Lord, keep us faithful to your Word! On October 31, 1517—498 years ago—a Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther, in an effort to reform, the church, actually sparked a movement that would rise up into a revolution against the church. The 95 points which he nailed to the door were doctrinal points in which the church had fallen away from the Word of God. He pointed out that the church’s sole responsibility is to remain faithful to the Word of God—something which the church during his time had forgotten.
Today, in our celebration of the Festival of the Lutheran Reformation of the Church, we emphasize the true Church’s unfailing reliance on the Word of God and unflinching testimony to it in the face of persecution. Jesus promised to pour out his Spirit on the Church that we might be God’s mouthpiece even before kings. Today the Church prays that the Lord give us the strength to be faithful and the peace of knowing our lives are safe in his hands.
The service that we follow today is an adaptation of the Deutche Messe, authored by Martin Luther in 1526. The hymns of the liturgy (most written by Luther) will give you a feel for what Lutherans heard and sang almost 500 years ago as they worshiped the same Savior who gathers with us. While the settings may be somewhat unfamiliar and difficult to sing, the words teach the Scriptures beautifully. This service was the basis for many Lutheran orders of service over the past generations. You will, undoubtedly, find the general flow of the service to be rather familiar.
Divine Service ~ October 23, 2016 ~ The Festival of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Our Lord and Martyr
On October 23, the Church celebrates the Festival of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr. St. James of Jerusalem (or "James the Just") is referred to by St. Paul as "the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Pauls' term "brother" is understood as "cousin" or "kinsman," and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with the other relatives of our Lord (except his mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after his resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter's departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross.
The persistent widow was determined: she would receive justice, even from a corrupt judge. Her determination kept her begging for justice day after day. In the end she received her due even from a judge with no fear of God and no respect for his fellow man. Learn a lesson in prayerful persistence: How much more will our heavenly Father work justice and bring deliverance to those determined in prayer!
The Living God repeatedly works in the strangest of ways and with the strangest of objects for his loving and gracious activity. In a time of history when everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes, the LORD moved world, regional and local events to fit together so that Ruth, a Moabitess, would get a new god. She was turned from her old, dead gods and, by the grace of God, confessed her new LORD. The thin, blood-red line of the Promise included even her and then was passed on through her. Grace upon grace.
You had old gods, too. You are repeatedly pulled to bow to those old gods when your heart is troubled by what you see or don't see, by what you hear or don't hear, by what you feel or don't feel. But, by the grace of God, the LORD moved world, regional and local events to fit together so that you got a new god, one who buried you and who make you alive in Christ Jesus—this He promises! So, to hell with your silly feelings and sensory perceptions that seem to portray another kind of god is in charge! The Word prevails. Jesus died. Jesus rose. Jesus continues to rule all things for the good of His body, the Church. Listen! And speak such power into the hearts of those who are troubled within earshot of you!
It is the believer’s duty to abstain from sin, give forgiveness, and serve our neighbor. It is a privilege to do our duty as Christians, but we are weak. The Church, therefore, prays that God would make us ready to do with a cheerful heart that which pleases him.