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Psalm 142

 

With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living." Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me. (ESV)

The Glory of Christ

Wednesday of Lent 2

4 March 2015

Some years ago, there were a number of church fires set in the city of Houston. At the height of this onslaught against churches, the members of the church I serve set their own night watch against the threat. Thanks to God, nothing came of it. Their vigilance was unneeded. The threat passed and everyone slept better. When our church is threatened we tend to be very upset and do what we think we need to do to defend her from violence or attack. We would never suffer some ruffian to disrupt our services and try to knock over the church's altar. People would rise up from the pews to stop such a person.

 

But, a far worse attack is launched upon the church when Christ Himself is rejected by those around us, or the people of the church are slandered or abused by unbelievers. Yet we stand meekly by as the true house of God is defamed (1Co 3:9), by those who do not understand her Lord or His sheep. We may even fan the flame of rage or ridicule, because we are afraid of persecution or mockery. We are willing to protect bricks and mortar, but we are unwilling to defend the sheep from slander and attack. We have set the wrong priorities about which house we are willing to stand up for.

 

Even passivity in the face of defamation of the church and her children is a sin by omission. Our excuses will not do. For to decline to defend the church is to make war on her Lord. For she is His body and He is her Head (Eph 5:28-30). If a husband declined to defend his wife if she were being attacked in his presence, we would consider him an oaf and a cad. This is why we defend the bride of Christ, the holy church; for the Lord's sake.

 

But you say, "Yes, but if I defend the church in polite company, what cost of persecution, ridicule, or mockery will I suffer? How can I bear this burden?" Have you forgotten that the Lord has Himself bore this persecution, ridicule, and mockery, and more for you on the cross of His suffering? Have you desired to receive human glory, at the cost of the glory of the church and her Lord? Have you taken your eyes off the glory of Christ on the cross, which He suffered not for His own benefit, but for you? All He does He does for your sake. If, through our spiritual weakness, we have subverted the church or her teachers we must be honest to confess that we have attempted to subvert Christ Himself. His glory is that we should be glorified through His suffering.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"If someone were to come with fire and pick axe to destroy and burn this church, and break down this altar, would not each one of those here stone him with stones as accursed and a law-breaker? What then, if someone were to bring a flame yet more consuming than that fire, I mean envy, that ruins not buildings of stone nor destroys a golden altar, but subverts and scornfully spoils what is far more precious than either walls or altar, namely, the Teacher's building. Does such a one deserve to be tolerated? Let no one tell me, that he has often endeavored to avoid subverting the church and been unable. For it is from the spirit that actions are judged. Saul killed David, even though he did not strike him (1Sa 19:10).

 

"Don't you see that you are plotting against the sheep of Christ when you battle with his Shepherd? These are the sheep for whom also Christ shed His blood. He bids us both to do and to suffer all things. Remind yourself that your Master sought your glory and not His own. But you are seeking not that of your Master but your own? Yet if you sought His glory, then you would have obtained your own. But by seeking your own before His, you will never gain this."

 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 7

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, Your glory was that You suffered that we might be glorified in You. Help us to look upon Your cross in faith, that we might be prepared to suffer ridicule and persecution for Your sake. Free us from envy that we might support, cherish, and honor the people and leaders of our church. Amen.

 

For all those who are struggling to live in the estate of holy marriage, that they might live in the love of Christ

 

For Ruth Sovis, that she might recover fully from a broken arm

 

For the aged, that the Lord would be with them as they struggle with the weaknesses of aging

 

For prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body, that the Lord would bring them what they need for every day 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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