370. Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. I.
Lord Jesus, speak to us; thou hast the words of eternal life. Amen.
Gospel Lesson, Luke 7, 11-17. And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a tear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumor of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about.
On this earth we carry one another to the grave; it is one continuous funeral which no man can stop. A thousand times the heart of the parent has said: “I will not place my son on the bier; you shall not carry him out to the grave!” In vain! The whole earth is a cemetery, and the whole human race a funeral procession. We do not only follow to the grave them that are dead; we carry death in ourselves, and hasten onward to our own grave. These eyes, this tongue, these hands, shall rot; decompose; return to dust, in the bowels of the earth, or in the depths of the sea. That which is most closely joined together must be put asunder. You surrender your place to another, and he in his turn to still another; and soon you are as completely forgotten as a blade of grass whose place knows it no more. This is the death of the body; but there is also a death of the soul, namely when man is separated from God through sin and unbelief. Everyone who does not in his heart believe in Jesus is dead while he lives; and is on the way to eternal death. Here such a man has a darkened understanding which knows not Christ; and his heart is cold toward God, having neither love’s longing after him, nor joy in him. And in the next world such a man is for ever shut out from light and life. Nothing is more terrifying than pitchy darkness: but eternal death is that “outer darkness”; that is to say, eternal misery and gloom and despair.
This we men have brought upon ourselves by our revolt against God; and there is none can save himself or others. Behold, however: the procession of death coming out of the gate of Nain is met by a procession of life, Jesus and his disciples. And Jesus is able to change its character, making them that went forth in sorrow and tears return with joy and songs of praise. He goes all the time at the head of his company of disciples, the holy Christian church, and subdues death, and adds to the number of his people; and they turn back to Nain, to the earth which has been created anew and made beautiful for ever. For as many as believe in Jesus Christ have been quickened from the dead; their understanding has been enlightened, and their heart awakened; they love God, and live in the fellowship of love with him. They “have passed from death unto life,” and need have no fear of the death eternal. When their body dies, it is but a sleep. out of which Jesus gloriously wakes them; his members can not remain in death. They are nourished by his ever living body and blood. and are the temple of the Holy Ghost; how, then, can they be doomed to die? “No,” says Luther…
Christ shall in a moment gather al who are dead, call them forth with a word out of dust and ashes, air and water; and, as Paul puts it, in 1 Thessalonians 4, 14, bring them with him as the head its members, a countless multitude of the faithful. and translate them from death and misery into eternal life. He shall, as Isaiah says (25, 8), wipe away the tears from off their faces, that they may with eternal joy and praise and honor for ever and without ceasing laud and exalt him, their Lord and Redeemer. This we must learn to believe, in order that we may have comfort in every sorrow and in the agony of death; so that we, — should we come to the point where, like this widow of Nain, we see nothing but death and corruption, nay if we be in the jaws of death, and be placed in our coffin. as was her son, and be carried out to the grave, — may still have the unshaken faith that in Christ we have life and victory over death For faith in Christ must be so constituted, or must at least try to learn the lesson taught in Hebrews 11, 1, that it may grasp and hold fast the evidence of things not seen, nay even that which seems to be contradicted by the things seen. Thus Christ will have this widow to believe and hope life, in that he says ‘weep not’; although she and all the world, according to their sense and reason, must entirely despair of life. For he wants to teach us by experience that of us and in us there is nothing but corruption and death, while of him and in him is nothing but life, which swallows up both our sin and death. Nay, the more of misery and death there is in us, the greater wealth of comfort and life shall we find in him, if we do but in faith cling to him; to which he encourages and exhorts us by his word as well as by this example.
So far Doctor Luther.
Lord Jesus, give us the light and the gifts of the Spirit to believe and to hold fast to thee, that thou mayest give us eternal life. Save us. Lord, from cruel death ; save us from eternal perdition. Amen.
Since thou from death didst rise again,
In death thou wilt not leave me;
Lord, thy ascension soothes my pain,
No fear of death shall grieve me:
For thou wilt have me where thou art,
And thus with joy I can depart,
To be with thee for ever.
371. Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. II.
Heavenly Father, give us thy Spirit in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Epistle Lesson, Ephesians 3, 13-21. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
The love of Christ passes all knowledge. It embraces the whole world, causing him to die for all men; it flows like the broadest stream of mercy over all the earth; and it endures from everlasting to everlasting, so that its length is infinite. It descends into the deepest depth, suffers death itself, and has mercy on the most wretched of men; and it sits on the throne on high, and leads us to eternal glory. It is the will of the Father to give us grace by his Holy Spirit, that in this love of Christ we may be rooted and grounded through faith. The Spirit illumines us; so that we believe this love, and have the assurance in our hearts that God loves us in Christ with a love which is victorious over sin and death, and which is so infinite and so mighty that we surrender to it with our whole heart. We are made fast to it with the deepest roots of our nature; so that nothing can separate us from it. The union is so strong and intimate, and all is so entirely of and through God, that we dare ask men and angels: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? We are more than conquerors through him, through him that loved us! For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8). He then dwells in our hearts by faith; and we know this love, which passes all knowledge. Do the words of the apostle terrify you; and do you think: Alas, I am far, far away from this glorious estate? In that case you must humble yourself, and ask the God of love, who spared not his Son, to give you his Holy Spirit; and he shall do it. Humble yourself, but do not lose heart. If you know that you are a lost sinner, and believe that Jesus died for all the world, and pray that your heart may be cleansed in his blood, you are in truth received into the communion of the saints; you are embraced in God’s eternal love, are already his child in Christ, and a branch of the vine of life. It is God himself who has brought this about; and he shall continue to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think. Do you not believe that his love is great beyond your power to understand? Do you not believe that his mighty power can overcome everything which resists him in you and about you? “Yes; but dare I have this faith’ Dare I for my own part take this comfort to my heart?” Are you not to believe that which is true? Has not God given his Son for you? Have you not been baptized into his death and resurrection’ Has not his Spirit made you to see your sin ? Or have you done this yourself? Does not the Spirit groan in you, and do you not thirst after his love? He loves you infinitely better than you can love him: and the fact that he dwells in you is the only thing which has taught you to cry after the living God. O, that he might enlighten us by his Spirit and thus make us to believe; so that the power of Christ in us may be victorious and prove itself in patience and joy and the praise of the Lord!
Grant us this grace, merciful heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Now I am thine, for ever thine:
O save thy servant, Lord!
Thou art my shield, my hiding-place;
My hope is in thy word.
Thou hast inclined this heart of mine
Thy statutes to fulfill;
And thus, till mortal life shall end,
Would I perform thy will.