The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
☩ IN NOMINE IESU ☩
“Don’t take candy from strangers” is good advice. But it is not that easy for children to follow. They like candy. They are accustomed to taking it sometimes without asking. But as much as we’d like to shelter our children, as much as we would calm their fears and make them care-free, they need to be aware of the evil in this world. They need to be cautious, even suspicious, for there are vile men who would abuse and hurt children for strange and perverse pleasures. When uncovered these men are barely recognizable as men. But that is not until they are uncovered. Until their sheep’s clothing is removed they look like sheep. They are often found to be in positions of public trust and more often than not working with children.
Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing. For there is more than one way that men are abused. What damage has been done to the psyches and souls of men by the clergy and counselors! What lies about God and man have been perpetuated to deny comfort and peace to tortured souls wracked with guilt. There are many paths but only one leads to God. Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t be fooled by cutesy or convenient slogans. It is a dangerous world, filled with those all too willing to scratch the itchy ears of men. For the devil will offer what you want to steal your soul. Don’t take candy from strangers, for some have been bewitched by the offer of Turkish Delight from a witch dressed as a beautiful white queen. Doctrine always matters.
You can’t rely on the pastor. He is only a man. You have to judge the shepherd according to his fruits, that is, according to his preaching. In order to do that you have to know the Bible. The Bible is the sole source and norm for all of our doctrine and life. Everything we teach must conform to that. If the pastor veers from the Scriptures he needs a rebuke for his own good and for the good of the sheep. And you need to do it. It is your responsibility and duty. Don’t be intimidated. If David faced Goliath with nothing more than a sling shot and Gideon defeated the whole nation of Midian with only 300 soldiers, you can surely stand up to a pastor armed with the very Word of God. Speak the Truth in love and suffer the consequences.
This is your duty according to the 4th commandment. Honor your father and mother is not just a command for children to love, honor, and obey their parents. It is a command for parents to love, cherish, and teach their children. Sometimes you delegate this task to others—e.g., in mathematics and science; football or basketball. But the can only do so much and in the end it is up to the parent to ensure that the child has learned the material, absorbed it, and is able to use it. That is why we play catch with their kids. Or help them with their homework. It’s why we point out to them how they’ll use what they learn and show them how we use it.
The same goes for the things of God. Parents are responsible for their children. If you want your children to cherish the things of God, to know the Scriptures and what we believe, it is your duty according to the 4th commandment to hand it on to them. And you do that in part by bringing them here to church. But you must also teach them to participate in the service by participating in it yourselves. If you sing, they will sing. You also must teach them at home. If God and being a Christian is nothing more than something that you do on Sunday morning for an hour for you, it will more than likely be that way also for your children. If it’s nothing more than one thing among many other competing things for you, it will more than likely be that way for them. If it’s just a spoke for you—and not the very hub, the very center of life, the one thing that gives everything else meaning—it will more than likely be that way also for your children.
The pastor can help. But he can’t do it for you. It is still your duty according to the 4th Commandment, and regardless of how old your children might be. It’s easier to do it while they’re young, when you have the time and the opportunity. Take advantage of it. Ask the older members what they’d have done differently on what they know now. But you never stop being their parent. You will aways be their father. You’ll always be their mother. And so give to them—at all ages—the one thing needful. So read the Scriptures at home. Pray together before your meals. Pray together before bed. Confess your sins to each other so that they learn to confess. Bless them with God’s word, which is Spirit and life.And let that Word dwell in them richly with pslams and hymns and spiritual songs by singing together. In this way, you will put the Word of God in front of them always—on their lips, in their ears, on their minds, and in their hearts. And you and they will be blessed with the Spirit and life, and you will be ready.
Beware. God allows false prophets to infiltrate us from time to time. He uses them to cull the flock of goats and to keep us on the true path. We must all know that we do not follow a man, but God. The undershepherds of the Lord speak with authority only so long as they speak the Truth. When they speak the Truth given to them then their words are not their own. But even then, even when God sends men after His own heart, whom He has raised up and whom He sustains in His Word and Truth, even when they do everything they are supposed to do without fail or fault, they still cannot believe for you. The pastor can’t get you into heaven only God can do that. So even when you have a true and faithful shepherd and God serves you through Him, preaching to you, absolving you, feeding you, still you must judge. You must discern. You must pay attention. For many false prophets began as true prophets. You must always weigh the preaching according to the Bible. You must ascertain if the preachers words are God’s words. They are God’s words when the preacher has been rightly called and sent and his preaching is in accordance with the Scriptures. But even then you need to be aware.
God also sends true and faithful shepherds. You know them when you hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice in them. That is their fruits. But whether the shepherds be faithful or false, God always provides. The validity of Baptism, the Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution do not rest upon the pastor’s faith. Nor do they stand upon his intentions, sanctification, or understanding. They stand upon the words and promises of God. Pay not attention to what man baptized you and whether he was good man or not, whether he was faithful or not. God baptized you! And He is good and does not lie. He keeps His promises.
So beware. Be on your guard. But do not be afraid. The will of your Father, of Your Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit is that He strengthen and keep you firm in the true faith unto the end. He has made a promise to you. Jesus has given His life for you and has risen from the dead for you. Your faith is not in vain and mere men, whether they be bishops, popes, or television preachers or simply seducers offering easy answers and false comfort in exchange for money, they cannot stop God. He has laid His claim upon you. He has sealed you in the waters of His death and feeds you with the good Fruit from the cross: His Body and His Blood. He has always known you, even before He formed in your mother’s womb. He has called you by name.
Pray that God send you faithful shepherds and sustain you by the same, that He maintain them and keep them from temptation and from avarice, that His Word would not be bound but have free course. Thank God that He has, in His mercy, revealed the Truth of His love to you. And come what may, good or evil, prosperity or hardship, false prophets or true, no matter what, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will see you through. He is your Pastor. He will not abandon nor forget you. He is your true and good Shepherd,t he real Shepherd. And His Father loves Him because He loves you and has laid down His Life for you. He has taken that Life up again to win you for His Bride. He loves you. He is the good Fruit from the Tree of Life planted on Golgotha and watered with Blood. Eat of Him and be satisfied, be forgiven, alive, and safe. Amen.