it away to others in greater need than you? On the Sunday TV program Songs of Praise a new definition of a millionaire was suggested as “someone who gives a million dollars away”20180311_103505 (1). Today we thank God for all those around us who have so generously supported the ministry of our Church to the poor and needy. In the Early Church the poor were called “the treasures of the Church” because in helping the poor, Christians were helping Christ Himself who meets us in the poor and needy.  

The focus of Jesus’ ministry was on those in greatest need of His help. Jesus deeply and warmly loved those on the edge of society or those who were looked down on with disdain – the weak, the sick, the disabled and outcasts. Jesus reminds John the Baptist that His mission was to bring good news to the poor. By this, Jesus also includes those suffering from spiritual poverty, of which there are so many here in our own community. In today’s parable, Jesus focuses on the needs of poor people like Lazarus.

Children and grown-ups like hearing this parable. In this story it seems that for a moment, the curtain is drawn aside and we get a tiny glimpse of the hereafter, of heaven and hell. The other thing that pleases a child’s imagination and perhaps many adults, is to see how this rich guy, who had it so “good” in this life, gets what’s coming to him in the next life, while poor Lazarus, who had such a hell of a life on earth, at last receives the joy and consolation of heaven.

But by focussing on that aspect of the story, we’re missing its central point. The real point of the story is not so much about the rich man or about Lazarus, but rather about what Abraham says to the rich man about his five brothers still at home on earth and their need to hear God’s Word. The sin of the rich man isn’t that he was rich but that he was indifferent. It’s not bad to be rich, nor is it a sign of goodness to be poor. But it’s wrong when a person is so wrapped up in his possessions and affluent lifestyle and is so thoroughly selfish that he is totally indifferent to the needy person placed at his gate. The rich man’s terrible sin isn’t that he never helped Lazarus, but that he did nothing at all, feasting while Lazarus died at his gate. In the time of Jesus, affluent people used bread as we use serviettes – to wipe their fingers. Hungry Lazarus would gladly have fed on such scraps, but the rich guy pretends not to notice Lazarus’s desperate need for food.

What’s more, he pretends not to notice God, His Maker and the Giver of all the gifts he enjoys. These two realities go together – if you love God, you will love your neighbour and have a special compassion for a neighbour in need. At the other end of the scale, indifference to your needy neighbour is a reflection of your indifference to God. God’s Word says to you, “Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen (1 John 4:20).”

Let’s focus on being different now. Lazarus certainly was a different person in the next life. In contrast to the rich guy in our parable who is unnamed, Lazarus has a name. His name is a very important clue for understanding this story, because his name means “God is my helper.” His name shows that despite all his poverty and misery, he has put his trust in God. He believed God is his Helper. And when he dies, what he has always believed comes true. In heaven he discovers the joy of being with the God in whom he trusted.

The rich man is certainly a different person in the next life. For him it is a “riches to rags” story. In the next life he finds himself in hell. What is hell? To be separated from God. And what is heaven? To be with God. In this life the rich man separated himself from God; in the next life, the separation from God becomes absolute. So now he’s a radically different person – no more enjoying the comforts of this life, but enduring the discomforts of hell. Another thing is different about him in the next life. For the first time he thinks of someone other than himself. He is concerned about his five brothers left on earth and asks Abraham to send someone from the dead, lest they also come to the place of torment.

He thinks that there’s only one thing that will change his brothers on earth and make them different, that is if someone comes from the dead to warn them and then they will believe. “Not so”, Abraham tells him. “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” And if they won’t listen to them, that is, if they won’t hear God’s Word for them, then they won’t listen even if someone comes to them from the dead.

Although this is only a story told to us by Jesus, nevertheless what He said actually happened. There was a brother who did come back from the dead, and would you know, his name was Lazarus! Remember how Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead. And what happened after Jesus raised Lazarus? Those who already believed, believed all the more. But those who didn’t believe immediately began plotting to assassinate Jesus. There were times like the feeding of the five thousand when people saw the miraculous things Jesus did and still didn’t believe in Him. Seeing is not necessarily believing.  Rather, faith in Jesus gives us super-sight. Jesus says to Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)” Faith enables us to see God at work in our lives and around us, things those without faith cannot see.

So who are we in this story? We’re the ones still alive. We are the five brothers. And like them we have Moses and the prophets. In fact, we have even more, because not only do we have Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, we also have the Gospels and the Epistles, the New Testament of our merciful Saviour Jesus Christ. We have the life-giving good news of His grace that can make us different, and can make us dare to live differently. What an incomparable blessing that is. It’s all about the Word who took on human flesh and lives among us, full of grace and truth.

Our Lord Jesus Christ became poorer and more wretched than Lazarus was so that by His poverty we could become rich in the things that matter eternally. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).”

After His birth, where Jesus lay in a borrowed manger in a lowly stable, He was rejected, scoured, despised, tortured and crucified for us. Jesus gave up everything for us and our eternal benefit and blessing. After Jesus rose from the dead He became Lord of heaven and earth and the real owner of everything on this earth. He now says to you and to me: “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands – all that you can hold (Luke 6:38).” Or as the prayer of St. Francis puts it, “For it is in giving that we receive” the joy of knowing that we are blessing others with what God has given us. Jesus says to you “Blessed are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice (Luke 11:28).”

It’s not hard to put ourselves in the rich man’s place and imagine what he might think, looking at Lazarus, all covered in loathsome sores: ‘But if the doctors cannot do a thing for him, what am I expected to do? He is as poor as the stray dogs themselves. But surely it is not my fault that he is poor. I never robbed him or stole from him. God knows the streets are full of beggars. There are plenty of others as badly off as he is. But what can one man do about it? They would have to bankrupt the government to make any noticeable difference. If one lone beggar finds his way to my door, does that give him more claim on me than the others have? I have let him live exclusively, for weeks and months, on the discarded scraps from my table. Surely that is something I am doing for him. What more can I do?’

When we suffer from donation-fatigue like that, we need to pray to Jesus, “Thank You for loving me so much more than I could ever deserve. Through Your Word and sacraments, continually fill me with a love that overflows into the lives of others.” 

People who love each other want to be together and hear each other speak. When we love our Lord, we want to be where He is with us in a very special way, that is, in the Lord’s Supper, where He gives Himself to us in an awesome act of love. He does this to continue making us more and more like Him. More and more we will become eager to love others with Christ’s life-transforming, life-renewing love.

We give to God because God promises to multiply with His blessing whatever we give, whether to Him or our needy neighbour. “God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).”

For souls redeemed, for sins forgiven, for means of grace and hopes of heaven,

To you, O Lord, what can be given? You give us all.

We lose what on ourselves we spend; we have as treasure without end

Whatever, Lord, to You we lend – You give us all.

Amen.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 8: 18-9:1 ; Timothy 2:1-7; St Luke 16:1-13

Have you been scammed? Scams are ubiquitous these days with the advent of electronic communications and internet banking the field is endless for scammers to get to work on the vulnerable or the gullible in our community.gordon The fact that scamming is a very profitable business entails that there is now a host of strategies by which people are encouraged to use to avoid being fleeced of their hard-earned cash. But one thing we learn from scammers is that they are single minded in conducting their business. They don’t give up easily but continue to try and deceive you. They are single minded in their nefarious endeavours.

There are many parables in the gospel which indicate that the children of this world are more alert to their situation than the children of God. They can make decisive decisions in the light of the situation which confront them. Here in this parable a steward of a certain rich man has been told that he has been found out defrauding his employer. So as is the usual custom for the children of this world he immediately decides to secure his future by making friends with some influential people who are customers of his employer. Immediately, he sets about doing some creative accounting. Loading up their invoices with goods for which they don’t have to pay. This is a common case of fraud and it is not unusual today to read of similar situations in the commercial life of the community.

But what is remarkable about this situation is that Jesus praises the action of this fraudster and He does so on the basis that he is very much alive to the situation in which he finds himself. He is about to get the sack and so he sets about securing his future by his unlawful action. He knows how to secure his wellbeing in the changed circumstances of his life that are about to happen and makes a decisive decision to abandon his previous way of living and become a fraudster without any compunction or guilt but with a single eye on his self-preservation.

The point being that this crook is more alert to his situation than those who are eyewitnesses of an event the equivalent of which is the creation of the world. These are the people who see and hear Jesus the Son of God who has come into this world to redeem it from corruption by allowing Himself to be made one with their sin that they may be forgiven and renewed by God. This miracle of grace, the incarnation of the eternal Son of the eternal God, is not acknowledged by these people since He appears to be just another itinerant teacher that can be assessed, debated or ignored depending on our whim or inclination. This parable concerns the situation of the church in the time between the first and final appearing of its Lord. This is the time when Christians grow weary and ask themselves whether it is all worthwhile. Wouldn’t it be easier simply to go with the flow and forget about the faith, we are all in the same boat, aren’t we are all going the same way? This problem of uncertainty, and indecision about our relationship to God’s act of redeeming grace in Christ, whether there is anything in it, is a manifestation of the brokenness of the relationship between God and ourselves in Christ.  It echoes the suggestion of the serpent in Gen. 3 to the effect of introducing an element of uncertainty in the relationship between God and humankind.  “Did God say?”

Another saying of Jesus’ tells us the same thing. The single eye (Mat. 6:22, 23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”) the single eye or double vision is that which defines the wholeness and the light of the body.  It too raises the problem of uncertainty in the relationship between Christ and the Christian, it too manifests or shows the brokenness of the relationship.  Likewise, the suggestion of the serpent in Gen. 3, the archetypal original sin is to the effect of introducing an element of uncertainty in the relationship between God and humankind.  “Did God say?” The single eye and the implied concentration of sight on the one thing that fills the body with light: but if the sight of the eye is not singular but divided the body is full of darkness. Here it is either or, not both and.

Throughout the history of God’s relationship with his people Israel the question is continually posed by prophet and judge to King and people concerning their vacillation as to the location of their trust – either in God who had promised himself to them as their God or  in other god’s or alliances of a political and military nature to protect and secure their lives.  The question was and is for Israel and the Church whether people would or would not allow God to be the God he had promised himself to be for them. So, Jeremiah laments the fact that Israel raises the question is God really God? “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in Her?” He then goes on to say that through and in the indifference of Israel God Himself suffers loss. “For in the wound of the daughter of my people my heart is wounded.” Jeremiah 8: 19 & 21. 

And it is the same question raised by Jesus in the context of the fulfilment of that history of God’s relationship with Israel in Himself, as the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God who assumed flesh in order that he may take to his own heart the alienation, the estrangement, of God’s people.

The question which Jesus’ parable about the crooked book keeper poses for us is in relation to Jesus Himself: do we believe in the decisive action undertaken by God on our behalf.  Is this God really God for us? Is this journey of the Son of God into the far country for our sake, the shedding of His blood, the gratuitous violence of the Roman soldiers, the suffering the rejection, the abandonment by men and above all by God: is all this necessary for God to be our God? Is all this nastiness necessary, this divine self-humiliation, for the sake of God’s relationship with God’s own creation? The answer of course is that this is the way God has acted, there is no other way that human beings and creation can be recreated, than through this divine act of humiliation for our sakes, identifying himself with godforsakenness of the human condition?

The issues raised by Jesus words; the crooked employee who makes a risky but decisive decision to safeguard his future by committing a fraud on his employer, the issue of the single eye alone filling the body with light: these words of Jesus are about our attitude to God’s self-revelation in the most contradictory form of suffering, abandonment and death. Is this God God; if so, what does that mean in defining who we are in solidarity with all people in our wretchedness and alienation from God and each other? The singleness of our eye and the luminosity of light of who we are, depends on the risk we are prepared to take in making a decision, like the fraudster, about whether our life’s purpose and its future is determined  by acceptance or rejection of God’s action in Christ, the once for all fulfilment of his purposes, for Israel, the Church, and Christians, in the way of Jesus to the cross. Will we allow this God to be God?  Will we accept that we live as God’s people by this, his gracious judgement, alone. Luther’s sola gratia and sola scriptura mean precisely this. Here there is no middle pathway between faith and unbelief, light and darkness, Gospel and Law. In relationship to the truth which he brings there is only the possibilities of receiving Him as the truth of our life or not.  Here the possibilities are limited by this choice. It is the risk of faith or unbelief; the single eye, and the whole self full of light: or continuing to labour with our hearts divided and thus choose to live in the darkness of unbelief and guilt

Dr Gordon Watson.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Text: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Found By Grace, Filled With Gratitude

 

A little girl lost in a big store came up to someone and said, “My Mummy is lost; I can’t find her.” We know, of course, that it’s the child whom the mother has lost. She has no doubt been searching frantically for her lost daughter.dhuff There are many people all around us who are not aware they’re lost to the Kingdom of Heaven until they’re found by Jesus.

One Saturday morning, a visitor knocks on the door of a pastor’s home and asks, “Have you found Jesus?” The pastor replies: “Oh, I didn’t know He was lost.” A better question might have been: “Has Jesus found you?”

What an unsurpassed joy it is when the message becomes true of the hymn:

            Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

            That saved a wretch like me!

            I once was lost but now am found,

            Was blind but now I see.

St. Paul didn’t know he was lost until our risen Lord interrupted his “search-and-eliminate-Christians” plans on the road to Damascus. He was so sure he was doing the right thing by seeking to destroy the rapidly growing community of Christ. Paul had seen the tenacious nature of faith in Christ, in someone like St. Stephen who courageously and amazingly prayed for those who were killing him, “Lord, forgive them for this sin.” A faith like that had to be stamped out, Paul had thought. As well as cursing Jesus, Paul had shown no mercy to our Lord’s loyal followers, beating them and throwing them in prison. Paul was the most passionate persecutor of Christians back then. 

Every Christian at that time would have considered Paul to be the most unlikely person to be converted to Christianity. None of them would have dreamed Paul might become Christ’s greatest advocate and most effective missionary. But then, God’s grace does surprising things. Paul had no idea that Jesus identifies so closely with what happens to His persecuted people. Jesus asks Paul, not “why are you persecuting Christians?”, but “Why are you persecuting Me?” Until that day on the road to Damascus, Jesus had shown great patience to Paul. On that life-changing day, Jesus showed outstanding mercy to His greatest opponent, a man who had treated Jesus’ followers so un-mercifully.

That day, Paul discovered how astonishing and how totally undeserved is the grace of Christ. He spent the rest of his life praising and thanking God for His grace whenever he could. He now gives our Lord the credit for everything good he achieves. His missionary achievements far outweigh those of all the other apostles, but he attributes it all to grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10).”

It’s beyond comprehension that Jesus should choose for his primary spokesman, someone who had been such a terrible sinner. But Paul learned that, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).” Paul is Exhibit “A” for the way the grace of Christ can completely change and transform our lives. If there’s hope for Paul, there’s hope for us all. If there’s hope for Paul, the chief of sinners, there’s hope for everyone else. “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost (1 Timothy 1:15).”

Paul calls this marvellous summary of the Gospel “a statement that is completely reliable”, that is, a fundamental and unshakeable truth that we can stake our whole lives and our eternal future on. The most saintly Christians are those who are the most conscious of their sins. They’re aware of the big gap between what they profess and what they practice, and plead for God’s help to narrow the gap. Their constant prayer is, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” They feel that it is a much more fruitful activity to do something about their own sins, rather than focus on the sins of others. For those who have been Christians for most of their lives, their own sins appear greater than the sins of others. There’s good reason for this. We don’t know the hearts and minds of others as well as we know our own hearts and minds.

St. Paul invites all of us to “in all humility, regard others as better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).” Paul practised what he preached. Not only did he consider all the other apostles better than he, but he also considered all other Christians as better than he was. Such an attitude couldn’t but help to contribute to the effectiveness of his ministry. That’s why Paul saw it as a privilege to serve others and see Christ in them. Ever since our risen Lord appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus, Paul could never look another Christian in the eye without seeing our Saviour there. Christians know that they have defects and failings which are unknown to others, and which they have no right to suppose that others have also. On the other hand, we see in others, virtues that we do not yet possess. Overwhelmed by our Lord’s goodness and grace to us, we thank God for all the good qualities, gifts and virtues we see in others.

Our Lord’s forgiveness and grace is truly praiseworthy and astonishing for all the changes it can bring about in us. His forgiveness can heal the painful memories sin causes. He promises to no longer remember the sins He has forgiven. Forgiveness takes the sting out of the memory of sin. Our forgiven sins leave a print on our memories, but unforgiven sins leave a wound.

Christ brings His cross to our altar to give to each of you personally its gracious and merciful benefits. Where the forgiveness of Jesus won for you on the cross is gratefully treasured and embraced, the sting of sin is gone from one’s memory. There’s nothing left but a disappearing scar. Your sin has become an event of the past.

Paul’s recollection of his past has little pain for him, because his overwhelming focus is on what lies ahead. “I am focussing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).” We often wish that the stain sins leaves on our memory could be purged away immediately. All of us have much in our lives we wish we could forget. But God lets some memories of past faults and failures remain as a barrier against future sin. God uses these memories to equip us to serve Him more sensitively. It makes us more sympathetic to the failings of others. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Ask God to heal you of those memories that come back to haunt you in the middle of the night. Hand them over to Him so they can no longer ruin your peace of mind. “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).” The truth is that when we’re forgiven, our sins cease to haunt us. They can’t be recalled without great effort. It is only an unforgiven sin whose stain stays. “Be forgiven and forget,” and live in the sunshine of God’s mercy.

The miracle of God’s grace is that it can make and keep each one of us as His treasured servants, despite our short tempers, depression, discontent and failure to pray as we ought. St. Paul was endlessly grateful that Jesus trusted him to be His spokesman to the nations. Trust is always a risk. Our Lord has no qualms about taking a risk with us. He’s prepared to be disappointed by how we serve Him from time to time, in the hope that each time He picks us up after we fall, we will grow closer to Him. Our greatest asset will be our longing to have Jesus become more and more a part of our daily lives.

Franz was dying. His daughter Lena asked him, “Father, are you thinking of Jesus?” Franz replied that when he could no longer think of Jesus, Jesus was thinking of him. That’s the good news it gives me great joy to share with you this morning: Jesus thinks of you more than you could imagine or dream. Your Lord remembers you even when you’re too busy or too tired to think of Him. He remembers you with deepest love and tenderness.  One church I know of has written over the back of its pews: “Be Patient – God Is Not Yet Finished With Me.”  God is in less of a hurry than we are. “The Lord isn’t being slow to carry out His promises as anybody else might be called slow; but God is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost, but everyone to be brought to change their ways (2 Peter 3:9).”

Jesus is God’s patience in human form. He showed admirable patience with the twelve slowest learners in Israel, so that there can be hope for all the rest of us. No farmer expects to receive a harvest in the same month his crop was sown. Jesus didn’t look for quick results from His preaching and teaching. He’s prepared to wait patiently for His harvest of fruits – joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness and kindness – from your life. The grace of Christ has found you and will go with you on your journey through this life. That same grace can keep alive in you, a gratitude that never stops overflowing with joy.

Hearts, hands and voices that continually thank God for His amazing grace, have discovered a joy that has the taste of eternity about it.

From 1 Timothy 1:17, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.