Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (ESV)
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Still He Gives
Monday of Epiphany 6
17 February 2014
Some years ago I remember a woman of marriageable age saying indignantly to me, "When I get married, I will still have my own bank account. I would never let a man have access to my money!" I thought this a strange sentiment and so I replied, "Why would you let this man have access to your body, if not to your bank account?" What would be more precious to a woman? How could a man with whom she could not trust her money, be trusted with her body and life? We do have strange ideas about the relative value of money, not to mention the value of holy marriage. This is why we will hoard money to our own detriment, but even give away our body (both men and women); as though its sanctity is of little value. Of course, this is completely backward. Money is of little value. It is only Shakespeare's "common drudge 'tween man and man." How much more valuable is our reputation and honor, our faith and church, and our marriage and family. Yet we are often quite willing to lose any and all of those to get money. Satan can still convince us to desire the worthless while losing the valuable in the process.
With what precious things we have been redeemed by Christ, who ransomed us "not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1Pt 1:18-19)! All the world's gold would be worthless and could not ransom one soul from death. You could be buried in a solid gold coffin, but you would still be quite dead. Eternal life is only conferred by the currency of Christ's precious blood, of which, only a drop suffices it so valuable. It is a currency that could only be spent through death, which Christ offered freely for the wretches of the world that value mere silver or gold over His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. How wrong we have it! This is why we are offended when Christ arrives at our doors seeking a contribution from our tightly held wallets. If we properly valued our Lord's precious gifts to us, our money would be far too little a recompense in thanks to God for them. We would beg Him to take our labor, our love, our life, all that is ours, not just mere money. This is why the Apostle Paul with high excitement reminds us that he, as a representative of the Lord, wants not just ours, but us (2Co 12:14). Yet, we even have trouble parting with what we wrongly call "ours" when Christ asks us.
Yet despite our miserliness, still He gives. Without any hope of even a minimal return He invests the most precious things for us and sets them upon the altars of our churches, that they might be received with our mouths and hands. His body given for us and His blood shed for the forgiveness of sins are ours to receive, although we have never deserved them and will never deserve them. He Himself humbly comes to serve at our tables so that we might have a part in Him. He gave Himself for the world. Yet, still He gives. Have you ever received a gift of excessive proportions from a friend or a relative? What is your reaction? "I don't deserve this. I am embarrassed by your generosity. Oh, you shouldn't have!" When was the last time we felt that kind of embarrassment at the overflowing generosity of our God, Jesus Christ? Yet, still He gives.
"Let us be embarrassed by God's love. Let us be ashamed at the excess of His loving-kindness, since He for our sakes spared not His only Son (Rm 8:32), yet we spare our wealth even to our own harm. He gave for us His own Son, but for Him we do not so much as despise money, not even for our benefit. How can these things receive pardon? If we would see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we would set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and consider them his rather than ours, and even then we would do not think that we are giving him the repayment that he deserves. But toward Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious blood for our sakes. He did this for us, who were neither well disposed toward Him nor good. We do not pour out even our money, and neglect Him who died for us, when He is naked and a stranger. Who shall deliver us from the punishment that is to come? For suppose that it were not God that punishes, but that we punished ourselves. Would we not vote against ourselves? Would we not sentence ourselves to the very fire of hell, for allowing Him who laid down His life for us, to languish in hunger? But why speak only of money? Had we ten thousand lives, ought we not to lay them all down for Him? Yet not even so could we do what His benefits deserve.
"But not even this induces us; more foolish are we than any, putting golden necklaces about our servants and mules and horses, and neglecting our Lord who goes about naked, and passes from door to door, and ever stands at our gates, and stretches forth His hands to us, but often we regard Him with unpitying eye. Yet He undergoes these things for our sake. Gladly He hungers that you may be fed. He goes naked that He may provide to you the materialsfor a garment of immortality. Yet not even then do you give up any of your own."
Homilies on the Gospel of John, 27.3
Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have called us to be Your children and heirs of Your gracious promises in Christ Jesus, who ransomed us not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with His own precious blood. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may forsake all covetous desires and the inordinate love of riches. Deliver us from the pursuit of perishing things that we may seek the kingdom of Your Son and trust in His righteousness and so find blessedness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For the Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that they might seek peace as they share in the Koinonia Project this week
For Pastor Ian Pacey of Memorial Lutheran Church, that he would grow in service to God's people through the proclamation of the divine word
For Katie Frisby, who is with child, that she would be strengthened in her body and built up in her holy faith as she awaits God's gift
Art: MEMLING, Hans Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014