Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sermon for 03 January 2010, Second Sunday after Christmas C

Rev. Paul J Cain

Luke 2:40-52

In Your Father’s House

Second Sunday after Christmas C, 03 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Jesus had been circumcised on His eighth day of life. He had been presented to the Lord on His fortieth day. As we read Scripture together in this new Year and still-new Church Year, Jesus grows up fast. Now He is a young man of twelve. And He is in His Father’s house.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Jesus. We hear nothing more about Him until He is about thirty years of age. Imagine! Jesus, as a pre-teen, as a teenager, as a twenty-something, obedient in all things to God and all in authority over Him on earth. See how He honors father and mother! See how He honors His true Father in Heaven, sitting among the teachers who were amazed at His answers and knowledge of God’s Word. They were amazed at the Word of Truth made flesh, at home in His Father’s House.

According to custom. Consider applying this text to yourself. Jesus’ family went up to Jerusalem and the only temple according to custom. There, they participated in holy things commanded by the Lord.

Do you hear the difference as it applies to Your Father’s House? “According to the Word” is a different concept than “According to custom.” Thus says the Lord is different from human tradition.

Our own Augsburg Confession (CTLC, AC XXVIII, 53) allows for customs in the Church, but they are never to be on the same level as God’s Word. “What, then, are we to think of the Sunday rites, and similar things, in God’s house? We answer that it is lawful for bishops, or pastors, to make ordinances so that things will be done orderly in the Church, but not to teach that we merit grace or make satisfaction for sins. Consciences are not bound to regard them as necessary services and to think that it is a sin to break them without offense to others.” End quote.

How else is true Christian worship in Your Father’s House unique and Gospel-centered?” Pastor James Waddell is correct when he describes the differences between Old Testament and New Testament worship:

“The worship of the New Testament is quite different from worship in the Old Testament. There is a loud and conspicuous absence of detailed legislation for worship. The proclamation of the Gospel (2 Timothy 4.1-2) and the administration of the sacraments of Holy Baptism (Matthew 28.16-20) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11.17-34) are the only prescribed forms in the New Testament. Everything else is left free. Everything.

“No doubt this makes many of us uncomfortable, including me. Over the centuries the church has developed various worship traditions in various places. It would be an oversimplification to make the claim that from the earliest Christian worship there is a direct line of liturgical development that has resulted in the worship we experience today. As Lutherans, many of us have become comfortable with those traditions. These traditions are good for God’s people in many places. But notice, now we are no longer talking about worship in the New Testament. . . .” End quote.

There is more to be said. In Your Father’s House, Christ is the center of Christian worship according to the following passages from the New Testament.

According to John 6, “Faith Receives the Lord’s Gifts and is the highest worship.” John 6:28-29

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, [Jesus says,] that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

In John 4, Jesus teaches us to “Worship in spirit and in truth.” Nothing untrue may be permitted. John 4:23-26

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Acts 2:42 speaks of the basic elements of Christian worship. Acts 2:42-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

In Galatians 1:8, Paul teaches us to “Please God not man.” Galatians 1:6-10

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

“Do not let freedom be an excuse for indulging sinful human nature, but show love for your neighbor.” Galatians 5:13-15 (ESV)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV, for comparison)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

“Freedom should not be equal to license. Build up your neighbor in Christian love.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Do things “Decently and in order” according to 1 Corinthians 14:40. 1 Corinthians 14:33-40

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.

“Do not neglect the Lord’s Gifts at worship.” See Hebrews 10:24-25. Hebrews 10:19-26

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…

“Reverence and awe” is called for at worship in Hebrews 12:28-29. Hebrews 12:25-13:1

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Let brotherly love continue.

God speaks in His Word and we are to listen. His Word guides all teaching and action among Christians. God gives His gifts, including the gift of faith and we receive all His gifts by faith. God loved us in Christ first. Therefore, we love others with Christ’s love and invite them to Our Father’s House.

Among Christians, posture can teach us about worship in Our Father’s House, whether we kneel to show humility, sit to learn, bow to demonstrate reverence, or stand out of respect for the Holy Trinity. Please, please remember that a humble heart is more important than external piety. Those who are unable to stand may remain seated without guilt. Similarly, those who have difficulty kneeling at the communion rail may remain standing with a clear conscience. Let us not legislate what God has made free in Christ!

Later in Luke (18:9-14), Jesus told a parable “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How can you encourage all who serve in the Father’s house? When one gives correction, it should be done in fatherly (or motherly) love and encouragement. It is a great honor and great responsibility to serve the Lord by serving the congregation. There are servants who demonstrate this love by caring for the candles, paraments, and banners; setting up, distributing, or cleaning up after Holy Communion; reading Scripture; sharing a song, playing the organ, guitar, piano, or another instrument; lighting candles; or preparing the bulletin. I therefore offer this counsel: Encouragement, or constructive critique, when necessary, is better than thoughtless criticism or legalistic condemnation.

Worship in Our Father’s House is a big topic in the Christian Church. Next Sunday, I will greet you and shake your hands as you arrive, for I have a flight to catch right after Divine Service. Representatives from around The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are gathering in St. Louis for a Model Theological Conference on Worship. Pastors, musicians, and laypeople from all 35 LCMS Districts will study and discuss what the Lord’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions have to say about Sunday morning and beyond. Please pray for safe travel, a worthwhile meeting, hearts and minds open to the Word of God, and a willingness to remain faithful to Christ as we continue to tell the Good News about Jesus.

After all, we gather in Our Father’s House to hear about Jesus, the Son. He was obedient to God and man, submissive to the authorities given to care for Him (according to the 4th Commandment), and was further obedient unto death, even death on a cross. There He won the forgiveness that He delivers to you every time you are gathered to Your Father’s House. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.