“Whoever believes what the Gospel declares, has what it says.” Martin Luther
Advent. Jesus came humbly to Jerusalem, and suffered the humiliation of the cross, for us. And Jesus continues to come to us, humbly in his Word—in a word of absolution, in a handful of water, and in bread and wine.
Martin Luther preached thousands of sermons. While he was still alive they began to be collected into books of sermons for each Sunday of the Church Year. They were called “Postils” from the Latin words post ille, or “after this.” “This” was the Holy Gospel for the day. “After” the text came the sermon. Luther’s House Postils are especially significant. They are sermons for the Church Year, each preached by Luther and carefully written down. They were preached at Luther’s house in Wittenberg where he’d gather friends and family for services other than the main service at church Sunday morning.
Luther’s sermons are ever fresh and full of life. They are pulsating with stern, damning Law, and sweet, forgiving Gospel. Luther talks directly to his hearers, never over their heads or simply “at” them. He was convinced above all that it is the preacher’s sacred task to step into the office of Christ to which he’s been called, and to let fly with the Word of God in full force—the word doing exactly what it says and promises.
For centuries Lutheran pastors and laypeople alike have been consoled by Luther’s clear explication of the Gospel of Jesus. For centuries people have learned from these sermons what a Lutheran sermon is. For centuries pastors have learned how Lutherans preach from these sermons. As much flexibility as there is in preaching, there is finally a biblical and Lutheran content.
Lutheran preaching does not merely talk about the Law and the Gospel or this or that teaching. Lutheran preaching delivers the goods. It actually speaks the very word of God which kills and makes alive. Lutheran preaching dares to say “you are the man” to sinners, and “Christ came for you” to penitent sinners!
Aside from constant study of the Bible, I could hardly commend any reading more highly than Walther’s Law and Gospel, and Luther’s House Postils. Enjoy the excepts below from Luther’s sermon for the First Sunday in Advent.
Blessed Advent! Come Thou blessed Savior come!
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee.” [Zechariah 9:9] Don’t gawk with your eyes but let your ears give insight to your eyes. Your King has no great stallion, no spurs, no saddle; he is poor and rides a donkey. And yet there’s no king like him; he removes your sin, rescues you from death and hell, and gives you everlasting holiness and righteousness, eternal life and blessedness. So don’t pay any heed to the wretched way in which he comes and then later also shamefully dies on the cross. For he does this all for your sake as Savior to help you, to sanctify you and rescue you from death.
If we don’t want to understand this with our ears, but accept only that which our eyes see and our hands touch, we will miss our King and be lost. There’s a big difference between this King and other kings. With the latter everything is outward pomp, great and gallant appearance, magnificent air. But not so with Christ. His mission and work it is to help against sin and death, to justify and bring life. He has placed his help in baptism and the Sacrament, and incorporated it in the Word and preaching. To our eyes Baptism appears to be nothing more than ordinary water, and the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood simple bread and wine, like other bread and wine, and the sermon, hot air from a man’s mouth. But we must not trust what our eyes see, but listen to what this King is teaching us in his Word and Sacrament, namely, I poured out my blood to save you from your sins, to rescue you from death and bring you into heaven; to that end I have given you baptism as a gift for the forgiveness of sins, and preach to you unceasingly by word of mouth concerning this treasure, sealing it with the Sacrament of my body and blood, so that you need never doubt. True, it seems little and insignificant, that by the washing of water, the Word, and the Sacrament this should all be effected. But don’t let your eyes deceive you. At that time, it seemed like a small and insignificant thing for him to come riding on a borrowed donkey and later be crucified, in order to take away sin, death, and hell. No one could tell this by his appearance, but the prophet foretold it, and his work later fulfilled it. Therefore we must simply grasp it with our ears and believe it with our hearts, for our eyes are blind . . .
Dollars, crowns, castles, and vast kingdoms don’t constitute his mission. For if we depended on that and died, our life would be nothing. But it is his office and work that we know that through his suffering and death we are redeemed. On this we rest and can say: through the righteousness of my King, the Lord Jesus Christ, I am justified. For that purpose he became poor and wretched, let himself be nailed to the cross, to make me holy and to drown sin and death in me. Whoever believes what the gospel declares has what it says. For that purpose Christ instituted holy baptism, thereby to clothe you with his righteousness. It is a tantamount to his saying, My righteousness shall be your righteousness; my innocence, your innocence. Your sins indeed are great, but by baptism I bestow on you my righteousness; I strip death from you and clothe you with my life. That’s Christ’s true regimen; his office and mission are summed up in this, that he daily strips away our sin and death and clothes us with his righteousness and life . . .
Therefore I exhort that you listen eagerly and lovingly to this Word, receive it with deep gratitude, and beseech the Lord God from the bottom of your heart for a firm faith to cling to this teaching. You may be certain that this will bear fruit day by day, as you become more humble, obedient, loving, chaste, and godly, for it is in the nature and art of this teaching to create godly, decent, obedient and pious people.
Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent
Second Sermon (1533)
The Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils (Baker, 1996), 1:27 ff.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Matthew Harrison on November 30, 2010 at 9:48 am, and is filed under Matt's Posts. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
about 1 year ago - Comments Off on Treasury of Daily Prayer – December 13
I skipped a couple days ahead in the Treasury of Daily Prayer to a devotional reading for December 13 (pages 1008–1012). It happens to include some of my favorite scripture readings and hymn, and highlights the Commemoriation of Lucia martyred in AD 304. The name Lucia means “light” and this devotion has depth and thoughtfulness…
about 2 years ago - Comments Off on Connecting.the.Dots
All of us find our emotions reeling this weekend in the aftermath of the horrible destruction of innocent childrens’ lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Random senseless shootings are awful every time. Random senseless shootings of young children too small to defend themselves strike us as even more awful. Without wishing to minimize in any way this terrible tragedy and this weekend’s…
about 2 years ago - Comments Off on Reflections on Drinking from a Stream……whose source one denies.
This time of year, in my travels, I see quite a few Christmas displays. There are front yard efforts ranging from the simple with a few lights to the elaborate computer-generated extravaganza. Most stores and malls will put up “Holiday” decorations to enhance their sales. TV stations have little jingles that have a way of…
about 2 years ago - Comments Off on Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! – Advent Thoughts
Jesus said, “Surely, I am coming soon!” And the Church responds, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). These words, found in the closing verses of the Book of Revelation, and echoed even in our “common table prayer,” form the believer’s response to the message of Advent. Our Lord Christ has come. “Unto us a child…
about 3 years ago - Comments Off on The Hope of the Incarnation
May God grant you and yours a wonderful celebration of our Savior’s birth. Merry Christmas to one and all! There is no more profound proclamation of the message of Christmas, no more poignant explanation of “the reason for the season” than this passage from the letter to the Hebrews. Here is my rendering of Hebrews…
about 3 years ago - Comments Off on Much More To Come: Reflections On An Advent Hymn
Christmas is almost here, but allow me just a little Advent, still. One of my favorite hymns for Advent shows us there is so much more to come! Check out LSB 348, “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns” (Lutheran Service Book,#348, text and tune, public domain). The King shall come when morning dawns And…
about 3 years ago - Comments Off on A Shower of Grace
This Advent, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison urges Christians to offer prayers of repentance as well as prayers of thanksgiving for God’s Word and grace. Downloads Video File (147 MB) Transcript Learn More Advent is not simply pre-Christmas. Learn more about this unique season of the Church Year by reading the Rev. Hans Fiene’s “How…
about 4 years ago - 2 comments
Could any preacher preach the Gospel more powerfully or more profoundly than St. Ambrose has done here . . . and for over sixteen centuries?
Comments are closed.