“Orphans Lead the World” is the surprising title of an article in a medical journal. The writer studied the lives of politicians who had the greatest influence on our history. He was soon struck by the astonishing discovery that most of them were orphans: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, George Washington, Napoleon, and Queen Victoria were all orphans who didn’t let the situation of disadvantage with which they began life to deter them from achieving great things for others. These orphans were determined to not let the emotional deprivation they had suffered in their childhood stop them from being positive men and women. They wanted to live in such a way that they would improve the lot of others.
As a teenager, Joseph was deprived of the comforts of his family. Joseph however let God use the unfortunate circumstances of his life to bring immense blessing to countless men and women in a foreign land. His positive attitude to the negative events in his life has inspired countless Christians to follow his example. The story of his life is one of the most inspiring stories ever written. He is one of the Bible’s most commendable characters, and his actions remind us in many ways of another Joseph’s stepson – Jesus. The events of Joseph’s life capture the imagination of those who read about him in Genesis 37-50.
Children easily identify with the story of Joseph and his unkind brothers. They can understand the brothers’ jealousy of Joseph when their father favours and spoils Joseph. As a 17 year old, Joseph should have known better than to tell his brothers of his egocentric dreams. As far as they were concerned, he was “too big for his boots”, and deserved to be humiliated. The brothers sold him to slave traders. An Egyptian official called Potiphar bought Joseph. Potiphar sensed his God was blessing what Joseph did and he made Joseph manager of his entire household. Because of Joseph’s faith in God and his positive attitude to his situation, God blessed Potiphar’s work. Just when everything seemed to be going well for Joseph, trouble comes from an unexpected person – Potiphar’s wife. Joseph says a resolute “no” to her advances. “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” he told her. When she sees that nothing can change his mind, she accuses him of betrayal to her husband, who has Joseph put in prison.
In prison, Joseph could easily have become bitter because of the unfair and dishonest way he’d been treated. But Joseph believed that though life is often unfair, it is nevertheless good. “Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more.” Joseph saw how God richly blessed his time in prison. God hasn’t abandoned him there. Instead of being obsessed with his own misfortune, Joseph shows genuine care and concern for his fellow prisoners. “Why are you looking so sad today?” he asks two prisoners. Joseph kept his positive outlook because he believed God had a good and gracious purpose for his life. This liberating conviction saved Joseph from giving in to bitterness or resentment. Instead of blaming God for what happened to him, Joseph’s indestructible faith enabled him to confess, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.” God is doing the same for Christians in our country today.
The more important the work God has for one of His people to do, the longer the preparation. Jesus was 30 years old before He began the most important work ever, that of our eternal salvation. Joseph saw the two men whose dreams he’d interpreted released from prison before him. In God’s good plans for us, times of waiting are never fruitless. “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” In God’s good time, God gets Joseph to interpret the dreams of Pharoah, King of Egypt. Joseph is promoted to the second highest position in Egypt from where he saves the lives of many people by preparing for a major drought.
Joseph sees that God’s plans for his people are larger than every player, including himself. He believed that God meant him for something much better than an affair with Potiphar’s wife. God can use our loyalty to Him and commitment to His Kingdom to bring blessings to future generations. No act of faithfulness is insignificant as far as God is concerned. A cup of water given to a thirsty child will be recalled and praised by God in heaven. Joseph looked beyond the hassles of daily lie, beyond sibling rivalry, untruthful accusations of sexual harassment, and alienation from his brothers, to see in his life the caring hand of God. He remains sure that God’s hand is on him “for good”. He trusted God’s loving-goodness despite what sometimes seemed like the opposite. God lets us enter suffering, that through it, He might bring about some greater good. God has all the threads of our lives in His hands, even when we’re least aware of it.
There were no external miracles in Joseph’s life. God works through the ordinary events of life to create His saving master piece for us. From Joseph’s fractured family, God created an indestructible nation. God didn’t let family conflicts and disagreements thwart His loving purposes for others. The time has come when Joseph can no longer hide his true identity from his estranged brothers. His brother Judah has profoundly changed for the better. Judah would now do everything he could to prevent his father Jacob from suffering again. “For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father (Genesis 44:34).” And Joseph is deeply affected by the change in his brother. Joseph’s revelation of himself is one of the most moving scenes in the Bible. His words reveal Joseph at his noblest: “I am your brother, Joseph.” What wonderful words of forgiveness and reconciliation!
There will be no more recriminations. The past stays in the past, pardoned and wiped clean. All that matters now is a new relationship with each other. “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; He has made me a father to Pharoah, and lord of all this house and ruler over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:7-8).” To allay the anxieties of his brothers, Joseph maximises what God has done and minimises his own contribution. Joseph is convinced that without God, he would never have achieved anything good.
Everything good we have received comes from God. There are no accidents. Whatever happens to us happens within God’s plans and purposes. Not only is God at work in everything that goes right in our lives; God won’t let painful things happen to us unless He can bring good from them. Our ultimate source of hope is that God can bring good from our evil. “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as He is doing today’ (Genesis 50:19-20).”
What God lets happen to us is better than our plans or what we want for ourselves. If we have to change our plans, it may be because God has something better in store for us.
A teenager was sitting under an oak tree looking out at a watermelon patch, wondering if God was right in the way He planned things. He thought that surely God had got things wrong. A big oak tree had tiny acorns, when it would have made more sense to have big fruit like a watermelon. Just then an acorn fell on his head! Then he understood that God’s wisdom is vastly superior to any human wisdom. Our lives aren’t at the mercy of impersonal forces like fate, luck or chance.
The death of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest example of how God has brought the greatest good from the greatest evil. Like Joseph, Jesus too was rejected by His brothers and sold for silver. From our Lord’s tragically cut-short life, we are eternally blessed. “What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not with Him also give us everything else? (Romans 8:31-32)”
The story of Joseph encourages us to really believe and live each day in the light of this truth: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”
A man took his new hunting dog out for his first hunt. He shot a duck that fell into the lake. The dog ran on top of the water, picked up the duck and brought it back to his master. The man was flabbergasted.
He couldn’t believe what he had just seen. He shot another duck. While he starred in disbelief, the dog again ran on top of the water and retrieved the duck.
Hardly daring to believe what he saw, he invited the neighbour for a shoot the following day. Once again, each time he or his neighbour shot a duck, the dog would run on top of the water and retrieve the duck. The man said nothing- neither did the neighbour. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer he blurted out, “Did you notice anything strange about my dog”? The neighbour rubbed his chin thoughtfully and finally said, “Come to think of it I did. Your dog can’t swim”. This just goes to show that some people can’t see a miracle even when it stares them in the face.
Political joke- Joh Belke Petersen was premier of Qld. Joh-Bob Hawke and the Pope had a meeting on Fraser Island. The meeting finished and the helicopter that was to take the three men back to the mainland was late. So the Pope decides to walk to the mainland. Joh then does the same. Then Bob Hawke set out but unfortunately drowns. The Pope turns to Joh and says, “Didn’t Bob know where the stepping stones were?” Joh replies, “What stepping stones?” Despite what some of his most fervent supporters might think Joh couldn’t actually walk on water.
The fact is that people can’t walk on water-as anyone who has tried will know. We don’t have webbed feet. Walking on water requires skills/powers that we humans simply don’t have. Yet for a short time, Peter was able to walk on water.
The Scene: After the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus wanted to be alone to pray. He sent the disciples ahead by boat. The wind blew up. Then a full blown storm hits. This was not uncommon for an inland sea surrounded by mountains.
It was about dawn- before 6 am when Jesus walks towards the boat-no stepping stones. By the way why was Jesus walking on the water? Mark Twain was visiting the Holy Land and decided to take a boat ride on Lake Galilee. He asked the man how much that would cost. The man figured that Mark Twain was a wealthy American and said $100. Mark Twain said,”forget it. Now I know why Jesus walked on the water” The disciples are terrified. They think that Jesus is a ghost. Then Jesus speaks to them,” take courage. It is I- don’t be afraid.” Tell me! Would you have reacted any differently? Wouldn’t you have been frightened in that situation? Would you have had Peter’s courage? “Lord if it is you tell me to come to you on the water?” Would you have asked that question? And then when Jesus says “Come” would you have had the courage to go?
They say that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. That’s Peter isn’t it-bold- impetuous-over confident. There was no doubt that Peter believed it was Jesus. And that he actually walked on water. Just imagine how Peter felt-on top of the world-elated- pinch himself to see if he was dreaming.
Then what happened? Peter looked away from Jesus. He “felt the wind. He saw the water whipped into huge waves. He saw that he really was outside the boat-he was really walking on water. Then he made a crucial mistake. He took his eyes of Jesus-panicked. He thought to himself, “What on earth am I doing out here on the water? He had a sinking feeling- and that is what happened-down he went. It was a very short time from elation to panic.
Perhaps you have had those times when you were “Riding high”- when things were going well. So much so that you started to get “big ideas” about yourself and your abilities. You were going “great guns” “hot shot”. I think that something like that was going on in Peter’s mind. “Look at me guys-I’m walking on water”. The implication –Peter was better- showed more faith than the other disciples who stayed in the boat. Then Peter got that sinking feeling and down he went.
A similar thing can happen to us when we develop a superior attitude- or get too big for our boots. Suddenly with a crash- your worlds comes tumbling down. All those securities- all those things that propped you up have come crashing down. And you are feeling helpless. You feel like you are drowning-going under. Everything is closing in on you. Have you ever felt like that? What did do you do?
As Peter went under the water he yelled out to Jesus, “Lord save me”-brief prayer- a prayer of desperation-conviction. Jesus was the only possible source of help. What do you do in desperate straights? Who do your turn to in those life threatening situations?
Peter prayed, “Lord save me”. And Jesus did. He reached out, grabbed his hand and said, “O man of little faith why did you doubt?
What can we learn from this story? There are times when the storms of life threaten to overwhelm you. There are times when the waves of sorrow-doubt-strife-affliction-trouble threaten to swamp you. Remember help is at hand. And it is only a prayer away. So when you are in a situation like Peter-when you are being overwhelmed-give the Lord a call. Turn to Jesus and He will help you. The Psalmist says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you”.
Now that is a promise from Almighty God. You can’t do better than that.
So in those times when you feel in danger from being overwhelmed by troubles-pressures- when your sins threaten to sink you-when you seem to be falling deeper into a hole. Then Look to Jesus-keep your eyes on him. Ask him for help. And He will help. He will take you by the hand just like he did for Peter. He will assure you that because you have turned to him in faith, he will respond. He will save you from whatever is threatening you.
Now it is most unlikely that Jesus will invite you to walk on water. But there may be times when he will ask you to step out in faith- to put all your trust in him. The important thing then is to remember that Jesus is by your side. He will be right there to lift you when you fall-to save you when you feel overwhelmed.
BUT! You will never discover that unless you take the step of faith. Peter would never have discovered whether he could walk on water unless he stepped out of the boat. That is the way it is with God’s promises. You will never discover whether they are true-unless you take the step of faith. You only find out of God keeps his promises by taking the step of faith.
You may ask, “Isn’t that taking a risk?”Isn’t that too risky”?
Well it all depends on who is making the promise. Is the person who makes the promise reliable-dependable?
Remember! It is Jesus who makes this promise. His Word is reliable. You can trust his Word-promise. How do we know that?
The Cross and the open grave are proof that Jesus does keep his promises.
So when Jesus calls you to step out in faith, remember that he is by your side. His hand is already in yours.
Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? Suppose you and 5,000 people were in the middle of the Simpson Desert. It was tea time. You were asked to feed the crowd. The nearest McDonalds is well over 1,000 kilometres away. You ask everyone to pool their food. But all you can muster up is five small bread rolls and a tin of sardines. What would you do?
You would probably shrug your shoulders and give the person who told you to feed the crowd a look that clearly indicated you thought they were out of their mind and say something like, “You’ve got to be kidding! That’s impossible! Who do you think I am? Jesus Christ?
That might have been something like the way the disciples felt when Jesus looked at the crowd of 5,000 men (20,000 total) –and said to his disciples, “YOU feed them”-“you give them something to eat”. The disciples no doubt felt that was totally unreasonable of Jesus to ask such a thing of them.
How had this situation come about? Jesus and the disciples had gone to a remote area for some rest. Jesus had just heard that his cousin John the Baptist had been executed by Herod. He was looking for some timeout with his disciples. But the crowd had found out where Jesus was going and followed him. Jesus had compassion on them and healed the sick among them.
The disciples being practical men noticed that it was getting on towards evening. And as it was a remote spot they suggested to Jesus that he should send the crowds away to get themselves some food. In the circumstances, it was a logical-practical-realistic suggestion.
Then Jesus dropped his bombshell.” They do not need to go away”, he said, “You give them something to eat “. Just imagine how you would have felt if you were one of the disciples. You would have been stunned. Jesus seemed to be totally unreasonable. Perhaps Jesus didn’t realize how serious the situation was. We had better brief him – make him aware of the real situation. Tell him how little food they had been able to find. “We only have five bread rolls and two small fish”, they said. Jesus doesn’t bat an eyelid. “Bring them to me”, he ordered.
Now the disciples knew that they couldn’t feed the crowd with the limited amount of food they had. And Jesus knew that they couldn’t. So why that strange command? Why ask them to do something that was clearly impossible?
Most of Jesus’ miracles had a teaching element to them. Jesus never performed a miracle for its own sake. Every miracle Jesus performed was a demonstration that he had ushered in the Kingdom of God. And in this present case the disciples were about to learn an important lesson. They learnt that without Jesus they were helpless. But with Jesus “all things were possible”.
Now they undoubtedly thought of themselves as being practical-down to earth men. But when they were presented with this practical problem they couldn’t manage it themselves. They had to have help from the Lord.
The disciples at first tried to avoid the problem by sending them away. But Jesus wouldn’t let them off the hook. There are times in our lives too when we try that strategy. We try to avoid-ignore them problem- hoping that it will go away.
The lesson that Jesus taught the disciples is intended for all of us. It boils down to something Jesus once said, “apart from me you can do nothing”. We all need God’s help throughout our life. We simply aren’t always smart-strong-capable enough to deal with Life’s problems. Like the disciples’ we need to learn to rely on Jesus and his power to meet the challenges of life.
Ephesians 3:18 says, “God is able to do far more than we can thing or imagine”. With God’s power-guidance- with Jesus’ help-support we can move from the realm of “impossibility thinking” to “possibility thinking”. What was impossible for the disciples by themselves became possible when Jesus added his resources. We may not always have the resources-abilities to help people facing difficult problems. But we do know someone who does have the resources-Jesus. Bringing people to Jesus can be the very best thing we can do for people-especially when the problem is beyond our capacity to deal with. As it was the case with the disciples.
And if Jesus could meet the needs of all those people in the wilderness almost 2,000 years ago couldn’t he also meet the needs of people today? How many of you believe that? “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”.
And yet there is another side to this miracle that we need to look at. The disciples were important to Jesus’ plan. He didn’t say to them, “Get out of the way-you are all useless. I’ll do it myself”. He could have said that but he didn’t. After he had blessed the food he gave it to the disciples-who had the important task of distributing the food.
Certainly the resources-food- came from Jesus but the disciples had their part to play. Jesus worked through the hands of the disciples that day.
And he still does. This pattern of God working through people continues today. The Lord still wants to use us as his partners in his work-junior partner’s maybe-but partners never the less. The Apostle Paul says “You are God’s co-workers” (1. Corinthians 3:8) It is surely a great privilege-honour for us to be regarded by God as his co-workers.
That is why he challenged the disciples by saying, “You feed them”. This showed two things.1. Their dependence on Jesus’ power. 2. It showed that God had an important part for them to play-to be involved.
Just before his Ascension Jesus gave them his commission-his instructions to go and make disciples- baptizing and teaching. And from the time of his Ascension, Jesus’ followers have carried on the work of the Lord. So each one of us likewise has an important part to play. A poem by a lady called Annie Johnson Flint sums the position well, “CHRIST HAS NO HANDS BUT OUR HANDS TO DO HIS WORK TODAY”. Do you agree?
Now I know that can sound a bit like bragging- as if God is absolutely dependent on us. And in a sense those words aren’t true. If we don’t act God will find some one else.
But this much is true. Our Lord has chosen people-people like you/me to carry out his work. And if God’s people fail then there is the possibility that God’s work may fail. But it won’t be God who has failed, but we who have let him down.
The Story of the Archangel Gabriel asking Jesus about his plans for the world to know of his love.
THEME: “ JESUS CAN A LOT WITH A LITTLE “
When Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd they told him they only had a little- five small loaves and two fish. And it certainly was a little amount to feed the vast crowd. Yet with that little amount provided by the disciples Jesus was able to feed the large crowd –they in face had more than enough- there were even left-overs-12 baskets full.
So what does that say to you? I believe that Jesus is saying, “Come to me just as you are-ill-equipped-weak-fallible. Bring to me whatever you have-however little-however ordinary. And I will bless it and use it greatly in my service-in the work of my Kingdom.” REMEMBER! “A LITTLE BECOMES A LOT IN THE HANDS OF JESUS”.
Prayer: Lord use me to accomplish your purpose in this world. Amen
THE PARABLES OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PEARL.
Have you ever dreamed about discovering some hidden treasure? I used to enjoy reading stories about pirates sailing to islands to look for buried treasures-books like Treasure Island. Even today people are fascinated by stories of sunken ships that were supposed to have carried cargoes of silver-gold-jewellery. When I was a young boy I once found a shilling-in the late 1940’s a shilling could buy you a lot of lollies-and that is what I spent it on. And I hid them so my sister wouldn’t find them. I was going to eat them all myself. And I think I did.
Other people looked for treasure on Land. Gold was discovered in Australia in the early 1850’s. People rushed to the gold fields-hence the expression “Gold Rush”. People came for over seas-America-Europe-England, even China. Sailors deserted their ships-farmers left their farms, leaving their wives behind to manage while they went off to make their fortune. Shop assistants-tradesmen-clerks left to try their luck in the goldfields. They gave up just about everything they had to search for gold. For prospectors- gold was the only thing mattered-counted.
Read parables. Jesus told these two parables to teach us about the importance of the Kingdom of God.
In the 1st parable Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a man finding a valuable treasure buried in a field. We aren’t told how he found it or what he was doing when he found it. But somehow, quite unexpectedly he comes across a treasure he wasn’t even looking for. Now that might sound a bit odd to us. Why would you bury your treasure in the ground?
But that was not unusual for those times. Remember there were no banks-safety deposit boxes. In unsettle times people would often put their valuables in a jar-box- wrap it in cloth and bury it in the ground. If the owner died or was killed no one else might know about it and it would just lie there until someone found it.
You can imagine the surprise-excitement for the man who had discovered the buried treasure. After he gets over his initial surprise, he reburies the treasure. He has no rights to the treasure as it is on someone else’s land. So he quickly rushes off and sells everything he has to get the money so he can buy the land.
He considered the treasure was so important that it was worth sacrificing everything else he had. He gave up everything else to obtain the treasure.
What does this mean? Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven is such a treasure. It is worth more than anything else in the world. Later Jesus tells the story of a Rich young man who wanted to follow Him. Jesus tells him to sell everything and follow him. But the young man could not make that sacrifice. The Kingdom was not important enough for him. It was not his priority.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,”seek first the Kingdom”. He says, “Lay up treasures in heaven”. In other words he was saying, “work out your priorities-focus on what is really important.
In what way is the Kingdom a treasure? The kingdom is a total package. It includes everything we could possibly need for this life and the life to come. It includes-God’s love-grace-forgiveness-acceptance-the Holy Spirit-guidance-eternal life. That is why it is such a great treasure. That is why it is so valuable-important.
Some questions we need to consider.
+Do we in fact regard the Kingdom as a valuable treasure?
+Do we appreciate being in the Kingdom?
+What value do we place on our faith?
Is it a priority for us? Would you have acted like that man who found the buried treasure? The point is this: if we are prepared to sacrifice all that we have to gain an earthly treasure, what should we be prepared to do for the Kingdom?
The second parable is about a merchant who after years of searching finds the perfect pearl. You get the impression that he had been searching for such a pearl for the whole of his life- that is was a life long ambition to find such a pearl.
Pearls were highly valued in the ancient world-sometimes more so than gold. They were found in the Red sea-Persian gulf-Indian ocean.
Now the merchant’s dreams had come true. He had hit the jackpot. He found a pearl of extraordinary perfection-beauty. He had found the pearl of his dreams. Now this was not the only pearl in the world. There were many others. But this pearl was unlike any other he had seen. It was one of unsurpassing beauty-value. None cold compare with this special pearl.
The implication is that there may be many other attractions in the world-many other desirable things-other alternatives. But they are not a patch in comparison with the Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven surpasses them all. By comparison they are of little value.
The pearl is an object of great beauty. There is also beauty in the Kingdom that we seldom think about. Beauty has its source in God-it comes from him and ultimately points back to him.
But I am not just talking about “physical beauty”-“good looks”-“outward appearance”. I am talking about the beauty of “character”-“truth”-“love”, a beauty that comes from a vital/living relationship with God. This kind of beauty shows itself in such things as “serenity”- a person who is at peace with themselves and others because they are at peace with God. It is what we might call a “Christ –like beauty”. It is what we sing about in the hymn, “Beautiful Saviour”. It is an inner beauty that shows itself in our outer character. And this “inner beauty” is more valuable than outward appearance.
These 2 parables have some common features.
There is the idea of finding something of tremendous value.
There is the thought of selling things of lesser value to obtain the object of great value.
No cost is too great when it is a matter of gaining the Kingdom.
These parables teach us that the Supreme value of the Kingdom is worth more than anything else in life. It is worth sacrificing-giving up everything else in order to obtain it. St Paul said, “Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up every thing else and regard it as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him”. (Philippians 3:8-9, CEV).
Many centuries before Jesus told these parables God offered Solomon anything he wanted- riches- success-fame-long life. Instead of these material things he asked God to give him wisdom to rule wisely. Solomon understood something of the values of the Kingdom. He asked God something that was better than material things. Likewise in these parables, the man who found the buried treasure and the merchant who found the perfect pearl aimed for the best- the thing that was of the most value.
What is it that you really value? Are you focussing on the lasting values of the Kingdom? Or are you focussing on things that ultimately fade into insignificance? That is the question you need to ask yourself and think about.
Let us thank God that Jesus makes it possible for us to be a member of his Kingdom. He paid the price so that we could have the prize.
Life can be messy. And I’m not talking about changing babies dirty nappies. Things in life are not always clear cut. They are not always black-white. Life is so often a variety of shades of grey. Evil flourishes alongside good. Good and bad can be intermingled.
And most of us don’t like that. We prefer things to be clear cut- black and white. We like things to be neatly divided-clearly separated. We aren’t comfortable with ambiguity. We like things to be straight forward. We like things to be in neat tidy categories such as “good and bad”-“evil and righteous”- “worthy and unworthy” etc.
This parable tells us that life in general and life in the church in particular isn’t always like that. It tells us that God has his own way of dealing with things. He has his own time schedule. It tells us that Judgement is God’s concern, not ours.
In this parable we find that the Master postpones Judgement. He refuses what seems to be a reasonable request from the servants who want to separate the wheat from the weeds and pull out the weeds.
Here we have a parable that deals with an issue that has concerned believers down the centuries. For centuries believers have struggled with the apparent slowness of God to act-to bring judgement on evil doers- wicked-unbelievers who mock God-God’s apparent slowness to tidy things up. There was an occasion when Jesus had to refuse the disciples who wanted him to bring down fire on a Samaritan city that refused to give Jesus and the disciples food. In fact Jesus rebuked the disciples for their attitude.
This parable deal with human impatience over God’s amazing and exasperating patience –forbearance.
A minister who spent 20 years counselling clergy-especially clergy who had suffered burn-out-depression said, “From my experience I have discovered that some people should never have gone into ministry-especially if they have been a professional photographer-printer-engineer. That also goes for people who are perfectionists.
If you are the sort of person who has a need to have everything in focus- if you like people to stand neat and tidy and still like in a photo, you are going to be miserable in the church because people just won’t stay in place-being neat and tidy. They will get out of focus. They will disappoint you-they will let you down- they won’t always co-operate. Church is a lousy place for people who like everything to be neat-tidy-well organised. People are hardly ever like that.
As I said before life in the church can be messy-saints+sinners sit in the same pew-row of chairs-right next to each other and who can tell who is who.
But it goes deeper than that. Each one of us is both saint+sinner at the same time. We are saint because we have the Spirit of God living in us and because we have been redeemed by Jesus-made members of the Kingdom. But at the same time we are sinners because we still have our sinful nature that struggles for control. Romans 7 “the good that I want to do I don’t and the evil I don’t want to do I do” The Russian author, Solzhenistsyn who wrote the book, “the Gulag archipelago” said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”. That is similar to what St Paul said in Romans 7.
Read parable. What kind of farmer is this man? Wouldn’t it make sense to get rid of the weeds before they grew and matured By leaving the weeds grow could result in the wheat being choked. He might get a bumper harvest but it would be of weeds not of wheat. Today any farmer worth his salt would get out with his spray equipment and spray the weeds before they could do too much damage.
The weed mentioned by Jesus was called “bearded darnel”. And in the early stage of growth was almost impossible to distinguish from the wheat. They looked so similar. The roots of the weed would get intertwined with the roots of the wheat. So of you tried to pull out the weeds you would be likely to uproot the wheat.
The best way to deal with the problem was to wait until harvest time. The harvest grain would be spread out on a table and sorted by hand. Although the seed of the darnell was similar in size and shape to the grains of wheat, it was a different colour. The farmer would employ women who would carefully and painstakingly separate the grain from the seeds of weed.
What does this parable mean for us today? What is God teaching us here?
God is teaching us an important truth about the nature of the church. There have always been people who wanted to have a “pure church”-a church consisting of the ‘spiritual elite”-“a holy huddle”- an exclusive church for the pure and holy.
Interestingly enough this was an issue for the early church. In the days when the Roman Empire was persecuting the church, many Christians renounced their faith under the pressure of persecution-threats. But later some of those who had renounced their faith wanted to come back into the church. This caused a great deal of discussion. There were some who said that if people had renounced their faith, they could not be accepted back into the church. There were others who argued that if these people confessed their failure-their sin at giving up their faith, then they could be forgiven and accepted back into the church. The latter view prevailed. And that was the right-Biblical decision. There is no such thing as a pure church on earth. We are members of the “Holy Christian church” as the Apostle’s creed says. But that is not because we are intrinsically holy, but because Jesus shed his “holy and precious blood” for us. Although we are sinful humans, God regards us as holy because of what Jesus has done for us.
Jesus told this parable to correct his disciples misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. The disciples expected that the Kingdom would come explosively-totally –in all its fullness.
Jesus understood the Kingdom more like this and this is what the New Testament teaches. Show diagram.
The Kingdom of God had indeed come to earth with the coming of Jesus. But the old age had not been eliminated. The weeds still grow together with the wheat. Only at the end of the age at Christ’s Second Coming will evil be destroyed and the Kingdom come with all its fullness.
The parable does 2 things.
It warns against expecting perfection this side of Judgement day. It warns against being legalistic-judgemental-self righteous. Would you accept King David into your church? An Adulterer-murderer-bigamist-a failure as a father-dysfunctional family?
It is an assurance that despite the ambiguity of our present experience- despite the messiness-disfunction-disorder-failure we often see in the visible church today- and in our own personal lives at times- the Kingdom of God is at work and will ultimately triumph. The church can not fail despite the weaknesses and failings of its human members- because it is God’s church. And that is why we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “THY KINGDOME COME”. Pastor Haydn Blaess.
The story that Jesus tells about the sower and the seed is one of the well known parables in the New Testament. Through this story Jesus tells of the importance not only of preaching the Word of God but also of hearing it. In fact so important is this message of the parable that it is one of the few where Jesus himself provides the meaning of the parable. Remember Jesus doesn’t tell stories for the sake of telling stories. The stories were not an end in themselves but a means to an end. In other words his stories always had a deeper meaning- a truth that would help his followers to understand what God had to say to them.
In this parable the seed is the Word of God. The different kinds of soil that it falls on are the different ways people receive the Word of God that they hear preached, read or study themselves. The farmer did his best to spread the seed. Now the seed was good seed but the results varied depending where the seed fell.
Some fell on hard ground and immediately the birds gobbled it up.
Some fell on rocky soil and withered and died because it could not take root in the shallow soil.
Some seed fell among thorns and weeds and began to grow but were eventually choked by the thorns.
Some fell on good cultivated soil and grew into a bountiful crop. So it depended not only on the sower and the seed but also on the reception the seed got. So the preaching and the hearing of God’s Word become one activity.
What this means is that effective preaching is not just my activity alone. I can do so much to prepare and deliver my sermons. But effective preaching also involves effective hearing. And that is where YOU come in. The sower can sow the seed until he drops from exhaustion but if the soil is hard and full of weeds it will be a meagre harvest. Like wise the preacher can preach until he is exhausted but if no one is tuned in to what he is saying then he is wasting his time. The Holy Spirit can be speaking to us through the Scriptures as they are being read to us or as we read them ourselves but if we are not listening with open ears-hearts and minds, those words will not have any significant impact.
So what does it mean to be a good listener? That is the crucial question.
In the first place, a good listener is open to the Word of God. As the minister prepares himself to preach the Word, so the listeners must prepare themselves to receive it. When the reader begins to read the lessons or the minister begins to preach we can be put off by the person who is reading or proclaiming God’s Word. We may get sidetracked by the readers’ tone and expression-or lack of it or tune out when the minister goes on longer than we think necessary.
Rather than focussing on the person who is doing the reading or the minister who is preaching, prepare yourself to receive the message as God’s Words for you.
Prepare yourself by asking questions such as:
+What will God say to me today through the sermon?
+What will God want me to get out of the Bible readings?
+What will God say to me today that will make a difference to my life?
The Bible readings and the sermon are God’ Word for you this day. It may be dressed in human words-human examples and even human error, but nevertheless, it is God’s Word for you. What is important that you listen to it as if God himself were speaking to you. You never know what life-changing words you may be missing if you tune out.
A good listener recognises that the Word of God has authority. It is one thing for the minister in the pulpit to proclaim God’s promises-but unless you believe God’s Word has authority to back up those promises the preacher might as well save his breath. When God speaks –things happen.
The Word you hear is the same Word that proclaimed at the beginning, “Let there be Light”. It is the same Word that gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is the same Word that stilled storms-healed the sick and raised the dead.
It is a Word that is to be believed-trusted because it has the authority of the eternal God himself.
Good listening means allowing the Word of God the widest possible application to our lives. Let the Word speak to you. As you hear-read the Word, say to yourself as you hear the Word, “That means me”-“God is speaking to me”.
Now it is a well-known fact that when God’s Word gets too close to the bone or touches a raw nerve of sin, we put up our defences. We may switch off, or start making excuses to justify our behaviour or start applying the message to someone else. As a result the Word isn’t able to establish any roots in us at all. We filter what we hear. We may water it down-put our own interpretation on what is being said (a bit like the spin doctors employed by politicians) or pass it off as irrelevant –not having any meaning for our lives.
Now there comes a point when you need to ask, “What is God saying to me through this passage”? To listen to the Word and regard it only as an interesting piece of Biblical knowledge hardly acknowledges the authority of God’s Word. This is a misuse-misunderstanding of the purpose of God’s Word. When God’s Word speaks, things are meant to change. When we hear God’s Word as a message from God to us we need to take it seriously and make changes in our lives that will bring glory to God.
Now I’m not saying that applying God’s Word to our lives is easy. As Martin Luther said, “I believe that by myself I can’t believe. Satan- our sinful nature- the influence of the world about us all conspire to lead us away from really hearing what God has to say to us. So we need to be aware of the forces against us that want us to regard the Word as irrelevant- too boring or to believe that we don’t need to change.
It is all too easy to conform to the standards and ways of living that are acceptable to the majority of the community but are against God’s ways. That is why we daily need to apply God’ Word to our ways of thinking-attitudes-behaviours. As long as we live on this earth we will need to listen to God’s Word and apply it to our lives. Listening to and applying God’s Word is a vital part of our Christian life.
If you are to grow in your faith and your relationship with your Lord and Saviour, you need to + set a time aside-+make a definite decision to read God’s Word- to study God’s Word with others and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in your reading and applying God’s Word.
The Word of God is like a seed- it has miraculous power with in it-the power of the Spirit. But there is something that we need to do. We need to have open ears-hearts and minds to be the rich fertile soil for the Word to be planted in and grow.
We need to recognize the authority of God in His Word. And we need with the help of the Spirit to apply that Word to our lives. May God enable us to be fertile soil for His Word. Amen
An elderly lady was walking down a country lane struggling to carry a heavy case. A man came along on a cart and offered her a lift. So she gratefully climbed up on the cart and sat beside the driver but still holding the suitcase on her lap. The man said, “Why don’t you put the heavy case at the back of the cart”? The lady answered, “O NO! The poor donkey would never be able to pull all that weight. I’ll carry it myself.” That’s silly isn’t it? And yet so many people are like that elderly lady. They continue to carry their burdens –even when they have the chance to off load them. As a result life becomes a burden for us. We find life has become a chore. It becomes weary-tiresome.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. There is good news for all those people who are feeling the weight of your burdens. It’s the Good News from Jesus, who says,
“COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENEDAND I WILL GIVE YOU REST”.
Now if that is true it means that you don’t have to carry your burdens alone-whatever they are. The burdens may be:
+an illness—+ a physical handicap—- a difficult work situation. It may be a loss you have suffered and never recovered from. It may be a relationship difficulty.
It may be a sense of guilt from some past action. It may be a failure in the present. It may be anxiety for the future. It may be anything that weighs you down and makes life a hassle. Burdens come in many shapes-sizes-forms-weights.
But whatever it is you don’t need to carry it alone. Listen again to the comforting words of Jesus.” Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest”.
What a tremendous promise that is. What comforting assurance to know that you are not alone in your struggles of life. Jesus will be with you. That’s his promise. And Jesus always stands by his promise. He has the power of Almighty God that enables him to keep his promise.
Now I don’t know what burdens you are carrying right now. But many people are weighed down with the burden of guilt. And what terrible burden guilt can be.
Now guilt can come from many different situations. You where you have done something you shouldn’t have.
But whatever the cause of guilt, the result is that it always spoils our relationships. It spoils our relationship with God-remember Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden of Eden. It also spoils our relationship with others. Guilt is like an invisible barrier which comes between us and others. It separates us from them. And as long as the barrier of guilt remains, our relationship with God and others won’t improve. It will continue to deteriorate until the issue is dealt with.
Perhaps you have experienced a relationship that has been spoilt by guilt. Maybe you are experiencing one right now. If you are let me reassure you that it need not be that way because of Jesus’ promise. His promise is:
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened-burdened down with guilt and I will give you rest.” Yes! rest. Yes! Restored relationships. No matter how great the guilt is that you have experienced- Jesus can take it away-completely. That is what he does with his forgiveness. That is why he went to the cross for. Jesus died on the cross to restore relationships-with God and with others. That is what Jesus does best.
There is another burden that affects many people. It is the burden of anxiety. And that too can be a terrible burden. In some cases it can be described as a crippling burden. Anxiety can affect people with a dreadful apprehension- a generalised feeling of fear. People can be anxious about a whole range of things. It may be:
+fear of Failure- +Illness + Disaster +Disgrace + fear of aging- loss of youthful capabilities. +Fear of the process of dying +fear of Death itself. This is particularly the case for people who don’t believe in eternal life. They fear that death is the end of everything.
In short people can be anxious about practically every area of life.
Yes! Anxiety is a terrible burden-and it is very wide spread in our society. Hugh Mackay- a psychologist and researcher on society has described the widespread feeling of anxiety among people today. In fact he has referred to our current times as the “Age of Anxiety”.
But anxiety is not just a modern phenomenon. It was an issue at the time of Jesus. In fact anxiety was so widespread in Jesus’ time that he spoke very specifically about it.
“Therefore do not be anxious about your life-what you shall eat or what you shall drink nor about your body-what you shall wear….Do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself”. (Matthew 6:31-33).
So what is the answer to the burden of anxiety? Listen to what Jesus says,
“COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BUDENED AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST”.
So bring your burdens-your anxieties to Jesus. Bring your fears-worries to him. Go to him and he will give you strength to bear your burdens.
I guess there are many more different kinds of burdens we could talk about. But really the way to deal with them-whatever kind they are-is the same as the burdens of guilt-anxiety we have already talked about. We-You and I-need to take those burdens to the Lord. We need to give them to the Lord-and not keep on holding on to them-like the old lady in the story. Only when we give them to the Lord and relinquish our grip on them will we receive rest.
Remember the story I about the elderly lady with the heavy suit case? Let’s apply that story to ourselves. The elderly lady represents you and me. What does the heavy suit case represent? It represents your own personal burdens-whatever they might be. And here you are walking along life’s road struggling with your burden. Along the road comes a man on a cart pulled by a donkey. But this is not just any man. This is Jesus. He stops and speaks to you. He says with a kind look on his face and with compassion in his voice, “Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest”.
“Hop up on the cart next to me and place your burden in the back. And we will journey through this life together on the way to eternal life where there will be no more burdens-tears-pains-no more crying. For all these things will be gone”.
What a wonderful picture that is. And you know it could be true for you.
Why don’t you try it? You have nothing to loose except your burdens.
And think about this. Who was really carrying the burdens in the story? It was the donkey. There is no need for you to be a donkey. Amen. Pastor Haydn Blaess.
Romans 6:16 Don’t you know that if you submit yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Slaves and obedience. Hard words for us today, but I ask is anyone truly free? Here the Spirit clearly tells us, no. Whoever, whatever, you obey you are a slave to. It’s simply a fact of life. A slave to your stomach, your bladder; a slave to your boss, your lecturer; a slave to money, to our changing culture, to this fallen world, a slave to sin. You can think of teacher’s pets as slaves to the teacher; of the hippies as slaves to that counter culture; of someone with diarrhea as a slave to the toilet. There are countless examples of these things we rely on, these things that tell us about 1 who we are and 2 what we do. And when you obey them, utterly accept what they say about you and this world, they are your god and you are their slave.
Of course this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to your bladder, but rather I give these examples to show that slavery is not an institution as we might think, and freedom is not absolute. When you fully submit to something you find your identity and meaning there; you are free to live it out, but not free to reject it. Free to do and free from it’s opposite. An example: free to eat, but free from starvation. The same with sin, the slave to sin is free to sin but free from what is right. The slave to righteousness is free to live in holiness but free from sin. So what are you a slave to? Sin or God in Christ Jesus? If we remember from last week the first part of this chapter, in baptism you died to sin and rose to life everlasting in Christ; and obviously dead slaves don’t so to much.
And this is what Paul is talking about, trying to get through to the Roman congregation, that we who have been united in Jesus by baptism don’t have to sin and can do what is right. You’re allowed to buy your wife flowers just out of love, you don’t have to always sit in front of the TV when you get home. You’re free to thank God even when you hear good news out in a crowd, you’re free from having to beat yourself up when you fail. We are free by the grace of God, to live His life of joy, peace and love that is ours with Jesus, and free from doing what we know to be wrong. Thank God for this gift of freedom, yes, for our slavery to Him. Remember you are free to remind each other and let others know of this wonderful grace as well!
But when you do, I know that slavery is a hard word for us, and Paul recognises that too. However, he uses it to get across the truth of 1 who we are and 2 how we live. We can imagine sin as a person, that sin tells us who we are ‘a good enough person’ or even ‘someone more important than others’ and sin tells us how to live, ‘to do whatever you want so long as it does hurt anyone else, or at least anyone you care about’. And of course we hear many different things about who we are and how we should live, you know yourself what you hear and what you hold to.
But more than all these different voices is the voice of God who created all things, who is the source of life and existence. He has authority over all things and what He says goes. I mean, He said ‘let there be light’ and there was light, can’t get more true than that (Genesis 1:3). And when you were baptised into Christ, His death and resurrection, our Heavenly Father said, ‘you are my beloved child’ and so you are, and we are family in Jesus (Matthew 3:17). He said, I have taken away your sin, your guilt, your evil, you are righteous in Jesus (Psalm 103:12; 1 Corinthians 1:30). He tells you, ‘you are not of this world’, you are being made new and holy, perfect in Christ (John 17:16). This is the truth, do not reject it, this is who you are in Jesus by baptism together with all your new family the saints of all times and places. And if you want to know what it means to live this life, hear what the Spirit tells you in Matthew chapter 5 and following, go take some time away and read it even with another and listen to how God tells you to live. If you need some help, ask, ask another Christian a saint, ask the Holy Spirit.
Don’t forget who He says you are and don’t forget your family in Jesus, all the saints who have gone before. God has freely given you all these things, He didn’t have to let you know, He didn’t have to say what He said, He doesn’t have to give you life, yet this is what He does, what He has promised. The fruit of this life according to what God has said, is union and reconciliation with Him in love to life eternal, a free gift. This is the Gospel, In Jesus, by the Spirit, you have been set free from all sin and what it says of you, free to hear God Almighty who loves you, free to live according to His Word.
So remember your baptism, and as you live the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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. 
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. 
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.” 
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. 
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ps 138:1–139:title). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Is 55:6–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Mt 10:24–34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
This text was converted to ascii format for Project Wittenberg by Allen Mulvey and is in the public domain. You may freely distribute, copy or print this text. Please direct any comments or suggestions to: Rev. Robert E. Smith of the Walther Library at Concordia Theological Seminary. E-mail: CFWLibrary@CRF.CUIS.EDU Surface Mail: 6600 N. Clinton St., Ft. Wayne, IN 46825 USA
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Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 Jesus sends out the Twelve
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.”
10He 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.
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-8 Christ died for the ungodly
5Therefore, 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.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 9:35-10:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 5:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mt 9:35-10:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
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.
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.