The Glory Has Departed


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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2016. Matthew 25:31-46.
Believing and Doing

Who are the weakest of the weak,
the poorest of the poor? - the unborn.


Bethany Lutheran Church

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2016


The Hymn # 245                           God Loved the World  
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 # 290       We Have A Sure  

Believing and Doing

The Hymn #306                    Lord Jesus Christ
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 #463                    For All the Saints  

KJV 2 THESSALONIANS 1:3-10. 3 We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth; 4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure; 5 which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 if so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.

KJV Matthew 25:31-46. But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me, And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.


Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity - From the Collects of Veit Dietrich
O almighty, eternal and merciful God, who by Thy beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, hast established the kingdom of grace for us, that we might believe the forgiveness of our sins, in Thy holy Church on earth, since Thou art a God who hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: We beseech Thee, graciously forgive us all our sins, through the same, Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Believing and Doing

 Matthew 25:31-46. But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 

Luther:
1. The words of this Gospel are in themselves clear and lucid. They have been given both for the comfort and encouragement of believing Christians, and for the warning and terror of others, if perchance, they might be of help to them. While most lessons almost exclusively teach and inculcate faith, this one treats only of the works, which Christ will examine at the last day, that it may be seen that he wishes them to be remembered and performed by those who wish to be Christians and be found in his kingdom.

The relationship between believing and doing sums up all of world religion and the problems within the visible church. Christianity teaches, through the Scriptures, the primary necessity of faith in God's Word. Therefore, Christianity is the only religion where we receive forgiveness through faith - from God - instead of giving to Him to placate His anger.

When doing is placed first, the actual Word of God is in second place - at best - so the real criterion is the doing, not believing. This is definitely a slippery slope, since one's faith is no longer as important as doing the right thing. Thus many charitable organizations start out to proclaim the Gospel and plant faith in the Word, through ministries of good works. They often become secular agencies of do-gooders who are antagonistic toward the Christian Faith. 

The most recent example included the mission effort to America, where the Pietists organized societies for sending ministers over to the States to establish the Christian Faith. Augustana and the Wisconsin Synod required or expected a born-again experience and work with various confessions of faith. Making the good works primary meant doctrinal indifference. We can now see the end results of this. Although many Lutheran groups tried to become faithful to the Book of Concord, this doctrinal indifference took over and we have the results today.

Work with ELCA? No problem. Work with the United Nations? Who told you?

As Luther said, this is one passage that deals exclusively with the results of trust in the Gospel. Therefore, it is ideal for those who want to pixelate the Scriptures, emphasizing and isolating one passage so much that the message itself is distorted and contradictory. That is like claiming that one will never give up on any point of doctrine while denying Justification by Faith and shunning those who teach the Chief Article. That is the dominant view of Lutherans today - denying the Chief Article and shunning those who remember the Reformation with advantages.

In this verse, Jesus is teaching about His return, when no one on earth will doubt that Judgement Day is upon them. because everyone will be raised up and separated, the sheep from the goats. No one will escape, so those who gloated in their sins will be terrified and hope to hide away. 

Luther:
5. For he will then, as he says here himself, immediately separate the goats from the sheep. And this will take place publicly in the presence of all angels, men, and creatures, and before the whole rabble of an ungodly world, that it may be seen who have been pious, honest Christians, as well as who have been false hypocrites. This separation cannot take place in the world until that day, not even in the assembly that constitutes the Christian Church. The good and the bad must remain together in this world, as the parable of the wedding guests says, Matthew 22:10; or as Christ himself had to tolerate Judas among his Apostles. Christians are even now grieved that they must remain here in the midst of a crooked, perverse, ungodly people, which is the kingdom of Satan, Philippians 2:15.

6. While they have their sufferings here upon earth, they will have also their comfort on the coming day of judgment, when Christ will separate them from the other flock, so that after that day no false, ungodly men, nor death, nor devil can ever touch them or offend them.


There is great difference between how people act when they see judgment. When the police car arrives, some take hope and others take cover. The world rages against faithful Christians today. We have a little taste of it here, but in the Third World no one hesitates to torture and kill Christians. The diplomats of the world are indifferent to this suffering. But the day is coming when the cruel will no longer have victims to play with and only their consciences to face - with God's divine judgment.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. [Six deeds of mercy.]

Notice the first words are ones of blessing and commendation, peace and reward. This is a glimpse of eternal life for believers today - 

  1. A Kingdom.
  2. Prepared, for you, 
  3. from the beginning of the world.
These works of mercy can easily be seen as fulfilling the Ten Commandments, with Gospel motivation. The Small Catechism not only lists sins against each Commandment, but also ways of honoring each one by the way we live our lives.


Second Table - 
Fourth - honoring and respecting parents and all those in authority.
Fifth - protecting the lives and the health of others, from the unborn to the elderly.
Sixth - being faithful and loving to one's husband or wife.
Seventh - help our neighbor improve and protect his property.
Eighth- not gossiping but taking the motives of others in the kindest way.
Ninth-Tenth - help our neighbor keep what is his.

Luther referred to "covering our neighbor's sins" the way Christ covers ours. The trouble with gossip is that we only know a little and certainly do not understand the motives of another person. "He did that on purpose" is easy to assert, but difficult to prove. When this is magnified by retelling, the damage can be great, yet this is the norm in denominational politics. Some are maligned until they are completely shunned while others have their sins and criminal acts expunged by loss of memory - I don't know that - and absolution. "He repented. Have you?" 

Carnal sins are easy to spot, and they make us feel righteous when we discuss the carnality of others. But there is no difference between that and our self-absolution and self-justification. As Luther observed, there is no action and no words that are free of the Old Adam. That can be as hurtful as the father who is angry with his son for not being involved in his vocation.  Sometimes ministers are offended their sons want to mechanics, and mechanics are offended their sons want to be ministers. That can boil down to, "I want him to make me look good," but it is not expressed as such, only as condemnation. I know of men who were forced to become ministers, and said so. because that made the father look good to his fellow ministers.

Luther:
8. You may ask why Christ there especially examine works called deeds of mercy, or the neglect of such works? Six different kinds are mentioned in the text, although many more might be given; yet were one to judge critically in the matter, there are no more works than those implied in the fifth commandment: Thou shalt not kill; in which we are commanded in general, as Christ himself explains it, not to be angry with our neighbor, but to be kind to him and ready to serve and assist him, supply his wants in times of need, whether in hunger, thirst, nakedness, suffering, imprisonment, sickness or other troubles, and to do this even to those who may have given us occasion for anger or for unmerciful acts, and thus do not appear to be worthy of our love and benevolence. For that is a poor virtue which does good only to those we love, or from whom we hope to receive kindness and thanks in return.

But one might, as has been said, add to those works of mercy many more from other commandments; for example from the sixth, that one is to assist his neighbor, to protect his wife, children and domestics, and to keep them under proper restraint and in honor; also from the seventh, eighth and last commandments, that is, to help save and maintain the goods and property, house, home and good report of his neighbor; also to help protect and defend the poor, the oppressed and the down-trodden.


Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.

This response seems to be repetitive and easy to mock. But it serves as a great, concise lesson on good works, showing elegantly that each case of honoring the needy means honoring the King.

The righteous are the ones answering, which means they are the ones forgiven and saved through faith. They are the saints, the victors, the noble army of martyrs who died professing Christ. When believers are asked, "Why do you visit the sick so much? Why do you go to a land of dangerous pagans with the Gospel? Why do you visit known criminals in prison?" - They are not shaken but know they are honoring Christ in whatever they do in faith.

The same could be said of mothers today. When we were at Yale Divinity in the 1970s, having a baby was seen by many as a betrayal of the Women's Movement. But having children and serving the family in faith honors Christ as much as being a medical missionary in Borneo.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me, And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

To make the lesson even clearer, the Day of Judgment is described for the guilty, the unrepentant, the unbelievers, or worse - the former believers, the apostates.

Luther:
16. This I say, that we may see how Christ will upbraid the false liars and hypocrites among Christians, on the day of judgment, and having convicted them before all creatures will condemn them, because they have done none of the works which even the heathen do to their fellows; who did much more in their false and erroneous religion, and would have done it even more willingly had they known better.

17. Since now this terrible condemnation is justly pronounced over those who neglected these works, what will happen to those who have not only neglected the same, have given nothing to the poor Christians, nor served them; but robbed them of what they had, drove them to hunger, thirst and nakedness, furthermore persecuted, scattered, imprisoned, and murdered them? These are so unutterably wicked, so utterly condemned to the bottomless pit with the devil and his angels, that Christ will not think or speak of them. But he will assuredly not forget these robbers, tyrants, and bloodhounds any more than he will forget or pass over unrewarded those who have suffered hunger thirst, nakedness, persecution and the like, especially for his and his Word’s sake. He will not forget those to whom mercy has been shown, even though he speaks only to those who have shown mercy and have lent their aid; for he highly and nobly commends them, when he says. “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.”


Luther reminds us in his sermon on the text that many superficial and lapsed Christians fall into this category, including leaders of the visible church and false teachers. 

The most appalling dirty tricks are played against clergy and their families, often by denominational officials, and often by laity encouraged to do the same by those officials. Tis funny how people assume their own pastor is evil incarnate while thinking the District President is a man of noble motives and high purpose. I am not talking about faithless parish who do nothing but work on violations of the Ten Commandments, but ones who are targeted and undermined for whatever reason the official can invent. 

Literally thousands of clergy families have been dispossessed more effectively than the Thirty Years War and other persecutions - by their own officials. Just as bad, the unrepentant have been absolved and protected, making them even worse than before. And to what end? ELCA lost a $40 million lawsuit because they ordained an unrepentant, well known child abuser. The officials not only damaged a new group of children but damaged and destroyed the faith of many at the same time. Many examples, large and small, can be identified - persecuting the faithful and protecting the criminal. Not content to violate one part of the Eighth Commandment - slandering their own fellow clergy, they violate the other part - failing to hold up rascals to public rebuke. See the Large Catechism on this topic.


"The first shall be last." That clearly means the first in ecclesiastical honors, if they are not faithful to the Word of God. "The last shall be first." The despised and overlooked parish pastors who only preach, who only visit the sick and dying, who only teach the unruly children of the unruly parents - they are least. No paid trips to Asia for them. More likely - the DP will visit the parish to get rid of the faithful pastor. But the first will be last.

Many times judgment happens during the lifetime of the criminal or the apostate clergycritter. Violating the Ten Commandments with glee will bring down the effect of the Natural Law - "God commands what is good for us." But if there is no obvious judgement in this life - we cannot be certain - the axe will fall on the Last Day.

But it needs to be said, that even when clergy-fiends get away with all the evils of the world, glory in it, and find great rewards in this life, they cannot be happy, at peace, or leading satisfying lives. As one ecclesiastic leader said confidentially after getting another public award for this work, "My whole life is a fraud. I am completely miserable." Doubtless few knew it, but he certainly did and had to confess it.


Luther:
28. Notice, however, as I said, that he wishes to distinguish the good works of the Christians from the works of the Turks and the heathen. For he speaks of the works done unto him, of which both parties claim to be ignorant, the wicked excusing themselves, because they had not seen him, etc. But herewith he has most beautifully explained the fifth commandment, that it means, he who fulfills it can be none else than a believing Christian, who did it unto Christ. Thus the woman who anointed his head and feet, Matthew 26:10-13, fulfilled this commandment and is praised by him when he says: “She has wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you, and if ye wish ye can always do good unto them, but me ye have not always. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Again in Matthew 10:42: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones, who believe in me, a cup of cold water, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

29. We should therefore impress the fact upon our hearts and consider that it is a great and fine thing to do good to a Christian; but on the contrary also, what it is to do evil to him, as I said of the Pope, the bishops, the tyrants, and feudal nobility, who take from the feet of Christ what they have not given him the food, the drink, the lodging and the support of the poor, who are poor for Christ’s sake, because they are not in the position, as ministers, sextons and school masters, to rule the world; nor are they able to engage in any other business in which they might gain a livelihood; for then they would also have been made the partakers of power and would receive enough. But since they have no part in the government, the world gives them nothing for their services. As they receive nothing for God’s nor Christ’s sake, they can have nothing, and must leave behind them poor, wretched widows and orphans.

30. Those in other positions and offices, who have plenty in all respects, do not wish and cannot attend to the duties and the services of the church, neither do they know how. And when ministers and pastors engage in worldly trades and pursuits, they step outside of their proper calling.