Worship Helps for End Times 1 - Reformation
Artwork: The preaching of Martin Luther
Artist: Lucas Cranach the Elder
Worship Theme: On Reformation Sunday we give thanks to God for his rescue from hell, rescue that comes by his grace alone. We thank him for the faith he gives us to trust his promise. We thank God for his errorless word, the Bible, which gives and strengthens that faith. At the same time we understand that we can fall away from that grace by unbelief. We recognize that Satan, society and our sinful self will daily challenge our faith. Therefore let us never stray from God’s life-giving word.
Old Testament: Daniel Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king." 25 He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
1. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not sure God would save them from the fiery furnace. Still, what did they say to the king just before he threw them in? (See .)
2. What three things did Nebuchadnezzar say that he concluded? (See 3:28-29.)
3. What should we conclude from this story?
Epistle: Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-- to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
4. The book of Revelation offers a number of symbols and pictures of how the world is and will be until the end of the world. What did the Apostle John see in these verses?
5. What connection does this vision have with the Reformation?
Gospel: Mark 13:5 Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. 9 "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
6. What kinds of things does Jesus warn us will continue to happen until the end of the world?
7. Why should we not be afraid of such things?
1. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said that even if their God did not rescue them from the flames, they would not serve Nebuchadnezzar's gods or bow down to the image he had set up.
2. Nebuchadnezzar concluded a) that the God of the three men had sent his messenger/angel to save them, b) that the three had done the right thing, and c) that no other god could save in such a way.
3. Among many things, we should conclude that God will bless those who fear him―those who put his word and command above any other word and command.
4. John saw an angel who went out urging all people to honor and worship God, for the time of his judging had come.
5. In previous visions, John had seen that believers would suffer many trials and that the enemies of God and false teachers would attack them. Today’s two verses offer the comfort that even in the midst of persecution and false teachers, God’s Word will be proclaimed to the nations. Martin Luther was one messenger who did just that. The Greek word for angel means “messenger.” May we, like Luther, be messengers of the truth in this wicked world.
6. Jesus warns us that many people claiming to be Jesus or the Messiah will come. There will be wars and rumors of war.
7. God promises to be with us and give us strength. He promises his Holy Spirit, who will help us defend our faith without fear. We have God’s promise of eternal life. We know that all trials are “birth pains,” that is, signs of the new and perfect life that is coming soon.
Putting your faith into action
Praise the Lord that he has compelled us to believe that the Bible is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Even though we live in a world that does its best to convince us to believe we have a lot to worry about, we know that wars, national conflicts, earthquakes, and famines are simply the birth pains of this world as it waits for its day of destruction. Earthly blessings are temporary. Through faith in Jesus we can confidently look forward to the day he will deliver us from this vale of tears and take us to a perfect heavenly kingdom. Meanwhile we will focus on what’s important, that our congregations and our church body have adequate resources to preach the gospel to as many nations as possible so that many other people may still be saved.
I have to tell a story. A doctor was sent here to Wittenberg from France, who openly told us that his king was convinced that we have no Church, no government, no marriage, but that we all live promiscuously like cattle and do as we please. Imagine those whose writings have instilled such crude lies into the king and other countries, presenting them as the pure truth. How will they face us when we are brought before the judgment seat of Christ? Christ, the Lord and Judge of us all, knows well that they lie. They, in turn, must hear His sentence. May God convert to repentance those who can be converted! To the rest will be said, “Woe and alas!” for eternity.
I return to the subject. I really would like to see a truly Christian council, so that many people and issues might be helped. Not that we need help. Our churches are now, through God’s grace, enlightened and equipped with the pure Word and right use of the Sacraments, with knowledge of the various callings and right works. So, on our part, we ask for no council. On such points, we have nothing better to hope or expect from a council. But we see throughout the bishops’ jurisdictions so many parishes vacant and desolate that it breaks our heart. Neither the bishops nor the Church officials care how the poor people live or die. Christ has died for them, yet they are not allowed to hear Him speak as the true Shepherd with His sheep. – Smalcald Articles, Luther’s Preface 1537, paragraphs 8-10