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
This HTML version was produced by Gospel Plow and is released into the public domain for the purpose of educating the remnant. If you would like to help us continue this effort send donations to:
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.
Genesis 1:1–2:4aGod creates the world through his Word
1 1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that it was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Together these made up one day.
6 And God said, “Let there be space between the waters, to separate water from water.” 7 And so it was. God made this space to separate the waters above from the waters below. 8 And God called the space “sky.” This happened on the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear.” And so it was. 10 God named the dry ground “land” and the water “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant. And let there be trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. The seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And so it was. 12 The land was filled with seed-bearing plants and trees, and their seeds produced plants and trees of like kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 This all happened on the third day.
14 And God said, “Let bright lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs to mark off the seasons, the days, and the years. 15 Let their light shine down upon the earth.” And so it was.
16 For God made two great lights, the sun and the moon, to shine down upon the earth. The greater one, the sun, presides during the day; the lesser one, the moon, presides through the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the heavens to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 This all happened on the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every sort of fish and every kind of bird. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Let the fish multiply and fill the oceans. Let the birds increase and fill the earth.” 23 This all happened on the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of animal—livestock, small animals, and wildlife.” And so it was.
25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to reproduce more of its own kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”
27 So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.
Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.” 29 And God said, “Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given all the grasses and other green plants to the animals and birds for their food.” And so it was. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way. This all happened on the sixth day.
2 1So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation. 4 This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1~14 God reveals his Word as Jesus
1 1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. …
9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. …
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
Matthew 3:16-17 Baptism of Jesus witnesses the Trinity
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 
Matthew 28:16-20 Our Baptism witnesses the Trinity
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Apostolic Blessing witnesses the Trinity
11 Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet each other with Christian love.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Mt 3:16–17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Mt 28:16–20). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., 2 Co 13:11–14). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, today, in our homes and small groups, we gather to worship You and to celebrate with great joy the gift of the revelation of Your presence in our world. Guide us today that we may share the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as our Saviour and embrace your plan for our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. Gracious triune God, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord and Saviour, Amen.
The Psalmist witnesses to our desire to praise the Lord our God, ‘I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 
Luke writes in the 2nd Chapter of Acts, that after the day of Pentecost, ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ 
While these believers praised the Lord at all times, and constantly spoke of his praises, the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved. I am certain that it was the praise and passion of the believers for Jesus Christ which invited the power of the Holy Spirit to work in their community. And the Kingdom of God was extended among their neighbours.
I am also certain that it was the passion of the believers for their relationship with each other that brought them together. And they shared with each other the Lord’s greatness and exalted his name together with glad and sincere hearts. That it was the praise they shared which freed them from all their fears and replaced the shame of the cross with the radiance of joy in the resurrection that could not be suppressed.
It was a choice they made to live with praise on their lips and sincere smiles on their faces. Rather than continue living in the captivity of drudgery. It remains a choice for every Christian and every Worshipping Community whether we adopt an attitude of praise or just continue to be satisfied with the hard slog. Today this challenge becomes mired in isolation from COVID, but this challenge is overcome with a choice to hold onto our faith, with hearts joined with praise of our Saviour.
But we should be prepared for the joy and the unity that active praise results in. And we should be prepared to make our praise personal. Nobody can praise God for someone else. Here in Port Macquarie, with our unity of praise, even in our isolation we are joined together. But if we resist the attitude of praise, it is possible that we will remain alone, even after we are reunited in Congregation worship. We can be surrounded by people who are praising God, but if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit guiding us in the exaltation, our Lord will be denied of the glory He deserves from each of us.
This is because we all praise Him uniquely, with our own style, our own voice, our own actions expressing our unique attitudes. Our praise is built on our own unique circumstances. As David proclaims in the beginning of Psalm 34 , ‘I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.’ And yet, our personal praise is joined in a symphony of praise that is pleasing to our Father in heaven.
We should be prepared to make our praise a prayer. We express and grow our relationship with God our Father, our Saviour, and our Comforter through dialogue in prayer. It’s like my relationship with my dearest Sherry. She knows that I love her. But I have a sense that she wants to hear me to say it, even though she already knows I love her. It seems to me that is how it is with our God.
We should also be prepared to praise God continually. Praise that will become second nature to transform our lives. Praise in good times and bad. When we are celebrating life and when we are challenged by life. As David wrote, ‘let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.’ Praise the Lord!
The world will tell us that it just isn’t natural to praise God in every circumstance of life. And that’s true, it’s not natural, it’s supernatural. With God, all things are possible, and God created us in his image, to accept the supernatural, to expect his power revealed in our lives.
We should be prepared to be filled with the desire to praise God with joy in our heart. As David wrote, ‘He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.’ Praise leads us to victory over all that holds us back from experiencing life more abundantly than we can imagine now. Both for ourselves individually, and also for our Worshipping Community. When we look beyond ourselves to praise God our Father, we gain a perspective of living in the victory we seek.
It’s like the little girl staying with her grandmother overnight. On one wall was a mirror and on the other a picture of Jesus. Laying in bed the little girl could see in the mirror the reflection of Jesus. She wanted to see the picture better but rather than move toward the picture, she moved toward the mirror, but as she did she got in the way of the reflection and couldn’t see it. Her grandmother asked what she was doing. “I’m trying to see Jesus, but I keep getting in the way!” When we trust in Jesus Christ, God sees us, but Jesus shines through our eyes and hearts.
We should be prepared to be changed by the praise we offer to God. Sometimes when we turn our eyes to Christ Jesus with praise in our hearts whatever is troubling us will change. But sometimes something even better happens – God’s Holy Spirit changes us.
God doesn’t need our praise. Jesus knows that we need to praise Him, we need to trust Him more and rest in Him and lean on Him. We need to look to Him and He knows it.
Dr. David Osborn at Denver Seminary once wrote, “Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, while He is using our circumstances to change us.” (Compass, April 2003)
You see, God is right now in the process of making us like Christ. More than just the image of God in which we were created. God reveals himself clearly as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus describes in Matthew. And David seems to have understood this even before the first advent of Christ Jesus into humanity.
David chose two triangles inverted upon each other to build the six sided star of his signet. I was once told by a Jewish friend not to put too much into the shape of his signet. That it was just an easy symbol to make. But I received an inspiration and I am convinced that the first triangle represents the trinity of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The second triangle representing trinity of man, body, soul and spirit. Each side of each triangle can be taken on its own, but is incomplete. Christ Jesus is the only one who encompasses the fullness of both the divinity and humanity represented in the Star of David. And God’s Holy Spirit is busy with the process of making us more and more like Christ Jesus.
A process that will only end when we receive our inheritance of the Kingdom of God in eternity with our friend, Saviour, and Lord, Jesus Christ. A process that will incorporate praise of our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that will linger in our soul and on our lips throughout all eternity. And ‘no shadow of shame will darken our faces.’
The beautiful thing is that God wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us, here and now. The same intimacy with you and me that he has within himself. Jesus said “Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn 14:19 NIV)
The grace and peace of our Triune God, keep your hearts and minds in our living Lord, Christ Jesus, as we praise God our Father and live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev David Thompson.
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Ps 34:1–5). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ac 2:42–47). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Gospel Reading: John 7:31-39 Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
31 Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in Jesus. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”
32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. 33 But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. 34 You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.”
35 The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! 36 What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’ ” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) 1
First Reading: Acts 2:1-21 The coming of the Holy Spirit
2 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs.
And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other. 13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”
14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. 19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke. 20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. 21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 2
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 The gifts of the Spirit
12 1Dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. 2 You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. 3 So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy.
He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 3
Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. “Text edition”–Spine. (2nd ed.) (Jn 7:31-39). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. “Text edition”–Spine. (2nd ed.) (Ac 2:1-21). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. “Text edition”–Spine. (2nd ed.) (1 Co 12:1-13). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
Sermon for Pentecost Sunday
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Paul writes in his letter to the Church at Corinth: ‘I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit.’
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God and Father, through your Holy Spirit you gather Christians who worship You with faith in your son Jesus Christ. A universal Christian Church made not of glass, wood and brick, but of people bound together in the Holy Spirit, even during this global isolation. We invite the Holy Spirit to set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus on this Pentecost Sunday, to your glory and honour. Open our spirits to receive the fullness of your Spirit that we may dwell in your love and forgiveness, experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome every obstacle in living for you. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
We read from Scripture last week that after the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Disciples ‘worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.’
And from acts for this week, we read that when they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer.’ (Acts 1:14 NIV)
I can imagine what some of their prayers might have been: “Lord God, send us the helper Jesus told us about”; “Lord God, fulfil your promise that Jesus told us about”; “Lord God, let your living water flow around us”; and even “Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name”. They must have been in prayer almost with one mind. Sharing a common vision of Christ Jesus, and of who they were in Christ Jesus.
And just as Jesus promised, at the right time God responded to their prayers by pouring out his Holy Spirit upon them. It is pretty clear that they had no idea what to expect. And for a time after the wondrous gift, they didn’t really understand what they had been given. I always heard the saying, “be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it!” I can imagine their delight and their confusion of what was happening among them.
The message for us this morning, is if we want this same delight, we need to be open to the same confusion and the same blessing of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
In the upper room, after his resurrection Jesus appeared to the Disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22–23 NRSV)
They surely received the Holy Spirit with his words to them. And they surely received the ability to look at others with the compassion of Christ Jesus and offer forgiveness to those who believe. They also received the gift and responsibility to pass this gift of the Holy Spirit to all whom they baptised and said those same precious words, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Just as we received the Holy Spirit when we were baptised, whether this was when we were days old, or as children, or as adults.
As Peter spoke with new enthusiasm on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39 NIV)
We have also received the responsibility to look at others with the compassion of Christ Jesus and offer forgiveness. Jesus said, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16–17 ESV)
With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can with true hearts and sincere determination declare that “Jesus is Lord” of our being and of our lives. And also, with the gift of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism, Scripture encourages us to be led by the Spirit. Paul writes in Galatians, ‘if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. … If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.’ (Galatians 5:18–25 ESV)
Thank God for his gift of the Holy Spirit to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our spirit, and display our faith in Christ Jesus by our lives. If we live our entire life with the fruit of the Holy Spirit evident, it will be evidence enough for our eternal salvation. Scripture is clear that salvation comes by faith alone in Christ Jesus alone, as we discover in the Word of God alone, by God’s grace alone. All this by the work of the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism.
And like the Disciples in the presence of Jesus in the upper room, we received at our baptism a part in God’s kingdom and life in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul writes in the book of Romans, ‘We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Just love others.’ (Romans 12:5–9 NLT)
But like the Disciples in that upper room with Jesus; I am convinced that at our Baptism, we did not yet receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit living through us with spiritual gifts.
Gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit for the good of others, of the Church, and of the faith to be passed from generation to generation, by the laying on of hands.
Those gifts require a special anointing of the Holy Spirit with power. The Disciples received this in that same upper room when the time was right. Gifts that demonstrated to an obstinate people that Jesus is the Messiah, risen from the dead, and ‘that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’
As Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy, ‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.’
From Apostle, to Bishop, to Pastor, Apostolic succession of the gift of the Holy Spirit are passed from generation to generation. The confusion we experience, like the disciples, descending from the upper room at Pentecost, is about what Spiritual gifts we are to receive and what gifts the Holy Spirit will display in our lives.
For some it is simply the truth “Jesus is Lord.” For others, at times and seasons of their lives, God sends a special anointing of his Holy Spirit to do special things for the building up of the Church.
I heard the witness of one Pastor who received a special intuition to leave his parish for a short time to visit India in mission. And God followed this with the witness of a parishioner who spoke of a message for him from the Lord. He had never thought of doing this before, but like Peter called to visit the house of Cornelius, this Pastor felt the urging, and made that visit.
It felt strange to him, because it seemed everything fell into place so easily. His transport was paid for, his visa was simplified, and he left Australia with the message already in his heart that he would spread. He arrived and was quickly drawn to an assembly of thousands, listening to his witness, and seeking his individual prayers. It was as though the Holy Spirit drew them together for just this reason.
He was there for weeks praying for the people of this place and seeing people healed, released from demons, declaring their faith in Christ Jesus, and leaving the prayers with joy in their hearts.
When this pastor boarded the plane to return to Australia, he was convinced that this anointing of the Holy Spirit would be a godsend for his small congregation. He would see it grow to thousands with the gifts of the Holy Spirit clearly revealed in his ministry.
But this Pastor was greatly disappointed when none of this happened in Australia. He prayed, fasted, and eagerly sought the power of the Holy Spirit, but was bitterly disillusioned and ended up sadly abandoning his parish ministry. But God was compassionate toward this Pastor who repented of his presumption. He returned this compassion to care for other pastors who were suffering.
The Holy Spirit will not be controlled, confined, or commanded. We can only pray to God our Father for the gifts to be revealed with power, and give thanks and praise for the times and seasons that God blesses our lives with gifts of the Holy Spirt.
As Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians, ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.’ (1 Corinthians 12:27–13:3 NIV)
I know and I fully trust that God has touched our lives with his Holy Spirit. Our simple declaration that ‘Jesus is Lord’ proclaims the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our worshipping community. The love we have for one another witnesses the greatest of gift and fruit of the Spirit that nurtures our faith. And for that I am eternally grateful to God our Father, and to Jesus Christ our Saviour.
We have the example of Pentecost to encourage us as we hold steady to our confession of Christ Jesus. The grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in our living Lord Christ Jesus, as we live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Once again, we are reminded by the Psalmist of the glory of God on this Ascension Sunday, ‘Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth! God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God; sing praises. For God is seated on his holy throne. He is greatly exalted.’ (Ps 47)
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:44-53 Jesus commissions and blesses the disciples 24 44 Jesus spoke with the apostles, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen. 1
First Reading: Acts 1:1-11 Jesus’ ascension, promise and commission
1 1The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” 2
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23 Christ is the supreme Lord over all things
15 I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 and I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Sermon for Ascension Sunday
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Luke writes that Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand these many Scriptures. And Jesus said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day. With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’ ” ’
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving Lord, Jesus Christ; on this Ascension Sunday we turn our hearts to you, to be touched with the message of your majesty and glory, and to be encouraged to believe and share the reality of salvation in You, even in our imposed isolation. Bless our time together in our homes as we wait for the full lifting of restrictions, as we hold onto our faith that You are always with us. We pray in Your name, Lord Jesus, because You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Rick Warren in his booklet, ‘What on Earth Am I Here For’, tells us that the ‘purpose of our life is far greater than our own personal fulfilment, our peace of mind, or even our happiness. It’s far greater than our family, our career, or even our wildest dreams and ambitions. If we want to know why we were placed on this planet, we must begin with God. We were born by his purpose and for his purpose’. I was reminded of these words this past week, as I sat overlooking the ocean at Town Beach. Just enjoying the opportunity to be out and about, although with appropriate distancing. It was wonderful.
Christ Jesus expressed to the Disciples why he was born into humanity and lived among us. “Yes it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day. … There is forgiveness of sins for all who will turn to me.”
Sometimes, I think we get a bit confused about the purpose of our lives, especially separated from our Christian brothers and sisters of our Worshipping Community at St Peter’s. Just why God has set us on the journey of faith that we find ourselves. We do have lots of purposes while on this journey – to earn a living, to be a good son or daughter, to be a caring mother or father or spouse, to be a responsible citizen and member of our worshipping community, to be an active retiree – those are all good purposes.
To look for ways to help other people, and to make this world a better place – those are good purposes too. But, as Rick Warren tells us, there’s something deeper. Something more spiritual that is keeping each of us engaged on our journey. In that thought, I would expand on the words of the Angels who encountered the Disciples at Bethany. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
It occurs to me that we should look to the ascended Christ. That we should keep at least some of our attention devoted to Christ Jesus, at the centre of the Kingdom, present in our lives and revealed in his purpose for our lives. The other purposes we devote ourselves toward are good, and they reveal God’s blessings as we seek to fulfil them. But our deeper, more spiritual purpose can be found in the reading for today: We “are witnesses of these things.” As Peter encourages us, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15 NIV84)
We do this with our attitudes, actions and words that demonstrate the love that God gives us to share with each other. Having conversations with people who are open to listen and to hear about the deeper things of life. The reality that Jesus Christ entered humanity for us. That He died on a cross for us. That He has taken away our sins. That He ascended to the right hand of God the Father, as our intercessor. That someday he will come back, to usher in a perfect eternity.
That’s amazing stuff to share. God wants us to be witnesses of those things to others. The bad news is that so many in this world will never want to know or even hear this. The better news is that God’s Holy Spirit will lead us to someone in our lives who will want to listen and to hear. The best news is that Christ Jesus is with us to give us courage when this happens.
After talking with his disciples, Christ Jesus performed one last visible miracle for them. ‘He lifted up his hands to bless them. And then he ascended into the sky, right before their eyes, and eventually, he was hidden by a cloud.’
And so what did the disciples do? We are told in the Gospel that ‘they worshiped Christ Jesus, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.’
How wonderful this is. The disciples who would have been hiding in the upper room, afraid. Now, are out in public, worshiping Jesus, filled with joy. They had seen Jesus victoriously ascend to his heavenly throne. There was no doubt in their minds anymore that he was Lord of the universe, the King of heaven and earth. They had heard two angels tell them that someday, Jesus would return on the clouds, just as they had seen him go. They remembered the words of Christ Jesus, “With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.”
I am convinced that’s what filled them with joy. Even the angry Jewish leaders couldn’t keep the disciples from displaying their joy in the temple courts. After all, nothing ‘in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:39 NIV)
We’re all looking for a sense of joy in our life – a deeper, longer-lasting sense of joy. Especially after our long separation from family and friends. We can all look where the disciples looked. Look to Christ Jesus. Worship Him. And get on with our other purposes of life with a sense of joy and confidence. To be sure, there will be times in every life when we are upset. Things will happen that will frustrate us and drive us to anger; sadden us, even depress us. But for us, as Christians, underneath all that, we will find a layer of peace that the world can’t take away. As Christians, we can say. “All my sins have been taken away by Christ Jesus. I know I’m forgiven. I know that by his Holy Spirit, God will work my problem out too. I know that God will give me the strength I need for now. This world is broken, but I’ll be right. Just let me trust in Jesus Christ, risen to life and ascended to the right hand of God the Father.”
That’s Christian joy. The disciples had it after they saw Jesus Christ ascend. May God give that same kind of joy to each of us. Jesus accomplished his mission among us, by his death on our behalf, and his resurrection for our victory. Then He returned to his rightful place at the centre of God’s Kingdom. To be the beacon that resets every sense of direction on our journey.
This celebration of the Ascension today reminds us that believers the world over are missing out on the privilege of knowing Jesus as he was known in history to his disciples. At the same time, we are reminded that by his Holy Spirit, Christ Jesus is able to make himself known and vitally present to so many at the same time than would have been possible for Christ Jesus in human form. So, even as our Easter season of celebration comes to an end, the joy of our salvation continues each and every day, as we live out our new lives in Christ Jesus and cry out for the Holy Spirit to set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father. So, the grace and peace of our Triune God keep our hearts and minds focused on our ascended Lord and Saviour. AMEN.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. 
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22 Suffering for doing right
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21 The promise of the Holy Spirit
15 Jesus said to the Disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” 
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 17:16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 3:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 14:15). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Sermon for 6th Sunday of Easter.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer:
This morning, God our Father, may your grace lift us from the grip of our challenges and insecurities to be all that we have been called to be. May your Holy Spirit inspire us to a renewed confidence, as we see the ending of this first round of Covid-19 isolation. And may we here together recommit our lives and hearts to following your will, sharing your love for us, and living our lives of faith in your Son Jesus Christ. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Amen.
Christ Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17 NIV)
‘Martin Luther once wrote of a dream where he was in his house and saw Jesus coming up the walk toward his door. Luther examined his surrounding and realized that everything was an absolute mess. Clothes were thrown over the furniture, old food was sitting out, trash was everywhere. And he thought, “How am I going to let the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, come in to a mess like this.” He hurriedly tried to straighten up but the more he picked up the greater the mess became. Finally, Jesus was knocking at the door. Luther, resigned himself to the mess and as he opened the door, he said, “Jesus, come on in, if you think that you can come into a place like…” and as he turned he saw that everything had been put into order, everything in it’s proper place. The house was immaculate as Christ entered in. Oh, people, we make such a mess of our lives when we try to straighten them by ourselves. But if we will submit to Jesus, open our hearts to Him, He will make us immaculate, by cleansing us from sin and giving us the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and establish us as a new creature.’
(‘adapted from contribution by Timothy Smith on Jan 29, 2005)
I suspect there are many in the world today who say that they love God, but when Christ Jesus says, “If you love me, obey what I command,” they might say in their attitudes and actions, if not in their words, “How am I going to let the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, see the mess I made of things.”
Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to remind us of Christ’s presence in our lives, as he asks us to keep his commandments.
When Jesus was present, he was the one who instilled in the believers the right words, coached them through the proper attitudes, taught them the joy of doing the right thing. But as the disciples waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced they would have spent their time in that upper room re-living all that Jesus taught them. Words like those we find in the Gospel reading for today, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17 NLT)
Some of the work of the Holy Spirit is reminding the faithful of the truth, jogging the memories of the followers of Jesus Christ about all that he asks of us and all he will do to help us so that we can be the people who he has called us to be in love.
It may surprise us to think of the Holy Spirit in this way, as a quiet, active presence in our lives. Often the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit that are active in the believing and worshipping community. And indeed, the Holy Spirit of God does work in our lives and in our community in so many ways.
‘The Holy Spirit is the person and the power of God drawing people to Christ to see with new eyes of faith. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Like our eyes through which we see the world around us, we can only see our own eyes in the reflection of a mirror. The Holy Spirit is the one through whom all else is seen in the light of Christ, and we see Him clearly in the reflection of love of God and the grace of Christ Jesus. Father and Son revealed in Scripture, and experienced in sacraments, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.’ ( Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
God knows everything about us. He knows we are notoriously forgetful. Especially about Him. And so, at just the right time, God poured out his Holy Spirit upon all believers, to remind us of all that Christ Jesus is and all that he has done for us. Today’s reading and message is a foretaste of Pentecost. It’s like a preview of a movie that will peak our interest to experience that movie in a special way. In two weeks, Pentecost will once again remind us to experience life with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in a special way. We know that we are created to love God, and to care for one another, but as the pressure builds of living in our broken world, we sometimes forget who we are and what we are supposed to do and to be in life.
The Holy Spirit led the Gospel writers to witness these precious words of Jesus and so much more. So that whoever has “eyes to see and ears to hear” would be joined with our Lord in this life and in the life to come. Jesus warned the Disciples that the world would not accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither knows Him nor sees Him. Just as Paul encountered in Athens a world that recognised an unknown God, we encounter a world that rejects God in any form. Especially the truth of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God eternally.
I have come to understand and to accept that God’s Spirit is always present, surrounding us. The challenge is that we can only recognise that we are covered over with God’s Spirit when we receive this truth in the Scriptures. By faith, we can know him. By faith, he lives within us and joins with our spirit to sing the praises of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, we come to trust Scripture. To gain comfort from it. And to gain courage from it. Scriptures reveal that God has determined to work salvation in this way.
Jesus wanted the Disciples to have a reality to share. Their reality – and yet, also his reality. By God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, their witness became our Saviour’s witness. From the Scriptures, we discover that these two were inseparable. Throughout the New Testament, we discover God working in the world through disciples. He continues to work in the world today through each one of us. We are Jesus’ disciples to our time and place. We can make his reality our reality too. Inseparable from our Creator, our Saviour, and our Counsellor. Even in times of separation and recovery from pandemic.
By living our reality, with Christ Jesus at our centre, we can witness with our attitudes and actions, what our words often cannot say. Peter offers us some helpful advice from his first letter, ‘Do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
God, in His grace and glory, is calling out to each one of us to be living witnesses to the world. Witnesses that God can be trusted. Knowing that we have the help of God’s Holy Spirit, who is with us forever.
The grace and peace of our loving God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
26 God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”
29 But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean.
30 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. 31 Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. 33 He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God. 36 Now Elizabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son though she is very old.
Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months. 37 God can do anything!” Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!” Then the angel went away.
39 Mary got up and went quickly to a town in the hills of Judea. 40 She came to Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the unborn baby inside her jumped, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She cried out in a loud voice, “God has blessed you more than any other woman, and he has blessed the baby to which you will give birth. 43 Why has this good thing happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that what the Lord said to you would really happen.”
46 Then Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart rejoices in God my Savior, because he has shown his concern for his humble servant girl. From now on, all people will say that I am blessed, because the Powerful One has done great things for me. His name is holy.”
John 14:1–12 Jesus the way to the Father
141Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father, too. But now you do know him, and you have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”
9 Jesus answered, “I have been with you a long time now. Do you still not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. So why do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you don’t come from me, but the Father lives in me and does his own work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or believe because of the miracles I have done. 12 I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same things that I do. Those who believe will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
1 Peter 1:3,12-13, 2:1–10 God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood
13 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. 12 Those who preached the Good News to you told you those things with the help of the Holy Spirit who was sent from heaven—things into which angels desire to look. So prepare your minds for service and have self-control. All your hope should be for the gift of grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ is shown to you.
2 So then, rid yourselves of all evil, all lying, hypocrisy, jealousy, and evil speech. 2 As newborn babies want milk, you should want the pure and simple teaching. By it you can mature in your salvation, 3 because you have already examined and seen how good the Lord is.
4 Come to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious.
5 You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. 6 The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.”
7 This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Also, he is “a stone that causes people to stumble, a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey what God says, which is what God planned to happen to them.
9 But you are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You were chosen to tell about the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 At one time you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. In the past you had never received mercy, but now you have received God’s mercy.
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
1 Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to our God.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Luke writes in his Gospel, ‘Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart rejoices in God my Savior, because he has shown his concern for his humble servant girl.”’
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Father of life, grant that today, our worship will reflect the true devotion of our hearts.
Reveal to us your concern for us, Father, and fill our hearts with praise. Guide our time, even in our imposed isolation, as we celebrate your concern for every mother, and for their husbands and children too. Fill us with your Spirit so that we rejoice over your concern demonstrated by your plan for our lives. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Saviour, Amen.
Sermon for 5th Sunday of Easter – Mother’s Day
A four-year-old and a six-year-old presented their Mom with a lovely house plant. They had used their own money and she was thrilled. The older of them said with a sad face, “There was a bouquet that we wanted to give you at the flower shop. It was real pretty, but it was too expensive, and Dad said “no”. It had the prettiest ribbon on it that said, ‘Rest in Peace,’ and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest.” (Source unknown)
Even in the midst of his own hardship, Jesus gives us words of peace to provide a rest from anxiety: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.’ Jesus was giving us a focus for our attention to give us hope even in the hardship of living in a broken world. Hardship has a way of drawing our attention away from Christ. Pain slows us down. Very few of us, after facing a challenge to our Christian living, come out the same as when we entered in. Jesus understood this and tried to prepare his disciples, and us, for the road ahead. The most striking example of adapting to the challenges of living with the ups and downs of life is the mother of Jesus, Mary.
Mary, the very human mother of Jesus, began her journey of motherhood with the visit of the Angel Gabriel. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.” Mary began that dialogue with anxiety, wondering what the angel could want with her. And she concluded the dialogue with words of faith. Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!”
Later, Mary quietly celebrated the birth of her son with dignity and grace. While the shepherds went away telling others what the angels had said about this child, Mary treasured these things in her heart and continued to think about them. (Luke 2:19 NCV)
She endured the uprooting of her family three times, when she and her husband Joseph were forced to go to Bethlehem to register for the census, and then to flee to and return from Egypt with a youngster to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod. ‘An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.” So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother. And Joseph stayed in Egypt until Herod died.’ (Matthew 2:13–15 NCV)
Mary demonstrated her motherly care for Jesus when he came up missing on a family trip. ‘When Jesus was twelve years old, they went to the feast as they always did. After the feast days were over, they started home. The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that Jesus was with them in the group, they travelled for a whole day. Then they began to look for him among their family and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him there. After three days they found Jesus sitting in the Temple with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When Jesus’ parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why did you do this to us? Your father and I were very worried about you and have been looking for you.” Jesus said to them, “Mother, why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”’ (Luke 2:42–50 NCV)
Mary urged her son on to his mission in life, in the midst of a wedding they were celebrating together. ‘There was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding. When all the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus answered, “Dear woman, why come to me? My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.” (John 2:1–5 NCV) And of course, Jesus listened to his mother and turned water into wine for the guests at the wedding.
Mary stood by her son, Jesus, in his darkest moments of his crucifixion. And she became the mother of an adopted son, the Apostle John, when Jesus spoke to her from the cross. ‘Standing near his cross were Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the follower he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the follower, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the follower took her to live in his home.’ (John 19:25–27 NCV)
She was present with Mary Magdalene to witness the empty grave where they laid her son after his suffering. ‘The day after the Sabbath was the first day of the week. At dawn on the first day, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary (whom we identify as the mother of Jesus) went to look at the tomb. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone.
The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was.’ (Matthew 28:1–6 NCV)
And I am convinced Mary was there in the upper room with the Disciples when Jesus appeared to them saying “Peace be with you.” She pulled her sons together after the resurrection of Jesus, and gathered them in the upper room for prayers of thanksgiving that opened up the way for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. ‘The followers went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (after the ascension of Jesus). When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. (The Disciple) were all there. They all continued praying together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a noise like a strong, blowing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw something like flames of fire that were separated and stood over each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 1:12~2:4 NCV)
What a testament of motherhood. Motherhood through all the challenges and changes in the lives of their children. Motherhood in the presence of God our Saviour. Motherhood in the grace of God our Father.
As we journey with God, I am sure our mothers would smile, as we discover greater maturity of our faith and devotion fulfilled in our lives. As long as we live, there is still more that our Saviour wants to bless in us. There is still more the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in us. And one day we will be present before God our Father in all our weakness, yet complete and holy, because of Christ Jesus. We can’t hide anything from God our Father, but he still loves us because of the sacrifice of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He loves us even more than our mothers love us, in spite of our shortcomings. Just like the old saying, “you can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool mom.” And mom still loves you.
One young mother filled with despair, went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were turning out so bad for her – her husband had an affair and she feared she would be left alone to raise her three children. She did not know how she was going to cope and just wanted to give up. She was losing her faith in the goodness of life and was tired of struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one took its place. With a compassionate smile, her grandmother took her to her warm and cosy kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed a few carrots, in the second she placed a couple of eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in another bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a mug.
Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’ ‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ the young mother replied. Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft and mushy. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the overcooked hard boiled egg. Finally, the grandmother asked her granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter closed her eyes as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’
With a mother’s compassion and love, her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and proud. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its precious interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they changed the water
With a mother’s wisdom, she asked her granddaughter “Which are you?” “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? Ask yourself, my dear: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong. But with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?
Am I the egg that starts with a soft heart, but changes with the heat?
Did I have a caring spirit, but after hardship or challenge, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you let Jesus help you gain strength and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you let the Holy Spirit elevate you to another level?
My dearest granddaughter, may you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to give you strength during times like these. All to make you the best mother that God wants you to be.”
As the granddaughter listened with an open heart, her demeanour softened, her eyes smiled through a tear, and she sought the arms of her grandmother for a reassuring caress of a mother’s love. (adapted from NewsLinQ)
I suspect that most Christian mothers would be among those who would quote today’s Gospel to us, “Don’t be troubled. You believe in God, now believe also in Jesus Christ.” “He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through him.”
The only remedy that we find in this broken world for that empty anxious feeling when things don’t work out the way we intend, is to trust in our Saviour. As Jesus says, “You trust God, now trust me.”
This morning, let us all pray that our trust in Jesus Christ will remain strong. Our faith in a loving God will remain steady. Our passion will be kindled by the Holy Spirit to care for each other and reach out to our neighbour with enthusiasm, especially in these trying times. And our hope in the plan of Christ Jesus will remain a constant joy in our lives.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day today, may the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
5:1The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. 2 He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. 3 He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. 4 Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me. 5 You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim. 6 I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.
John 10:1-16 Jesus, the Good Shepherd
10 1Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” 6 Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he meant.
7 So Jesus said again, “I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. 8All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever comes in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.
11 “I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep. 12When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. 13The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep. 14–15I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them. 16There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them, too; they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 
John 21:1,15-19 Jesus calls us to be Shepherds
21 1Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias.
15 Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”
17A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.
18I am telling you the truth: when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will bind you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”
1 Peter 5:1-11 Follow the Good Shepherds and be Shepherds serving one another
5 1I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness.
5 In the same way you younger people must submit to your elders. And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but shows favour to the humble.” Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. 7Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.
8 Be alert, be on the watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that your fellow-believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.
11To him be the power for ever! Amen.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Ps 23:1–6). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 10:1–16). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 21:15–19). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., 1 Pe 5:1–11). New York: American Bible Society.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Good News Bible translates the beginning of the 23rd Psalm as: ‘The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me.’
Sermon for Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving Father, as we gather in the solitude of our homes with hearts that sing together the joy of knowing your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks to you for guiding us safely to this day by the voice of the Good Shepherd. May you bring us many more such days, as we listen for your voice and strive to discover the path to peace in our hearts. Give voice to our witness and courage to our convictions, that we may always remember to be caring and compassionate like shepherds to each other. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our risen Lord, Amen.
The time between the resurrection of Christ Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, must have been time of great uncertainty for the Apostles and early Disciples. With such joy over the resurrection mixed with such anxiety their future. I can just imagine the Disciples and followers of Jesus Christ gathered together. Striving with all their might to remember every word Jesus spoke to them. Every miracle he performed. Every compassion he showed to people. Trying their hardest to pit these memories against the memories of the gruesome death of their saviour.
In our lectionary, placing Good Shepherd Sunday during this time of waiting for the next great event in the Christian calendar is no small thing – and certainly no coincidence. We have the gift of an opportunity to visit with the Disciples and followers as they experienced this time of waiting.
Jesus gives the gift of his wisdom and warning from John’s Gospel, when he compared himself as both the gate, the gatekeeper, and the shepherd of a flock of sheep. It appears that Jesus was so very fond of shepherds and sheep. I suspect they were everywhere in the holy land, and yet were not given much thought, except when a perfect specimen was required for sacrifice at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem.
As we look at ourselves as the sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, we certainly don’t see perfection. But we do see the perfection of the ‘lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. And we do hold onto the image of a compassionate, vigorous, protective shepherd, just as I imagine Jesus wants us to see himself. Who protects us from the devil and his minions. Who guides us to the best that life has to offer. Who tends our wounds, provides our needs, and carries us when we cannot take even one more step. And who invites us to the even greater pastures in the perfection of eternity, when our time on this earth comes to an end.
I adore the Good News translation of Psalm 23. ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.’ So many in our developed part of the world cannot see past the wants of their existence these days, to remember that our needs are provided. And just give thanks to our Good Shepherd who has made provision for the greatest need – life – beyond the challenges, fears, and pain of this broken world. Even beyond the celebrations, accomplishments, and victories that are so temporal. Christ Jesus gives us the victory to live the joy of our salvation and the strength of our conviction. Even in isolation to overcome the threat and the reality of this global virus.
As King David’s 23rd Psalm continues, ‘The Lord lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths as he has promised.’ What a great allusion to our life in Christ Jesus.
I am told that sheep are a bit skittish, and find it difficult to relax in an open field, without protection. Always alert to any sound or sight that might be threatening. I am also told that sheep have a difficult time drinking from moving water of a stream or river, easily being drawn along in the current with their thick wool.
As sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, people are a lot like these sheep. When left in the open with no protection against our own temptations or the influence of the demons surrounding us, we live scary lives. When faced with swift currents of events around us it is easy to be drawn along in directions we don’t really want to follow.
But with the protection of our Good Shepherd, we are shielded from the worst of these currents of temptations. Sure, we will still make mistakes, and wander from the Good Shepherd from time to time. But he will never let us wander too far from his protection.
Although the prodding of his Holy Spirit that represents his rod and staff will sometimes certainly be uncomfortable as we are guided back to the flock.
Psalm 23 goes on: ‘Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.’ I always remember the story of a lamb that wandered from the flock and ended up slipping off a cliff, landing on a narrow ledge, caught in the trunk of a small tree there. It bleated, and struggled, and looked around with such panic for the longest time. The shepherd saw it there, but just waited as it continued to struggle. Until that lamb was completely spent lying in a limp heap against the small tree. Then the shepherd tied a rope around himself and worked himself down to the ledge to retrieve the poor little lamb, placing it one his shoulder as he made his way back up the crevice. You see, the shepherd knew if he tried to save the lamb while it was still struggling they both may have fallen to their demise. But when the lamb was quiet he could rescue the lamb without concern for either of their safety.
As sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, we will still go through the dark times of life in our broken world. We are reminded of this when we hear each day of the number of people who are struck with the virus, how many parish, and how many thankfully recover. No one is immune from the brokenness of life. But we can trust that our Good Shepherd will never abandon us to the deepest darkness we face. As Jesus spoke to the ladies that attended his empty tomb, and the disciples along the road to Emmaus, and in the upper room, “Do not be afraid.” And “Peace be with you”.
That peace from our Saviour brings us to the final words of the 23rd Psalm, ‘You, Lord, prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim. I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home for eternity.”
As we journey through this life, we have the assurance that not all the times of life will be filled with darkness and dread. That our Saviour also fills our cup of life to the brim with good things he has instore for us. And after we have passed through the deepest darkness, we will experience the most wondrous goodness and love of our Saviour. Jesus said, “I have come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
John writes that Jesus revealed himself as the Good Shepherd who cares so much for each one of us. By trusting him and following his voice, we experience abundant life. By knowing Jesus, and feeling his presence close to us, we discover who we are, as children of the living God. Jesus lived among us to be known and understood, to be trusted and believed.
Jesus performed miracles so people would see his authority as God the Son, and trust themselves to his care. He taught so people would understand and apply his message to their living. He related in love so he would be known in mercy as Shepherd of our souls.
As we live in the presence of the Good Shepherd, we experience the abundance of living faith. We are invited to know his voice and respond to his calling as we live in his name. His authority is at work in us. His Spirit is transforming us into the people that we know He wants us to be.
Christ Jesus is calling us to show the world that we are Christians by our love – love for Him, for the word of God, and for each other.
Our response to God’s great and wonderful gift of salvation is to commit ourselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And to one another as brothers and sisters in his family.
Because of this, we can ‘devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer’, following the Good Shepherd. And we can pray that the Holy Spirit will set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father. And to be shepherds to one another in the same way that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd.
May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.