Forward this issue to a Friend 

Join Our Mailing List Like us on Facebook

Psalm 61



Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him! So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day. (ESV)

Nothing and Everything

Friday of Epiphany 6

21 February 2014

The church's children must return continually to Christ for the shape of the Christian life. When we take up our cross to follow him, in our weakness, we feel the burden of deprivation. Like taking up our cross, we feel the grief of our own self-denial. During Lent, many people choose disciplines of self-denial in fasting and other bodily training. Such disciplines may remind us that we are dust and flesh, and that to dust we shall return. That is as it should be. But sometimes self-denial takes on a life of its own. We can get so focused on our period of self-deprivation and the struggle we are having overcoming our bodily cravings, that we lose sight of the benefits of our time of self-denial. Ultimately, we lose sight of the fact that by denying ourselves we are losing nothing. By being focused on the loss, we are focused on nothing and to our detriment.

 

What is the point of self-denial? What is the point of self-abnegation? It is to be shaped like Christ. Our self emptying is that we would be filled by Him. Our humiliation is so that we might live in His resurrected power and indestructible life. Our humiliation, like His, is truly the loss of nothing for the sake of gaining everything. Our being emptied receives all of His gifts. A vessel that is full is capable of receiving nothing. If we are surfeited with our own spirituality, or lack of it, we shall have no room for the resurrected Christ. So we should not become so focused on our effort and so lose sight of what self-denial is for. It is that we should carry around in our bodies both the death and life of Christ.

 

In this way, we are truly dying to live. Our dying flesh becomes the bearer of immortality. Our poverty in the eyes of the world makes us most rich. Our humility enthrones us as kings and priests in the kingdom of Christ. This happens not by reason of our lack, but by reason of Christ's coming to fill in the emptiness with which we are left by denial of self and a life of repentance. The ultimate case of this is on death day, where life is denied, and just then perfect life is gained. Just when there is nothing, you have everything.

 

Leo the Great 

 

"Imitate what Christ worked. Love what He loved. Finding in you the grace of God, love in Him your nature in return, since He was not deprived of riches in poverty, His glory was not reduced in humility, He did not lose eternity in death. So treading in His footsteps, you should despise earthly things that you may gain heavenly. For taking up the cross means the slaying of lusts, the killing of vices, the turning away from vanity, and the renunciation of all error. For, though the Lord's Passover of Easter can be kept by no conceited, self-indulgent, proud, or miserly person, yet none are held so far from this festival as heretics, and especially those who have wrong views on the incarnation of the Word, because either they disparage what belongs to the Godhead or treat what is of the flesh as unreal.

 

"For the Son of God is true God, having from the Father all that the Father is, with no beginning in time, subject to no sort of change, undivided from the one God, not different from the Almighty, the eternal Only-begotten of the eternal Father. The faithful intellect believes in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in the same essence of the one godhead, neither dividing the unity by suggesting degrees of dignity in the persons, nor confounding the Trinity by merging the Persons in one. But it is not enough to know the Son of God in the Father's nature only, unless we acknowledge Him in what is ours [the flesh] without withdrawal of what is His own. For that self-emptying, which He underwent for man's restoration, was the dispensation of compassion, not the loss of power. For, although by the eternal purpose of God there was 'no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:12), the invisible made His substance visible, the timeless set in time, what could not suffer was subject to suffering. This happened, not that power might sink into weakness, but that weakness might pass into indestructible power."

 

Leo the Great, 
Sermon on the Resurrection
, 2.5
 

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, You have been raised from the dead that we might have life in You alone. Help us to make ourselves nothing that You might be all for us. Keep us from gazing upon our work and instead focus on Your death and resurrection. Amen.

 

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that their travels would be safe and their homecomings joyful

 

For all those full of their own spirituality, that the Lord would empty them so that they might be filled with his gifts

 

For all those who are suffering from inclement weather, that the Lord would send His holy angels to watch over them and protect them

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

Find me on Facebook                                                                                       © Scott R. Murray, 2014

 
This email was sent to tpernoud@mlchouston.org by smurray@mlchouston.org |  
Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057