Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

8th Sunday Pentecost – Guest preacher The Rev. Dr. Brian German

8th Sunday Pentecost     25th Ordination Anniversary of The Rev. Kevin W. Martin

The Rev. Dr. Brian German – Guest preacher

“Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

I bring greetings from Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin, where the weather is a bit cooler and the BBQ is a bit lacking. It’s good to be with you again!

Six years ago, on this same Sunday, of the church year, I was in the same pulpit and I decided to preach on the Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy that was read just a few minutes ago. Yes, I’ll admit it: at the time I was a new doctoral student in Old Testament studies, so I was eager to tip my hat in that direction whenever I could. For some reason, the only thing I remember from that day was after the service when Pastor Martin said to me, with his classic grin, “some of us still preach on the New Testament, you know.”

Another friendly exchange with the ol’ vicarage supervisor; I still enjoy those very much. And he had a point, of course – the words of our Lord should always be central in the church’s life. We stand for the Gospel after all. Bibles still print those words in red.

And yet, every scribe who has been trained (lit., “disciple”) for the kingdom of heaven bring out treasures new and old, and whether you lean either toward the New or toward the Old, we would all agree that, when it comes to the scribe, there’s something very important … about the “both/and.” But have you ever wondered why?

I’ve been teaching a lot of “Intro to the Bible” up at Concordia lately, and I overheard a debate recently at a different school about whether or not a non-Christian could teach it just as well. One side of the argument goes like the: the Bible’s just a collection of Ancient Near Eastern writings. You have history and some poetry and some law. There’s narrative in there, with literary themes, so bring in a literature major, and go to work. Read the Bible like any other book.

Whatever you make of that, we still have a long way to go unto we’re at what the faithful scribe does. This is the kind of view that would make the scribe into someone who brought out only old things, like a master of a house who handed out a bunch of old love letters that, at the end of the day, weren’t meant for any of us any way. He’d be all about explanation, but no proclamation, but that’s no treasure; that’s just the empty box that it comes in.

But it we are honest, that’s also the sort of view that our hearts fall into all the time. You know how it goes – the thinking that the things of our Lord just don’t have anything to offer us in the here and now, that the same ol’ same ol’ in church can only go so far, that those old words of our heavenly Father just can’t quite reach the struggle that I have currently.

The other side of this same coin is probably even more popular, but it comes up just as short. When my wife Kalia and I went on a trip to the holy land a few years ago, there was a member of our tour group that insisted on finding hidden images of our Lord in all of her photographs. “Did you see this picture I took of the old stained glass window?” Yes. Well what to you see?, she would ask. Eh, looks like an old stained glass window. But look closer, right there, where the light is shining in through it. What do you see now? Eh … an old shining stained glass window?

What struck me about this, however, was how honest she was about something … that we all try to hide – I need a new sign that God is with me, just to be sure of His love. How about something beyond what He’s already said, just to know for sure that He hasn’t forgotten about me. Maybe the scribe can bust out only new things all the time, like some secrets for a better life, or at least come up with a new and improved vision of what our Lord is up to these days. But that, dear friends, is no treasure either. That ends up just being fool’s gold, and it will never do for us what we want it to.

So I guess I shouldn’t surprise us, then, that this whole business of bringing out both the new and the old will take a little training to keep things in check. “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked his disciples. And they said, “yes.” Really? Everything? If I had a student who claimed to understand everything from just one lecture, sure, I’d be a little flattered, but mostly skeptical. Either way, training for a scribe was huge. And it always has been, because a scribe that faithfully brings out the new and the old “has been called by the Lord of the church … He has been prepared … by careful study and prayer. He has been examined and declared ready and prepared to undertake this sacred responsibility …”

It is fascinating, isn’t it that our Lord would go with the scribe in the first place. Disciples. Flesh and blood to pass out his treasure. Why not just use angels? You’d get perfect preaching, and they can carry a big stick, too. And why not have everyone do this? Like the popular book of the mid-70s: Everyone a Minister. But no, one of the first things our Lord did was start a seminary, and when it came time for the final exam, it all about bringing out new and old.

Right out of the gate, then the scribe would have to study the New Testament in light of the Old, and the Old in the light of the New. He’ll have to know both the new covenant and the old, so that he can proclaim the old as fulfilled in the new. Are you still with me? It’s as if our Lord, with each new scribe rolls up both the new and the old on a single scroll and put it into the scribe’s mouth so that he can read, make, learn, and inwardly digest it.

So you’re gonna see these guys runnin’ around, these scribes. They’ll be busy “preaching and teaching and administering the Sacraments … in conformity with Holy Scripture and with [the Lutheran Confessions]…faithfully instruct[ing] both [the] young and [the] old in the chief articles of Christian doctrine … minister[ing] faithfully to the sick and dying… admonish[ing] and encourage[ing] the people to a lively confidence in Christ and … holy living.” Occasionally there’ll be potlucks, too, and if you ask me, those never get old!

They don’t really “clock out,” then, these scribes, because they’re gonna be married to God’s people. Guests can be 24/7, then week after week, in season and out of season, because there will always be a need for both the new and the old. Babies will need a new name in baptism; that old Adam will need to be drowned again and again. New struggles that come up all over the place will need to be tied down to the same old cross, which is at the center. People will come to the scribe looking for a new word in both happiness and sorrow, in failure and successes, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. They’ll also need to hear how in the same old Psalm 23 takes on new comfort when death do them part.

That, my friends, is quite the gig. So big in fact, that when all of this happens, these scribes, Daniel tells us, shine like the starts of heaven. Can you imagine that? Sure, we not gonna see this, but when the scribe brings out the new and the old, the demons scatter and the old serpent is cast down once again. It might seem like the same ‘ol same ol’ in church, but when the forgiveness of sins happen, the heavens are bumpin’, the angels storm the field,017 and you can taste the end of the story.

So, of course, these scribes are gonna need our prayers as they do this. If you had a scribe in your midst, “[Would] you receive him, show him that love, honor, obedience in the Lord that you own to the shepherd and teacher placed over you by your Lord Jesus Christ, and [would] you support him by your gifts and fervent prayer?” [Would] you honor and uphold [him] as he serves Christ in all his God-pleasing responsibilities? [Would] you aid him as he cares for his family … [and] be diligent to ‘put the best construction on everything,’ recognizing that ‘love covers a multitude of sins’?” I know I haven’t been doing these things as well as I could be. How has it worked out for you?

Either way, whatever it is that you’re up to these days – whatever it is that occupies your thinking, more than anything else – whatever you feel you lack and need to have – it will not do for you what the scribe brings out will do for you. If you’re tired of the same old struggle, wondering what could possible reach the guilt or sooth the sorrow, I’d suggest hangin’ around the scribe. Come to the house he manages regularly. There’s nothing newer, nothing fresher, nothing more relevant in all the world than receiving the One begotten before all worlds. There’s nothing more advanced than being connected to the older than old, to the angels and to the archangels, to all the company of heaven.

I’m with you, then, if you’d ever like to celebrate twenty-five years of a scribe bringing out both the new and the old, because it seems to me that’s nothing more, and nothing less, than twenty-five years … of bringing out Jesus, the One who makes the new and the old in to a perfect “both/and.” Yes, there’s nothing more precious than the treasure that the scribe brings out because it is nothing other than Jesus, Priceless Treasure.

Six years ago, on this same Sunday of the church year, Pastor Martin gave me his classic grin when talking with me after the service. Nine years ago, on this same Sunday of the church year, he gave me that same grin right after I whispered to him how nervous I was just seconds before being installed as your vicar. But twenty-five years ago it was the Lord himself who was grinning the most, because it was then that He called and ordained another scribe to bring out new and old, which us none other than a scribe who has been trained for a kingdom of heaven. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” And yes, I’ll admit it; those words are from the Old Testament. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Services

22 October 2017

8:30 Divine Service with Communion

11:00 Matins

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.