Everlasting God, your son Jesus Christ was tried and tempted by the devil. May we never be ashamed of temptation but saved from the weakness of giving in. Help us choose the way of faithfulness rather than popularity, service rather than fame and sacrifice rather than power.
A Letter to the Church in Sardis – The Church of the Living Dead
- Something to think about as we have been going through these letters, we are having the opportunity to read, see, hear Jesus preach to his congregations.
- We observe how he effectively uses the law and the gospel. We see how Jesus speaks to his church and by extension speaks to us.
- Note the increasing level of sin in each church.
- Ephesus left its 1st
- Smyrna started to love 2 masters.
- Pergamum went further along listening to false teachers –like Balaam & Balak.
- Thyatira was in bed with Jezebel.
- As Jesus gets to Sardis, he is spiting mad.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
- Go back and read the emphasis on the trinity – 1:4 = Father & Holy Spirit – 1:5 = Jesus.
- A reminder – the 7 spirits = the Holy Spirit in his completeness – the 7 stars = the spirit of the churches.
- Again we see Jesus’ intimate knowledge of his church – God’s word pierces us. What is the message right off the bat? You aren’t what you think you are.
- Is this church any different than what Jesus said about the Pharisees? Matthew 23:27 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
- When Jesus says ‘but you are dead, how far does that go? No Holy Spirit?
- How do you know if a church has the Holy Spirit? If Christ is being preached then the Holy Spirit is present – not if tongues are preached, not if works outside of Jesus are preached.
- What is the biggest killer of a church? “Jesus and…” // so the pastor continues, “here we have spoken of Jesus but now let’s get down to the important stuff – what you need to be doing.”
- If the ongoing message is not Christ crucified for sinners, for you, it is not of the Holy Spirit.
- This will probably be met with some opposition, but if you want to know if you are in a church with the Holy Spirit, do not look for great numbers (although they may be there), do not look for a lot of excitement and joy (although it may be there) – look for depressed people hearing the word of Christ.
2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
- KJV – Be watchful. Seems to indicate that they are asleep or not conscious of what is going on. ‘Wake up seems to be a shout – this is not the nice, gentle Jesus.
- What remains seems to indicate there is a flicker of flame remaining.
- They are lacking before God.
3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
- Verses 2 & 3 are all law
- ‘What you have received and heard’- we may not know what it was, but they had it previously and they drifted away. Jesus is saying go back to it. (received faith is a receiving of Jesus – not necessarily an understanding of everything that is going on.)
- If you are not paying attention, watch what Jesus says here – his coming will surprise you. How important is this for the Christian to hear? This is Jesus’ version of ‘do this or else!’
- Now this is to be seriously studied. If you do not repent Jesus is not coming for you. The passage says he will be coming against you.
- Who is this Jesus? Is he always for you / us? Or is this the real Jesus? These scriptures seem to say if you do not repent, Jesus will come against you.
- Like a thief – a thief does not call on your cell phone to set an appointment.
- Like a thief – a thief does not come to give you things – but to take things from you. A thief comes against you.
- While the imagery of “coming like a thief” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to the second coming of Christ at the end of the age, the return spoken of here is an imminent return to this church in this age for judgment in anticipation of the final judgment. Similar to Ephesus and the removing of the lampstand – or better yet, similar to God sending the Assyrians down to execute his judgment on Israel.
4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
- Jesus is speaking of the faithful remnant – there is always a faithful remnant. The faithful remnant walks with Jesus.
- What is this garment? Where does it come from? This is the baptismal grace given to them as their identity as Christians in Christ’s righteousness.
- Paul teaches in Galatians that through our baptism, we have been clothed in Jesus. – Galatians 3:27
- Why the color white?
- How do you soil your garment? Is not each sin you commit washed away? Is it not covered up? Impenitence!! – the failure to repent.
- Can one be worthy? Not on our own – our worthiness resides completely in our repentance. The absolution is granted as the Small Catechism teaches.
- We see the example here in Ephesians 5:25-27. We see the efficacy of holy baptism in carrying out Jesus’ mission in bringing a people to himself.
- “… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
- How is this for a great gospel promise?
- Question – If Jesus says he will not blot their name out of the book of life, does this mean that he can? Could Jesus blot someone out?
- When we confess Jesus, he will confess us before the father – deny him, he will deny us. Matthew 10:32-33. What does it mean to deny him?
- What happens to those who are clothed in white? See Rev 7:13-17 and Rev 22:14.
6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
- A reminder – those who have the ears to hear are the sinners.
Take note of something – this passage warns of drowsiness, not staying alert, not paying attention, losing focus on the things of the world. Don’t lose focus – stay in church, stay alert to the word of God – live in your baptism and fellowship.
I wondered what the hell she thought she was doing.
“He’s a broken person”, she said.
He came from a broken home, has a broken mind, and a broken spirit.
There are lots of people with similar issues that don’t become mass murderers.
My guts tell me that he is a prototype of what’s to come, however.
There has been much ado about the things he posted on social media.
I can show you similar things on a huge number of kids social media…because I check out my kids social media on a regular basis.
It seems that a great deal of popular “music” glamorizes guns and violence and millions of kids emulate what they hear on their social media.
The society we live in calls this a “cultural expression’, the kids call it “normal”… I call it evil.
Maybe it’s time we all did.
It’s become banal to repeat, but none of T’s friends come from unbroken homes.
The “culture” is raising too many children.
The most popular video games are ones in which you kill mass numbers of people in order to prove your skill.
You sit in front of a screen and kill for hours on end.
You can even connect with a friend via the internet and kill together.
Call it what it is.
An alarming number of kids have diagnosed mental illnesses that were unheard of when I was a kid.
The illnesses are real.
We train lonely, disturbed, kids to become killers through all the technology they’re attached to and then act shocked when they become what we’ve trained them to be.
In my day, the community would have made a difference.
Today, the community is in cyber space because we haven’t taught the kids (or each other) how to relate to real human beings.
In cyber space problems go away with a click.
In video games, they disappear with a shot.
Who’s to blame for the carnage?
It’s my fault.
It’s your fault.
The Florida killer now feels remorse because it has dawned on him that he can’t restart this game.
I’m not sure the rest of us can, either.
Make your own application…
We worry about their grades, their clothes, their friends, and all the things that we’ve always worried about.
Now, we also worry whether they will come home alive.
It takes a village to raise a child, but only one disturbed person with an assault weapon to wipe out the village and the child.
If some deadly virus were wiping out our kids with this sort of regularity our people and our government would move heaven and earth to stop it’s spread and find a cure.
However, after each new crop of caskets we talk about all the reasons we can do nothing about this situation.
The pious take their Bible off the gun safe and tell us it’s a sin problem.
If only everyone knew Jesus…
Not everyone does and not everyone will, so our hands are tied.
We should have left God in the schools, damn it.
Some will tell us that we must protect the Second Amendment at all costs because we never know when we will have to join a well regulated militia to take on the most powerful military in the world.
Our freedom depends on being armed.
We can’t touch that…
Mental health services cost money and that money would come from taxpayers and we need to spend that money on the military (that we may someday have to join a well regulated militia to fight).
Taxation is theft, anyway, damn it.
America has finally found the one thing it cannot do anything about.
The slaughter of our own kids.
The unspoken truth is that they are collateral damage necessary to protect more important things, the most important of which is political expediency.
So…everyday I wake up and pray that my godson and his friends will survive another day in school…because just like after another massacre, all we have are thoughts and prayers.
The truth as I see it is that if we don’t have the heart or will to do something about this, none of us have a prayer at all.
If the most precious asset we have isn’t worth saving, neither are the rest of us.
“Collateral damage” has a way of broadening it’s scope.
A reporter just tweeted this…”David Hogg, a high school student who survived the Florida shooting, just looked directly into the camera and made this plea to members of Congress: “We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”
“1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 1 introduces two foundational questions or themes of the entire Psalter: “What is true blessedness?” and “How does God’s Torah (translated “law”) mediate blessedness?”
In Part 1, we defined “blessedness” generally as the state of the godly (i.e., believers in Christ), who delight in the Word of God. This blessedness manifests itself in both negative and positive outcomes for the godly. Last week, we read that the blessed avoid the false teaching and wicked lifestyles of the ungodly (i.e., unbelievers), who oppose Christ and His Word.
This week, we pick up Psalm 1 at verse 3, in which the psalmist describes the positive outcomes for blessed:
“3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
There is a tendency within man to view the Bible or Christianity as offering rewards and punishments based on our decisions and conduct. That is not what the psalmist is teaching here. To the contrary, he shows us the outcomes of two the entirely different types of men: the godly who delight in Christ and His Word; and the ungodly who delight in their own counsels. The psalmist encourages and comforts the godly, who are the truly blessed and prosper in eternal things, while often suffering the reproach of the ungodly, who are blessed and prosper in worldly things (for a short time).
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water”
The blessed man is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” Not one stream, but streams! These streams are living waters of Divine grace, that is, the Spirit of God who comes through the Word and satisfies the roots of the tree. These roots delight day and night by receiving living water from the streams of God’s Word.
The man did not become this tree of his own accord, and he did not choose a location by streams of water. He is “planted” by another! God takes us out of Adam and plants us in Christ! Above the ground, the climate may be dry and the landscape barren, but this tree never thirsts. It grows tall, not by the luxuries of the world, but by the grace of God.
“that yields its fruit in its season”
The blessed man brings forth “fruit in its season.” This fruit is not for the tree itself (A tree does not consume fruit.). This fruit is for others; it serves others “in its season.” This fruit is the love of neighbor; it is the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
What season are you in? Are you a student who yields the fruit of honoring your parents and teachers, doing your homework and studying for exams? Are you a husband or wife who yields the fruit of a loving and chaste commitment to your spouse? Are you a parent or grandparent who yields the fruit of graciously raising your children or grandchildren in the faith? Etc. Whatever the season, the blessed man yields his fruit.
“and its leaf does not wither”
The streams of water sustain the leaf of this tree, so that it never withers; that is, the Spirit of God working through the Word sustains the faith of the blessed man. Without green leaves (i.e., faith), the tree cannot bring forth its fruit. However, this planted tree (the blessed man), nourished by the Word of God, matures and brings forth much fruit in its season.
“In all that he does, he prospers.”
The blessed man prospers in all that he does. It is not the kind of prosperity which the world exalts or understands. The blessed man enjoys peace with God that comes through the forgiveness of sins. He enjoys freedom from the power of sin to live according to God’s Word. The blessed man looks for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
There is no prosperity for the ungodly. They have a withering leaf, and are not planted by the rivers of water, although their own counsels tell them otherwise: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Prov 14:12)
Israelite threshing floors typically were located on hills exposed to the wind. After threshing the grain to separate the kernels from the chaff (i.e., husks and straw), the farmer winnowed the grain. Using a winnowing fork, the farmer threw the grain into the air; the chaff would blow away, while the heavier kernels would fall to the floor.
The ungodly are driven by the wind. They take counsel in false doctrines, searching for truth in what sounds reasonable, modern or progressive. They seek prosperity in carnal pleasure and earthly treasure. They are driven, but find no blessedness because Christ is unknown to them. Ultimately, the chaff is burned.
“5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.”
The saints in Christ will not be judged by the ungodly, despite the fact that in this world the ungodly do in fact often rule, judge and condemn the godly as foolish, unloving, unjust, etc. The ungodly may rule over the godly in temporal matters, but the godly do not listen to nor follow their ungodliness.
Inside the church on earth, the godly and the ungodly sit side by side (as in the Parable of the Weeds, Matt 13:24-30); yet the ungodly are not part of the congregation of the righteous; “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
The Lord knows (Heb: yada) the way of the righteous. He knows our hearts intimately and personally, and helps us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26)
Therefore, may our Father in heaven grant us comfort from this psalm; keep us in the delight of His Word, give us patience with and a spirit of prayer for the ungodly in our midst, that by any means possible they may be converted to faith in your Son; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Thank you for reading. This concludes our look at Psalm 1. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.
It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
The ashes are imposed with the following words
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Psa. 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
Psa. 51:3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psa. 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psa. 51:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Litany of Penitence
The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.
Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.
Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Huge thanks as always to EricL…support him at top right…