The theme for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost is True Worship. The Pharisees of Christ’s day gave lip-service to the Word of God. They were outwardly pious, and even devised new rules to follow, in order to promote their self-righteousness, but in reality, their hearts were not right. They were not really interested in the fulfillment of God’s promises of a Savior in Christ Jesus; they were sure that they could earn favor with God on their own terms.
No one can do this. We have, for the last several weeks, been reading through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for our epistle lessons. Paul leaves no room for doubt when he tells us ( and all people), ‘You were dead in your trespasses and sins.’ Dead men do not make decisions for Christ; dead men do not co-operate with God in their own salvation, nor contribute to it in any way. Dead people need to be resurrected. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament, and not through any of our own efforts.
Monday, 17 August 2009—Psalm 26:1–2, 6–7; Antiphon, Psalm 26:8—The one who places his trust in the Lord, who loves the habitation of His house, and the place where His glory dwells, is righteous in the eyes of the Lord. He is vindicated and innocent. Having been freed from the punishment for sin, he proclaims thanksgiving aloud, telling all the wondrous deeds of the Lord.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009—Psalm 14—Like last week’s Introit, this psalm shows the folly of disbelieving in God: The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ The entire psalm, then, is a study in the futility of those who have no fear of God. Ultimately, they will experience great terror, whilst for the one who is righteous by faith, the Lord is his refuge.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009—Isaiah 29:11–19—On the Day of the Lord, the folly of wicked men shall be revealed, and shown for what it is. Those hypocrites who draw near to the Lord with their mouths, while their hearts are far from Him will be exposed. But for those who humbly trust in the Lord, knowing that they can never rely on themselves for their own salvation, they shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, they shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
Thursday, 20 August 2009—Ephesians 5:22–33—The marriage bond between husband and wife is not just some sort of social contract for good order. It is ordained by God, and is a representation of the relationship between Christ and His Church. The world will hear the submission of wives to their husbands as servile subjection, but this is incorrect. As Christ gave Himself up for the Church, so husbands are to sacrifice themselves for their wives. How much easier, then, is the task of a wife to live in submission to such a husband! It is no task at all, but a position of joy, as it is for the Church to submit to Christ.
Friday, 21 August 2009—Mark 7:1–13—The Pharisees took God’s Law seriously. However, they thought that they could justify themselves by following its dictates. In fact, they added to the Law of God both to assist themselves in keeping it, and in order to measure their own righteousness, especially in comparison to others. Here, they chastise the disciples of the Lord Jesus for not following their traditions of washings and ablutions before eating. But Jesus, knowing the condition of their hearts, knowing that they grumbled against and rejected Him, the promised Messiah, uses the words of the prophet Isaiah against them. These hypocrites sought to follow their own way, not God’s way.
Saturday, 22 August 2009—Sunday’s hymn of the day, Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain (LSB 865), is a prayer that we may remain faithful to Scripture, especially the chief parts of Christian doctrine, as taught in the Catechism. This is not some man-made tradition like the traditions of the Pharisees. We hold to the teachings of the catechism because they are a clear and simple exposition of the Scriptures themselves.
Collect for Pentecost 12—Almighty and merciful God, defend Your Church from all false teaching and error that Your faithful people may confess You to be the only true God and rejoice in Your good gifts of life and salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Written by Pr. Jeffrey Keuning pastor of St. John, Dexter Iowa and Zion, Casey, Iowa