Lectionary 14 A

Long post warning!

A lot of time is spent on the Romans 7 reading and Matthew 11:28. But take heart!  "For [Jesus] testifies to all people without distinction that God wills all people who are burdened and weighed down with sins to come to him, so that they may be given rest and be saved" (FC, SD 11.70).

Semicontinuous  Psalm - Psalm 45: 10-17

Verse 12 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 21: The Invocation of the Saints (AP 21.18) as an example with several other passages of our being commanded to pray to Christ. This might be a bit of an extrapolation, but the point here is showing that the Bible gives us God's promises and command to pray to Jesus but not the saints. 

Romans 7:15-25a

This passage is a significant source for the documents that make up The Book of Concord (BoC), being cited in most of them. Because of the number of citations and with them being spread through the BoC, I'll be presenting the citations here in the order they're found in the BoC rather than in the order of the reading.

Verse 23 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 2: Original Sin (AP 2.39) to show that Paul considered concupiscence (strong sexual desire or lust) a sin, which for Luther and those who followed him seemed right, but they had to argue this point as John Eck considered concupiscence punishment for sin rather than sin.

Verses 19 and 25 are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.182, quarto 164, 167-169) to drive home the point that we are made right with God on account of the faith of Jesus, and not our keeping of the law. This sends Melanchthon into a reflective moment with a list of questions that are good for anyone who needs a reminder of why regularly we need to repent.

For who loves or fears God enough?
Who endures patiently enough the afflictions imposed by God?
Who does not often doubt whether human affairs are ruled by the counsel of God?
Who does not often doubt whether one is heard by God?
Who is not often angry that the wicked enjoy a better lot than the pious and that the godly are oppressed by the wicked?
Who is not often enraged by the judgment of God when he seems to abandon us?
How many live up to their calling?
How many love their neighbor as themselves?
Who is not incited by concupiscence?

-- from Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification

Verse 23 is cited several times in the Smalcald Articles. First in Part 3, Article 3: Concerning Repentance (SA 3.3.40) to show that we are called to repent daily as we are caught in a daily struggle that only the Holy Spirit makes salvific. Verse 23 comes up again in Part 3, Article 7: Concerning the Keys (SA 3.7.1) to note that the office of the keys (the authority to bind and loose sin) is for both the big and public sins and the small and private sins known only to God because it is not our role to judge the size of the sin. Verse 23 also comes up in Part 3, Article 8: Concerning Confession (SA 3.8.2) to show that we should still honor private confession as a way for those who feel the need to list off the sins that are troubling them.

Verse 18 is quoted in The Large Catechism, Part 5: The Sacrament of the Altar (LC 5.76) in response to those would say that they don't ever feel the need to receive communion. Luther argues that if you don't feel the need, then at least listen to a saint and apostle who recognizes his own shortcomings. If you don't feel the need for communion, then see what bad shape you're in!

The entire passage, plus some, verses 14-25 to be particular, is cited in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 4: Good Works, Affirmative Thesis 8 (Ep 4.13) to show that in this life good works are a somewhat random event, with even Paul reflecting on his inability to do them as he wants.

Verse 23 is cited in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 6: Concerning the Third Use of the Law, Affirmative Thesis 5 (Ep 6.6) to show that while the fruits of the Spirit fulfill the law, they are not done to fulfill the law.

Next come a bunch of citations from Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will.

Verses 18, 22, and 23 are quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.17) to make the point that if even St. Paul wrestled with the old person in him, how much worse it is for those who have not been reborn of the Spirit.

Verse 23 is cited (SD 2.34) because the Formula is citing the Smalcald Article citation of verse 23 above to show that our free will has nothing to do with the Spirit making us holy.

Verse 22 is quoted (SD 2.63) to show that the renewed person desires to do good and finds joy in the law, but as verses 22-23 and 25 show (SD 2.64) there is still a battle between the new person who delights in the law and the old person who fears the law.

Verse 23 is used (SD 2.84) to show that the idea that the human will resists the Holy Spirit even after renewal simplifies the struggle of faith too much because as verses 22, 23, and 25 show (SD 2.85) the renewed person wants to serve God even if their flesh rebels.

Now out of Article 2, we come to verses 22-23 being quoted in Solid Declaration, Article 4: Good Works (SD 4.19) to show that good works are not a matter of free will for Christians, as those who have been renewed by the Spirit will want to do good works, and will do them as they are possessed by the Holy Spirit, but will also find that the old person is struggling against doing them.

Verses 15, 18, and 23 are all quoted in the same place in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 6: Third Use of the Law (SD 6.8) to show that the death of the old person in each of us is only begun in this life by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 23 is quoted a later in the same article (SD 6.17) to show that good works, which are a fruit of the Spirit, are not under the law that restrains the flesh but  a law of the mind or a law of Christ and so under grace. Yet as the next citation of verse 23 states (SD 6.18) those who have been reborn in the Spirit "are never without the law, and at the same time they are not under the law bat in the law; they live and walk in the law of the Lord and yet do nothing because of the compulsion of the law."

Verses 18 and 19 are cited next in the same article (SD 6.19) to show that the old person can be somewhat controlled by fear of punishment and the bad things it brings on itself.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Verse 27 is cited three times in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. First in Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26) to show that only the Holy Spirit gives us the new birth that open us to receive the gospel. The other citations are both in Article 8: The Person of Christ to show through scriptural citations (SD 8.55) and Luther's own writing (SD 8.85) that the divine characteristics are imparted to the human nature of Christ.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.

- Matthew 11:28

Verse 28 runs as a theme through the BoC, much like the Romans 7 reading above. Verse 28 is first cited in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.44) as an example of repentance being two-parted. As this verse shows, the first part is being weighed down by sin. The second part is receiving rest in the form of the forgiveness of sin. Repentance as contrition and faith. A bit of a reading in, but not, too much.

Verse 28 is next quoted in Article 21: The Invocation of the Saints (AP 21.18) right before the Psalm 45 citation at the start of this post and for the same purpose, as an example with several other passages of our being commanded to pray to Christ.

Verse 28 is also quoted in The Large Catechism, Part 5: The Sacrament of the Altar (LC 5.66) in the same area at the Romans 7:18 citation in the same place. Here, verse 28 is presented as Jesus' invitation to communion.

Verse 28 is next cited in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 11: Election, Affirmative Thesis 8 (Ep 11.8) though editorial insert as a reference to Jesus' forthrightness in wanting all people to come to him.

Verse 28 is then quoted in the Solid Declaration, Article 7: Holy Supper (SD 7.70) as one of several biblical passages to show that communion is for those who are aware of their unworthiness and unfaithfulness, worn down by the weight of their sins, but filled with a desire to serve God faithfully.

A bit later in the Solid Declaration, in Article 11: Election (SD 11.28), verse 28 is one if the biblical quotes used to show that the promise of the gospel, like the promise of repentance, is for all people. This is why later on in the same article (SD 11.65) they write that "the eternal election of God should be considered in Christ and not apart from or outside of Christ," with verse 28 and others as support. And a little later (SD 11.70) verse 28 is cited through editorial insert at the end of this beautiful line I would commend to you for your sermon: "For [Jesus] testifies to all people without distinction that God wills all people who are burdened and weighed down with sins to come to him, so that they may be given rest and be saved." Such a comforting word is actually commend to us by the Solid Declaration (SD 11.89), again with reference to verse 28, for it "excludes no repentant sinners."

TheoThru

This would be a great time to play up the issue of not desiring communion as an example of the struggle between the old person and the new person.

But this was a long post, so here's some quick encouragements:

  • Dwell in those questions from Melanchthon that are quoted above.
  • Finish your sermon with the line from the Solid Declaration: "For [Jesus] testifies to all people without distinction that God wills all people who are burdened and weighed down with sins to come to him, so that they may be given rest and be saved" (FC, SD 11.70).
  • Use Matthew 11:28 as an invitation to communion.