Introduction: Each of the three Advent midweek sermons will be structured aground Luther’s famous triad. Utilizing the Service of Prayer and Preaching in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB, pg. 260-267), the services will also incorporate the Introduction and first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer:
Midweek I Oratio – First Petition
Midweek II Meditatio – Second Petition
Midweek III Tentatio – Third Petition
If you plan on using this series, we suggest you read Luther’s "Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther's German Writings, 1539" (AE 34:279-288) and Praying Luther’s Small Catechism by John T. Pless, pp. 51-77 prior to the workshop. It will also benefit you to have a copy of the Lutheran Service Book so you can follow the order of the Service of Prayer and Preaching.
-Prof. John T. Pless
WEEK 3: TENTATIO (SPIRITUAL ATTACK)
Tentatio is the spiritual attack or affliction that comes when one meditates on the Word of God. Psalm 119:53 is a lament born out of this tentatio: “Look on my affliction and deliver me for I do not forget your law.” There is a parallel between this verse and the Catechism’s explanation of the third petition: “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.”
Advent reminds us that we do not pray the third petition as agnostics who do not know the will of God. God’s good and gracious is revealed in the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His mercy is great (Ps. 119:156). Those who keep the words of this Savior will endure trial and persecution in one form of another. Think of the imprisonment of the great saint of Advent, John the Baptist (Matthew 11). Mary who sings the Magnificat and ponders (meditates) on all that the God of her salvation has done (see Luke 2:19) will have her own soul pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35) as her Son is set for “the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:33).
God’s good and gracious will is our salvation. That as Luther reminds us is His “proper” work. But His proper work also entails His “alien” work, the work of breaking and hindering all that sets itself in opposition to His will: the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. Luther’s prayer in the Large Catechism’s explanation of the third petition is entirely consistent with Psalm 119: “Dear Father, your will be done and not the will of the devil or of our enemies; nor of those who would persecute and oppress your holy Word or prevent your kingdom from coming; and grant that we may bear patiently and overcome whatever we must suffer on its account, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away through weakness or sloth” (LC III:67, K-W, 449).
To hold fast the treasures of the first two petitions (God’s holy name and the gift of His kingdom) means that there will be suffering in one form or another: “If we try to hold these treasures fast, we will have to suffer an astonishing number of attack and assaults from all who venture to hinder and thwart the fulfillment of the first two petitions” (LC III:61, K-W, 448).
How are you to pray “Thy will be done”? The German preacher, Helmut Thielicke observed that this is a dangerous petition to pray for we are in fact praying against ourselves. We are not asking God to bring His will into alignment with our will. Just the opposite, we are imploring Him to bring our fickle and unpredictable wills into harmony with His good and gracious will. This is not without suffering for we are asking God to “break and hinder” the will of the enemies: the devil, the world, and yes, our sinful nature.
- To meditate on God’s Word is to become a target
- Christians are under attack from the devil, the world, and our own flesh
- God’s Word sustains us to endure to the end
Bonhoeffer has described the Christian life as one long Advent Season. We are waiting on a Savior who has already come and comes even now. He has died in our place, defeated our enemies, and been raised for your justification. Clinging to His Word, we are set in spiritual warfare with the all that stands in opposition to Him. Our confidence is not in ourselves but in His sure and certain testimonies so we pray: “Give me life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your just and righteous decrees endures forever” (Psalm 119:159b-160).
SUGGESTED ORDER OF SERVICE:
The order of service for this series is the Service of Prayer and Preaching (LSB, p. 260).
Midweek III: “Comfort, Comfort These My People”-347 LSB
OPENING VERSICLES FOR ADVENT p. 260
OLD TESTAMENT CANTICLE
“Sing Praise to the God of Israel”- 936 LSB
READING FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE
Midweek III: Psalm 119:153-168
RESPONSORY FOR ADVENT p. 263
Ten Commandments/Apostles’ Creed/Lord’s Prayer
Midweek III: Third Petition p. 324 LSB
“For the Joy Thine Advent Gave Me” 548:3 LSB
Midweek III Tentatio
Midweek III: “The Night Will Soon be Ending”- 337 LSB
PRAYER p. 263
COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Midweek III: Collect for Advent III
COLLECT FOR THE WORD p. 265
Midweek III: Catechism Prayer for Third Petition (Pless, p. 62)
EVENING PRAYER p. 267
“Arise, O Christian People”- 354:4 LSB
BLESSING p. 267