November 14, 1915 – Sermon delivered at the 25th Anniversary Service of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Thorndale, Texas

This sermon was delivered by Rev. G. Birkmann at the 25th Anniversary Service of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Thorndale, Texas. It was translated from German by Bill Biar.


Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy endureth to all generations.”

Beloved in the Lord blessed jubilee guests!

Twenty-five years have passed since an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation was organized here which called itself St. Paul’s Congregation and which since then has the office of the ministry in its midst, also let their children be instructed and educated in their Christian school. While this congregation acknowledges (like it always acknowledged it) what great grace God rendered through it, that it until now had the pure Word and Sacraments whereby young and old could graze in a green pasture, it has resolved to set aside a special memorial service to observe what good things God has done for it. Therefore you have already sung thank and praise songs joyfully and now want to furthermore be shown from God’s word what good reason you have for this celebration and how your celebration must be constituted so that God is honored thereby.

This I intend to show with God’s gracious help. For this the 100th Psalm shall be our guide. To begin with the faithful people of the Old Testament are addressed and asked to shout for joy ; that is, rejoice aloud and lift up their voices, namely to praise God. Furthermore they are encouraged: “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” Then the reason is given: “Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Then again follows the summons to praise and to thank. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Why? Because “the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

We see how the holy singer’s heart overflows with joy and ardent love for God and how he therefore seeks to move the people to join in praising God. He is not satisfied by merely saying: “Praise and thank God for his mercy,” but he uses heart-felt words and powerful reasons and brings everything into focus. Permit me to show you:

WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THE PSALMIST FOR TODAY’S JUBILEE?

We learn:

  1. What the benefits are for which we should give thanks.
  2. Wherein does proper gratitude exist.

1.

The first thing that is necessary if we want to come to rightful jubilee joy is this: that we think about it and to acknowledge what a great blessing it is that we belong to an orthodox congregation, that God already gave His word for many years in the church and school and to this day has kept it pure and undefiled. Whoever does not rightfully acknowledge how magnificent that is, does not realize true joy; his heart remains cold and dissatisfied. He probably asks, “How this congregation has now existed for twenty-five years, but is that so great that a special celebration needs to be arranged?” We need to remember what a great precious treasure we have in God’s word.

Our Psalm teaches us this when it then states: Know ye that the Lord he is God.” The Lord God Jehovah, who from of old has revealed himself to his people, who through apostles and prophets proclaimed his word and recorded it in the Holy Scriptures that the Lord who in Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, became man, born a true human by the virgin Mary (For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily): He is our God. He created us for eternal life. He has redeemed us, lost and condemned creatures; He purchased and won us from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil. The price was not gold or silver but his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. This word of the cross and the redemption God permits to be proclaimed to all people; he invites, intercedes and admonishes all through his messengers: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” (Is. 45:22) “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will he die.”(Ez. 33:11) See, I am offering you my grace and my hand of reconciliation. Wake up and accept help! Through the gospel he calls his people, his congregation, the Christian Church. It is stated in the explanation of the Third Article of our Creed: “Even as he calls the whole Christian Church on earth,” etc. Hence these are God’s people which our text identifies as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. God has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God. Furthermore, they are “the sheep of his pasture.” They are in good hands with their shepherd who pastures, leads and protects them.

This is all true of this congregation. You are permitted to confess: “He made us, and not we ourselves; we are the sheep of his pasture.” All among you who have actively confessed that they are by nature lost and condemned sheep, and now in faith comfort themselves in Christ, the Good Shepherd, are no longer lost but are saved. They stand under the care of the Good Shepherd. When it is stated in our text: “He that hath made us and not we ourselves; we are the sheep of his pasture,” it certainly cuts off all self-aggrandizement, all our own doing and the merits of man. That we are faithful and God’s people is ascribed to God alone. This is very comforting. This assures us of God’s grace and our salvation. Even if only a part would depend on us and we would have to do something to become God’s people and sheep of his pasture, then we would always remain in doubt whether or not we are good enough; but our welfare and salvation is completely in the almighty hands of our God.

Furthermore, we have here the comfort that God in Christ has our welfare at heart since we cling to the Savior in faith, the Holy Spirit himself planting faith in our hearts and doing all so that we became God’s people and sheep of his pasture. What a blessing! What an unspeakable privilege that you dear people today and always can say: “He made us, and we not ourselves.” God did all that through the word so that the church and school is in full swing among you.

“The Lord is good,” we continue. He is mercifully letting his countenance shine on us; deals with us out of his great goodness and mercy as those who fear him and hope for his kindness. And to be sure, at all times there is no changing of the mind. You want to praise the kindness of God today. You have experienced his kindness for twenty-five years. A large congregation has grown out of a small group. You had to enlarge your facilities; you added more space to your church and school. Through God’s goodness you were brought to the point and were willing not only to support your pastor but now also two teachers; also your church property is in good condition; it is known that this congregation supports missions and other objectives of the kingdom of God with your rich offerings. But all that is due to the great kindness of your God, that you have the precious word of God even though you had it for years in more meager proportions while your congregation had only a few members. The proper adornment of a church and congregation is the pure word of God and the unadulterated sacraments. You have both through God’s goodness. What blessings came to you through these! How many souls were saved from the misery of sin and (power of) death, and were saved from many other difficulties! How many grieving hearts were comforted; how many troubled consciences were soothes and calmed! (Judgement) day will bring these to light. God’s fountain overflows with water, may many more come and drink; for it is living water, which leads to eternal life.

“His mercy is everlasting.” This is grace that embraces the poor sinner. God does not deal with us according to our sin. There is no lack of sin also in a Christian congregation. Gross sins also are committed. Among some who outwardly lead respectable lives, there is proven impurity, deceitfulness. Also those who live exemplary lives have the old Adam; that’s why in our congregation there are divers sins: satiated and weary of God’s word, worldliness, pleasure, greediness, strife, etc. But for that we have God’s word as the proper remedy, if it is properly applied and used. Through his word God calls us to repentance; he himself brings about the confession of sins and repentance and then shows us through the gospel that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, bore the sins of the world, including my and your sins. When we confess our sins God is faithful and just so that He forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Finally, our text emphasizes another benefit which you also enjoy: “His truth endures to all generations.” We have the truth in God’s word. What a priceless possession! People who always look for something better search for truth. Those who claim they found the truth are (often) given (special) recognition. But what is it that they are teaching? In secular things it is often foolishness; in spiritual things, pure foolishness. All that has to do with salvation is clouded with reason. We have the truth in the Holy Scriptures, the correct answers to the weighty questions of human hearts. How did the world come into being? From where did man come? What is his relation to God? How is God disposed toward man? How are man and God reconciled? What is in store for man after this life? These questions come to the minds of all men and without satisfactory answers no one can be saved and all fundamental and satisfactory answers are found in God’s word. The origin and source of all truth and wisdom resolving the mystery of life is found there, and in a manner so that a child can understand it, as well as the most-talented person.

Blessed is a congregation which has God himself as a teacher of His word!

We want to thank God for everything. Secondly, let us now hear how our gratitude needs to be employed so that it God-pleasing.

 2.

Our text tells us how we need to give proper thanks. This psalm is called a psalm of thanksgiving. To begin with there is a sharp “not us, not us.” “Know ye that Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves,” is emphasized. All praise to God alone! This day is not for the glorification of this congregation; we should not think about what we have done. We need to say with Jacob whom the Lord richly blessed: “I’m not worthy of the least of all the mercies – – -which thou hast shewed unto thy servant,” (Gen. 32:10) and with David: “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou brought me hitherto?” (2 Sam. 7:18)

To God alone all honor, thanks and praise! “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.” Such shouting and rejoicing must, if it is of the proper kind, come from sincere hearts. If musical instruments are to give clear harmonical tones they must be tuned correctly. In the same way our hearts need to have the proper tuning, so that our praise and thanks are God-pleasing. The proper tuning and composition of hearts are expressed in the words of our text: “Serve the Lord with gladness,” – humility and joy: humility, so that one considers himself a poor unworthy sinner before God and hopes only for grace; joy, over forgiveness, which we receive through Christ, so that we can say with the prophet Isaiah: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God,” etc. (Is. 61:10). The proper shouting and rejoicing comes out of a humble and joyful heart. Certainly, the mouth should open and loudly praise, rejoice and shout, so that it sounds and resounds and everyone hears and knows that it is done by Christians to honor their God; they confess it and have experienced it, that the Lord is God and that they are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Their souls praise the Lord and their spirits rejoice in God their Savior. That is why they sing at home and sing for joy in their churches with resounding voices, rejoicing, exulting and praising. This is what the children of the Old Testament did. They filled the outer courts of the Lord with psalter and harps, with trumpets, drums and pipes, with psalms and songs of praise, sung by alternating choirs. Christians have done the same all along, especially in our Lutheran churches with their organs and magnificent hymns and melodies. Therefore:

Enter his gates with songs of praise;
Oh come to him with faith ablaze.
Enter his courts, with psalm and song,
Oh praise him with the mighty throng.
Oh thank the Lord and praise his name,
With voices loud proclaim his fame.
With songs of praise and thanks adore,
Your gracious God forevermore.

All this should not only take place today. Our psalm indicates to do this always. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Dear Christians, use the time of grace and the word of grace! Come to the place to which God calls you. Thank him when he greets you. Buy while the market-place is at the door. Gather as long as the sun shines and the weather is good. Use God’s word and grace while it is available. Seldom does God’s word remain pure when based on man’s design. As a rule, when those who have brought it up are gone it is also soon gone. Ingratitude and contempt do not let it remain. May the younger members walk in the footsteps of their pious parents who bore the cost under impoverished conditions and for whom no holiday was too much and no sermon was too long; when they came out of the church greeting another with, “Welcome to God’s word!” That is: may the word just heard bear fruit in us! Several of the founders of this congregation have already departed this life, dying in the faith which they heard preached here. They now look with joy and rejoicing at the one they have believed, their Savior, the Lamb, who died and who is worthy to receive glory, honor and praise. They are no longer in the gates and outer courts, but rather in the sanctuary itself. Through God’s grace we also want to get there. We now want to serve our Lord in the outer courts with joy and praise him until this is fulfilled:

When then at last pure pleasure comes to me
In beauteous paradise,                                                           
I’ll sing his praise with joyous harmony;
What pleasure without price!
I’ll sing my hallelujah:
It’s sung in holiness;
Also my loud hosanna
Is sung in blessedness.

Amen.

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