Our Lenten Liturgy: To reflect Lent’s solemn, austere mood of penitential preparation for Easter, appropriate changes are made in our worship’s order of service and verbiage.  We will use Setting Three of the Lutheran Service Book hymnal, which employs traditional language and liturgical pieces.  Each week we will sing the Kyrie but omit the festive Gloria.  The Nicene Creed will be recited.  Whereas the Offering has been missing due from our Divine Service due to coronavirus precautions, it will be reinstated in a form.  The Communion vessels and elements will at the beginning of the service be on a table, not the altar.  After the sermon, as the congregation sings Create in Me, part of the penitential Psalm 51, the pastor will take the vessels and elements to the altar, representing the people’s offerings in response to God’s grace.  A prayer will be said over the offerings.  These will become for us the body and blood of Christ.  After the Verba, The Words of Lord, the pastor and congregation will share the Peace in the Pax Domini.  The more sober Nunc Domittis “(“Lord now let you servant go in peace…”), will serve as our Post-Communion Canticle.   All the hymns, lessons and sermons will reflect Lenten themes.  New this year, a larger crucifix will stand in the chancel to remind of us our Lord’s Passion.  The Paschal Candle, a symbol of Christ’s Resurrection, will be removed until its triumphant return at Easter.  May God bless our Lenten worship.   Also, on a stand by the chancel steps are items recalling our Lord’s Passion:  a crown of thorns (from the Holy Land) nails, dice and a rooster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the Divine Service at First Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Visitors are always most welcome; we are glad to have you among us.   We would be eager to share more with you about our faith and church membership. 

Communion Statement:  The Lord’s Supper will be celebrated today.  Regarding the Holy Communion, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, of which we are a part, says:

“The Lord’s Supper is celebrated at this congregation in the confession and glad confidence that, as He says, our Lord gives into our mouths not only bread and wine but His very body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins and to strengthen our union with Him and with one another.  Our Lord invites to His table those who trust in His words, repent of all sin, and set aside any refusal to forgive and love others as He forgives and loves us, that they may show forth His death until He comes. “

Therefore, we encourage those with any questions, doubts, or who hold a different confession of faith to speak with the Pastor or an Elder before communing.  Those not communing may come forward for a blessing from the Pastor at the time of the Communion distribution.  We look forward to seeing you at First Trinity again.

Ringing of the Bell
The bell rings as the call to worship, reminding us to discontinue conversation and reverently prepare for worship.

Prelude

Welcome and Announcements

Lutheran Service Book Divine Service Setting Three

Stand

915 Today Your Mercy Calls Us                                                 LSB 915
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Text and tune: Public domain


 

CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION

The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.

Invocation
P     In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.
C     Amen.

Exhortation                                                                             LSB 184
P     Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.

P     Our help is in the name of the Lord,
C     who made heaven and earth.
P     I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,
C     and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Silence for reflection on God’s Word and for self-examination.

Confession of Sins
P     O almighty God, merciful Father,
C     I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

P     God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.
C     Amen.

P     Do you believe that the forgiveness I speak is not my forgiveness but God’s?
C     Yes.

P     Let it be done for you as you believe.

Absolution                                                                               LSB 185
P     Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.
C     Amen.

SERVICE OF THE WORD

Kyrie                                                                                       LSB 186
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Psalm                                                                              Psalm 22:23–31
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.
Salutation and Collect of the Day
P     The Lord be with you.
C     And with thy spirit.

P     Let us pray.
O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C     Amen.

Sit

Old Testament Reading                                              Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. . . .
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

A     This is the Word of the Lord.
C     Thanks be to God.

Epistle                                                                             Romans 5:1–11
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

A     This is the Word of the Lord.
C     Thanks be to God.

Stand

Verse (Lent)                                                                            LSB 157
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Holy Gospel                                                                       Mark 8:27–38
P     The Holy Gospel according to St. Mark, the eighth chapter.
C     Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

P     This is the Gospel of the Lord.
C     Praise be to Thee, O Christ.

Nicene Creed
C     I believe in one God,
     the Father Almighty,
     maker of heaven and earth
          and of all things visible and invisible.
 
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
     the only-begotten Son of God,
     begotten of His Father before all worlds,
     God of God, Light of Light,
     very God of very God,
     begotten, not made,
     being of one substance with the Father,
     by whom all things were made;
     who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
     and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
     and was made man;
     and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
     He suffered and was buried.
     And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
          and ascended into heaven
     and sits at the right hand of the Father.
     And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
     whose kingdom will have no end.
 
And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
     the Lord and giver of life,
     who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
     who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
     who spoke by the prophets.
     And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
     I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
     and I look for the resurrection of the dead
     and the life T of the world to come. Amen.

Sit

 

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744 Amazing Grace                                                          LSB 744 sts. 1–5
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Tune and text: Public domain

Sermon

Votum
P     The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
C     Amen.

Stand

Offertory                                                                                 LSB 192
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Offertory Prayer
P      Holy God, accept and bless these gifts which you have given us to honor your name.  In this Eucharist, take away our sins and prepare us for the celebration of the Death and Resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

C      Amen.

Prayer of the Church
(each petition ends with the following response) P Lord, in your mercy,   
C Hear our prayer.

 

SERVICE OF THE SACRAMENT

Preface                                                                                    LSB 194
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Proper Preface (Full)
P     It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who overcame the assaults of the devil and gave His life as a ransom for many that with cleansed hearts we might be prepared joyfully to celebrate the paschal feast in sincerity and truth. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

Sanctus                                                                                    LSB 195
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Lord’s Prayer                                                                           LSB 162
P     Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:
C     Our Father who art in heaven,
     hallowed be Thy name,
     Thy kingdom come,
     Thy will be done on earth
          as it is in heaven;
     give us this day our daily bread;
     and forgive us our trespasses
          as we forgive those
          who trespass against us;
     and lead us not into temptation,
     but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom
     and the power and the glory
     forever and ever. Amen.

The Words of Our Lord                                                             LSB 197
P     Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: “Take, eat; this is My T body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way also after supper, He took the cup and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My T blood, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. This do in remembrance of Me.”

Pax Domini                                                                              LSB 197
P     The peace of the Lord be with you always.
C     Amen.

Fraction
P:  This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Happy are they who are called to His feast.

C:  O Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I will be healed.  Amen. 


 

Agnus Dei                                                                                LSB 198
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Sit

Distribution

The pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first and then distribute them to those who come to receive, saying:

The true body of Christ, given for you.
Amen.

The true blood of Christ, shed for you.
Amen.

In dismissing the communicants, the following is said:

The Dismissal                                                                           LSB 199
P     The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart T in peace.
C     Amen.

Stand

Nunc Dimittis                                                                           LSB 199
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Thanksgiving                                                                            LSB 200
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Post-Communion Collect
A     Let us pray.
We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Salutation                                                                                LSB 201
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Benedicamus                                                                            LSB 202
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Benediction                                                                             LSB 202
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685 Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus                                              LSB 685
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Text: © 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License no. 110004199
Tune: Public domain

CLOSING RESPONSE
P     Go in Peace! Serve the Lord!
C     Praise be to God!

Acknowledgments
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2021 Concordia Publishing House

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Sermon for Lent 2 B   February 28, 221   Mark 8:27-38   Trinity, Wellsville

The Gates of Hell

One of the great things about the Bible is that you can read just about any passage of scripture and find inspiration, instructions for godly living and, best of all, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  You can find those even if you have no training or special knowledge of biblical geography, ancient history, or theology.  For instance, take today's gospel reading, Peter's Confession at Caesarea Philippi.  Even a casual reading of those verses tells us the Good News that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again, that he is expanding his mission through the church, and that we should “take up our cross,” that is we should follow him in paths of service and sacrifice.

However, if we take a closer look at that passage, and go beyond a mere cursory reading, seeking to know more about when, where, why and how these events happened, there will be for us additional gems of wisdom, more riches of grace, and deeper levels of understanding.  The one who seeks finds.  What we will find is that the narratives and themes of the Bible all fit together seamlessly as one cohesive message.  The different parts of the Bible all interpret, validate, and prove one another.  They also silence the critics who in blind ignorance or sheer malice try to discredit the Bible, the God it proclaims, and those who believe in Him.

Looking at our Gospel reading, we see that Jesus and his disciples did not live “a long time ago in a galaxy far away.”  The story of Jesus is not a fairy tale set in some mythical kingdom outside of time and space.  The location of Peter's confession is Caesarea Philippi, that's an actual place.  Its existence in the first century AD is confirmed by modern non-sectarian archaeology.  Where Caesarea Philippi was is now located in the Golan Heights region of the modern State of Israel.

You can see photographs of Caesarea Philippi on the internet.  The topography is quite stark and striking.  Perhaps the most remarkable feature is a sheer rock cliff, rising 100 feet straight up that is also 500 feet wide. Very impressive and imposing.  Above the cliff is a series of caves, which look quite mysterious.  And there is a spring gushing forth from the rock.  Close by are mountains, including the mountain where Jesus was Transfigured.

In ancient times, centuries before Jesus was born, where Caesarea Philippi was, there were shrines to the pagan God named Pan.  Pan was imagined to be half man and half goat, with cloven hooves on his four legs, horns on his head, and a human face.  Usually in artwork, Pan was depicted playing a flute and dancing with a lascivious grin.  In Greek and Roman mythology, the various gods were supposed to be in charge of different aspects of nature and human life.   Pan was associated with magic and music, and he was considered the patron of shepherds and goat herders. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, since in ancient paganism, and modern paganism too, the goat is like the International Symbol of both the occult and unrestrained lust, Pan was responsible for the fertility of goats, sheep and humans.   The worship of Pan included wild Bacchanalian orgies.  The English word “panic” is said to come from the name Pan, originally referring to how he would make flocks and herds stampede.  The caves near the shrines to Pan were thought by the pagans to be the passage to the underworld, what they called Hades, and we Christians would call Hell.  Those caves were considered to be the very gates of Hell!  All in all, Pan was a god of chaos, hedonism and sin.

On top of that 100 foot high cliff, where the shrines to Pan and the Gates to Hell were, King Herod the Great chose to build a city.  That appellation, “The Great,” was a misnomer if ever there was one.  Herod was anything but great.  Herod was not born a Jew, but his father converted, sort of, and Herod was raised a Jew, sort of.  Herod was also not born to be a King, but the invading Romans made him their puppet King of Israel. 

For those reasons, Herod never quite fit into either the Roman world or the Jewish world.  He wanted to impress his Jewish subjects, and he tried to do that with massive building programs, including a new Temple in Jerusalem, even bigger and better than the first one built by King Solomon.  But Herod's immoral lifestyle alienated the Jewish religious leaders.  What he became was a bloodthirsty ruthless tyrant, which did impress his Roman masters, but he would never really be a true Roman.  It was Herod who ordered the death squads to kill all the male babies under two years of age in Bethlehem, trying to destroy Baby Jesus, what we call the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.  You can see why Herod was feared but not loved.

When Herod died, the Romans divided his kingdom into four parts and appointed a ruler, a Tetrarch for each.  This would have been the time that Jesus was an adult going about his ministry.  The part with the city Herod built at the top of the cliff, was assigned to Herod's son Philip.  Not much is known about Philip.  He did, however, renovate the city and, like a good quisling, Philip dedicated it to the Roman king, the Caesar Tiberius.  Hence the name, Caesarea Philippi.  Now remember, to the Romans, Caesar was not just a man, he was also a god.  The Romans didn't mind if their subjects worshiped other gods as long as they also worshiped Caesar by saying “Caesar is Lord.”

Now think again about Peter's Confession in light of what we have just heard.  Jesus and his disciples are in enemy territory.  They are among the shrines of the pagan god Pan.  They are standing outside the Gates of Hell.  They are standing in a city dedicated and named for the Roman god Caesar.  This is a dangerous, evil place.  When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” and Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of the Living God, he was saying in effect, “Pan is not god, Caesar is not Lord; Jesus, you are God and Lord.  The pagan Romans would not tolerate that kind of insolence.

But Jesus was not afraid.  Not Pan, not the Romans, not the Jews who begrudgingly acquiesced to the Roman’s power were going to stop Jesus from doing what he came to do.  Moreover, Jesus was going to divinely create an earthly organization behind enemy lines to carry out his godly work, that institution is the Church.  Jesus appointed that there would be people living out the confession that “Jesus is Lord” until the very Last Day.  He said that not even the Gates of Hell, geographically a stone's throw away, and spiritually wherever there is opposition to the gospel, would prevail against, would defeat, his people the church, the New Israel. 

Did Jesus call it right?  Has the church persevered in faith?  Consider this:  Does anyone seriously worship Pan today?  The shrines to Pan sit in ruins now.  The gods people once took so seriously are now known as quaint myths from a time long gone.  There is a legend that at a certain time a voice from the skies was heard in Caesarea Philippi saying for all to hear, “Pan is dead.”   Supposedly historians have traced back the origin of that legend to the time roughly when Jesus died and rose again.   I doubt that legend is literally true, but it is certainly theologically true.  Where the great Caesarea Philippi stood, today there is a nature reserve--a park -- administered by the Israeli  government.

What about King Herod the Great?  He died, and not only did he die, he died a horrible death.  The details of Herod's death were reported by the Roman historian Josephus, a contemporary of the early Church but by no means a Christian.  Modern forensic pathologists have determined from Josephus' description that Herod died a harsh death of kidney disease, with gangrene and perhaps a parasitic infection.  In his dying anguish he tried to commit suicide and failed.  Herod the so-called Great was not victorious.  Even the magnificent Temple he built, trying to curry the Jews’ favor and impress the Romans, was destroyed by those self-same Romans in 70 AD and it has never been rebuilt.  All that is left of the great temple is a single wall, called The Wailing Wall.  It goes without saying no one worships Caesar today either.  The Roman Empire rose and fell and is buried by the sands of time.  Caesar is not Lord.

And Jesus?  Yes, Jesus died, and it was a gory death.  But Jesus rose again, and the Church he founded is still going.  What I didn't say earlier was that the spring at Caesarea Philippi fed the River Jordan, where Holy Baptism began, the sacrament where our faith is initiated, where new Christian are made.  Pan may have been imagined to be the god of flocks and herds, but Jesus is the true Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep and took it back up again.  Jesus doesn't cause panic; he relieves our panicked souls. We worship using music, not to entice and incite like Pan, but rather to praise and proclaim Christ.  We are Christ's flock, his sheep, living in his greener pastures, called the Church, which is beside the still waters of Holy Baptism. 

Herod may have thought he was the King of the Jews, but we know Jesus to be the true King of the Jews, and not just the Jews, but all humanity, no, the entire universe.  Jesus is nobody's puppet.  His temple is not a temple made by human hands.  His is not an earthly, political empire.  Our bodies are his temples, and his Holy Spirit resides in us.  Heaven is King Jesus' throne and earth is his footstool. 

Notice that I said “[the church] is still going.” I did not say it is “going strong.”  Jesus warned us there would be trials and tribulations.  Our membership might dwindle, we might get swindled, we will be dragged into court, lies and gossip will be told against us, our friends will betray us, disease and death will stalk us.  And sometimes we will fail too, our faith will falter.  When Jesus told Peter that his confession was the rock on which the Church would be built, he undoubtedly was using that 100 foot tall stone cliff as an analogy.  Yet Peter, who so boldly confessed Christ at Caesarea Philippi, immediately took Satan's part and tried to divert Jesus from his mission, death the cross. Later Peter would deny he even ever knew Jesus.

But by God's grace Peter came back around.  In time he chose Jesus over Satan.  Who do you choose to follow? Jesus renews our faith and gives us strength in time of temptation.  To rephrase a line you may have heard somewhere, as a Christian I can say and we can say, “You can stand me up at the Gates of Hell, but I’ll stand my ground, and I won't back down.”  The church can back down to no threat, no man, not even to Satan.  We are able to not back down because Jesus wouldn't back down, not even from the cross, and he shares all that he is and all that he has with us.  And as he rose again, so will we.  And may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.