The Glory Has Departed

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a third one has been sent now.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 2016. Luke 16:1-9.
Make Friends with Unrighteous Mammon

 Santa's business burned to the ground, with no insurance.
The firemen failed to extinguish the initial, smaller fire.
Moline classmates are raising money to get him back into the car upholstery business.

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

The melodies are linked in the hymn title. 
The lyrics are linked in the hymn number.
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
Faith and Works

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 # 54              Guide Me Thou, O Great Jehovah                    

KJV 1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

KJV Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Ninth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast bountifully given us Thy blessing and our daily bread: We beseech Thee, preserve us from covetousness, and so quicken our hearts that we willingly share Thy blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Thy gifts, and abide in Thy grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Thy judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Sower - by Norma Boeckler

Faith and Works

KJV Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
Pixelation - expanding a small picture until it loses all meaning.

Every doctrinal topic is good for pixelation, where one phrase is expanded until it makes no sense at all in the context of the Scriptures. This pixelation method is the hallmark of false teachers, who use the Bible against itself and glory in their great wisdom.

The Church of Rome - and many others - have added works to faith and used whatever passages they could drag in to support their initial assertion - that faith is not enough.

The Protestants are not immune to this, whether they call themselves Bible Christians or have bishops or have district presidents. Some blatantly say that faith alone is not enough for salvation, but others are more subtle. Lutheran Pietists - who come in many varieties, from Geneva gown to alb to chausibles and mitres and incense - make all the claims of Lutheran doctrine but add their little laws about what man must do. The cell group simply states that no one is a Christian outside their true church, which is the cell group. The crypto-Romanists insist on bishops who play the rose of Moses as the savior.

Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.

This is a difficult parable taught to His disciples. The hero is not a good person but a clever one. He is unrighteous and takes care of himself alone. Like many other difficult passages, once we have learned it, the story sticks because of its strange plot.

That is why I suspect tear-jerker stories on Facebook, which come out just right. When I copy and paste the wording, they often come out as plagiarism from a short story, a little morality tale made up by some writer. That is fine, like "The Gift of the Magi," but a stretch when portrayed as reality.

The audience is His disciples, so it was an important lesson to learn. Overall the Christian Church has done a fine job of making this the spirit of America. But I am jumping to the conclusion.

The Plot
The tension of this story comes from a manager of the estate who has wasted vast sums of money and will be fired. He can only see himself as another estate manager, so he cleverly cuts the bill of various customers so they owe much less than they did before. 

The rich man commends his manager for being so clever.

8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

The children of light are Christian believers while the children of this world are unbelievers! This is another problem for people.

The last blow to our sense of right and wrong is this - Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Most Basic Principle
We have to start with the most basic principal in the Bible - forgiveness and salvation come to an individual only through faith, without works, and this faith is created by the Gospel Word.

Matthew 7:15-21 makes this abundantly clear. The good tree is the person of faith, who upon coming to faith, trusting in Christ, does good works as the fruit of that salvation worked by God through the Word.

The entire Bible is a testimony to forgiveness through faith alone, with good works following as a result, not a cause of salvation. Abraham is not only shown to be justified by faith in Genesis 15, but also used as an example in Romans 4, Galatians, James, and Hebrews. 

4. The foundation must be maintained without wavering, that faith without any works, without any merit, reconciles man to God and makes him good, as Paul says to the Romans 3:21-22: “But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe.” Paul at another place, Romans 4:9, says: “To Abraham, his faith was reckoned for righteousness;” so also with us.

Again, 5: “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, 10:10: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” These, and many more similar passages, we must firmly hold and trust in them immovably, so that to faith alone without any assistance of works, is attributed the forgiveness of sins and our justification.

Satan tempts into thinking we are forgiven 50%, 70%, 80%, but certainly not for the rest. In that area we need to make up for it, feel tortures of the soul, and perform heroic deeds to prove contrition and repentance. In other words, Satan tempts us all to deny the Gospel and listen to reason, which certainly works this way in the world. Those who steal money are expected to pay it back. If they damage property, even by accident, they are expected to pay it back.

Those who offend a special interest group are expected to give a huge gift to the group's "charity" and grovel in public for a time. If they fail to do this, they are cast into the outer darkness. The facts do not matter. A rumor about saying the wrong thing, even 20 years ago, is enough.

But to treat God's justice the same way - though tempting - is a denial of the Gospel. And this denial is so reasonable. Sure, faith is enough but just add works to adorn your faith. 

Roman Catholics say quite boldly, "Yes you are forgiven through Christ's suffering on the cross, but you still need to pay for your sins. That payment throughout your life will probably not be sufficient, so Purgatory will cleanse the rest of your soul, just as Plato taught." Yes, Plato is used to support Purgatory, a mini-hell for almost eternity.

Since making works a part of forgiveness and salvation is counter to the entire Gospel, what else could this mean?

First of all, this is a clever unbeliever, so the only thing commended is his cleverness. That is what we can admire, and the paradox makes it fun because it twists our mind up. 

So we are supposed to be clever like this self-dealing, back-stabbing steward?

Luther's example is "a clever flirt." That is paradoxical way of saying a woman is good at flirting. Of course, that is also a warning sign, since perfection comes with practice.

The Resolution of the Strange Plot
Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

The mammon of unrighteousness means - the extra goods or money we have, beyond what we need for our necessities.

When we fail - when we die and face final judgment.

they may receive you into everlasting habitations - Those who have benefited will welcome you and speak for you in eternal life.

21. What then shall we reply to: “Make to yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles ?” We say this: that this passage says nothing about the saints in heaven, but of the poor and needy on earth, who live among us. As though he would say: why do you build churches, make saints and serve my mother, St. Peter, St. Paul and other departed saints?

They do not need this or any other service of yours, they are not your friends, but friends of those who lived in their days and to whom they did good; but do service to your friends, that is, the poor who live in your time and among you, your nearest neighbors who need your help, make them your friends with your mammon.

22. Again, we must not understand this reception into the eternal tabernacles as being done by man; however, men will be an instrument and witness to our faith, exercised and shown in their behalf, on account of which God receives us into the eternal tabernacles. For thus the Scriptures are accustomed to speak when they say: sin condemns, faith saves, that means, sin is the cause why God condemns, and faith is the cause why he saves. As man also is at all times accustomed to say: your wickedness will bring you misfortune, which means, your wickedness is the cause and source of your misfortune. Thus our friends receive us into heaven, when they are the cause, through our faith shown to them, of entering heaven.

I am going to repeat a story I was told by the recipient. He gave me permission to do so. He was the president of every group in school. He earned all the honors, plus starring in tennis. He received a full scholarship to Yale and won a spot in the Wiffenpoofs, a very special singing group. In that group he was also honored with a special role.

For an extend period of time his family had almost no money. People gathered food and clothing for the family. One person gave him his first tennis racket (which became his vocation and the source of national honors). Nobody knew among the friends his age. I now realize that our clothing was being shared and it was "none of your business."  He was my close friend in school and still is a regular, joking on FB, where he told this story. 

This was a good case of "covering" as Luther says. The family was spared the shame of being so poor - and fortune changed for them eventually. My friend was thankful for all the help and the absence of shame. He said, "Remember how much I was helped and think of that when someone near you has a need." 

Now another person, the Santa above, is brought low by a fire that started in the business nextdoor. I am sure our classmates will pitch in and help. Our veteran friend could not sleep at night because of his lack of furniture and bedding, so we bought him a new bed and a complete set of bedding. It was so gratifying to see how much that helped.

Point of the Story
Jesus taught this story to His disciples so they would be encouraged to help the poor, which is the story behind Paul's gathering of money in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, see Acts 16. 

The apostles were so occupied with taking care of the needy that they commissioned deacons (not bullies) to carry out more of this work. So the apostles took this strange parable to heart. That has continued to be the template for the Christian Church and for America.

Faith and salvation bring prosperity to people, because God blesses what we do and shows us how to use our resources wisely. We are always tempted to look down on someone in poverty and say, "But if only..." and that is true. People squander their money on liquor, tobacco, gambling, and drugs. Many live on the edge, working for little and often spending it foolishly.

If we denounce them for bad behavior, then we have no audience. They know it. They have heard it before. Many have lived better before this dark age of America. But if we share their burdens and help out where we can, that establishes trust and an audience for the Gospel. 

Luther turned against the Medieval fads of building glorious buildings which were seen as honoring God and the saints, while the poor were suffering and starving. It is funny how we have done the same, as Lutherans. One very rich man was quite a cad and doubtless felt guilty over it. So the LCMS, ELS, and WELS tapped his riches to pay for his guilt and praise him into heaven - literally. And what do they have to show for it? They are financially bereft. They have big empty buildings and nothing to show for it but a bunch of bronze plaques honoring the cad.

I love the ending of this strange parable. Isn't it pleasant to think of the cheers upon entering heaven? After all, the Gospel is for the poor in spirit (those who need the comfort of the Gospel) and for the weak, the needy, the disfigured and disabled. The great, wise, and strong do not feel the need for the Gospel and only want the praise of denominational leaders.