378. Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. I.
Lord, heal us, and teach us. Amen.
Gospel Lesson, Luke 14, 1-11. And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees, to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. And behold, there was a certain man before him, which had the dropsy. And Jesus, answering, spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straight way pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The Spirit of God warns us against being like unto the proud Pharisees, who employed the sabbath in tempting Jesus. How, then, shall we keep the sabbath day holy? The Lord employed it in deeds of mercy and in teaching the word. The world makes of Sunday a day on which to indulge the flesh; the Pharisees used the sabbath to strengthen themselves in self-righteousness, and to judge others; but Jesus spends the day in services of love, causing much thanksgiving to ascend to God. “If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; — then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58, 10. 13. 14). “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1, 27). This is the right way to use the day of rest. Call on one who is sick, or sad, or a widow; on one who has gone astray spiritually, or on a brother who suffers. First go to your chamber and pray the Lord to give you charity. Take the word of God with you, above all in your own heart. Hear the story of the afflicted, and put yourself in his place; enter into his circumstances, take upon your soul his infirmities, and apply to his soul the healing ointment of the word. Whatsoever you may do more for him, the Lord will teach you, and give you the necessary strength. — However, if Sunday is to be a day of charitable deeds, it must first of all be to us a day of rest. Our soul shall always have rest in the word of God; this is “the one thing needful” (Luke 10, 42); blessed is he who with Mary choses “that good part”! Jesus calls to himself all them that labor and are heavy laden; but he is in his word; and Sun day and the other days of rest are appointed, in order that we may devote them especially to the study of this word. Do not neglect the word of God; do not remain away from the divine service except for the most urgent reasons. Many stay away from church for almost no reason at all; and are absent as often as present. It gives me great pain to observe that very many of our young people after their confirmation become strangers to the church. What must be the fate of such as despise the word of God; the only means by which they might cleanse their way? Defenseless against the devil, they must soon become his prey. If parents and masters gave this matter proper thought, they would be diligent churchgoers; if for no other reason, that they might draw the young people with them to the house of God. But when the old people are careless about going to church, the young follow their example; and then the descent of both into wickedness is rapid. Do not, I beseech you, neglect the services in the church! This prayer comes from the heart; do you take it to heart! Promise the Lord that you will come to meet him at the appointed time; and keep the promise! Let it be as much a matter of course that you go to church on Sunday as that you go to your work on other days, and to the table when you are called. Go with simple heart to meet the Lord; and fix your eyes on him, who looks on you; then shall you forget the imperfections of the preacher, and in the spiritual fellowship of the saints, as less than the least of all, feel that the hands of the heavenly High Priest are lifted over you to bless you. For -the public church service is the solemn audience of the congregation with Christ. We come to him in company as his people with petitions and thanks; and he comes to us in the word and sacraments with grace and blessing. As a whole people gathered in the presence of their king, praying, and rendering thanks, and receiving his blessing, the Christian church stands in its Sunday service before the Lord Christ. Will you remain away, dear brother? Or is it possible that you can come in the spirit displayed by the Pharisees in our gospel lesson? Believe the truth, that the Lord is there; and accept his love with humble soul. Go out with joy in the service of love, and bring the blessing of the divine service to those who were prevented from coming.
Lord God, give us humble hearts; that we gladly hear thy word, and keep it as our greatest treasure. Give us therein rest for our souls, and power to mortify the lusts of the flesh, and to practice deeds of charity. Give us at last part in that rest which remains to thy people. Amen.
Thine earthly sabbaths, Lord, we love;
But there’s a nobler rest above:
To that our laboring souls aspire,
With ardent hope and strong desire.
O long-expected day, begin!
Dawn on these realms of woe and sin!
Fain would we leave this weary road,
And sleep in death, to rest with God.
379. Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. II.
Lord Jesus, make us like minded unto thee. Amen.
Epistle Lesson, Ephesians 4, 1-6. I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
All believers are united with the Lord Jesus, and knit together bv his love. They walk the same narrow path to the same glorious goal. Strangers on earth, they hasten toward heaven. One hope comforts and strengthens them all; the hope, namely, that they shall dwell together in the same house of the Father in the land beyond the sky. They all serve the same master, to whom the hearts of all belong; and all have the same faith, which is created by the Spirit, and which rests on the only true God, as it is founded on the word of forgiveness and salvation for Jesus’ sake only. All are baptized with one baptism, the baptism in the name of the triune God. He is the God of their heart; and thus they all are children of the Lord in heaven, and pray to him as to their Father. His omnipotence and mercy cover them all together; the Son’s life of love courses through and controls them all, as the brain controls the movements of the body; and the Spirit which sanctifies, sevenfold yet one, lives in them all. They all are nourished by the same spiritual meat, the gospel and the body and blood of the glorified Savior; they all stand before the same mercy seat; and all fight the same fight under the same standard, the cross of Christ. Neither time nor space separates them. We who now live sit at the Supper with the apostles in Jerusalem the same night in which Jesus was betrayed; and Paul belongs to us as much as to the church in Ephesus.
What an admonition is there not herein! Do not violate this precious and holy unity, but endeavor to keep it in the bond of peace. There is nothing whatever which Jesus himself more ardently desires than that his disciples may dwell together in the fellowship of love. How earnestly does he not pray that all who shall believe on him through the word of the apostles may be one, as the Father in him, and he in them, that the world may know the love of God (John 17); hence that they may not only be one in spirit, but that there may be an outward and visible unity before the eyes of all men. How earnestly does he not exhort them to prove to the world their discipleship; and what an example of humility and forbearance does he not present to them by washing their feet; even the feet of Judas, though well aware of his perfidy! In like manner do all the apostles beseech the faithful to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.—Do not, then, separate, but keep together, and forbear one another. Punish sin, and purge out the old leaven; but do not go from one another, and do not disrupt the body of Christ. Hear also the old fathers; they weep, and pray that the brethren may continue speaking the truth in love. Alas, this admonition is much needed in our age! True humility seems to have disappeared; and there are sects without number! Dear brethren, make the earnest endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Endeavor to do this, for Jesus’ sake! What must the world think of you, if you, who formerly dwelt together in brotherly unity, now go each his own way? How do you honor the name of the Lord? Or how shall you in this way stand against the hosts of darkness, which are wise enough to present an unbroken front in the fight against the church of God ? Do not go and divide yourselves up into factions; but when the time comes in which the world shall cast you out, do you stand together, and the Lord shall lead his people.
Lord Jesus, unite thy believers; and resist the devil, who would cause dissensions among us. Help us to obey thee, and walk in thy lowliness and love. Let none of us grieve thy Holy Spirit by rending asunder thy body; but give us grace to be united, and to wash one another’s feet in the spirit of humility and meekness. Amen.
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the word;
From heaven he came and sought her
To be his holy bride,
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.
Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth.
Her charter of salvation:
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.