Sunday, August 16, 2009

I have been reading through the blog of Pastor S for the past week or so. I find him to be a rather interesting writer, one who is amazingly transparent with his own life and yet grounded so completely in Christ. As a Confessional Lutheran pastor, he has entries on liturgy, preaching, catechesis, marriage, and of course, his sermons. I have added his link, Thinking Out Loud, to the links and blog listing on my own site so that you, too, can enjoy his teaching!

Interestingly enough, he played a part in the development of Treasury of Daily Prayer and has a great entry on a simple way to pray, which walks the reader through how they approach daily prayer and reading the Word together as a family.

His entry on liturgy, faith, and worship is an excellent exposition of why the Liturgy is so important. After showing how God's Word and plan for our salvation is woven through the Liturgy, he explains that There is no faith and life for us or anyone else apart from this divine Liturgy, which is the Gospel of Christ. (Thus, here we do not have in mind a particular order of Service, far less a particular "style" of service, but rather what is the heart of the matter: the preaching and administration of the Gospel. That is how our Confessions define the term, "Liturgy," as a synonym for the Ministry of the Gospel, and that is also how I deliberately prefer to use the term.) From there, he moves through the Liturgy once more showing how faith is fed, nourished, and sustained by it.

He then examines what liturgical preaching should be: It is in this sense, and not simply by token references to the Sacraments, that "liturgical preaching" is sacramental preaching. Similarly, good and right preaching is liturgical, not simply by quoting or referring to the rites of the Liturgy and/or the Propers of the Day (though doing so is often a fine thing to do). Rather, it is properly "liturgical" as an integral part of the Liturgy itself, as it functions to bring the congregation from the lectern to the Altar; from the appointed Holy Gospel of the Day to the Gospel of the Verba; from the Word of the Holy Scriptures to the administration of that Word-made-Flesh in the Holy Communion. There are all sorts of different ways in which any particular sermon may do this, but in one way or another this is the liturgical point and purpose of preaching: to bring the disciples of Jesus to the eating and drinking of His Body and His Blood in the worthiness of repentant faith.

This preaching of the Gospel (from the font and the lectern to the Altar) is the most basic structure and substance of the Divine Service (the Liturgy). True Christian worship consists, principally and primarily, in hearing and receiving this Gospel, the Word and the Word-made-Flesh, which is Christ Jesus. This is the chief activity of faith (hearing and receiving the Gospel), and it is by such faith that God desires to be worshiped (rather than by works of the Law). Faith itself lives from this preaching and hearing, this giving and receiving of the Gospel.

Notice that Lutheran litany of the Cross and the Work of God and His desire to give to us...not a focus on what we can do for God!

Pastor S next considers forms, orders, settings, and adornments in the Liturgy and then concludes by moving from faith and worship to how Christ's love binds us together and enables us to bear with one another and bear one another's burdens, which is the Gospel personified in this world.

Truly it is a discussion of Liturgy that leaves you reflecting not on an order of service, but on Christ and His Word and Work in our lives. The very purpose of using Liturgy!

Below is his sermon from August 9th:

Eating and Drinking under the Tree

"I Am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will not thirst."

That is the Word and promise of Christ, the Son of God, your Savior.

You have come to Him, because the Father has called you and given you to Christ, His Son. And you believe in Him, because the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, and He has enlightened you with His gifts, who also sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith.

You shall by no means be cast out. You shall not hunger or thirst, nor lack any good thing. You shall not perish, but live. For Christ the Lord, to whom the Father has given you, shall raise you up on the last day.

But now, from the waters of your Baptism, you have come to Him in the wilderness. And here, it seems, there is rather a lot of hunger and thirst. Indeed, you are hungry and thirsty, not only in your body, but in your heart and mind.

You suffer because of your faithfulness; because of the Name that you bear; because you are a Christian. And yet, you also find in yourself that you are not so faithful. Instead of steadfast faith and confident trust in the Lord who loves you, you harbor doubts and fears, frustrations and discouragements; perhaps even threats of dark despair. And against those who have hurt you or failed you, you harbor anger and resentment and bitterness. Instead of speaking with grace, you grumble and complain and utter harsh and spiteful words. You harden your heart against your neighbor, whom you ought to love and forgive; and so you harden your heart against the Lord your God, the very Father of mercies and God of all comforts.

Thus, you do not yet see, neither in yourself nor in your life nor in the world around you, what your eyes long to see; and it is so hard to wait upon the Lord. Your belly may be momentarily filled and satisfied, but it won't be long before it growls and rumbles again. And even when your body is full, your heart and mind still hunger for peace and rest.

Why not give up and die? That is the question of your old Adam, when he is not striving to make a god out of himself. From towering pride to the pits of despair in a heartbeat. What is the use, after all? What is the point?

Your fathers ate their daily bread; whether they prayed or not, whether they were evil or good, God the Father almighty opened His hand to feed them, to shower them with sunshine and rain, to give them everything they needed for this body and life. Yes, your fathers ate their daily bread — and they died!

How, then, shall you survive and live? Eat, drink, and be merry, and tomorrow you still die. Or stop eating altogether and starve yourself to death. What difference does it make? Whether you live twenty years or seventy, forty-five or ninety, what does it matter? No amount of daily food and drink will spare your life forever.

But now, take your rest under the tree. That is where you live, and die, and rise again. It shelters you and shades you, in any case; even when you are ready to give up and die in disgust.

Consider that your Lord Jesus has suffered and died for you: in tender-hearted kindness, in mercy and compassion, with great love for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.

His Cross and Passion, His suffering and death were not meaningless or pointless, nor without hope. These were, instead, a sweet-smelling sacrifice and offering, by which you are beloved and well-pleasing to God your Father. You know that is true, because God has raised this same Jesus from the dead — never to die again. This same Jesus, the Lamb of God, who came down from heaven and became flesh, who took your sins upon Himself and died in your place, has risen from the dead. Therefore, you also shall rise and live with Him.

So also, in your suffering, you are not cast aside; you are not abandoned, nor forgotten. What you may suffer as a consequence of your sins is a discipline for your good, unto repentance and new life in the free and full forgiveness of all your sins. And what you suffer in faith and love, as a Christian, is for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor.

But you do not suffer for yourself, nor by yourself, and you do not die alone. In Christ, you shall not die, but live forever.

He who for your sake died and was raised, strengthens and sustains you here under this Tree of His Cross; even here in the wilderness of this world, in the valley of the shadow of death.

He loves you. He is kind and merciful. He does forgive you all your sins.

The Father has given Him from heaven for you, in the flesh, to save you. To give you life. For that is His good and gracious divine will! This is the very thing God most desires; and He does it.

He stretches out His hand to you in Christ, in order to lay hold of you in love; to raise you up, to strengthen you in both body and soul, for this life and the life everlasting.

And see here, Christ Jesus feeds you with His own flesh and blood; which He has given, and He gives, for the life of the world.

Arise, and eat, drink, here under this Tree of Christ. The journey is too much for you to travel on your own, but with this Food He travels with you all the way. He strengthens and sustains you in the true faith. He will not let go of you, but shall raise you up at the last.

So does He now grant you to depart in peace and joy; and even so shall you live.

Arise, and eat, therefore. On the strength and vitality of this Food, the Bread of Life, you come to the Mountain of God, now and forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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