Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sermon Audio: Philippians 4:6-20, November 22, 2017

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on November 22, 2017 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Philippians 4:6-20. The text of this sermon may be found by clicking this link and you may play the audio of the sermon here.

Sermon Text: Philippians 4:6-20, November 22, 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text this evening is from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, the 4th chapter:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 
Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,
     Al Franken.  Harvey Weinstein.  Charlie Rose.  Kevin Spacey.  All men caught, allegedly, doing evil things.  North Korea.  The opioid epidemic.  Charles Manson in the news… again.  Fidget spinners.  The world seems to get worse and worse, or at least we hear about it more and more.  What’s there to be thankful for right now?

     Maybe your family is in disarray.  Your kids haven’t called in a long time.  No one’s coming for dinner tomorrow.  People are fighting with one another.  You can’t make rent this month.  What’s there to be thankful for right now?

     Maybe you’re focused on the congregation here.  Giving is down.  Attendance in down.  Your friends might be gone.  Some of them, dead, others just left.  The same people do the same thing every year, every Sunday.  The community is changing.  It’s not the same as it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 160 years ago.  What’s there to be thankful for right now?

     Life is hard, and it gets harder.  There’s no end to the difficulties it brings us.  Why?  Because, quite honestly, as long as there is sin in this world, we will be disturbed by the inability to do everything, anything perfectly.  We will suffer in this life, both by sin which we commit that has consequences for us, and by sin that others commit that has consequences.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bible Study: Proverbs 2:16-22, November 12, 2017

A Bible Study taught by Pastor Lewis Polzin on November 12, 2017 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Proverbs 2:15-22. Play the audio by clicking here.

A Quick Study: Reformation, Part 14, November 12, 2017

This quick study on Reformation History was given at the end of service at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on November 12, 2017. The text of the study is included and you may play the audio of the study here.

Luther left Worms, a condemned man, a declared heretic, and he had 20 days to turn himself in or he was fair game for anyone.  He made his way back to Wittenberg, but he would never reach it.  As his coach crested a hill, five brigands jumped out, aimed a crossbow at Luther’s coachman, and pulled Luther out of the cart and off into the darkness.  Luther’s friends were screaming after him, but there would be no answer.
A few days later, some 150 miles away, at a rundown, ramshackle castle called Wartburg, a man arrived there calling himself Junker Jörg, Knight George.  The man came with letters of introduction from Frederick the Wise, and so the few castle guards and few servants opened up to him and were ready to serve him as they would their master, but Jörg only wanted basic meals, a room in a tower, and someone to run his correspondence back and forth.  It was easy enough, so the staff obeyed.  Over the next year, this Jörg never really left the castle, but stayed alone in his room.
With everyone thinking Luther dead, what had happened in his absence was a theological vacuum.  His mind was so sharp, his personality so calculating, that, with all that gone, just about anything got sucked into the void.  So when three men calling themselves the Zwickau Prophets appeared, people were willing to give them a listen.  These men were no prophets, but made up their own theologies.  They preached a type of spirituality that placed their authority on direct revelations from the Holy Spirit, as opposed to Luther’s call to return to the Scriptures as authoritative.
Melanchthon, seen as Luther’s colonel before he disappeared, didn’t know what to do.  Melanchthon, in reality, was a weak leader and often, when he was in charge, made the wrong decision and messed everything up.  He had let the Prophets speak too much, apparently, and the people, stirred up by them and Luther’s old acquaintance, Karlstadt, began to lead charges across the region to destroy the last vestiges of Rome in their churches.  These churches lost their windows, their art, their statues through was was called the Iconoclastic Revolt, iconoclasm meaning a rejection of images, especially of God and God in Christ.  Karlstadt forced changes to the liturgy that the Church had never seen before.  Karlstadt even took a 15-year old girl as his bride, 20 years her senior.  The church in Wittenberg began to lose its way, lose what it had gained through Luther’s work, and, if it continued like this, everyone knew that the emperor would have to come down hard on the people and it wouldn’t be pretty.
News of the forced reforms reached the Wartburg, and Jörg, a year after his arrival, with his beard and hair grown very long, left the tower, left behind his books, his letters, and almost everything else, and set out for Wittenberg.
Jörg arrived on the scene March 6, 1522, and found political and ecclesiastical, churchly, chaos.  When he arrived, you can seem him riding right to the Black Cloister, the large dormitory that the Augustinian monks all shared, barging in, finding a pair of scissors and cutting all of his hair off.  From Junker Jörg emerged Martin Luther, friend, reformer, wanted man, Roman heretic.  He had been hidden away by Frederick the Wise over the last year, but returned when the Reformation needed him the most, and, with him, possibly the most important thing he ever did.
During his time in the castle, even suffering from the damp, the cold, the attacks from the devil, from not being able to be active and free, suffering over his captivity, Martin Luther prevailed over all of these through the help of the Lord and had translated the entire New Testament from Greek into the common German tongue.  This wasn’t the first translation into a common language, it was the best, and it set the stage for everything to follow.  It gave the people the responsibility, never again should they blindly hear a priest with an open mind, never should they blindly trust, but now compare all things to the Word of God.  They would begin doing this the very next week, when Luther began to preach back in the pulpit against the Prophets and the Radical Reformation.  We’ll talk more about that next time.

Sermon Audio: Matthew 25:1-13, November 12, 2017

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on November 12, 2017 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Matthew 25:1-13. The text of this sermon may be found by clicking this link and you may play the audio of the sermon here.

Sermon Text: Matthew 25:1-13, November 12, 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text this morning is from the Gospel according to Matthew, the 25th chapter:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 
Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,
     Last Sunday, a congregation of people, bowing in worship to their God, Baptist by confession, were gunned down.  They were killed right around the same time we gather.  Their confession of faith was different, their church looked different, their lives were probably different, but much was the same.  Ultimately, their hope was in the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, that we have our eyes fixed upon this day.

     These men, women, children, and even the unborn who died that day met their Bridegroom.  It wasn’t an expected time, it was a time they thought of their safety, their joy in Christ, their Lord.  And, in reality, they are now experiencing an even greater joy than they could have known, for they are safely in the arms of their Lord, their Bridegroom.  They didn’t know the hour of their death was upon them; the Lord surprised them.  You see, this is how we are to approach this parable this day.

     Our Lord tells us this parable to be prepared, because we never know the day or the hour of His return.  And while last Sunday was certainly not His visible return to earth, I think the saying can easily help point us to the idea that we should watchful, for we’ll never know when we see our Bridegroom face-to-face.  It may be because He returns with a trumpet blast or it may be that He has decided to bring us to where He is that we might await the day of Resurrection.  You never know.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Quick Study: Reformation, Part 13, November 5, 2017

This quick study on Reformation History was given at the end of service at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on November 5, 2017. The text of the study is included and you may play the audio of the study here.

Pope Leo X wrote to the entire Church, he wrote to Luther, he wrote to everyone, a document called Exsurge Domine, Arise, O Lord, ordering Luther to recant his position and his teachings or be excommunicated from the Church.  When one is excommunicated by the true Church, it is to say, you need to repent or you are going to go to hell, and this is done in love for you because we don’t want you to be there.  When this is ordered by the pope, it is to say you will recant because we’re losing money and prestige to you!  Which do you think is right?
Well, if you said the former, you’re right, and are in good company with Luther, because it was in December of 1520, where Luther finally began to really put his finger on the Gospel, that he took that document, called a papal bull, and burned it.  He may have only burned it in Wittenberg, but news of its ashes spread around the empire like wildfire.
You can imagine the pope’s response.  In just 20 days, the news of what Luther did reached him, and Luther’s prompt excommunication got all the way back to Wittenberg.  This kind of rapidity was pretty unheard of, which should tell you about the seriousness of everything going on.
One thing Luther had always wanted, in terms of this entire affair, was for the Church to meet in a council to discuss the abuses, the Roman doctrines that were false.  Luther always wanted a council.  A council is when all the churches of the world are invited to come together, usually in response to a heresy, in order that a clear teaching may go forward.  Usually, too, the authority of the council isn’t denied: what they say goes.  In Roman Catholic tradition, the judgment of the Councils cannot be in error.  You’ve heard of one, at least, the Council of Nicaea, from where we get the Nicene Creed.  In reality, councils could and did err, and that was always a problem that most of the Roman theologians ignored.  Yet, the Council’s were beneficial for discussion.  That’s what Luther demanded.  But the pope wasn’t about to give in to an excommunicated heretic.  The pope wanted Luther dead.  But Luther’s elector, Frederick the Wise, wasn’t about to send his citizen to Rome to be put to death without a trial.  He, again, showing wisdom, insisted that Luther be tried in a court that was run through the empire, that Luther could be judged by his countrymen.
So, Leo got the emperor, Charles V, to call an Imperial Diet in April of 1521.  That doesn’t mean that everyone gets to lose weight together.  It’s where the rulers of the empire, the electors, the princes, and the imperial cities would vote on matters of imperial interest.  The diet would be held at Worms, a major imperial city.  There, Luther would be presented with all of his works, asked if they were his, and asked if he would recant.  Luther thought he was invited to Worms to participate in a bit of discussion.  Instead, it was demanded that he recant his writings.  Luther asked for more time.
He came back the next day, and was told to recant once more.  First, Luther stated that he was no lawyer, and apologized for his lack of courtly etiquette.  Luther admitted that all the books that were in front him were his, but he couldn’t recant blindly, because all the books were different.  The first kind of books even his enemies liked, and he couldn’t recant those because they were in agreement.  The second kind of books attacked the abuses of the Roman church and the pope, and he couldn’t retract those because then the problems they addressed would just get worse.  The third kind, were where he attacked his opponents, and he apologized for his harsh tone, but not the substance of the critique.  Of course, they chafed under these answers.
So, Luther then offered his most well known saying, “Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.”
Luther that day was judged guilty of heresy, a crime, in the Empire where the Church and the State were nearly melded into one, that was punishable by death.  The Emperor wanted Luther found so he could die, and the one who delivered him over would be rewarded.  However, Luther and his accomplices, whoever they may be, would die, one way another.  The emperor gave Luther twenty days to put his affairs in order.  After that, Luther was fair game.  So, as Luther made his way back to Wittenberg from Worms, he was nervously looking over everyone’s shoulder.  He supposed it could happen any time.  And he was right; he never arrived in Wittenberg.