The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 13, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, preserve the congregation of believers with your never-failing mercy.  Help us avoid whatever is wicked and harmful, and guide us in the way that leads to our salvation; we ask this in your name for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

 

FIRST LESSON – Jeremiah 15:15-21

As a servant of the LORD, Jeremiah would experience persecution and hardships.  Yet with God protecting his life, he would speak the truth of God to God’s people.

You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me.  Avenge me on my persecutors.  You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.  When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.  I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.  Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?  Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?  Therefore this is what the LORD says:  “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.  Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.  I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD.  “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 121

           I will lift up my eyes to the hills.

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip,

He who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, He who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you,

the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

The LORD will keep you from all harm,

He will watch over your life;

the LORD will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.

.           Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – Romans 12:1-8

God’s mercy, not our accomplishments, moves His New Testament people to spiritual worship.

 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others; let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Your words became a joy to me, and the delight of my heart.  Alleluia.  (Jeremiah 15:16)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 16:21-26 (Sermon Text)

Jesus admonishes Peter to not interfere with His work of being the Savior.  Following Christ involves selfless commitment and devotion.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  “Never, Lord!” he said.  “This shall never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (NIV1984)

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  How to Keep Satan at Bay!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Hardly a day goes by when you and I do not hear updates on the coronavirus pandemic.  No matter which news channel you watch on television there is always an update on the number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 as well as the number of people who have died of COVID-19.  Most often that update is followed by advice on what you can do to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay.  By now we all know the advice that the medical community suggests:  wear a mask whenever you are outside among people; wash your hands on a regular basis; stay at least six feet away from people who do not live in your household; and, avoid large gatherings of people.  As we enter into the fall season, we’re being reminded that this is also good advice when it comes to keeping the influenza virus at bay.

Personally, I don’t find it too difficult to follow this advice.  While I don’t like it— especially because it means that we are not allowed to gather together in God’s house— I can understand why it is good to follow the advice we are being given.  At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic is a good reminder to us, the children of God, that there is something far worse, something far more powerful and something far more deadly than COVID-19.  It is— Satan!  Satan is an enemy that we cannot see.  Medical science cannot provide us with PPE to defend us against Stan.  There are no government regulations that can help us if/when Satan attacks us.  So, what do we do?  The very familiar portion of Scripture that we have before us today gives us the perfect example of what we are to do.  For that reason, let’s study this text under the theme:  How to Keep Satan at Bay!  There are two points that I want to emphasize today.  First, how can you keep Satan at bay?  Recognize that he comes to you in ways you don’t expect.  Second, how can you keep Satan at bay?  Recognize who you are!

Our text for today follows directly after our Gospel Lesson for last Sunday.  (Matthew 16:13-20)  Last week we not only heard Jesus ask His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” but we also heard Jesus ask His disciples, “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”  This is when Peter gave that rock-solid confession of faith upon which the entire Christian Church is built, the rock-solid confession of faith that we boldly proclaim right down to this very day:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”!  With that glorious, “Hallelujah Chorus” type of confession echoing in our hearts, Matthew begins our text for this morning by saying, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

The power of this verse is found in the word which the NIV translates as “must.”  Very literally, what Jesus explained to His disciples was that “it was necessary” for Him to go to Jerusalem, “it was necessary” for Him to suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders of God’s people, “it was necessary” for Him to be put to death, and, “it was necessary” for Jesus to physically rise from the dead on the third day!  Why was all of this “necessary”?  There are two answers to that question.  First, it was “necessary” for all of this to take place so that Jesus could fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning “the Christ, the Messiah.”  (Think of Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22)  Plus, all  of this was “necessary” in order for Jesus to fulfill the heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation for sinful mankind.  (Think of Matthew 1:21; Luke 1 & 2; John 3:16)  All of this “must” happen in order for us to be saved!

Unfortunately, Peter did not yet understand why all of this was “necessary.”  That’s why Peter took Jesus aside and began to “rebuke” Him saying, “Never Lord!  This shall never happen to you!”  Once again a more literal translation of Peter’s words is rather revealing.  Peter very literally said to Jesus, “May God have mercy on you Lord!”  And then in the strongest way possible Peter emphasized that the horrible picture that Jesus had just painted for His disciples simply cannot be allowed to happen!  How did Jesus respond to Peter’s “rebuke”?  He said, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Take a moment to try to wrap your mind around what just happened.  Jesus instantly saw that Peter, the one whose name means “Rock,” the one who had just made that “rock-solid” confession upon which Jesus the Christ would build His Church, this same Peter had now become a “stumbling block” to Jesus.  He had become an agent of Satan, the one who was always looking for a way to derail the Old Testament Messianic prophecies, the one who was always looking for a way to destroy the heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world, His Plan of Salvation for you and me.  How did Jesus keep Satan at bay?  He recognized that Satan was coming at Him in a way that no one could have imagined— through a trusted friend, and then He defeated that temptation by flat out rejecting it, “Get behind me, Satan!”

This is an example that you and I need to take to heart and strive to follow, my friends.  Satan is a master at deception.  In fact, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:4 that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light.”  Satan will do anything and Satan will use anyone to try to derail and destroy your faith in Jesus as your Savior.  Satan knows that he already has a willing ally in your old sinful nature.  Satan is more than willing to use a family member or a friend to try and weaken your connection to Jesus by drawing you away from the spiritual food of God’s holy Word and Sacrament.  Since the message of the cross (Pointing to the cross) is “foolishness” to unbelievers as well as to our limited sinful minds (1 Corinthians 1:18; Romans 8:7) Satan will try to use teachers and professors and even preachers to whittle away at the foundation of our faith (See Ephesians 2:20) with the goal of getting our faith to crumble under the weight of questions and doubts.  “Do you actually believe that God created the world in six, consecutive, twenty-four-hour days?”  “How can you possibly think that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus or that Jesus literally rose from the dead?”  “Don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that there are any ‘absolute rights’ or ‘absolute wrongs.’  Decide for yourself what works best for you.”  “The Bible is just another book.  It is filled with mistakes and contradictions.  It has been edited and re-edited many times over the course of history.”  Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a teacher or even a preacher you can keep Satan at bay by recognizing that he will come at you in ways you may not expect!  When he does, remember the example that Jesus gives to you here in our text and remember what James tells you, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Keeping Satan at bay also includes recognizing who you are!  By virtue of your baptism you are a disciple of Jesus Christ!  Jesus reminds us of how that glorious truth helps us to keep Satan at bay when He says to us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

As disciples of Jesus Christ we have one main goal, one clear focus in life— follow Jesus!  What does this mean?  Jesus answers that question very clearly when He says to us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  As baptized children of God we keep Satan at bay by renouncing Satan and all of his wicked ways— which includes “denying” or “renouncing” or “disavowing” all the things that our old sinful nature considers to be of utmost importance!  As baptized children of God we keep Satan at bay by consciously keeping every aspect of our life focused on Him (Pointing to the cross) so that we can continually “follow” Him— no matter where He might lead us and no matter what it might cost us.

What might following Jesus cost us?  When Jesus first spoke these words to His disciples, He was revealing to them that to “follow” Him would not only bring pain and suffering, hardship, ridicule and rejection into their lives, but to “follow” Jesus could literally cost them their life— as some of the disciples, including Peter, would find out.  This same cost is still being paid by Christians all across our world today.  For you and for me the cost of following Jesus may not include the loss of our physical life, but it could easily cost us the loss of those things that people often consider an essential part of life:  our friends, worldly success, worldly treasures and worldly pleasures.  As many Christians have learned, “following” Jesus still can and often does bring into our lives the ”cross” of persecution and pain, ridicule and rejection as we openly confess that Jesus is this world’s only Savior from sin and as we stand up to defend the Truth of Scripture.

So why?  Why are we willing to pay whatever it might cost us to keep Satan at bay and continually follow Jesus?  Because of what is at stake, my friends!  And what is at stake?  The eternal salvation of your soul!  Look at the bigger picture:  Satan once offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matthew 4:8) if Jesus would forsake the Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world, shun the cross (Pointing to the cross) and worship him.  Our Savior kept Satan at bay by saying, “Away from me Satan!  For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:9).  Satan then used Peter to try and achieve that same goal by having Peter “rebuke” Jesus for saying that “it was necessary” for Jesus to suffer, die and then rise again on the third day.  Jesus kept Satan at bay by saying to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  Now Satan has us in his crosshairs!  Satan tries to convince us to exchange the eternal salvation of our soul for the temporary trinkets of this world.  How do we keep Satan at bay?  We stay focused on what it cost the Son of God to secure our soul’s salvation and we say, “Get behind me Satan!”  “I am a dearly-beloved baptized child of God and I will not sell my soul to you for anything— not even all the riches of this world!”

Just as you and I are reminded on a regular basis that in order to keep COVID-19 at bay we need to wear a mask, wash our hands, stay six feet away from most people and avoid large crowds, so also there are some specific steps that we can take to keep Satan at bay.  Two of those steps are seen here in our text for today:  recognize that Satan will attack you in ways that you may not expect; and, recognize that purely by the grace and power of God you are a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ.

May God daily give you the strength to “deny” yourself, “take up your cross” and “follow” Him!  (Pointing to the cross)

To God be the glory!

Amen

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

O heavenly Father, we are constantly assailed by the forces of evil which seek to destroy our souls.  In his bold attacks Satan not only tries to make us ashamed of the Gospel and too timid to confess our Savior, but his objective is to rob us of our faith altogether.  With deep guile and cunning he tries to snare our hearts with worldly cares and subtle schemes for happiness and to cloud our minds with doubt and confusion regarding your Word.  He seems to never tire in his efforts to lead us away from the godly path of righteousness and into the ways of sin.  As the father of lies he delights in sowing seeds of discord and suspicion especially among us believers.

Dear God, in your Word you have shown us how we can keep Satan at bay— with your help and protection!  You promise that if we resist the devil he will flee from us.  You have admonished us to take up the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  We implore you, therefore, to richly bless our hearts with your grace through the Holy Spirit, giving us a strong faith and an overwhelming love for our Savior.  Only then will we be able to keep Satan at bay in our lives and turn away his temptations from our hearts.  Protect us at all times, lest Satan snatch the Word of salvation from us and bring us to unbelief and despair.  By your Spirit keep us steadfast and true to your Word, causing us to search it diligently in private study and to give prayerful attention to it when it is preached and taught.  Nourish and strengthen our faith by your Word and cause the instruction, guidance and the encouragement it gives to produce rich fruits in our lives.

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.