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Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance." When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, "Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!" (ESV)


No Accident

Tuesday of Pentecost 3

1 July 2014

Several of the members of my parish have been deployed to war zones around the world. Before leaving for Iraq one of these people, an Air Force officer, expressed some dismay about the political indecision about Afghanistan and the rules of engagement imposed on troops there. I suggested to him that if we are going to send troops to war, we should let them make war. He readily concurred. That's what they are trained to do. If we don't want them to conduct war, we should stop training them to do it. As unfortunate as it is, the military is trained to kill our enemies. It's a kind of necessary evil. The office of the military is to protect the people of the United States from foreign enemies. Military personnel have to kill people to do it. That is their proper office.


Often, however, the U. S. military gets involved in humanitarian projects around the world, both inside and out of combat zones. A dear friend is a chaplain in the U. S. Army. He preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments for an institution whose office is not gospel, but law. So, sometimes the military does things that are not directly part of its primary mission or office. This is accidental to its mission. The military often builds homes and schools, provides medical care and relief supplies in combat zones. But that isn't the military's primary office or calling.


Christ came bearing the office of "gospel-er." He comes to proclaim the good news about God's gracious attitude about us. He comes to fill the gospel with His own righteousness. He comes to be the very content of the gospel. So He does more than just tell us about it, He is it. He also does other things in His earthly ministry; including to heal the sick and to care for the poor. These acts are closely related to His mission to save the world from its sins, but they are not the mission itself. They are accidental to His office. Indeed, they are things that the prophets before Him had already accomplished as signs of His coming.


Christ also reiterated the law, often clarifying for His hearers that the law was far more fearsome than they had presumed. Much of the Sermon on the Mount ratchets up the intensity of the law. Jesus shows it to be a spiritual foe (Rm 7:14), that destroys our pretensions to external piety at the expense of a heart that truly fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things. This remains a necessary, but alien function of Christ. The true office of God's Son is to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10). Commanding that we do good works is right; it just does not save, it does not make right in God's sight. Only the righteousness of Christ will suffice in the sight of God. The giving of that righteousness is Christ's proper office. Such righteousness is no accident.


Martin Luther


"When Christ issues commands in a Gospel and teaches, or rather interprets, the law, this belongs, not to the topic of justification but to good works. Besides, teaching the law is not the proper office of Christ on account of which He came into the world; it is an accidental function, just as when He healed the sick, raised the dead, helped the poor, and comforted the afflicted. These are glorious and divine works and blessings, of course; but they are not peculiar to Christ. For the prophets taught the law too, and performed miracles. But Christ is true God and man, who while battling with the law suffered its extreme severity and tyranny. By performing and bearing the law He conquered it in Himself. And then, when He rose from the dead, He condemned the law, our most hostile enemy, and took it from our shoulders, so that it can no longer condemn or kill believers. Therefore the true and proper office of Christ is to struggle with the law, sin, and death of the entire world, and to struggle in such a way that He undergoes them, but, by undergoing them, conquers them and abolishes them in Himself, thus liberating believers from the law and from every evil. Therefore teaching the law and performing miracles are special benefits of Christ, which were not the chief reason for His coming. For the prophets and especially the apostles did greater miracles than Christ Himself did (Jn 14:12)."


Martin Luther,
Lectures on Galatians, 4.5

Lord Jesus Christ, You are the true proclaimer of the gospel and its true content. Grant us the gift of faithful preachers who will repeat Your gospel in the world, that hearts might be stilled, consciences cleansed, and minds freed from the law's burdens. Protect us from preachers of the law who would want us to submit again to the law's tyranny. Amen.


For the family of Patricia McAlister, whom the Lord took to Himself, that they would grieve in the hope of the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come


For Pr. Matthew Heise of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, that the Lord would strengthen and uphold him in his work of proclaiming Christ throughout the world


For the families of deployed military personnel, that the Lord Jesus would strengthen and encourage them during the time that they are separated from their loved ones 
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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