First Sunday of End Time – Reformation Sunday
November 3, 2019
Hymns: 199, 200, 280, 203
First Lesson: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (page 84)
Second Lesson: Romans 3:19-28
Gospel Lesson: John 8:31-36
Christ’s True Disciples Observe THE Reformation Every Day
I. By remaining in divine truth
II. By reveling in real freedom
In the name of Jesus, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life, who is the true Way to life with God, fellow redeemed, fellow heirs of the Lutheran Reformation, Five hundred two years ago last Thursday Martin Luther posted his 95 statements on Wittenberg, Germany’s public bulletin board – which was also the door of the large church in town. All Wittenberg’s citizens would go through that door the next morning for the annual All Saints Day service. Luther intended his sentences to invite Catholic clergy and scholars in town to discuss his beloved church’s teachings. Luther wrote from his heart to expose those teachings of his church that went against God’s Word. That October 31st event wasn’t the climax of the Reformation. The climax of the Reformation was 18 months later in Worms. Luther was called before church officials and the Roman Emperor. They asked, “Do you…repudiate your writings and the false teachings they contain?” Luther answered, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and clear reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant! Here I stand! I cannot do otherwise. God help me.” The devil didn’t get Luther to give in to error. But the devil didn’t quit. As he was long before Luther, so still today Satan tries to mislead believers. He wants us to give in to the popular religious idea spouted by so many: It doesn’t matter what you believe or do, as long as you believe in Jesus Christ! What does Jesus Himself say? It remains what He said here two thousand years ago. “If you remain in My Word, you are really My disciples” (v. 31). Christ’s “Word” is all of Scripture, not just the parts we like. We are not called to line up with Luther – a sinful human used by God as His messenger, but to follow Christ – the sinless Son of God and Savior of the world! Christ’s true disciples observe the reformation every day by remaining in divine truth and by reveling in real freedom.
We conservative Christians who hold to everything the Bible teaches are sometimes accused of idolatry. Yes, idolatry! “We believe in God. But you worship, you believe in, a book!” We don’t disagree the Bible is a book. But it’s no ordinary book! From Genesis 1, written by Moses more than fourteen hundred years before Jesus was born, to Revelation 22, written by John seventy years after Jesus died and rose, the Bible is God’s Word, even though men wrote it. How can that be? “Men spoke from God as they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), and “All Scripture is God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Elijah’s confidence before King Ahab and Paul’s confidence before Roman authorities, Luther’s confidence in Worms and our confidence in conversations with those who question what we believe, is, “God has given us His truth (v. 32)! The Bible isn’t a collection of religious essays that are interesting to read. It is the truth from God given by God. It’s divine truth!” Here, Jesus spoke to people who trusted in Him as the promised Messiah. For believers to grow in trusting Jesus as the promised Savior, for them “really (v. 31) to be His followers, Jesus said, “Remain connected to My Word”. Isn’t that something?! He has the power to still storms, feed hungry thousands in an instant, heal sickness, even raise the dead. His miracles had an impact on people and drew many to listen to Him. But how does Jesus make “disciples” (v. 31), create in stony hearts true faith in Him? He teaches them about Himself. How does He keep “disciples”? He connects us to Himself by His Word! It is not a mark of true disciples of Christ to trust what He did at the cross, yet question other parts of His Word. The mark of true disciples of Christ is remaining true to His Word – all that He teaches. Jesus teaches that He is God sent from God to save us from sin and Satan, from death’s grip and hell’s fire. Jesus teaches that sinners who can’t save themselves by what they do have forgiveness in the blood He shed for them. Those truths “set us free” (v. 32). Christ’s true disciples observe the reformation, they re-form their hearts, when they “remain in” His divine truth every day. Why that’s so necessary is clear from how this very verse is often misused. We see this verse etched in stone on the exterior of college buildings, public libraries, courthouses. We hear this verse quoted in speeches by politicians and philosophers. False teachers isolate the words “the truth will set you free” (v. 32) and suggest any idea which makes you feel you have “the truth” is what you should live by each day. That’s not “the truth”! The only truth that sets sinners free and saves them is “the truth”, divine truth, truth from God, the truth about God! Christ’s true disciples are attacked by Satan every day. He twists divine truth to make sins sound attractive – and acceptable! – to God’s people. Each day we need the Savior to use the power of His truth to re-form us, to change our hearts that are more eager to follow Satan’s seductive lies than the Savior’s saving “truth”. Each day our sinful nature follows its nose to the devil’s den, thinking, I must get right with God by keeping His commandments to make up for my breaking His commandments. I am on God’s side because I belong to one of His congregations. The congregation grows best when members get what we want instead of what we need. I don’t need to hear the Word; I have my own beliefs and understanding with God. That sounds good. Some of that even sounds Godly. But none of that is divine truth. We re-form our hearts and lives every day when we hear Jesus repeat what has always been the sign of those who are “really My disciples: remain in My Word”! Christ’s “truth” is that sinners are right with God by His undeserved love poured out in Christ, that sinners obey God’s commandments to live thanks each moment to God for saving us, that the Holy Spirit uses the power of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament to turn hard hearts rejecting the Savior into loving hearts trusting the work of Jesus. Christ’s true disciples use divine “truth” to re-form their hearts every day, rubbing off the sharp points of pride in what we think we do to please God and thus earn points with Him, filling in the low spots of life when we wonder how God could love rebels like us, tightening our grip on Him and His truth. That’s the real re-formation, the real re-forming, that we observe – and live! – every day.
But what does the truth, even if it’s divine truth, give us? A cramped, confining, conservative, drab, dreary, monotonous life? Being religious robots with no mind of our own? Christ’s real disciples observe the reformation every day by reveling in real freedom that only divine truth can supply and empower. In promising to “set us free” (v. 36), Jesus teaches that we are not “free” from birth. The Jews resented that! They argued, “We…have never been slaves of anyone” (v. 33). Really? Hadn’t the Jews been slaves in Egypt, in Assyria, in Babylon? Weren’t the Jews, even as Jesus spoke, under the thumb of the Romans? The Jews meant they didn’t live like slaves on some master’s estate. But Jesus wasn’t talking about physical slavery. He meant that sinners live under slavery to sin. So true! What is our greatest problem? Sin! Sin bring guilt and the curse of hell. Ponder the sinful thoughts, words, and acts that polluted our lives last week. Every bit of that deserves hell! Sin is our greatest problem because we can’t cut ourselves free from sin and its consequences. “Everyone who keeps committing sin is a slave to sin” (v. 34). Think of the pet sins that trip you up each day. You try to cut them out of your life, but they keep coming back! Every time you fall, you deserve hell! The only freedom from that is Christ. The truth of what He’s done for us “sets us free”. We area saved before we lift a finger to please God or call on Him in prayer. Only those who trust they’re set free from sin by Christ alone are really “free”. Jesus used a picture to teach that. “A slave does not remain in the family forever” (v. 35). Servants were part of a household, even getting benefits from the household – food, drink, shelter. But their connection to the family didn’t last. They were sent away whenever the head of the house grew tired of them. But “a son does remain forever” (v. 35). He belongs to the household; the household belongs to him. He is “family forever”! The Jews were connected to Abraham in the physical family that God called His chosen people. But their rebellion made them slaves. To be free, they needed the Son from the heavenly Father – born from their people! – to set them free from sin and its consequences. In Jesus – but only in Jesus – are sinners set free and given the benefits of God’s spiritual family. We are free in Jesus, as are all sinners – Jews and Gentiles – who trust Him as the Savior who freed them from sin and its consequences. In Jesus we live in – revel in – that freedom. We don’t worry ourselves sick – as Luther did the first half of his life – about what will happen to us when we die. We know we are free from the guilt of sin, free in Him who took our sin and hell on Himself. We know heaven is our home, so we live here the wonderfully free life that comes from that. We are free in Jesus. We gladly live and work for Him to thank Him for that! Christ’s true disciples observe that re-formation every day. We revel in the real freedom He has won. Satan leads us to grumble about going to church. Freedom in Jesus leads us to rejoice to be in His house and to hear His truth. Satan wants us to think it’s OK to brush off God’s Word. Those free in Jesus delight to “remain in His Word, the truth that sets us free”. We real disciples of Christ don’t have confidence in the fact that we’re Lutheran, but in the fact of God’s work to save us. We call ourselves Lutherans to distinguish ourselves from those in Christianity who don’t take their stand on all divine truth. We real disciples of Christ hear and read, study and ponder “the truth” He gives us, then we live and think and act and “remain in” the freedom He gives us in His blood, and all He reveals in His Word. We real disciples of Christ re-form our stubborn, sinful hearts with His divine truth and very real freedom – which is really our unending freedom in Him. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss
19th Sunday After Pentecost - We, Too, Have the Word of God!
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 20, 2019
Hymns: 224, 210, 458, 606
First Lesson: Amos 6:1-7
Psalm 146 (page 120)
Second Lesson: 1 Timothy 6:6-16
Gospel Lesson: Luke 16:19-31
We, Too, Have the Word of God!
I. The guide for using our possessions
I. The means for changing our hearts
In the name of Jesus, our Savior from sin and our Teacher for life, fellow sinners redeemed by His life and death and rising, Aesop’s famous fables were written not just to tell good stories, but also to teach important lessons. The Tortoise and the Hare tells folks never to give up, get cocky, be lazy. The Goose with the Golden Eggs shows what greed will do to a person. Even more, the parables of Jesus were spoken and recorded not to entertain listeners, but to instruct sinners. We’ve been hearing some of His earthly stories with heavenly meanings for more than a month. The Rich Man and Poor Lazarus is one of His most well-known, and most frequently misinterpreted, parables. Is the lesson here that after you live in wealth on earth you go to hell? If so, most of us would be in eternal trouble because most of us would be counted among the top 25 percent when it comes to income in the world. Are we being taught that only if you suffer in poverty or from disability you go to heaven? If so, most of us would be left out of glory everlasting. Neither of those can be correct. They contradict the clear truths of God’s Word. The key to understanding what the Son of God teaches here is at the end of His parable. “They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them…If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (vv. 29,31). “Moses and the Prophets” was the term the children of Israel used for the entire Old Testament, all of Scripture that had been written by the time of Jesus. What He taught that day, He teaches this day. We, too, have the Word of God as the guide for using our possessions, and as the means for changing our hearts.
You know the rich man. Jesus didn’t name him here. But you know him. You know the desire which drove him: “I want even more wealth!” You know the joy which filled him: “Look at all I own!” You know the feeling which haunted him: “I need still better clothes, a more modern house!” Those were the goals of the rich man’s life. “I want to enjoy lavish luxury! I need to live the good life!” He used his possessions selfishly. You know the poor man, too. Jesus named him “Lazarus” (v. 20), which is a form of the Hebrew name Eliezer, which means, My God helps. You know his situation – and his attitude about it. “I don’t have much money. But my God helps me with all I need. I wish I could walk instead of having to be laid (v. 20) at this estate’s gate. But my God gives me what I need to live. Due to my disability I don’t have a job, so I need to beg for scraps of food left over by others. But my God blesses me with what He wants me to have. I’m too helpless to shoo away these wild dogs. But my God protects me from danger to my soul.” Not many people would choose the Lazarus’ life over the rich man’s, would they? We would – and do! Lazarus had the Word of God guiding his life. That made him rich in the only ways that last. The rich man ignored God’s guidance for his life. That made him among the poorest people in the world before God. We, too, have the Word of God to guide us as we use the possessions God has given us. For several weeks now we’ve heard God warn us not to use those possessions as an end in themselves, as the fulfillment of life, as the ultimate source of joy and pleasure – as though we pile up our own possessions. God tells us not to use those possessions selfishly – refusing to offer a dime for those less fortunate than we are, instead spending thousands on our own comforts, projects, and fancy gadgets. God also guides us to use those possessions His way, not our way. The Lord unselfishly allows us to manage the wealth and resources He created and gives us. He expects us to use them unselfishly. We have the Word of God, the guide for using our possessions to take care of our family’s needs (not luxuries), to support the government as we “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, to assist the needy like Lazarus (which we do in America largely through the portion of tax money marked for welfare and social service programs), and to support the spread of God’s Word across the world as we “give to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We have the Word of God to guide our spending. We do not assume the selfish spirit of this rich man who thought, “It’s my money to do with as I want!” Every penny we have comes from God, so we are accountable to God for how we use each penny. Using our possessions is a battle we fight every week. “It’s my money. Why should I give it to the church?” It’s not our money, and we don’t give it to the church. It’s the Lord’s money, and we give it to Him, offering to God a God-honoring portion of our God-given gifts to be used to spread His Word. Some get peeved when the preacher talks about money. But it’s not the peracher. It’s the Savior – in this parable and many other parts of His Word. One of His lessons here is clearly, “You have My Word! Use it to guide your use of the possessions I’ve given you! When you cherish all I’ve done to bless you and save you, you won’t cling to things so greedily!”
At death, things changed for the two men here, didn’t they? Why? It was not because one had been rich and the other poor, and now God wanted each to have the opposite. That would be God contradicting Himself, and the perfect God never contradicts Himself! Why such a change at death? Because of what each man did with the Word of God. We, too, have the Word of God, also the means for changing our hearts. We have the Word of God to tell us it’s the condition of peoples’ hearts that determines whether they go to heaven or hell. Both men deserved hell. They were both sinners. Neither had earned a home in heaven. The rich man went to hell. Not because he lived in luxury on earth, but because he had rejected the Savior of the world. He had shut the Lord out of his heart and life. He loved his possessions more than the one true God. Lazarus went to heaven. Not because he lived in poverty on earth, but because he loved above all else the Savior who won his forgiveness when Jesus paid the penalty owed for every sin. Lazarus was “carried…to Abraham’s side” (v. 22). That’s Christ’s way to say Lazarus shared Abraham’s faith, went to heaven as a believer – as had Abraham. His heart wasn’t stuck on this life and the things money buys, but on that life and the redemption bought by the coming Christ. He lived this truth: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). People have all sorts of ideas about what happens at death. We have the Word of God. God says very clearly, very emphatically, “When a person dies, there’s no second chance to change his heart, to change her sentence from hell to heaven.” We have the Word of God, the only way God changes hearts. The rich man challenged that. The damned in hell know they are missing out on the bliss of heaven; that adds to their agony. The rich man’s “torment” (v. 23) in hell moved him to plead for someone to rescue his brothers on earth. Like he had, they were rejecting God’s Word. In stubborn unbelief the rich man asked that a spirit preach to his brothers. “If someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent (v. 30). That will convince them!” The rich man was really accusing God. “Your Word wasn’t powerful enough to change my heart. It’s not going to be powerful enough to change my brothers’ hearts, either! You let me down! You didn’t give me anything other than Your Word to change me! Do something more before You ruin my brothers, too!” How desperate! How defiant! How wrong! Twice he objected to the Word of God being the power to change stubborn hearts. Twice God used Abraham to tell him, “They have Moses and the Prophets! The Word of God is what they need to change their hearts. If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (v. 31). We, too, have the Word of God, the means by which God changes hearts. Sometimes we wish God would use an earthly miracle to grab by the heart a stubborn unbeliever we know or love. “God, do something to make her see the error of her ways, to shake him out of his unbelief! It will take a mighty miracle on earth or sign in the sky to change her, to convince him!” When we wish that, we’re wrong! Only the Word of God changes hearts that reject the truth that sin damns, the truth that salvation is only in Jesus who suffered what we owed. We help them most when we give them the law of God, showing them where we and they and all sinners deserve to be forever! Then we give them the gospel of God, telling them Jesus took on His holy shoulders the punishment for every sin, then He rose “from the dead”, and through Him we and they have heaven. Faith in Jesus is what we and they need. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) – the Word of His Christmas birth, His thirtythree years of perfectly holy living, His Good Friday innocent sacrifice for all trespasses, His Resurrection Sunday rising from death. That’s what we and they and all need for repentance and faith that leads to salvation! We, too, have the Word of God, the only way God changes hearts. His Word has changed our hearts. Will we now ignore it for several days or weeks or months until we think we need it again? That’s a damning plan! We who have the Word of God will hear it regularly, ponder it daily, study it nightly, trust it unfailingly. Others, too, need the Word of God we have, so we give it to them. If they reject it, nothing else will “convince” them of the way to heaven. Miracles on earth or signs in the sky won’t do it. Spirits returning to earth won’t do it, either. Luther said, “The Holy Spirit does not wish to work in us in any other way than through the Word and the sacraments.” And in Baptism and Communion, the power is God’s Word. This is a famous parable, a fascinating one, a favorite of many. If it’s one of our favorites, let it be for the right reasons! Let it not be the interesting details. Let it be the truths of God. We, too, have the Word of God, the guide for using possessions – for us and for all. We, too, have the Word of God, the means to change hearts – our hearts and the hearts of all. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Make Good Use of What God Has Given You
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 13, 2019
Order of Service: The Common Service, page 15
Hymns: 239, 421, 384 & 460, 485
First Lesson: Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 38 (page 81)
Second Lesson: 1 Timothy 2:1-8
Gospel Lesson: Luke 16:1-13
Make Good Use of What God Has Given You
I. Shrewd use
II. Spiritual use
In the name of Jesus, our priceless Treasure because He is our only Savior, fellow redeemed, At first, the plot of this parable sounds like that of a trashy TV show. Estate manager lies – and still gets praised by his boss! Doesn’t it tick you off to see the wicked in our world win? The crooked prosper? High school dropouts get rich with some shady scheme? Cheaters in school make the honor roll? What lessons do such situations teach us? Well, isn’t Jesus teaching the same sort of lessons here? This is the most troubling of all our Lord’s parables. Had it been taught by a sinful human, we’d write it off as foolish nonsense. But our sinless Savior, true man and true God!, said it. And so we listen! Since God makes no mistakes, since God would never instruct us to do anything that would harm us or promote sin, we listen. We listen even – and especially – to this seemingly twisted, apparently unethical parable – and we learn from what Jesus teaches here! What lesson is Christ teaching here? It has to do with stewardship – managing what we have been given. We are to make good use of what God has given us. And the good uses taught here are shrewd use and spiritual use of what God gives us.
You didn’t forget the parts of this story during our confession of faith and singing All depends on our possessing / God’s abundant grace and blessing, did you? The main character is a businessman accused of wasting his rich master’s plentiful possessions. The trouble the manager got himself into was deserved. He never protested, “But I’m innocent!” He knew the charges against him were legitimate. The manager also knew he couldn’t raise enough money to cover what he’d wasted. “I am not strong enough to dig, so manual labor is out of the question as a way to earn money. I am ashamed to beg (v. 3) like the poor and destitute. And what are the chances anyone will ever hire me again as a manager – or to any position of responsibility? I’ve wrecked my life!” He had no one but himself to blame, right? Then he hatched a devious plan. While the manager still had access to his master’s books, he rounded up others who owed the master money. He had them drastically alter their debts to make it appear they owed less. That would be good news for those who owed money. It would be a great advantage for the manager who was about to be fired. “When I am removed from my position as manager, people will receive me into their homes (v 4). They will feel they owe me a place to stay and food to eat because I got their debt to our master reduced.” What’s disturbing comes at the end of Jesus’ story. “The master commended the dishonest manager” (v. 8). How in all the world could a wealthy man who had just been swindled out of as much oil as would be produced by four hundred fifty olive trees, and as much as the yield of nearly one hundred acres of wheat, praise the crook who swindled him? Was the master out of his mind? Didn’t he care that a sizable chunk of his money was gone? Was he so rich that it didn’t matter? The Savior doesn’t answer those questions because those questions don’t pertain to the point He teaches here. Christ wants us to read more closely. Yes, the manager had wasted his master’s possessions. But “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8). Not honestly, but “shrewdly”. The dishonest manager had a problem. He realized the problem. He made a careful plan to take care of the problem. That is the point of this parable from Jesus. Jesus certainly doesn’t condone anyone’s wastefulness, dishonesty, or shady deals. He declares all that sin. That doesn’t change. The lesson is, Make shrewd use of the gifts God has given you. “The children of this world (v. 8), unbelievers, may be less than truthful, dishonest, downright sneaky. But they are shrewd when it comes to getting what they want. If only My people, the children of the light (v. 8) who love Me, were so shrewd!” Is the Redeemer overreacting? No! Is Christ’s criticism correct? Yes! He’s never wrong! It’s true that the world pursues its greedy goals and rushes after its selfish successes with cold, heartless efficiency. Too often we believers go about our Father’s saving work half-heartedly. Worldly-minded unbelievers use their money for their own advantage. Do we believers at times put God’s kingdom matters on the back burner, low on the priority list, at the end of our items to do today? The lesson from the King of the Kingdom here is this: “I’ve given You children of Mine ample gifts. Use them shrewdly!”
Hold it! Is that really the lesson here? Doesn’t God often warn us about money, possessions, wealth? No. God never warns us about money, possessions, wealth. He gives us money, possessions, wealth. He warns us about loving money, possessions, wealth – about trusting them more than Him. The Savior teaches us here to make good use of what He’s given us. The most Godly use is spiritual use of what He’s given us. “Make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings” (v. 9). “Mammon” is a Hebrew word for what a person trusts. The sinful self shouts, Eat, drink, be merry! Don’t make friends with your money. Use money on yourself! That’s the attitude God hates. “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). But money is a gift from God to us. He wants us to use it in ways that please and honor Him. “The person who is faithful with very little is also faithful with much. And the person who is unrighteous with very little is also unrighteous with much. So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mamon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something to be your own” (vv. 10- 12)? Jesus steers our attention from the wastefulness of the manager to the light of His truth about faithfulness from us who are blessed by God. Not just blessed with wealth, but also with the greatest Gift of all: Jesus the Savior and trust in Him! God made us richer than we could ever have hoped to be when He brought us into His family through trust in Jesus for forgiveness of our sins. Nothing else in the world matters more than that! But He has showered us with more than that! We have the additional blessings of having more than enough to live on. How do we use our God-given wealth? Spiritually? Some times not. How many of us have admitted to God our sins of being content to give Him only our leftover time and leftover dollars? God wants our firstfruits, our first and best! We have the greatest mission of all. Not eliminating world hunger. Not establishing peace in the Middle East. Not wiping out cancer. But the mission that has to do with “eternal dwellings” for ourselves and loved ones and neighbors and strangers. We have God-given opportunities to make friends – not just for our enjoyment in this life, but for His family forever! The Savior tells us some day this life will be over. If we grab the moment with spiritual priorities, as shrewdly as the people of the world do to secure rusting treasures, we will be used by the Holy Spirit to make an “eternal” difference. But if we see only worldly uses of what God gives us, eternity for souls means little to us. We make best use of what God gives us when we join our spiritual trust to our earthly treasures, use all we’ve been given for the spiritual blessings of ourselves and others. Some day souls won for the Lord by the Lord’s suffering hell for the world, souls won by His gospel as His “children” make shrewd and spiritual use of what He has given them, will greet us in our heavenly home. “Thank you!”, they will tell us. “Thank you for using that money and time and ability to tell us about the only Savior!” Will some of those souls be our own children? Do we show at home that things spiritual and “eternal” are more important than what is worldly and entertaining? Do priorities set and lessons taught at home center on what is most valuable? Do the people around us get the idea we use what God has given us to satisfy ourselves? Or to work in God’s kingdom? Do our efforts show we are energetic about God’s kingdom work? Or apathetic about it? Martin Luther laid it on the line to Wittenberg believers when he preached on these verses almost five hundred years ago. “If a farmer, a townsman, a merchant, a miser, this woman, that maid are able to serve the devil with such diligence and allow no drudgery to weary them, why should I not, too, be willing to serve my Lord, whom I am to enjoy forever, in the same way? They rush about as if they were insane, yet they are merely pursuing their eternal harm and ruin. Why, then, am I, where my soul’s salvation is concerned, so sluggish and sleepy that God must drag me to it by the hair? Why, I ought to spit at myself for not even creeping toward heaven, while those folk rush and run to hell the way they do. Look at the manager in these verses, a man of whom greed has really taken possession! You will find that his thoughts grant him rest neither day nor night; all his pondering and planning are directed to making money. Now we should learn to interest ourselves in the eternal with the earnestness with which a miser interests himself in money. But where do you find the Christian who does so? Where? Right here! We are driven by the Lord and His Word to make faithful, shrewd, and spiritual use of what He gives us. May all our individual and congregational uses of what God gives us reflect what God has done for us: sent His Son to forgive sins, to declare sinners Not guilty, to open the gates of heaven to us in Christ. When that is at the center of our hearts in all we decide and do, then the Master who gave Himself for us is always more important than the things He gives us. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss
St. Michael & All Angels
St. Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2019
Hymns 550, 198, 434, 587
First Lesson: Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Psalm 91 (page 100)
Second Lesson: Revelation 12:7-12
Gospel Lesson: Luke 10:17-20
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
God Makes His Angels Our Helpers, Not Our Heroes
I. God’s angels are sent by their Maker
II. God’s angels help believers in the Savior
In the name of Jesus, the only Savior, fellow redeemed, God had Paul write in Romans, “They have traded the truth about God for the lie, worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator, who is worthy of praise forever” (1:25). That divine disgust must be kept in mind on this St. Michael and All Angels Sunday. Well-intentioned ideas make more of created angels than should be made of them. Two examples: Angels are not mini-deities who deserve praise; we join angels to praise their Leader and our God. And what is read in some obituaries is wrong. When believers in Christ die, the believer’s soul does not get wings, does not become an angel in heaven to watch over us on earth. In heaven, angels are angels and souls stay souls – until the Last Day when the body of the believer is joined to the believer’s soul in heaven forever. The goal of the Christian Church’s minor festival of St. Michael and All Angels is to grow in knowing what God tells us about angels and what God uses His angels to do for us. What God’s angels are like and what God uses His angels to do are truths far different from the angles about angels dreamed up in movies and shows, books and human imagination. God makes His angels our helpers, not our heroes. His angels are sent by their Maker, and His angels help believers in the Savior.
Much mystery about angels melts when we realize God created them – just as He did Adam and Eve, the sun and trees and everything in the universe on one of the six twenty-four hour days of creation. Therefore, angels aren’t free to do what they wish. As creatures, the angels are subject to Him who made them. The angels do only what God wants them to do. Well, that’s true of the good angels; more about evil angels later. God made angels immortal beings who exist throughout history and into eternity to serve Him. He created them without gender; angels don’t reproduce. The number of angels remains the same in every century; there are likely billions of them. God made them all equally good and holy, and at first they were able to sin or not to sin. God created them spirits, living beings without flesh and bones. In a few instances they took on a visible form. God showed angels to a few in the Old Testament as having wings to teach the Jews and us how swiftly angels travel when He sends them. But in their essence, angels are invisible. All that from God’s Word helps us know why God made them. Angels are not decorations; God made them to serve Him. God doesn’t need angels to help Him. He’s God! He can keep the world and its inhabitants alive and well all by Himself! But it pleased God to have angels praise Him, and to move throughout His world as He sends them, not as they decide to go. That’s part of this text. You know some lessons from this book of the Bible: three men in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den. Those were four of thousands of Jews who’d been led from Israel as prisoners of war to Babylon (modern-day Iraq). God gave them trust in Him alone when Babylonian laws declared faith in God alone illegal. God gave Daniel the ability to interpret strange dreams and to make wise decisions. God’s blessings made Daniel “a highly valued man” (v. 11). Here, God pulls back His curtain to show us a bit of what goes on in the spiritual realm, including how angels are sent by their Maker. Daniel was troubled, “trembling” (v. 10), “shaking” (v. 12). Daniel had wondered for seventy years whether Israel would ever get back to the Holy Land. Well, God had allowed the Jews to return a few years earlier, while Daniel stayed in Babylon to work for God there. But enemies of the Jews were blocking Israel from rebuilding God’s temple and resettling there. That wasn’t just a struggle for power. Daniel had poured out his heart, God, if Your chosen people can’t live in the land You gave us and where You promise the Messiah will be born, will we – or any sinners ever – even have a Savior? God, taking the form of a man in this vision to Daniel, showed Daniel a supernatural struggle taking place: “an officer (an evil angel) of the kingdom of Persia was standing against Me for twenty-one days. Yet Michael, one of the chief officers, came to help Me” (v. 13). God had used the Persian government to help Israelites return home. But Satan sent an evil angel to gum up God’s work among His chosen people there. What a comfort for Daniel to know that God sent “Michael” (v. 13), a chief angel from heaven, to Israel to fight for God’s people and plans. Five hundred years later, the Savior, was born in Bethlehem, David’s town in Israel, just as promised. God’s angels don’t assign themselves to tasks or people. They go as God sends them, when God sends them, where God sends them. God created angels to assist in the work of His Church. God sent angels to Mary and Joseph, to the shepherds, to the women at the tomb – all to announce great news to believers at Christmas and Easter. God sent angels to free various apostles from jail. God’s angels still fight for His people. What a comfort to know God’s angels are sent by their Maker to serve Him behind the scenes! We don’t praise angels, but Him who made them and sends them. He, not His angels, is our Hero!
The devil wants our St. Michael and All Angels study to get us thinking more of angels than of their Maker. As a fallen angel himself, Satan knows what the Savior has done, the victory the Savior has won, for every sinner. The devil wants to divorce us from Jesus. Though God doesn’t need help, He uses His angels, sending them to help believers in the Savior. The good angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the benefit of those who are going to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Our lesson didn’t include Daniel Chapter 11. Take some time to read it later today. In that chapter God showed Daniel three kingdoms would arise in the Middle East in the near and more distant future. History records King Xerxes of Persia came to power, then his empire was defeated by Alexander the Great who established the Greek Empire, which in time was overthrown by the Roman Empire. All that happened just as God foretold here He would cause those kingdoms to rise and fall! Where in this parade of nations was Israel? Through all that rising and falling, Israel was kept safe by the LORD so the great King over all kings, Jesus, would be born where He promised! Not His angels, but God, is our Hero. Jesus came to earth to do more than protect us. He came to live, die, and rise to save us! With all the head-spinning events in our nation and around the world today, some political observers say, It’s a madhouse out there! Not true. The world is really an arena, a battlefield where conflict constantly rages between the forces of God and the forces against God. By ourselves, we are no match. But God is in control! He sent “Michael, the great prince who stands over your people, to arise… Your people, Daniel, will be delivered, along with everyone who is found written in the book” (v. 1). Behind the scenes God sends Michael and other angels to help believers. What a comfort! God uses His angels to protect us! But the greatest comfort is that God used His blood to write our names in “the book”, His family register! The threats of those enemies will stop when God returns! Then, those “who are sleeping in the dusty ground will awake, some to everlasting life” (v. 2). In the resurrection on the Last Day, God’s people will rise to live with God in the “life” that is perfect and never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever ends! But “some to shame, to everlasting contempt” (v. 2). Those who spend and end their time on earth evading God will hear God say, “You wanted to be without Me. Now be without Me – forever! Be without me – in shame!” Many of them picture God as a lovable deity who’d never do more than slap sinners on the wrist. That’s not who God says He is. His flood at Noah’s day makes Friday night’s rain look like a mist. His scorching of sexually immoral Sodom and Gomorrah make fall wildfires in California look like a tiny spark. His throwing of wicked Queen Jezebel to the dogs shows that the one true God will not be mocked and dare not be offended! Those who refuse Him, who resist Him, who rebel against Him will see forever just how powerful He is, and how true to His Word He is! The last two verses of our lesson don’t have much to do with angels. That’s God’s point! The good angels aren’t our heroes; they are helpers of the Savior! Jesus, and the Father, and the Spirit are our one victorious God. To Him be all glory and praise! And to Him, all sinners are to be led. “Those who have His insight will shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who bring many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever” (v. 3). From God’s Word we have learned to recognize our sinfulness, as well as our Savior from sin – the Savior confessed publicly by our newest members this morning! When temptations fly all around us to be like the sinful world, it isn’t easy to live as God’s children holding to all God’s Word and keeping all God’s laws. But God helps us – and sends His angels to protect us – as we live like His lights in this sindarkened world. Who do we know who needs to see Jesus as the Way – the sure Way and the only Way – into God’s family? May God richly bless our work to use His Word to “bring them to the light of Christ’s righteousness” won by Him for them, for us, for all! Exactly how Michael fits into the hierarchy of God’s angels we aren’t told. But what Michael and all the good angels do for us, we are told. God made them to help us. But we need more than angels. We need God’s help in His Word and Sacrament as He keeps us in the faith that the rotten angel and his helpers in hell want to shove out of our hearts. We need God’s help from His holy angels to protect us from harm, as God used Michael and other holy angels to protect the people of Israel when they returned to the Holy Land where the Savior would be born. When Satan whispers that this world is out of control, even out of God’s control, we tell him to get behind us. He’s only an angel, and the evil one who’s been crushed by the Savior. Today, and often, we thank God for His holy angels and their work as their Makes sends them! Today, and always!, we praise our Hero, our Savior-God who has done all the work to rescue us from hell and to win for us “everlasting life”. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss