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2 Timothy 1:6-18

 

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

 

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

 

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.

 

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me- may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!- and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. 
 (ESV)

 

 

Conformed to the Creed

Monday of Pentecost 22

21 October 2013

What we believe must have some impact on what we do. Outside the church, this is called "talking the talk and walking the walk." While our heavenly Father frees us to work for NASA as a physicist, take up accounting, or discover a new vaccine, we are not free to build our own nuclear bomb, cheat people of their money, or abuse human medical subjects, not even to further some putative greater good. We must remain responsible not only to avoid harming others, but we should use the earthly gifts that God gives us to serve and benefit our fellow humans. Our freedom in the things of this world does not relieve us of the responsibility to use our freedom in a way that helps rather than hurts. We should not accept the modern scientistic myth that whatever we have the power to do, we should be able to do. An "is" does not make an "ought."

 

While we are free in things that are neither commanded nor forbidden by God, such as those things listed above, that is not an absolute freedom. One may enter into marriage, which is a gift to the body and the community, by freely choosing this spouse or that, but within that freedom, we may not use marriage as a cloak for criminal or immoral deeds. For example, marriage does not give us the right to expect a spouse to condone immoral behaviors, such as physical abuse or criminal acts.

 

My children know what our family standards are. It's not like we can make a list of the Murray family "non-negotiables." But our whole family is clear on what is expected of its members to uphold the honor of our family in the community and the glory of God in the church. My children know that our family reputation is important, and while they push the envelope once in a while, I seldom have to explain why certain acts or behaviors would not be acceptable in our family. In other words, there is a relationship between the family "creed" and what our family does.

 

The same is true of our activities in the Christian church. The moral and confessional implications of what we believe still need to be taken into account. Often people argue that worship style has no relationship to what we believe. This is arrant nonsense. Some years ago, when my oldest daughter came downstairs dressed for church in a "style" that was not appropriate to our family standard, no discussion about it was necessary. I simply turned her around, she went back to her room and returned with clothing that indicated what our family thought about morality. Style does mean things; otherwise, we would not pay any attention to style at all. If style had no meaning, there would be no fashion magazines.

 

If the church takes up a style that does not reinforce the creed of the church, she will betray her heavenly Father and His standards for her life and behavior. Now, from time to time, those styles change, yes, but that does not free us from paying attention to the meaning of the style right now. For example, if I arrived in my church next Sunday wearing a turban and a kaftan, and carrying with me a prayer carpet and if I knelt in prayer facing East in the Muslim style, who would describe this as Christian prayer? If style is insignificant why fuss about it? Why? Because style is important. Our worship must be shaped by the gifts of God: the preached Word of God, the Sacraments; holy Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and holy absolution. God's actions must be paramount, not our own. Our pastors must speak for God, not for themselves and God must be seen changing our behavior, no less in worship than in any other area of life. Our body must be conformed to the creed.

 

Martin Luther

 

"The glory of the [Old Testament] fathers was astonishingly great, because they were able to believe in the present and future kingdom, or the physical promise connected with the promise that is spiritual, of which the former was a covering, as it were, in which at the same time the promise concerning Christ was enfolded. But when we reflect on this, we should much rather praise our own Baptism, the Supper, the Keys, and the ministry of the Word, so that we may accustom ourselves and learn to honor, to admire, and to speak and think highly of the Word and the sacraments, which assuredly have the surpassingly great power to open heaven, to close hell, to remove sin and death, and to bestow life. But all this is done in faith. For we are still waiting; we do not yet see. In Romans we read: 'Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?'(Rm 8:24).

 

"This is how the promises of the New Testament should be compared with those which the fathers had in the Old Testament. Although the former were also included, yet they were not yet spread throughout the world as they are today. Then only that people had the promises; but now the whole world has them, the Word and the great deeds of God. And in a time of necessity the ministry of the Word is entrusted to any brother.

 

"But when I teach, I am not the one who teaches and gives comfort; it is Christ, who dwells in us. Therefore do not believe me; but believe Christ, who baptizes, comforts, and offers the sacraments through me, as He has promised: 'I am with you always, to the end of the age' (Mt 28:20). For this is the power of God and the glorious splendor of the kingdom of Christ of which Ps 145:11 speaks. Accordingly, I would like to see the godly accustom themselves from early youth to speak with the greatest pride of our primogeniture, the kingdom, and the ministry. And it is my wish that we give thanks to God and indeed honor these blessings with heartfelt reverence and with the attitude of the whole body. For they are blessings of God, and blessings of such a kind that they give us the eternal kingdom." 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 48.20
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us shape our lives to conform to the confessed faith of Your church, rather than to the whims of our own devising. Keep our bodily attitude bent in reverence toward the things that give grace to Your faithful people. Amen.

 

For those who are dying, that the Lord Jesus would grant him rest and peace at the last

 

For all marriages, that those who have received this gift from God might strive to preserve it in love

 

For Chaplain Donald Ehrke (Maj. US Army), that he might be strengthened in his ministry to the men and women serving under the flag

Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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