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Sunday Thoughts for October 21

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is Pentecost 22 (October 21). For our liturgy we will be using the fourth setting of the Divine Service (LSB 203). This service has fewer chanting parts and most of the chants are more hymn-like. This setting was first introduced with Lutheran Service Book and we will be using it throughout October and November, rotating with Matins for the Sundays we are not celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

The appointed lessons for Sunday are Ecclesiastes 5:10–20, Hebrews 4:1–16 and Mark 10:23–31. See below for more about them.

The sermon will be titled “Our Sabbath Rest.” The text will be Hebrews 4:9-10. Hebrews, in general, is a great book to read to get a handle on how we are encouraged to read the Old Testament by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. As the New Testament is authoritative for us, I must say it is also the correct way to understand the Old Testament. It is how God has always wanted the Old Testament to be understood.

Our opening hymn for Sunday will be “Hope of the World” (LSB 690). This hymn was considered worth learning by our hymn review committee. The rest of the hymns during the service already have well known tunes. The sermon hymn will be “O Day of Rest and Gladness” (LSB 906). The distribution hymns will be “Today Your Mercy Calls Us” (LSB 915), “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” (LSB 633), and “O Jesus, Blessed Lord to Thee” (LSB 632). Our closing hymn will be “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing” (LSB 643).

Below are the lessons for Sunday with a few initial thoughts from me.

Ecclesiastes 5:10–20
10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

My initial thoughts:
It is easy to see the accent on the deceitfulness of trusting wealth in this reading, like last Sunday. I’m reminded of that old movie, Citizen Kane. If you don’t remember it, it is routinely consider the best movie of all time by those who think it is their job to tell us what movies we should like and not like. At any rate, Solomon gets the job done much faster (and, to my taste, in a much more engaging way). In verse 14 Solomon writes, “those riches were lost in a bad venture.” This might be a veiled reference to Solomon’s seafaring ventures (1 Kings 9:26-28). While the possible rewards of seafaring commerce is great, so are the possible risks (1 Kings 22:48-49). In the end, Solomon is telling us to be content with the vocations God has given us.

Hebrews 4:1–16
1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

6Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

My initial thoughts:
It is the reading from Hebrews that will occupy our thoughts in the sermon. The writer explains how Sabbath should be understood. The Old Testament provides us with a shadow of the Sabbath, but that shadow was cast by Jesus, the true fulfillment of the Sabbath. We learn in Hebrews that the entire Old Testament is to be read in light of the New Testament in general and, specifically, in light of Jesus. We will see how this plays out with the “Sabbath.”

Mark 10:23–31
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

My initial thoughts:
Like last week, we have a words from Jesus that can direct us to the deceitfulness of wealth. The reading, therefore, ties in with our reading from Ecclesiastes. We hear Jesus say that it is easier for a camel to go through an “eye of needle gate” than for a rich man to enter heaven. Many, over the last five or six centuries, have thought that this “eye of a needle” referred to a small gate in the city of Jerusalem’s wall. A camel could go through it, but only after everything had been taken off the beast. The analogy was, then, that rich people could merit heaven and eternal life by giving up their wealth. However that gate was not present in Jesus’ Jerusalem. It was a Crusader’s fortification. So the analogy breaks down on historical merit. It also breaks down because there is nothing we can do to merit heaven. We take our cue from the disciples. “Who then can be saved?” That is to say, if a rich man can’t save himself, than what hope do the rest of us have? Jesus responds, while it is impossible for us to save ourselves, God is able to do it for us. So Peter (and I expect the other disciples) speak of all they had given up to follow Jesus. Our Lord responds by pointing us to the rewards granted by his grace in heaven. It far outweighs anything we might “merit” by our good works.

May this look ahead help in preparing for our Sunday worship.

Blessings in Christ,

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