14th Sunday after Pentecost
August 26, 2018
“Stuff I Always Wanted to Know, But Never Asked”; Questions about doctrine/theology
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we finish this sermon series called “Stuff I Always Wanted to Know, But Never Asked.” Today I will try and answer your submitted questions about Christian doctrine and theology.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
And so, here we are. 23 questions answered. 7 more to go, but I only have time for 5. No better time than the present to get started.
“I love and trust in God too much to ‘fear’ him? Why do we ‘fear’ God who loves us so much?” The 1st Commandment is “You shall have no other Gods” and Luther’s explanation says we should “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” How can I love what I fear? It depends on what you mean by the word “fear.” There is a healthy way to fear God. To take God seriously as our Creator and Judge and someone who will punish those who disobey and/or disbelieve, then that’s true “fear” of God because God CAN be a threat as such. But that’s not what most references in the Bible mean. In most cases, “fear” of God means “to stand in awe of,” “to honor,” and “to revere.” Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” To “fear” God is to truly stand in holy reverence and awe and thankfulness for all He has done to create, sustain, and save us from sin, death, and the devil and that amazement before God is the beginning of wisdom.
Okay, next question. “When I was a kid we had communion once or twice a month. In my friend’s church they have communion only on Easter. Can you explain this or the reason?” Sure…be happy to. In Acts 2:42 we learn that “(the believers) were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” At the time of the Reformation, Lutherans continued the universal practice of the Church since Biblical times of celebrating the Sacrament at least every Sunday and holy day. Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession says, “because (worship) is for the purpose of giving the Sacrament, we have Communion every holy day.” Many congregations and church bodies today, though, celebrate the Lord’s Supper only a couple of times per month, or maybe just a few times per year. So what happened to cause infrequent Communion celebrations? Rationalism happened…Piety happened.
In the 18th century, Rationalism changed the whole landscape and life of the Church. Churches were made into lecture halls and the altar dwindled into insignificance and, in many cases, was removed. From the hymns all distinctively Christian thought was removed, and simple, repetitive rhymes were added in their place. Sermons became long-winded moral expositions about loving neighbor and not so much about loving God. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were robbed of their meaning and private Confession was totally abolished. Most Reformed, non-Lutheran churches still reflect those radical changes. The frequency with which a congregation celebrates the Lord’s Supper indicates how important it is in their lives. Theologian Herman Sasse wrote, “Worship without the Lord’s Supper is hearing about redemption without participating in it.” At Good Shepherd we offer Lord’s Supper every Holy Day. Congregations that celebrate 1-2 a year clearly indicate a complete misunderstanding of the Sacrament, its historical practice, and its benefit in the life of believers.
“(I have seen) incense used at weddings and funerals in the Catholic Church. Do we?” Incense has been employed in worship by Christians since antiquity, particularly in the Eastern churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and some Anglican churches. It has been and can still be found in the occasional Lutheran Church. It started as a helpful practice. Burning animals on the altar smelled bad and burning incense helped mask the odor. The smoke of burning incense is a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you” (Ps 141:2). A thurible is used to contain incense as it’s burned. Whenever the thurible is swung to incense people or objects, it is always done in groups of three swings. The burning of incense may be used in worship at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, at certain celebrations, at funerals, and especially at the consecration of a church or altar. In many old and orthodox churches, incense is used frequently. In Lutheran circles its usage has diminished so much that to use it in worship today would alarm and confuse most worshippers.
Now, the final 2 questions: “What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?” and “What (does) the church think about gay marriage and what if (the pastor were) asked to (preside at one)?” Oh…look at the time. Maybe we’ll stop there for today. Just kidding.
Okay. What does the Bible say? Well, to list a few:
• “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. … Do not defile yourselves by any of these things” (Lev. 18:22,24).
• “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination…” (Lev. 20:13).
• “Women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:26-27).
• “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners…immoral persons, sodomites…and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:9-10).
Through His Word, God teaches us very clearly that homosexuality is a sin. A person who persists in homosexual behavior stands under the condemnation of God’s Word, but this is true for anyone who persists in sin without repentance. While this may be an unpopular message, it is the truth taught to us by God in His Word. As with the case of any sinner, we want to assure all repentant sinners of the forgiveness of Christ. The Church rejects NO ONE, for we are ALL sinners. It is never wrong to care about another child of God, and judgment is not our job. Never withhold your love. Be cautious with your words. As a Christian you don’t have to compromise your Biblical beliefs to “fit in;” forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation with the unrepentant. Start with the image you see in the mirror, then love, forgive, show compassion to all people, and in all things do the right thing. Would I preside at a same-sex marriage? No. Same-sex marriage is not really marriage as God instituted it, so why would I preside?
And there we was…done. Lord, have mercy!