Worship Helps for Epiphany 6

Art: David and Bathsheba
Artist: Lucas Cranach the Younger

Worship Theme: The Savior’s Sermon: Live a holy life! Jesus came to free us from sin. He did not come to free us to sin. The commands in the lessons today remind us just how holy our God is, and their dire warnings remind us just how holy he wants us to be.

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27
Springtime arrived, the time when kings go out to war. David sent Joab out with his officers and with all Israel. They ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem.
2One evening David had gotten up from upon his couch and was walking on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very good-looking. 3David sent to inquire about the woman, and he was told, “Isn’t this Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
4David sent messengers and took her. She came to him, and he lay down with her. (She had been purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.
5The woman became pregnant. So she sent a message to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6David sent a message to Joab, “Send Uriah the Hittite to me.” So Joab sent Uriah to David, 7and Uriah came to him.
David asked how Joab and the troops were doing, and how the war effort was going. 8Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.”
When Uriah went out from the palace, the king sent a gift to him. 9But Uriah slept at the door of the palace with all the servants of his master. He did not go down to his own house.
10David was informed, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you come a long distance? Why didn’t you go down to your house?”
11Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are living in shelters, and my master Joab and the servants of my master are camped in the open field. Should I go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie down with my wife? As surely as you are alive, I will not do such a thing.”
12Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also. Tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13David summoned him, and he ate as his guest, and David got him drunk. But in the evening he went and slept on his mat where the servants of his master were. He did not go to his own house.
14In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and he sent it in the hands of Uriah. 15In the letter he wrote, “Station Uriah in a dangerous spot on the front lines. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
16So when Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew that the enemy’s strongest warriors were. 17The men of the city came out and fought against Joab and some of the troops of David fell. And Uriah the Hittite also died…
26The wife of Uriah the Hittite heard that her husband was dead. So she mourned for her husband. 27When her mourning was completed, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife. She gave birth to a son for him. But what David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord.

1. What lessons can we learn about the power and progressive nature of sin from the example of King David?

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Therefore, beyond this, brothers, just as you received instruction from us about how you are to walk so as to please God (as indeed you are doing), we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that you do so even more. 2To be sure, you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3Indeed, this is God’s will: that you be sanctified, namely, that you keep yourselves away from sexual immorality. 4He wants each of you to learn to obtain a wife for yourself in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in lustful passion like the heathen, who do not know God. 6No one is to overstep and take advantage of his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we said previously and solemnly testified to it. 7For God did not call us for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 8Consequently, whoever rejects this is not rejecting a man, but the God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
9Concerning brotherly love, there is no need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God, with the result that you love one another. 10In fact, you are doing so toward all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do this even more, 11and to make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, just as we instructed you. 12Do this so that you are conducting yourselves decently toward outsiders and are not lacking anything.

2. How do you think you are similar to the Thessalonian Christians when it comes to your life of sanctification, that is, living the holy life Christ commands?

Gospel: Matthew 5:21-37
21“You have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be subject to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will have to answer to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of hell fire.
23“So if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother. Then come and offer your gift.
25“If someone accuses you, reach an agreement with him quickly, while you are with him on the way. Otherwise your accuser may bring you to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Amen[1] I tell you: You will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ 28but I tell you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to fall into sin, pluck it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30If your right hand causes you to fall into sin, cut it off and throw it away from you. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to be regarded as an adulteress. And whoever marries the divorced woman is regarded as an adulterer.
33“Again you have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘Do not break your oaths, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34But I tell you, do not swear at all: not by heaven, because it is God’s throne; 35and not by earth, because it is his footstool; and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your own head, since you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Instead, let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no.’ Whatever goes beyond these is from the Evil One.

[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

3. What is Jesus doing with the law that the Lord had given to his Old Testament people through Moses?

4. What is the ultimate purpose of God’s law for sinners like us?

  
Answers:
1. Our Savior’s call to holy living leads us to have a healthy fear of sin. What a warning God provides us in David! When the king was at the height of his power and full of God’s blessing, his great fall began. Why? Because he toyed with sin. He let lust fester and morph into adultery. He spoke lies until deception ruled his heart. He let selfishness metastasize into a godless disregard for any life but his own. He thought he could toy with sin, but in the end it was sin and Satan that toyed with him. Jesus’ call to live a holy life is like a mother warning her child to beware of a hot stove. It is a call motivated by love and meant for our safety.

2. Paul’s encouragement to live a holy life serves as a great model for preaching sanctification to a congregation. He does not speak to them as heathens, but as people who are in fact living in order to please God. Paul’s words, then, instruct and admonish them to do this more and more. The authority behind his preaching of sanctification did not come from Paul’s life but from the authority of Christ himself. This is what Christ wants! The Thessalonians faced the same problem we do: we know what God wants; we understand it; we just don’t do it consistently. Paul applies the warning of God’s Law and the calling of God’s Gospel. Paul repeatedly emphasizes this: You know it, so now we urge you to do it more and more.

3. Jesus is taking the divine law into his hands and explaining it spiritually. Sinful human beings naturally have a shallow and corrupted understanding of what God created us to be and what he now demands of sinners. Jesus teaches us that the fulfillment of the law is more difficult than simple, outward actions.

4. The ultimate purpose of God’s law for sinners is to make us conscious of our sin and our desperate need for a perfect Savior from sin. The message of the gospel then graciously and perfectly supplies our need by proclaiming that Jesus has done everything to save us from our wickedness.

Jesus commands us to be holy in our relationships with our brothers, our adversaries, our bodies, our spouse, and our God. Hearing his instructions for the Christian life, we see that God is far holier than we can imagine! How high Jesus sets the bar here: not just acts, but thoughts—not just words, but attitudes, are judged by our God! In the place of a pharisaical form of godliness, Jesus calls for true spiritual righteousness. God’s demands of holiness only highlight the depravity of our sinful nature. Let the preacher bring God’s Law in all its severity and preach his hearers down to hell, until the flesh despairs of itself and can only cry, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” boldly proclaim that the Savior who preaches the holy life is the Savior who lived the holy life as our Substitute. Proclaim forgiveness that is greater than our depravity and mercy that far outweighs our wickedness.


Putting your faith into action
There’s so much more to righteousness than we thought! How many people have felt good about themselves for never murdering, stealing, or cheating on their spouses—and then Jesus says we’re not just stewards of our bodies; we’re also stewards of our thoughts! It sure is a good thing he paid for all our sins! With that kind of righteousness from him, we get the happy motivation to work on our deeds, words, and thoughts as thank offerings to him who loves us and freed us from our sins.

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
182] Now this commandment is easy enough, and has been often treated, because we hear it annually in the Gospel of St. Matthew 5:21ff, where Christ Himself explains and sums it up, namely, that we must not kill, neither with hand, heart, mouth, signs, gestures, help, nor counsel. Therefore it is here forbidden to every one to be angry, except those (as we said) who are in the place of God, that is, parents and the government. For it is proper for God and for every one who is in a divine estate to be angry, to reprove and punish, namely, on account of those very persons who transgress this and the other commandments.

183] But the cause and need of this commandment is that God well knows that the world is evil, and that this life has much unhappiness; therefore He has placed this and the other commandments between the good and the evil. Now, as there are many assaults upon all commandments, so it happens also in this commandment that we must live among many people who do us harm, so that we have cause to be hostile to them.

184] As when your neighbor sees that you have a better house and home [a larger family and more fertile fields], greater possessions and fortune from God than he, he is sulky, envies you, and speaks no good of you. Thus by the devil's incitement you will get many enemies who cannot bear to see you have any good, either bodily or spiritual. When we see such people, our hearts, in turn, would rage and bleed and take vengeance. Then there arise cursing and blows, from which follow finally misery and murder. Here, now, God like a kind father steps in ahead of us, interposes and wishes to have the quarrel settled, that no misfortune come of it, nor one destroy another. And briefly, He would hereby protect, set free, and keep in peace every one against the crime and violence of every one else; and would have this commandment placed as a wall, fortress, and refuge about our neighbor, that we do him no hurt nor harm in his body. – Large Catechism, 5th Commandment (paragraphs 182-184)

Hymns: 471; 283; 285; 459

1  Renew me, O eternal Light,
And let my heart and soul be bright,
Illumined with the light of grace
That issues from your holy face.

2  Destroy in me the lust of sin;
From all impureness make me clean.
Oh, grant me pow’r and strength, my God,
To strive against my flesh and blood.

3  Create in me a new heart, Lord,
That gladly I obey your Word.
Oh, let your will be my desire
And with new life my soul inspire.

4  Grant that I only you may love
And seek those things which are above
Till I behold you face to face,
O Light eternal, through your grace.

Text: Johann F. Ruopp, 1672–1708, abr.; tr. August Crull, 1845–1923, alt.






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