Worship Helps for Epiphany 5

Artwork: Sermon on the Mount
Artist: Cosimo Rosselli

Worship Theme: On a crystal-clear winter evening, it’s easy to believe that the full moon is producing the wonderful light that allows you to take a brisk walk through the woods without a flashlight. In reality, the moon is producing no light at all; instead, it is simply reflecting the light of the sun. When people notice Christians producing godly lives, it would be easy to pat them on the back and to give them the credit for the good things they do. In reality, God’s people are simply reflecting the good work of God’s Son, Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and he is revealed through his people, so let your light shine! Jesus tells us: You are…so be. You are the light of the world, so be light for the earth. You are the salt of the earth, so be salt for it. Our calling as sons of God means our lives will reflect our new status, and the world around us will be blessed by us.

Old Testament: 14Joshua said, “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly and faithfully. Remove the gods that your fathers served in the region across the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15But if you see no benefit in serving the Lord, then choose for yourselves today whomever you will serve—whether the gods that your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household—we will serve the Lord!”
16The people responded by saying, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord in order to serve other gods! 17For the Lord our God, he is the one who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, where we were slaves. He is the one who performed before our eyes these great signs and protected us on the whole journey that we made and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18The Lord drove out of our presence all the peoples and the Amorites who were living in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God!”
19But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, because he is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20If you forsake the Lord and you serve foreign gods, then he will turn and cause disaster for you, and he will put an end to you after he has done good for you.”
21But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will most certainly serve the Lord!”
22So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves in order to serve him.”
The people said, “We are witnesses!”
23Joshua said, “Now, therefore, remove the foreign gods that are among you, and turn your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
24The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God, and we will listen to his voice.”

1. To what does Joshua point the people when he encourages them to live faithful lives?

2. To what does the Bible point you when it gives you a similar command to live as salt and light?

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:9-12
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the people who are God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10At one time you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. At one time you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy.
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and temporary residents in the world, to abstain from the desires of the sinful flesh, which war against your soul. 12Live an honorable life among the Gentiles so that even though they slander you as evildoers, when they observe your noble deeds, they may glorify God on the day he visits us.

3. What reasons does Peter give for us to live like salt and light?

Gospel: 13“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its flavor, how will it become salty again? Then it is no good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. 14You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. 15People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket. No, they put it on a stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16In the same way let your light shine in people’s presence, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
17“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy them but to fulfill them. 18Amen[1] I tell you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not even the smallest letter, or even part of a letter, will in any way pass away from the Law until everything is fulfilled. 19So whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20Indeed I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and experts in the law, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

[1] Usually, people say Amen at the end of a prayer. But Jesus used this Hebrew word at the beginning of a statement, which was unique. The inspired writer simply transliterated the Hebrew word that Jesus spoke, instead of using a Greek term. This translation does the same in English. The basic meaning is I solemnly tell you the truth.  For more information about this, see FAQ #1 at wartburgproject.org/faqs

4. How does Jesus describe Christians in this world and why?

5. According to Jesus, why did he come into the world?

6. What warning does Jesus offer to people who believe that they lead God-pleasing lives apart from Jesus?


Answers:
1. Faith responds to God’s grace by promising to live as salt and light. Joshua pointed the people of Israel back to the gracious acts of God who had delivered them from every enemy. Now in possession of the Promised Land, God’s people could reflect on God’s great acts of grace and power in their lives. Seeing all God had done, the people vowed to Joshua to live as salt and light: “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”

2. As the children of God today, we see that God has defeated enemies far fiercer than the Amorites, Perizzites, and Canaanites. Sin, death, and the devil are vanquished. The gates to the heavenly Promised Land stand open. Looking at God’s great acts of grace and power, we cannot help but join in vowing our obedience to God. We will put away the gods of self and sin, and through the Spirit we will yield our hearts and join with Joshua in his life of salt and light: As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

3. The call of God made us part of a new people in order that we might declare his praises. Peter tells us to live lives that are different from the world around us—as different as light is to darkness. Called out of the darkness, we live in this world like foreigners who know that this is not our home. Strangers to the world, we abstain from sin and live such good lives that even the pagans will have to give God glory for his work in our lives. Called into the wonderful light, we let that shine on everyone around us.

4. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world because they reflect the “salt” and “light” of Jesus. Jesus reveals himself to the world through his people.

5. Jesus came not to abolish or overturn God’s order and will, revealed in his holy law. He came instead to fulfill it as God intended. Jesus has fulfilled his Father’s will perfectly as our substitute in order to save us from sin.

6. Holiness apart from faith in Jesus requires us to keep God’s law perfectly, which is impossible for sinners like us. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Jesus’ sermon moves from the promises of the Beatitudes to his commands for the Christian life. The Christians blessed by Christ are called to be blessings to the world around us. You are salt, Christ says, so be it: act as the preservative that keeps this word from rotting. You are light, so be it: shine into the darkness of the world that people might see and know how different you are. The message of grace is not a message of antinomianism. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it—first for us, and then in us. Our righteousness could never be enough—even if we could keep the 613 laws of the Pharisees—but Jesus’ righteousness is. Now he commands our light to shine that our deeds might give evidence of our faith to the praise of God the Father who created us to do them.


Putting your faith into action
Jesus gave me the job of being a light, a light to the world in fact! How can I possibly do this? I can try to show my love for God in all that I do and say, in the way I manage the money and possessions and gifts he has given me. I can give him back a significant portion of my income with which he has blessed me. But at most that would only provide light for my small area, not the world! I thank God that I don’t have to do this alone. By his grace and mercy, all of us work together, encouraging and strengthening each other as we lift high the light to tell the good news that God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world and to triumph over death and hell.

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
9] Concerning the righteousness of faith before God we believe, teach, and confess unanimously, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above, that poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or any subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ alone, whose obedience is reckoned to us for righteousness. – Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, III. The Righteousness of Faith (paragraph 9)

Hymns: 221; 280; 523; 525; 518

1  Thy strong word did cleave the darkness; At thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank thee While thine ordered seasons run.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia without end!

2  Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness, Dark as night and deep as death,
Broke the light of thy salvation, Breathed thine own life-giving breath.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia without end!

3  Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous; Bright with thine own holiness,
Glorious now, we press toward glory, And our lives our hope confess.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia without end!

4  From the cross thy wisdom shining Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;
From the cross forever beameth All thy bright redeeming light.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia without end!

5  Give us lips to sing thy glory, Tongues thy mercy to proclaim,
Throats to shout the hope that fills us, Mouths to speak thy holy name.
Alleluia! Alleluia! May the light which thou dost send
Fill our songs with alleluias, Alleluias without end!

6  God the Father, light-creator, To thee laud and honor be.
To thee, Light from Light begotten, Praise be sung eternally.
Holy Spirit, light-revealer, Glory, glory be to thee.
Mortals, angels, now and ever Praise the holy Trinity!

Text: Martin H. Franzmann, 1907–76, alt. © 1969 Concordia Publishing House.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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