Reformation Sunday

November 1, 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.

Gracious Lord, our refuge and strength, pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep them steadfast in your Word, protect and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all their enemies, and bestow on the Church your saving peace; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23 (Sermon Text)

When earthly authorities command us to disobey the Word of God, we must not yield.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.  Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.  So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree:  “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”  The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”  So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den.  The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”  A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him.  And he could not sleep.  At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”  Daniel answered, “O king, live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.”  The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den.  And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.  (NIV1984)

 PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 46

 God is our Refuge and Strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of

God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

            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 – Galatians 5:1-6

Stand firm in Christ’s freedom!  If we turn back to the law to earn God’s favor—even a little—we are turning away from the Gospel of Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   (NIV1984)

VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.  Alleluia.  (John 8:31, 32)

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 10:16-23

Jesus’ confessors are sent into the world “like sheep among wolves.”  The Savior is fully aware that they share the same fate He did:  hatred, persecution, betrayal, arrest, trial and death.  However, standing firm to the end will bring salvation for the faithful.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say.  For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.  I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Here I Stand— I Think!

Dear fellow heirs of the Lutheran Reformation,

The day was April 17, 1521.  The place was the City of Worms in the land of Germany.  Martin Luther had been summoned to the Diet at Worms by Emperor Charles V.  John Eck, who was both the representative of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the chairman of the meeting turned to Luther and said, “Martin Luther, you are here by invitation of the emperor and the diet.  You have just two questions to answer.”  Then, pointing to a pile of books on the table before him, John Eck asked Luther, “Do you admit that you have written these books?  And do you defend them all, or are you ready to recant what you have said in them?”  Luther answered yes to the first question.  He had indeed written all the books piled on the table.  As far as the second question was concerned Luther asked for time to think before he gave an answer to the emperor.  He was given 24 hours.

The next day Luther came back to the diet and explained that his books could be divided into different categories and therefore he was not able to give one answer to cover them all.  The emperor, John Eck and the other officials did not like Luther’s answer.  So John Eck looked at Luther and said, “Martin, we are not interested in your argument about what the Bible does or does not say.  Hus, Wyclif, and other heretics have always talked about this.  What gives you the right to think you know more than all the popes, church fathers, and councils?  I now ask you, Martin— and answer clearly and without any double-talk— do you or do you not recant your books and the errors in them?”  Luther responded with those now famous words, “Since Your Majesty and your lordships want a simple, clear, and true answer, I will give it.  Unless I am convinced by the teachings of Holy Scripture or by sound reasoning— for I do not believe either the pope or councils alone, since they have often made mistakes and have even said the exact opposite about the same point— I am tied by the Scriptures I have quoted and by my conscience.  I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither safe nor right.  Here I stand.  God help me!  Amen.”

Can you even begin to imagine Martin Luther standing before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms and saying, “Here I stand…I think”?  It’s inconceivable, isn’t it?  Luther was so firmly convinced that what he was teaching and preaching was the Truth that Luther was willing to suffer whatever consequences came his way for telling the emperor, “Here I stand!”  Why was Luther so convinced?  How could Luther be so sure?  Luther’s courage and Luther’s confidence came from the fact that he was standing on and he was standing up for the Truth of God’s holy inspired Word!

Martin Luther was not the first person to have such confidence and such courage, my friends.  Our sermon text for this Reformation Sunday gives us an example of yet another man who displayed the same confidence and the same courage as Martin Luther.  Some 2000 years before Luther stood before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms a man by the name of Daniel stood before King Darius— the supreme leader of the Empire of the Medes and Persians— and for all practical purposes Daniel confidently and courageously said to King Darius, “Here I stand!  God help me!  Amen.”

Today, my friends, as we celebrate the 503rd anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation our goal is to see that by faithfully and firmly standing on the foundation of the Word of God we too can courageously and confidently say, “Here I Stand!  God help me!  Amen.”

Daniel was one of three administrators whom King Darius had appointed to rule over his empire.  In the opening portion of Daniel 6 we are told that Daniel had so distinguished himself as an administrator that King Darius planned to “set him over the whole kingdom” (6:3).  There were other administrators and other government officials, however, who were so upset about this and so jealous of Daniel that they tried to find some grounds to bring a charge against Daniel in order to discredit him in the eyes of the king.  What was the result?  Scripture tells us, “They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.  Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’”  (Daniel 6:4-5)  These men then conspired against Daniel by convincing King Darius to issue an edict.  The edict proclaimed that “anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lion’s den”  (Daniel 6:7).

How did Daniel respond to this edict?  Did he obey it?  Did he simply stop praying for the next 30 days so as to not violate the edict?  Did he suddenly try to hide his faith so as to not anger the king?  Look once again at what we are told in the opening verses of our text, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

This was exactly what Daniel’s enemies had expected!  So as soon as they witnessed Daniel praying to the Lord, the God of Israel, they went back to the king, reminded him of his edict, and then informed King Darius that Daniel refused to obey the edict.  Daniel was given every opportunity to change his mind.  Daniel was given every opportunity to bow to the authority of the king.  We might even say that Daniel was given every opportunity to “recant.”  But like Martin Luther Daniel refused.  Like Martin Luther Daniel all but said to the emperor, “Here I stand!  God help me!  Amen.”

Why?  Why did Daniel refuse to obey the edict of the king?  Why did Daniel refuse to pray to King Darius?  The answer is simple.  Daniel was not about to compromise his faith and go against the Truth proclaimed in God’s holy Word!    Daniel knew the command of his God, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.  You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me” (Hosea 13:4).  Even though Daniel knew that the consequence for disobeying the king was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions, Daniel also knew that the consequences for disobeying the Word of the one and only living God were much much worse!

Reformation Sunday, my friends, is a very good day for us to look at the example of men such as Daniel and Martin Luther and then look in a mirror and ask ourselves:  How boldly are we standing up for God’s Truth in our day and age?  Do we have the kind of confidence in God’s Word that enables us to say, “Here I stand!  God help me!  Amen”?  Or are we a little unsure about what we believe?  Are we a little uncertain about what the Bible does or does not teach?  If faced with a situation even remotely similar to Daniel’s situation or to Luther’s situation would our response be the same as theirs— or might our response be something more like:  “Here I stand…I think!”?

Deep down inside of each and every one of us there is that nagging notion that if we want to be saved —we must do something!  In our epistle lesson for today Paul nailed that nagging notion right between the eyes when he said to the Galatians, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4).  When someone then tells us that there is something that we need to do in order to be saved— some act of penance that we need to carry out, some decision that we need to make— do we boldly proclaim the Truth of the Bible and maintain that we are saved purely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Pointing to the cross) and not by our own works?  In our Gospel lesson for today (Matthew 10:16-23) Jesus Himself tells us that boldly and faithfully standing up for the Truth can result in persecution, in arrest and even in hostility from our own family.  Are we ready to take our place beside men such as Daniel and Luther?  Are we prepared to look our persecutors in the eye and say, “Here I stand!  God help me!  Amen”?  When someone tells us that the Biblical accounts of things such as Creation and the Flood are just “stories” made up by men, when someone tells us that the Biblical accounts of the virgin birth of the Christ-Child and the physical resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday were “added” to the Bible years and perhaps even decades after Jesus walked on this earth in order to make the Rabbi from Nazareth seem more impressive than He actually was, when someone tells us  that the Bible’s stand on “hot button” issues such as homosexuality, human life beginning at the moment of conception, the seriousness of sin and the reality of hell are all “outdated” and “obsolete” teachings that no longer apply in our “modern” and “science-based” society— how do we respond?  When we are questioned or perhaps even challenged about what we believe and why we believe it do we tell people what we think we remember from Confirmation class 30 years ago and say “Here I stand…I think!”?  Or do we boldly share with them the Truth of Scripture and confidently say “Here I stand!  God help me!  Amen”?

The heritage that we have been given as heirs of the Lutheran Reformation, the heritage that Luther received from men such as Daniel leads us to go back to Scripture, see what God Himself proclaims to us here and then boldly take our stand on the foundation of God’s holy Word—  no matter what the consequences might be!  That, of course, means that we are to be in God’s Word on a regular basis, doesn’t it?  That, of course, means that we are reading our Bibles at home, studying them in Bible class and Sunday school and hearing God’s Word as it is proclaimed to us either here at the house of our God or in our Zoom worship services.  Only by knowing what the Bible teaches will we be able to stand up for the Truth with the courage and with the conviction of men such as Daniel and Martin Luther.

The day is today.  The place is Novato, Petaluma or Santa Rosa, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Clearlake or wherever it is that you live and work.  It may not be a king or an emperor, but someone is either going to question what you believe or perhaps even pressure you into recanting the Truth.  May God grant that as heirs of the Lutheran Reformation you remain so firmly grounded on the Truth of Scripture that you will always— always— be able to courageously and confidently say, “Here I stand!”

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

Heavenly Father, your Word and your Word alone is able to make us wise to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  Without the Gospel message of your forgiveness through Christ we would still be lost in unbelief and sin, doomed to everlasting damnation.  What a precious treasure your Word, the blessed Gospel of Christ, is!  And yet for centuries this treasure was all but lost from mankind through the evil devices of Satan.  With great guile he diverted men’s minds away from the truth, convincing them that they must trust in their own works for everlasting life.

O Lord, we praise your loving-kindness that brought about the Reformation and uncovered once again the Gospel treasure, hidden for so long from the minds and hearts of men.  Because you intervened in history by guiding the reformers back to the Scriptures, sinners throughout every age can learn of their Savior Jesus Christ, and in believing, are declared righteous in God’s sight.  We are especially thankful that your Holy Spirit has removed spiritual blindness and self-righteousness from our hearts and led us to place our trust in the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As children of the Reformation, yes, as your own children through faith in Christ, may we never depart from the rich heritage of your Word.  Keep us faithful to the Truth that Jesus Christ loved us and gave Himself for us on the cross.  Allow nothing that we believe, teach, defend, say, or do, to be contrary to your precious Word.  May we always be ready to make all sacrifices necessary for the preservation and promotion of your saving Truth in our midst.  Give us the courage to endure any hardship in our zeal to faithfully witness our Savior before the world.  Give a double measure of the Spirit to pastors and to teachers that they may be kept from false doctrine.  Inspire fathers and mothers to teach the pure Word to their children and to set a good example of loving obedience to all that you command.  May your saving Word as it is taught at church and at home powerfully work in our hearts a solid growth in knowledge and faith.  With your Word of truth raise the fallen, reclaim the erring, restore confidence to the doubting, and comfort the troubled.

Forgive us wherever we have transgressed, and by your Spirit enable us to serve you in faithful obedience to your Word all our days.  We pray all of this in the name of our dear Savior Jesus Christ, through whom alone we stand righteous in your sight.

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.