October 25 Worship Service

Our October 25 Reformation Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk when you come in person.

Click on picture to view video

The November 1 worship services will be held in our church sanctuary at 8 and 10:30 am with members and friends in attendance. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.

We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.

Reformation Sunday Sermon
Jeremiah 31:31-34 | Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28 | John 8:31-36

Today, we celebrate the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation of the Church, and recall Martin Luther’s act of nailing his 95 Theses to the Church door at Wittenberg, which started the whole thing, sort of (actually, there’s a strong argument that he actually glued or pasted them to the door. Either way, they were posted). I think that it actually started when Luther was reading St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, preparing to teach his class on the subject. That, I think, is when the little light bulb went off in his head, “We’ve got it wrong!” That, to me, was the impetus. In light of that, you would have to call the nailing of the 95 Theses as the beginning of a chain reaction which does indeed kick off the Reformation. By itself, it was a fairly simple act, which then snowballed beyond everyone’s control – including Luther’s. If you read the 95 Theses, and most people have not, they are merely 95 statements which Luther wished to hold a public debate on, and the church door was only the town bulletin board. They didn’t have a lighted sign in front of City Hall. They still don’t, I’ve been there. He wanted to talk, which Luther was very good at. What did he want to talk about? Virtually all of the 95 Theses are aimed against the selling of “Letters of Indulgence.” Or, as I often describe them, “Get out of Purgatory Free Cards.” They were the Roman Church’s latest fundraiser. And they were being heavily marketed in Luther’s neighborhood. Mainly because Luther’s own Archbishop was using them to try to pay off his debts (we won’t go there right now). Luther saw them as selling the Gospel of Christ. They were. They were also a bit ironic when you consider that Purgatory wasn’t even an official doctrine of the Catholic Church at that point anyway. And wouldn’t be until after Luther’s death! And souls were in Purgatory voluntarily to get the last remnant of sin purged out of them. Most people don’t put those factors into the equation, either.

All Lutherans know that Luther saw all of this as going against his understanding of, “We are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ,” the great Lutheran banner. That slogan, gleaned from St. Paul’s writings, sums up the Lutheran vision of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the very heart of our message. Those few words basically make up Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession, the very center of Lutheran Doctrine. Also, in vs. 32 of John today, we read, “and the truth will make you free.” That may also be translated as “the truth will save you.” Christ’s truth, faith in him. Luther may be seen as restoring that truth. All of this, we know, and we celebrate today. But, there were other issues that led to the Reformation, and since we hardly ever talk about them, except in the Adult Class, I thought today would be a good time to mention a couple.

In Luther’s time, and really until just a few decades ago, if you went up for Holy Communion at a Roman Catholic Church, you only received the bread (wafer). The reason given is that the lay people had petitioned the church leaders saying that they were afraid that if they were to accidentally spill the wine, they would be spilling the blood of Christ again. And so, the clergy stopped giving wine at communion. BTW, being a church scholar, I have searched some of the greatest libraries of the world looking for that petition, or even a copy of it. I have never found it. Luther’s stance was simple. Christ instituted Holy Communion with bread and wine, so that is how it should be distributed. The Roman Catholic Church would not agree with us on that one until 1965 at the Second Vatican Council. But, what they did do was bake wine into the batter of the wafers, so when you take a wafer, you are receiving both bread and wine.

There was another issue going on in Luther’s time, and that was the issue of perfection. During Luther’s time, the Monasteries, not the Roman Catholic Church proper, was teaching that the only way to live a perfect life was by becoming a monk. All other forms of life were seen as lacking. So, if you wished to have any hope of heaven really after this life, you had to become a monk. Many men were doing just that, including numerous kings and nobles. The Holy Roman Emperor during Luther’s time would, in fact, later abdicate and become a monk. Men would leave their wives and children at home, and join a monastery. The wives and children would have to work the best that they could to eke out an existence in this life, while the husband and father was busy following the Hours at the monastery hoping that he would secure the gift of perfection and go onto heaven after he died, and not purgatory (there, it popped up its head again). The Reformers saw this also, as weird twisting of the Gospel. It is. In the hopes of saving their immortal soul, good Christian men were leaving their wives and children to starve. Does this seem a bit odd to you? Speaking out against this logic, and remember, Martin Luther himself was an Augustinian monk, Luther asked a very Augustinian question: “Why do we keep our best Christian people locked up in monasteries (and convents)? Shouldn’t they be out in the world working for the Kingdom of God?” This is why there aren’t any Lutheran monks. Also Luther argued, why are we confusing good men so that they abandon their homes and families in order to save their souls? Is not being a husband and father also a blessed vocation? Indeed, Luther will later say that the highest vocation is to be a parent, for you are raising new Christians into the world. This foolishness must stop. It is one of the strangest episodes of the Middle Ages, and one which isn’t often recorded (I think out of embarrassment).

Those are just a couple of “other” reasons which helped kick off the Reformation. There were more. What is most important however, is the recovery of the Gospel in its purity. That short little kernel, “we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.” If the Church would have been regularly proclaiming that, so that all people understood it, it by itself would have gone a long way towards silencing these aberrations. They may never have occurred. Today, we remember the beginning of the recovery of Christ’s Gospel. But, today, we must also remind ourselves that as part of our heritage, we must also be aware that there is always a tendency among people to twist the Gospel again. And that part of our Lutheran heritage is also to stand vigilant, correcting such misunderstandings. We have recovered the Truth of Christ’s Gospel, and that Truth has freed us, set us free, and saved us. That is the most important part of the Reformation, the recovery of the Gospel. Christ has saved us by our faith, through God’s grace. Praise be to God!

Pastor Rose

October 18 Worship Service

Our October 18 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk when you come in person.

Click on picture to view video

The October 25 worship services will be held in our church sanctuary at 8 and 10:30 am with members and friends in attendance. We will not hold an outdoor service on the last Sunday of this month. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.

We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.

Isaiah 45:1-7 | Psalm 96:1-9, 10-13
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 | Matthew 22:15-22

Over the last few weeks, the Gospel lessons have been telling us, Jesus has been bantering with the chief priests and the elders, and embarrassing them in the Temple. Today, the Pharisees and the Herodians enter the fray. The Pharisees, we know. They were a group of laymen (actually, there were eight different groups of Pharisees) who were trying the hardest to keep the Covenant of Moses. Jesus tends to hold them up for ridicule (as in, “They don’t have it right!), and so does the Talmud. The Herodians are different. They were not a religious group. They were a political group, who favored the kingship of King Herod and his line, which then excludes the Maccabean line (the Hasmonians was the group that supported the Maccabeans); and excludes the line of kings descended of David (of which Jesus is a member, people forget that part). These two groups, the Pharisees and the Herodians plot to entrap Jesus. That is interesting when you just kind of assume that they have seen what Jesus has done to the priests and elders. But Pharisees, in particular, believed that they were better than everyone else. I guess that included the discipline of rhetoric.

Since we are in an election year, and we are being bombarded by all kinds of political ads and political rhetoric, which often we just let slide over our heads without paying much attention. Realize that nothing has changed in politics in thousands of years either, contrary to what some may think. Think about the nuances in the lesson today. Their trap is very political, and not very religious, considering the Jewish situation at the time, being a client state of Rome. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” It actually sounds pretty innocent. There is a double trap here. They must have thought long and hard on this one. If Jesus says no, the emperor, who was Tiberius at this time (who liked his money to keep up his debaucheries), would get upset, and the Romans would see this as an act of rebellion. Jesus would be arrested then for sedition. Interestingly, Jesus will be crucified as an insurrectionist by the Romans. If Jesus says yes, the people, who hated the particular tax being asked about, which was paid by all people from 12 to 65, will turn against him. This is quite a quandary. Jesus answer is beautifully simple, “Whose image is on the coin?” The answer was, “Caesar.” “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” No wonder they were amazed and went away. Jesus cut them off at the knees. He used the image of the emperor on the money to lead into the image of God placed upon humanity. It is beautiful. He turned the political question into a religious answer.

I was thinking about this question and answer long and hard this week, and came up with an interesting situation myself. Who is our emperor in this country? What is the image? Our current President sometimes acts like he is. But no, I went back a bit further. Do the words, “We the People” sound familiar? We the people of these United States, we are the ultimate power here. If we the people are the emperor, the ultimate power of the political scene, what are our things that we should give to ourselves? What do we render unto ourselves? For that, I went to another document, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They were the Founding Fathers ultimate goals. True, taxation without representation was the catalyst for our revolution. Indeed, it often is the cause of revolutions.

Life: It is agreed that all people are deserving of a life, hopefully a quality one – here we call it “the American dream.” Liberty: Freedom, for all our talk about it, and our different understandings and misunderstandings about it. And I’ve noticed over the years that many good Americans have no sound idea about what the concept of freedom was for which our Founding Fathers fought. It is really freedom from oppression and to pursue that quality life that we mean. It is not freedom to commit those things which we consider evil and are outside the realm of decency and law, rather it is in favor rather of the common good. Think of individual rights for the good of all. We have freedom within limits. Some people don’t like those limits. They are free to complain, but not to infringe. The pursuit of happiness: each of us hold as precious the right again, to strive to live a quality of life as we are each able to achieve it, to enjoy that life, and assist our fellows if possible to achieve those ends as well. Those, in the simplest terms of our founding documents are the aims of the underpinnings of this nation, of which, we are the emperor. These are all good things when sought after properly. That’s part one.

What then do we owe to God? What are we to render unto God? Part Two: We’re back to that image question again. Humanity alone is created in the Image of God, see Genesis 1:27. According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the geniuses of Early Church leaders, that means among other things, that we are free to obey God, and unfortunately it also gives us the freedom of will to disobey. Guess which way we usually choose? We owe to God our very selves, our creation, redemption and sanctification. Because of sin, we are broken as a species, and so will always will the wrong ideals. In other words, sin has perverted our freedom of will. We choose to disobey. Because of the Law, we will be condemned in God’s sight, and even twist the Law (like the Pharisees and Herodians) to a wrongful understanding. That is our quandary. We can’t help it. But Christ’s answer to that also exceeds our human expectations. We are no longer bound to God’s Law. Through Christ, we are freed from God’s Law. But we are also freed to God’s Law. No longer does it just condemn us for our sinfulness. No. Through Christ, it now drives us to the Gospel. Christ takes our condemnation unto Himself; and gives to us his righteousness. He redeems us. Through faith in Christ, we are now freed from sin, death, evil and even God’s Law which was held over us. But, he also frees us towards the Law. Confused? We are freed to live our lives now in accordance to the way God would have us to live, as God’s faithful children, in God’s image. That is the other side of the Gospel. Through Christ, we are freed twice. No longer standing in condemnation and unable to free ourselves, we find ourselves freed by the Son of God himself, claimed by God through Him as fellow heirs with him, and empowered now by the Holy Spirit to live our lives giving to God His due: glory, laud and honor. Praising God, worshiping God, and giving thanks to God, even praying to Him as a loving Father, for all the grace and mercy which has been bestowed upon us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; carrying within ourselves His very image.
Pastor Rose