Saturday after Trinity 21

Psalmody: Psalm 121

A song for the ascents.
Help From the Lord, Israel’s Watchman

I lift up my eyes to the mountains.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot stumble.
He who watches over you will not slumber.
Yes, he who watches over Israel will not slumber.
He will not sleep.
The Lord watches over you.
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will watch to keep you from all harm.[1]
He will watch over your life.[2]
The Lord will watch over your going and your coming
    from now to eternity.

Footnotes
  1. Psalm 121:7 Or evil
  2. Psalm 121:7 Or soul

Luther’s Notes on the Psalm:

The 121st psalm is a psalm of comfort in which the psalmist comforts us by his example, so that we may remain strong in faith and wait for God’s help and protection. Although it appears as though He sleeps or slumbers so that we are struck down by the sun by day and the moon at night, yet it is not so, though we may think and feel it. For God watches and keeps us secure and does not let the sun strike us dead. This we will come to know for certain at last, though we can now only look forward to it.

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 11:1–23

The Broken Covenant

11 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD.

2Listen to the terms of this covenant, and announce them to every man in Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. 3Tell them that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says. A curse on the man who does not obey the terms of this covenant, 4the terms I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace. I said, “Obey me and do everything that I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God.” 5Then I will ratify the oath I swore to your fathers, that I would give them a land flowing with milk and honey—as it is today.

I answered, “Amen, LORD.”
6The LORD then told me to proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.

Listen to the terms of this covenant and obey them. 7From the time when I brought your fathers out of the land of Egypt until today, I have warned them again and again to obey my voice, 8but they did not obey. They did not pay attention. Each one lived according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart. So I brought all the curses of this covenant on them. I commanded them to obey, but they did not obey.

9The LORD also said to me:

A conspiracy has been uncovered among the men of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10They have returned to the sins of their fathers, who refused to obey my words. They are following other gods and serving them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their fathers.
11Therefore this is what the LORD says. Watch this. I am going to bring a disaster on them that they will not be able to escape. They will cry out to me, but I will not listen to them. 12Then the cities of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem will cry out to the gods to whom they have been burning offerings, but who cannot do anything to save them in the time of trouble. 13Judah, you have as many gods as you have towns. You have set up as many altars to burn offerings to Shame—that is, to Baal—as there are streets in Jerusalem.
14As for you, Jeremiah, do not pray for this people or lift up a cry or a request for them. I will not listen to them when they call to me in their time of distress. 15She is my beloved, but what right does she have to be in my temple when she has done so many wicked things? Can consecrated meat prevent you from being punished if you rejoice when you do evil?
16The LORD called you a green olive tree with beautifully formed fruit. But with the roar of a mighty storm he will set it ablaze, and its branches will be broken.
17The LORD of Armies, who planted you, has decreed disaster for you because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done. They have provoked me to anger by burning incense to Baal.

A Plot Against Jeremiah

18The LORD revealed their plot to me so I became aware of it. He showed me what they were doing. 19I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I had not realized that they had plotted against me. They were saying:

“Let us destroy the tree along with its fruit. 
Let us cut him off from the land of the living, 
so that his name will no longer be remembered.” 

20But, LORD of Armies, you judge righteously. 
You test the heart and mind. 
Let me see your vengeance on them, 
for I have presented my case to you. 

21Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the men of Anathoth who are seeking your life and saying, “Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, or you will die by our hands.” 22This is what the LORD of Armies says. I will certainly punish them. Their young men will die by the sword. Their sons and daughters will die by famine, 23and none of them will be left. I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.

New Testament Reading: Matthew 24:1–28

The Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the World
(Mark 13:1–31; Luke 21:5–33)

24 As Jesus left the temple and was walking away, his disciples came up to him to call his attention to the temple buildings. 2Then he replied to them, “Do you see all of these things? Amen I tell you: Not one stone here will be left on another that will not be thrown down.”
3While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?”
4Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5Because many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will deceive many people. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because all these things must happen; but that is not yet the end. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8But all these things are only the beginning of birth pains. 9Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will put you to death. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10Then many will fall away from faith. They will betray each other and hate each other. 11Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold. 13But whoever endures to the end will be saved. 14This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
15“Therefore when you see the abomination that causes desolation, that was spoken of through the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place—let the reader understand—16then those who are in Judea should flee to the mountains. 17The one on the housetop should not go down to take anything out of his house. 18The one who is in the field should not return to get his clothes. 19How terrible it will be for those who are pregnant or are nursing babies in those days! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in the winter or on a Sabbath. 21For at that time there will be great distress, unlike any that has happened since the beginning of the world until now, and unlike any that will happen again. 22If those days were not shortened, nobody would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.
23“At that time if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There he is,’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive even the elect, if it were possible.
25“See, I have told you in advance. 26So if they tell you, ‘Look! There he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out there, or ‘Look! Here he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27Just as the lightning flashes from the east and shines as far as the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 28Wherever the carcass may be, there the vultures will gather.

Just as Jesus stated, shortly after his death (in 70 AD) the Romans destroyed the temple and hurled the stones to the ground. Most of the stones ended up being used to create other buildings – only these few stones remain.

Writing from a Church Father

Although the factions in Christendom have different beliefs, there is none that does not accord Christ His rightful place as the author and authority of its doctrines… [The Church] even appears to be flourishing. Thus the person who regards the present as the horrible end times is thought to be greatly mistaken. But appearances can be deceiving. The cry of “Here is Christ! There is Christ!” that resounds from so many pulpits is precisely what makes our age so dangerous and abominable, and it demonstrates that the final, evil days of the world are approaching. For it is mostly a false Christ who is now being preached and praised in order to deceive even the elect. There are now many preachers and laity, both learned and unlearned individuals, who no longer believe the Bible is God’s Word and faith in Christ is the only way to salvation. With their own imagined virtue and good works, they believe that they have made God their debtor, that He must rightfully receive them into heaven after their death, and that He must eternally reward them. They do not want to think of themselves as sinners who are in need of a Savior. The Word of the cross is foolishness and a stumbling block to them.…

For wherever one preaches Christ as a mere man and not as the true God, fully of the same substance, power, and glory as the heavenly Father, one preaches a false Christ. Wherever one presents Christ only as an example and as a teacher of wisdom and virtue, and not as the Lamb of God who died on the cross for the sins of the world and thereby reconciled mankind with the heavenly Father, one preaches a false Christ. And whoever accepts this Christ of the unbelievers has forsaken the true Christ and placed his confidence in a dream being, one who never existed except in the imagination of unbelieving fools. Christ Himself says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and “all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

C. F. W. Walther

Prayer of the Day

Lord Jesus, when You were lifted up on the cross, the entire world experienced birth pains as the cosmos was rocked as Your death gave birth to a new creation. Focus our eyes on Your holy cross that we may see it as a tree of life preparing us for Your final coming in judgment as the Son of Man; for You live and reign with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord: Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXIV (XII) 68–77

Of the Use of the Sacrament, and of Sacrifice.

68 Some clever men imagine that the Lord’s Supper was instituted for two reasons. First, that it might be a mark and testimony of profession, just as a particular shape of hood is the sign of a particular profession. Then they think that such a mark was especially pleasing to Christ, namely, a feast to signify mutual union and friendship among Christians, because banquets are signs of covenant and friendship. But this is a secular view; neither does it show the chief use of the things delivered by God; it speaks only of the exercise of love, which men, however profane and worldly, understand; it does not speak of faith, the nature of which few understand.

69 The Sacraments are signs of God’s will toward us, and not merely signs of men among each other; and they are right in defining that Sacraments in the New Testament are signs of grace. And because in a sacrament there are two things, a sign and the Word, the Word, in the New Testament, is the promise of grace added. The promise of the New Testament is the promise of the remission of sins, as the text, Luke 22:19, says: This is My body, which is given for you. This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

70 Therefore the Word offers the remission of sins. And a ceremony is, as it were, a picture or seal, as Paul, Rom. 4:11, calls it, of the Word, making known the promise. Therefore, just as the promise is useless unless it is received by faith, so a ceremony is useless unless such faith is added as is truly confident that the remission of sins is here offered. And this faith encourages contrite minds. And just as the Word has been given in order to excite this faith, so the Sacrament has been instituted in order that the outward appearance meeting the eyes might move the heart to believe [and strengthen faith]. For through these, namely, through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Ghost works.

71 And such use of the Sacrament, in which faith quickens terrified hearts, is a service of the New Testament, because the New Testament requires spiritual dispositions, mortification and quickening. [For according to the New Testament the highest service of God is rendered inwardly in the heart.] And for this use Christ instituted it, since He commanded them thus to do in remembrance of Him.

72 For to remember Christ is not the idle celebration of a show [not something that is accomplished only by some gestures and actions], or one instituted for the sake of example, as the memory of Hercules or Ulysses is celebrated in tragedies, but it is to remember the benefits of Christ and receive them by faith, so as to be quickened by them. Psalm 111:4-5 accordingly says: He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He hath given meat unto them that fear Him. For it signifies that the will and mercy of God should be discerned in the

73 ceremony. But that faith which apprehends mercy quickens. And this is the principal use of the Sacrament, in which it is apparent who are fit for the Sacrament, namely, terrified consciences, and how they ought to use it.

74 The sacrifice [thank-offering or thanksgiving] also is added. For there are several ends for one object. After conscience encouraged by faith has perceived from what terrors it is freed, then indeed it fervently gives thanks for the benefit and passion of Christ, and uses the ceremony itself to the praise of God, in order by this obedience to show its gratitude; and testifies that it holds in high esteem the gifts of God. Thus the ceremony becomes a sacrifice of praise.

75 And the Fathers, indeed, speak of a two-fold effect, of the comfort of consciences, and of thanksgiving, or praise. The former of these effects pertains to the nature [the right use] of the Sacrament; the latter pertains to the sacrifice. Of consolation Ambrose says: Go to Him and be absolved, because He is the remission of sins. Do you ask who He is? Hear Him when He says, John 6:35: I am the Bread of life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on He shall never thirst. This passage testifies that in the Sacrament the remission of sins is offered; it also testifies that this ought to be received by faith. Infinite testimonies to this effect are found in the Fathers, all of which the adversaries pervert to the opus operatum, and to a work to be applied on behalf of others; although the Fathers clearly require faith, and speak of the consolation belonging to every one, and not of the application.

76 Besides these, expressions are also found concerning thanksgiving, such as that most beautifully said by Cyprian concerning those communing in a godly way. Piety, says he, in thanking the Bestower of such abundant blessing, makes a distinction between what has been given and what has been forgiven, i.e., piety regards both what has been given and what has been forgiven, i.e., it compares the greatness of God’s blessings and the greatness of our evils, sin and death, with each other, and gives thanks, etc. And hence the term eucharist arose in the Church.

77 Nor indeed is the ceremony itself, the giving of thanks ex opere operato, to be applied on behalf of others, in order to merit for them the remission of sins, etc., in order to liberate the souls of the dead. These things conflict with the righteousness of faith; as though, without faith, a ceremony can profit either the one performing it or others. Of the Term Mass.

By Rev. Michael Mayer

Lutheran Pastor of two small Lutheran Churches in rural SW Ontario.