Sermon: Pentecost 6.2011

Text: Matthew 13.44-52; Deuteronomy 7:6-9
Date: 2011.7.24

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

Tradition and change. Things old and things new.

It can be confusing to congregations that they have different pastors come in and they are each emphasizing different things, each have their own ideas about what is good for the congregation and the Church at large.

Not only can this be confusing, but frankly, it can be quite / frustrating. “Who are these guys and what gives them the right to make such assertions about us, about our way of doing things, about the old and new things here?”

In fact, the longer the congregation is in existence, the more she will experience this. And so it is here, at St John's. A congregation with as long of a history as just about any in the LCMS. Many different pastors (18 to be exact). Much tradition, and much change—many old things, / and many new. “How in the world is one to know what is right and good and healthy?” Confusing, and frustrating.

Thinking back to all the pastors you have had here (or in other places): Have you understood all the things that they were teaching you? The 12 apostles had but one teacher, and their one teacher asked them this same question: Have you understood all these things? And they said to [Jesus], "Yes." And [Jesus] said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

{as if Jesus were saying:} “So you say you understand what I've told you up to this point. Fine, try this one on for size. Every scribe brings out of his treasure, what is new and what is old.” What in the world does that mean?

Christ our Lord was not only speaking for the first disciples, in their time, He was speaking for you, to you, St John's. Every scribe, every pastor who has been duly trained in the seminaries of our beloved synod, for service in the congregations of our synod, that is, our little corner of Christendom, the kingdom of heaven, those pastors will bring out of their treasure, their teaching, things old and things new. They will teach you traditions, most important the tradition of Scripture, also that of our Lutheran Confessions. They will nurture those old things as they serve you here, for those old things are good, / useful, / healthy. Those old things define who you are, they are essential to your existence as a Lutheran Church in the wider Christian Church.

And, these Lutheran scribes will also bring new things: / new ways of looking at the faith, new ways of describing our life together, new ideas for how in the world we're going to keep these young people in church.

But NEVER knew doctrine. Perhaps new ways of explaining the doctrine, creative graphs or poetic language that has helped them to grasp the richness of Scripture and the Confessions, but never any new doctrine. They will not add to or take away from the Gospel that has been given to you here for over 140 years. If so, let them be accursed, as Scripture says. Let their teaching, their ministry, which is not the ministry of Christ and His office of pastor, let a man's ministry here be accursed if He does not speak the pure, life-giving, eternal Gospel.

Above anything else, the doctrine, the teachings, the truths are the sacred things. And they are kept the way they are because the doctrine is never improved upon, for it is Christ's doctrine, His teaching. // You may have had 18 different men in the pastoral office here, but, in fact you have had but one Teacher, He is the one, true pastor, your Shepherd, Jesus.

Have you understood the teaching of Jesus?
No. and that's the point. You cannot understand these things. The Faith is not an intellectual exercise.
“I am going to die on a cross and then three days later rise again. Then you all are going to meet me in Galilee, then I am going to send you my Spirit and you, who probably have never been outside Galilee and Judea, you are going to go throughout the whole world and speak My Words into the hearts and minds of nasty, immoral, horrible idol-worships, and they are going to believe and be baptized and be saved.”

How in the world are the disciples supposed to understand that? They can't. // They are only to believe it. As the scribes of the kingdom of heaven, the apostles are going to take the old and new teachings of God (what would be the old and new testaments) and teach the world, not only the world then, but the whole world, for the rest of time. And the Lord would send more scribes, more teachers, the Church would always be preserved by the teaching.

Do you understand this? Have you understood what your pastors have taught you? No, not if they have taught you Christ and Him crucified. That message is foolishness, it is utterly contrary to what anyone could think up on his own. You cannot understand, / but you have believed.

Your pastors have taught you not only for temporary understanding, but they have taught you for eternal wisdom. You were brought to faith. For most of you, the hand of one of these 18 men that have served here in the pastoral office, they have brought faith into your heart and mind and soul by Baptizing you: making what was old, part of the old, sinful, Satanic world, and turning it into the new. You are a new creation. This congregation is a new creation.

And just as you are made new in Baptism, you are re-newed as your enter through the gates of heaven each Sunday. Look at the decoration outside the front doors. Have you ever wondered why they look like they do? // This place, shaped like a boat inside, this sanctuary, with an altar and ornate decorations, this / is heaven on earth. Here, the Lord of heaven and earth comes to you in teaching, preaching, / in His Word of absolution, and most especially, most tangibly, most renewing and enriching and enlivening: Christ your Lord comes in the unexpected, foolish way of bread and wine, His holy Body and precious Blood that was crucified some 2000 years ago is right there on that altar. And where He is, there is heaven. And He is here to be worshiped. And you worship Him, not in the way you think is best, whatever ideas you have about worship or prayer or praise, no you worship Him in the way He has told you to worship. He says to you, “Take and eat...drink of it, all of you.”

And as you drink, as you eat, you are restored and renewed. Confusion is gone. Frustration is extinguished. It is perfect. You are with your Savior again, it is all good. Every sin that has affected you the past week—every heartache, bad decision, indecision, moment of anger or lust—all these things are gone. For in this moment, this eternal moment, when heaven, the Prince of heaven, touches your lips and enters into your Body, in that moment, you can be sure of what Moses prophecies also about you (OT Lesson):

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery...

Redemption is yours. You are chosen, you are loved, you were brought out of death, snatched from the road to hell, and you are saved. Have you understood this? / Understood what? What is to be understood? It is a declaration of peace; a proclamation of freedom. We meagerly respond, you respond simply, with the amen. What is left to comprehend?

These are undeserved gifts (that's what that word 'grace' means, “undeserved gift”). Do you sit and contemplate gifts before you receive them at Christmas or birthday or other special occasions? No, you just receive them in thanksgiving. What is there to contemplate? What is there to understand? It's a gift! Receive it! You are forgiven, you are loved, you are perfect and no one will snatch you out of God's hand, ever. Your baptism is God's oath to you; Holy Absolution is His reassuring Word to you; and the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is His lasting testament.

I will never leave you or forsake you. He, Jesus, is your Teacher, He is the Savior. What else matters?

How many men will serve the pastoral office here? 18 or 1800, who knows? Only God. Does it really matter? All that matters is that Jesus is teaching you, loving you, feeding you, fighting for you and giving you the strength to be His people in a world that outnumbers us. All that matters, is that your sin does not stand in your way, that heaven stands wide open. Jesus has done it. You are forgiven. You are blessed. You believe. It is all good. God is good.

“How in the world is one to know what is right and good and healthy?” Listen to Jesus. He will teach you, He has taught you, and He preaches to you and teaches and feeds you still. Jesus is right / and good / and healthy. He is old and new. He forms tradition and produces change. First, in you, / then, in us.

To the same +Jesus Christ with the Father and Holy Spirit be all glory and honor and worship, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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