Lectionary 17 A

Settle in for some predestination talk. Thanks, Paul...

But you could also touch on the Donatist controversy, or our need for the presence of the Spirit to even understand the Bible, or review the reality of the distinction between the visible and invisible Church.

Psalm 119:129-136

Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
-- Psalm 119:135

Verse 135 is cited in a footnote to Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.15, n. 62) as one of the ten times in Psalm 119 that the psalmist asks God  to "impart to him the understanding he needed to grasp and learn divine teaching properly." The emphasis in this section of the article is God's gift of enlightenment by the Spirit so that we might discover the awesome truth of God's Word.

Romans 8:26-39

Again, we'll go by how the citations come up in The Book of Concord, not by the verse order of the readings.

The first time this reading comes up is a citation of verse 34 in The Augsburg Confession, Article 21: Concerning the Cult of the Saints (AC 21.2) as part of the scriptural evidence that Jesus is the one speaks to the Father on our behalf. There is not evidence in scripture that this saints participate in this.

The last phrase of verse 30 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.319 quarto) to show that salvation is accomplished by God justifying the saved through mercy, which is received by faith, not works.

The remaining citations of this passage are all in Formula of Concord.

Verse 33 is quoted in the Epitome, Article 3: Righteousness, Affirmative Thesis 5 (Ep 3.7) to clarify language in the Apology and when reading the Bible. Justification, for a Lutheran reading of the Bible is the same as absolution or pronouncing free from sin. In the Apology, conversations about "new birth" and "being made alive" can be synonymous with justification, but in other places "new birth" and "being made alive" are about each person being renewed through faith, which is not the same thing as being justified by faith.

Verse 30 comes up in Epitome, Article 11: Election, Affirmative Thesis 12 (Ep 11.13) as a solid reminder that our pondering about election should be limited to what can be found in scripture because that way we can easily return to God's promises in the face of other temptations.

Verse 33 comes back in the parallel section of the Solid Declaration, Article 3: Righteousness (SD 3.17) where the point of the Epitome is spelled out more fully. In the Solid Declaration, the reformers are careful to show that both "new birth" and "being made alive" come from being justified, and even though they are sometimes used interchangeably, in the strictest sense, they are not the same. Verse 33 shows here the difference. Since we are justified by God's declaration, "new birth" and "being made alive" follow, but aren't necessarily the same... even if we sometimes write and talk like they are.

We settle into Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election for the rest of the citations of this passage beginning with verse 28 and following (SD 11.14) which is used to remind us that when thinking about "God's intention, counsel, will, and preordination concerning our redemption, calling, justification, and salvation" we should think about it all as one like Paul does in these verses.

Verses 29 and 30 are quoted a little later (SD 11.27) as a reminder that God calls through means--that we who are already Christians are the ones through whom God will work so that those who do not yet know the good news will experience it. We are the ones through whom God calls those who are chosen!

Verse 26 is partly quoted a touch later (SD 11.31) as a strong reminder that in our weakness, the Spirit is at work praying for us and making us holy in this life because God will have justified us in the last judgment. This is true for the elect, even when the outward signs, like prayer, seem weak.

A little further on (SD 11.47), verses 28, 35, and 39 are all cited to offer comfort by reminding us that since God calls us and wants to forgive us, what is there in creation that can separate us from God's love?

Most of this pericope, verses 28-39, are cited shortly thereafter (SD 11.49) as an unpacking of the comfort that the doctrine on election can give. Because God calls people in this life from God's promised future, some of the crosses we face in this life are for the purpose of preparing us for the next life. And even if some of the crosses we bring on ourselves, they will not keep God from loving us.

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea
and caught fish of every kind..."
-- Matthew 13:47

Verse 47 is cited twice in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Articles 7 and 8 around the difference between the visible and invisible Church with the implications about what that means for leadership in the Church. The first citation (AP 7/8.1) is a reference to how the Confutation uses this and other parables to refute Article 7 of The Augsburg Confession. This pushes Melanchthon to further clarify the distinction between the visible and the invisible Church, emphasizing agreement with Rome that it is not the responsibility of the Church to judge who are saints and who are sinners.

The second citation (AP 7/8.19) comes back to this parable and others to clarify implications about having both saints and sinners the visible Church. The primary question was the Donatist controversy, which is explicitly condemned in Article 8 of The Augsburg Confession--what if the person presiding at a sacrament is a sinner? The Lutheran answer agrees with the Roman answer: the sacraments belong to Christ, not the person presiding, so the efficacy of the sacraments is found in Christ's righteousness, not the presider or the presider's righteousness.


Talk about predestination this weekend.

No, seriously. Talk about it. You don't need to get too technical, but Paul is talking about predestination and Jesus is talking about the final judgment (again). God gives Solomon wisdom as part of God's judgment on Solomon (if you're not doing the semicontinuous reading). Talk about predestination. Paul gives you the outline. Of course you might want to review Article 11 in both parts of the Formula first...