Praying like Luther


In a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) I have been using an idea derived from Martin Luther’s letter to his barber on how to pray.  This is available as an article fro Inter Varsity Press in a booklet called “Martin Luther’s Quiet Time.”

Luther’s four fold strand of prayer in response to scripture is put into the acronym S*T*A*R  

The following extract from a sermon explains….

I have also shared and modeled a way of praying through the Lord’s Prayer. This comes from Martin Luther’s teaching on prayer.   He said that we can take a part of scripture, such as the 10 Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer and turn it into a pray by these easy steps.  First to State the teaching, “Lord you have taught us that we can come to your as our Father.”  Then we can thank him, “Lord we thank you for the privilege of prayer that we can come to you and you will welcome us and delight in us as a parent delights in a child.”  Then we can Admit our wrongs, “Lord we act as orphans in the world. We act as if we are on our own and do not look to you for guidance or for help in times of trouble.”  Then we can Request. “Lord, please let our lives be a reflection of your love and personal care for us.”

 This STAR outline can help us in our prayer. We can use it whenever we respond to Scripture.  I have modeled it in each sermon of this series so far, and will do it again today. 

We will:

  • State the teaching
  • Thank God for it.
  • Admit our failings
  • Request God to act on it.

How the Golden Rule fits in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:12

Gold barsThe Golden Rule is not called that in the text of Matthew.  It is just there in the text.  Many people seem to think that this is the central truth of the Christian message.  No, that does not seem to be so to me.  I have wondered for some time how it fits.

This time in preaching Matthew, I have tried to pay attention to t he literary structure.  In general Matthew uses two devices – first the life of Christ with a sort of climb to the confession by Peter of Jesus identity, then a turn to the Cross.  This is an outline shared by Mark and to a degree Luke.  Second, Matthew has collected discourses (teaching) and narratives (actions) into thematic clusters.

Matthew 5-9 can be see as a unit with the emphasis on the Authority of Jesus – the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5-7 focus on Jesus authority as a teacher.  Chapters 8 and 9 demonstrate Jesus authority through miracles.

Now here is how the Golden Rule fits in the Sermon

  • Beatitudes – 8 statements of conditions of blessing – 5:1-12
  • Mission for Disciples – Salt and Light – 5:13-16
  • Ethics 5:17-7:12
    • Statement of Law and Prophets – 5:17
    • Jesus’ Ethical teaching on
      • The Law – 5:18-48 – “you have heard, but I say”
      • Spiritual Life – 6:1-18 – giving, prayer and fasting
      • Possessions and Worry – 6:19-34
      • Reciprocal Judgment  – 7:1-11
    • Golden Rule – “Law and Prophets” 7:12
  • Call to Decision – 7:13-17 – 4 examples of 2 paths (4×2=8)
  • Crowd comments on the Authority of Jesus 7:28-29

I have underlined verse 5:17 which begins the section on Ethics and 7:12 which concludes that section.  Both these verses have the phrase “law and prophets”.  First, Jesus speaks of fulfilling the law and the prophets, and at the end he says that the “golden rule” is the law and the prophets.

So then we can see that the Golden Rule serves as a sort of summary of Jesus’ ethical teaching from 5:17 to 7:12.

The Beatitudes as I noted are 8 statements of blessing.  The initial beatitude “blessed are the poor in spirit” corresponds to the confession of sin and admission of need that is the beginning point of being a follower of Jesus.  At the end there is a four fold call to decide (Two Gates, Two Fruit, Two Claims and Two Houses).  Is it a coincidence that the whole sermon starts with 8  beatitudes and ends with 8 choices (four sets of two)?

This sermon is a very carefully crafted discourse – both from the mouth of Jesus and as Matthew records it – I believe he has edited this message, because it is not that long from start to finish.  It is about 2,400 words in the NIV – which works out to a 30 minute sermon at the pace I preach.  Some parts are shaped as an outline and useful for memorization (e.g. the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer).  So it is reasonable to think that this is a condensation of Jesus message, and one that he may have repeated in part or in full as he went from place to place (4:23).

The Golden Rule does not stand alone, nor can it merely be filled by one’s own ideas of its meaning. It is a conclusion to the central section of Jesus sermon.  In short, it serves to give one way to summarize the ethics of a Christian – it corresponds to the 2nd Greatest Command – “Love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matthew 22:34-37, where again Jesus spoke of “the law and the prophets.)


Reciprocity and Judgment – Matthew 7:1-6


I want to use a word that may not be in your everyday vocabulary.    This word is “Reciprocity.”  The definition of Reciprocity is “an exchange or relationship between two or more people.”  The important part is “relationship”.

If I stood up, pointed the finger at one of you and said, “You are a hypocrite”, there is no reciprocity.”

If I stand up and say, “I am a hypocrite, and if you examine your hearts by the word of God, you may find that you are hypocrites also.”  That is reciprocal – because you and I are in a relationship.  Together we admit our need for Grace.

Notice that Jesus says in v. 3, “When you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye…”  This illustration is about people who are in a relationship.  We know that the New Testament compares the Christian Church to a family.  In Jesus we are brothers and sisters.  So one application of this illustration is how we can deal with each other’s flaws in the family of believers.  This is a reciprocal relationship.

Notice also that Jesus says in verse 5, “…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

This means that there is room for judgment in the community of believers.  If we see a fault in others, out first response should not be to condemn.  Nor should it be to act like you are better.

This means that there can be an exchange.  If and when I have had my sins addressed by the Lord, I might be in a position to help another person with those.  This is not me inserting myself in their lives. It is rather an offer to help as a fellow sinner and a fellow recipient of Grace.

We have to ask what this verse is here to say to us.  I think it is related to this question of Judgment.  And I believe it is telling us that we have to discern who we are speaking to.

If the other person is a brother or sister, then the teaching about specks and planks apply.  There is a place for loving confrontation.

What if the person is not in a mutual relationship?

v.6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Jesus is not speaking here about a house pet.  He is speaking about dogs from the ancient near east.  We could probably translate the word as “Junk yard dog.”

Would you give your Bible, or the American flag, or your family photo album to a Junk Yard Dog?  No, because he would not care of the value you place on the thing.  He would chew it up or bury it or who knows what.

Would you put your wedding ring, or your grandmothers pearl necklace, or your college diploma in a pig pen?  No, because you care too much for those things.  They are valuable and the pig has no sense of their value.

This verse is about with what is sacred and of valuable with the kinds of people who show no regard for what is sacred.

Where we share a relationship with God, we can also share in mutual confrontation and correction, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Where there is no relationship with God, we cannot share in mutual confrontation and correction.

Reciprocity – Matthew 7:1-12



The thing I notice is the reciprocity of these verses.




  • Do not Judge or you will be judged
    • with the judgments you use
    • with the measures you use
  • Do not remove the speck in your neighbors eye
    • without first dealing with your own
  • Do not give treasure to beasts
    • Or they will turn on you
  • Ask, Seek and Knock and you will receive, find and enter
    • if we the unjust love our children
    • how much more will God love us
  • Do to others what you would have them do to you
    • this applies to everything
    • this fulfills the law and the prophets (see 5:17)

Judging in the sense of condemning is prohibited (maybe because that implies we are on safe ground)

But judging ourselves first, allows us to help others (we are on the same ground)

Some who are in error are correctable (speck/log in eye).

Some who are in error are not (dogs/pigs).

When we love, we imperfectly show what God can do better than we can.

The Golden Rule is reciprocal – do what you want done to you.

So the thing you can’t do is hear this and hope that others get their act together. (the ones you judge, the ones with specks, the dogs and the pigs and the parents with screaming kids in the grocery store)

Key Words – Jesus and Scripture in Matthew 5


17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 You have heard that it was said …. But I say to you {repeated in 6 examples}

48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I was intrigues by six words in Jesus teaching on the Law.  First “Law” here refers to the whole Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), not just to regulations such as the Ten Commandments.  Jesus relationship to the scripture can be characterized by these highlighted words

Fulfill – to bring to completion in a variety of senses. Not just to fulfill predictions (such as being born in Bethlehem) but also to complete all aspects of the scripture.  For example, his death fulfills the system of sacrifices – see the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.

Accomplish – this is to say, to do all of it.  No part (jot or tittle; iota or dot) will be left incomplete.

Do and Teach – Those who leave out any part of the commands of God diminish themselves – they become “least in the kingdom of  heaven.”  Those who do and who teach all of the word, will be great.  This is quite a statement for pastors and teachers to consider if they feel a challenge between the text and the desire of the audience.

Exceed – the scribes and Pharisees were the A students who took the advanced classes.  To exceed them in law keeping is not really possible.  It seems that we need to exceed by 1. seeing that life in God is in relationship first of all to our Heavenly Father {repeated many times in this sermon} and not merely to a rule book.  And by 2. receiving a gift of righteousness from Christ.  To those who say this is importing Paul into Jesus’ teaching, I point to this verse:

“blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  5:6.

Notice that you do not fill yourself with righteousness, but that those who hunger will BE FILLED {passive voice}. So who is doing the filling?  The correct answer in the Sermon on the Mount is usually “your Father in Heaven.”

Perfect – in v. 48 Jesus sets a standard of perfection.  Yet he speaks of being “poor in spirit”, “meek” and to “hunger and thirst…”.  This passage is instruction for disciples (5:1),. who presumably have already heard his message: “Repent and believe…” {4:17}

These are the words that frame Jesus restating, clarifying and expanding the meaning of the “Law and the prophets” in the six examples found in this chapter.



Is Faster Better? On preaching Matthew



I am preaching in Matthew, more or less a chapter at a time.  Now I have come to Matthew 5 – and as far as I am concerned, I could spend the rest of the year on the Sermon on the Mount.  However, to study Matthew as a whole with any kind of sense of progress, I am taking the Sermon a chapter at a time – really taking a nice tasty bite out of each chapter.

Now here is your part.  Would you prefer your preacher to show down in passages that are as rich and dense as the Sermon on the Mount, or are you ok with keeping the pace going.  The side information is that I also follow the sermon text in the Adult class on Sundays.

What is your opinion? Is faster better? or do you like slow?


Crouton — 22



October 22, 2013



“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”  Romans 12:17

Note that “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” was not for individual revenge, but for justice to be proportional.  Even so Jesus refined our understanding on repayment and revenge.

 Matthew 5:38-48   “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’   But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.   And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.   If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.   Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,   that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?   And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?   Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.