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And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac." And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring." So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.


When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, "Let me not look on the death of the child." And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. (ESV)


The Chicken or the Egg

Friday of Pentecost 14 

19 September 2014

Do you remember the children's dilemma: "Which came first the chicken or the egg?" When a child asks this, he snickers knowingly, thinking you are trapped by an unsolvable conundrum. It is a legitimate dilemma when it comes to the life of the church. Which came first the gospel or the church? Which came first the ministry or the church? Luther's answer to this dilemma is simple: "Yes." One does not have priority over the other. Adam and Eve were certainly the church in the garden, even before the gospel was proclaimed to them (Gn 3:15), or ever they had need of the divine proclamation of mercy. Yet, the Word of the gospel makes the church even now. Paul tells us that faith comes from hearing (Rm 10:17). Believers are the church. Yet, the church is indispensably a creation of the Word, which God uses to ever and again re-create the church. The church is self-perpetuating, not in some mechanical or perfunctory way, but she who has been born by the Word gives birth anew through the Word. We struggle with the multi-layered and intertwined life of the Word, the church, her ministers, and her children. Unfortunately, we prefer to use Occam's razor to slice things down to one thing or the other. However, with all due respect to Occam, maybe God's grace toward us is richer and more multi-faceted than that.


The church never exists without the Word. The Word never exists without creating the church. The ministers of the church never exist without the church. The ministers of the Word never cease to create the church. "A threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecc 4:12). Those who want to slice the ministry from the church and vice versa, are simply creating a false division; separating the church from her means. As we saw in the Gulf of Mexico, after the BP oil rig explosion, when energy, in the form of oil, is separated from its means of delivery much mischief ensues, lives even may be lost, and a great deal of energy is expended in the clean up. If the church is abandoned by her children, or her ministers, they will no longer be her free children. If she neglects the divine Word, she will no longer have a claim to the name of church. The Word will not be delivered to create the church, which preaches the Word.


By trying to separate these intertwined strands of divine grace all we are doing is separating what God has joined together. We must not. Gospel, church, ministers and free children all belong together, joined as they are at the altar by God. They are all created and re-created in a circle, inseparably, and forever. Maybe the children's dilemma is not so easy to solve after all.


Martin Luther


"This allegory (Gal 4:21-31) beautifully teaches that the church should do nothing but preach the gospel correctly and purely and thus give birth to freedmen. In this way we are all fathers and children to one another, for we are born of one another. I was born of others through the gospel, and now I have given birth to still others, who will be fathers to still others; and so this giving birth will endure until the end of the world. But I am speaking, not about Hagar's giving birth, who gives birth to slaves through the law, but about free Sarah's, who gives birth to heirs without the law, without works or their own efforts. That Isaac is the heir and Ishmael is not (even though both are genuine sons of Abraham) takes place through the Word of promise, specifically: "Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac" (Gn 17:19). Sarah understood this very well, and therefore she said (Gn 21:10): "Cast out this slave woman with her son, etc.;" words that Paul quotes below (Gal 4:30). Therefore just as Isaac has the inheritance from his father solely on the basis of the promise and of his birth, without the law or works, so we are born as heirs by Sarah, the free woman, that is, by the church, our mother. She teaches, cherishes, and carries us in her womb, her bosom, and her arms; she shapes and perfects us to the form of Christ, until we grow into a complete manhood (Eph 4:13). Thus everything happens through the ministry of the Word. Therefore, through marriage to God the free woman gives birth to children endlessly, that is, to sons who know that they are justified by faith, not by the law.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.26

Lord Jesus, keep us in fellowship with all the free born children of Sarah. Free us from slavery to the law that we might never retreat to the law as a source of righteousness in Your sight. Amen.


For the board meeting of the Luther Academy, that the members would put the life of Christ the Lord before the world through their work


For strength and every blessing to women who are carrying children in the womb, that both children and mothers would be kept safe until the day of their delivery


For the editors and staff of LOGIA journal, that they would be upheld by the Lord in their labor to share the divine truth
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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