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Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity (1883)

Matthew 24:15-28 So-called evangelical Christianity celebrates yesterday and today (November 10 and 11) as great jubilee days in contrast to Roman Catholics. She celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther. And no doubt this day is rightly celebrated. God has given His Church such a chosen vessel of His grace in this child, who saw the light of day on November 10, 1483, as she had no other since the time of the apostles. Already the world has the highest reason to honor the memory of this man, for with Luther a new era of freedom, rule of law, education, art and culture has come, whose blessings go forth still today. But who will first finish speaking, indeed, only think of what God gave his Church with Luther? He was a second Moses, who rescued her from a thousand years of bondage of the papacy, a second Elijah, who crushed the priests of Baal of all false churches with the sword of the Spirit, a second John the Baptist, who made the world tremble with the fear of God's Law; a second Paul, who preached the righteousness of faith in demonstration of the Spirit and of power like no other, a second John, who in the fervor of love was ready to die a thousand times for his Jesus and redeemed souls. After the terrible, truly pagan darkness which was going over Christians by the papacy, God gave His Church through Luther such a bright shining light of saving knowledge of Christ and His Word as it no more had shown over lost mankind since the time of the apostles. So how could Christianity be mindful of these rich blessings of divine grace through Luther without jubilantly thinking on this birthday of the chosen instrument blessed by God! But if we look around among those who rejoice in these days, then we find that the majority of them boast about Luther's spirit and work, which Luther himself would have condemned into the bottomless pit of hell, namely freedom from the yoke of worldly tyrants, from the authority of Scripture, from reverence of the Church and divine things, etc., as it is preached today by unbelievers, rationalists, unionists, sects, and enthusiasts as Luther's gospel. The word of Amos 5:21 applies to such men about this celebration: "I hate and despise your feasts and do not like the smell of your solemn assemblies."1 No, our jubilee is to be a godly and holy one, so we must thankfully acknowledge what God Himself boasts as the highest gift, with which He blessed us through Luther, and secondly heed the warning that He thus calls out to us by the mouth of His prophet. We find both in our Gospel today. The rich blessings and serious warnings on which the jubilee of the 400th anniversary of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther today reminds us; 1. the rich blessings, and 2. the serious warnings.

Cf. Malachi 2:3.

The destruction of Jerusalem is a picture of the destruction of the world on the day of Last Judgment. The time of grace that precedes the final judgment of Jerusalem, together with its cause, are equally an example for us Christians in the end times. Like the apostles of Christ, the bearers of God's great visitation of grace over Jerusalem, Luther was God's rich instrument of grace that God gave to Christians of the end times through His work of reformation; he is the prophesied angel of God2, the prophet of the last days; therefore we want to celebrate his jubilee in a manner pleasing to God, so our jubilee must 1. recall the rich blessings. a. Revelation of the abomination of desolation in the Church that had come over her by the papacy; . abomination of desolation in Jerusalem before the judgment3; . abomination of desolation in the Church before Luther: abominable papal and priestly rule, disdain and prohibition of Scripture, ignorance of Christians of every rank in matters of salvation, superstition, unbelief, immorality, self attested by Roman writers (Bellarmine); . the disclosure of which through Luther, whom God Himself prepared for it, as . he led him through many years of severe temptations for the sake of his salvation first in his word, then to the knowledge of justification and triumphant experience of his free grace in Christ, . to the knowledge of the abomination of the Papacy and thus, equipped with particular great and rich natural and spiritual gifts, reveal to the world through word and writing the mystery of iniquity in the invincible power of an Elijah and had fatally wounded the beast from the bottomless pit; b. what God at the same time has since given to the Church through Luther: pure doctrine and the unadulterated Word and Sacrament, the Scriptures in a masterly translation, spirit-anointed writings for doctrine and defense of the Church of God, even today inexhaustible mines of divine wisdom and knowledge, the saving knowledge of Christ's person, office and work (no severe judge) and all the other doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly justification; true freedom from law, human statutes, and from the yoke of the Pope; a blessed awakening of apostolic life of faith and love in the Church, in matrimony, yes, even in the state with all its institutions. What blessings, what visitation of God's grace this jubilee remembers! There was no such time since the time of the apostles. And we in America enjoy it in the fullest measure. We walk in the splendor of the divine sun of grace that God once brought forth over the Church with Luther, like no other nation or country, indeed, regarding Christian liberty of the Church from the state, that Luther alone preached and implored, but did not experience, this we enjoy. We should recognize this today, praise God for it, most faithfully preserve and make use of this most valuable treasure - to be proper Lutherans, that is the proper jubilee thanksgiving in the last days of this world in which we live. If we should take to heart that the abomination of desolation and His final judgment came from the great visitation of grace of Jerusalem, then this divine visitation of grace is the last to be expected, and also at the same time the precursor

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Revelation 20. Matthew 24:15.

of the last judgment, near which the abomination of desolation in the Church of our time shows everywhere. Therefore, we must remind ourselves in the most vivid manner in today's jubilee 2. of the serious warnings of the picture of Jerusalem that God has called out so emphatically through the mouth of His servant Luther. a. picture of warning Jerusalem . in its sin, despising of the divine Word and divine grace, . in its terrible judgment4; b. we see fulfilled the picture of sin in our time before our eyes, . grossest contempt of Word and Sacrament inside and outside of the Church, . distortion of the Word, of which Christ particularly warns as at the end of the world in today's Gospel 5 when one seeks Christ and His salvation elsewhere, as in the Word, how this is done by most who celebrate Luther's birthday today, when they say in the Spirit you do not find Christ in letters, or in this or that works or spiritual exercises (Methodists), or in love for the union, etc., all such have verses 23 and 26 on their lips; c. Luther's faithful and powerful warning: . of this great sin and . of the terrible judgments of God about it. No man since the apostolic age has witnessed thereof with such earnestness and divine power6; d. the heeding of this true divine voice of warning of Luther: as Christians could escape the destruction of Jerusalem only by the speediest escape and abandonment of all earthly things7, so we must also recognize with holy horror the abomination of desolation in which we live in these end times, the magnitude of sin, the nearness of judgment8, flee this sin with great earnestness, pay attention in the uttermost to God's Word, indeed His pure Word, sacrifice everything, not for a moment think that we are safe before Judgment Day. This is the proper godly jubilation and blessed celebration! Otto Hanser

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Matthew 24:21. Matthew 24:23-26. 6 Cf. J. Laepus, Luther's Prophecies, and the Proceedings of the 11th Eastern District Convention (1865), from which are found and quoted precious points for this purpose. 7 Matthew 24:18-20. 8 Matthew 24:27.