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Divine Service March for Life 2019

This Sermon was preached by Pastor Christopher Esget in the Divine Service, The Feast of the Confession of St. Peter, before the March for Life at The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Conference for Life. The original posting can be found here.

My dear brothers and sisters who are Lutherans for Life, today, January 18, is the festival of the Confession of St. Peter. That’s more than a coincidence. Peter’s confession tells us why we March for Life.

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess.

To the disciples Jesus put the question: “Who do you say that I am?” That question is more important than any other.That same question Jesus puts to you: “Who do you say that I am?” 

“Doctrine is life – the doctrine of the God who is for us, the God who desires to be our God, the living God who wants us to share in His divine life.”

The question has a dogmatic answer. But dogma never exists alone. Doctrine does not exist for itself. Doctrine is God’s gift to us. Doctrine is life. Well, not just any doctrine, but the doctrine of the God who is for us, the God who desires to be our God, the living God who wants us to share in His divine life.

At the head of the Ten Commandments is this beautiful declaration: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). The Lord does not merely state His self-existing reality. He announces Himself in relation to His people. “I am the Lord your God.” Our confession in response does not say, “You are God,” but, “You are our God.” 

“Doctrine is life because it draws us into communion with Jesus, in whom is life.”

This is how the Small Catechism teaches us to confess. We say more than God is the creator. We say, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures, that He has given me my body and soul,” etc. And then we say more than “Jesus Christ is Lord.” We confess, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me.” And then, “The Holy Spirit has called me.” 

Doctrine is life. Doctrine is life because it draws us into communion with Jesus, in whom is life.

That’s what Peter is confessing when he answers Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ.” Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Peter then added these words: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Except Peter, I think, said it more like this: “You are the Christ, the Son of God – the Living One.”

God is not merely alive; He is life. And that life is not static, but dynamic. He is living.

Everything that lives has life from God. St. Paul told the pagan philosophers on Mars Hill, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

That doctrine undergirds our confession at the nation’s high court today. All human beings are created equal – because all human beings are created. The limbs that God has joined together, let no abortion tear asunder. That baby is living, no matter how small. To be pro-life is also then to embrace that life. Thus we also confess, “That baby, no matter his color, no matter what drugs or alcohol have done to his brain, that baby is loved by God and so by the people of God. He is welcome in our churches, and in our homes. And the teenager who is pregnant, and scared: she is welcome in our churches, and in our homes.”

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess. And we leave here ready to live in, with, and under that confession.

What St. Paul said of all human beings—“In Him we live and move and have our being”—that is the general principle of life that pertains to everything living. But you know that into this world has entered a corrupting negation: death. 

Our world has come not only under the power of death but has fallen in love with its captor. To a dying world we not only confess the general goodness of life but the hope of the Living One. We heard from St. Peter himself this morning, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” God’s love for us not only wants us to be alive, but to share in His life. His plan is to make us and all Christians “partakers of the divine nature.”

And here we must confess how much we have failed to love the “things that pertain to life and godliness.” How often have you instead loved the corruption that is in the world? How often have you succumbed to sinful desire?

What corruption is in your mind? Your mouth? Your heart? Like Peter, you have not set your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

We are heirs of the Reformation, protesting indulgences, while indulging the sinful nature in the most horrible abuses of Gospel liberty.

“A March for Life must begin with a confession that we, too, have been steeped in the culture of death.”

A March for Life must begin with a confession that we, too, have been steeped in the culture of death. That death infects our church politics, our family dynamics, and what we allow on our screens and into our souls.

Repent! Repent and rejoice, for we have a Jesus who delights in confession. He hears your confession. He hears your confession of sin, and bids you confess Him as the sin bearer. He hears your confession that you have walked the paths of darkness, and bids you confess Him as the light who scatters the darkness. Jesus hears your confession of Him, and He in turn confesses you before His Father.

Jesus is not ashamed to call you His brother. He exchanges your death for His life. Today again, He summons you to His table and gives you “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

“We are not here to protest. He are here to confess to the world Christ, in whom is life.”

We have been called Protestants, but we are not here today to protest. We are here to confess. We confess our sin. We confess our Savior. 

Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This doctrine is life. This confession is life. This is the Lord who brings His people out of the house of bondage. This is the Christ who tramples down death by His death. This is the Spirit who is pro-life, for He is the Lord and giver of life. This God has made you; this Jesus is your Lord; this Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel. 

We are not here to protest. We are here to confess to the world Christ, in whom is life. +INJ+

Bio:  Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” was renamed “Israel,” which means “he strives with God” (Gen. 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (March 31). Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob’s death during the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob’s fourth son, Judah Genesis 49).

Reflection:

“The great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was once approached by a woman distressed from her recent reading of Romans 9:13. “I cannot understand,” she said, “why God should say that He hated Esau.” “That is not my problem, madam,” Spurgeon replied, “My difficulty is to understand how God could love Jacob.”–Fr. Reardon, Touchstone.

The Lord’s favor is on those who are repentant. Esau was not repentant. Jacob knew he was a “deceiver”!  As Luther commented that Esau was contrite because of punishment not because of the sin against God.  Esau sold his birthright and was only sorry for losing it, not for the sin of doing so.  God could wrestle with Jacob because Jacob knew his sin…Esau was on the sidelines waiting his due.

The Lord can work with sinners as they know their sin, He changes them by His grace and providence…and with Jacob it took time…with us as well. Sinners are such unlikely saints!

Sin is a tangled web, as we see in Jacob’s family of origin and in his own family with his two wives, Rachel and Leah and his two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah.  Eleven of his 12 sons sold their brother Joseph into slavery in Egypt and then told their Father that Joseph had been killed by a lion.  Families have problems, many times grievous and perplexing beyond therapeutic help, yet God’s promise is for sinners and the Lord works through what we have called in our day, “dysfunctional families”. Maybe most need repentance and forgiveness rather than therapy and acceptance.  

Jacob spent most of his life grieving for the death of his favorite wife Rachel and thinking his son Joseph dead.  Eventually, the 11 brothers repented.  As someone has commented:  it took the Lord only 6 days to create the heavens and the earth but 33 years to redeem us…and when we factor in the scope of Israel’s history, it took a lot longer, but He did so at the right time and He would do so again through Jacob’s son Joseph. And in the Son of Jacob, centuries, later, the Christ, the Son of God. Son of God, son of Joseph and Mary was born in a family for the love and redemption of all families.

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, scepter that rises out of Jacob, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rule our hearts through Your suffering cross and forgive us our sins, that we may become partakers of Your divine life;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Image result for simeon in the temple

The Lessons:

1 Samuel 1: 21-28    Psalm 84   Hebrews 2: 14-18     St. Luke 2: 22-32

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Feast Day:  

Thirty-two days  after Jesus’ circumcision and seventy weeks after teh announcement of John’s birth to Zechariah by the angel Gabriel, the Lord comes to His temple to fulfill the Torah (Luke 2: 22-38).  The days are fulfilled with the presentation. Jesus’ parents keep the Torah and fulfill it by bringing Jesus to His true home. Also, Jesus’ parents offer the alternative sacrifice of two turtledoves or two pigeons. Leviticus 12:8 allows this instead of a lamb, since not everyone could afford a lamb (showing the poverty and humility of Joseph and Mary). Yet no lamb was necessary because already here at forty days old, Jesus is the Lamb brought to His temple for sacrifice. Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis is a beautiful example of the immediate response to this inauguration of God’s consolation and redemption in the Christ Child. Speaking to Mary, Simeon also prophesies about the destiny of the child. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  

St. Luke 2, the Nunc Dimittis, or the Song of Simeon:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.

 Here  was a 40 day old infant, not potty trained, born in poverty, with his poor parents  and this crying Child is being sung about as, “…a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel“?  A child has achieved nothing and yet has received everything with no choice in the matter. The Child had not demonstrated wisdom nor talent nor anything to earn an accolade, not even the praise of being born for that praise of labor belongs to the mother. Later Jesus’ disciples would say of the Temple in marvel at it and say to the Lord, “…Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (St. Mark 13: 1). What did this Child compare with the magnificent Temple in which the Presentation occurred?  How did a poor child compare with one of the wonders of the ancient world?  

What did Simeon see in the Child that he sang that the Child is “…a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel”?  He did.  How did Simeon see this in the Child presented this day in the Temple?  We are told earlier in Luke chapter 2 about Simeon that  “…the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (vs. 25.)  The Holy Spirit taught Simeon, Behold, Simeon you have seen the Christ!  The light and revelation of Jew and Gentile! “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (St. John 14: 26).  The Holy Spirit witnesses and teaches through the Word alone of Jesus Christ. This is the way Simeon knew the Child was and is the One.   “…for my eyes have seen your salvation”.

The magnificent Temple and its wonderful stones did not save.  It is  the Lord, whose house the Temple was, alone saves, presented in His Father’s House for us and for our salvation. In Him the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell.  Our church buildings, our church polities, our denominational stratagems, our good works, our self-chosen spiritualities do not, can not and will not save. They are to point to the Holy Trinity and not our selves.  Here is God deep within human flesh, born under the Law to redeem us, presented that day in the Temple for us and for our salvation. “The deeper we plunge Christ into the flesh of mankind, the better for us.” (From Luther’s House Sermon on the Presentation, 1537) He who needed no sacrifices to be made pure is the Sacrifice to make us pure. Outside of the Christ is only darkness.  In Him, love’s pure light shines.

st augustine classical music quotes

Preserve Your Word, O Savior
By: Andreas Gryphius

Preserve your Word, O Savior,
To us this latter day,
And let your kingdom flourish;
Enlarge your Church, we pray.
Oh, keep our faith from failing;
Keep hope’s bright star aglow.
Let nothing from truth turn us
While living here below.

Preserve, O Lord, your honor,
The bold blasphemer smite;
Convince, convert, enlighten
The souls in error’s night.
Reveal your will, dear Savior,
To all who dwell below,
Great light of all the living,
That all your name may know.

Preserve, O Lord, your Zion,
Bought dearly with your blood;
Protect what you have chosen
Against the hellish flood.
Be always our defender
When dangers gather round;
When all the earth is crumbling,
Safe may your Church be found.

Preserve your Word and preaching.
The truth that makes us whole,
The mirror of your glory,
The power that saves the soul.
Oh, may this living water,
This dew of heavenly grace,
Sustain us while here living
Until we see your face.

Preserve in wave and tempest
Your storm-tossed little flock;
Assailed by wind and weather,
May it endure each shock.
Stand at the helm, our pilot,
And set the course aright;
Then we will reach the harbor
In your eternal light.

Hymn # 337 from Lutheran Worship
Author: David Spaiser
Tune: Ist Gott Fur Mich
1st Published n: 1676 

Image result for Jesus being thrown off the cliff

 St. Luke 4: 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.

What is a mob?  A mob is united by rage.  We live a time of rage.    As if the congregation in Nazareth was saying: “We’re Israelites after all!  Is the hometown boy saying, we need saving?.  You need to be saved, heal yourself, Jesus because just because what you said!” So, that congregation made Jesus a scapegoat. As many make a pastor a scapegoat because he preaches the truth of God’s Word: let’s get rid of this troublemaker. A congregation can become a mob. I think a mob is the collective of the self-righteous. A mob knows more than God.

All mobs need a scapegoat: the Jew, the black man, the Roman Catholic/the Christian…the unborn.  That somehow the unborn, the Jew, the Christian will diminish MY life, so get rid of them.  We now have the twitter mobs: a faceless collective of the self-righteous.  A smiling white teenager is the face of racism: throw him off the cliff.  The vice-president’s wife teaching at a Christian school with Christian morals:  throw her out and her school.  The baby in the womb is an inconvenience and the birth control failed or it wasn’t used:  suck the child out of the womb. And the New York State senate passed the most comprehensive abortion bill allowing murder till the birth date and making it a right.  When the Law was passed, the New York State senate gave a standing ovation for it’s passage.

 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

It was not Jesus’ hour. I know I could become a part of the mob as well, till I look in the Law of the Lord and know my need of the Lord.

Psalm 19: Moreover, by them (commandments) is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

The Lord who would become the scapegoat, as all the sins of Jew and Gentile were placed upon Him, would be driven outside the walls of  Jerusalem. He is the goat slaughtered, His blood of the eternal atonement sprinkled over all cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

In Lord of the Rings, when Frodo was in the depths of despair about the burden of the ring and the struggle they were engaged, wondering what are we doing here. His friend Sam-wise Gamgee said to his dear friend that there is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo and it’s worth fighting for. St. John Chrysostom thought so.

Concordia and Koinonia

 

Bio: Given the added name of Chrysostom, which means “golden-mouthed” in Greek, Saint John was a dominant force in the fourth-century Christian church. Born in Antioch around the year 347, John was instructed in the Christian faith by his pious mother, Anthusa. After serving in a number of Christian offices, including acolyte and lector, John was ordained a presbyter and given preaching responsibilities. His simple but direct messages found an audience well beyond his home town. In 398, John Chrysostom was made Patriarch of Constantinople. His determination to reform the church, court, and city there brought him into conflict with established authorities. Eventually, he was exiled from his adopted city. Although removed from his parishes and people, he continued writing and preaching until the time of his death in 407. It is reported that his final words were: “Glory be to God for all things. Amen.”

Writing

“He…

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Pray for your pastor as he teaches you God’s Word of No and Yes, Law and Promise for you to love and know Jesus Christ. He has been installed to guide his flock to goal of “eternal life” according to the compass of, “…the trustworthy word as taught”.

Concordia and Koinonia

Acts 20: 28-35

Psalm 71: 1-14

Titus 1: 1-9

St. Luke 10: 1-9

St. Titus, like Timothy with whom he is often  associated, was a friend and co-worker of St, Paul. Titus was a Gentile, perhaps a native of Antioch, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem when they brought assistance to the Christians in Judea during a famine (Acts 11:29-30; Galatians 2:1). It is not known if he accompanied Paul on his first or second missionary journeys, but Titus was with him on the third one, when he helped reconcile the Corinthians to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) and assisted with the collection for the Church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-6). It was probably on the return to Jerusalem that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Afterward he is found working in Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). According to tradition, Titus returned to Crete, where he served as bishop until…

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