The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity. Matthew 18:23-35.
Seventy Times Seven



The Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity, 2014


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn # 652     I Lay My Sins on Jesus                          1:24
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 339               All Hail the Power                   1:57

Auditing the Accounts


The Communion Hymn # 262            A Mighty Fortress                      1:86
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #  261                 Lord Keep Us Steadfast                   1:93

KJV Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

KJV Matthew 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.



TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
O almighty, eternal God: We confess that we are poor sinners and cannot answer one of a thousand, when Thou contendest with us; but with all our hearts we thank Thee, that Thou hast taken all our guilt from us and laid it upon Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and made Him to atone for it: We pray Thee graciously to sustain us in faith, and so to govern us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may live according to Thy will, in neighborly love, service, and helpfulness, and not give way to wrath or revenge, that we may not incur Thy wrath, but always find in Thee a gracious Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Auditing the Accounts

KJV Matthew 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

Although this is a long parable, compared to others, the story by itself is surprisingly short. The Holy Spirit is very stingy with words, so each word and verse has plenty of meaning. We often expand things to use more words, but the Scriptures give us a lifetime of meaning in a few words.

One of my jobs is to get teachers to use graphical teaching tools instead of words alone. It is a constant struggle because the educational system is set up to measure everything by the amount of words, not the quality of the communications. Every assignment has a word-count, which I dismiss from the start. I have a research count instead. And I bear down on people who use too many words. Two teachers unloaded on me for that. 

Sometimes I use the parables as examples of communicating a lesson in a few words. The Parable of the Talents is a masterpiece of teaching.

First of all is the picture. The king (God) has servants and he is auditing the accounts. The terms used are exaggerated to make a point - not that they are wrong. They teach us what we should know. 

Secondly, the dialogue is vivid and easy to remember.

Thirdly, there is almost always ironic humor in Jesus' teaching. It is not knee-slapping human but wry comments upon our human failings compared to God's graciousness.

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

The language clearly signals a parable. The effect of a parable is to lodge a story in our minds, and that story will continue to teach us and remind us of the lesson or lessons in the story.

The parable is necessarily fictional, so it is an Everyman story, fitting for each age and culture.

Parables were common in that age and each era uses some form of the parable, whether Aesop's fables or the modern stories told by Disney. There is always a lesson in a story, but in Jesus' parables, they are lessons from the Son of God, from the Creating Word.

Two signs of the parable are "the Kingdom of Heaven is like" and "a certain king." The modifier certain means - You all know who this is supposed to be.

Why stories? We remember philosophical truths when they are united with stories and images and dialogue. The great (and boring) philosopher Kant used stories to illustrate his teaching. What if someone hides from an evil person? Should you tell the truth, which is good, or lie to protect that person? Kant's stories become part of teaching about Kant.

Here the king (God) is judging His people. This is not set up so much as the final judgement, but it illustrates how He looks at everything.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 

Reckoning is an important word in the New Testament, in the entire Bible. It is the same as counting. I used audit for fun. I get audited in all my classes. Someone goes through the class itself and the comments to see how I am doing.

On the balance sheet, this servant owes the King a vast amount of money, equal to all the taxes taken by Rome in an entire province for a year. Unlimited credit is a dream come true, but there is a reckoning, an audit. 

Since this is a debt, it must be paid. Liberals hate this, whether they are obvious mainline leaders or UOJ teachers. They want all debts paid in advance, which means there is no Law. no justice, and no justification. For justification to mean anything, there must be something to reckon. If everyone is forgiven before birth and forgiven all future sins, then justification has been removed from the Bible. There is no reckoning.

Those who want to argue--for UOJ or for Universalism--are battling Jesus Himself. Here the debt is owed in the present, not denied (without faith) or promised  for the future (without faith, without contrition).

This is not Good News, to go against God's Word, but something designed by their Father Below to kill meaning of the Gospel while using and abusing Gospel words (devoid of their original meaning). When that is not enough for them, the add or subtract words from the text itself - shamelesslessly, remorselessly, callously. 

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 

There is still an accounting. The chief debtor is brought before Him, and he is Everyman. No one can say, "That is my neighbor or enemy," because he represents all of us.

He has a gigantic debt of small sins, moderate sins, great and terrible sins.

25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 

There is no such thing a debt disappearing in the law. There must be a process where assets are surrendered before anything can be done. But he has no assets except for him and his family, who can be sold into slavery to raise some money.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 

Worshiping (bending the knee to) kings was common at that time. Alexander the Great thought it was great and expected his friends to do the same.

This represents the attitude of the sinner, who bows in acknowledging sin, and it also shows our human weakness in trying to strike a bargain. "I will never sin again." Or - "I will never commit that sin again." Or - "I will make up for all that I have done." There are many different bargains struck but they are all as  silly as this one, because one man is not going to pay back this debt, not when savings pay 1% and debts cost 18-35%.

This opens the question of who pays the debt. The answer is - Christ Himself. He is the Great High Priest who also offers Himself as the sacrificial lamb who atones for the sin of the world. We trust in this atonement rather than in our ability to pay back or to atone for our sins.

27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

God does not accept the bargain but forgives all - in compassion for the servant.

The Necklace is a good story about paying back. A woman lost a borrowed necklace she could not afford. She and her husband bought a replacement to hide their shame and worked many years to pay for it, ruining their happiness and health. They finally confessed that when they met the person who loaned them the necklace. She said, "Oh, that was just a cheap copy."

Many have wrecked themselves and their families trying to pay back when they cannot pay it back. They cannot atone. What God wants - faith - they displace with faith in themselves to make the victims whole again.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

God's grace should make us gracious, but this Everyman wants every penny from people who "owe him." This means he does not understand God's grace at all, a destructive truth that grows like a cancer in all the denominations. One gets ahead by sandbagging and betraying friends, by getting even with real or imagined opponents, by paying them back again and again, by being a lay leader who facilitates this farce by going along with it and participating in the gore.

Here is Biblical sin - denying the truth of God's Word. 

Here is a human definition of sin - disagreeing with the synod or the synod leaders about anything - and telling the truth.

Judgment is no longer coming. It has arrived. It starts within the church itself.

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Today, many people seem to delight in the synods' wrongdoing, as long as they do not feel the lash. But some grieve. God knows.

On an individual level, we necesarily participate in the graciousness of God or we do not have faith in His grace. If we store up petty offenses and feel the need to get even, we are like Everyman, who owes 10,000 talents and demands his pennies back.

Being petty is the same as having faith in ourselves to pay back every single person for every single wrong ever done. That is not possible. 

In contrast, Holy Communion is the individual experience of justification by faith. Because of our weakness, God has given us a regular, visible experience of complete and free forgiveness. As Luther noted, the sermon can fly right past our ears, but standing or kneeling to receive the Body and Blood of Christ is impossible to ignore. We receive the elements. We smell the aroma of wine, the texture of the bread, knowing we are also receiving the Body and Blood - for the forgiveness of sins.

The elements are consecrated by the Word of God, not by a person (Roman Catholic priesthood error). The efficacious Word consecrates. It is God's grace received in faith.