The Glory Has Departed


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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Quinquagesima Sunday, 2016. 1 Corinthians 13.
Paul's Lesson Against Vainglory



Quinquagesima Sunday, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Lyrics are linked with the hymn number.
The melody is linked with the hymn title.


The Hymn #27                    O Bless the Lord                    
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 #351      Love Divine

 The Sermon - Love Conquers Vainglory

The Hymn #311        Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior                           
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 #657                             Beautiful Savior 


The Epistle. 1 Corinthians 13

THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.


The Gospel. St. Luke 18. 31-43

THEN Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David. have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood. and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.


Quinquagesima Sunday

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst manifest Thyself, with the Holy Ghost, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Thy dear Son, and with Thy voice didst direct us to Him who hath borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech Thee, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Thy command, and the example of Thy dear Son, we pray Thee to strengthen our faith by Thy Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and salvation, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.



Love Conquers Vainglory

THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

As Luther observed, most of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in both letters was about the problem with vainglory. This is especially true of clergy and clergy-pretenders, but the lessons apply to all of us.

Paul’s purpose in this chapter is to silence and humble haughty Christians, particularly teachers and preachers. The Gospel gives much knowledge of God and of Christ, and conveys many wonderful gifts, as Paul recounts in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12. He tells us some have the gift of speaking, some of teaching, some of Scripture exposition; others of ruling; and so on. With Christians are great riches of spiritual knowledge, great treasures in the way of spiritual gifts. Manifest to all is the meaning of God, Christ, conscience, the present and the future life, and similar things. But there are to be found few indeed who make the right use of such gifts and knowledge; who humble themselves to serve others, according to the dictates of love. Each seeks his own honor and advantage, desiring to gain preferment and precedence over others.

2. We see today how the Gospel has given to men knowledge beyond anything known in the world before, and has bestowed upon them new capabilities. Various gifts have been showered upon and distributed among them which have redounded to their honor. But they go on unheeding. No one takes thought how he may in Christian love serve his fellow-men to their profit. Each seeks for himself glory and honor, advantage and wealth.

Could one bring about for himself the distinction of being the sole individual learned and powerful in the Gospel, all others to be insignificant and useless, he would willingly do it; he would be glad could he alone be regarded as Mister Smart. At the same time he affects deep humility, great self-abasement, and preaches of love and faith. But he would take it hard had he, in practice, to touch with his little finger what he preaches. This explains why the world is so filled with fanatics and schismatics, and why every man would master and outrank all others. Such as these are haughtier than those that taught them. Paul here attacks these vainglorious spirits, and judges them to be wholly insignificant, though their knowledge may be great and their gifts even greater, unless they should humble themselves and use their gifts in the service of others.

Although the charismatics and Pentecostals use Paul to support tongue-speaking, the Apostle spends several chapters criticizing the tongue-speaking of the Corinthians and limiting it to the point of extinction. Clearly, this is ecstatic speech, which is clearly indicated by what Paul wrote, and not speaking in foreign languages, which is the miracle of the Day of Pentecost in Acts.

People may remember the long lesson from last Sunday, which climaxes in Paul speaking of his thorn in the flesh, certainly a major burden for him and an object of scorn for those who wanted to make fun of him and take advantage of this weakness (however defined). Coupled with that is a lot of boasting, but it is boasting for a reason. The opponents are trying to take over his labor and make themselves the haughty rules of the Corinthians, bragging about their greatness. They are fools.

That is why Paul said, "You suffer fools gladly." So he becomes a fool by bragging the same way they do. And we should be glad he did. Although he is annoying in some respects, we also have a great autobiography written in brilliant language, one of the gems of the entire Bible. If we compare resumes, then, Paul has done much and suffered much. The opponents have done nothing but bragged a lot.

Jesus is always the ideal in behavior, because of His meek, lowly, and gracious manner. I know one leader who could put on a great show of humility, but if anyone disagreed with him, he flew into a rage. 

This verse uses hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration. If he spoke in ecstatic tongues, even the tongues of angels - that is quite a feat. He could speak in tongues, but did not. Anyone can. It is learned behavior, like chanting "Bulldogs. Bulldogs. Bow wow Wow. Eli Yale." Here it is calling the Hogs, which is torture for Texans who hate the Arkansas football team.

Corinthians were haughty about speaking in tongues, so Paul said, if I could out-tongue-speak you with the ecstasy of angels, but lacked love, I am nothing.

This chapter was recited at the wedding of Charles and Diane, in perfect British diction. It is popular at weddings and is certainly appropriate in many ways, but this concept of love goes far beyond romantic love, which is transcended by God's agape love, the love described here.

As someone said, getting married means giving up self-love in favor of love and concern for the other person. Having children means pouring out love and care, above and beyond the needs or wants of the parents.

So that kind of selfless love is the opposite of vainglory or haughtiness or self-centeredness.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

The word faith has different meanings, according to context, like many often-used words. We normally mean faith as "faith in Christ" or the Christian Faith. But the primary meaning is trust, and we know many examples who trust in miraculous things that are not possible under normal circumstances. I am speaking of videos where guys drop 12 feet onto concrete and break legs. Or girls who jump off the roof of a house to land in a swimming pool and hit the edge instead. They began with faith - in themselves - that they would do it without harm. 

We have fakes today who make a big show of healing people but they keep the real invalids in the back, knowing they cannot do a thing. But the show goes on. Benny Hinn is a good example.

Other religious fakes pretend or really believe they can make everyone successful by giving them great faith in themselves. And these types make a great show of themselves by announcing what they can do, even thought they really do nothing and provide no pastoral care for those who need it.

Vainglory in clergy takes on many different disguises. 
  1. One will say, I studied Greek, so you cannot argue with me.
  2. Or he may say, I studied this eight years. How can you dispute this?
  3. Some clergy say, "Look at my family tree. Note my famous clergy relatives."
  4. Some laity say, "I was a charter member, so I cannot be wrong."
  5. Some even defend the haughtiness of others, saying, "He was a charter member."
  6. Organizations are filled with vainglory, so they preach their congregation or synod, instead of Christ. The authority becomes the institution, not the Word that conveys Jesus to us.
  7. Taking offense at everything is a good example of vainglory, and the cure is not falling for this, but studying this chapter.
Paul's constant emphasis was his preaching of the cross, and his glorying in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian believers have the great benefit of knowing the mind of God, though we are limited, and understand the mysteries of the Faith. Where others are puzzled or lost, believers have answers, which should humble us rather than elevate our egos.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 

Paul is very good at communicating the Gospel and demolishing false doctrine, false attitudes. When I wonder why he was given the job of writing most of the letters of the New Testament, passages like this remind me of his training in Judaism and in the language arts.

Do we not stand in awe of those who give away so much? Or gather so much to be given? One can study some modern "saints" and discover how they had no faith, had no comfort in the Gospel, and did nothing for others - except broadcast their great saintliness.

This is also a fine text to show that works do not save. When people offer up their works as proof of their faith, they are falling into the Roman Catholic error of insisting on faith and works. Or they say "faith adorned by works," but the works often become the main item at the expense of faith.

The correct way to look at this is to see good works as the natural outcome of faith in Christ. We can look at this in self-criticism, if we have no concern for others, we should question how deep or genuine our faith is.

I ask that about clergy who see their brother pastors evicted from their homes and humiliated for the great sin of disagreeing with the haughty, vainglorious synod leaders. Moreover, there is nothing these clergy can do to replace their income, since their degrees have little value in the world.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

This is a marvelous way to collapse our self-justification and take another look at our behavior. Agape love -
Is long-suffering.
Does not envy the accomplishments or blessings of others.
Is not conceited, puffed up, full of itself.
Does not engage in bad behavior (justified by high rank).
Is not selfish and self-centered, the twin curses of our mortal weakness.
Is not easily angered.
Does not assume evil intention.
Does not smirk and gloat when others have sinned or fallen into error.

But agape love -
Rejoices in the truth.
Endures all with patience.
Believes all revealed in the Word.
Hopes with a hope based on the Gospel.
Remains patient to the end.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 

Love does not fail, but these other great matters of the time do. He is looking at the end, eternal life, when all the boastfulness of life means nothing. 

We were taught in sales, "Fake it until you make it." Those who had never sold a disability policy were told, "Introduce yourself as an expert in disability insurance." Some of us were several weeks from passing the test. We had little papers that said we were experts in group disability insurance too.

One Hollywood actor got a boost by renting a Rolls Royce to the movie studio. He was unemployed at the time. The great bank fraudster (Catch Me If You Can) rented a Rolls to drive to the bank to cash fake checks. 

Even the genuine, earned marks of honor become nothing in view of eternal life. All this is covered by the Sower and the Seed Parable, where the cares and riches of the world choke the Word and do not allow its fruition.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

In the Bible we have two terms - one is child-like. We should have a child-like faith, an attitude commended by Jesus Himself as He gently scolded the disciples.

The other concept is childish. Here Paul demolishes the behavior and attitudes of those who hold themselves above others. Their behavior is childish. We look back at our childhood (and teen years) and remember the foolish, impulsive, and self-centered things we did, part of growing up, something we put away (usually).

My biggest problem at the store was not with little children and how they behaved, but with young teens whose parents had no control over them. They often threatened to crash into the elderly and handicapped because mom or dad never put the lid on their behavior. I was happy to speak to them in a quiet and menacing voice, warning how many people they could hurt.

If we look at the haughty leaders, they are like those impulsive teens, heedless of those they might hurt with their behavior. 

So the greatest of the theological virtues is love - the one first mentioned in Galatians 5 in the fruits of the Spirit.