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HOLY TRINITY & ST. JAMES LUTHERAN CHURCHES

† DIVINE SERVICE OF THE WORD, THE LAST SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR (11.22.20), 
HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN, FEDOR; ST JAMES LUTHERAN, LEXINGTON (LCMS) †

† IN THE NAME OF JESUS †

OPENING HYMN – ♫ 611, THE DAY IS SURELY DRAWING NEAR
1. The day is surely drawing near When God’s Son, the Anointed, Shall with great majesty appear As Judge of all appointed.  All mirth and laughter then shall cease When flames on flames will still increase, As Scripture truly teacheth.

2. A trumpet loud shall then resound And all the earth be shaken.  Then all who in their graves are found Shall from their sleep awaken; But all that live shall in that hour By the Almighty's boundless pow’r Be changed at His commanding.

3. A book is opened then to all, A record truly telling What each hath done, both great and small, When he on earth was dwelling; And ev’ry heart be clearly seen, And all be known as they have been In tho’ts and words and actions.

4. Then woe to those who scorned the Lord And sought but carnal pleasures, Who here despised His precious Word And loved their earthly treasures!  With shame and trembling they will stand And at the Judge’s stern command To Satan be delivered.

5. O Jesus, who my debt didst pay And for my sin wast smitten, Within the Book of Life, oh, may My name be also written!  I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, From Satan Thou hast made me free And from all condemnation.

6. Therefore my Intercessor be And for Thy blood and merit Declare my name from judgment free With all who life inherit, That I may see Thee face to face With all Thy saints in that blest place Which Thou for us hast purchased.

7. O Jesus Christ, do not delay, But hasten our salvation; We often tremble on our way In fear and tribulation.  Then hear us when we cry to Thee; Come, mighty Judge, and make us free From every evil!  Amen.  Amen.

INVOCATION (CALLING UPONG GOD’S HOLY TRIUNE NAME)
Pastor:
In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)
Congregation: Amen.

CONFESSION & ABSOLUTION
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. (Psalm 124:8)

P: I said, “I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.
C: And Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

P: Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word, and deed.  Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
C: O most merciful God, Who hast given Thine only-begotten Son to die for us, have mercy upon us and for His sake grant us remission of all our sins; and by Thy Holy Spirit increase in us true knowledge of Thee and of Thy will and true obedience to Thy Word, to the end that by Thy grace we may come to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

P: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, hath had mercy upon us and hath given His only Son to die for us and for His sake forgiveth us all our sins.  To them that believe on His Name He giveth power to become the sons of God and hath promised them His Holy Spirit.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.  Grant this Lord, unto us all. (John 20:19-23)
C: ♫ Amen.

INTROIT (ENTRANCE PSALM)
P:
The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.  O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!  See, You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before You.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!  And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in You.  Deliver me from all my transgressions.  Do not make me the scorn of the fool! (Psalm 35, 39)
C: ♫ Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

KYRIE (LORD, HAVE MERCY)
C: ♫ Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.
(Psalm 123:3)

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS (GLORY BE TO GOD ON HIGH)
C: ♫ Glory be to God on high: And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.  We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.  O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.  O Lord the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, That takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer.  Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.  For Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord.  Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father.  Amen. 

SALUTATION
P:
The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit. (2 Timothy 4:22)

COLLECT (PRAYER) OF THE DAY
P:
Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth Your Son, we pray, to lead home His Bride, the Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter into His eternal wedding feast; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 
Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSONS: OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – ISAIAH 65:17-25
65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.  20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of My people be, and My chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.  23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.  24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.  25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.

At the conclusion of the reading:
P: This is the Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING OF THE CATECHISM (SEE ATTACHED)

EPISTLE LESSON – 1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11
5: 1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day.  We are not of the night or of the darkness.  6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

At the conclusion of the reading:
P: This is the Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.

C: ♫ Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!

P: The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the 25th chapter.
C: ♫ Glory be to Thee, O Lord!

GOSPEL LESSON – MATTHEW 18:21-35
25:1 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 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.’ 10 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. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

At the conclusion of the reading:
P: This is the Gospel of the Lord.
C: ♫ Praise be to Thee, O Christ!

APOSTLES’ CREED

SERMON HYMN – ♫ 60 (SUNG TO 358), HARK, A THRILLING VOICE IS SOUNDING
1. Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding! “Christ is nigh!” we hear it say; “Cast away the works of darkness,     O ye children of the day!”

2. Startled at the solemn warning, Let the earth-bound soul arise; Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling, Shines upon the morning skies.

3. Lo, the Lamb, so long expected, Comes with pardon down from heaven.  Let us haste, with tears of sorrow, One and all, to be forgiven,

4. That, when next He comes with glory And the world is wrapped in fear, He may shield us with His mercy And with words of love draw near.

5. Honor, glory, might, dominion, To the Father and the Son, With the everlasting Spirit, While eternal ages run!  Amen.

SERMON – TAKE COMFORT, STAND FIRM: GOD’S GOD YOU IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND, 1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11 
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  2020 has been a very rough year.  I’m sure in the Baptist preaching sense I could get more than a few amens from y’all on that one!  Everything from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic bursting on the scene earlier this year, to economic, social and political upheaval and turmoil.  No doubt quite a few Americans share the fear that our very republic, our dearly beloved nation – being socially, politically, even religiously divided as she is – is unraveling before our eyes.  Other nations around the world – even if they’re not suffering deep ideological and political divisions like we are – nevertheless are afflicted in many of the same ways we are, fighting their own battles, engaged in their own struggles too.

During a funeral sermon that I heard over the summer, the preacher deeply lamented the untimely death of a good friend of his, exclaiming, “Can 2020 be over already?”  As you can imagine, everyone there shared his sentiment!  The reality is that the ending of a calendar year does nothing to ease troubling times, to improve our collective situation, to comfort and console our hurting consciences or to buoy our drooping spirits.  We’d better not look to ourselves as fallen sinners or to our fallen world for a shot-in-the-arm to revive us.  As has always been the case, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 124:8)  As in, there’s no other helper available who can truly aid us as the Lord our God can!  He drives this truth home further: “I, yes, I, am the Lord, and there is no Savior beside Me.” (Is. 43:11)  This is every bit as true for all people on earth as it is for us. 

While worldly people think that they only have themselves and others to look to for good in life, we know different.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights.” (James 1:17)  But what about human progress – technological advances, scientific breakthroughs like vaccines, cures for diseases and so much else besides?  What about all the good that we’re permitted to give and to receive in our lives?  That’s just it.  God permits all this and blesses it!  He brings it all to pass through us as His creatures.  As our heavenly Provider, He takes such good care of us, oftentimes doing so by working through others to care for us, and through us to care for others.  As we confess about the First Article of the Creed, “He richly and daily provides us with all that we need to support this body and life.” (Small Catechism)  Yet what God cares about most of all is our spiritual well-being in Him; that is, abiding in Him now and forever.  His good and gracious will is to “strengthen and keep us firm in His Word and faith until we die.” (S.C.)  Let’s let Him do this, shall we?

Ultimately, there are no earthly answers to the challenges and growing threats we face.  St. Paul writes to Christians in ancient Rome and to us that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility…in hope that [it]…will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 3:19-21)  We – and everyone around us – can’t rescue ourselves from our plight.  We’re like someone on life-support, unable to get better and leap out of the hospital bed all good again.  All we can do is look to the Lord for help in time of need, longing for the day when He raises us to stand before Him in everlasting glory.  The dying creation around us longs to be renewed just like we do.  And it will be – right when we’re renewed…at our Lord’s return!  St. Paul adds that, in addition to the creation around us, we also, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

As you face what lies ahead, don’t do so with fear and foreboding – even though very difficult times, far more difficult than we’ve probably experienced in our lifetimes so far – are more-likely-than-not in the offing.  Do so armed with the comfort and spiritual courage that St. Paul gives to the Thessalonian Christians.  Although we have no idea when, the end of the world will come quickly as our lives here on earth will either end, or the Lord will suddenly return like a lightning flash.  Either way, we need to be ready – eagerly awaiting His coming for us.  

So our situation is like buzzards circling overhead, ready to swarm and devour us, and we’re going to talk about the end of the world?  Isn’t this adding insult to injury, kicking us when we’re already down?  Not at all, children of God!  Isn’t it good news that all the troubles we’ve seen, all of our sorrows will someday soon be coming to and end?  Yes!  That is our hope and expectation in Jesus.  It will happen!   And yet we still need God’s deliverance, comfort and encouragement in the faith until that great Day.  Here, we get it and will always get it!  More so, we still need God’s clarion call to repentance and His sure-forgiveness of sins and consolation.  Here, we get it and will always get it!      

Where to begin in describing all the headwinds that we’re experiencing in our country nowadays?  There’s increasing foment and violence, political uncertainty, especially regarding the recent elections and the fear and deep frustration on the part of many – perhaps half the nation – that it wasn’t exactly a free and fair election.  Even if it was, I don’t think you need me to tell you just how divided we are as a people.  Talk of civil unrest, even armed conflict breaking out in our nation doesn’t sound as far-fetched as it would’ve a year or more ago.  Global adversaries like China, Iran, North Korea and Russia would love to see us crumble from within.  For freedom-loving Americans like us, these surely are difficult times.  We want to protect our families as best we can from the life-threatening coronavirus.  We follow all the rules and regulations – from social distancing to mask-wearing in public – that we can.  Yet we also realize that some of our fundamental rights as citizens of this great country sure look like they’re disappearing.  People have peaceably assembled, standing up for their rights and protesting wrongs done to them and to others…only to be viciously attacked for it.  Free speech is no longer as sure a thing as it once was in our land.  Instances of Christians being barred from worship in their own Churches, prohibited from singing the faith and other injustices limiting the free exercise of religion are more widespread than we realize.  We have it good here in Lee County still, thankfully.     

Our culture is also changing, and not for the better.  When you were younger, could you have ever imagined in your wildest nightmares people of the same gender being able to legally marry each other?  Could any of us ever have envisioned men and boys self-identifying as women and girls, and vice-versa?  No way!  Yet this is now our reality.     

There’s also the woke cultural movement which wants to turn everything into a quest for social justice.  So, if you’re Caucasian, then – according to the woke movement – you unfairly enjoy “white privaledge” and need to knock yourself down several rungs, or have it done for you by society.  That is, you need to be socially and economically lower than minorities.  Truth is, at times we’re all guilty of the sin of racism.  But this doesn’t make us white supremacists or deep-seated racists who hate others of a different skin color.  It’s going happen that we struggle with our racial differences with others.  But in the end, Jesus’ new commandment reigns supreme: “As I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” (Jn. 13:34)   We’re not to despise another person for any reason…because when we do, we’re not loving God either.  Yet when we as Americans are targeted and attacked because of our race – which we didn’t choose for ourselves, having been created by God to be who we are – then we’re being oppressed.  

So everything from who you’ve been created to be, to your right to express yourself, to your right to bear arms is on less firm ground now than it was – in terms of your being freely permitted to speak your mind, to arm yourself – to even exist!  Your most fundamental right, your most sacred treasure is the most threatened of them all.  And that’s your freedom of religion: to believe in and worship the one Holy Triune God.  Next to it is your conviction that life from the very earliest in the womb to the very last breath is a precious gift from God.  No one is to end life but He Who gave it. 

St. Paul writes to an early body of believers in Thessalonica who are experiencing increasing persecution and the constant temptation from the devil, the world and their own sinful hearts to give up Christianity and be at peace with the world and live “better lives.”  And by “better lives” I mean loving this fallen, sinful world and its ways, and being loved by it in return.  True, being one with the world and its values may very well make for a more fulfilled life in the eyes of man…but not in the eyes of God!

The Apostle’s overall point in our Epistle Lesson is that life is really only properly viewed in terms of how it ends.  Life either ends in the horror of judgment…or it ends with Jesus.  So we’re to live by faith in the Son of God, Who gave His life for our lives.  Such faith guarantees that our lives will end well, assuming we die before Jesus’ return.  Because in that event we’ll die in Christ, trusting in Him for our eternal salvation.  

St. Paul, quoting Jesus, reminds the Thessalonians and us that our Lord will return like a thief in the night.  That’s why we’re to be constantly on the watch and prepared for His arrival, since we don’t know when He’ll return.  It could be today!  Right when many people are convinced that all’s well with them, that everything’s hunky-dory when it really isn’t, then He’ll come.  When people are “eating and drinking and getting married,” (Mt. 24:38) going about their business, right then He’ll appear. God’s judgment will also be final as destruction will fall upon the godless.  Destruction in the Bible means that the lives of wicked unbelievers will be snuffed out and they’ll be judged forever; it never means they’ll stop existing.  Why will they suffer eternal flame?  As we sang, they “scorned the Lord and sought but carnal pleasures.”  They “despised His precious Word and loved their earthly treasures.” (TLH 611:4)  This description would surely include us…if not for our Lord’s loving intervention on our behalf to lead us to repent of our scorn for Him, our carnal pleasures and our inordinate love of ourselves, money and things, so that He might have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and restore us to Himself. 

The Apostle Paul’s remaining words are several dos and don’ts.  Don’t dwell in the darkness of sin, letting it rule over you.  Don’t fall asleep in the faith, casting aside your trust in God and love for Him.  Don’t get drunk.  Do be children of light, of the day.  Do stay awake in spirit and be ready for Christ’s final coming.  Do be sober in faith and love.  The reality is that we all fall for these threats against our very souls.  We’re all caught acting different parts than God has assigned us.  So He has taken us and has saved us from being night dwellers, sleepers and drunkards to being the opposite of these things by faith in Jesus.  Yet according to our sinful nature, we’re inclined to go back to check out the darkness.  We’re apt to doze off or join in with this dead world, becoming a part of it so that we’re unprepared for Jesus’ return.  As for drunkenness, we let our minds get lulled and dulled by our “impurity, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, divisions, envy,” (Gal. 5:19-21) etc.  We lose ourselves, or forget who we really are as God’s children.  

I think you’d agree that falling for these things, as we do, is a far greater danger to us than threats to our individual freedoms as Americans, the coronavirus, increasing social depravity, turmoil and economic collapse, etc.  So let’s cry out to God as a faithful, yet also discouraged man did to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24)  Let us pray, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Lk. 18:13)  “Rescue us from the darkness in which we want to hide, the sleep of death we so easily slip into and the drunkenness that feels so calming and carefree at first, but is really torture!”

God hasn’t destined you or anyone for wrath, but to be saved through faith in His Son, your Savior!  Jesus died and rose again for you so that you live in Him at all hours.  In Your Baptism, fed with Christ’s body and blood, you’re alive in Him – daytime Christians who are wide awake and all set for His glorious return.  You’ve been fitted by God with the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness and Christian love so that you’re more-than-able to show love to everyone – including those who dislike you because of your Creed, color or whatever the reason.  You’re different.  You are in Christ!  So love and “do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10) 

Stand tall and firm for your rights and especially the rights of others.  Your rights are all from God and are to be cherished and defended!  Hold fast to your faith come what may!  Pray for your fellow Americans; for our country.  When you suffer wrong for your faith, trust that “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Pet. 1:21)  “Cast away the works of darkness, O ye children of the day.” (TLH 60:1)  Be ready to enter with Christ into the eternal wedding feast…since He’ll surely call and gather you in!  Amen.  In the Name of Jesus. Amen.  

OFFERATORY (CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD)
C: ♫ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.  Amen.
(Psalm 51:10-12)

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
P:
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, this world is brimming over with iniquity.  Satan, our archfoe, is getting bolder in his attacks upon Christianity and us as Your Christians.  The depravity of mankind is almost beyond belief.  Love grows cold as greed and selfishness flourish in men’s hearts.  The nations of earth have set themselves against You.  On every hand are those who despise what You regard as holy and delight to do those things we know to be evil.  Waves of crime and violence in our streets have become commonplace.  Family and home have broken down as marriage vows, once spoken in earnest, are flung aside.  Children are no longer taught to be obedient and respectful.  People trust their own knowledge and have fashioned God in their own image.  They are self-righteous and proud.

Your Church on earth, too, is beset by enemies inside and out. Many false teachers have invaded the Church, seducing the unwary, causing divisions and offenses. And there is a serious lack of dedication and understanding on the part of professing Christians.  The danger is very real that we could lose the faith which was once delivered to the saints.

As we stand in this world doomed to destruction, comfort us with the knowledge that You have loved us with an everlasting love.  Fill us with the peace that comes from knowing that we have God’s full forgiveness because of the sacrifice You made for our sins.  Comfort our flagging spirits with Your promises of everlasting life.  By Your Holy Spirit strengthen our faith through Word and Sacrament.  Make us watchful each day for Your reappearing in glory to deliver us from this present evil world. Do not let the growing darkness of ungodliness put out the light of knowledge You have given us by faith. May we never grow weary of resisting sin or of doing good, knowing this is our reasonable service of love to You Who first loved us.  Preserve our faith that we may finally wear the crown of glory.  Enable each of us to be a source of strength and courage to others.  Draw our hearts to You so that we remain in constant touch with You through prayer.

Look to the healing and care-needs of our fellow members who ask for prayer: _____. Bless them with Your goodness.  

Oh, do not let anyone be lost who now calls upon Your Name.  In Your mercy bring many others to confess their sins and to accept You by faith as their Savior and Lord. Dear Jesus, pardon our many offenses and rid us of any doubts we may have about Your love for us. Through Your grace inspire us to live each day, filled with faith and godliness, so that the world may see You in us.  According to Your promise come quickly.  C: Amen.

LORD’S PRAYER

HYMN – ♫ 609, WAKE, AWAKE, FOR NIGHT IS FLYING
1. “Wake, awake, for night is flying,” The watchmen on the heights are crying; “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”  Midnight hears the welcome voices And at the thrilling cry rejoices: “Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?  The Bridegroom comes, awake!  Your lamps with gladness take!  Hallelujah!  With bridal care Yourselves prepare To meet the Bridegroom, who is near.”

2. Zion hears the watchmen singing, And all her heart with joy is springing, She wakes, she rises from her gloom; For her Lord comes down all-glorious, The strong in grace, in truth victorious, Her Star is ris’n, her Light is come.  “Now come, Thou Blessed One, Lord Jesus, God’s own Son, Hail! Hosanna!  The joyful call We answer all And follow to the nuptial hall.”

3. Now let all the heav’ns adore Thee, Let men and angels sing before Thee, With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.  Of one pearl each shining portal, Where, dwelling with the choir immortal, We gather round Thy radiant throne.  No vision ever brought, No ear hath ever caught, Such great glory; Therefore will we Eternally Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee.  Amen.

CONCLUDING COLLECTS
P:
Eternal God, merciful Father, You have appointed Your Son as Judge of the living and the dead.  Enable us to wait for the Day of His return with our eyes fixed on the Kingdom prepared for Your own beloved people from the foundation of the world; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  
C: Amen.

P: We thank You, Lord God, heavenly Father, that in the past Church Year You have graciously preserved Your Holy Word and Sacraments among us in purity, and by them have effectively enlivened our souls; and we implore You to mercifully forgive us all our neglect, unbelief and disobedience regarding Your Word.  Keep us always rooted and built up in the precious treasure of Your Means of Grace, and with them, Your eternal blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

BENEDICTION (PARTING BLESSING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD)
P:
The Lord bless thee and keep thee.  The Lord make His face shine upon thee and be gracious to thee.  The Lord lift up His † countenance upon thee and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
C: Amen.

CLOSING HYMN – ♫ 618, JERUSALEM, MY HAPPY HOME
1. Jerusalem, my happy home, Name ever dear to me, When shall my labors have an end? Thy joys when shall I see?

2. When shall these eyes thy heav’n-built walls And pearly gates behold, Thy bulwarks with salvation strong, And streets of shining gold?

3. Oh, when, thou city of my God, Shall I thy courts ascend Where evermore the angels sing, Where Sabbaths have no end?
4. Apostles, martyrs, prophets, there Around my Savior stand; And soon my friends in Christ below Will join the glorious band.

5. Jerusalem, my happy home, When shall I come to thee?  When shall my labors have an end?  Thy joys when shall I see?

6. O Christ, do Thou my soul prepare For that bright home of love That I may see Thee and adore With all Thy saints above.  Amen.

†   †   †

† THE SERVICE OF MATINS FOR HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN, FEDOR, TX 
& ST. JAMES LUTHERAN, LEXINGTON, TX (LCMS) – MISSION SUNDAY, 11.15.20 †

† IN THE NAME OF JESUS † 

OPENING HYMN – ♫ 507 (SUNG TO 2), SPREAD, OH, SPREAD, THOU MIGHTY WORD
1. Spread, oh, spread, thou mighty Word, Spread the kingdom of the Lord, Wheresoe’er His breath has giv’n Life to beings meant for heav’n.

2. Tell them how the Father's will Made the world and keeps it still, How His only Son He gave Man from sin and death to save.

3. Tell of our Redeemer’s love, Who forever doth remove By His holy sacrifice All the guilt that on us lies.

4. Tell them of the Spirit giv’n Now to guide us up to heav’n, Strong and holy, just and true, Working both to will and do.

5. Up!  The ripening fields ye see.  Mighty shall the harvest be; But the reapers still are few, Great the work they have to do.

6. Lord of Harvest, let there be Joy and strength to work for Thee Till the nations far and near See Thy light and learn Thy fear.  Amen.

OPENING VERSES
Pastor:
O Lord, open Thou my lips.
Congregation: And my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. (Psalm 51:15)

P: Make haste, O God, to deliver me. 
C: Make haste to help me, O Lord. (Psalm 70:1)
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  Hallelujah!

INVITATORY (INVITATION TO WORSHIP)
P:
Oh, come, let us worship the Lord.
C: For He is our Maker. (Psalm 95:6)

CANTICLE (HYMN OF PRAISE): VENITE (OH, COME)
C: O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.  For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.  The deep places of the earth are in His hand; the strength of the hills is His also.  The sea is His, for He made it, and His hand formed the dry land.  O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
(Psalm 95:1-7) 
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.     

PSALM 96
C: Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!  Sing to the Lord, bless His Name; tell of His salvation from day to day.  Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.  Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.  Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His Name; bring an offering, and come into His courts!  Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth!  Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!  Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.”  Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!  Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth.  He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSONS: OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – ISAIAH 62:1-7
P:
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.  2 The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.  3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.  5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

6 On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.  You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, 7 and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

SMALL CATECHISM READING
C: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true.

HYMN – ♫ 500, MAY GOD BESTOW ON US HIS GRACE
1. May God bestow on us His grace, With blessings rich provide us, And may the brightness of His face To life eternal guide us That we His saving health may know, His gracious will and pleasure, And also to the heathen show Christ’s riches without measure And unto God convert them.

2. Thine over all shall be the praise And thanks of every nation, And all the world with joy shall raise The voice of exultation; For Thou shalt judge the earth, O Lord, Nor suffer sin to flourish; Thy people’s pasture is Thy Word Their souls to feed and nourish, In righteous paths to keep them.

3. Oh, let the people praise Thy worth, In all good works increasing; The land shall plenteous fruit bring forth, Thy Word is rich in blessing. May God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit bless us!  Let all the world praise Him alone, Let solemn awe possess us.  Amen.

EPISTLE LESSON – ROMANS 10:11-17
P: 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the Gospel.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

GOSPEL LESSON – LUKE 24:44-53
P: 24:44 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

SERMON HYMN – ♫ 498, RISE, THOU LIGHT OF GENTILE NATIONS
1. Rise, Thou Light of Gentile nations, Jesus, bright and Morning Star; Let Thy Word, the gladsome tidings, Ring out loudly near and far, Bringing freedom to the captives, Peace and comfort to the slave, That the heathen, free from bondage, May proclaim Thy pow’r to save.

2. See the blindness of the heathen, Strangers to Thy glorious light, Straying hopeless till they find Thee, Wand’ring aimless in the night.  See their pitiful condition; Lo, gross darkness covers all, And no ray of hope refreshes Nor dispels the dreadful pall.

3. If Thou, merciful Redeemer, Hadst not saved us from this plight, In like darkness we should languish Hopeless, helpless, in sin's night.  Lovingly Thou, Lord, didst seek us In the beauty of Thy grace; Now with joy we freely serve Thee, We, Thy blessed, chosen race.

4. Knowing Thee and Thy salvation, Grateful love dare never cease To proclaim Thy tender mercies, Gracious Lord, Thy heav’nly peace.  Sound we forth the Gospel tidings To the earth’s remotest bound That the sinner has been pardoned And forgiveness can be found.

5. May our zeal to help the heathen Be increased from day to day As we plead in true compassion And for their conversion pray.  For the many faithful heralds, For the Gospel they proclaim, Let us all be cheerful givers To the glory of Thy Name.

6. Savior, shine in all Thy glory On the nations near and far; From the highways and the byways Call them, O Thou Morning Star.  Guide them whom Thy grace hath chosen Out of Satan's dreadful thrall To the mansions of Thy Father – There is room for sinners all.  Amen.

SERMON/MESSAGE – CHRIST’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN (F.E. PASCHE)
P:
On the fortieth day after His resurrection Christ led His apostles and many other disciples to Mount Olivet, near Bethany, and spoke to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. The account of St. Mark reads: “So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven.” St. Luke’s account, too, is brief and simple: “And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried into heaven.” The third account we find in Acts: “And when He had spoken these things, while they [the disciples] beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”  Such was the visible part of His ascension. He did not suddenly disappear, but slowly rose before the eyes of the astonished disciples, rose higher and higher, until a cloud enveloped Him. A glorious event, indeed! 

The other part, however, invisible to human eyes, was far more glorious. He was received into heaven. He ascended far above all heavens. He ascended to where He had been in the splendor of His deity before He took upon Him our humanity. Thus saith the Lord: “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” And as Christ descended to the footstool of His Father in His humiliation, so He ascended to the throne of His Father in His exaltation. The same Jesus who once humbled Himself for us now entered for us into the glory of His Father. 

Yes, for us! He said: "I go to prepare a place for you." By His holy, precious blood He purchased a place for us in His Father's house of many mansions; He won heaven for us, and by His ascension He took possession of heaven for us that we might be with Him in everlasting glory. He says: “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.”  What a comfort! Christ’s ascension is a pledge assuring us that all who believe in Jesus shall also reach the heavenly goal. Oh, may many hearts in faith be opened to Him! (scholia.net)

CANTICLE (HYMN OF PRAISE): TE DEUM LAUDAMUS (WE PRAISE THEE, O GOD)
C: We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.  All the earth doth worships Thee, the Father everlasting.  To Thee all angels cry aloud; the heavens, and all the powers therein; To Thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory.  The glorious company of the Apostles praise Thee.  The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise Thee.  The noble army of Martyrs praise Thee.  The holy Church throughout all the world does acknowledge Thee: The Father of an infinite Majesty; Thine adorable, true and only Son; Also the Holy Ghost the Comforter.  Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.  Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.

When Thou tookest upon Thyself to deliver man, Thou didst humble Thyself to be born of a virgin.  When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.  Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.  We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.  We therefore pray Thee, to help Thy servants, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.  Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints, in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine heritage.  Govern them and lift them up forever.  Day by day we magnify Thee.  And we worship Thy Name forever and ever.  Grant, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.  O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.  O Lord, let Thy mercy be upon us, as our trust is in Thee.  O Lord, in Thee have we trusted; let us never be confounded.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
P:
Heavenly Father, Whose will it is that everyone should hear the Gospel, believe it, and be saved, send us forth as laborers into your harvest to bring our precious Savior to others. And as you open our mouths to witness Christ Jesus as Lord, open our hearts also to welcome Him by faith.  As Lord of the harvest, provide Your Church with pastors, teachers, and missionaries to lead the mighty army of Christian witnesses in preaching the living Christ to a dying world.  Continue to plant Your holy Church here and in many lands and nations, that Your pure Gospel would be preached in all its truth and purity and Your Sacraments would be properly administered according to the Gospel.

Dearest Jesus, You have called us to preach the Gospel to every creature.  Give us also the boldness to witness Your Name and salvation in the course of our daily lives.  Inspire our love for lost souls with the love You have for us, which compelled You to die for our sins.

Holy Spirit, sanctify us and make us ready and eager to do whatever pleases You, especially to do the good work of speaking the Gospel of Jesus to others. Open our eyes to discover ever more opportunities to witness Christ.  Give us a sense of urgency to work in the Father’s harvest while it is still the day of salvation, before the night of judgment comes when no one can work.  Inspire us to give generously of our substance so that, as partners with other Christians, we will be able to send forth more missionaries into far-flung regions of the earth.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, look with Your divine favor especially upon the ministry of Rev. Karim Baidaoui and his fellow co-workers in Christ at Disciples of the Way Ministries.  Keep them faithful to the Gospel. Give them a selfless devotion to their Savior and a love for souls that will not allow them to become discour¬aged or to withdraw from their fields of labor.  Bless, too, the Lutheran Mission Alliance as they financially support new liturgical congregations in our district, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, as they train men for the pastoral ministry, and Lutheran Heritage Foundation as they disseminate Lutheran Christian writings in our country as well as many others.

Grant Your tender, healing and restoring mercies to all who are ill, recovering from surgery, injury or illness, especially: _______.  We pray for the reduction of the coronavirus in our midst and worldwide, for the improvement of treatment, successful vaccines and for our and our loved one’s safekeeping.    

Send needed rains upon our land for the good of cattle and crops, for You are our providing Lord.

Watch over our Missouri Synod’s foreign and domestic missionaries and mission workers wherever they may serve.  Enable them to adjust to the rigors of their work and to the conditions under which they must live.  Keep them safe in times of danger. Spare them disease and ward off every kind of calamity.  Keep them, their families, and their congregations under your continual protection. Defend them lest they become victims of national unrest or of political oppression.  Give success to their labors. Grant the Word of salvation free course throughout the world, and cause it to be glorified in the hearts of men as it is in our hearts.  Forgive our many sins which not only merit condemnation but also make us unworthy to preach the Holy Name of Jesus.  It is in His Name that we make these petitions.  Amen.

KYRIE (LORD, HAVE MERCY)
C: Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.
(Mark 10:47)

LORD’S PRAYER

COLLECT (PRAYER) OF THE DAY
P:
Almighty God, in Your kindness You cause the light if the Gospel to shine among us.  By the working of Your Holy Spirit, help us to share the Good News of Your salvation, that all who hear it may rejoice in the gift of Your unending love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 
C: Amen. 

SALUTATION (GREETING)
P:
The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit. (2 Timothy 4:22)

COLLECT FOR GRACE
P:
O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day.  Defend us this day with Your mighty power and grant that we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

BENEDICAMUS (LET US BLESS THE LORD)
P:
Bless we the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God. (Psalm 103:1)

BENEDICTION (CLOSING BLESSING)
P:
The grace of our † Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
C: Amen.

CLOSING HYMN – ♫ 511, JESUS SHALL REIGN WHERE’ER THE SUN
1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun Does his successive journeys run, His kingdom stretch from shore to shore Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2. For Him shall endless prayer be made, And endless praises crown His head; His Name, like sweet perfume, shall rise With ev’ry morning sacrifice.

3. People and realms of ev’ry tongue Dwell on His love with sweetest song; And infant voices shall proclaim Their early blessings on His Name.

4. Blessings abound where’er He reigns; The pris’ner leaps, unloosed his chains, The weary find eternal rest, And all the sons of want are blest. 

5. Where He displays His healing power, Death and the curse are known no more; In Him the tribes of Adam boast More blessings than their father lost.

6. Let every creature rise and bring Peculiar honors to our King; Angels descend with songs again, And earth repeat the loud Amen.  Amen.

† TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY †
 

† DIVINE SERVICE OF THE WORD FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY (11.8.20), 
HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN, FEDOR; ST. JAMES LUTHERAN, LEXINGTON †

OPENING HYMN – ♫ 377, SALVATION UNTO US HAS COME
1. Salvation unto us has come By God’s free grace and favor; Good works cannot avert our doom, They help and save us never.  Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, Who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer.

2. What God did in His Law demand And none to Him could render Caused wrath and woe on every hand For man, the vile offender.  Our flesh has not those pure desires The spirit of the Law requires, And lost is our condition.

3. It was a false, misleading dream That God His Law had given That sinners should themselves redeem And by their works gain heaven.  The Law is but a mirror bright To bring the inbred sin to light That lurks within our nature.

4. From sin our flesh could not abstain, Sin held its sway unceasing; The task was useless and in vain, Our guilt was e’er increasing.  None can remove sin’s poisoned dart Or purify our guileful heart – So deep is our corruption.

5. Yet as the Law must be fulfilled Or we must die despairing, Christ came and hath God’s anger stilled, Our human nature sharing.  He hath for us the Law obeyed And thus the Father's vengeance stayed Which over us impended.

6. Since Christ hath full atonement made And brought to us salvation, Each Christian therefore may be glad And build on this foundation.  Thy grace alone, dear Lord, I plead, Thy death is now my life indeed, For Thou hast paid my ransom.

7. Let me not doubt, but trust in Thee, Thy Word cannot be broken; Thy call rings out, “Come unto Me!”  No falsehood hast Thou spoken.  Baptized into Thy precious Name, My faith cannot be put to shame, And I shall never perish.

8. All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise To Father, Son, and Spirit, The God that saved us by His grace – All glory to His merit!  O Triune God in heaven above, Who hast revealed Thy saving love, Thy blessed Name be hallowed.  Amen.

INVOCATION (CALLING UPONG GOD’S HOLY TRIUNE NAME)
Pastor:
In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)
Congregation: Amen.

CONFESSION & ABSOLUTION
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. (Psalm 124:8)

P: I said, “I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.
C: And Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

P: Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word, and deed.  Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
C: O most merciful God, Who hast given Thine only-begotten Son to die for us, have mercy upon us and for His sake grant us remission of all our sins; and by Thy Holy Spirit increase in us true knowledge of Thee and of Thy will and true obedience to Thy Word, to the end that by Thy grace we may come to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

P: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, hath had mercy upon us and hath given His only Son to die for us and for His sake forgiveth us all our sins.  To them that believe on His Name He giveth power to become the sons of God and hath promised them His Holy Spirit.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.  Grant this Lord, unto us all. (John 20:19-23)
C: Amen.

INTROIT (ENTRANCE PSALM)
P:
If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.  Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord!  Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!  O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130)
C: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

KYRIE (LORD, HAVE MERCY)
C: Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.
(Psalm 123:3)

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS (GLORY BE TO GOD ON HIGH)
C: Glory be to God on high: And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.  We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.  O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.  O Lord the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, That takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.  Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer.  Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.  For Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord.  Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father.  Amen. 

SALUTATION
P:
The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit. (2 Timothy 4:22)

COLLECT (PRAYER) OF THE DAY
P:
Almighty God, we thank You that for Your Son’s sake You have forgiven us all our debt and have graciously delivered us from the everlasting prison house.  And we implore You by Your Holy Spirit to preserve our hearts from ingratitude and cold-heartedness, and from having an unforgiving spirit, so that we do not again provoke Your anger against us.  Lead and guide us to gladly forgive our debtors and at all times to be assured of Your fatherly mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  
C: Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSONS: OLD TESTAMENT LESSON – MICAH 6:6-8
6:6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”  8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

At the conclusion of the reading:
P: This is the Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING OF THE CATECHISM (SEE ATTACHED)

EPISTLE LESSON – PHILIPPIANS 1:3-11
1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

At the conclusion of the reading:
P: This is the Word of the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God.

C: Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!

P: The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the 18th chapter.
C: Glory be to Thee, O Lord!

GOSPEL LESSON – MATTHEW 18:21-35
18:21 Then Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

At the conclusion of the reading:
P: This is the Gospel of the Lord.
C: Praise be to Thee, O Christ!

SERMON HYMN – ♫ 342, CHIEF OF SINNERS THOUGH I BE
1. Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me; Died that I might live on high, Lived that I might never die, As the branch is to the vine, I am His, and He is mine.

2. Oh, the height of Jesus' love! Higher than the heavens above, Deeper than the depths of sea, Lasting as eternity.  Love that found me – wondrous thought! – Found me when I sought Him not.

3. Jesus only can impart Balm to heal the smitten heart;  Peace that flows from sin forgiven, Joy that lifts the soul to heaven; Faith and hope to walk with God In the way that Enoch trod.

4. Chief of sinners though I be, Christ is All in all to me; All my wants to Him are known, All my sorrows are His own.  Safe with Him from earthly strife, He sustains the hidden life.

5. O my Savior, help afford By Thy Spirit and Thy Word!  When my wayward heart would stray, Keep me in the narrow way; Grace in time of need supply While I live and when I die.  Amen.

SERMON – FORGIVEN ENDLESSLY, FORGIVE UNLIMITEDLY – MT. 18:21-35
Out of pity for you, your Lord and Master forgives you all your debts. (See Mt. 18:27)  Amen.

The grace, mercy and peace of Jesus Christ rest upon each and every one of you this day.  Amen.  What does it mean to forgive a person – to really, truly forgive him or her from the heart, as Jesus puts it?  Perhaps the question we need to begin with is why do we forgive others?  Which automatically leads to the question St. Peter asks of Jesus: How many times do we have to forgive someone who sins against us? (See Mt. 18:21)  There has to be a limit, right?

Let’s begin with why we forgive others.  The answer is simple.  We forgive others because God has forgiven us.  We love because He first loved us.  Why does the king in the parable forgive his servant?  Because that’s just who he is.  The servant has nothing to offer the king.  All he can do is plead with his master to be merciful, and is his master ever merciful!  He has pity on the poor schlep.  After all, the man owes him an impossible debt to repay – an amount that can’t even begin to be comprehended.  In today’s money, ten thousand talents is roughly equivalent to 375 tons of gold or some fifteen billion dollars!  Even so, the king forgives it all.  He speaks the word, and that’s it – forgiven, erased, wiped clean.  There are no IOUs.  There aren’t any strings attached or fine print.  There’s no repayment plan established.  The king stands to gain nothing, and would only lose – and lose heavily.  And yet, in his mercy and grace, he forgives the man, totally and completely.

This, then, is what it means to forgive.  Not forgive and forget.  We can’t forget.  When someone hurts us, we’ll always remember that.  It will always be there.  So we can’t forget, but we can and must forgive.  When someone wrongs you, they are indebted to you.  To forgive someone is to not exact repayment from them.  Even though you may remember what they’ve done, you don’t seek repayment.  You don’t hold that charge against them.  To forgive is to release the debt.  This means you can’t forgive someone and then keep going back and seeking repayment.  You can’t forgive, only to keep bringing up the wrong the person did against you in an attempt to keep on exacting payment from him or her, whether it’s more contrition and sorrow, more guilt, more apologies or what have you.  Either a person is forgiven…or not. 

Look at this way: What if our Lord forgave us the same way we’re inclined to forgive others?  What if God forgave us in incremental measures?  What if His merciful love and forgiveness had a limit?  “Sorry, you’ve gone over the limit.  You’ve exceeded your allotted number of wrongs.  No more mercy for you for awhile.”  What if God kept remembering and stewing over and bringing up our past sin-debts, holding them against us, re-establishing the debt and demanding more repayment?  Such behavior on God’s part would make Him a liar since He in His Word promises us that “He will have compassion on us; He will remove our iniquities from us.  He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)  No sinner could ever stand for a second in God’s holy presence if He kept a record of our sins.  Thank goodness that He doesn’t.  “With Him is forgiveness, so that He is feared.” (Ps. 130:4)  

We can never hope to repay the impossible debt that is an eternity’s worth of sin.  Remember: the wages of sin – just one single transgression – is death.  How can we possibly repay the debt we owe God in that we’ve wronged Him?  We can’t, which is why God, out of His great love and mercy, pays your debt for you in His Son’s sacrificial, sin-atoning death for you, forgiving you. 

Now this brings up an important point.  God is a just God.  He doesn’t wink at sin or simply let sin slide.  God is a great accountant.  When He forgives us our incalculable, impossible-to-pay-back debt of sin, it’s not that the debt is simply erased from the books out of thin air.  It has to be paid by someone, and paid in-full.  Again, thanks be to Christ Who paid 100% of our debt off with His bitter suffering and death.  Jesus’ blood and righteousness was the currency that paid our debt.  His blood and righteousness is the only currency that can make satisfaction for your sin, my sin, and the sin of every last person on earth. 

So Jesus Himself is God’s payment for all your sins – upfront and all the way.  “While we were dead in our sin, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)  This is why Jesus is often referred to as our “ransom payment.”  God the Son died for your sins.  He died for you so that you have eternal life.  Make no mistake, though: This is all about forgiveness.  God has never demanded anything of you before forgiving you.  He has never established a repayment plan or merit system that enables you to earn your forgiveness in increments.  No!  He forgives you: all…at…once!  He has forgiven you in Christ and because of Him. 

It’s this very forgiveness from God in Christ to us that feeds the love and mercy that we’re to show – and do show – to others.  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgave those who trespass against us,” (Lord’s Prayer) we ask of God.  His forgiveness is not a goal or end point.  It’s the starting point.  God’s forgiveness of our sin is the reason we forgive everyone else – and not just people we prefer to forgive.  The forgiveness we show others flows from the forgiveness God has already given us.  God doesn’t forgive us in proportion to how much we forgive others.  “Forgive us as we forgive others.”  That’s not what our Lord teaches us to pray.  The king forgives the entire huge debt.  His forgiveness comes first and is complete and unconditional. 

Okay, but why do we pray for our forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer…and for God’s help in forgiving others?  Well, do we still sin, in spite of the Good News of our forgiveness in Christ?  Do we forgive others perfectly…just like God forgives us in Jesus?  No.  We do try, but the good we want to do, we don’t do, and the evil that we don’t want to do we keep on doing. (See Rom. 7:19)  So we cry out: “Have mercy on us, dear Lord!  Forgive us for not wanting to forgive others.  Help us to forgive them from the heart…just like You forgive us and all penitent people.”    

This is why we pray as we do to our heavenly Father.  We don’t forgive perfectly – far from it.  So we pray for His strength to help us forgive others; to release the sinful debts incurred against us.  We pray for His forgiveness for our weak, corrupted and imperfect forgiveness of others.  He gave His life for them too.  He paid their sin in full, just as He did for each and every one of our sins.  We cry out to Him to be merciful and patient with us in our own selfish sinfulness…and He is, each and every time.  If He’s merciful with us each and every time we cry out, should we not show that same mercy to others who are indebted to us for far, far less?

If we take our Lord’s forgiveness for granted – receiving His pardon but not forgiving others – then it won’t end well for us.  “Mercy for me, but not for thee” is never the way to go.  But, again, that’s not the main point of this parable.  Jesus is teaching us about the unconditional and incomprehensible mercy and grace of God, our Lord and King.  The focus is on Him.  To take this Gospel lesson and “law it up” with demands and threats regarding what you need to do in order to be forgiven completely corrupts and destroys what our Lord is teaching us, His believers and followers. 

Do we ever need to focus our eyes on our Lord and King; His mercy, grace, and loving compassion!  What could be better for us to hear than the forgiveness that is ours in Jesus Christ and because of Him?  This is the assurance and peace of total forgiveness that our Lord and King Himself baptizes us into and nourishes us with in His body and blood.

So we know the reason why Christians forgive, and that’s because Jesus forgives us to forgive one another.  God’s forgiveness to mankind is limitless.  That’s why our forgiveness isn’t to only be occasional or limited to a certain number of times, but endless too.  We forgive because we’re forgiven.  We love because God first loved us.  That’s all the reason faith needs. 

May the Good News of the Cross and your total, complete and eternal forgiveness grant you endless peace!  Forgive by never forgetting what Christ has done for you.  Amen.  The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

OFFERATORY (CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD)
C: ♫ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.  Amen. (Psalm 51:10-12)

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
P:
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.

For all who have been baptized into Christ, that, filled with the fruit of His righteousness, they would do justice, love kindness, walk humbly and have their love abound more and more, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For this congregation and all congregations in our Synod, that our members would love one another, bear one another’s burdens and be quick to forgive one another, so that all grudges and bitterness would be removed from among the people of God, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For mercy for ourselves, that we would be quick to show mercy to others, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For a right understanding of our own weakness and frailty, that we would not become proud but rather always hold fast to Christ and His forgiveness, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For growth in the knowledge of God’s Word, that we would rest securely in Christ, our Rock, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For the spread of sound Lutheran Christian teaching and preaching, the defeat of false teaching, and for protection from the assaults of the devil, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For the conversion of unbelievers to the Christian faith, that God would open the closed ears and hearts of unbelievers to hear His Mighty Word and believe in the Name of Jesus: let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy. 

For good stewardship among God’s children, that, recognizing that all they have is a gift from above, they would with thankful hearts faithfully support their congregations and be eager to share their blessings with those in need, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy. 

For our governing authorities, that they would lead according to God’s will so that the people of our land may live peaceful and quiet lives, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For all who are sick or suffering, who desire our prayers, including (names), that they would be relieved of their afflictions, according to the Lord’s will, or strengthened to endure, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

For all the faithful who have departed this vale of tears and now experience heavenly bliss, let us give thanks to the Lord; that we would be kept in the faith until our Lord Jesus returns in great glory, and join with them in the feast that never ends, let us pray to the Lord: C: Lord, have mercy.

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. C: Amen.

LORD’S PRAYER

HYMN – ♫ 529, I LEAVE ALL THINGS IN GOD’S DIRECTION
1. I leave all things to God’s direction, He loveth me in weal and woe; His will is good, true His affection.  With tender love His heart doth glow.  My Fortress and my Rock is He: What pleaseth God, that pleaseth me.

2. My God hath all things in His keeping, He is the ever faithful Friend; He grants me laughter after weeping, And all His ways in blessings end.  His love endures eternally: What pleaseth God, that pleaseth me.

3. The will of God shall be my pleasure While here on earth is mine abode; My will is wrong beyond all measure, It doth not will what pleaseth God.  The Christian’s motto e’er must be: What pleaseth God, that pleaseth me.

4. God knows what must be done to save me, His love for me will never cease; Upon His hands He did engrave me With purest gold of loving grace.  His will supreme must ever be!  What pleaseth God, that pleaseth me.

5. My God desires the soul's salvation, Me also He desires to save; Therefore with Christian resignation All earthly troubles I will brave.  His will be done eternally: What pleaseth God, that pleaseth me.  Amen.

CONCLUDING COLLECTS
P:
O God, our refuge and strength, and Author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of Your Church, especially in times of persecution, and grant that what we ask for in faith we may obtain; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 
C: Amen.

P: Heavenly Father, to Whom both power and mercy belong, and Who repays us according to our deeds, give us grace, we pray, to see Your presence before us in all our ways and to continually seek those things which are well-pleasing in Your sight, so that we may pass through this life as pilgrims and strangers, in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and ready to welcome the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in glory; Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

BENEDICTION (PARTING BLESSING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD)
P:
The Lord bless thee and keep thee.  The Lord make His face shine upon thee and be gracious to thee.  The Lord lift up His † countenance upon thee and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
C: Amen.

CLOSING HYMN – ♫ 341, CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS
1. Crown Him with many crowns The Lamb upon His throne; Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns All music but its own.  Awake, my soul, and sing Of Him who died for thee And hail Him as thy matchless King Through all eternity.

2. Crown Him the Virgin’s Son, The God incarnate born, Whose arm those crimson trophies won Which now His brow adorn; Fruit of the mystic rose, As of that rose the stem; The root whence mercy ever flows, The Babe of Bethlehem.

3. Crown Him the Lord of Love. Behold His hands and side, Rich wounds, yet visible above, In beauty glorified.  No angel in the sky Can fully bear that sight, But downward bends his wondering eye At mysteries so bright!

4. Crown Him the Lord of Life Who triumphed o’er the grave And rose victorious in the strife For those He came to save.  His glories now we sing Who died and rose on high, Who died eternal life to bring And lives that death may die.

5. Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, Enthroned in worlds above, Crown Him the King to Whom is given The wondrous name of Love.  Crown Him with many crowns As thrones before Him fall; Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns For He is King of all.  Amen.

† THE SERVICE OF MATINS FOR HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN, FEDOR, TX 
& ST. JAMES LUTHERAN, LEXINGTON, TX (LCMS) – ALL SAINTS’ DAY, 11.1.20 †

† IN THE NAME OF JESUS † 

OPENING HYMN – 467, BUILT ON THE ROCK THE CHURCH DOTH STAND
1. Built on the Rock the Church doth stand, Even when steeples are falling; Crumbled have spires in every land, Bells still are chiming and calling, Calling the young and old to rest, But above all the soul distrest, Longing for rest everlasting.

2. Surely in temples made with hands, God, the Most High, is not dwelling; High above earth His temple stands, All earthly temples excelling.  Yet He whom heavens cannot contain Chose to abide on earth with men, Built in our bodies His temple.

3. We are God’s house of living stones, Builded for His habitation; He through baptismal grace us owns Heirs of His wondrous salvation.  Were we but two His name to tell, Yet He would deign with us to dwell, With all His grace and His favor.

4. Now we may gather with our King E’en in the lowliest dwelling; Praises to Him we there may bring, His wondrous mercy forthtelling.  Jesus His grace to us accords; Spirit and life are all His words; His truth doth hallow the temple.

5. Here stands the font before our eyes Telling how God did receive us; The altar recalls Christ's sacrifice And what His table doth give us; Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.

6. Grant then, O God, where’er men roam, That, when the church-bells are ringing, Many in saving faith may come Where Christ His message is bringing: “I know Mine own, Mine own know Me; Ye, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you.” Amen.  Amen.

OPENING VERSES
Pastor:
O Lord, open Thou my lips.
Congregation: And my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. (Psalm 51:15)

P: Make haste, O God, to deliver me. 
C: Make haste to help me, O Lord. (Psalm 70:1)
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  Hallelujah!

INVITATORY (INVITATION TO WORSHIP)
P:
Oh, come, let us worship the Lord.
C: For He is our Maker. (Psalm 95:6)

CANTICLE (HYMN OF PRAISE): VENITE (OH, COME)
C: O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.  For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.  The deep places of the earth are in His hand; the strength of the hills is His also.  The sea is His, for He made it, and His hand formed the dry land.  O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
(Psalm 95:1-7) 
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.     

PSALM 116 (SELECTED VERSES)
C: I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.  Because He inclined His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.  The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.  Then I called on the Name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”  Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.  The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, He saved me.  Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.  For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.  I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.  What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.  Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.  I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the Name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.  In the courts of the House of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.  Praise the Lord!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSONS: FIRST LESSON – REVELATION 7:9-17
[The Apostle St. John writes:] 7:9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

SMALL CATECHISM READING – 8TH COMMANDMENT

SECOND/EPISTLE LESSON – 1 JOHN 3:1-3
3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.  2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

GOSPEL LESSON – MATTHEW 5:1-12
5:1 Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to him.
2 And He opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

SERMON HYMN – 463, FOR ALL THE SAINTS WHO FROM THEIR LABORS REST
1. For all the saints who from their labors rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confess, Thy Name, Jesus, be forever blest, Alleluia! Alleluia!

2. Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might; Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.  Alleluia! Alleluia!

3. Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold, Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.  Alleluia! Alleluia!

4. O blest communion, fellowship divine, We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.  Alleluia! Alleluia!

5. And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song, And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.  Alleluia! Alleluia!

6. But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day; The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His way.  Alleluia! Alleluia!

7. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast, Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Alleluia! Alleluia!

8. The golden evening brightens in the west; Soon, soon, to faithful warriors cometh rest.  Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.  Alleluia! Alleluia!  Amen.

SERMON – GOD’S ALL SAINTS’ DAY GIFTS OVERFLOW – MATTHEW 5:1-12
Blessed are you.  Amen.

Dear saints of God here at Holy Trinity/St. James; grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  A good way to view All Saints’ Day is as the “Christmas gift-giving day” of God to us, His beloved Church.  Just as children await Christmas Day as the time when they’ll find a bunch of gifts under the Christmas tree and elsewhere – to be eagerly opened one after the other – so does All Saints’ Day unwrap one precious gift of God after another for us.

The Festival of All Saint’s is the most comprehensive of all festival days in the Church Year as it touches upon many of the themes of the other festival days.  Whereas most of the other chief days of the Church Year like Christmas, Epiphany and Easter mainly address us as God’s saints still hear on earth – feebly struggling – All Saints’ Day also includes the great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded. (See Heb. 12:1)  Meaning that this day holds before our eyes of faith that great multitude which no one can number: all God’s saints in Christ from every nation, race, culture and      language – who have come out of the great tribulation [and] have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:9; 14)  As such, this Day sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our beloved Lord’s gracious salvation. (See Eph. 3:17-19)

All Saints’ Day shares with Easter a celebration of the resurrection of the dead – first our Lord’s resurrection, and then our resurrections and those of all the saints as well.

This Day shares with Pentecost a celebration of the ingathering of the one holy Christian and apostolic Church – in heaven and on earth, at all times and in all places – as the Body of Christ. 

And the Feast of All Saints shares with the final Sundays of the Church Year an end-times focus on the life everlasting and a firm belief and confession that the “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us and awaits us.” (Rom. 8:18) 

In gathering together many of the major themes of the other festival days on the Church calendar, All Saints’ Day fixes our eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, so that we do not grow weary or fainthearted. (See Heb. 12:2-3) (Adapted in part from Treasury of Daily Prayer) 

“A special day of celebration in remembrance of martyrs of the faith – or those who were killed for their confession of Christ – was observed already in the third-century Church.  In the next century, the date was set as May 13.  This remained the date until AD 835 when it was shifted to November 1.  A saint is not a perfect person holy by merit, but a person made holy by redemption in Christ; that is, any believer, living and departed.  This protects us from any tendency to emphasize the virtue of any human being, and keeps our faith focused on Christ alone.” (pericope.org; All Saints’ Day)

So God’s holy saints are people in heaven and on earth who believe in and worship Him.  Who trust the words of Holy Scripture: “Salvation belongs to [God] Who sits on His throne and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10) of God slain for sinners.  We’re living, breathing saints even now as we’ve been “sainted” by the Holy Spirit – made holy by faith alone in Jesus Christ.  St. Paul, in several of his letters to Churches, calls his Christian readers saints.  Doesn’t Paul call you saints of God as well, since his divinely-inspired epistles are also written for you to hear, read and believe?  He does!    

Therefore, according to God’s say-so, you certainly are His true saints!  As today is a commemoration day of the faithfully-departed over the past year in our Church – and of those who’ve been called home before then – our focus is especially on the sainted people of God who’ve already been lovingly called to His nearer presence.

We’re truly a united people in the Lord Jesus, though we’re separated for a bit yet from the heavenly saints.  Yes, we’re one in Jesus since we’ve been knit together as one in the mystical union of the Body of Christ.  We all wonderfully share in “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Eph. 4:5) as we’re joined by God together as one in His Son.  The mystical union of the Body of Christ doesn’t refer to some esoteric, out-there religious-philosophical principle.  It’s simply the divine truth that you’ve been joined together – with all saints past, present and to come – as one in the Body of Christ, His Church.  As a result, you share with them the one, common Christian faith; the one doctrine and confession of Christ as our one-and-only necessary Redeemer from sin, death and hell.  You also commune with all past, present and future saints of God here on earth and in heaven as you partake of the one body and blood of Jesus Christ…just as they do.  In Holy Communion, we’re always united first with Jesus in His body and blood…and then also with each other and with our fellow faithful communers in Christ all over the world and in heaven above!

Hallelujah!  Christ is risen indeed! we joyfully announce today as at Easter.  Really, every Sunday is Easter Day as we celebrate our Lord’s Easter Sunday resurrection for us and all people every Lord’s Day we gather together in His sanctuary.  Everyone who’s died with Christ – or who’s had his or her unbelief, sin and death put to death in the Crucified Christ – has also been raised with Him already! (See Rom. 6:3-8)  Raised to new, eternal life in Christ by faith alone in His saving Name.  If you and all past, present and future saints of God have been and will be raised to faith and new, wonderful life in Jesus, then this also means that you’ll be raised from the dead to life again on the Last Day when Jesus returns for you and all His elect saints.  

St. Paul joins our Baptismal death to sin and death and our Baptismal resurrection to faith and new, eternal life in Christ to our bodily resurrection to come in the following words: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,       where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ Who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-4)  So yes, look to Jesus alone and all His heavenly gifts for you while you make your way as Christian pilgrims from here to heaven.  Set your hearts and minds on Christ and His Church, His Word and His Sacraments – above and beyond all other people, places and things in this brief life.  You’ve died in Christ, you now live in Christ, and He’ll soon appear to you and to all the faithful and share His endless glory with you all in His heavenly home!

Just as the Day of Pentecost proclaims the wonderful work of God the Holy Spirit as He unites all believers in the one Lord Jesus Christ and in the one holy Christian Church of God, so does All Saints’ Day declare the unity of all devout Christians of all times and in all places – again, including even heaven.  We sometimes speak of God’s Holy Church as scattered all over the world, and to our eyes, that’s certainly the way it looks.  In God’s eyes, His whole Church is really one united body of believers…united in Christ and His Spirit, in teaching and belief – worldwide and heaven-wide!  Pentecost celebrates this Christian unity here on earth – what Ephesians 4:3 calls “the unity of the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace.”  All Saints’ does the same thing, adding the heavenly saints of God to this Jesus-and-His-Spirit unity.  So when you worship, pray, confess God the Holy Trinity, and feast on Jesus’ body and blood, you do so not just with your fellow saints here on earth, but also with your fellow heavenly saints who do these things in glory above.

The Last Sunday of the Church year – November 22 – is only three weeks away.  Advent begins already at the end of this month – how time flies!  Today we even get the end of the Church year a bit early as we’re drawn to the portion of the Apostles’ Creed where we believe and confess that “from [the right hand of God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ our Lord] will come to judge the quick and the dead.”  We further believe and confess God “the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” 

So rejoice in the Christmas gift giving-like day of All Saints’ Sunday!  Be glad that since Christ is arisen, we’ve also been raised to faith and new life in Him, and will be raised by Him to endless, glorious life on the Last Day.  Be at peace with God since He’s knit you and all His saints on earth and in heaven together as the one mystical Body of Christ.      

The best of God’s gifts to you today – as always – is Jesus…just like at Christmas!  So blessed are you who are in Christ; you who are poor in spirit: troubled in conscience over your many sins, but all-the-more-so confident in Jesus, your Savior from sin and worse.  Blessed are you who mourn the terrible effects of sin in this world, which is every evil, including death and all other woes.  God has you in His hands; He’ll comfort you!  Blessed are you who are meek in Christ – not self-infatuated and in love with this short-lived world – but rather fixed on Jesus your Savior.  You’ll inherit a new heaven and a new earth!  Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for Jesus’ righteousness in His Word and Sacraments; you’ll never be spiritually-starved or parched in this place!  Blesses are you who are merciful: kind and considerate, loving, forgiving in Jesus.  He’s always that way to you.  Blessed are you who’s hearts are purified by the blood of the Crucified.  You shall see God face to face in the glories of Paradise!  Blessed are you who are peacemakers – seeking God’s peace in your life and in the lives of others.  You’re God’s true sons and daughters. 

Blessed be God our heavenly Father, Who, according to His saving Word, His Baptismal grace and His Son’s life-giving body and blood, makes saints of us all!  Amen.  In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

CANTICLE: MAGNIFICAT (MY SOUL MAGNIFIES)
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden.  For behold, from this day all generations will call me blessed.  For the Mighty One has done great things to me, and holy is His Name; and His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.  He has helped His servant Israel in the remembrance of His mercy as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His Seed forever. (Luke 1:46-55) 
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.     

REMEMBRANCE OF THE FAITHFULLY DEPARTED

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have knit Your chosen people together into one communion in the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Give to Your whole Church in heaven and on earth Your light and Your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Gracious God, grant that all who have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection may die to sin and rise to newness of life and so pass with Him through the gate of death and the grave to our joyful resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Grant that all who have been nourished by the holy body and blood of Your Son may be raised to immortality and incorruption and seated with Him at Your heavenly banquet; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Dear Father, give to all the families that have mourned, this past year, the passing of their loved ones in Christ comfort in their sorrow and a sure confidence in Your loving care.  Bless all who’ve lost grandparents, parents, children, other relatives and dear friends in the faith with Your holy consolation, that we, casting all our sorrow and longing on You, may know the consolation of Your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Always keep our hearts zealous for our holy faith in You, O Father, that we would be faithful unto death, receiving the crown of life on the Last Day.  Strengthen us in the holy communion of Your Church, that we may have fortitude to not neglect meeting together in the Lord’s house and Divine Worship, but that we may each encourage one another all the more in Your Church, especially as the Day of the Lord approaches.  Assure us of our holy and certain hope in You, and of the joyful expectation of eternal life with those whom we love who’ve departed in the faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We give thanks to You, dear Lord, for the lives of those in this congregation as well as others close to us whom you have called home this past year, and for all the blessings You bestowed on them in their earthly lives.  Bring us at last to our heavenly home, that with them, we may see You face to face in the joys of Paradise, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ruler of all, You have given us this good land as your heritage.  Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will.  Bless our country with honest industry, truthful education and an honorable way of life.  Save us from violence, discord and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action.  Grant that we, who came from many nations with many different languages, may become a united people.  Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom You have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land.  When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Look with mercy on all those for whom we pray, granting them healing, comfort and an enlivened, joyful spirit: [Holy Trinity] Betty, Edna, Carolyn, Herbert, Andrew, Ricky, Franklin, [St. James] Ernest, Larry, Ginger, Doug, Robert, Charles, Walter, Shelby, Lorine, Stephanie, Scott, Angie and Amber.  Unite our prayers with theirs, that they would be revived in body and spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

O God of all grace, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to bring life and immortality to light. We give You thanks that by His death He destroyed the power of death, and by His resurrection He opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Strengthen us in the glad confidence that because He lives we shall live also, and that neither death nor life nor things present nor things to come will be able to separate us from Your love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Whose Kingdom will have no end, and Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

KYRIE (LORD, HAVE MERCY)
C: Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.
(Mark 10:47)

LORD’S PRAYER

COLLECT (PRAYER) OF THE DAY
P:
O almighty God, Who has knit together Your elect saints in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of Your Son, Christ Jesus our Lord: Grant us grace to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which You have prepared for all those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen. 

SALUTATION (GREETING)
P:
The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit. (2 Timothy 4:22)

COLLECT FOR GRACE
P:
O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day.  Defend us this day with Your mighty power and grant that we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

BENEDICAMUS (LET US BLESS THE LORD)
P:
Bless we the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God. (Psalm 103:1)

BENEDICTION (CLOSING BLESSING)
P:
The grace of our † Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
C: Amen.

CLOSING HYMN – 656, BEHOLD A HOST ARRAYED IN WHITE
1. Behold a host, arrayed in white, Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright, With palms they stand.  Who is this band Before the throne of light?  Lo, these are they of glorious fame Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood of Jesus’ blood Are cleansed from guilt and blame.  Now gathered in the holy place, Their voices they in worship raise, Their anthems swell where God doth dwell, Mid angels’ songs of praise.

2. Despised and scorned, they sojourned here; But now, how glorious they appear!  Those martyrs stand a priestly band, God's throne forever near.  So oft, in troubled days gone by, In anguish they would weep and sigh, At home above the God of Love For aye their tears shall dry.  They now enjoy their Sabbath rest, The paschal banquet of the blest; The Lamb, their Lord, at festal board Himself is Host and Guest.

3. Then hail, ye mighty legions, yea, All hail! Now safe and blest for aye, And praise the Lord, who with His Word Sustained you on the way.  Ye did the joys of earth disdain, Ye toiled and sowed in tears and pain.  Farewell, now bring your sheaves and sing Salvation's glad refrain.  Swing high your palms, lift up your song, Yea, make it myriad voices strong, Eternally shall praise to Thee, God, and the Lamb belong.  Amen.

† TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY †
 

† THE SERVICE OF MATINS FOR HOLY TRINITY, FEDOR, TX & ST. JAMES, 
LEXINGTON, TX (LCMS) – THE FESTIVAL OF THE REFORMATION, 10.25.20 †

† IN THE NAME OF JESUS † 

OPENING HYMN – 262, A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD
1. A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon; He helps us free from every need That hath us now o’ertaken.  The old evil Foe Now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight;
On Earth is not his equal.

2. With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.  Ask ye, Who is this?  Jesus Christ it is.  Of Sabaoth Lord, And there's none other God; He holds the field forever.

3. Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us.  We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us.  This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.

4. The Word they still shall let remain Nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain With His good gifts and Spirit.  And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.  Amen.

OPENING VERSES
Pastor:
O Lord, open Thou my lips.
Congregation: And my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. (Psalm 51:15)

P: Make haste, O God, to deliver me. 
C: Make haste to help me, O Lord. (Psalm 70:1)
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.  Hallelujah!

INVITATORY (INVITATION TO WORSHIP)
P:
Oh, come, let us worship the Lord.
C: For He is our Maker. (Psalm 95:6)

CANTICLE (HYMN OF PRAISE): VENITE (OH, COME)
C: O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.  For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.  The deep places of the earth are in His hand; the strength of the hills is His also.  The sea is His, for He made it, and His hand formed the dry land.  O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. (Psalm 95:1-7) 
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.     

PSALM 46
C: God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble.  2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.  6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters his voice, the earth melts.  7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Fortress.  8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, how He has brought desolations on the earth.  9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire.  10 “Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.     

SCRIPTURE LESSONS: FIRST LESSON – REVELATION 14:6-7
6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.  7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him Who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

SMALL CATECHISM READING – 7TH COMMANDMENT (& 6th - make-up from last week)

SECOND/EPISTLE LESSON – ROMANS 3:19-28
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 Whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.  26 It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting?  It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By a law of works?  No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

GOSPEL LESSON – JOHN 8:31-36
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that You say, ‘You will become free?’”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

After the reading:
P: But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
C: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!

SERMON HYMN – 261, LORD, KEEP US STEADFAST IN THY WORD
1. Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word; Curb those who fain by craft and sword Would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son And set at naught all He hath done.

2. Lord Jesus Christ, Thy power make known, For Thou art Lord of lords alone; Defend Thy Christendom that we May evermore sing praise to Thee.

3. O Comforter of priceless worth.  Send peace and unity on earth.  Support us in our final strife And lead us out of death to life.  Amen.

SERMON – JESUS IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT IS BY FAITH – ROMANS 3:19-28
“We hold that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Rom. 3:28)  Amen.

Dear saints of God, justified by God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, apart from the works of the Law: The chief article of our faith as Lutheran Christians; the heart-and-center of our theology or belief in God’s Word, is summed up in Article 4 of our Augsburg Confession on Justification By Faith Alone: “[We believe, teach and confess that we] cannot be justified before God by [our] own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when [we] believe that [we] are received into favor, and that [our] sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, Who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins.  This faith God imputes [or reckons to us] for righteousness in His sight.” (See Rom. 3 & 4)  

The second greatest article of our faith as Lutherans is the Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.  “We confess and teach that there is a difference between God’s Word of Law and His Word of Gospel.  This difference must be guarded and maintained with careful diligence so that the two teachings are not confused and so that the Gospel is not changed into the Law.  Should that happen, the merits of Christ would be obscured and the sweetest comfort of the Gospel would be snatched away from those whose consciences are troubled.  This comfort is in the Gospel of Christ when it is faithfully preached.  By this Gospel sinners are sustained when they are in the most intense temptations before the terrors of the Law.

Strictly speaking, the Law is a doctrine, divinely revealed, which teaches what is right and acceptable to God.  It also opposes whatever is sin and contrary to God’s will.  The Gospel, on the other hand, must be treasured as a doctrine which teaches what we, who cannot satisfy the Law, and are therefore damned by it, should believe that Jesus Christ has taken all our sins upon Himself and has made satisfaction for them.  He has forgiven us sinners, established His righteousness before God and has obtained eternal life for us not by any intervention of ours, but by His merits alone.” (See Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 10:8-13; 2 Cor. 3:9; Gal. 3: 11-12) (A. Calov) 

Armed with the understanding that the Law and the Gospel are to be separated and distinguished from each other, let’s look at the Epistle Lesson appointed for the Festival of the Reformation: Romans 3:19-28.  St. Paul writes, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Rom. 3:19)  The Law speaks very clearly to us since we’re all under it, or completely subject to its warnings, demands, accusations, indictments, condemnations and its instructions for godly living.  No one on earth can rightly argue with God or honestly object to the way He uses His Holy Law, which is chiefly to judge and condemn all sinners in their great guilt…so that He may then have mercy on us all in His Son. (See Rom. 11:32)  We’re all silenced as we try to plead “not-guilty” to the heavenly court…or in our attempt to accuse God of being loveless toward us in His Law.  Every one of us is held accountable to God and the strict demands of the Law which He lays on us.  Do we ever need this, though it isn’t comforting or a joyous reality for us.    

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in God’s sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)  Believe as we might, try as we might, there’s no way that we can ever make it so that we’re declared holy before God, righteous in His sight, by our obedience to His Law.  The Law simply doesn’t work this way or ever permit it.  It shows us our sins and our total need for our Savior and His salvation from outside ourselves.  The Apostle Paul writes similarly to the Galatians, “All who rely on works of the law are under a curse.  For it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’” (Gal. 3:10)  

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.” (Rom. 3:21)  Here St. Paul switches course in a huge way as everything changes – his overall tone, message and the outcome that God desires for His people.  The Law has had its say.  Now it’s silenced in favor of the Gospel!  Now the righteousness of God, or His kind, favorable regard and judgment toward us hurting sinners has been fully revealed to us in a way that has nothing at all to do with the Law.  Actually, the Law and the Prophets have even testified about the Gospel of Jesus Christ already, so important is it!  Indeed, all Scripture has proclaimed it from the rooftops!  “The Lord our God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Ex. 34:6)  “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” (Jer. 31:34) the Lord says.

“The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [is] for all who believe.  For there is no distinction.” (Rom. 3:22)  “To all Who did receive [Christ Jesus,] who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become the children of God, who were born…of God.” (Jn. 3:12-13)  God promises His very own perfect righteousness to all who’re baptized or reborn in Him, who hear and believe in Him and His Son.  Faith is the gift of God the Father, from the Holy Spirit, by which we passively receive the saving righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Godly faith is God’s gift and action entirely by which the Holy Spirit works trust in Christ in our hearts.  Paul says further of faith in Romans 5:1 “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In writing that there is no distinction, St. Paul is saying that neither the Law nor the Gospel “picks favorites.”  The Law mows us all down equally for our sin.  The Gospel isn’t just for some people and not for others since God invites, calls and urges everyone to call upon His Holy Name and be saved. (See Rom. 10:13)  

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:23)  Every last man, woman and child on earth has grievously sinned against God and neighbor so as to entirely fall short of and miss out on the glory of God, losing Him and His favor completely.  Yep, we’ve all condemned ourselves before God, and more-than-deserve eternal damnation for it.  But by His grace and favor alone toward us in our dear Savior Jesus, God the Father has redeemed us or bought us back – freeing us from our slavery to sin, death, devil and hell…and making us His true sons and daughters for keeps!  “The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23b)          

“God put [Christ Jesus] forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Rom. 3:25)  “God sent His Son…to redeem us who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as” (Gal. 4:4-5) His children.  Our Savior Jesus came to redeem us or, again, to purchase and win us back to the Father!  He did so “not with gold or silver” or with all the riches of this world, which in the end are really worth nothing, but with His own precious blood – “a Lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19)  We believe that Christ shed His blood and died to save us from our sins, once more, by God’s gift of faith only.  The wonderful aspect of God’s righteousness that Paul next mentions is that He’s passed over the sins we’ve committed, not counting any of them against us, but against Christ judged on His cross for us.

In this way, God shows us “His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26)  God is just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (See 1 Jn. 1:9)  He declares you and all who have faith in Jesus righteous and blameless in His sight.  Now you’re just too…just like God is!  “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17)    

“Then what becomes of our boasting?  It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By a law of works?  No, but by the law of faith.” (Rom. 3:27)   In whom should we boast?  In ourselves?  In another person?  In God?  No, no and yes!  We definitely should never boast in ourselves.  More than self-pride and arrogance in general, this has to do with us boasting in our own righteousness and works before God.  We have no righteousness of our own, and we never will.  We’re spiritual debtors to God, daily in need of His forgiving and cancelling the sin-debt we rack up.  With our debt erased and gone in Jesus, we then need His holiness and righteousness credited to us, which He gladly does!  All our works meant to gain God’s grace and favor are only stinking, rotting rags reeking in His nostrils. (See Is. 64:6)  Christ’s atoning work is your life and salvation in God!          

So “let the person who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 10:17)  It’s not God’s Law that enables and moves us to boast in the Lord rather than in ourselves.  We boast in Him thanks to the Gospel, by faith alone, or what Paul calls the law or “rule of faith.”    

“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Rom. 3:28)  At the start of today’s Epistle reading, we heard how we’re all alike under God’s Law, or equally held accountable to it.  True.  But there’s a better truth than this!  Paul writes later in Romans, “You are not under the law, but under grace.” Rom. 6:14)  God’s Law certainly accuses and condemns us for all its worth.  But the grace of God in Christ Jesus saves us all the more so, delivering us from divine wrath and judgment forever!  “Praise be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)  Amen.  In the Name of Jesus.  Amen. 

CANTICLE: BENEDICTUS (BLESSED BE THE LORD) 
C: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has come to His people and redeemed them.  He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of His servant David.  Through His holy prophets He promised of old that He would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.  He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant.  This was the oath that He swore to our Father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight, all the days of our life.  You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.  In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:68-79) 
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.     

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Let us pray to the Lord, our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble, beseeching Him to have mercy upon us and to hear us. 

Lord God, while we travel as pilgrims here on earth, give us comfort in the knowledge that You have called us to be Your disciples through water and the Word.  In the midst of difficult times, when waters roar and foam and mountains tremble, give us confidence in knowing that we have been set free by Your Son, and so we are free indeed! 

Heavenly Father, Who after long ages of darkness delivered the Church from the bondage of religious error, we thank You for those faithful witnesses through whom You restored the Gospel of Christ to men, and we praise You that this blessed light has been preserved for us to this present age.  All glory be to You alone, O Lord, for making known among us the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Savior.  Defend Your Church against all her enemies.  Seek and save the lost and all who have gone astray from Your path of righteousness.  Preserve among us Your pure Word and Holy Sacraments.  Turn our hearts away from false, evil teachings that obscure Your Holy Gospel, and that deny Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Who alone saves us unto You from sin, death and judgment.  Direct and strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in the confession of Your Word all the days of our lives, and in the end, by Your grace, obtain everlasting life.

As Your dear children, we are called to love You, our neighbor and even our enemy.  Give us willing hearts to love You and all people as ourselves because You first loved us.

You, O Lord, are greater than the one who is in the world, prowling and seeking to devour us.  Deliver us from the old evil foe, knowing that he cannot harm us because he has been defeated by Your Son’s death and resurrection.  Give us strength to resist Satan, and keep us firm in the faith You have given us. 

Merciful God, look to the needs of the sick.  Deliver them from their afflictions.  Grant relief to the suffering. Give comfort to the grief-stricken.  We especially remember before You: _______.  Relieve, also, our state, nation and world of the ongoing pandemic.

We thank You, dear heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept us this night from all harm and danger; and we pray that You would keep us this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and lives may please You.  For into Your hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls, and all things.  Let Your holy angel be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us.  Amen.

KYRIE (LORD, HAVE MERCY)
C: Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.
(Mark 10:47)

LORD’S PRAYER

COLLECT (PRAYER) OF THE DAY
P:
Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people.  Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 
C: Amen.

SALUTATION (GREETING)
P:
The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit. (2 Timothy 4:22)

COLLECT FOR GRACE
P:
O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day.  Defend us this day with Your mighty power and grant that we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

BENEDICAMUS (LET US BLESS THE LORD)
P:
Bless we the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God. (Psalm 103:1)

BENEDICTION (CLOSING BLESSING)
P:
The grace of our † Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
C: Amen.

CLOSING HYMN – 373, BY GRACE I’M SAVED, GRACE FREE AND BOUNDLESS 
1. By grace I’m saved, grace free and boundless; My soul, believe and doubt it not.  Why stagger at this word of promise?  Hath Scripture ever falsehood taught?  Nay; then this word must true remain; By grace thou, too, shalt heav’n obtain.

2. By grace!  None dare lay claim to merit; Our works and conduct have no worth.  God in His love sent our Redeemer, Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth; His death did for our sins atone, And we are saved by grace alone.

3. By grace! Oh, mark this word of promise When thou art by thy sins opprest, When Satan plagues thy troubled conscience, And when thy heart is seeking rest.  What reason cannot comprehend God by His grace to thee doth send.

4. By grace God’s Son, our only Savior, Came down to earth to bear our sin.  Was it because of thine own merit That Jesus died thy soul to win?  Nay, it was grace, and grace alone, That brought Him from His heavenly throne.

5. By grace!  This ground of faith is certain; So long as God is true, it stands.  What saints have penned by inspiration, What in His Word our God commands, What our whole faith must rest upon, Is Grace alone, grace in His Son.

6. By grace to timid hearts that tremble, In tribulation's furnace tried – By grace, despite all fear and trouble, The Father's heart is open wide.  Where could I help and strength secure If grace were not my anchor sure?  Amen.

† TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY †
 

    HOLY TRINITY & ST. JAMES LUTHERAN CHURCHES
    PO Box 247
    Lexington, Texas 78947
    PH: 979.773.2634
    lexington.fedor.lcms@gmail.com
    ABOUT US

    We are two conservative, confessional Lutheran churches of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, who, in faithfulness toward God, gather around His Holy Word and Sacraments.

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