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Holy, by a Whisper

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8)
June 26, 2016
1 Kings 19:9b–21


“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Twain

There is even a Weather Channel, dedicated to weather news, there are apps for your smartphone. We can even get special alerts for severe weather in our area.

When: a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks[1] and then

an earthquake and then a fire, I am sure that the Weather Channel would have had special new crews on hand interviewing and surveying the damage.  For these 3 things all occurring in short period of time would have been front page news worthy materials.

But even if the Weather Channel was around during the time of our Old Testament reading, they would have missed the real point.  You see, The Weather Channel like most of the media, and people who consume the media are looking for the big specular stories.  For strong winds like tornados make the headlines. Earthquakes make the headlines, Fire makes the headlines, but the sound of a low whisper will barely be heard.

While we may be drawn to the events of Strong Winds, Earthquakes and Fires, God chose a different form to speak and visit Elijah.

Kolb notes this of God, “He is truly present among his people in Word and sacrament. His power and presence do not rest in the strong wind, which tore up the mountains in Elijah’s sight as God led him to a cave (1 Kings 19:9–18). God’s power is not to be experienced in earthquake or fire. It rests in the still small voice that brings the presence of God into the middle of our lives. God’s voice comes from God, not from within our own murky emotions. It comes from outside us. It speaks to us from God’s mouth; it is not the voice of our own imaginations. As God’s Word, it comes with power (Rom. 1:16). It shall not return to him empty; he does not speak in vain. His Word accomplishes his purposes, and it prospers in the matter for which he sends it (Is. 55:11).[2]

So what is the purpose of God coming to us?  Why would God visit His people? Especially people stained with sin.

Luther reminds us in his Large Catechism, For the Word of God is the true holy object[3] …But God’s Word is the treasure that makes everything holy[4]… At whatever time God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or pondered, there the person, the day, and the work is hallowed, not on account of the external work but on account of the Word that makes us all saints.[5]

God visiting people and making them Holy, that is what it is all about.  Sin separates us from God, so God comes down to touch us, the Holy touching the un-holy, makes the un-holy Holy.  The result is that we are re-connected to God.

God visited Elijah, not in some dramatic way, but in a simple way. In that visit there was instruction, and strengthening for the tasks ahead. So also we need to learn from what God is doing here.

Don’t get caught up in the spectacular and grand things of this world, keep your focus on the Word of Christ.  It is Christ who makes us Holy and gives us life and salvation.

When it seems that you are not accomplishing very much, good.  For it is Christ who does the work. Even while Elijah was lamenting that he was the only one left, God reminded him that there was 7,000 Elijah was not aware of.

As Trinity has been here in West Chicago for over 125 years, we may wonder are we doing anything great.  Well if you mean great like a strong wind that breaks rock, or a earthquake or a fire, things that would get Trinity noticed on the Front page or a new team camera crew showing up to do interviews of what is happening at Trinity, then no.

But consider what is happening at Trinity.  God visits His people, through His Word and Sacraments, every Sunday and Wednesday evening, twice a week.  The power in not in the grand events, but in the low whisper as God come to us sinners, to make us Holy, to strengthen us for the tasks ahead.

What is ahead? Well consider the of the Old Testament lesson. God has Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet in Elijah’s place.  Why, well, Elijah is not going to be around forever.  But God’s Word, in which God visits us, will be, and Elisha will be the prophet after a while. Notice that God’s priority is that His Word visits people, not that a prophet will last forever.


That same is true at Trinity, where since 1888 has had pastors proclaiming Christ and administering Christ’s sacraments, so that Christ comes and visits His people and makes them Holy. There is a lot happening at Trinity.


So we continue to proclaim Christ, and distribute His Supper, and picking up our Gospel reading, following Christ Jesus.


Luther also notes that the 3rd Commandment: is also violated by…[those] who listen to God’s Word as they would to any other entertainment, who only from force of habit go to hear the sermon and leave again with as little knowledge at the end of the year as at the beginning.[6]

So we gather, not for Entertainment, nor news worthy events, but we come to be made Holy by Christ, who visits His people through His Word and Sacraments. May Christ continue to be preached from this pulpit and distributed from this altar for many years to come. Amen.




[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Ki 19:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Kolb, R. (2000). The Christian faith: a Lutheran exposition (electronic ed., p. 182). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

[3] Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 398). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[4] Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 398). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[5] Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 398). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[6] Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 398). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Written by dballa

June 25, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Sermons, Uncategorized


Temporal Authority: to What Extent It Should be Obeyed

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 45, p. 81). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Click to access Secular-Authority-To-What-Extent-It-Should-Be-Obeyed.pdf

Part One

  1. First, we must provide a sound basis for the civil law and sword so no one will doubt that it is in the world by God’s will and ordinance.
    • The passages which do this are the following: Romans 13, “Let every soul [seele] be subject to the governing authority, for there is no authority except from God; the authority which everywhere [allenthalben] exists has been ordained by God. He then who resists the governing authority resists the ordinance of God, and he who resists God’s ordinance will incur judgment.” Again, in I Peter 2[:13–14], “Be subject to every kind of human ordinance, whether it be to the king as supreme, or to governors, as those who have been sent by him to punish the wicked and to praise the righteous.”
    • The law of this temporal sword has existed from the beginning of the world. For when Cain slew his brother Abel, he was in such great terror of being killed in turn that God even placed a special prohibition on it and suspended the sword for his sake, so that no one was to slay him [Gen. 4:14–15].
    • When the soldiers asked him what they should do, he answered, “Do neither violence nor injustice to any one, and be content with your wages” [Luke 3:14]. If the sword were not a godly estate, he should have directed them to get out of it, since he was supposed to make the people perfect and instruct them in a proper Christian way. Hence, it is certain and clear enough that it is God’s will that the temporal sword and law be used for the punishment of the wicked and the protection of the upright.
  2. Second. There appear to be powerful arguments to the contrary.
    • Christ says in Matthew 5[:38–41], “You have heard that it was said to them of old: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist evil; but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” etc. Likewise Paul in Romans 12[:19], “Beloved, defend not yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.’ ” And in Matthew 5[:44], “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.” And again, in I Peter 2 [3:9], “Do not return evil for evil, or reviling for reviling,” etc. These and similar passages would certainly make it appear as though in the New Testament Christians were to have no temporal sword. 
  3.  Third. Here we must divide the children of Adam and all mankind into two classes, the first belonging to the kingdom of God, the second to the kingdom of the world.
    • Those who belong to the kingdom of God are all the true believers who are in Christ and under Christ, for Christ is King and Lord in the kingdom of God, as Psalm 2[:6] and all of Scripture says.
    • these people need no temporal law or sword. If all the world were composed of real Christians, that is, true believers, there would be no need for or benefits from prince, king, lord, sword, or law. They would serve no purpose, since Christians have in their heart the Holy Spirit, who both teaches and makes them to do injustice to no one, to love everyone, and to suffer injustice and even death willingly and cheerfully at the hands of anyone
  4.  Fourth. All who are not Christians belong to the kingdom of the world and are under the law.
    • There are few true believers, and still fewer who live a Christian life, who do not resist evil and indeed themselves do no evil.
    • He has subjected them to the sword so that, even though they would like to, they are unable to practice their wickedness, and if they do practice it they cannot do so without fear or with success and impunity, In the same way a savage wild beast is bound with chains and ropes so that it cannot bite and tear as it would normally do, even though it would like to; whereas a tame and gentle animal needs no restraint, but is harmless despite the lack of chains and ropes.
  5. Fifth. But you say: if Christians then do not need the temporal sword or law, why does Paul say to all Christians in Romans 13[:1], “Let all souls be subject to the governing authority,” and St. Peter, “Be subject to every human ordinance” [I Pet. 2:13], etc., as quoted above?
    • Answer: I have just said that Christians, among themselves and by and for themselves, need no law or sword, since it is neither necessary nor useful for them. Since a true Christian lives and labors on earth not for himself alone but for his neighbor, he does by the very nature of his spirit even what he himself has no need of, but is needful and useful to his neighbor. Because the sword is most beneficial and necessary for the whole world in order to preserve peace, punish sin, and restrain the wicked, the Christian submits most willingly to the rule of the sword, pays his taxes, honors those in authority, serves, helps, and does all he can to assist the governing authority, that it may continue to function and be held in honor and fear.
  6. Sixth. You ask whether a Christian too may bear the temporal sword and punish the wicked, since Christ’s words, “Do not resist evil,” are so clear and definite that the sophists have had to make of them a “counsel.”
    • Why did not Christ and the apostles bear the sword? Answer: You tell me, why did Christ not take a wife, or become a cobbler or a tailor. If an office or vocation were to be regarded as disreputable on the ground that Christ did not pursue it himself, what would become of all the offices and vocations other than the ministry, the one occupation he did follow? Christ pursued his own office and vocation, but he did not thereby reject any other.
    • No Christian shall wield or invoke the sword for himself and his cause. In behalf of another, however, he may and should wield it and invoke it to restrain wickedness and to defend godliness.
    • You may ask, “Why may I not use the sword for myself and for my own cause, so long as it is my intention not to seek my own advantage but to punish evil?” Answer: Such a miracle is not impossible, but very rare and hazardous. Where the Spirit is so richly present it may well happen.

Part Two: How Far Temporal Authority Extends

Having learned that there must be temporal authority on earth, and how it is to be exercised in a Christian and salutary manner, we must now learn how far its arm extends and how widely its hand stretches, lest it extend too far and encroach upon God’s kingdom and government.

  •  For every kingdom must have its own laws and statutes; without law no kingdom or government can survive, as everyday experience amply shows.
  • The temporal government has laws which extend no further than to life and property and external affairs on earth,
  • for God cannot and will not permit anyone but himself to rule over the soul.
  •  When a man-made law is imposed upon the soul to make it believe this or that as its human author may prescribe, there is certainly no word of God for it.
  •  Matthew, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing that they can do; rather fear him who after he has killed the body, has power to condemn to hell.” I think it is clear enough here that the soul is taken out of all human hands and is placed under the authority of God alone.
  •  How can a mere man see, know, judge, condemn, and change hearts? That is reserved for God alone, as Psalm 7[:9] says, “God tries the hearts and reins”; and [v. 8], “The Lord judges the peoples.” And Acts 10 says, “God knows the hearts”; and Jeremiah 1 [17:9–10], “Wicked and unsearchable is the human heart; who can understand it? I the Lord, who search the heart and reins.”
  •  For faith is a free act, to which no one can be forced.
  • But, you say: Paul said in Romans 13[:1] that every soul [seele] should be subject to the governing authority; and Peter says that we should be subject to every human ordinance [I Pet. 2:13]. Answer: Now you are on the right track, for these passages are in my favor. St. Paul is speaking of the governing authority. Now you have just heard that no one but God can have authority over souls. Hence, St. Paul cannot possibly be speaking of any obedience except where there can be corresponding authority. From this it follows that he is not speaking of faith, to the effect that temporal authority should have the right to command faith. He is speaking rather of external things, that they should be ordered and governed on earth. His words too make this perfectly clear, where he prescribes limits for both authority and obedience, saying, “Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, honor to whom honor is due, respect to whom respect is due” [Rom. 13:7]. Temporal obedience and authority, you see, apply only externally to taxes, revenue, honor, and respect.
  • what St. Peter means by the phrase, “Human ordinance” [I Pet. 2:13]. A human ordinance cannot possibly extend its authority into heaven and over souls; it is limited to the earth, to external dealings men have with one another, where they can see, know, judge, evaluate, punish, and acquit.
  •  Christ himself made this distinction, and summed it all up very nicely when he said in Matthew 22[:21], “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
  •  You must know that since the beginning of the world a wise prince is a mighty rare bird, and an upright prince even rarer. They are generally the biggest fools or the worst scoundrels on earth; therefore, one must constantly expect the worst from them and look for little good, especially in divine matters which concern the salvation of souls.
  • If a prince should happen to be wise, upright, or a Christian, that is one of the great miracles, the most precious token of divine grace upon that land.
  • The world is too wicked, and does not deserve to have many wise and upright princes. Frogs must have their storks.
  • There certainly must be authority even among Christians.” Answer: Among Christians there shall and can be no authority; rather all are alike subject to one another, as Paul says in Romans 12: “Each shall consider the other his superior”; and Peter says in I Peter 5[:5], “All of you be subject to one another.” This is also what Christ means in Luke 14[:10], “When you are invited to a wedding, go and sit in the lowest place.” Among Christians there is no superior but Christ himself, and him alone.


Consider Today’s issues of Abortion.  All life is created by God, and humanity especially been redeemed by Christ.  How does a Christian deal with a government and the issue of abortion?  While we have the free to help influence the laws of the land, we may not always be successful.

  • Unfortunately Abortion is legal.
  • Unfortunately Abortion is promoted by government.
  • But we are not yet ( and I hope and pray never will be) forced into abortion.  If we ever  are consider the following Bible Passage:

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Ex 1:15–22 ESV).

Please note that were was disobedience to the temporal authority (blessed by God), but not rebellion. The Temporal Authority cannot command the conscience and matters of the soul.

If there are consequences to our actions then bear them willingly.

16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Pe 4:16 ESV).

Part Three

..how a prince should use it. We do this for the sake of those very few who would also like very much to be Christian princes and lords, and who desire to enter into the life in heaven.

  • He who would be a Christian prince must certainly lay aside any intent to exercise lordship or to proceed with force.
  • What, then, is a prince to do if he lacks the requisite wisdom and has to be guided by the jurists and the lawbooks? Answer: This is why I said that the princely estate is a perilous one. If he be not wise enough himself to master both his laws and his advisers, then the maxim of Solomon applies, “Woe to the land whose prince is a child” [Eccles 10:16].

First. He must give consideration and attention to his subjects, and really devote himself to it.

  • a prince in his heart empty himself of his power and authority, and take unto himself the needs of his subjects, dealing with them as though they were his own needs. For this is what Christ did to us [Phil. 2:7]; and these are the proper works of Christian love.
  • Now you will say, “Who would then want to be a prince? That would make the princely estate the worst on earth, full of trouble, labor, and sorrow. What would become of the princely amusements—dancing, hunting, racing, gaming, and similar worldly pleasures?” I answer: We are not here teaching how a temporal prince is to live, but how a temporal prince is to be a Christian, such that he may also reach heaven. Who is not aware that a prince is a rare prize in heaven?
  • Of this I am certain, that God’s word will neither turn nor bend for princes, but princes must bend themselves to God’s word.
  •  I am satisfied simply to point out that it is not impossible for a prince to be a Christian, although it is a rare thing and beset with difficulties.

Second. He must beware of the high and mighty and of his counselors, and so conduct himself toward them that he despises none, but also trusts none enough to leave everything to him

  •  He (God) once spoke through the mouth of an ass [Num. 22:28]; therefore, no man is to be despised, however humble he may be.
  • On the other hand, he permitted the highest angel to fall from heaven; therefore, no man is to be trusted, no matter how wise, holy, or great he may be.
  •  Therefore: One should rather give a hearing to all, and wait to see through which one of them God will speak and act. 

Now you will say, “If no one is to be trusted, how can land and people be governed?” Answer: You are to take the risk of entrusting matters to others, but you are yourself to trust and rely upon God alone.

 Third. He must take care to deal justly with evildoers.

  • A prince must punish the wicked in such a way that he does not step on the dish while picking up the spoon, and for the sake of one man’s head plunge country and people into want and fill the land with widows and orphans.
  • In short, here one must go by the proverb, “He cannot govern who cannot wink at faults.”
  • Let this be his rule: Where wrong cannot be punished without greater wrong, there let him waive his rights, however just they may be.
  •  In a war of this sort it is both Christian and an act of love to kill the enemy without hesitation, to plunder and burn and injure him by every method of warfare until he is conquered (except that one must beware of sin, and not violate wives and virgins). And when victory has been achieved, one should offer mercy and peace to those who surrender and humble themselves. In such a case let the proverb apply, “God helps the strongest.”

What if a prince is in the wrong? Are his people bound to follow him then too? Answer: No, for it is no one’s duty to do wrong; we must obey God (who desires the right) rather than men [Acts 5:29]. What if the subjects do not know whether their prince is in the right or not? Answer: So long as they do not know, and cannot with all possible diligence find out, they may obey him without peril to their souls.

Fourth. Here we come to what should really have been placed first, and of which we spoke above. A prince must act in a Christian way toward his God also; that is, he must subject himself to him in entire confidence and pray for wisdom to rule well, as Solomon did [I Kings 3:9].

Summary: We will close with this brief summation, that a prince’s duty is fourfold: First, toward God there must be true confidence and earnest prayer; second, toward his subjects there must be love and Christian service; third, with respect to his counselors and officials he must maintain an untrammeled reason and unfettered judgment; fourth, with respect to evildoers he must manifest a restrained severity and firmness. Then the prince’s job will be done right, both outwardly and inwardly; it will be pleasing to God and to the people. But he will have to expect much envy and sorrow on account of it; the cross will soon rest on the shoulders of such a prince.





Written by dballa

June 18, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Study

Tagged with , ,