Worship Helps for Pentecost 19

Worship Theme: Our God wants real repentance that leads to true obedience. One day, everyone will bow before Jesus of Nazareth and confess him as Lord. Some will do so in grief and others in joy. God wants real repentance from every sinner so they might bend the knee to Christ in true obedience and confess with gladness that Jesus is Lord.

Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:1-4; 25-32
The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: "'The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? 3 "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son-- both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. …  25 "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. 27 But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. 28 Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 30 "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

1. The main point of this chapter is stated in verse 4. What was the complaint of the people in exile? What was God’s answer to them?

2. Verses 25-32 express the solution to the Israelites’ problems. What was that solution?

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 13:5-8
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

3. If the Corinthians would examine themselves, what was Paul certain they would discover?

4. Paul is being charged by pseudo-apostles in Corinth who were charging that Paul was not a true apostle of the Lord. So, Paul asks the Corinthians that if they found that Christ was in them, the blessings could only have come through the ministry of Paul. In that case, what would they realize about Paul? (verse 6)

Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32
"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 29 "'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. 31 "Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”

5. Jesus tells this parable to the Pharisees about the Pharisees. How did the tax collectors and prostitutes show themselves to be like the first son?

6. How did the Pharisees show themselves to be like the second son?

7. What does this have to say to the Pharisee inside each one of us?
1. They felt they were being punished for the sins of their parents, and they implied that God was not just in treating them this way. If you cannot prove someone to be wrong, it is always effective to attack his or her character or motives. That’s what the Israelites did here.

The implication is that God is unjust. God’s answer was simple: Only those who sin will be punished for their sin. God denies it all: the soul that sins is the one that will die. This is not injustice—no, the injustice is that man who was made for perfection sinned again and again against his God. God shows just how just he is: he will judge each man according to his way. Repent, God says, turn from your wickedness and live.

2. They were to give up claiming their problem stemmed from someone else’s sins and from God’s unfairness. They were to realize the great truth that even they, this late in their history, could repent, and God would pour out his blessings on them.

3. That they had Christ living in them, that they were children of God, and that they were brothers and sisters in faith.

The Corinthian congregation had heard much from Paul on the topics of repentance and obedience. As they readied to receive Paul on his third visit, he encouraged them to prepare by testing themselves. Which son were they acting like, the son who worked in the vineyard or the one who just talked about it (Matthew 21:28-32)? Five times in this lesson, Paul tells them to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith. True obedience gives evidence of real repentance. It is not the cause of repentance, but a visible fruit that shows our faith is genuine. That brings us the great joy of knowing that Christ Jesus is in us and we are walking on the way of righteousness.

4. They would realize that he had not failed as the pseudo-apostles claimed. But note this is not what Paul was most concerned about. He was most concerned about the Corinthians and whether or not they were doing what was right.

5. The father commands two sons to work in his vineyard and receives two surprising answers. The first son flatly refuses; he fails to even offer an excuse, but simply says, “I will not.” True obedience is not merely saying what God wants to hear, but doing what God wants done. The first son repented of his wickedness and gave his father true obedience. The tax collectors and prostitutes had initially refused to do God’s will in living lives of open sin. But now they were repenting and following Jesus.

6. The second son says all the right things and tacks on an appropriately respectful title. He seems almost breathless in his readiness to do the father’s will. True obedience, however, is not merely saying what God wants to hear, but doing what God wants done. The second merely mouthed the words and contented himself with doing his own thing.

The Pharisees seemed so righteous as they stood in the temple courts. The great men of Israel had gathered against Jesus. These men knew all the words to say and ways to act, but the only “righteousness” they had was a self-righteousness that offended God. They claimed to be doing God’s work and fulfilling his will, but there was no repentance and no true obedience. The Pharisees said they would do God’s will, but in the end, they refused to do it. The parable Jesus spoke against them convicts every self-righteous person.

7. This parable is a powerful preachment against the Pharisee inside each of us that wants to be content with saying the right words when it comes to faith! What a stinging rebuke of our lukewarm Christianity that confesses Christ with our mouth but denies him with our deeds! Repent, Christ says, and believe—true obedience will surely follow.

Putting your faith into action
Through these words of the prophet Ezekiel the Lord issues a strong call to repentance. The Lord is warning Israel to turn from their sinful ways. How awful it would be for their sin to keep them out of heaven for all eternity! But the Lord says that if the wicked man turns away from his wickedness he will live! Just as Israel needed this warning, so do many people today. May we who have heard this warning and taken it to heart use our talents, treasures, and resources to help share it—and God’s promise—with others.

A reading from the Book of Concord for Pentecost 19
Paul writes to the Colossians that traditions have “an appearance of wisdom” (2:23). Indeed, they have. Good order is very fitting in the Church, and is for this reason necessary. Human reason, because it does not understand the righteousness of faith, naturally imagines that such works justify people because they reconcile God.  Common people thought this, and among us ceremonies have grown in the monasteries.  Human reason thinks bodily exercises, such as fasts, are services that justify.  The look of wisdom and righteousness in such works tricks people.  When people want to imitate the saints, they imitate, for the most part, the outward exercises.  They do not imitate their faith.

After this look of wisdom and righteousness has deceived people, then countless evils follow.  The Gospel about the righteousness of faith in Christ is clouded over, and empty confidence in such works succeeds.  Then God’s commandments are clouded over. These human works are preferred more than the works of God’s commandments (one’s own calling, management of a family, married life, and bringing up of children).  Compared with those ceremonies, the latter are judged to be ungodly, so that they are exercised by many with doubting consciences.  For it is known that many have left married life to welcome these human ceremonies as better and holier. – Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XV, Human Traditions in the Church (paragraphs 22-26)


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