When I was around 12 or 13 years old my Papa, Rev C A Zweck OBE, gave me a bundle of his old sermons. The sermon atop was his last sermon at the second parish he served (33 years there at Zion Glynde SA). Thanks to him it seems I too have the perfect text to base my farewell sermon on. Maybe before you hear it you can think through why St Paul focussed so solely on the cross of Christ as the centre of his message. Is that your focus in your walk with the Holy Spirit? What do you gain in making it so? What do you lose when it’s not?
Category: Pastor’s notes
The sermon text for 6 December will be based on the OT lesson for the day Isaiah 40:1-11. It promised the original hearer, the Judeans exiled in Babylon, relief from the punishment for their disbelief and idolatry. Ultimately it has been fulfilled in Christ. So today we’ll focus on the wilderness, highway, valley’s, mountains and plains in the life of Christ as he brings us his Gospel (see Mark 1:15). He invites you to receive, know, believe and keep returning to the promises of this text that he may ‘carry you close to his heart’ (Isaiah 40:11c).
The so-called parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46) is set down for the last Sunday of the church year, 22 November 2020. This Sunday is known as ‘Christ the King Sunday’ in which we keep in view Christ’s reign over all, and his return and last judgement. Frank Senn, an American Lutheran Pastor, in his book An introduction to Christian Liturgy makes the following observation: ’The last judgment is not just a judgment on individuals; it is judgment on human history… If we want to get “in” with the coming administration of Christ the King, we had better come to terms with the witness of Revelation: that the one seated on the throne is the Lamb who was slain, and that self-giving love is the agenda throughout his dominions.’ (P155; 2012, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis MN) While we never earn our salvation, at the same time, the ones who are already his ‘sheep’ in today’s parable go about life in the care and service of others. Self-giving love in other words. It’s motivated and fed by Christ, but as it turns out, it is also directed at Christ who is hidden in the hungry, thirsty, new to town, naked, sick and imprisoned we care for and serve. What an honour and what an unfathomable gift. And all because Jesus loved us enough to die for us so we could be his own and say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father: take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
For the first week of this two week bulletin the sermon text is based on ‘The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids’ from Matthew 25:1-13. All ten bridesmaids are waiting to honour the bridegroom when he comes to the wedding. The problem is that he is a long time in coming, which means special preparations were required to make sure they would be able to their job well. As it turns out, five are wise and bring plenty of oil so that they are entirely prepared to meet the bridegroom when he comes. Five are ‘foolish’. To be foolish here is to be unprepared for the unknown time of waiting for the bridegroom. The bridegroom is Jesus. We are all waiting for him. So how do we prepare? What is it that determines that we don’t get the door slammed in our face by a bridegroom that says ‘I never knew you?’ (Matthew 25:12) Another way of asking that is ‘What makes you wise’? What do you think? We’ll look into this today.
Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on the All Hallows Eve 31 October 1517. It’s thought his timing was deliberate on the eve of All Saints Day. Luther’s theses concerned the afterlife in large part (repentance, indulgences, ‘purgatory’, God’s grace). On All Saints day we remember those who have gone to the Lord in the past year. Today we both commemorate the reformation of the church and remember the saints. On the latter, we honour them for the example of God’s mercy they are, the faith they possess (and forgiveness therein they received), and the basis they provide for imitation – firstly in faith, then their virtues expressed through their callings (see the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXI). Today’s sermon will be based on Psalm 46 and consider some of Luther’s key writings of 1520 that vividly outline Christ’s relationship with Christians and how he brings us his grace.
For reference, his three key writings that year, and, in many ways, what went on to become foundational writings representing Lutheran theology are:
– To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation
– The Babylonian Captivity of the Church
– The freedom of a Christian
Take a look online, and speak to me if you are interested in more information or a decent history!
God-willing Pastor Peter Hage from St John’s Perth is our guest preacher and will also help with the baptism that will be held today. Pastor Hage advises he will preach on the Greatest Commandment – see Matt 22:34-46. There is connection with our text of a fortnight ago (by the time we get to the 25th) on the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-4). The father expects his guests to be attired in wedding gear at the banquet he throws for his Son the groom. Saved by grace, we still ‘ought to try and do our best for God’ in response (Eph 2:8-10; 4:1). So it’s pretty simple in so far as this is where the Greatest Commandment fits in. In response to the great (sacrificial) love of God of sending his Son Jesus for our salvation (1 John 4:9-10) we in full freedom (Gal 5:1) love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).
Today’s sermon text is based on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. This is the beginning of St Paul’s letterboxing to what was the very young church at Thessalonica. It’s also likes his earliest serving letter. I will focus especially in verse 2-3, which from the New International Version reads ‘We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Part of this verse in many translations reads along the lines of ‘… your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (NRSV). It strikes me that so often we look to ourselves for our motivation. We may not mean to. We may even mean to include God more. But it’s easy to forget. And it’s also easy to seperate our ‘church/faith’ life from the rest, when God sees no such difference. Today we receive the praise of how Christ is at the base of of our work, toil and steadfastness. The giver and the purpose.
Today we continue with the teaching of Jesus from the last week of his life. It’s serious stuff. We have come to the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). We’ll go through that. Yet I will especially spend a little bit of time on it’s ending. There we have the strange story of the man who gets in, but then kicked out for not wearing the wedding garment. From what I can see that’s a warning to Christians. As someone said to me about this text “We always ought to do our best for Jesus”. I know we love grace. And I know God is grace. But part of God’s grace is that he warns us from falling away. And so I invite you to receive his teaching here as the gift by which it is meant, and to address in your lives those areas where God’s way is not directing your way. What sort of clothes are you wearing to the wedding banquet?
The Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 5:1-7) and Gospel (Matthew 21:33-46) for today work in parallel. They both tell the story of God giving a vineyard every chance of succeeding. All the right equipment and infrastructure. The best vines. In other words, ‘built with the very best’. Yet one yields only bad fruit – literally ‘stinkies’ in the Hebrew of Isaiah 5. The other one doesn’t give up any of fruits because its owners won’t hand it over. That’s despite God’s patience in sending a long lineup of people to ask (Matthew 21:34-36) – read Israel’s judges and prophets. Eventually the son is sent in. He is killed outside the city walls. These are powerful illustrations of God’s action and nature. Generous, patient, forebearing. Yet just. That’s what we look at today. The ‘bottom line’ reminds me of Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.” It’s stark, but proceeded by grace upon grace. God wants us to be guided by these accounts, going neither the way of Jerusalem (Isaiah 5) or the religious elite of Jesus day (Matthew 21:23). Yet as his family through baptism and the repentant living that results, he also wants us more than anything to be comforted by his grace and provision which he has laid out in his vineyard. Then, in freedom, as St Paul put it in today’s epistle, ‘live up to what we have already attained’ (Philippians 3:16). For your contemplation…
The pastors of the LCA WA District are each contributing a video sermon on a petition of the Lord’s Prayer to a ‘sermon pool’ that can be drawn upon where that is needed and desirable. ‘Think’ our district’s congregations without pastors, but also those with pastors who will be elsewhere from time to time, or simply want to feed from across our synod. The lot of the 6th/7th potion fell to me. I’ll preach a draft of that today as I finalise it. No light stuff here in Matthew 6:13… but one thing in all the questions I’ve had about this part of our Lord’s Prayer is how when we experience temptation and cry out for mercy to God, God never fails us if we come back to trusting in Jesus and what he has done for us. Whether that be now, or our faith condition the day we meet Jesus face to face.