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Psalm 84

 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.  As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!(ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Necessary

Wednesday of Epiphany 2

21 January 2015

The Christian virtues are easy to display in the midst of good times and easy days. It is much more challenging to be virtuous in the midst of sickness, poverty, and when under attack. Such virtues become real only in the fire of trouble, just as love only becomes real to the Velveteen Rabbit when he is rubbed and frayed into ugliness. This is the testing that strengthens and builds the virtues of the Christian life, just as suffering made complete the redemptive work of Christ Himself. Elsewhere Paul says, 'We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us' (Rm 5:3-5).

 

The Romans had displayed those virtues in such a way that their faith and the virtuousness that comes from it was known throughout the world. Paul says, 'First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.' (Rm 1:8). One of the members of my congregation was sick with Hodgkin's Lymphoma when I arrived some years ago. Tim would be forced by his disease to suffer hospitalization at MD Anderson Hospital, when he might spike a fever or experience some attack on his body by the disease. I would visit him (because he always called me to let me know that he was in the hospital; not expecting me to be all-knowing). I would begin my devotion of comfort in Christ with him and not very far into the devotion Tim would turn the tables on me and begin to comfort me and confess the gospel to me. I remember teasing him by saying, "Tim, you don't understand how this is supposed to work. I am here to tell you the good news about your salvation in Christ. I am not here to have you tell me about my Savior and His work!" Tim would just laugh and keep on.

 

This man was driven to confess his faith in the midst of suffering and pain. He just couldn't help himself. When he heard the gospel spoken, he had to speak it back again. And I was the privileged recipient. I will never forget Tim and look forward to meeting him again later. When we are in the midst of suffering that is when the gospel promises mean the most to us. This must be this way, because our situation cannot tell us what the divine will is about us. Only God's speech itself can calm our troubled and burdened hearts. It is hardest then to believe that God is our God in the midst of suffering and trials, but then it is most necessary.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"This is an introduction worthy (Rm 1:8) of this blessed spirit, Paul. It is able to teach everyone to offer to God the first of their good deeds and words, and to render thanks not only for their own, but also for others' good deeds. This also makes the soul pure from envy and grudging, and draws God in a greater measure towards the loving spirit of them that so render thanks. Therefore also elsewhere he says, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing' (Eph 1:3).

 

"It is right that we render thanks not only when rich, but also when we are poor, not only when in health, but also when we are sick, not only when we succeed, but also when we have to bear reverses. For when our affairs are carried forward with a fair wind, to be thankful is not amazing. But when no small storms are upon us and the vessel veers about and is in danger, then is the greatest time for displaying patience and goodness of heart. For this reason Job gained a crown forever. He stopped the shameless mouth of the devil and showed clearly that not even when he saw good days was it because of his wealth that he was thankful, but through his great love toward God.

 

"Look also at what things Paul is thankful for; not for things earthly and perishing, as power and authority and glory (for these things are of no account). He is thankful for real blessings, faith, and boldness of speech. How forcefully he gives thanks. For he said not 'to God,' but 'to my God,' which also the prophets say; this way making what is common to all their own. Why are we amazed that the Prophets do this? For God himself plainly does it continually with His servants, by calling Himself the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, as particularly theirs."


John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 2.1

 

Prayer

Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For all those who are needing to travel in the midst of the winter weather, that they would be kept safe

 

For those who are shut in, that the Lord would send them the messengers to deliver the gospel to them

 

For those who care for the roads in inclement weather, that they would be kept safe in their labors 

Art: RENI, Guido Baptism of Christ (c. 1623)

 

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