Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23
In a conversation about church a pastor told one of his parishoners, "We should expect to find 3 types of people in the church: 1. Those who would fix or replace the bricks when they become loose or broken. 2. Those who would tear down all the bricks and attempt to rebuild simply because of age/boredom/''rote consistency'' 3. Those who would re-arrange the bricks to suit their personal esoteric tastes.
Let us take a look at them in reverse order:
3. Those who would re-arrange the bricks to suit their personal esoteric tastes.
Of this the Apostle Paul writes, "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions." Colossians 2:18
There are those within the church who, either intentionally or unintentionally, re-arrange the teachings of God's Word in a way that takes Christ out of the center and replaces Him with self-centered or world-centered teachings. That is, they would take things such as Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the worship service in general and rearrange them so as to teach and practice them in a way that it is the people who are serving and being faithful to God in these holy things, when in truth it is first and foremost God who is serving and being faithful to us.
2. Those who would tear down all the bricks and attempt to rebuild simply because of age/boredom/"rote consistency"
Of this the Apostle Peter writes: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute." 2 Peter 2:1-2
There are those within the church who, again either intentionally or unintentionally, replace the teachings of God with more modern, enlightened thinking that, while supposedly used to "grow the church," "make it more relevant" and "spread the word," actually serve to introduce novelties which effectively replace God's Word and Sacrament that are the same power of salvation for all people through all time.
In both cases . . . "The truth of God is exchanged for a lie, and created things are worshiped and served rather than the Creator-- who is forever praised." Romans 1:25
How do they get away with it? People like to be flattered. When the truth of the Law hurts, when the healing medicine of the Gospel has a bitter edge, the alluring spice offered up by the father of lies is mighty tempting.
Paul explains it this way, "the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations." 2 Timothy 4:3-5
Such as these have . . .
lost connection with "the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." Colossians 2:19
This connection is what Christ is praying for in Gospel lesson and text for today. And when we speak of . . .
1. Those who would fix or replace the bricks when they become loose or broken - think in terms of those who keep connection with the head, Jesus Christ.
We speak of the same thing for which Jesus is praying . . . that the Father would make and keep those who believe in Him as one even as He and the Father are One. For He is praying that the people of His church would be like those people of the church who would fix or replace bricks only when they are loose or broken, that is,
- they would keep their head in all situations and remain united by the ligaments of Word and Sacrament that Christ has provided for just that reason.
- they would keep alert for after market. lesser quality replacement goods and use only the original materials to maintain the integrity of the structure
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1:17
"[Which] faith comes from hearing the message [that is, teaching], and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Romans 10:17
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey [that is, to observe and abide in] everything I have commanded [read, "taught"] you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
This being the case, until Jesus comes again, He tells His pastors via the pen of Paul to simply:
[be] devote[d] to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. [To] not neglect [the] gift, which was given . . . through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. [To] Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. [To] Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:13-16
Dear people of Trinity and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, this is the only way to grow a church. The ligaments, the mortar of sound teaching passed down by Christ through the Apostles and all generations of faithful Christians is how the body of Christ "grows as God causes it to grow." Colossians 2:19
This is the tradition that we observe and carry on here at Trinity. This is the traiditon upon which our Missouri Synod is founded. It is a tradition based not in the feelings, teachings or practices of men, but on the doctrine, or teachings, of the One Holy, Christian and Apostolic faith without which no one is saved. Without these teachings that were passed on from Christ himself to His Apostles and thence to His church, there is no church -- for the church is Christ's body, held together only as He holds it together.
This is no easy thing for us to undergo. In fact it is likened unto Holy warfare.
"Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
Jesus himself reminds us of this very thing when He says,
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ' man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-inlaw--man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:34-38
Again, dear people of Trinity and the LCMS, dear baptized of God, this is indeed what you have been called to. For . . .
"There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6
This unity is what Christ prayed for that day to prepare His disciples for His departure -- so they would not go astray, and so He would not lose even one that had been given to Him by the Father.
This is the unity for which each of the Holy Apostles, save John, were martyred.
This unity is what Paul was upholding "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong." Galatians 2:11
This unity is what the Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian Creeds were written for in the face of false teaching.
Athanasian - "This is the catholic faith which; except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."
This unity is what the reformation was all about,
Formula of Concord - "In order to preserve doctrine and to maintain a thorough, lasting and God-pleasing concord [unity] within the church, it is ESSENTIAL not only to present the true and wholesome doctrine [teaching] correctly, but also to accuse adversaries who teach otherwise." [It is only by such correction that adversaries are brought back into concord.]
This unity is what the LCMS was founded upon. The Saxons left Germany because they were being forced to worship with those who taught and practiced falsely, contrary to concord/unity.
This unity is what the LCMS is struggling for as we approach our Convention in July.
This unity is what our own beloved Trinity emphasizes in her Constitution -
Whereas the Word of God demands that a Christian congregation not only conform to the Word of God in doctrine and practice (Psalms 119:105, Galatians 1:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:1-5), but that also things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40); therefore we, the members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Layton, Utah, set forth by this present document, signed by ourselves, the Constitution and the By-Laws in accordance with which our congregation affairs, spiritual and material, shall be conducted.
ARTICLE II - PURPOSE
The purpose of this body shall be that of a religious organization, more specifically that of a Christian congregation established and maintained for the expressed purpose of disseminating the Gospel truth according to the confessional standards of the Lutheran Church, the Book of Concord of the year 1580, and for the purpose of Christian training of the youth.
ARTICLE III - CONFESSIONAL STANDARD
. . . All forms used for the rites of the sacraments, all orders of worship used in divine public worship, and all text books used for religious instruction must conform to the confessional standards of this congregation.
ARTICLE IV - MEMBERSHIP
No one can become or remain a member of this congregation nor enjoy the rights and privileges of such membership unless the person:
b) accepts all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the only divine rule and standard of faith and conduct;
e) attends divine services faithfully and partakes of the Lord's Supper frequently;
f) submits, for the sake of love and peace, to the regulations already made or still to be made, by this body (provided they do not conflict with the Word of God) and accepts brotherly admonition when having erred or offended;
Many, even of our own, would accuse us of legalism. But legalism is false teaching that points to laws that we must follow, things we must do, in order to be saved.
What we are talking about is a unity in teaching by which God saves us from our own filthy rags of supposedly good works -- unity that repeats only that which Christ has first given us -- for in that unity is life. And that is the farthest thing from legalism. That is a unity of Confession- echoing to each other and the world what God has first lovingly spoken to us.
"Whoever confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32
This may not be easy, but it is rewarding.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10
God grant that even as our Lord has prayed this for us, so may it be done among us - in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
Send Rev. Kurt Hering an email.