Worship Helps for Epiphany 6


Artwork: Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple
Artist: Benjamin West
Date: 1738-1820

Worship Theme: Jesus did some surprising things during his life and ministry. For instance, he was born in a manger. He instructed the teachers of the law at twelve. He associated with the tax collectors and sinners. He allowed himself to be crucified. He also said some surprising things, things that ran directly contrary to the basic convictions of the world in which we live. For instance, he commands us to love our enemies and to follow him patiently in suffering. And in all these things he promises to be our Savior. Yes, Jesus is our surprising Savior!

Old Testament: Deuteronomy 30:1–10  
When all these things come upon you, both the blessing and the curse that I have given you, and you take them to heart while you are among all the nations to which the Lord your God has banished you, 2and when you return to the Lord your God and listen to his voice with all your heart and soul, in every way that I am commanding you today, you and your children, 3then the Lord your God will restore you from your captivity. He will have compassion on you, and he will gather you together again out of all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. 4Even if your banished people are at the end of the heavens, the Lord your God will gather you together there and take you away from there. 5The Lord your God will bring you back to the land that your fathers possessed, and then you will possess it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.
6The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with the result that you will live.
7Then the Lord your God will place all these curses on your enemies and on those who hated you and persecuted you. 8Once again you will listen to the voice of the Lord, and you will carry out all of his commands that I am giving you today.
9The Lord your God will cause you to be overflowing with good things from all the work of your hands, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your animals, and in the fruit of your soil. For once again he will rejoice over your prosperity, just as he rejoiced over your fathers, 10when you obey the voice of the Lord your God by keeping his commandments and his statutes written in this Book of the Law, when you return to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

1. Think of Israel’s later history. How would exiles to Assyria or Babylon have been comforted by these words?

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 12:7–10  
7Therefore, to keep me from becoming arrogant due to the extraordinary nature of these revelations, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, so that I would not become arrogant. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that he would take it away from me. 9And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will be glad to boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may shelter me.
10That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For whenever I am weak, then am I strong.

2. From what was Paul suffering (12:7)?
  
3. Why didn’t Jesus heal Paul, after Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his ailment (12:9)?

Gospel: Luke 6:17–26  
17He went down with them and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, as well as from the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. 18Those who were troubled by unclean spirits were also cured. 19The whole crowd kept trying to touch him, because power was going out from him and healing them all.
20He lifted up his eyes to his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. 22Blessed are you whenever people hate you, and whenever they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because of this: Your reward is great in heaven! The fact is, their fathers constantly did the same things to the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, because you are receiving your comfort now. 25Woe to you who are well fed now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, because you will be mourning and weeping. 26Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because that is how their fathers constantly treated the false prophets.

4. Whom does Jesus say are the blessed of this world, and why?

5. What does Jesus suggest we should do when the people of this world hate us because of Jesus?

6. To whom does Jesus preach woe?


Answers:
1. The exiles would have been inspired to turn to the Lord and follow his will. They would have known that their present exile need not be the final chapter of their history.

2. Paul was suffering from a “thorn” in his flesh. We cannot pinpoint his problem, but it was physical, and it was painful. Satan also tried to send him a message through it—probably to despair: “Give up! God has turned on you. He is punishing you for all your sins.”

3. Jesus didn’t heal Paul because his grace was enough for Paul. His power is made complete when we are weakest. That is, the weaker we are, the stronger we are—through the strength Jesus supplies, not our own.

4. Surprisingly, Jesus says that the blessed of this world are those whom the world would say are the less fortunate and the downtrodden. The reason why these people are blessed, Jesus says, is because through faith in him they will have eternal riches.

5. Surprisingly, Jesus tells us to rejoice when we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus. Our reward will be great in heaven.

6. Surprisingly, Jesus indicates that the powerful, rich, and happy of this world are in danger of eternal woe. Those who have so much in this world don’t often realize their need for a Savior. They have their “reward” in this world but will suffer for an eternity because of their rejection of Jesus.


Putting your faith into action
Jesus is not teachings us that we must to do be blessed and be saved. Rather he is teaching us how we as believers are already blessed. We live that life of blessing to thank God for his loving mercy through his Son.


A reading from the Book of Concord for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Here you see again how highly and preciously we should value Baptism, because in it we receive such an unspeakable treasure. This also proves that it cannot be ordinary, mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing. But the Word does it and, as I said above, so does the fact that God's name is included in Baptism. Where God's name is, there must also be life and salvation [Psalm 54:1]. So Baptism may certainly be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water. Such power is given to Baptism by the Word that it is a washing of new birth, as St. Paul also calls it in Titus 3:5.

Our would-be wise, "new spirits" assert that faith alone saves, and that works and outward things do nothing. We answer, "It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any use but faith, as we shall hear still further." But these blind guides are unwilling to see this: faith must have something that it believes, that is, of which it takes hold [2 Timothy 1:13Titus 1:9] and upon which it stands and rests [1 Cor. 2:5]. So faith clings to the water and believes that in Baptism, there is pure salvation and life. This is not through the water (as we have stated well), but through the fact that it is embodied in God's Word and institution, and that God's name abides in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as the One who has given and planted His Word [Mark 4:14] into this ordinance and offers to us this outward thing by which we may gain such a treasure? – Large Catechism, Part IV: Baptism (paragraphs 26-29)

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