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
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Christian Life
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 # 361 O Jesus, King
Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity
The Christian Life
KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Paul was in prison when he wrote this epistle, so his future was bound to be cut short. No one is sure about all the facts, whether Paul had another missionary journey or not. His life was extended over a scandal that allowed him to live, and he had some privileges as a Roman citizen. The severity of Roman justice meant he had reason to communicate forcefully and also in a concise manner. That gave us remarkable works, his prison letters.
John Bunyan, who wrote from prison in England, had a similar situation, having the chance to write in his cramped quarters. But he also converted his jailer, so he had the chance to go out and visit his members. One time the inspection committee came back to check on him. The jailer was afraid of losing his job and even his life, but when they opened the cell Bunyan was back from his rounds. Prison gave us Pilgrim's Progress, the most read English work in history - after the King James Version of the Bible. Bunyan's favorite work after the Bible was Luther's Galatians Commentary.
As a prisoner he wanted to cheer up his congregations with the long view, and also encourage them to live their lives in faith and hope, not in despair because of his likely death sentence.
Walk worthy of the vocation...
We use that term rather loosely, forgetting the origin of the term. Vocation seems to mean "a job," but that is not the meaning of the word. Vocation means calling, and that really pays homage to Creation and God's management. He places in our hearts and desire to do certain things and the ability to carry them out, glorifying His Name. It is easy to covet someone else's talents and fail to see our own. At a time of crisis, where we are as a nation, other vocations seem far more appealing because they promise more security or money.
Ministers are not comforted by this observation by Luther - In all professions, the better one is, the more rewarded he is. But the pastor is punished, the better he is at what he does. Does anyone wonder why so many ministers go astray? They become angry and disillusioned that good efforts lead to bad results. For instance, I insisted on a woman having surgery when her husband was blocking it. She had an obstruction that would have killed her. I did not know what was wrong, but clearly she needed medical attention. She was very grateful in the hospital, and we never saw them in church again.
Honest professionals will have no trouble finding dishonest peers who make millions from being crooked, greedy, and breaking all rules. One partner kept screaming at his business partner until the more timid person surrendered his part of the business. He could not stand the constant bombardment.
Vocation in this passage does not mean job, but calling in the station we fill. First of all, God calls us to be Christians. We are invited by the Holy Spirit to be Christians and gathered by Him into a church. Much of what he did is like our work today. He could not be in all the congregations, so he blogged - or rather - wrote letters to them. We have deeply personal letters that are inspired by the Holy Spirit and treasured as God's Word - not all his letters were preserved or circulated. The Church also excluded fake writings that some tried to manufacture and promote as the real thing. When those are discovered every 20 years or so, everyone gets excited until they find out they have Al Capone's empty vault again - nothing to see.
Vocation for Luther meant doing one's work in his station in life, faithful to God's Word. Whatever the vocation, it is easy to look over the fence for something better, as it seems. But by being steadfast in the vocation and in the Scriptures, the daily responsibilities bear fruit, as they must. The Gospel Word is so full of divine energy that it must bear fruit.
I ran into a discussion between a mother and daughter. The daughter was complaining that nothing she did was quite good enough. It was not an argument, simply one of those generational issues. I wrote, "One has to become a mother to know what a mother experiences, and we do not realize how much our mother's sacrificed for their families until she is gone." My generation has been losing their mothers, one after another. A few are alive at 90 plus. The mention of their mothers is very common. And they remember mine often too, because she taught most of them.
Parents were so dedicated then. They had few luxuries and little time for themselves. I knew a bunch of teachers who worked like coalminers all week for their classes. On Sunday they taught Sunday School - glad to do it. Later I found that few people wanted to teach the children and many of them did not have jobs outside the homes. We took it for granted in my childhood that mothers simply worked all the time.
One of my animal loving friends wrote about puppies staying with their moms for 8 weeks, not just until they could eat on their own. This vet said they know puppies do better when raised longer. I wonder if those insights could be shared about humans. Day care is not a substitute for mothers at home, but we disparage mothers "who don't work" and raise normal children by working very hard at home. Of course, due to our heartless society, many women have no choice but to work outside the home. But we glorify what is not God's plan for the family.
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
The first two attributes are the characteristics of Jesus - lowliness and meekness. And he was forbearing, longsuffering and patient in His love.
Being called into the Christian life means reflecting Christ's own lwork in all we do. And that is quite enjoyable, too. We do not live for ourselves but for others, as Luther taught -
5. Let the Christian know his earthly life is not unto himself, nor for his own sake; his life and work here belong to Christ, his Lord. Hence must his walk be such as shall contribute to the honor and glory of his Master, whom he should so serve that he may be able to say with Paul, not only with respect to the spiritual life — the life of faith and of righteousness by grace — but also with respect to its fruits — the outward conduct: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.” Galatians 2:20. The Christian’s manner of life may be styled “walking in Christ”; yes, as Paul elsewhere has it ( Romans 13:14), “putting on” the Lord Jesus Christ, like a garment or an ornament. The world is to recognize Christ by his shining in us.
That should be the norm of our behavior, living for others. I know young parents who delight in doing the most for their children, not in luxuries but in teaching them the Word of God and showing them life's lessons as only parents can do. I have taught thousands online and face-to-face. No one is as receptive to learning as one's own child. That way every single person can be a teacher and be a favorite teacher for one, two, or even ten students (yes, I know one family of ten children).
Teaching is always going to involve frustrating, challenging, and correcting the student. That is going to be like petting the cat the wrong way and getting scratched, at times. I have adult teachers who resist and fight against me trying to improve their job skills. One told me afterwards, "I was ready to quit the class until the end, when I caught on to what you were trying to get me to do." Parents have the same challenge, except they do not get a new batch every semester or so.
Gospel work in all forms will mean resistance but will also bear fruit. The cross we bear is seeing so little fruit - or none - for a long period of time. Of course, one problem is not seeing. Not that it is absent. We take many things for granted until they are gone. And the lack of fruit may be quite true until an abundance is realized much later. We are impatient and want to see results with the work, but the results come along as God wills. That teaches us that the results are divinely caused rather than ours. We see the miracles when they arrive. Unbelievers have miracles too, but they never see them, take them as the result of their hard work and wisdom, and often squander them. The most talented often make no effort because everything was so easy.
One novel has a man preening and strutting around a house he is visiting, not knowing he is penniless. He thought he was inheriting a vast hoard. Then he becomes greedy and looks for someone to replace that fortune and ends up foregoing a real fortune for something far less. That could be seen as a metaphor for what the Lutheran Church has done, praising itself while coveting the fool's gold of the carnival barkers at Fuller Seminary and worse institutions. They scorn what they had and end up with nothing.
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Because Spirit and Word go together at all times, keeping the Word and esteeming it means enjoying the unity God gives to that and the peace that comes from it. That does not mean forging a false peace which is no peace, but always pursuing truth through study, meditation, discussion, and worship.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
I have seen the restless ones stir up dissent and divide congregations for the last 50 years. As Luther says, this is the most wicked thing they can do. In dividing and scattering by forcing their false doctrine, they murder souls. The damage they do remains because someone is always repeating the errors they forced upon others.
There are too many examples to name, but I can offer my home congregation as something hardly anyone sees today - liturgical services - always, Biblical sermons, dignified dress for the minister, historic readings from the Bible, the Creeds, the Sacraments offered in the service not hidden away lest someone be offended.
That was taken for granted and it is largely gone from all Lutheran Churches in America. Large groups (not all) have forgiveness without faith forced upon them. Withdraw good books from print. Replace them with false teaching. Excommunicate those who object or hate them away.
The true Church is invisible and not defined by denominations and synodical borders. That is the ideal Paul is teaching in this section of 7 ones and the implied invocation of the Holy Trinity.
24. But they are not members of the true Church of Christ who, instead of preserving unity of doctrine and oneness of Christian faith, cause divisions and offenses — as Paul says ( Romans 16:17) — by the human doctrines and self-appointed works for which they contend, imposing them upon all Christians as necessary. They are perverters and destroyers of the Church, as we have elsewhere frequently shown. The consolation of the true doctrine is ours, and we hold it in opposition to Popedom, which accuses us of having withdrawn from them, and so condemns us as apostates from the Church. They are, however, themselves the real apostates, persecuting the truth and destroying the unity of the Spirit under the name and title of the Church and of Christ. Therefore, according to the command of God, all men are under obligation to shun them and withdraw from them.