I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (ESV)
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Taste and See
Monday of Pentecost 2
8 June 2015
We come to the splashing water of baptism and the sound itself fills us with delight. Our heavenly Father uses means to give us His gifts. The water's movement reminds us that it is living and life-giving. Water: touchable, tangible, is connected with God's Word to bring us a washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. There is the pastor's hand and his voice: all used by God to accomplish His ways in the world to bring His children of flesh and blood into His kingdom through an external washing that is more than an external washing. External, yes, at least that, but more and greater, because it's connected with God's Word and promise. He has done all for those who baptized, as He has and still does for all His children. Come, stick your finger in the water. Put your finger here. Touch the means of grace. Be assured by the external signs that deliver the divine promises to sinners.
Christ comes here conveying His peace; the mouth of His body forms around the words. He repeats them in case you doubt His sincerity: "Peace be with you!" He grants the Holy Spirit through His means of grace, His speech gives what it says. He speaks not "about peace." His very speech delivers what it says: "Peace be with you." He comes here to His frightened disciples and says: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld" (Jn 20:23).
When you don't know what to do, when you're offended, angry, tongue-tied, irritated, and you can't imagine what the next words should be, perhaps they should be "I forgive you." Do you not have the Holy Spirit? Has not God placed in your hands His means? Can you not form your mouth around the words "I forgive you?" For shame that we are so timid in the delivery of these words! Would your neighbor, friend, coworker, spouse, or child be shocked by these words? How do you think the disciples to whom Jesus first spoke them felt? They knew they didn't deserve this generosity. But we must not judge God's generosity on the basis of our human standards. For He can do far more than we can ask or think: see the cross and empty tomb!
When the supper comes from the table to our mouths and hands our Lord is again saying to us, "Put your finger here. Touch and see. It is I! Don't be afraid. I'm giving you peace." We must come to this table with a truly childlike inquisitiveness to receive what we may touch. That that upon which are finger rests also comes into our mouths and we drink of His blood. Like an infant we come exchanging our filth for His cleanliness. He gives us that pure spiritual milk (1Pt 2:2) from the chalice, which is His blood. The bread of life is placed upon our tongues. There is nothing more tangible. There is nothing more able to be touched and handled and seen (1Jn 1:1-3). We taste Him and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8).
"If anyone considers how great a thing it is for a man composed of flesh and blood to be able to draw near to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see what great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to pastors. By their agency these rites [holy absolution] are celebrated, and others in no way lesser either in respect to our dignity and our salvation. For those who inhabit the earth and make their home there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, 'If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld' (Jn 20:23). Those who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body. But this withholding of forgiveness lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens. What pastors do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the declaration of his servants. For indeed what is it but heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, "If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld" (Jn 20:23)? What authority could be greater than this?
"Jesus says, 'The Father...has given all judgment to the Son' (Jn 5:22) But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they who have been conducted to the dignity of the pastoral office are as if they were already translated to heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the weaknesses to which we are liable. For example, if a king bestows this honor upon any of his subjects, authorizing him to cast into prison whom he pleased and to release them again, he becomes an object of envy and respect to all men. However, he who has received from God an authority as much greater as heaven is more precious than earth, and souls more precious than bodies, seems to some to have received so small an honor that they are actually able to imagine that one of those who have been entrusted with these things will despise the gift. Away with such madness! It is obviously madness to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For no one can enter into the kingdom of heaven except he is born again through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life. If all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the pastor, how will anyone, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?"
Concerning the Christian Ministry, 3.5
Lord Christ, You have commissioned mere men to deliver the life-saving message of our salvation through Your death and resurrection. Send us Your Spirit that we would honor them for Your sake and hear You in hearing them. Amen.
For the delegates of the Northwest District Convention, who will be meeting this week, that they would proclaim the life and death of Christ during their meeting together
For Susan Narr, who will be undergoing back surgery, that the Lord would grant her relief and complete healing
For Robert Brimberry, that he might regain his strength according to the Lord's will
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014