Edward Brockwell
  • "Give Me Your Son," by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    "Give Me Your Son"

    Sermon Preached by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on 1 Kings 17:17-24

    September 22, 2007,
    Jyväskylä, Finland

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    Dear friends in Christ Jesus. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2). Amen.

    1 Kings, chapter 17, gives us a clear understanding of why God executes judgment upon a nation, even when that nation is His own people. Our minds cannot begin to understand how loathsome man’s sins are to God. Throughout Israel’s history there were times when sin, iniquity and evil seemed to have simply run rampant. It was in these difficult times that God raised up prophets whom He sent to speak His words. The prophets called people to repentance. Sometimes the call to repentance fell on deaf ears. God’s appointed spokesmen then had to announce words of judgement. God hates what is evil because He loves people. Thus God has to intervene in the lives of men. He is both “just” and “loving” when He has to deal with sin.

    Our text for today has much to say about God’s love. It speaks about God’s election by grace and of His providence in our lives, viz., how He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” and “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Room. 8:28). May God open our eyes to see that He also loves and cares for us.

    Our text begins with Elijah’s proclamation of judgement to King Ahab. When Ahab ascended the throne of Israel the religious life in Israel took a nosedive, it took a giant step into wickedness. Ahab earned for himself the following distinction given in verse 30, in chapter 16: “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.” He was a wicked king, and his wife Jezebel was also very wicked. She was devoted to the Phoenician and Canaanite false god, Baal. She was determined to make Baal the official god in Israel and eradicate the worship of Jehovah, Israel’s true God. Jezebel put some muscle into her plans by having temples and shrines erected throughout Israel. She also had the true prophets of Israel hunted down and killed. The religious life of Israel was threatened with extinction!

    Into this dire situation God sent Elijah, who is one of the most remarkable men in Scripture. He came out of the desert and confronted Ahab and challenged the prophets of Baal. By this time in Israel’s history the Jews had become polytheistic, which means they worshipped many gods. They would worship both the Lord God of Israel and idols that were made by the hands of men. Baal was known as the god of rain and agriculture. Israel treated the Lord God as if He were the God of the desert. Elijah then pronounced God’s judgement on Ahab, saying: “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

    God then sent Elijah to a place called Brook Cherith. There “the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook” (verse 6). But as the drought went on, the brook dried up and Elijah lost his water supply. So, God gave Elijah these instructions: “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (vs. 9). Here we have an example of God’s love. In His providence and through His grace God chose a gentile widow to serve Elijah with food and shelter. It is amazing, that even in the midst of Israel’s idolatry, the wickedness of its leaders, and now the drought that caused much suffering, God’s love was at work. He chose a lowly Gentile widow of Zarephath, one who wasn’t wealthy nor did she have the resources to take care of Elijah. Notice that God did not choose any of the many widows in Israel. Jesus reminded the religious leaders that salvation is not earned but comes as a result of God’s grace and election. It is the work of God, not man’s. He said: “but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow” (Luke 4:26).

    Things could not be any bleaker. However, Elijah spoke to her with these words: “Do not fear” (vs. 13). These are God’s words, which we find throughout the Scriptures. These words were spoken by His prophets, proclaimed by angels, and by our Lord Jesus Christ. Elijah was not speaking his own words but God’s words to this widow. God’s Word is powerful, they are creative, meaning, they create what is spoken. Take for example how in difficult situations you often hear someone say, “Oh, don’t worry, things will be OK.” But, those are human words and no matter how sincere or how many times you tell a person to not worry; you cannot dispel their fears and doubts. Things are completely different with God’s Word. He only needed to speak and He brought all of creation into existence. God’s Word creates faith; His Word is “living and active” (Heb 4:12). Elijah was a mere, mortal man sent by God to widow of Zarephath. However, the words he spoke were life-giving words, words that would create faith in the widow. God word put the widow’s fears to flight. They would bring peace to her soul, a peace that she had never known before. Such is the power of the Word. This same powerful and creative word is spoken to us by our pastors. God has also sent them, but the power is in the Word of God. He has chosen us, and speaks to us in His mighty Word.

    Elijah then bids the widow to do something strange, he told the widow to feed him first, and then she and her son could eat later. However, Elijah’s words were followed with a promise: “For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘he bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth’” (vs. 14). Through the preaching of Word these ‘faith-giving’ and ‘miracle-producing’ words enabled the widow to believe that God was faithful to His word and promises.

    “Some time later...” the situation changed. “... the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him” (vs. 17). The widow at Zarephath had been through a lot, both bad and good. Oh, how her heart had to be abounding with hope and with life. But then suddenly, her son died and so does her thankfulness. She had some very harsh words for Elijah: “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” She blames the prophet, accusing him of killing her son. She also accuses herself, thinking the death of her son had something to do with her past and her sins.

    Elijah tells the widow, “Give me your son.” This son was all that this woman really had in life. I am sure that she was depending on him to take care of her in her old age. “So [Elijah] took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” Elijah now tells God what the widow told him, “You killed her son!” Nevertheless, he looked beyond what he saw and felt and trusted in God.

    Elijah then “… stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him” (vs. 21). The child was restored to life, Elijah returned him to his mother, saying: “See, your son is alive” (vs. 23). The widow then made this confession of faith: “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth” (vs. 24). Dear friends, such simple faith confesses to the truthfulness of God’s Word!

    What can we learn from Elijah and widow of Zarephath? God permitted all that had happened; the drought, facing death through starvation the death of the widow’s son. All of these things happened, but they happened according to God’s permissive will. He allows things to happen in our lives, as well. Of course, God is NOT the Author of evil; He does not start wars, He is not cause or the agent of suffering, He does not willy-nilly give people cancer. However, whatever God permits He is also working in these things for good!

    God is the author of good, of faith and in saving those who despair of life. The widow of Zarephath was not looking for God, but God came to her through the preaching of the Word. God began a good work in her, but her young faith needed to grow stronger. And the same is true with us. The trials in life are never meant to hurt. If anything, they come to strengthen our faith and not to destroy it. It is in our trials that God is at work. We are reminded of the verse in Scripture that reads: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

    The widow at Zarephath, her son, and even Elijah experienced great suffering. We remember how the widow blamed Elijah for her son’s death, thinking that his was on account of her sins. Then we heard how Elijah, one of the most famous of all prophets, he too, questioned God. Elijah certain had feet of clay. And even this man of God needed his faith to be tested. Elijah would later face the death of God’s prophets because of Jezebel, who was eagerly seeking to kill Elijah. Elijah wanted to give up and die. Yes, his faith was being tested while staying with the widow of Zarephath.

    Faith is tested and strengthened through trials. It does not hold to what it sees or understands. The widow’s faith was sustained and strengthened through the preaching of the Word. She needed the creative power of God’s Word, working faith in her. She needed to hear “Do not fear” from God Himself. Oh, how we need to hear such words ourselves. Everything depends on the Word.

    The real time of testing came for the widow through the death of her son. There were angry words, there was fear concerning past sins. Nevertheless, it was faith that enabled the widow to give her son to Elijah. The same is true for us. A lot of things happen in our lives. Being a Christian does not exempt us from trials and tribulations. Some Christians have actually many troubles simply because of their faith. Again, think of Elijah. He was the one person that Jezebel wanted to silence the most.

    Dear Christians, God has been sustaining your faith through the preaching of the Word, and He is doing so right this very moment. Are you in the midst of trial? Do you find your faith being tested? The widow was strengthened in her faith and so are we. God gives us faith so that we may GIVE HIM OUR TROUBLES! Again, the Apostle Peter reminds us: “[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps for some among us, your sins have come to your remembrance, you find it hard to let go of the past. God bids you to give Him your sins and not try to deal with them through your works or through wrestling in prayer. Again, we remember how Elijah bid the widow to give him her son. And, that she did. She did not hold on to him. This was because God was at work in her life through the Word. Her faith was sorely tried, but she believed and did as Elijah said.

    Oh, dear friends, God has given you faith! Yes, you have faith. Jesus is the Author of that faith and He will bring it to completion! Jesus dealt with our sins on cross. Like the prophetic act of Elijah, stretching himself over the corpse of the boy three times, we remember how actions and prophecies of all the prophets pointed to Jesus, Who stretched Himself over our sins in His body on the cross. Through His innocent suffering and death in our place He has removed our sins, the memory of our sins, and all of the guilt of our sins. His death meant that we would live forever as His own in the light of His forgiveness. Oh, dear friends, when I think of how the widow of Zarephath struggled with the memory of her sins, I think of song that we sing in English. As I close, let me read you the precious words of this hymn. It sums up what we have heard and learned from our text today.

     

     

    I lay my sins on Jesus,

    The spotless Lamb of God;

    He bears them all and frees us

    From the accursed load.

    I bring my guilt to Jesus

    To wash my crimson stains

    White in His blood most precious

    Till not a spot remains.

     

    I lay my wants on Jesus,

    All fulness dwells in Him;

    He healeth my diseases,

    He doth my soul redeem.

    I lay my griefs on Jesus,

    My burdens and my cares;

    He from them all releases,

    He all my sorrows shares.

     

    “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

    "I Lay My Sins on Jesus" by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1899

    Text From:

    THE LUTHERAN HYMNAL

    (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941).

  • "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

    Based on Matthew 9:1-8

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

     1Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." 3And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5"Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? 6"But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" – then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." 7And he got up and went home. 8But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8 NKJV

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7). To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood (Revelation 1:5b). Amen.

    One the most beautiful of all the accounts of Jesus' healings in the New Testament is that of the paralytic in Capernaum. When the people there heard that Jesus had come, large crowds began to gather. So much so, that there was no room left to gather to hear Jesus, not even outside the door. Some men came, carrying with them a paralytic. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, they lowered the bed that the paralyzed man was lying on. "We see in the action of these four men evidence of both their faith and of their love. God grant that we may always act in faith and love in the case of our sick ones" (Carl Manthey-Zorn).

    The paralytic was laid before Jesus' feet. Scripture does not record him as saying even a word to Jesus, or making any request. He lay there quietly and looked at our Lord. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" (vs. 2).

    Jesus words were the answer to the longing of faith which He saw in the soul of the paralytic, and even his four friends, for we are told expressly that Jesus saw their faith. When we experience severe sickness or troubles in life we often begin to think or reflect on our lives and we become conscious of our sins. Ever since man fall into by the seduction of Satan, sin in turn robbed man of many things, it "hurled him from the peak of the most blessed good fortune into darkness, death, and ruin, and made this world an arena of misery" (C.F.W. Walther). The justice of God has required that man and nature suffer. The fields have their thorns and thistles. Man and beast have their diseases. All must die.

    The suffering of the paralytic, however, was not due to any one particular sin. His paralysis did not mean that he was a worse sinner than any of his four friends, or any among the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus. But there he was, lying at Jesus' feet. Looking at the Savior, he probably began to think of not only the need for his body to be healed, he also saw himself as a sinner, and that his greatest need was the healing of his soul. Jesus saw his faith and so He took care of the more important healing first and said, "Son; your sins are forgiven." Here we have an example of the power of absolution and how it affects our lives just as did the paralytic.

    However, C.F.W. Walther makes a good point of how Jesus speaks and applies the forgiveness of sins directly and personally to troubled sinners. Walther noted that Jesus "usually proclaimed His grace to sinners in general. For example, when He wanted to comfort the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, He said only that "the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). But on the occasion recounted in today's text, he spoke the forgiveness of sins directly to a highly troubled sinner. Why didn't He speak the general preaching that every penitent can obtain forgiveness?"

    "The reason is not difficult to find. The paralytic was so frightened by his sins that they created more affliction for him than even his severe sickness, and he was thus in need of a special comfort. For another example of this, consider Christ's dealing with a very sinful woman. When, with a contrite heart she drew near to Jesus, crying bitterly, wetting His feet with her hot tears, and drying them with the hair of her head, Christ did not tell her that grace is for all sinners. Instead, He turned to her and said, "Your sins for forgiven"" (Luke 7:48).

    "Here we see the very special comfort" Walther writes, "that lies in private absolution. This not, of course, the only means by which God speaks forgiveness to the sinner, for He also does this by the general preaching of the Gospel, by the giving of Holy Baptism, and by the eating and drinking of the body and blood of His Son in the Holy Supper. Whoever in faith, holds firmly to these three testimonies of God’s grace toward all penitent sinners has the forgiveness of sins and can be joyfully certain of it. But Christians know from experience that even among those who hold God’s Word as true, those who do not doubt that God wants to be gracious to all sinners when they believe, there can be doubt in an individual's heart as to whether he, too, is in this happy state. When that happens, he may need to be comforted with more than general promises of grace."

    I am sure that we, too, need to be comforted. We see and feel our sins, which bite and gnaw and frighten us. We turn to the Scriptures and read of such sinners as David, Manasseh, and Peter, and how they obtained forgiveness. However, our doubts get the better of us, we begin to say within our hearts, "Yes, if I were a David or a Peter and my repentance were as thorough as theirs, then I might well believe that my sins, too, have been forgiven" (Walther). We might also read in our Bibles or hear the pastor preach of how God does not desire the death of any sinner, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom, [Paul said], I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15). We remember also of those familiar verses, such how "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). But, are there not times when someone might be so focused on their sins that they begin to struggle with terrible doubts.

    One might think, 'Yes, God wants to save others, but my sins are too great and terrible. I have excluded myself from any possibility of being forgiven.' Perhaps one might hear a forceful and powerful sermon that proclaims the riches of God's grace and mercy for all. He hears of the kindness of Christ and of His faithfulness as the Good Shepherd that seeks for lost sheep, and His burning desire for the salvation of the greatest of sinners, the lowest of the low. However, one may still doubt all of this, he remains assailed with the devil's fiery darts and begins to think, 'Oh, if only I could know and believe that God has such a burning desire ever for me and for my salvation!' Many Christians, yes, even you and me, are there not times when we doubt? Do we not sometimes wish that Jesus would personally come to us? We wish that He would say and do to us what He did to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."

    Christ said to the apostles, and consequently to His whole Church, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them…" (John 20:23 NKJV), "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19). Again, Walther wrote, "When a Christian receives and rests upon private absolution, is he not raised above all doubt? Must he not say that when forgiveness is spoken to him in Christ's name, it is just as if Christ himself had come down from heaven and spoken it to him with His own mouth? What more certain comfort can there be than when it says, "your sins are forgiven" when Christ has declared that such an utterance shall also be valid in heaven (Matthew 9:2)?"

    What can be more precious to a troubled soul than the words of absolution from our Lord? But we might ask, "How are we to use this truth in our daily lives?" Do we just do nothing and keep this precious gift to ourselves while we wait to be brought to heaven? I see three things that our Lord would have each of us do. First, we diligently continue to "keep" our Lord’s words. "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death" (John 8:51). Martin Luther taught that this means that we are to firmly believe in our hearts that with Christ’s sufferings and death, and with His crimson blood shed on the tree of the cross, He has submerged, drowned, strangled and destroyed our sin. The faith that Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the Word is such a faith that holds firmly to the Word, and living one's life in the light of God’s Word.

    Secondly, as Christians we don’t use God’s forgiveness as a license to sin, as if we can go ahead and sin and simply think that all we have to do is ask for God’s forgiveness. Indeed, God’s grace is not a license to sin, but quite to the contrary (Romans 6:1-12). The apostle Paul tells us, "We should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin" (Romans 6:6, 7). Therefore, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).

    Absolution is simply an announcement and the delivery of God's forgiveness, it is a pardon from God, just as pardon is given to a prisoner and he set free. "But how would it help a prisoner if he heard that he is pardoned but then refused to leave the prison and exercise his freedom? It would not help him at all. So it is with the forgiveness of sins, which can be spoken to us both by every preacher of the Gospel and by every Christian. If we want to use this forgiveness rightly, we must depart from the prison of our sins. We do this by heartily accepting our absolution, by comforting our self in it. In other words, it is by maintaining a firm and certain faith" (Walther).

    Lastly, absolution, the proclamation of God’s forgiveness of our sins, it lifts our eyes away from our self, our past sins and our guilty conscience. God's words of absolution enable us to forgive ourselves of our sins. A reason why so many find it hard to break away from sin and a guilty conscience is because they cannot forgive themselves. If we do not forgive ourselves, then how can we protect ourselves from the devil’s accusations? How can we sever the cord by which Satan binds us to sin? How can our hearts ever be changed? Absolution is believing God, believing His Word and His forgiveness. It is in the means of grace — in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Holy Sacraments, in the spoken Word of Holy Absolution — the Holy Spirit works and sustains such a childlike faith that enables us place all our faults, sins, and shortcomings on the shoulders of our merciful Lord. We offer God our highest praise, and give Him the great honor and worship by listening to the words of absolution rather than listening to our depressed and sinful conscience. Such faith doesn't focus on our sins or on our past. Rather, it receives what God places in our hearts, namely, His forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through absolution the Holy Spirit works in us a certainty of the incomprehensible and inexpressible mercy and love of God toward us. It us assures us that our merciful heavenly Father saw that we were oppressed by the curse of the law and held under it. On our own and through our efforts and strength, we never could have freed ourselves. But God did in sending His Son. For God so the world, so great was His love for us and for you, that He put all the sins of all the people on Jesus. Though Jesus was without sin, He became sin for us and reconciled us to God.

    Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, these are God’s means to get our eyes off our sins, and onto Christ. Absolution is God's way of redirecting our lives from a life of sin, guilt and estrangement, to life of faith expressing itself in love. Absolution works faith, a faith than now permits God to do good to us, and thus, it works love in us to do good to our brother. "Love does to its neighbor as it sees Christ has done to us. This is the Christian life" (Luther). Absolution is true voice of God, the voice of our loving Father that speaks to you and to me personally. It is loving voice that says, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" (vs. 2). We, too, are absolutely awestruck; we cannot help but glorify God, "had given such power to men" (vs. 8). Amen.

     

     


     

     

     

  • Christ died for us

    Pastor Edward Brockwell's presentation at Theologian Day in 27.2.2010 in Helsinki

  • Colossians 1:14-23, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Guilt is feelings of shame and failure. It can drive us to punish ourselves in various ways.  People filled with guilt usually view God as a mean and overbearing judge. We feel His anger over sins and that the only way to appease Him is to try to be good, to do good works. However, we only see His standards as impossible to achieve and we have no chance to please Him. Such thoughts bring on a feeling of hopeless about the situation and a sense of dread of what we will experience when we die. For many people, they resign themselves to living in His disapproval. Such people are without peace! Or, the peace that they have is a false one, one that is regulated by efforts to please God, to atone for sin.

    Fortunately, today’s text tells us of what God did for us in Christ Jesus! We were once alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our sins. But, God, who is rich in grace, sent His only-begotten Son to save us! He saved us from our sins, our guilt, our alienation and hostile feelings in our minds toward God. In Him “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14). “For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (vss. 19 through 22).

  • Ettette ole millään katoavaisella, ette hopealla ettekä kullalla, lunastetut turhasta, isiltä peritystä vaelluksestanne, vaan Kristuksen kalliilla verellä

    Pastori Kimmo Närhin lukee pastori Edward Brockwellin päätöshartauden Pääsiäisjuhlassa 5.4.2015 Lahdessa

  • God gives his grace through the means of grace

    Rev. Edward Brockwell, Presentation in CLCF Theologian day 4.4.2009

  • God's Unending Grace toward Us, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Jyväskylä, Finland

    1 Kings 17:8-16

    God’s Unending Grace toward Us

    Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

     

    8Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9"Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you."  10So he arose and went to Zarephath.  And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks.  And he called to her and said, "Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink."  11And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."  12So she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."  13And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son.  14"For thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.' "  15So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days.  16The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.

     Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)  Amen.

     In our preciousSavior, beloved hearers!

    In our text for today we have a wonderful account of how God is for us, not against us.  He demonstrates this through His unending grace toward us.  It has no limit. God lavishes it upon us through Christ Jesus our Lord, though we may have to bearall sorts of crosses, losses and trials throughoutour lives.  Our text demonstrates that God accomplishes all things[1] for us according to His will. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28).  He"upholds all things by the word of His power." (Hebrews 1:3).  Through His Word that God pours out His blessings and unending grace toward us.

    Our text begins with adevastating and widespread famine, onethat threatened not only the survival of a widow in Zarephath, but also the northern kingdom of Israel, its surrounding regions, and even the prophet Elijah.  This faminewas not just an extraordinarily hot summer, but rather, it was gruelling, day to day crisis that lasted a few years.  Yet, there was an even worse famine taking place at the same time.  It was much like that which prophet Amos had prophesied centuries later: "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD" (Amos 8:11). 

     Furthermore, the true worship and word of God were put aside.  The wicked King Ahab, who married Jezebel, served and worshipped Baal.  The nation and its leaders made their choice, they rejected God's word; they turned from truth and embraced man-made idols.  What was God to do?  His people were seton a path of wickedness and unbelief that wouldlead only to death and destruction.  Such is always the case when people do notheed the commandment of the Lord: "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3).  Indeed, our Gospel lesson for today reveals why this commandment is so, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24).  Anything thata person fears, loves or trustsmore than God will only cause one to despise and reject God altogether.  All idolatry is dangerous. 

     Thus, the people of God were on a collision course headed for disaster.  God had to get them to see the error of their ways.  But God delights in mercy (Micah 7:18).  He wanted them to know His love and grace, and to repent of their ways and return unto Him.  Israel was not listening, so the Lord sent his called servant Elijah.  He announced that there would bea famine, that there shall not be dew nor rain except at the command of God's word.  The Lord would take care of Elijah in special ways during the drought and years of famine, even if it meant that He would send ravens to deliver food to Elijah.

     Finally, even the Brook Cherith,that sustained Elijah with water, dried up.  The word of the Lord came to Elijah: "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." (vs.9).  Notice how God works through His Word.  God's grace did not end with the unbelief of Ahab and the nation of Israel.  God was at work, even through a famine whereby many would face starvation and death.  He wanted to bring His people to their senses and know Him as God, their only God.  His grace does not stop or dry up because of man's sin and unbelief.  But for the moment, it was time for God to miraculously provide for Elijah, commanding him to go to Zarephath, where God's unending grace would provide a widow to feed him.  Even in difficult times, when it seems as though there are no alternatives to hardships and no answers in sight, God has a plan and God is at work.  God’s plans are so great that He not only helped Elijah, but all along he would care for a poor widow, both physically and spiritually.

     Elijah went to Zarephath. "He came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks" (v. 10). Our text for today is an exciting and powerful example of how God's grace, love and concern are for all people.   He reaches out to the lowly, to those who appear as utterly insignificant and unknown.  So intent is God in reaching out with his grace and salvation thatHe even reached out to the widow of Zarephath with His unending grace.  She was not among God's chosen people.  She lived among people who worshiped the god Baal.  Such an idol is totally incapable of hearing people’s prayers and helping them in deep sorrow, for it is nothing more thanan idol made by man.  The false gods that were commonplace in Zarephath offered no comfort orhope, especially in the midst of the famine.  They are simply figments of human imagination and can give no support to those who cry to them.  Yet here is one woman among many, a despairing widow, who had given up all hope of living and waswaiting to die. 

     Hopelessness and despair, these are the things that person is left when he serves mammon in the place of God.  Worry and despair becomes the forms of worship that person will give to the false god of mammon.  Such worship is nothing less than an unbelieving, anxiousness focuson the things this world. But faith, however,it is the worship of the true God.  Through preaching of the Word, God works in us a confident trust that He is our loving Father who will care for all of our needs in both body and soul. 

     Elijah knew this faith first-hand.  Centuries later, God raised up another of His spokesmen in the church, who also firmly believed God and relied on His unending grace.  In his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther boldly confessed what we also confess today:"I believe that God created me, along with all creatures. God gave to me: body and soul, eyes, ears and all the other parts of my body, my mind and all my senses and preserves them as well.  God gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and land, spouse and children, fields, animals, and all I own. Every day God abundantly provides everything I need to nourish this body and life.  God protects me against all danger, shields and defends me from all evil. God does all this because of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, not because I've earned it or deserved it.  For all of this, I must thank, praise, serve, and obey God. Yes, this is true!"  God wanted the widow of Zarephath to know Him not just as Elijah’s God, but also as her God.

     The widow of Zarephath believed the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah that the bin of flour would not be used up nor would the jar of oil run dry (1 Kings 17:8–16).  He who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers will certainly provide for our daily needs.  For He has already provided for our eternal needs, clothing us with Christ's righteousness in Baptism and feeding us His body and blood for our forgiveness.  With such confidence we are liberated from worry and are free to do good with our material resources, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 5:25–6:10).

     How about us, dear friends?  Perhaps our problems are not as dire as that of the widow.  But do we not struggle with what we see and feel?  Are there not times when things seem to go from bad to worse?  We don’t know what to do, so we worry.  But let’s look at our text.  Notice how God didn’t send Elijah to this widow until all other hope wasgone and only one small meal stood between her and death.  God often has to knock out all the false hopes and man-made promises that we are soapt to build and rely on.  We try propping ourselves up with our own strength, or that of other people, or with things of the world, which our Gospel lesson calls, "mammon".  Yet in His infinite wisdom, sometimes God allows us to be weighed down until everything collapses leaving only His promises for us to lean on.  And His promises, the promises of your loving heavenly Father, His promises are always certain.   

     God’s promises bring us an endless supply of grace, grace that helps us with every need.  More importantly, this grace gives us faith to believe, faith to trust that God has redeemed us from all our sins. His endless supply of grace comes to us through Holy Baptism.  Though the water applied in baptism has long dried off, God's promisesof life and grace and forgiveness are ours in abundance.  In the Divine Service we come to the Lord’s Table in the famine of this fallen world.  If left to ourselves, all we see is sin, worry, all the cares that weigh us down.  But there on the altar, there is another promise, a different kind of flour and oil that will never run out.  The true body and blood of our Lord are given to us in the bread and wine.  In these means, and through the promises of God’s Word, God is reaching out to us with an endless supply of grace and eternal life.  He applies to us the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for us at Calvary.  God has also poured out his grace upon us in giving us His Holy Spirit.  He assures that we are God’s children.  We trust in God promises, His promises are the sure foundation by which we also act on in life, for they have first acted in our hearts, bringing us to faith.  Our hearts are directed toward our neighbour, to serve and comfort them, just as Elijah did the widow at Zarephath.  God has opened the precious treasures of His holy gospel and unending grace toward us. 

     "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen." (2 Corinthians 13:14).


    [1] Psalm 57:2 "I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me."

  • Harvest Festival, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Harvest Festival

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on Luke 17:11-19

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    "Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you."

    Harvest Festival

    11Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 17So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18"Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" 19And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:2). Amen.

    In our precious Savior, beloved hearers!

    The gospel lesson for today is the familiar account of the ten lepers. The main focus of the account lies not in the fact of the healing of the ten lepers but in the response of those healed. The gratitude of the despised outsider, the Samaritan leper, stands in sharp contrast with the ingratitude of those beneficiaries of grace who considered themselves to be within the community of faith, the nine lepers of Jewish background. Jesus' rebuke was directed toward the ungrateful ones, because "they did not acknowledge their Deliverer. They thought more highly of their cure from leprosy than of Him Who had healed them" (St. Athanasius).

    I am sure that the account of the ten lepers is one that is very familiar to all of us. The account goes like this. Ten lepers met Jesus as He was passed "through the midst of Samaria and Galilee" (vs. 11). They were afflicted by the worse disease imaginable in Jesus' day, a disease that was incurable. Leprosy is a very contagious skin disease. In most cases it was fatal. It slowly eats up the whole body. Those who had leprosy were not allowed to come close to clean people. Thus lepers banded together. Isolated from their families and society, those afflicted with leprosy became known as "the living dead." Many people thought of lepers as those who were struck by God with this disease. Leprosy became a mark of being a vile sinner; lepers were seen as outcast of both God and man. Thus, there were the ten lepers, ten men dying a living death, they met Jesus and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" (vs. 13).

    It is interesting to note that the lepers "lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (vs. 13). They were asking for more than physical healing. Their cry for mercy was an example of true worship, they cried out to God for mercy. The word mercy contains within it a confession of sin that acknowledges the justice of the punishment for sin. Since the fall of man into sin, both man and nature have become subject to suffering and death. When the lepers asked for mercy, they admitted that they deserved the leprosy and much worse because of their sin. Their cry for mercy was a cry for salvation. Not only did they want to be delivered from this living death, they wanted God’s grace and mercy.

    Like the lepers, we too, need God's grace and mercy. We too are sinners. The sufferings of man’s fall into sin touches each of us. We struggle with sickness and all other common problems that everyone shares in. We were all born with sin, a spiritual leprosy that shows itself in our thoughts, words and deeds. Sin eats at us. Like leprosy, it seeks to consume us. We are in constant need of mercy! But, isn’t what we say in the Divine Service? Every time we gather to worship, we pray the same prayer as that of the 10 lepers. In the Kyrie we also cry out to God. The Kyrie is the first prayer of the gathered congregation.

    Lord, have mercy upon us.

    Christ, have mercy upon us.

    Lord have mercy upon us.

    The Kyrie is an expression of our emptiness without God and our need for Him to be present and fill us with his grace. The Kyrie is the heartfelt cry for mercy that our Lord and King would graciously hear us and help us in our necessities and troubles. This most basic prayer is encountered frequently in Scripture, for example, the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15: 22 and the Ten Lepers (Luke 17: 13). Thus the words of lepers become our words. We, too, cry out for God’s salvation!

    When Jesus saw them, He did an unusual thing. He didn't touch them as He frequently did when He healed people. He didn't wash them as He had done with one healing. He didn't even pray for them. All Jesus said was, "Go, show yourselves to the priests" (vs. 14).

    Luther wrote: "How very friendly and lovingly the lord invites all hearts to Himself in this example and stirs them to believe in Him! There is no doubt that He desires to do for us what He does here for the lepers... The Lord desires that we should joyfully and freely venture to build on his favour before we feel or experience it..."

    "The lepers have taught us how to believe, Christ teaches us to love. Love does to its neighbour as it sees what Christ has done to us. This is a Christ life, it does not need much doctrine, nor many books, it is wholly contained in faith and love" (Martin Luther)

    Our text then says, "And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed" (vs. 14). Suddenly, miraculously, incredibly, they were no longer lepers. Nine of them happily went on their way, perhaps returning to their families, loved ones and perhaps their former way of living. Only one, however, turned back and returned to Jesus. And of this one our text says, "was a Samaritan" (vss. 16). He returned to Jesus, glorifying God the Father for the one of many miracles that He was bringing to the world through Jesus. "The glory that he gives to God is expressed in worship and thanksgiving to Jesus, who is God in flesh, and whose cleansing atonement supersedes the cleansing rites of the priests in the temple. Jesus then said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" (vs. 18). Notice that Jesus is not chastising the Samaritan for the absence of the other nine. Rather, He is simply wondering why the others did not come to the same conclusion and confession of faith as this Samaritan did. He alone had faith that God's presence is now in Jesus and with that presence comes God's mercy and cleansing."[i]

    The Samaritan's praise and gratitude is an expression of worship, which is simply a confession of faith. True faith always has Jesus as its object. Faith sees God’s presence in Christ, "that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19).

    The faith of the Samaritan leper can be likened to that parable of the seed and the sower in Luke, chapter 8. The seed fell on fertile soil, which represents "those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). With the other nine, however, they are like "those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).

    Jesus then addressed the cleansed Samaritan with these profound and life-changing words, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you" (vs. 19). He had been healed in soul and body. His sins were forgiven and his body had healed.

    My dear friends in Christ, the very same Lord speaks such wonderful and life-changing words unto us, gathered here this Harvest Festival day at Siitamaja. I am sure that we came here today to give thanks for all God’s blessings; not only for this year's harvest, but for all the ways He has sustained us with food on our tables and a roof over our heads. Yet, more than this, we thank God for his spiritual harvest. In Him we find mercy and forgiveness. We see how he had met our greatest need, the need to know Him "who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood" (Revelation 1:5).

    Jesus says unto each of us, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you." He is the very same Jesus that personally meets with us in the preaching of His Word. Jesus, the Son of God, cleansed ten lepers. "By that act He points us to the great gift and benefit He earned for all humanity. Jesus cleanses us from spiritual leprosy,"[ii] that is, He cleanses us from all our sins and transgressions through the forgiveness of sins. According to our human way of thinking and understanding, the lepers were as good as dead; they had been banished from the land of the living. Jesus, however, "showed himself to be the Savior who delivers from death, from eternal death as well. The greatest, actual gift and kindness of God is the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal life. Faith, like that of the Samaritan leper, recognizes and grasps this gift of God. Whoever believes like this will joyfully acknowledge: I have enjoyed God's mercy; the Lord has done great things to me… He has redeemed my life from corruption, and delivered my soul from death."[iii]

    True faith is the knowledge of God's gifts and blessings. God draws to His heart the hearts of those who recognize and lay hold of these gifts and blessings. Faith, true faith, is fellowship with God, fellowship with Jesus Christ, the Savior who has taken hold of us by his grace and accepted us as his own. Whoever believes has come to know God; he knows his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and says to him: You are mine, and I am yours. Gratitude thrives naturally in faith like that."[iv] Such faith and healing the Lord gives to you, dear friends. "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well" (vs. 19).

    [i] Luke 9:51-24:53 Concordia Commentary, Arthur Just, Concordia Publishing House, 1997, pg. 655.

    [ii] George Stoeckhardt. Trinity 14.

    [iii] Ibid.

    [iv] Ibid.

  • John 17:28-23, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    SERMON – John 17:28-23

    One of the most difficult things to preach and teach, and even to believe, is how that which is unseen and indiscernible to all our senses, is actually absolutely and most importantly, true.  Only with the “eyes of [our] heart,” (Eph. 1:18) through faith, can we know and believe with joy and certainty what "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). This holds true not only for those things prepared for us in heaven, but also for while we sojourn in this world, living by faith! True faith believes, even when our human eyes see everything to the contrary. Faith enables us to see beyond what our eyes see, or even what they don’t see!

    Earlier in this Divine Service we confessed some powerful words! “I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints!” So it says in the Apostles’ Creed. These words are not mere words that we merely say in the Divine Service or in our devotions. Rather, they show us that the one holy Christian church on earth, outside of which there is no life and salvation, is, according to God's Word, the sum total of all those who truly believe in Christ and are sanctified through this faith. The church is both invisible and extended over the entire world. It is invisible because, according to the creed, it is an object of faith. And we do well to remember that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

    The true Church is the communion of the hearts of all believers in Christ Jesus, their Lord. This fellowship of believers, the Church, came into being not by the action of men, but because of our faithful God, who called us “into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Thus the church is made up of true believers. But such believers are not invisible spirits, but visible people. However, who can see the faith that has been worked in the soul by the Holy Spirit? We cannot tell merely by looking at a person whether he is a believer and a member of the Christian Church. But we and all people can readily discern where the true Church is because of its pure marks which identify the true church. It is wherever God’s Word is purely and clearly preached, and it is wherever the holy Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command and institution. However, true Christians, who alone belong to the true Church, are mixed with false Christians, much like wheat grows alongside weeds in its midst. Who can now distinguish the true Christians from the false ones and thus recognize the Church? No one! While it is true that flesh and blood people can clearly be seen where the Church is located, it is most certainly true that only those who alone make up the Church are seen and known only by Him of whom it is said, "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are His' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.'" (2 Timothy 2:19). "Therefore, Christ calls His Church a kingdom of God on earth, which does not come with outward signs. The apostle Paul calls the Church the body of Jesus Christ, the bride of the Lord, a spiritual house, the Jerusalem from above, and the congregation of the firstborn who are written in heaven" (Walther).

    Despite its invisibility, the Church extends over the whole world. The apostles, following Christ’s command, preached the Gospel among all peoples, and there are now, in all regions of the globe, souls that truly believe in Christ and therefore belong to His Church. That Church, therefore, is wherever the blessed sound of the Gospel has entered, according to that irrevocable and eternally certain promise: "So shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). And what is this "blessed sound of the Gospel"? It is the Word of God that is preached to us and believed in the hearts of faithful believers. In our epistle lesson for today, we heard how the Apostle Paul did not cease giving thanks to God and praying for the saints in Ephesus. What is more, Paul prayed that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give to them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, and that the eyes of their understanding being enlightened; that they would know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:16-23).

    What powerful words of great news is this! The Church is the body of Christ! And how can our understanding scarcely comprehend that the Church is the fullness of Him who fills all in all. And if this is not enough, Paul is also telling us that the same power God used to raise His Son from the dead is the same power for us.  It is at work within us through the Spirit and the Word! Sadly, our human eyes and senses do not see this! Sometimes we see what seems like just the opposite. But faith looks beyond what is seen and felt!  It listens carefully to the "blessed sound and message of the Gospel", which tells us that "No person is too insignificant to be included in this search and to be part of Christ’s effort to rescue souls. No person has strayed so far he cannot be found and raised up. No one has caused so great an offense that the Father and the Saviour no longer want to receive him. No person is such a great sinner that Christ would be ashamed of him. No, as Christ confesses before the haughty, hypocritical, and self-righteous Pharisees, He loves and is a Friend of all sinners and His heart breaks over the distress of each of them. He seeks them all. He does not cast away any who comes to Him; instead, He accepts them all. Oh, what a comfort this is! Each of us is under the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd. He and His mercy follow us from the first moment of our life. He wants to bring us back to His Father and finally to gather us in His heaven. He looks with tender love on those who have already recognized the error of their ways. He does not calculate the quantity, magnitude, and severity of our sins in order to weigh the grace He shows us. The fact that we are lost sinners is what moves Him to accept us" [Walther].

    Christ’s Church is, indeed, holy and precious in His sight! And, we would do well to remember that His Church does not belong to any particular people, city, or country. Thus, no one, and no particular fellowship of churches can claim, “Here alone is the Church.” For example, even we in the STLK rejoice that God’s Word is purely preached, the holy Sacraments are faithfully administered – but we cannot say, "We alone are God’s house," for God’s Word tells us that Christ Himself rules in the midst of His enemies, that is, where unbelievers, mockers, tempters, heretics, and tyrants rage. We need to remember this, especially when we see so much of what is wrong, both around us and within us, within our very souls! Faith looks to what is unseen, it is certain of what it hopes for… such certainty can only come through the Spirit working true faith through the Word. Nevertheless, we take comfort that wherever God’s Word is still valued and reverenced, there Christ has His believers, even if false teachers pervert and falsify it. Wherever in the world the Word of His grace sounds, there Jesus makes subjects for Himself and establishes the holy kingdom of His Church in defiance of the gates of hell.

    Lastly, our Gospel lesson tells us something much more than our hearts can begin to fathom and take in. In verses 22 and 23, we read the precious words that our Lord prayed shortly before He would be betrayed, mocked and rejected by men that He came to save, and by whom He would be crucified! He prayed, “"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Dear friends, this tells us that God loves us just as much as he loved and still loves Jesus! This love of Christ, Paul tells us, surpasses all knowledge, all comprehension. Experiencing this love that changes us is a main part of the necessary strengthening of every Christian. Thus, to become inwardly strong and certain of God’s love, “we must, as C.F.W. Walther writes, “learn more and more to recognize Christ’s love. We must learn to recognize its “width” that it is wider than the whole world; it embraces all sinners and, indeed, everything that lives in heaven and on earth. We must learn to recognize its “length” that this love is longer than the duration of the world; it is from eternity and extends until eternity. We must learn to recognize its “height” for this love is higher than all the mountains of the world; it reaches even to heaven. We must learn to recognize its “depth” for this love is deeper than the foundation of the earth; it is a deep, inexhaustible, unfathomable spring that flows from the depth of God’s own heart. Paul goes even further. We must learn that Christ’s love surpasses all knowledge, that it can never be completely learned, explored, or studied. It is as great, glorious and immeasurable, as God Himself. May we, then, continually open the book of Christ’s love and study it with prayer and meditation! What we will then experience! How often will we enjoy a foretaste of eternal life! How strong will we become in the inner man! By it, we will, as the apostle says, “be filled with all the fullness of God.””

    Oh, dear friends, we who daily seek to become firmer in faith, more zealous in love, and richer in the knowledge and experience of Christ’s love! Let us strive to live as such Christians. To that end, let us gladly hear and read God’s Word. Then One day, we will behold Whom we have believed in, enjoyed and hoped for, as we stand face to face before our Lord. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

    Quotes from C.F.W. Walther are taken from “God Grant It” (Kindle Locations 10095-10116). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

  • Jumala antaa armonsa armonvälineiden kautta

    Pastori Edward Brockwellin teologinen esitelmä Teologipäivillä 4.4.2009 Helsingissä

  • Kristus meidän edestämme Jes. 53:ssa ja rinnakkaiskohdissa

    Pastori Edward Brockwellin esitelmä Teologipäivillä 27.2.2010 Helsingissä
    Lue esitelmä suomeksi (PDF) (93 kB)

  • Lankeemuksen tunnustaminen on oikean vanhurskauttamisopin edellytys

    Pastori Edward Brockwellin esitelmä Teologipäivillä 3.5.2008 Helsingissä

  • Loppuhartaus, 1 Tess 2:13, upjuhla

    Pastori Edward Brockwellin loppuhartaus Uskonpuhdistusjuhlan päiväjuhlassa 31.10.2015 Lahdessa

  • Luke 24:13-35. First Sunday after Easter, Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

     

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    First Sunday after Easter 

    Based on  Luke 24:13-35

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland 

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    "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 1.7)


    Dear friends in Christ,


    This Gospel lesson presents us with an example of the power and fruit of Christ’s resurrection. He proves by word and deed that He was not dead, as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had come to believe. Even before the two knew who Jesus was, His Word was already at work in opening their eyes and giving them faith to believe. They confessed to each other: "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (vs. 32). Such is the power of the Word and preaching of Christ. May our risen Lord’s words work deeply in us, opening our eyes and strengthening our faith in Jesus.

    The very same Jesus, who walked with the disciples on the way to a village called Emmaus, He is here with us through His Word! "Lo, I am with you always," (Matt. 18:20) said our Lord. He is with us just as real and as personally as He was with the disciples. As "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (vs. 45), my dear friends, this very same Lord is with us to do the same!

    Through Word and Sacrament, Jesus continues to come to us and govern the whole Christian Church. He carries on His work through His Word. "His purpose is to show and teach us that the power of His resurrection and dominion will be exercised here on earth, and it will manifest itself in this life only through the Word, and through faith which holds fast to Christ, though it does not see Him." (Luther).

    Looking at our text, the two disciples were very sad and dejected. Like many others, they thought that Jesus was the promised messiah, the One that would redeem Israel. Now all their hopes were dashed into pieces, everything seemed lost.

    So, as they headed toward Emmaus, the Lord appeared to them. However, they could not recognize Him. He was unknown to them at first. We are told in the Gospel lesson that "Their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him." Nevertheless, Jesus came to them and walked with them. Before their very eyes was the selfsame Christ whom they had so often seen and heard and known full well. Though they could not recognize Him, He was present with them nonetheless! Luther wrote that "It was not [Jesus] who had been changed, nor was it His will to remain unknown to them, but their hearts and thoughts had become estranged and far removed from [Him]."

    So, the two men were talking together, talking about all those things which had taken place concerning Jesus' death. And while they were talking and questioning each other, Jesus came along and joined them and began walking beside them. He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Here we learn in our gospel lesson for today how we can count on our Lord to come to our aid when all seems lost in life and we are left feeling sad and downcast. Jesus cares about us. He knows our hearts and He sees through all our thoughts and anxieties. Jesus is always prepared to help us, to comfort and uplift us, just as He did with the two disciples.

    Now, Cleopas, one of the two disciples, answered and said to Jesus, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see" (vss. 18-24).

    Indeed, the disciples were sad because their beloved Master had been ripped out of their lives. It seemed that their hope for redemption had also almost completely vanished. After all, what could one expect from "Christ crucified", a dead Jesus? Not even the reports of women, who reported that they had seen an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, not even their report would help Cleopas and his dejected friend.

    If I may be very honest with you, and you with me, I wonder if we can see a little of ourselves in these two disciples. We believe in Jesus. Time after time, with the words of the Apostles' Creed, we confess that we believe in God the Father almighty; in Jesus His only Son; and in the Holy Spirit. We believe what we read and hear preached from God’s Word. But there are difficult times in life that we go through. We sometimes feel like the two disciples. Our faith is tested and our hearts waver with anxiety. We ever despair of hope and not even the encouragement of others is of any help. The truth of the matter is that, "sometimes we feel and experience nothing of what we believe and confess. It is as though Jesus were dead, as though what others say of Jesus is pure delusion, as though we had lost Christ and His redemption from our heart. The heart is filled with terrors about sin, death, and hell. O, sure, others have told us, Scripture tells us that Jesus lives, but our hearts feel nothing of it." (Stoeckhardt).

    So, how did the Lord help these two men headed for Emmaus? He began by saying unto them: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Before the Lord starts to console the dejected disciples, He carefully rebukes them for their unbelief. These two men, like many others, believed some of the things that had been written by the prophets, such as that the Messiah would come and establish his kingdom; but they did not believe all that had been written. They overlooked the very things that were so essential to this Messiah and his kingdom, namely that this Messiah would suffer and even die for sins of the world. He would face death and God's full wrath in the place of all people, bearing their sins and iniquities. His death would overcome the devil and it would be the death of death. His resurrection is proof of God’s acceptance of his substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is proof of our own coming resurrections! What the disciples and all people needed was a real Messiah, one that would save them from sin and where His kingdom would reign over the hearts of all men. Many were looking for a Jew Rambo or Arnold Schwarzenegger. They obviously didn’t read ALL of what the prophets had written.

    Another lesson we learn from these two disciples is the importance of Scripture. Moses and the prophets certainly wrote concerning Christ, but we learn that it is necessary not only to read the Scriptures, but also to understand what they say. The Bible is a book that must not only be read and preached, but it requires a true interpreter, that is, as Luther writes, the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus abides with us through His Spirit, opening our minds and revealing how He is at the heart of all Scripture. Just as He lovingly and caringly taught these slow of mind disciples, our Lord opens our minds to His Word so that we might understand and know His saving power and grace, and that we would firmly believe in Him.

    We, too, dear friends, are slow to understanding Scripture. We possess a sluggish mind because of our Old Adam. Like the disciples, we have our own expectations of Jesus and what we would like for Him to do in our lives. Have we read from Moses and the prophets what we wanted to hear? Do we sometimes find ourselves to be sad and downcast, plagued with problems and difficulties in life that seem overwhelming and more than we can bear? Our Gospel lesson teaches us something about the nature of faith. Faith does not demand a miraculous sign from God; nor does it expect that God would treat us differently than He does those to whom He also gives His Word and Sacraments to. The same Jesus that walked with the two men to Emmaus, He is with us through His Word and Sacraments. The Gospel lesson teaches us that Jesus strengthened the disciples faith even though at first, they didn’t recognize Him. Neither did Jesus use His resurrection as sensational gimmick to “ooh and ahh” them as a means of entertainment. Jesus didn’t take away their problems, neither does He instantly take away all of ours. But one thing is certain, He expounded from Word and in doing so, He opened their minds. In verses 29 to 32 we see how they asked Jesus to remain with them. Later, when they reclined at the table, Jesus "took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight." Our risen Lord meets us in His Word and in His holy supper. In these He takes hold of us, He speaks to us, He strengthens our faith which we need the most. He assures us that He is involved in our lives and orders all things to the glory of His name.

    Lastly, we note that the disciples returned to Jerusalem and told others of the risen Lord. Their gloom and sadness, their doubt and thoughts of unbelief were driven away. So it is in the life of every Christian, it goes from sorrow to happiness, from weakness to strength, from doubt to faith, and then from faith to faith, from strength to strength, from joy to joy, from light to light, from certainty to certainty. And whoever has personally experienced in his heart the power of Christ’s resurrection and comfort of redemption, he cannot help but testify to others about it (Steockhardt).

    Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [1] Amen.

    Pr. Edward Brockwell
    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
    Jyväskylä

     _______

    [1] Philippians 4:7.

     

  • Martin Luther: On the Ministry

    Theological presentation of pastor Edward Brockwell in Theological conference in Siitamaja on 23.9.2016

  • Matthew 21:1-9, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Matthew 21:1-9 NKJV

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell, Jyväskylä, Finland

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

    + + +

     

    Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. "And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'" So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!" Matthew 21:1-9 NKJV

    "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1:2 NKJV
    DEAR FRIENDS IN CHRIST!
    Last Sunday the Christian church observed the beginning of a new Church Year with the first Sunday of the Advent season. The word, "Advent" comes from two Latin words: Ad Venire, which means: "to come," "to arrive." The Advent season focuses on Christ's threefold coming -- past, present, and future.

    Firstly, Advent is a past event. God came into the world and into our humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is "Very God of very God… Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man." The Advent, or birth, of Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfilment of prophecy. The Old Testament prophets pointed to the One who would come to bring salvation, peace, joy, and the Kingdom of God. The birth of Jesus Christ fulfilled God's promise through the prophets of the Messiah and Anointed One. In our text we see the crowds welcoming Jesus during His first advent. "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!"
    The advent of our Lord, His coming into our world with salvation, Jesus' birth is a pure manifestation and proof of God's love for man, of God's love for you. Such love moved great hymn writers, like Paul Gerhard, to write such words:
         Love caused Your incarnation;
         Love brought You down to me.
         Your thirst for my salvation
         Procured my liberty.
         Oh, love beyond all telling,
         That led You to embrace
         In love, all love's excelling,
         Our lost and fallen race.

    In many ways, Advent is a present event. Jesus comes to us, the Church, His true Jerusalem today. The very same Jesus, fully God and fully man, comes to us through the preaching of the Word, and in the sacraments of holy baptism and the Lord's Supper. Thus, Advent is a time when we give thanks for His present and continual coming to us through Word and Sacrament.

    Jesus "continues to advent" into our hearts and lives, that is, He continues to come to us bringing us His salvation, peace, joy, and the Kingdom of God that we so desperately need in our lives. The world, on the other hand, is busy preparing for Christmas. But sadly, Christmas is a celebration without the Lord’s Christ. People fix their attention on buying gifts, whereas Advent offers God's gift to us. During advent, people await time off from work and school, whereas in the Divine Service, Advent helps us to see our need for time with God. It prepares our hearts for Christmas, the gift of God’s only-begotten Son. By the time December 25th arrives, the world begins to see Christmas as anticlimactic, a sense of "isn't there something more to life?" Advent prepares the hearts of the Christian faithful, so that we come to know Jesus our Lord and joyfully cry out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!"

    In Advent, we look forward with hope and longing to Jesus' second coming in glory to judge the living and the dead on the Last Day. Thus, while we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God's Son, who came into the world in order to redeem us from our sins, we anticipate the day when Jesus will return to Earth and bring an end to this fallen world, with all of its sin and brokenness. The day of the Lord's return will be a dreadful day, indeed. However, Advent is meant to help us look forward to that day with hope because through faith in Jesus, the end of this world will mean the beginning of a new life with Christ for all eternity.

    Advent, then, is a time for us to repent. It is a time for believing. Knowing that Jesus was born to forgive our sins we repent, that is we truthfully acknowledge our sins and our failures. We believe that we are forgiven. We believe that God in Christ has had compassion upon us, that in His bitter suffering and death, Jesus subdued our iniquities, and cast "all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Yes, in Christ, Jesus hurled our sins away from our heavenly Father’s eyes. They lay in the depths of divine forgiveness and forgetfulness. Imagine a sign at the shore of this sea that reads, "No fishing!" Advent is a time of repentance and believing. It is a time to leave the past behind, to embrace the present and future with hope, with faith, and WITH CHRIST!

    In his Advent sermon, based on our Gospel lesson for today, C.F.W. Walther remarked that, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, "He visited His spiritual, believing Zion, but He also came to all who had entered the city, even the most miserable and lost sinners. And so it is today. Jesus comes, first, to His Church, His true believers, but He also visits all who cling to His Church, even if they are still miserable and lost sinners. Jesus comes even to struggling Christians, those who fear that He will not come to them because they are not certain they belong to the daughter of Zion as true believers and true members of His Church.

    "But where is Christ’s Church? Christ's Church is wherever His Word is proclaimed and His precious Sacraments are administered. Where these means of grace are absent, His Church is also absent. In such a place, there is no Christ, no salvation, and no blessedness. Those who do not want to keep God's Word and Sacraments hope in vain for Christ's coming. Only the daughter of Zion, who has His Word and Sacraments, will hear these words: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you . . . humble" (Zechariah 9:9)."

    "For this reason," Walther writes, "it is well with all who are determined to listen diligently to the precious Word of God in the new Church Year. If they do not yet belong to the daughter of Zion, if they cannot yet be numbered among the citizens of the true spiritual Jerusalem, they are still like those Israelites who witnessed Jesus' entrance into the visible Jerusalem so many years ago. This joyful message applies to all who allow themselves to be found among those who hear Christ's Word. Jesus also comes to them in this new Church Year. There are those who, in the year just past, did not completely forget, forsake, and lose the Lord Jesus, but they were often unfaithful to Him. They did not keep much of the vow they had made to Him; they were overcome by many sins and, in many respects, they went more backward than forward. Yet they should not despair. A new Church Year begins, and Jesus, the King, comes again with new grace." (Walther).

    My dear friends, in one way or another, "each of us during the old Church Year has been outwitted by his flesh, the world, and even by Satan. Perhaps you may have spent the last year without peace and rest, without light and comfort, and without power and hope, oppressed by the feeling of God’s displeasure. Dear friends, a new year has dawned, and Jesus is returning, bringing with Him a fresh supply of grace."

    "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation." (Zech. 9:9). Jesus comes to each of us as our King of grace! But perhaps as you look back at the past church year, you see how you have wandered about in fleshly security, without caring for the salvation of your immortal soul? You see that you have sought, above all else, money and goods, quiet days and a comfortable life, caring not at all for Jesus from your heart, or of the many who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour? We wrestle with sin and unbelief. Perhaps there is even such a one that looks back at the past year and indeed his entire life and sees how he has even been His bitter enemy. If you have recognized that you cannot be saved on this path you have trodden upon, and if you are now anxiously asking: "What must I do to be saved?” God wants to extend to you, too, the new grace of the new Church Year. You may be bound with a thousand bands of sin, but if, with a heart full of repentance, you grasp in faith the hand of grace He is extending to you, He will speak to you as before: "Loose him and lead him to Me." And you will indeed be free. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
    A most blessed Advent, dear friends. Behold, YOUR King comes to YOU! A blessed new church year unto all of you. Amen.





     

  • Presentation om kyrkogemenskap

    Hälsningar till mina kära vänner i vår Herres och Frälsares Jesu Kristi namn. Må allt beröm, tack och all ära gå till "Honom som älskar oss och har löst oss från våra synder med sitt blod" (Uppenbarelseboken 1:5b). Jag tackar Herren och er, kära vänner, för möjligheten att vara här igen. Sist men inte minst framför jag hälsningar från era vänner i Finland!

    Tänk er att hitta en riktigt gammal dagbok. Det är uppenbart att personen länge varit avliden. Du öppnar dagboken och läser en slumpmässigt vald sida: "Jag känner inombords att jag är född endast för musik!" Dessa var en 18-årig tonårings ord, en som brottades med tanken vilket yrke han skulle välja i livet. Vem skrev detta? Vems dagbok är det? Kan det vara Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, eller kanske den store tyskfödde kompositören Georg Friedrich Händel, som komponerade den berömda Messias? Nej, dagbokens ord tillhör inte någon av dessa stora kompositörer – orden är den 18-årige Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walthers. Walthers liv skulle dock förändras.

    Ferdinand, som hans familj kallade honom, hade just tagit examen från ett tyskt gymnasium. Med sin examen var unge Walther redo att börja studera vid universitetet. Eftersom han var det åttonde barnet i en familj med tolv barn, var ekonomin en avgörande faktor i faderns beslut att lägga sitt veto mot hans musikaliska karriär. Han utlovade emellertid ett stipendium på en riksdaler i veckan om unge Walther skulle studera teologi. Han skrevs in vid universitetet i Leipzig för att påbörja sina studier i teologi och förenade sig med sin äldre bror Otto Hermann, som var inskriven vid samma universitet. Under sin studietid i Leipzig led Walther av en livshotande lungsjukdom och var tvungen att avbryta sina studier under sex månader. Under denna tid läste han Luthers verk intensivt och blev övertygad om den bibliska grunden för den lutherska läran och vikten av en fast, bekännelsetrogen inställning. Det var denna tid av svår sjukdom och återhämtning som förändrade Walthers liv och utrustade honom för att användas av Gud som ett verktyg för förändring i den lutherska kyrkan. År 1833 tog Ferdinand sin första examen vid universitetet. Denna examen gjorde att han kunde anställas som privatlärare hos familjen Friedemann Loeber i Kahla. Två års handledning var nödvändigt för att han skulle kunna avlägga en andra examen i Leipzig, vilket gjorde det möjligt för honom att anta kallelsen som luthersk präst.

    Som vi alla vet emigrerade Walther till Amerika, där han räknades bland grundarna av den lutherska Missourisynoden. Han var präst, teologisk professor och LCMS´s (Missourisynodens) förste president. LCMS´s teologiska förankring finns i Bibeln, i Luthers lära och i den lutherska bekännelsen. Varför är detta viktigt för vår diskussion och kyrkogemenskap? Jag tänker på att när något speciellt ska göras för att Kyrkan ska byggas upp, då förbereder Gud sina mänskliga verktyg genom vilka Hans planer aktiveras och genomförs. Genom Walthers sjukdom, hans djupa kamp och besvikelse över samtidens rationalism, och många andra kamper som han fick utstå, förberedde Herren sin mästerlige tjänare för de enorma uppgifter och utmaningar som låg framför den lutherska kyrkan i Amerika.

    Jag nämnde rationalism, vilket var ett fruktansvärt andligt fördärv som skenande spridit sig över hela Tyskland och Europa. Men vad är "rationalism"? Det är tillvägangångssättet eller principen att basera yttranden och handlingar på förnuft och kunskap snarare än på religiös tro eller känslomässig respons. I teologin handlar det om att betrakta förnuftet som den yttersta auktoriteten i andliga frågor. Människans syndbesmittade förstånd upphöjdes över allt annat. Således betraktades allt som inte överensstämde med det mänskliga förnuftet med misstänksamhet.

    "Rationalismen behandade och tillrättalade Skriften så hårdhänt att Walther senare i livet medgav att han inte hade varit kristen under sina åtta år på gymnasiet. Tragedin förvärrades av att kritiken av Skriften också dominerade vid de teologiska institutionerna vid universiteten. Därifrån invaderade den församlingarna via kyrkans ämbetsbärare som styrde församlingarnas liv och lära. Walthers bibliska förkunnelse och undervisning omgavs snart av fientlighet. Dessutom var kyrkans superintendent och rektorn i hans egen församlings skola rationalister, som avskydde den unge prästens rättframma lutherdom. Rektorn anmälde Walthers verksamhet till myndigheterna, och superintendenten ställde honom inför rätta i domstol med yrkandet att han skulle dömas till böter.”

    "Walthers vänner upplevde samma slags motstånd i sina prästtjänster. Samvetsgranna medlemmar av lutherska kyrkor drabbades av liknande prövningar, tillsammans med de sanna lutherska prästerna. Församlingsmedlemmar som hade oturen att ha en rationalist som präst reste flera mil till fots för att höra en präst som fortfarande predikade det oförfalskade Guds ord. Walther skrev: "Många av dem, efter att ha arbetat hela veckan från morgon till kväll, gav sig av till fots strax efter midnatt för att uppliva sina hungrande hjärtan med predikan av det rena, ensamt frälsande Guds Ord i någon avlägsen kyrka." När kvällen kom fick de gå flera mil för att komma hem, trötta i kroppen men uppfriskade till själen." (not 1)

    Det var under denna tid som en filosof vid namn Friedrich Schleiermacher utövade ett enormt inflytande på kyrkan, bland mycket annat också vad gällde läran om kyrkogemenskap. Schleiermacher var en tysk teolog, filosof och bibelforskare, känd för sitt försök att förena upplysningskritiken med traditionell protestantisk kristendom. "För [Schleiermacher] är kyrkan framför allt ´en gemenskap´ (Gemeinschaft)... ´Det allmänna begreppet kyrkan, om det nu finns något sådant, måste härledas från etiken eftersom kyrkan vid varje tillfälle är en gemenskap som skapats genom människors frivilliga handlingar, och endast genom dessa fortsätter den att existera.´ Detta blir avgörande för att bestämma gemenskapsidén. Eftersom en gemenskap uppstår genom människors frivilliga handlingar och fortsätter att existera endast genom sådana handlingar, uppstår kyrkan på samma sätt eftersom hon är en gemenskap, det vill säga genom ´människors frivilliga handlingar´... Detta gemenskapsbegrepp, som här sägs karaktärisera kyrkan, härrör inte från kyrkans natur, utan kyrkans natur härrör från gemenskapsbegreppet..." (not 2). Vad innebär nu detta enkelt uttryckt? För en bekännande luthersk kyrka kommer gemenskapen från Gud genom Ordet och sakramenten, genom predikandet av evangeliet. Gemenskapen kommer från Gud när han skapar den och gör den uppenbar genom "kyrkans rena kännetecken". För andra är kyrkans gemenskap något som uppstår genom människors handlingar. Gemenskap är vad vi gör den till. Sådan var den "upplysta" och "rationalistiska" logik som Walther befann sig mitt i.

    För Walther och andra ”missourianer” på 1800-talet hörrörde inte kyrkogemenskap från människan, hennes förnuft och frivilliga handlingar. Istället kom den från Gud, hans nådiga och barmhärtiga göranden och handlingar. Gripna i hjärtat, hänryckta av Guds levande ord, blev för Walther och andra Kyrkan ”i grunden en trons och den helige Andes gemenskap i våra hjärtan” (Augsburgska bekännelsens Apologi VII, SKB, s 175, jfr Joh. 18:36; Ef. 2:19-22, 4:3-6, 1 Joh. 1:1-7, 5:5-12, osv.). Kyrkans enhet eller gemenskap är huvudsakligen en inre sak, men också en yttre sak. Den verkliga inre enheten eller gemenskapen med Kristus och hela Hans Kyrka ges i och med själva den frälsande tron. Det beror inte på människan! Det handlar om Gud! -- Gud! Gud! Gud !!! - med Kristus som föremålet för en sådan kraftfull och livgivande tro! Tron och Ordet betydde allt för våra bekännande trosfäder. För dem var det ett stort verk när Gud skapar tro i en person. Det är som om han skapade himmel och jord igen. Gud och hans gärningar, Gud och hans Ord - dessa ting fängslade verkligen dessa lutheraners hjärtan när det gällde kyrkans gemenskap. Gemenskap var något som troddes med allas bifall, den bekändes i ord och handling, den omhuldades. Den hölls verkligen fast vid med sådan glädje och vördnad som om Gud skapade himmel och jord igen - och faktiskt, det är vad vår nådefulle Herre gör genom sitt ord. Han föder människor på nytt, föder dem en gång till. Gud för sådana troende själar till gemenskap! Gud är gemenskapens Gud, inte en Gud av andlig ensamhet och isolering.

    Dessutom bör man betänka, att det var under den andligt sett mycket mörka och svåra tiden i Preussen på Walthers tid (p.g.a. rationalism och andra problem), som lutheranerna verkligen kunde, uppskattade och bekände vad kyrkogemenskap är. De stod inför det andligt sett livshotande mörkret omkring sig, precis som vi gör idag. Men precis som när Walther var allvarligt sjuk när han läste vid universitetet - och han tillbringade den tiden med att läsa Luthers böcker, vilket fullständigt formade hans andliga liv och förändrade honom till en bekännande lutheran - ledde rationalismens mörka dagar och ”människors frivilliga handlingar” den lutherska kyrkan till att tro Guds ord. Inte för att behålla det för sig själv, utan för att bekänna det. De lutherska prästerna och lekmännen på den tiden gav gärna upp allting för att fly långt bort från den djupt korrumperade och fallna etablerade kyrkan! Emigrationen till Amerika, där religionsfrihet rådde, betraktades som den enda möjligheten att fly från samvetsförtryck och de ständigt försämrade förhållandena inom statskyrkan, vilka blev mer och mer outhärdliga och hotade att kväva trons liv helt och hållet hos de troende.

    Att emigrera till Amerika skulle inte visa sig leda till någon form av himmelrike på jorden. Amerikanska kyrkor kämpade också med rationalism! Dessutom poppade det upp olika samfund i USA, frihetens land. Förutom att rationalismen försökte kväva och tysta evangeliet helt och hållet, upptäckte bekännande lutheraner i Amerika en annan fiende i deras nya pluralistiska land. Bland falska lärare, villfarande gemenskaper och rationalism, fanns också trycket att vara neutral, att vara en del av en armé av neutrala där människor var beredda på varje slags kompromiss. Sådana lutheraner hade den kyrkliga strävan att vara harmlösa för alla i syfte att inte på något sätt hamna i andlig fara. Detta skulle senare ta sig uttryck i bildandet av liberala lutherska synoder och grovt heterodoxa synoder, sådana som är vanliga i hela Amerika i dag. Men för bekännande lutheraner, såsom C.F.W. Walther, fanns det inget utrymme för pluralism. Pluralismen förnyar inte kyrkan och hennes gemenskap, utan förstör henne. Pluralism och öppna nattvardsbord är raka motsatsen till reformationens enhälliga fasthållande vid det rena evangeliet och sakramenten, som vår högt uppskattade Walther med glädje bekände sig till! Och han var inte ensam. Där fanns också otaliga lekmän, och även luthersk ungdom. Kyrkogemenskap handlar inte endast om Walther, eller om någon form av frivilliga handlingar gjorda av lutheraner. Kyrkogemenskap handlade och handlar fortfarande om den gemenskap som flödar fram från evangeliet. Walther och de bekännande lutheranerna kände till och värderade de evangeliska skatter som anförtrotts dem i Guds ord. Kyrkogemenskap var mer än bara en term eller en idé, och det var verkligen mer än att lutheraner samlas under ett kyrkligt paraply. För dem var gemenskap (fellowship) inte "kamratskap" (fellership), det vill säga att samsas med andra lutherska vänner. Nej, de bekände kyrkogemenskapen som något som Gud, på grund av sin nådiga vilja och barmhärtighet, skapar genom evangeliet. Gemenskap för dem, och för oss, var något som medförde helande, styrka och förnyelse! Kära vänner, vilka lärdomar vi har att ta till oss, särskilt med de moderna utmaningar och faror som vi står inför i dag!

    Jag skulle nu vilja fokusera på Walthers syn på nattvardsgemenskap, som han bygger på den Heliga skrift och den lutherska bekännelsen. År 1867 bildade tio lutherska synoder en sammanslutning som blev känd som det Allmänna konciliet. Missourisynoden anslöt sig inte. Bara ett par år senare lämnade flera andra lutherska kyrkor det Allmänna konciliet. Detta berodde delvis på betänkligheter vad gällde det Alllmänna konciliets inställning till nattvardsgemenskap. Det tillät tydligen medlemmar av icke-lutherska kyrkor, som inte bekände den verkliga närvaron av Kristi kropp och blod i nattvarden, att delta i altarets sakrament. Återigen måste det sägas att kyrkogemenskap inte bara var ett problem för Walther och lutheraner i Tyskland, utan de stod även inför svåra utmaningar i Amerika. Alla dessa utmaningar fortsätter ännu idag i olika former och grader.

    Hur som helst var det i samband med den ovan nämnda frågan om nattvardsgemenskap som dr C.F.W. Walther 1870, vid en konferens anordnad av Synodens gamla Västra distrikt, presenterade ”13 teser om nattvardsgemenskap med heterodoxa kristna". Med dessa teser inpräntade Walther sanningen att sann trosenhet är en oumbärlig förutsättning för nattvardsgemenskap. Han påvisade också den skada och förödelse som åsamkas både andra och nattvardsgästen själv, när en person som inte erkänner den verkliga närvaron ändå släpps fram till sakramentet. Tyvärr pågår detta idag, till och med i vissa församlingar inom Missourisynoden. Jag vet detta från en smärtsam upplevelse när jag var präst i LCMS. Innan jag installerades i min andra församling som präst, fick en jude tillåtelse att ta emot nattvarden vid altaret. Det krossar mitt hjärta när jag minns vad jag sett och upplevt och när jag tänker på att detta fortfarande pågår.

    Men låt oss låta Walther teser rikta vår uppmärksamhet mot nattvardsgemenskap, och minnas att "eftersom nattvardsgemenskap är kyrkogemenskap och kyrkogemenskap är nattvardsgemenskap, följer att dessas gränser sammanfaller." Walthers teser är ännu idag Missourisynodens officiella ståndpunkt.Det var under denna tid som en filosof vid namn Friedrich Schleiermacher utövade ett enormt inflytande på kyrkan, bland mycket annat också vad gällde läran om kyrkogemenskap. Schleiermacher var en tysk teolog, filosof och bibelforskare, känd för sitt försök att förena upplysningskritiken med traditionell protestantisk kristendom. "För [Schleiermacher] är kyrkan framför allt ´en gemenskap´ (Gemeinschaft)... ´Det allmänna begreppet kyrkan, om det nu finns något sådant, måste härledas från etiken eftersom kyrkan vid varje tillfälle är en gemenskap som skapats genom människors frivilliga handlingar, och endast genom dessa fortsätter den att existera.´ Detta blir avgörande för att bestämma gemenskapsidén. Eftersom en gemenskap uppstår genom människors frivilliga handlingar och fortsätter att existera endast genom sådana handlingar, uppstår kyrkan på samma sätt eftersom hon är en gemenskap, det vill säga genom ´människors frivilliga handlingar´... Detta gemenskapsbegrepp, som här sägs karaktärisera kyrkan, härrör inte från kyrkans natur, utan kyrkans natur härrör från gemenskapsbegreppet..." (not 2). Vad innebär nu detta enkelt uttryckt? För en bekännande luthersk kyrka kommer gemenskapen från Gud genom Ordet och sakramenten, genom predikandet av evangeliet. Gemenskapen kommer från Gud när han skapar den och gör den uppenbar genom "kyrkans rena kännetecken". För andra är kyrkans gemenskap något som uppstår genom människors handlingar. Gemenskap är vad vi gör den till. Sådan var den "upplysta" och "rationalistiska" logik som Walther befann sig mitt i.

    För Walther och andra ”missourianer” på 1800-talet hörrörde inte kyrkogemenskap från människan, hennes förnuft och frivilliga handlingar. Istället kom den från Gud, hans nådiga och barmhärtiga göranden och handlingar. Gripna i hjärtat, hänryckta av Guds levande ord, blev för Walther och andra Kyrkan ”i grunden en trons och den helige Andes gemenskap i våra hjärtan” (Augsburgska bekännelsens Apologi VII, SKB, s 175, jfr Joh. 18:36; Ef. 2:19-22, 4:3-6, 1 Joh. 1:1-7, 5:5-12, osv.). Kyrkans enhet eller gemenskap är huvudsakligen en inre sak, men också en yttre sak. Den verkliga inre enheten eller gemenskapen med Kristus och hela Hans Kyrka ges i och med själva den frälsande tron. Det beror inte på människan! Det handlar om Gud! -- Gud! Gud! Gud !!! - med Kristus som föremålet för en sådan kraftfull och livgivande tro! Tron och Ordet betydde allt för våra bekännande trosfäder. För dem var det ett stort verk när Gud skapar tro i en person. Det är som om han skapade himmel och jord igen. Gud och hans gärningar, Gud och hans Ord - dessa ting fängslade verkligen dessa lutheraners hjärtan när det gällde kyrkans gemenskap. Gemenskap var något som troddes med allas bifall, den bekändes i ord och handling, den omhuldades. Den hölls verkligen fast vid med sådan glädje och vördnad som om Gud skapade himmel och jord igen - och faktiskt, det är vad vår nådefulle Herre gör genom sitt ord. Han föder människor på nytt, föder dem en gång till. Gud för sådana troende själar till gemenskap! Gud är gemenskapens Gud, inte en Gud av andlig ensamhet och isolering.

    Dessutom bör man betänka, att det var under den andligt sett mycket mörka och svåra tiden i Preussen på Walthers tid (p.g.a. rationalism och andra problem), som lutheranerna verkligen kunde, uppskattade och bekände vad kyrkogemenskap är. De stod inför det andligt sett livshotande mörkret omkring sig, precis som vi gör idag. Men precis som när Walther var allvarligt sjuk när han läste vid universitetet - och han tillbringade den tiden med att läsa Luthers böcker, vilket fullständigt formade hans andliga liv och förändrade honom till en bekännande lutheran - ledde rationalismens mörka dagar och ”människors frivilliga handlingar” den lutherska kyrkan till att tro Guds ord. Inte för att behålla det för sig själv, utan för att bekänna det. De lutherska prästerna och lekmännen på den tiden gav gärna upp allting för att fly långt bort från den djupt korrumperade och fallna etablerade kyrkan! Emigrationen till Amerika, där religionsfrihet rådde, betraktades som den enda möjligheten att fly från samvetsförtryck och de ständigt försämrade förhållandena inom statskyrkan, vilka blev mer och mer outhärdliga och hotade att kväva trons liv helt och hållet hos de troende.

    Att emigrera till Amerika skulle inte visa sig leda till någon form av himmelrike på jorden. Amerikanska kyrkor kämpade också med rationalism! Dessutom poppade det upp olika samfund i USA, frihetens land. Förutom att rationalismen försökte kväva och tysta evangeliet helt och hållet, upptäckte bekännande lutheraner i Amerika en annan fiende i deras nya pluralistiska land. Bland falska lärare, villfarande gemenskaper och rationalism, fanns också trycket att vara neutral, att vara en del av en armé av neutrala där människor var beredda på varje slags kompromiss. Sådana lutheraner hade den kyrkliga strävan att vara harmlösa för alla i syfte att inte på något sätt hamna i andlig fara. Detta skulle senare ta sig uttryck i bildandet av liberala lutherska synoder och grovt heterodoxa synoder, sådana som är vanliga i hela Amerika i dag. Men för bekännande lutheraner, såsom C.F.W. Walther, fanns det inget utrymme för pluralism. Pluralismen förnyar inte kyrkan och hennes gemenskap, utan förstör henne. Pluralism och öppna nattvardsbord är raka motsatsen till reformationens enhälliga fasthållande vid det rena evangeliet och sakramenten, som vår högt uppskattade Walther med glädje bekände sig till! Och han var inte ensam. Där fanns också otaliga lekmän, och även luthersk ungdom. Kyrkogemenskap handlar inte endast om Walther, eller om någon form av frivilliga handlingar gjorda av lutheraner. Kyrkogemenskap handlade och handlar fortfarande om den gemenskap som flödar fram från evangeliet. Walther och de bekännande lutheranerna kände till och värderade de evangeliska skatter som anförtrotts dem i Guds ord. Kyrkogemenskap var mer än bara en term eller en idé, och det var verkligen mer än att lutheraner samlas under ett kyrkligt paraply. För dem var gemenskap (fellowship) inte "kamratskap" (fellership), det vill säga att samsas med andra lutherska vänner. Nej, de bekände kyrkogemenskapen som något som Gud, på grund av sin nådiga vilja och barmhärtighet, skapar genom evangeliet. Gemenskap för dem, och för oss, var något som medförde helande, styrka och förnyelse! Kära vänner, vilka lärdomar vi har att ta till oss, särskilt med de moderna utmaningar och faror som vi står inför i dag!

    Jag skulle nu vilja fokusera på Walthers syn på nattvardsgemenskap, som han bygger på den Heliga skrift och den lutherska bekännelsen. År 1867 bildade tio lutherska synoder en sammanslutning som blev känd som det Allmänna konciliet. Missourisynoden anslöt sig inte. Bara ett par år senare lämnade flera andra lutherska kyrkor det Allmänna konciliet. Detta berodde delvis på betänkligheter vad gällde det Alllmänna konciliets inställning till nattvardsgemenskap. Det tillät tydligen medlemmar av icke-lutherska kyrkor, som inte bekände den verkliga närvaron av Kristi kropp och blod i nattvarden, att delta i altarets sakrament. Återigen måste det sägas att kyrkogemenskap inte bara var ett problem för Walther och lutheraner i Tyskland, utan de stod även inför svåra utmaningar i Amerika. Alla dessa utmaningar fortsätter ännu idag i olika former och grader.

    Hur som helst var det i samband med den ovan nämnda frågan om nattvardsgemenskap som dr C.F.W. Walther 1870, vid en konferens anordnad av Synodens gamla Västra distrikt, presenterade ”13 teser om nattvardsgemenskap med heterodoxa kristna". Med dessa teser inpräntade Walther sanningen att sann trosenhet är en oumbärlig förutsättning för nattvardsgemenskap. Han påvisade också den skada och förödelse som åsamkas både andra och nattvardsgästen själv, när en person som inte erkänner den verkliga närvaron ändå släpps fram till sakramentet. Tyvärr pågår detta idag, till och med i vissa församlingar inom Missourisynoden. Jag vet detta från en smärtsam upplevelse när jag var präst i LCMS. Innan jag installerades i min andra församling som präst, fick en jude tillåtelse att ta emot nattvarden vid altaret. Det krossar mitt hjärta när jag minns vad jag sett och upplevt och när jag tänker på att detta fortfarande pågår.

    Men låt oss låta Walther teser rikta vår uppmärksamhet mot nattvardsgemenskap, och minnas att "eftersom nattvardsgemenskap är kyrkogemenskap och kyrkogemenskap är nattvardsgemenskap, följer att dessas gränser sammanfaller." Walthers teser är ännu idag Missourisynodens officiella ståndpunkt.

    Teserna

    1. Den sanna synliga kyrkan – i obegränsad bemärkelse – eller en del av den, är den i vilken Guds ord rent predikas och de heliga sakramenten förvaltas enligt Kristi instiftelse.
    2. En gemenskap där Guds ord medvetet förfalskas, eller där sådana avsiktliga förfalskningar tillåts, är inte en sann, renlärig, utan en falsk, villfarande kyrka eller sekt.
    3. Var och en är skyldig att bekänna sin tillhörighet till den sanna synliga kyrkan, och, när han har möjlighet, även ansluta sig till den.
    4. Var och en är skyldig att undvika villfarande kyrkor och, om han tillhör en sådan kyrka, ta avstånd från den och lämna den.
    5. Även i villfarande gemenskaper finns sanna kristna, som håller sig till dem på grund av bristande insikt.
    6. De som blir övertygade om det partiella avfallet i den kyrklig gemenskapen som de ingår i, och ändå förbli i den, hör inte till de svaga, utan är antingen ljumma som Herren kommer att utspy ur sin mun, eller epikureiska bespottare av religionen, som i sina hjärtan säger med Pilatus: "Vad är sanning?"
    7. Även om huvudsyftet med de heliga sakramenten är att vara instrument och medel genom vilka löftena om nåd erbjuds, förmedlas och tillägnas – och de är sigill, bevis och underpant på dessa löften – är ändå ett av deras syften, underordnat det huvudsakliga syftet, även att vara särskiljande tecken på bekännelsen och det som binder samman gemenskapen i den heliga gudstjänsten. Nattvardsgemenskap är därför kyrkogemenskap.
    8. Eftersom den heliga nattvarden inte är instiftad för att göra människor till kristna, utan för att stärka tron hos dem som redan är kristna, ska nattvarden inte ges till någon som visar sig vara en falsk kristen.
    9. Eftersom Herrrens kropp och blod är substantiellt närvarande i den heliga nattvarden, och delas ut till och tas emot av alla nattvardsgäster, kan den inte utan allvarlig synd ges till dem som inte bekänner sin tro på detta mysterium.
    10. Den heliga nattvarden är också ett tecken på trons och lärans bekännelse hos dem som man firar tillsammans med. Därför innebär irrlärande kyrkors medlemmars tillträde till måltiden i den lutherska kyrkan ett bestridande

    (a) av den förordnade instiftelsen,

    (b) av den förordnade enheten i kyrkan vad gäller tron och den motsvarande bekännelsen,

    (c) av kärleken till dem som ges nattvarden,

    (d) av kärleken till de egna trosfränderna, särskilt de svaga bland dem, som därmed tar grov anstöt,

    (e) av förbudet att inte bli delaktig i andras synder och fel.

    1. Genom deras uteslutning från firandet av den heliga nattvarden i gemenskap med den lutherska kyrkan, är medlemmar av irrlärande samfund inte bannlysta, än mindre har de förklarats vara kättare eller fördömda. Deras deltagande i nattvarden har endast blivit uppskjutet tills de försonat sig med den ortodoxa kyrkan genom att avstå från den falska kyrkogemenskap de ingår i.
    2. Eftersom även de villfarande anser och förklarar det vara fel att ha nattvardsgemenskap med de ortodoxa, är det desto mer skamligt när de senare överlämnar sin nattvard, som förvaltats enligt Kristi instiftelse, till de förra.
    3. Desto mer unionismen och synkretismen blivit vår tids synd och fördärv, desto mer trohet krävs av den ortodoxa kyrkan, att den heliga nattvarden inte missbrukas som ett medel för att uppnå yttre enhet, fastän den inre enheten saknas. (not 3).

    När nu detta föredrag närmar sig sitt slut, är jag mycket medveten om att många troende präster och lekmän anser följande vara en oerhört svår fråga att besvara: Kan man ha gemenskap med en statskyrka som kallar sig "luthersk", om den kyrkan endast på pappret bekänner sig till den lutherska bekännelsen? Eller måste man istället avskilja sig från en sådan kyrka? Det finns helt klart ett problem: När ska man stanna, när man ska lämna, när man ska man vara kvar och när ska man bryta? Men om den Heliga Skrift verkligen är Guds sanna och tydliga ord - och det är den verkligen! - då kan t.o.m. en begåvad konfirmand mycket enkelt besvara en sådan fråga utan att behöva tveka.

    I början av 1850-talet uppmuntrade Walther Loehe att fortsätta kampen i den Bayerska kyrkan i en tid då den senaste utvecklingen gjort att det såg ut att finnas möjlighet för de konfessionella att vinna seger. Intressant nog kunde Walther ännu tjugo år senare fortfarande ge uttryck för en "kämpa, fly inte"-inställning. Under senare år har vissa i Missourisynoden gett rådet till folk att stanna kvar i dagens skandinaviska statskyrkor, och då hänvisat till Walthers råd. Jag skulle behöva hålla ett separat föredrag för att kunna behandla denna sak på ett adekvat sätt. Men Walther och de bekännande lutheranerna på hans tid kämpade verkligen med frågan om kyrkogemenskap. Walther jämförde situationen för konfessionella lutheraner i den Bayerska kyrkan 1870 med situationen för lutheraner 1530, då de ännu hade band kvar till den romersk-katolska kyrkan. De lutherska bekännarna vid Augsburg hade framtvingat frågan genom deras djärva bekännelse, som fördömde villfarelserna i den romerska kyrkan och vägrade att vara delaktiga i dem. "Lutheranerna agerade i själva verket vid denna tid redan de facto som en kyrka. Walther förespråkade ett liknande trots mot den Bayerska kyrkans förordningar, vilket skulle tvinga fram frågan om kyrkogemenskap. Walther beklagade att han inte hade tvingat den Sachsiska kyrkan att utesluta honom trettio år tidigare. Han såg klart att kristna har en tydlig skyldighet att lämna alla falska kyrkor, men det är svårare att avgöra när man ska lämna en före detta ortodox kyrka, som blivit heterodox. Man ska inte omedelbart lämna, utan försöka korrigera felen. Detta kan dock inte fortsätta i det oändliga. Den tid då korrigering och försoning är möjlig kan snabbt komma till ett slut. Som bevis på detta visar Walther på den skarpa skillnaden i tonläge mellan den Augsburgska bekännelsen 1530 och de Schmalkaldiska artiklarna mindre än ett decennium senare." (not 4). Det är svårt att se någon större skillnad på det dilemma som Luther brottades med på 1530-talet och det som Walther brottades med på 1830-talet och 1870-talet, och det dilemma som vi står inför i dag som lutheraner. I varje situation finns en tydlig skyldighet att avge ett klart vittnesbörd. När detta inte fick önskad effekt bröt våra lutherska förfäder helt med den dåvarande kyrkan. Så gör också bekännelsetrogna lutheraner idag. 

    "Att tillhöra en sådan statskyrka, antingen som medlem eller präst, skulle strida mot Guds ord. Det är fullständigt tydligt. Det är en gåta för oss hur en omdömesgill människa kan bestrida detta, eller kan tvivla på det överhuvudtaget. Beträffande falska lärare befaller Guds ord gång på gång vad som ska göras:

    • "Vänd er bort från dem", Rom. 16:17;

    • "Gå inte som omaka par ihop med dem som inte tror", 2 Kor. 6:14;

    • "Gå ut från dem och skilj er från dem", 2 Kor. 6:17;

    • "Håll dig borta från sådant", 1 Tim. 6:11;

    • "En villolärare ska du visa ifrån dig", Tit. 3:10 och

    • "Ta inte emot honom i ert hem eller hälsa honom välkommen", 2 Joh. 10." (not 5).

    Guds ord ger ofta dessa befallningar. På detta sätt kallar det ofta tydligt och specifikt människor också i vår tid att lösgöra sig från gemenskaper som den så kallade "lutherska" statskyrkan.

    Därför är alla som stannar i statskyrkan, trots allt som här nämnts, olydiga mot Guds klara ord. Allt man åberopar för motsatsen är spetsfundigheter, avsiktliga eller oavsiktliga. När de jämförs med Guds ord upplöses dessa argument som dimman i solen. De brinner upp som halm i motsägelsernas låga.

    I en lång artikel förkastade Walther argument till stöd för att dröja med utträdet ur statskyrkorna i Tyskland. Kristna ska inte att vänta på en särskild signal från Gud att utträda ur en kyrka som framhärdar i villolära, eftersom vi redan har fått hans tydliga befallning. I fråga om utträde ur statskyrkorna har tiden för exodus redan kommit för länge sedan. För de svagas skull kan vi inte vara kvar i kyrkor som framhärdar i villoläror. Det är just för deras skull som vi måste lämna och bereda en plats för dem, dit de kan fly tillsmmans med oss.

    Jag önskar som sagt att jag kunde säga mer om denna sak. Jag vill uppmuntra er att läsa och upptäcka vad Walther hade att säga om kyrkogemenskap. Läs utdrag från hans mäktiga predikningar om den gemenskap vi har i evangeliet! Sådana predikningar gör varje lutheran beredd att bekänna sin tro och förenas med andra lutheraner i en sann, för Gud välbehaglig gemenskap. Sådan gemenskap kommer från Gud och hans handlingar, inte från människan. Återigen tänker jag på när Walther var allvarligt sjuk och hur han använde den fruktansvärda tiden till att läsa igenom Luthers böcker. Luthers undervisning reste upp honom till en bekännande lutheran. Walther berördes av Ordet, bekännelsen och Luthers skrifter så att han undervisade, predikade, skrev och bekände tron – den tro som Gud verkar och bevarar. Walther skulle ställas inför många fler svåra, till och med till synes omöjliga strider, men genom dem alla stärktes Walther och andra till att stå fasta i tron. De stred för den sanna tron och den rätta förståelsen av kyrkogemenskap. De svårigheter och utmaningar som vi möter idag skall inte förvirra oss, inte få oss att vrida våra händer i förtvivlan, utan få oss att gräva djupare i Guds ord och bekännelseskrifterna såsom Walther gjorde. Därigenom kommer vi att resa oss med den rena bekännelsen i vår mun, som kommer från tron som lever i våra hjärtan.

    Pastor Ned Brockwell

  • Raamatun alkukertomusten yhteys uskon kokonaisuuteen, osa 3

    Pastori Edward Brockwellin nuorten tunti Raamattuleirillä 2010 Siitamajalla, esityksen alussa vastaus osan 2 kuulijatehtävään

  • Rest for the Weary (Matthew 11:25–30) by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Rest for the Weary

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on Matthew 11:25-30

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19b).

    The opening words of our text begin with Jesus praising God the Father for hiding "these things" from the wise and learned, and revealing them to little children. God’s Word concerning how man is saved and put right with God, the preaching of the Gospel and the kingdom of God, such teachings cannot be grasped with reason. It doesn’t reach the human heart that way. The more educated and the more sharpened the reasoning ability of people, like that of the Pharisees and those who took offense at Jesus, the less they understand and even believe. "Christian teaching doesn’t appeal to reason," says Luther. "That’s why our reason complains about it: "I don't want to take my salvation out of my own hands and throw away all my good works in order to achieve eternal life. I don't want to place my hands and set my feet on someone outside of myself, someone who was so silly and foolish as to let himself be crucified. How am I supposed to believe that Jesus is my Savior?” Reason cannot grasp this. We must take every thought captive so that it's obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)."

    It is in the nature that we are born with, human reason refuses to led by God, but instead it wants to all the leading and believing. But without God and His grace and mercy, human reason is an absolute enemy to God and is irritated by the message and preaching of Jesus, it is offended because of Him that one should be saved apart from our works and doing, and solely because of merits of Christ and His gracious will. The emphasis from our Gospel lesson is how Jesus publicly celebrates God’s goodness; He is acknowledging it before all the world with His words of praise to God the Father. Moreover, Jesus is very emphatic here, He is speaking with authority and with such "amen-like conviction": "Yes, indeed THIS IS the way God is and how He saves! It is all by grace!” This text is nothing but pure gospel! "God's children don't have to pass an IQ test. God's good pleasure (not our good IQ or any other factor) is the cause and source of our salvation. So don’t be discouraged by the lack of believers. Drive out the discouraging thoughts. Join Jesus in praising the Father that any believe—yes, even yourself."

    Our text now brings us to one of the most known, much-loved and quoted verses in the Bible: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (verse 28). "Being spurned by the Jews, Jesus now offers rest and service to all who are conscious of their need. To these He will GIVE rest (peace with God, Rom. 5:1, the rest of salvation), and in His service they shall continually FIND rest (the peace of God, Phil. 4:7)."

    Where can we find this peace with God and rest for our souls? ALL of these things are revealed through Jesus. Jesus holds the exclusive rights to reveal and distribute the truth about the one true God. If you want to know what God thinks and what He things of you, if you want to know how God will and what HIS will is for you, if you want to what He says, what He plans, what does He feel, what He does and what He promises, then you must go to Jesus. The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed says it perfectly: "I believe that I cannot by own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." Rest for weary souls, and the very call and ability to come to God, these are found only in Christ through the preaching of His holy Gospel. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Here the invitation to come is given, but with this grace-fill invitation, there is also the power to come. Oh, this powerful Gospel of Christ, it is not something that we internalize and assimilate according to way of thinking and living; rather, this powerful Gospel of our Lord, "Come unto me," the Word of God assimilates us and makes us godly and give us rest and peace. We do not use this Gospel nor any of God’s Word to make something of ourselves; instead, it makes and remakes us in the likeness of Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

    Verses. 28–30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." With these verses we find and know where the Son's "choice” (v. 27) and the Father's "good pleasure" (v. 26) are revealed! God's will is that ALL the weary and burdened come into fellowship with the Father through the Son. He wants all people, for "all have sinned" (Ro 3:23) and "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (Jn 8:34).
    Of course, only the heart that recognizes its burden and longs for relief will find Jesus’ invitation truly inviting. Dear friends, what is the condition of your hear? Are you burdened and heavy-laden, are you a bruised reed with a faith that can be described as nothing more than smoking flax? (Mt 12:20). Or is your heart lukewarm with self-satisfaction (Rev 3:15f)? In other words, do you love other things more than God, whether that be father or mother, son or daughter more than Christ? (Matthew 10:37). Or is your heart filled more with a love of the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15). Or do you hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6) but find within you a civil war going, the good that you want to do, you fail to do, but do that which you hate. The gospel call of our Lord is only for the heart that recognizes its agonizing burden and longs for relief, relief that is found and given in Jesus' invitation, "Come unto me." What is the condition of your heart, dear friend?

    I implore you to think carefully and to consider what Jesus' invitation promises. "No one but God himself can make and fulfill this claim! "Come to me. I myself will give you rest for your soul. Accept my Word and unending relief is yours. I personally guarantee peace with God." Does Jesus have the credentials to back up this claim? Later, led as the Lamb of God to the slaughter, he proved he has a gentle and humble heart sympathetic to the plight of the weary and burdened. Rising from the dead verifies that he is the Lord God who has earned the right to give peace and rest to his people. He removes your sin and restores your fellowship with God. Yes, Jesus has the credentials. He is the Son of God."

    "Some Christians have a weak faith and are shy, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the great number of their sins. They think that in their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and Christ's benefits. They feel their weakness of faith and lament it, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience. These are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament has been especially instituted and appointed. For Christ says: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matthew 9:12) . [God’s] power is made mighty in the weak [2 Corinthians 12:9]. As for the one who is weak in faith, [God welcomes you!] "Whoever believes in [the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith,] may have eternal life" [John 3:15]. "[W]orthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ"! (BOC, FSD, VII, 68-71.)

    Jesus invites all who are "struggling under the burden of the Law and their sin to come to Him for rest (28), to find rest and peace for their muddled lives under the beneficent discipline of His easy yoke, to take up the burden which is light because He has borne it before them and for them (29–30). In the midst of contradiction Jesus reveals Himself as "God of God … for us men and our salvation came down from heaven … incarnate by the Holy Ghost … made man.""

    I close with these very words of Luther, but let these words warm your heart and comfort your soul: ""Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you." In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ. He takes your death upon himself and strangles it so that it may not harm you, if you believe that he does it for you and see your death in him and not in yourself. Likewise, he also takes your sins upon himself and overcomes them with his righteousness out of sheer mercy, and if you believe that, your sins will never work you harm. In that way Christ, the picture of life and of grace over against the picture of death and sin, is our consolation."

    Jesus is our relief, our rescue, our rest at every turn. Our rest does not rest on us at all. It rests only on Jesus, who broke the yoke of slavery and removed its burden on the cross, who daily lifts us up and carries us on eagles' wings (Ex 19:4). Wherever Jesus is, there you will most certainly find rest for weary hearts and burdened souls. Jesus is present among us, offering us His rest. We have the privilege to come to Jesus where He has promised to be found--in His holy church, where His Word is faithfully preached and His sacraments are rightly administered. Amen.

     

     

  • St. John 9, 1-7, 39-41 by Pastor Edward Brockwell

     

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

     

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19b).

    "If there’s anything in life that turns us all into instant philosophers, it is the age-old problem of evil. If God is good, why is there so much evil? What can a good and gracious God intend by allowing calamities to fall upon his children? We can understand why the bad guys of this world get theirs, but when tragedy strikes the good and upright, we get a bit uptight. "Why can’t God be fair?" is the question we might be thinking to ourselves. "Where is the justice in this?"" You know these questions; they pop up in our minds when 'bad things' happen. Why did I lose my job? Why did my father have to get so sick and die? Why this, why that? By nature, we want to make sense out of things, especially when bad things happen. We want to know where is the justice in things that are happening to us or around us. In a way, the Disciples were struggling with the same sort questions when they and Jesus passed by at the Temple and they saw a beggar who was blind from birth. Oh what a pathetic situation, seeing man with no sight, trying to survive in life by begging. He had no real life as we know it. He never saw a beautiful sunset, he never saw the faces of his family—all he ever knew was darkness. He had no job, no retirement plan, no Social Welfare Agency to fall back on when times were rough. Indeed, he was a pitiful person to behold.

    I am sure the Disciples wanted to know the justice in all this, so they began asking Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (verse 2) The disciples were assuming that a specific sin had been committed, which was the cause of the man's blindness, but they were at a loss as to who had sinned. Was it the man to blame, or was it the fault of his parents? Jesus corrects this general idea and thinking of the disciples. They should not consider every serious affliction as the penalty for sin. Yes, there are occasions where sin is the cause of sickness or catastrophe, such as diseases that people contract through illicit sex, drink-driving, etc. And, to be sure, all suffering in this sinful and fallen world is the outcome of sin in some way or other. Sin works out its painful and distressing results in many ways that are beyond our ability to trace.

    Jesus did not attempt to enlighten His disciples on this wide and intricate subject as to who sinned. Instead, He gave them a completely different answer: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." Not everything 'bad thing' such as suffering and disease is because of a particular sin. What Jesus taught His Disciples, and what He also teaches us, is that we are not in every case of suffering to look back to find a possible cause of sin but to look forward to the divine purpose which God may have in providentially permitting such suffering to come upon a person, or to you or to me!

    Oh listen carefully, dear friends, our text teaches us that God governs all things that happen in lives so that we might see His purpose and know His grace and mercy. The reason God allows certain things to happen to us during our lives (such as happened to the man born blind), is to show us His great works. God wants the power of His grace and mercy to be seen and known in all that happens in life, good or bad. Our questions of "Why Lord, why?" begins to subside and disappear when faith looks to God and humbly expects and believes that God is at work in all things. It is this simple, this very, very simple truth that we need to remind each other of when see one another suffering. We can remind each other with such words of the psalmist, "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth" (Psalm 145:18); "Fear not," says the Lord through His prophet Isaiah, "for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10). And, as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, and indeed, all of you, His "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), we can reach out in love to one another and remind each other that, yes, bad things happen, there is no denying that, but in this situation, God is working for good (Romans 8:28), whatever you are going through, it has been permitted to happen so that "the works of God should be revealed". This is truly faith in action.

    Indeed, the beggar blind from birth was placed on the journey of faith. Our text tells us that Jesus "spat on the ground and made mud of the spittle and put the mud of it on the eyes and said to him, Go wash in the pool of Siloam (which [name] is interpreted, Sent)" (verse 6). "By placing the mud from his own spittle on the beggar’s eyelids He lets him know that the healing power comes from Jesus. The beggar is not merely to wash off this mud, for which any place that had water would suffice, but to wash it off in the pool of Siloam, which … name signifies, "the One Sent."" For the beggar is to act on this strange command with nothing less than taking Jesus at His Word. But with the Lord’s word is also an implied promise. The Lord doesn’t tell the beggar that he will be healed, he simply tells him to go and wash. But this requires some degree of faith, which certainly also is intended to be aroused by Jesus just as He did with the ten lepers, in Luke, chapter 17. The beggar acted on the Word of the Lord. He washed at the pool of Siloam. He saw for the first time!

    Now, our text ends with verse seven, and begins again with verse thirty-nine. What happens to the beggar is that he is a changed man, even though he had a rough start. He was taken to the Pharisees who neither welcomed the beggar nor this miracle. Instead, they were quite unhappy. They judged Jesus behind his back, saying that Jesus could not be from God since He healed on the Sabbath. They spoke of him as an open sinner. The Pharisees then asked the beggar what he had to say about Jesus. He confessed that He is a prophet. The beggar didn’t know, but probably didn’t care that the Jews had agreed already, that if any man were to confess that Jesus was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Well, you guessed it. The Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue.

    Jesus heard what had happened; He found the man and said, ""Do you believe in the Son of God?" He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord that I may believe in Him?" And Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you." Then he said, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshiped Him." The beggar was brought to faith. The mud in his eyes, the command to go to Siloam, getting harassed by the Pharisees and even kicked out of the synagogue, this did not dissuade him or prevent him from confessing what Jesus had done. But, oh, what a sight it must have been when Jesus, the Sent One from the heavenly Father sought this man out. His faith was brought to full flame. All he could do was worship the Lord.
    Oh dear friends, such is the power and glory of faith, even if it be a small spark at first. "Faith," says Luther, "it changes people. It makes them see everything in a new light. Their ears hear, their eyes see, and their hearts feel something completely different from what everyone else perceives. Faith is living and powerful. It's not a simpleminded idea… When the Holy Spirit gives us faith, it transforms the mind and attitudes. It creates an entirely new person. Faith is active, profound, and powerful… It changes the heart and mind. Faith moves one to hear God’s Word and believe it.

    With this man in our text, formerly blind, no longer a beggar, we see faith that is bold even when it is tried and tested. It does not wallow in self-pity for "the bad things in life", rather it is in the midst of bad things, our trials and testing that faith is made stronger, as with the man in our text. The fruit of faith is that of worship. One cannot help but worship God. Indeed, "faith in God is the highest worship, the greatest allegiance, the ultimate obedience, and the most pleasing sacrifice" of praise toward God [Luther]. What is more, the power of faith is immeasurable and infinite! Faith gives God the greatest honor anyone can give Him. Giving God honor is to believe in Him, consider Him to be truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and all-powerful. In short, it’s recognizing that He is our Creator and the Giver of every good thing… Faith makes God real to us and real in us. Without faith, God’s honor, glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth, and mercy cannot be in us. Where there is no faith, God has no majesty and divinity. God doesn’t require anything more from us than to acknowledge His divinity and give Him the glory and honor He deserves. We should think of him, not as an idol, but as God—the God who accepts us and hears us, who is merciful to us, and who stands by us. When we honor God, His divinity remains complete and intact—He has everything that a believing heart can give him. When we honor God in this way, we are showing the greatest wisdom, the highest justice, and the best worship…" Such was the worship of the man in our text.

    Jesus is, indeed, the light of the world. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, who boldly pointed Israel to the coming Messiah. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped" (Isaiah 35:5). And, again, speaking the word of God, Isaiah wrote of the coming of Jesus, "I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:16). Jesus is the light of the world. The darkness of the cross came when Jesus would hang on the cross and die for the sins the world. But in His resurrection, the light of world would display the full salvation of God, which every believing eye of faith beholds.

    Now our Lord speaks to us! "Take, eat; this is My body" (Matthew 26:2). "Take and drink." "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). We find healing for our wounded souls and consciences. We find the full forgiveness of sins. We find our faith strengthened. We find ourselves before the real presence of the real Lord who cares for us and loves us. Our faith is strengthened and all we can do is worship the Lord, the "Light of the world" (John 9:5). Amen.

     

     

  • Taking Jesus at his word, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    TAKING JESUS AT HIS WORD

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based onJohn 4:46-54

    The Twenty-first Sunday After Trinity  

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

    John 4:46-54 NKJV

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7). Amen.

    Today's Gospel pictures to us a remarkable example of faith. By means of the Word, faith fully brings the Lord Jesus with all his riches home to every man. Luther wrote that, "one Christian has just as much as another, and the child baptized today has not less than St. Peter and all the saints in heaven. We are all equal and alike in reference to faith, and one person has his treasure just as full and complete as another" (Luther).

    The point that our Gospel lesson speaks of is that "although faith fully possesses Christ and all His riches, yet it must nevertheless be continually kept in motion and exercised, so that it may have assurance, and firmly retain its treasures. There is a difference between having a thing and firmly keeping hold of it, between a strong and a weak faith. Such a great treasure should be firmly seized and well guarded, so that it may not be easily lost or taken from us. I may have it indeed in its entirety, although I hold it only in a paper sack, but it is not so well preserved as if I had it locked in an iron chest" (Luther). St. John carefully notes at three different times that the nobleman believed. What we learn from the text is how his faith was be exercised, tested if you will. Jesus was strengthening the nobleman’s faith. Instead of a faith that rested on signs and miracles, it became a strong faith, one that took Jesus at His Word.

    In the same way, Jesus leads us to strive to lay hold of the treasure of faith more and more firmly and securely from day to day. We must see to it how faith may grow and become stronger. If our faith is not continually kept in motion and exercised, it will weaken and decrease, in fact, it can even vanish. Sadly, we do not see nor feel this weakness ourselves, except when we are in need, go through difficult times, or struggle with temptation; when unbelief rages too strongly. And yet for this very reason faith must have struggles and temptations in which it may exercise and grow.

    There was a certain nobleman, whose son was critically ill and about to die. He had heard about Jesus, a Prophet whose powerful teaching was backed up by miraculous works, such as the turning of water into wine. When the nobleman heard that Jesus had come to Cana, which was in the same general region, he went to Him there to implore His help. From this, we can see that the nobleman had faith in Jesus. It may have been faith that had a long way to grow in terms of perceiving the fullness of who Jesus was, but it was faith nonetheless.

    The faith of the nobleman looked to Jesus for help. He traveled a very long distance, even while his son was close to death. Cana was about eighteen miles away from Capernaum, easily a day's journey on dirt roads. That meant that he would have to be away from his dying son for at least two days, traveling to Cana and back. How could this man leave the bedside of his child for such a long time, unless he believed that Jesus could really help? Indeed, the nobleman had faith in Christ. He traveled those eighteen lonely miles until he came to Jesus to plead for His help.

    You are not unlike this nobleman. You are here today because you have faith in Christ. You are here by God's grace to seek the help that only He can give. You believe that Jesus can do for you what no one else can do, namely, forgive your sins, restore your life from whatever is troubling you, and give you the assurance of eternal life as you dwell in these bodies of "sin and death."

    In our text, Jesus answers the nobleman but in way he wouldn’t expect of Jesus. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe" (verse 48). Jesus' reply to him, though sharp, was necessary. A faith built only on miraculous signs is not a complete faith. Many people hesitate to believe in Jesus apart from seeing miraculous signs and wonders. The nobleman wasn’t even asking for a sign. Why would Jesus respond to him that way?

    First, I believe that Jesus was testing the nobleman’s faith with the sole purpose of making it stronger. Would the nobleman continue to seek the Lord’s help after his rebuke? Or, would the nobleman give in to doubt and despair? Not all believers have a strong faith. The nobleman had faith, but his faith was not yet strong enough. Jesus, who knows men’s hearts better than they do, surely saw the true needs of the nobleman. The nobleman was genuinely concerned about his dying child, but Jesus could see clearly that it was not only the dying child that needed help. The situation did not need a "quick fix." Jesus wanted to give something that was needed and would continue after His miraculous healing of the nobleman's son. Jesus gave the nobleman a strengthened and lasting faith.

    I am sure that Jesus could see how the nobleman was clinging only to the seeing and the experience of the Lord’s bodily presence. The nobleman's faith was quite different to that of the centurion in Matthew, chapter 8, who said to Jesus: "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed" (verse 8). Jesus' response to the centurion was quite different also. He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"

    And, it wasn’t only the nobleman who struggled with a weak faith. The Disciples, who were with Jesus for three years, day in and day out, at times Jesus rebuked them for their weak faith. At times, their faith clung to what only they saw and could experience. For example, Jesus chastised the disciples in the boat, when a terrible storm came and He said to them: "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 8:26). It was as if to say, "Where is your faith now? Therefore, however good and genuine faith may be, it falls back when it comes to a battle, unless it has been well disciplined and has grown strong" (Luther).

    What are we to learn from this? First, we should never think that it is enough that we be begun to believe, or have that we have believed all our lives. We must diligently watch that our faith is strengthened and remains firm or our faith will vanish. Luther reminds us that "you are to see how you may retain this treasure you have embraced, [namely our faith]; for Satan concentrates all his skill and strength on how to tear it out of your heart. Therefore, the growth of your faith is truly as necessary as its beginning and indeed more so; but all is the work of God" (Luther). We learn that Faith in Jesus is absolutely necessary, no matter what trials and tribulations touch our lives, or the lives of others. It is hard to persuade ourselves that distance of time and place are no obstructions to the knowledge and power of our Lord Jesus. Our faith then must always rest in Jesus and not in any signs, wonders, feelings or experiences!

    The nobleman was in no position emotionally to argue his case theologically. All he could plead for was mercy, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" (Verse 49). Jesus' calm reply to the official’s desperate request created a crisis. Jesus announced, "Go your way; your son lives" (verse 50). If the official really believed that Jesus could make a difference in Capernaum, he must also believe Him now in Cana. The nobleman took Jesus at His word, "he believed the word that Jesus spoke to him." Again, Luther writes, "By means of this faith he saved his son's life. So indeed every person approaching God should believe that he will receive what he requests, or he will not receive it."

    On his journey home, the nobleman must have pondered Jesus' promise all throughout his long journey home. Instead of holding on to signs and wonders, he believed the words that Jesus spoke to him. The nobleman was changed from merely seeking signs to faith in Jesus' Word. In our text we read how his servants met him with good news. His boy was living. The nobleman asked when his son recovered. They told him that it was at the seventh hour. The healing was no accident, for it occurred at the exact moment Jesus made His promise to him. The nobleman’s faith continued to grow, "he himself believed, and his whole household" (verse 53).

    Jesus wants to do the same with each and every one of us. Perhaps you do not have a loved one at home dying, but perhaps there is a different kind of struggle going on in your life. Perhaps there is a sickness in the family, or a wayward son or daughter, perhaps you are undergoing a financial burden, or you are struggling with temptation. Alas, perhaps you have been struggling with difficult losses and crosses, leaving you very discouraged and your faith at very low ebb. Whatever the problem is, it is too difficult for you to handle. Yet you are much like the nobleman, you are looking to Jesus for help. But instead of asking Jesus to your home to perform a certain miracle, perhaps your prayers request that Jesus do something special or specific, rather than simply leaving all your needs and requests with Him, trusting in His good and gracious will.

    Like the nobleman, we have God’s Word. In fact we have all of God’s Word that He has chosen to reveal to us in the Bible. God knows that our faith needs to be exercised and even tested, but this is only so that our faith will be approved. In the epistle of James, chapter 1, we read: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." This powerful text tells you that whatever difficulty you are going through in your life, God wants to use this to strengthen your faith, making you " perfect and complete, lacking nothing." He doesn’t want your faith to be “tossed by the wind”, or even to dwindle and die. This is why every one of us is in need of having our faith strengthened.

    But, how can our faith be strengthened unless we have Jesus words to take hold of? We are in constant need of hearing God’s Word. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Jesus simply told the nobleman to return home, his son lives. Contrary to his thoughts, his feelings, what he saw or didn’t see, the nobleman took Jesus at His word. He held Jesus' words above all that he saw, felt or could understand. Jesus' words, His simple promises, guided the thoughts and actions of the nobleman. Jesus didn’t consent to the nobleman’s request to go with him to heal his son. Jesus simply gave him His word which were enough. His Word is powerful. Just as God spoke and by the power of His Word He created the world out of nothing, so Jesus, God in human flesh gave his powerful words to the nobleman. Jesus has given you His Word, His same powerful and efficacious Word. These very words will help you in your struggle, no matter what it is. Hold these words before you, before your reason and feelings, and look only upon God’s Word. And so count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith will lead to a stronger faith, a faith that takes Jesus at His Word!

    Dear friends in Christ! "Wondrous things are found in Christ’s Gospel, wondrous things which are so great, no heart and no one’s faith can fully comprehend them! (Phil. 3:12). For what can be a greater wonder than this: The holy and just God loves the sinful and godless world? And He does not love it just moderately, but with such a great and fervent love that he gives His one dear Son over to shame, derision, suffering, intense agony and death on a cross for the redemption and salvation of the sinners of the world! Through this dear Son whom He has raised from the dead and set at His right hand in heaven, He wishes to bless and pardon us and to adopt us as His children and save us slaves of sins, death and Satan from all our sins, "that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life" (Luke 1:74, 75)."

    Faith, and only faith, makes us rich with the treasures of salvation that are in Christ and totally translates us onto a heavenly course. Faith brings us into genuine participation in God’s merciful and fatherly love. It loosens our tight lips and ignites our cold hearts to give praise and thanks to God for His good works and as Luther says, "it makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Ghost."

    So, dear friends, whatever is happening in your life, take Christ at His Word. Live your life only in the light of His promises and grace. The trial, pain and struggle you are going through, is only because your faith is being exercised, developed and strengthened. Take God at His Word. He has closely bound Himself, His presence and grace, to the Word. Like heat and light are united in fire, so that you cannot take one from the other, then know that God is with you through His Word. Thus you not only have God's Word, but He is present with you through the Word. You are not alone.

    "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (Ephesians 3:20). "Go your way,” (John 4:20), "for the LORD is with you." (2 Chron. 20:17). Amen.



     

     

  • Thanks be to God! by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Thanks be to God!

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on Roman 7:7-25

    Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    The Law Commands and Makes Us Know (TLH 289)

    7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 8But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

    Romans 7:7-25 NKJV

    Dear Friends in Christ,

    Our text for today begins with Paul's struggle with sin and the law. May God help us to see ourselves as those who share in this struggle, a struggle that is real and an ever present reality in our lives. In verse 15 Paul speaks for us all: "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do."Paul, the saint-sinner, was trying to understand the conflict he felt within himself. One the one hand, he knew himself to be a saint and a slave to God (Rom. 6:22); on the other hand he knew and saw so clearly how he was also a sinner and a slave to sin (Rom. 7:14). He confesses, "For what I am doing, I do not understand." In other words, Paul is saying, "With respect to the fact that I am Christian, a saint, I really don't claim what I do as being my own." Paul elaborates, "For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." Paul's will according to his new man is to follow God’s law. He delights in the law and earnestly wants to keep it. He saw the law as something that reveals God's will; how one can live a life that truly pleases God. In the law Paul could see those actions that pleased God. In his heart Paul delighted in the law and would gladly do it. With his will he could look at the law and say, "that's for me!"

    But when Paul took an inventory of his actions, he discovered that they never came close to his intentions. What he read in the law and yet saw in his thoughts, words and deeds were two different things. To get a sense of this, imagine if you were working on an automobile assembly line. As each car creeps down the line it really takes shape. The doors, fenders, windows, engine and transmission are all installed and fitted in place. Now it is time for the workmen to apply the last coat of lacquer. The car enters a final chamber for rust-proofing. You wait for the car to come off the assembly line, but when it does, to your shock, horror and dismay all you see is nothing but a "rust bucket," a real "junker." How could it happen? What went wrong? When Paul looked at his life, his actions and deeds, his thoughts and words, he was horrified to see a lot of "rust buckets" and "junkers" coming off the assembly line.

    In verse 16, Paul wrote: "If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good."There is nothing hypothetical about Paul's desire to follow God's law or anything about his performance, which always fell short of it. Since Paul, according to his new man, desired to follow that law and keep it with all of his heart, it showed in reality that he had put his stamp of approval on the law as something good. The law told him what God wants. God wants love. Love for God above all things and all people. Love for our neighbour. But Paul's failure to live up to the specific requirements of the law did not in any way nullify or tarnish the image of the law. The fault concerning Paul's conduct could not be attributed to God's law.

    In verse 17, Paul clarifies the struggle of the two natures he found in himself and is in every Christian. He wrote: "But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." Although his real self, that is his new man, was not responsible for this constant sinning, Paul painfully experienced an unwelcome guest, a squatter, or intruder, living within him that was responsible. He personifies sin as that squatter, an unlawful tenant that takes over a home and doesn't want to leave. He recognizes sin dwelling within him, but is powerless to dislodge or control the unwanted intruder. As a consequence sin overpowered Paul's will and caused him to commit numerous sins. But Paul did not duck responsibility for those sins; he committed them when the sin within him won out over his new man, that new life he received when he was brought to faith in Christ.

    Now, some people misuse this text. They say that it is the power of sin in them and that they are not responsible. For some, this becomes a cover or an excuse to not only commit sin but to remain in sin. This is certainly not what Paul was teaching in this epistle. "Paul does not say he is unconscious of these deeds. He isn’t acting blindly or involuntarily, being hurried into wrong actions or not realizing what he is doing. On the other hand, he does not sin deliberately, for that would involve the loss of regeneration, [a falling away from faith]. What Paul is getting at is that the sinful things he finds himself doing in spite of [being a Christian, these things] look strange and foreign to him; indeed, he sees them in himself and knows that he is guilty of them, yet they seem to him as if one, other than himself is doing them. This is what makes him feel like a slave who is acting under foreign compulsion, a foreign power having hold of him."[1]

    Because each Christian has the Spirit of God living within him (1 Cor. 16:19), the conduct of each believer provides evidence of divine control. As Christians we earnestly want to do God's will perfectly, but cannot as long as sin dwells within us – and that means as long as we live in this world. This struggle is absolutely true of every Christian. There would be something seriously wrong with us if we did not feel this struggle or conflict within ourselves. It is a daily problem.

    Now, some might find this hard to believe, but one of the most difficult things I have found as a pastor is teaching people that a Christian has two natures. Some are willing to give a half-hearted consent, but others just refuse to see that they are real sinners with real sins. They fail to see and understand that a Christian has two natures that are at war because of the presence of sin from within. They just do not see sin for what it is and as their problem. In their minds, sin is someone else's problem.

    In verse 18, we read: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find."Paul was referring to our sinful nature, that old Adam within us who gets older with every sin! The word "my sinful nature" is translated as "my flesh," which is a more literal rendering of the Greek. What did Paul mean by "flesh"? He was referring to the corruption of sin which infects every human being since the fall of Adam. Without spiritual rebirth a man remains entirely flesh; because of his sinful nature he is unable to please God. The Christian discovers, as did Paul, that this sinful nature can even corrupt his understanding in spiritual matters; it overrides his will and provides the ideal cover for the intruder called sin to lurk within him. Do you see the vast and deep gulf that exists between our intent and our performance!... How frustrating this is for you and me as Christians.

    Verse 19 through verse 21: "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."Paul expresses his earnest will and desire to do that which is morally excellent, but his performance, doing God's will, falls far short of excellence. Paul indicates and freely admits that his failure to carry out his intent, is proof that the persistent squatter, sin, resides within him. It renders his best efforts ineffective when it comes to doing God’s will. Paul also found a principle, a norm, which he experienced day after day: "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me." (NIV).

    "The evil to which Paul refers is like a highly trained attack dog programmed to snap to attention at a special command. It may be lying down, appearing quite harmless. At the given command it jumps to its feet, bares its [teeth] and utters a low growl. No intruder shall pass. Evil lies right at the side of Paul's new man. Just let Paul's will form intent to do one thing that pleases God and – presto – evil is full alert and tries to thwart the intent."[2]

    Verse 22 – "For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man."Paul’s “inward man” is his new man, which now opposes the desires of his sinful nature. Paul’s sanctified “I” takes pleasure in God’s law. Here is a complete presentation of which conduct pleases God and which displeases Him. Each Christian, according to his new man, delights in finding new ways to express his love to God. But in verse 23 we read of a different law. Paul wrote: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.“God’s law” of verse 22 has its reverse image in what is called “another law” and “the law of sin” in verse 23. "Just as God’s law is the perfect guide for pleasing God, so the law of sin is the perfect guide for pleasing Mr. Sin. God’s law shows the new man how to display love for God and one’s neighbour; the law of sin shows the sinful nature how to display love for the devil, the world and the flesh."[3]

    The two laws are not only opposites but are also active antagonists. Paul sees the law of sin operating in the members of his body. His hands, feet, eyes, ears, lips, yes, together with every part of his flesh, they use the law of sin as their guide and serve sin. God’s law seems to come out the loser.

    In this verse "God’s law" is called "the law of my mind." Paul’s mind, his knowledge of God's Word, is part of his "inner being" (v. 22), his new man. God's law holds sway in Paul’s sanctified mind.

    In the conflict between God's law in his mind and sin's law in his flesh, Paul sees sin's law as the decided victor. In fact, Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner of the law of sin. Should a Christian merely surrender his inner being to this law of sin? By no means! A Christian dare not be satisfied with a lack of sanctification. He will have victories - and many losses – without being fully victorious. Is it any wonder that Paul and every Christian lament: "O wretched man that I am? Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

    Paul's question reminds me of some ancient history. "Roman emperors saw torture as a legitimate way to put muscle and teeth into their laws. They were known to bind the body of a murder victim to the back of his killer. Under penalty of death, no one was allowed to release the condemned criminal. When I think of Paul’s question of who will deliver him from his body of sin and death, it was as if he felt that something dead was strapped to him and accompanied him wherever he went. Every time he wanted to delight in and follow the Law, he had to contend with his body of sin and death.

    As children of God, we long to live a life that pleases God, to love Him with every fibre of our hearts, to express our love for him in purity and holiness. Yet at times we feel helplessly bound to the "dead body" of our flesh. Even though we are new creatures in Christ, we know that the tendency to sin is always with us. This causes us to cry out with the apostle, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (v.24).

    Dear friends in Christ, is there any greater misery for a Christian than to be a prisoner to the law of sin? But although Paul is dejected, he is not despairing, for he already knows the answer to his appeal for help (vs. 25). Our text closes with powerful words of comfort and promises of the gospel, which help and sustain us as we sojourn in this fallen world in fallen bodies of sin and death. When Paul asked, "Who will set me free from this body of death?" The answer?: "I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (25a.)

    "Paul takes no credit whatsoever for the deliverance assured in his future. All credit goes to God, who guaranteed our victory through his Son. Jesus, by His life and death has defeated sin, our constant adversary in this life. Jesus came to deliver from the law of sin and death. He is also our redeemer from law, which left us bound in bodies of sin and death. It left us condemned to die for all eternity."[4] But God sent His only begotten Son to save us. He entered our world, our humanity. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (2 Cor. 5:19a). "... The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Is. 53:6b). Moved by such divine love God took the Son who never sinned, the one who always loved him in everything he ever did... God took Jesus and fastened all of our sins upon His body on the cross. God made Him "who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus tasted death for us all as He suffered and was dying.

    But in doing all of this, Jesus overcame sin, death and hell. He redeemed fully and for all eternity. We still live in these bodies of sin and death in a fallen world. "... Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). As we remember our baptism, where we became sharers in Christ's death and resurrection, we remember that we have died to the law and to sin. Sin and the devil will tempt us, the Law will accuse. But the Christian knows, as you and I know that "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). God provides us with the means and the strength to remain steadfast in our faith and even to gain limited victories over sin now. God's Word has promised us complete victory over sin in the life to come. "Thanks be to God!"



    [1] Ibid.

    [2] Sermon Studies on the Epistles Series A

    Sermon Studies on the Epistles Series A, Author: Ernst H. Wendland – Editor, Northwestern Publishing House. Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, pg. 260

    [3] Ibid.

    [4] Ibid.



     

     

  • The Advent of Our King, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Advent of Our King

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Based on Zechariah 9:9-10

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland

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    I. Your King Comes to You

    II. He comes to you Humbly With Salvation

     

    9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

    Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

    Behold, your King is coming to you;

    He is just and having salvation,

    Lowly and riding on a donkey,

    A colt, the foal of a donkey.

    10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

    And the horse from Jerusalem;

    The battle bow shall be cut off.

    He shall speak peace to the nations;

    His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,

    And from the River to the ends of the earth.’[1]

     

    I remember when I was living in Plymouth, England, I caught a glimpse of the Royal Train that had come and was then heading back to London. A member of the Royal Family had come to Plymouth. Such royal visits always meant high security: roads were often blocked off, traffic diverted, and there were always the special security agents that would not allow anyone to get too near to any of the Royal family, especially the queen. Sadly, no one can ever get close to a Monarch, not only in terms of proximity, but especially concerning a close relationship. So, it was nice to see the Royal Train, but I knew that no one from the Royal Family had come to see me. After all, they didn’t know me personally. However, it is just the complete opposite in the words of today’s text in Zechariah. Zechariah’s prophecy opens with words of great joy and excitement: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you…” This monarch, not only is He a king, He is the King of kings. Not only did He once come to Jerusalem, He continues to come today throughout the entire world. What is more, He comes to you and to me personally, humbly and with salvation!

    Zechariah prophesied of Jesus’ entry or “coming” into Jerusalem. We look back at His first coming, His first Advent, as a gracious fulfillment of not only Zechariah’s prophecy, but of all the prophets, and even as far back as the fall of man when Adam and Eve sinned. In Genesis 3:15, God promised that a Saviour would come and would save Adam and his descendants. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!” Thus, Advent is also a time to focus on how Jesus comes to us today. Zechariah’s call to praise and rejoice are words that are personally directed to each of us. C.F.W. Walter wrote that “In a figurative or spiritual sense … the Old and New Testament Church are the Daughter of Zion. It is these believers who hold the promise that Jesus will come to them continually in the Church Year that is just beginning.”

    Another reason for us to “rejoice” and to “shout aloud” is the fact that Jesus comes to those whom we might never have dreamed or suspect that He would pay a visit. I can imagine the Queen visiting and dining with the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, and perhaps make an appearance in front of a throng of law-abiding citizens and well-wishers. But who would imagine the queen, riding in ordinary car to the Dartmoor Prison, in Princetown. In our text, there, my friends, is the King of kings. He is our Maker. He loves His creation. His greatest glory is in having mercy. He comes even to those who struggle and are not certain they belong to the Daughter of Zion as “true believers and true members of Christ Church” (Walther).

    Like the shepherd (Luke 15) that leaves the ninety nine righteous and searches after the one sheep that had gone astray, Jesus seeks after even the most miserable and lost sinners. “Jesus comes, first, to His Church, His true believers, but He also visits all who cling to His Church, even if they are still miserable and lost sinners. Christ’s Church is wherever His Word is proclaimed and His precious Sacraments are administered. Where these means of grace are absent, His Church is also absent. In such a place, there is no Christ, no salvation, and no blessedness. Anyone who does not want to keep God’s Word and Sacraments hopes in vain for Christ’s coming. Only the daughter of Zion, who has His Word and Sacraments, will hear these words: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, [He is] lowly” (Zechariah 9:9). You, dear friend, are the daughter of Zion! Behold, your King, Jesus, He is coming to you. Indeed, He with you now!

    Your King comes to you, dear friends! He comes to each of us personally. Martin Luther wrote: "You do not seek him, but He seeks you. You do not find Him, He finds you. For the preachers come from Him, not from you; their sermons come from Him, not from you; your faith comes from Him, not from you; everything that faith works in you comes from Him, not from you; and where He does not come, you remain outside; and where there is no Gospel there is no God, but only sin and damnation… He cometh "to you." To you, you! … That alone can be called Christian faith, which believes without wavering that Christ is the Saviour not only to Peter and to the saints but also to you. Your salvation does not depend on the fact that you believe Christ to be the Saviour of the godly, but that he is a Saviour to you and has become your own… Such a faith will work in you love for Christ and joy in him, and good works will naturally follow. If they do not, faith is surely not present; for where faith is, there the Holy Ghost is and must work love and good works."

    Behold, dear friends, your King comes to you. Not only does He come to you, but He also abides with you. He comes to you now through Word and Sacrament, indeed these are humble means. Nevertheless, in these humble means the same Lord that rode into Jerusalem is the same Lord is rides into our hearts, our lives, our sins and our troubles. He brings to us salvation. Behold, your King comes to you. I pray that you will keep these words in your hearts and minds throughout this new Church year. I pray “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19)

    A blessed Advent, dear friends. Behold, YOUR King comes to YOU! A blessed new church year unto all of you. Amen.

     

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    [1]The New King James Version. 1982 (Zec 9:9-10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

    [2]God Grant It: Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther, Edited By: Gerhard B. Grabenhofer, By: C.F.W. Walther, Concordia Publishing House / 2005. pp. 10-11.


     

     

     

  • The Feast of Pentecost, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Feast of Pentecost

    John 14:15-21

    "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19b).

    15. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

    16. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with you forever.

    These are words of our Lord Jesus Christ who was about to depart from His disciples and so He bids them farewell. Frankly, I don't like goodbyes with loved ones and friends, and I think that the disciples felt the same way. But the Lord offered His disciples good news of comfort and peace. He exhorted them not to be frightened and saddened by His departure. It was as if He were saying to them, "I must now go from your sight. Therefore I tell you this as My farewell and Godspeed. But You must not become afraid and fearful; but believe in Me, and take to heart what I am telling you. For I will not leave you without comfort and help, even though you find no comfort and help in the world. Yes, I am going to the Father for this very reason, to assume My power and My reign and then to manifest these in you. And though I depart from you physically, I shall send you another Comforter from the Father. He will always remain with you, for I know that you cannot abide in [this sad and fallen] world without a Comforter."[1]

    "Until now I, through My bodily presence, have been your Comforter. You have taken delight in Me and have felt secure and fearless, and you would like to remain with Me. But now that you hear that you are about to lose this comfort, you are cast down and troubled. Yet My departure shall not harm you. Just remain My disciples and hold to Me, and I will compensate you richly for the loss. For I Myself will ask the Father to grant you the Comforter, who will stay with you forever; and neither the world nor the devil will deprive you of Him, no matter how they rant and rave. He will strengthen you and make you courageous and bold, far better than I can now do by My physical presence. Moreover, He is wiser and more learned than all the world. Therefore you will not lack for comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom."

    That is the comfort!!![2]  These very words of our Lord, words that are full of living power (Hebrews 4:12), words that have and give life (Proverbs 4:22; John 6:63), the very words of our Lord are given to you and to me this very moment in the proclamation of the Word! All that you have just heard concerning the disciples, the Lord will do and is doing for you and for me. The very same Jesus who spoke to His disciples, who at first could only look upon Jesus and his departure through eyes of tears and sorrow, He is the very same Jesus speaking words of comfort to us today!

    We have the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor, because that’s what he does and is supposed to do. He is not just some divine force or power, but a very real person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding from them. He is coequal and coeternal with Father and the Son. In our text, Jesus indicates here that the Spirit is a distinct person—the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, yet He is one in essence with the Father and the Son. But for now, let us know and consider that He is a Divine person and that He is our counselor.

    The word counselor shows us how we should think of the Holy Spirit. As Luther so rightly put it, "A counselor is not a lawgiver or someone like Moses, who frightens us with the devil, death, and hell. No, a counselor fills a troubled heart with joy toward God. A counselor encourages us to be happy that our sins have been forgiven, death has been conquered, heaven has been opened, and God is smiling upon us. Whoever understands what it means for the Spirit to be our Counselor will have already won the battle. That person will find nothing but pure comfort and joy in heaven and on earth, because the Father is the one who sends him to help us, and because Christ is the one who asks him to do so. This sending flows from a fatherly heart-felt love. So Christians should remind themselves of this name for the Holy Spirit. He is a counselor, and we are the troubled and timid ones whom he helps."[3]

    In the verses leading up to our text, Jesus made great promises to the disciples concerning their faith. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:12-13). If these were not great enough, there is yet a far greater promise, namely the Holy Spirit. But notice that our Lord firmly states, “He who believes in Me." "If you love me, my precepts will you guard," says our Lord. Love is always the fruit of faith, it is not something we create in our hearts. He who does not trust cannot possibly love. Jesus was speaking to believers! He showed them that if they truly believe, their faith will be reflected in love, a love that the Bible defines as an agape love, namely love that is from God and is unconditional in how we love God and one another! This love is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. Again, to have such a love, God’s love actively working in us, we need to have faith, true faith, and not something that we create in our minds. "… Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Faith is the gift of God.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel…" (Luther’s Small Catechism, Art. III.) Such faith will love God above all things, and delight in keeping His commandments, which all find their " fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10).

    And it is in God's Word you will find the Counselor, the promised gift of God Himself, the third real and living person of the Trinity counseling and comforting your heart in every need. He dwells within you, not around you, but in you through the Word. He will assure you that you are not left in this world as “orphans.” Because of the work and presence of the Holy Spirit we hear His words spoken to the disciples, and therefore now unto us, “… Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (vss. 19-21).

    Oh, dear friends in Christ, God fashions His love in us, enabling us to demonstrate such faith-produced love in keeping His commandments, which become to us in ways of “faith expressing itself in love.” Moreover, we are loved by our heavenly Father, and by our Lord Jesus, who will manifest Himself to us and in us!!! And yes, the world, the devil and our sinful nature will throw many things at us simply because we have such faith. But the promised Comforter, our dear and abiding Counselor, is in us through the means of God’s Word. He will stay with you forever. He will not let the devil, the world or anything deprive you of God and His presence and work in your life. No matter what happens in your life, in every moment He will strengthen you and make you courageous and bold. He will do this, and even more than He did when He was only present with His Disciples. Through the Spirit, God is at work in all believers. Therefore you will not lack for comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom. We lift up our heads and hearts and pray daily that God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon us, upon this world. Our hearts sing with such words of faith and love:

    Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
    Be all Thy graces now out poured
    On each believer's mind and heart;
    Thy fervent love to them impart.
    Lord, by the brightness of Thy light,
    Thou in the faith dost men unite
    Of every land and every tongue;
    This to Thy praise, O Lord, our God, be sung.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (Martin Luther)

     


    [1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther's works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 14:16). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

    [2] Luther, M. (1999). Luther's works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 14:15–16). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

    [3] Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-26). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 228). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

  • The Lord will confirm us to the end, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    THE LORD WILL CONFIRM US TO THE END

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Twenty-first Sunday After Trinity  

    Based on 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland 

    + + +

     

    I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)

    Dear Friends in Christ,

    The Apostle Paul reminds us that since we have God's grace and every spiritual gift that we need, our life in this world is one of living in the hope of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; we eagerly wait for His return. However, there is one thing that could give us pause and cause us to worry: we are tempted to doubt about whether we will endure to the end. We see how so many had started well, when they first heard the Word of God, they welcomed it with joy. But they didn’t have any roots. They believed for a while, but in a time of trial and temptation they abandoned the faith and fell away (Luke 8:13). If we are honest with ourselves, we daily experience how cunning Satan is, how alluring the world is, and sadly, how mighty our sinful nature remains. It is not uncommon for Christians to sometimes fear the Last Day instead of looking forward to it with great joy.

    C.F.W. Walther wrote, that "God has not given any Christian an unconditional guarantee that He will preserve him until the end so he may do exactly as he pleases until then. The Gospel provides no freedom for security, but instead calls us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). God has not promised to force anyone to faith by an irresistible grace and to save him despite his own desire to indulge wantonly in sin and unbelief. Yet these warnings apply only to those who in wantonness desire to tempt God's grace and to sin against it." We are Christians! We have been justified by faith through God’s grace in Christ. We have been washed from all our sins and God has assured us He is "able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Nevertheless, we struggle with temptation, we fear sin and unbelief. However, when we are tempted to sin, our thoughts should be like that of Saint Paul, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2). There are also times when we painfully feel our unbelief, but in such moments, we sigh and cry out to God, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). It is most absolutely true and certain that we can and should, without fear of falling, look forward with joy to the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Last Day. Why? Because, the promise of our text applies also to you and to me.

    Indeed, this promise applies to every person who believes. The main thing is to seize this promise in faith. According to this precious promise, our salvation does not depend upon our wavering faithfulness, but upon the unwavering faithfulness of his God. Our salvation does not lie in our weak hands (for then it would soon be lost), but in the strong hands of our loving and gracious God. We may be ever so weak, but God Himself will be our strength. If, out of weakness, we still stumble and fall, God's faithfulness will always raise us up again. If, out of weakness, we still go far astray, God’s faithfulness will always fetch and bring us back aright, as He did the erring Thomas. The battle may still be hard, but God’s faithfulness will strengthen us for it, and He will fight with us amid our battles. Paul assures us "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). True, the devil, the world and our "old Adam" may still cunningly seek after our soul, but God’s faithfulness will not bring us into disgrace. The writer of the Hebrews encourages with these words that should resound in hearts and in the depths of our souls: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

    The enemy of our faith, and of God and His Church, would like to have us think that God has totally forgotten us and has left us to struggle in our own power. The devil likes to torment Christians with his fiery arrows. One such fiery arrow is how we will make it through this life with all our trials and temptations. And once he gets a foot in the door of our minds, he continues with other thoughts: "Go ahead and continue your miserable struggle. You know that your prayers are useless. You cry to God and believe in him – but all for nothing. You had hoped that God would free you and help you. Well, let God save you if he feels like it!" (Martin Luther). Such are the miserable thoughts that the devil would like to depress our minds with.

    Martin Luther knew such temptations very well. But he has advice for us who struggle and find it hard to persevere in the faith. He wrote: "When faithful people are happy and when they sing, "The Lord is my strength and my song" (Psalm 118:14), the devil stays far away from them. All complaining and impatience soon end. As long as believers praise and thank God, then temptation, sadness, and unbelief disappear. Heaven is opened wide and hell is shut with words like these: "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips" (Psalm 34:1)".

    Yes, our text for today is full of hope, light and life! "[You are] eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ah, perhaps the devil and your depressed conscience remind you of your sins. Then as faithful Lutheran Christians, let us turn immediately to the Scriptures which declare, 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!' (Ezekiel 33:11). To souls burdened with sin and guilt, which means all of us, our Lord says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). I love this verse, and so do you. Jesus is telling us, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens," or literally, "you who are overburned, and I will give you rest.

    Oh, dear friends, let us not charge the Lord with a lie and by not believing in His mercy. Such is the case when we think our sins are too great, like Judas did. We despair and think that God is a merciless and angry judge. But the cost of our redemption and the love of God was so great that God that He "sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Scripture tells us that, "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Romans 5:20). God’s grace infinitely outweighs our sins. Sin is temporal, it happens in a moment of time, but the grace of God is from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus has completely saved us and redeemed from our sins by His death on the cross. Yes, through His death and resurrection the grace of God has been restored to each and every one of us. So, let us flee unto him for refuge.

    Therefore, dear friends, we live in the grace of our Lord and walk in faith, believing and knowing that God has chosen us "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). He has elected us to salvation, and because of this, his salvation stands so firmly that the gates of hell will not be able to overpower it. "And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Thus, you boldly confess that you are "eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:7-9). Amen.