Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bible Study: Proverbs 1:1-7, September 24, 2017

A Bible Study taught by Pastor Lewis Polzin on September 24, 2017 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Proverbs 1:1-7. Play the audio by clicking here.

(Sorry for the audio hiccups. I'll try to fix it for next week.)

A Quick Study: Reformation, Part 7, September 24, 2017

This quick study on Reformation History was given at the end of service at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on September 24, 2017. The text of the study is included and you may play the audio of the study here.




Martin Luther had a problem.  He was okay with the idea of indulgences, that piece of paper that seemed to get you time off of Purgatory, but he wasn’t okay with buying them.  He felt it akin to the idea of Jesus scourging the Temple, not because there was money in the church, but because it seemed like there was a way in which you could buy your salvation.  That didn’t seem right; in fact, the Scriptures outright condemn such a thing.  So, when he started to think about these issues, he found himself confronted with his own personal archenemy, Johann Tetzel.
Tetzel was a German preacher and monk who made a bit of a name for himself.  It seems he was quite the orator and could have been said to charm the light off of the sun.  It so happens that he was quite skilled in theology as well, and was promoted as the head of the inquisition in Poland.  That meant that he basically got to decide if people were teaching and believing heresy, and, if they were, kill them.
Somewhere along the line, Tetzel just disappeared.  No one quite knows where he was for a couple of years, but in 1517, having gone back to his monastic order, he was promoted to Grand Commissioner of Indulgences in Germany.  Now, remember that Pope Leo X began selling indulgences in order to get the Vatican out of bankruptcy and rebuild St. Peter’s Church.  Indulgences were the only way, it seemed, to do this.  So, Tetzel, preacher extraordinaire, was promoted to bring in the cash, keep the money rolling, send the bread and butter all the way to Rome.
And he did.  Tetzel was good.  He was really good.  Tetzel knew how to work a crowd, and more than that, he knew how to give the crowd what they wanted before they even knew what they wanted.  I would call Tetzel an innovator when it came to his methods; he was very innovative.  If that sounds like a good thing, it’s not.  I can tell you that there really has never been any point in history that, when someone decides to innovate in the Church that it ends up well.  Innovation usually leads to spiritual death.
Now, Tetzel was pure Roman Catholic.  Just about everything he taught and did was right along with Roman theology.  But, when he began innovating, when he began to run horribly awful plays to scare people into buying more indulgences, plays akin to the scariest horror movie you’ve seen, when he began innovating, he got careless.  He is famous for saying, Every time the coin in the coffer clings, the soul from Purgatory springs.  He even said he could forgive the sins of the person who did unspeakable things to the mother of Christ.  Tetzel’s methods lead to careless doctrine.  And careless doctrine in Wittenberg got Luther’s attention.
No longer was Luther just concerned with indulgence selling.  Now he was concerned with how they were sold.  And as he pondered the methods, he began also began to question the entire practice, where it was found in the Scriptures, why certain things were occurring, until one day, October 31, 1517, he left his cloister, hammer in hand, and went to the town’s church and tacked a small document to the door.  We talk about Luther’s 95 theses next week.

Sermon Audio: Matthew 20:1-16, September 24, 2017

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on September 17, 2017 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Matthew 18:21-35. 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 20:1-16, September 24, 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 20th chapter:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” 
Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,
     God isn’t fair.  Life isn’t fair.  It’s not fair that I never got to really see how a grandfather interacts with his grandchildren until my dad became one.  Both my grandfathers died before I could get to know them.  It’s not fair that my wife and I didn’t meet each other until we were 28.  I really wish we had met each other sooner and could have started our lives together than much sooner.  It’s not fair that some homes in the hurricanes were destroyed while neighbors’ homes stood.  It’s not fair that your spouse died.  It’s not fair that you lost your job.  It’s not fair.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chapel Sermon: The Second Article of the Creed, September 21, 2017

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on September 21, 2017 for the Thursday Chapel of St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran School in Milwaukee, WI, on The Second Article of the Creed. You may read the text and play the audio of the sermon here.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Quick Study: Reformation, Part 6, September 17, 2017

This quick study on Reformation History was given at the end of service at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on September 17, 2017. The text of the study is included and you may play the audio of the study here.




Remember how we spoke of purgatory?  Well, this comes to our use in the year 1517.  Now, of course, we all should know what happened that year: Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg.  That we all know.  But, why did he do that?
Well, some might say it was an excess of coffee, which first made its way to the European scene around that time.  But, in reality, it’s because the Pope of the time, Pope Leo X,  wanted to leave a lasting legacy in his honor.  He wanted to be so remembered by all of Christendom, he was so vain, that he needed this even more than just wanted it.  He wanted his name in lights, so to speak, although there was no electric light back then.  Pope Leo X, sadly, is a good example of what happens when a pastor wants to make a name for himself, yet lets the sheep entrusted to his care slip away into the maw of hell.
Anyway, this vain pastor of pastors and his advisors came up with this brilliant idea.  St. Peter’s Church was built in the 4th century by Constantine the Great.  It is supposed to be the place where St. Peter is laid to rest, yet who really ever knows.  However, this church was over a thousand years old.  It had seen lootings, ransackings, fires, all kind of calamities.  You could imagine the upkeep required on something like that.  Pope Leo X decided that he would renovate, restore, and redesign the church to become a basilica, a specific architectural style, and it would be the home and heart of the faith.
There was only one problem.  Pope Leo X was a spendthrift, a prodigal, a squanderer, a hedonist.  He loved pleasure.  He loved comfort.  He loved the peoples’ adoration.  He borrowed heavily.  He spent heavily.  The problem then was the Vatican was broke.  They had no money to spend on St. Peter’s.  Pope Leo X was in a pickle.  How could he leave a legacy that would bear his name when he had no money to do so.
He and his advisors had another brilliant idea.  They would use the fear of Purgatory and the time that the sinners of this life would have to spend there in order to make their money.  They would sell indulgences.  An indulgence is a letter or a note of some kind that basically promises that whoever’s name was upon it would a prescribed amount of time off of Purgatory.  Maybe it was a few years, maybe it was immediate.  It would all depend upon how much would pay.  Now, indulgences had been around for a few hundred years.  However, they would have been earned through prayers, worship, service.  Never before had it been like this: through money.  Indulgences are still around today, too.
This practice of indulgence selling rubbed Luther the wrong way.  It wasn’t so much the indulgence; he was a good Catholic boy after all at that time.  It was the money for forgiveness.  It didn’t sit well with him. He began to think about this.  Surely, the Pope, who, incidentally, was widely respected for being a learned man, would listen to simple concerns from his brothers of the cloth.  Luther began to write down his ideas.  But then someone would come onto the scene that would change the tone of Luther’s concerns from conciliatory questions to accusing theses: Johann Tetzel, indulgence seller extraordinaire.

Sermon Audio: Matthew 18:21-35, September 17, 2017

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on September 17, 2017 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Matthew 18:21-35. The text of this sermon may be found by clicking this link and you may play the audio of the sermon here.