Worship Helps for Pentecost 16

Artwork: Christ Carrying the Cross
Artist: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Worship Theme: The mind is a powerful tool, capable of reasoning its way to much success and many great things. The human mind knows how to guard the bottom line. The mind knows what is most cost effective. The mind can quickly determine the most reasonable course of action. But our brains, despite all their vaunted wisdom, cannot find their way to the cross. The cross is incomprehensible to human wisdom. One man, the God-man, dies for the sins of all men?! It is only when our fear and trust is in the Lord that we can know his great mercy and understand how that mercy affects us now and forever.

Old Testament: Genesis 12:1-8 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

1. When God called Abram to go to the land God would show him, God gave Abram seven blessings. What was the last one?

2. Abram was a childless man 75 years old when God called him to go to an unknown land and promised to make a great nation out of him. What other problem did Abram have? (See the end of 12:6.)

Epistle: Philippians 3:4-11 If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

3. What reasons could Paul give for trusting in who he was before God? (See 4:5-6.)

4. How did Paul see his former goodness and good efforts?

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

5. Does Jesus really want us to hate our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children?

6. What motivates us to “hate” our families, to give up everything we have for Jesus?

1. God promised Abram, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This was a promise that the Savior of the world, God in the flesh, would come from Abram’s descendants. (And that Savior would die in place of all people.)

2. Abram’s other problem was that plenty of Canaanites filled the land to which God sent him. How could his descendants take over such a land when he had no son, either? God asked Abram, like he asks us, to keep trusting him in the face of much opposition and circumstances that often seem to make no sense.

3. Paul could have trusted in who he was because he was not just a Jew, he was the most Jewish man possible. He kept the law that God had given the Jews almost faultlessly. He had even persecuted Christians in his zeal to be a good Jew.

4. Paul learned to see his former goodness as a loss (in accounting terms) not a profit. He even considered it garbage (literally, “dung”). Jesus had become his righteousness.

5. We do not hate our parents in the sinful and wicked sense that Scripture condemns. We “hate” them in the sense that we make Christ the first priority in our lives. Our Lord and Savior is to be the number one in all things. No matter what the wisdom of the world says, we always follow Christ.

6. “We love because he first loved us.” God showed us incredible mercy and love by sending his one and only Son into the world. He chose us before creation (Eph. 1:4). He adopted us as sons (Eph. 1:5). He “made us alive” (Eph. 2:5). He “raised us up with Christ” (Eph. 2:6), all by His undeserved love, by grace. As children of our Heavenly Father, we take up the cross appointed for us and follow our Savior, Jesus, even if we don’t always understand it, even if the world mocks us, spits upon us and hates us.

Putting your faith into action
It is hard to talk about giving back to God without noticing the blessings God promises in return for our stewardship. But giving in order to get a reward is not scriptural. Martin Luther fought that evil long ago as people supposed they could pay for forgiveness and thereby earn the promise of salvation. There is a cost to discipleship, our gospel reading reminds us, but we do not bear the cost. God paid all the cost through Jesus Christ. Because of this we can respond to God with commitment as the Holy Spirit, through us, builds the church. Our commitment is not a blind commitment—without understanding the cost to us or to God—but a commitment based on knowing we have salvation in Jesus Christ, which allows us to commit all, even our lives, to God’s service.

A reading from the Book of Concord for Pentecost 16
Regarding the necessity or voluntary nature of good works, it is clear that in the Augsburg Confession and its Apology these expressions are often used and repeated—good works are necessary.  They say it is necessary to do good works, which follow faith and reconciliation. Likewise, we are to do, and must do, the kind of good works God has commanded.  In the Holy Scriptures themselves the words necessity, needful, and necessary, as well as ought and must, are used to describe what we are bound to do because of God’s ordinance, command, and will…

Note the following distinction.  The meaning of these expressions must be a necessity based on Christ’s command, and will and based on our obligation, but not a necessity based on coercion. When the word necessary is used, it should be understood not as force, but only as the order of God’s unchanging will, whose debtors we are.  His commandment points out that the creature should be obedient to its Creator.  New Testament people are to be a willing people (Psalm 110:3) and sacrifice freely (Psalm 54:6), “not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7).  They are to be “obedient from the heart”, “for God loves a cheerful giver.”  In this sense, it is correctly taught that truly good works should be done willingly, or from a voluntary spirit, by those whom God’s Son has made free. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article IV, Good Works (paragraphs 14, 16-18)

Hymns: 421; 464; 454; 465; 469

1  Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

2  Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for thee.

3  Take my voice and let me sing Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from thee.

4  Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use Ev’ry pow’r as thou shalt choose.

5  Take my will and make it thine; It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart—it is thine own; It shall be thy royal throne.

6  Take my love, my Lord, I pour At thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for thee.

Text: Frances R. Havergal, 1836–79.


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