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Psalm 9

 

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment. You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished. But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. Be gracious to me, O LORD! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation. The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid their own foot has been caught. The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men!(ESV)  

 

 

Something Really Great

Thursday of Pentecost 16 

12 September 2013

Purl was a retired farmer who took his faith seriously. He led the little country church's evangelism program. Immediately after I arrived as a vicar [student pastor], he took me out visiting prospective members. We visited in the home of a couple that had just moved out of the big city to retire in the country. The man, who was at home when we called that morning, a big bulldog of a human being, invited us in. We sat in his comfortable family room. After hearing him speak of his project to completely renovate the farmhouse, he finally said, "Why are you here?" Purl said, "Oh, we are here for a neighborly visit inviting you and your wife to come to church." The man looked surprised and began berating Purl for wasting his time. Unknown to me, Purl had called at the home three previous times. The man explained half seriously and half mockingly that we were wasting our time by asking such a hopeless sinner like him to come to church. No church would ever be benefited by his presence, or so he said. He then changed the subject, and we talked for a few minutes about the repairs he was making to his ancient farm tractor. After which, old Purl thanked him for his time, we shook hands, and went off to the next home on Purl's list.

 

As we were driving along the country lane away from the farmhouse, I asked Purl why he had accepted such mockery and abuse from this man. With his age-worn voice he replied, "Well, Vicar, you never know when the Holy Spirit is going to use what you say to change someone's heart. Anyway, I don't think he means anything by it." I thought to myself that we had wasted a call.

 

The next Sunday the man and his wife were sitting together in a pew of the little church when I started the service. That was a shock. They became members and avidly supported the little church while I was vicar there. They often showed me hospitality. After we became friends, I finally asked the man why he and his wife came to the church after he had so abused Purl. He said that it impressed him that Purl was willing to be treated this way for the sake of his church and the church's Lord. He concluded that there must be something really great about the church and her Lord. He had to find out what it was.

 

The Lord Jesus fares best when we ourselves suffer for His sake. If he is seen to be victorious through our suffering, then God's will is being done. What great suffering He has endured at our hands. What abuse our sin has heaped upon Him. What mockery our mouths have inflicted on Him. What wounds our transgressions have driven through His hands and side. Yet, still He dies for us. There is something really great about His church. Look what it cost Him to build it. 

 

Martin Luther

 

"David is not speaking here (Ps 23) only about his own person, but by means of these words he shows how the holy Christian Church fares. He gives it the proper coloration and paints a fine picture of it. Before God it is a pleasant green meadow, on which there is grass and water in abundance. That is, it is God's paradise and pleasure garden, adorned with all His gifts, and it has His inexpressible treasure: the holy sacraments, the dear Word, with which it instructs, governs, restores, and comforts His flock.

 

"To the world, however, it has a different appearance. It is a black, gloomy valley, where neither joy nor pleasure is to be seen, but only distress, anxiety, and trouble. The devil assails it with all his might because of its treasure. Inwardly he tortures it with his venomous, fiery arrows (Eph 6:16). Outwardly he separates it with schisms and offenses (Rm 16:17). And he also incites his bride, the world, against it, which imposes upon it all misery and heartache through persecution, slander, blasphemy, damnation, and murder. It would not be surprising, therefore, if the dear Christian Church were completely destroyed in a moments time through the great craft and might of both the devil and the world. For it cannot defend itself against its enemies. They are much too strong, crafty, and powerful for it. So it is, as the prophet depicts it here, an innocent, simple, defenseless lamb, which neither will nor can do anyone any harm, but at all times is ready not only to do good but to receive evil in return.

 

"How, then, does it happen that Christianity, which is so weak, can withstand the craft and the tyranny of the devil and the world? The Lord is its Shepherd; therefore it does not want. He feeds and restores it spiritually and physically. He keeps it in the right path. He also gives it His rod and His staff as a sword. It does not, however, wield this sword with its hand but with its mouth. With it, it not only comforts the sad but also puts the devil and all his apostles to flight, no matter how cunningly and shrewdly they may defend themselves. Moreover, the Lord has prepared a table or paschal lamb before it, in order to destroy its enemies completely when they rage greatly, gnash their teeth against it, become mad, insane, raging, and raving, and call to their aid all their craft, strength, and power. Thus the dear bride of Christ can sit down at the table of her Lord, eat of the paschal lamb, drink of the fresh water, be happy and sing: 'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.' These are her weapons and guns, with which she has defeated and conquered all her foes until now. With these she will also retain the victory until Judgment Day. The more the devil and the world plague and torture her, the better she fares. For her betterment and growth come in persecution, suffering, and dying. Therefore one of the old fathers has said: 'The blood of the martyrs is a seed.' Where one is executed, a hundred others rise again."     

Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.5 
 
Prayer

Dear Jesus, help us to believe in Your victory when we are suffering. Amen.

 

For Marvin Kluttz, who is gravely ill, that the Lord would be with him and bring him to his heavenly home

 

For Pastor J. Bart Day of LCMS National Mission as he and his staff serve the church, that they would be strengthened by the Word of God

 

For all pregnant mothers and young children, that they would be kept safe and have increasing joy in all their blessings 
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057