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Romans

8:31-39

 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

Your Father Wants You

Thursday of Pentecost 3

18 June 2015

Nothing is more pitiful than the figure of a small boy planning to run away from home. He is running away because he presumes that he is being poorly treated by his family, and will find better treatment anywhere he might go, as long as it is not home. He has had nothing with which to compare his family life with. Things have to be better elsewhere. Usually parents are not unaware of this juvenile discontent. The backpack stuffed with Cheez-Its, potato chips, candy bars, and other essential foodstuffs is a sign of this impending flight. His father asks, "Where are you going?" "I'm leavin' and I ain't comin' back." "Uh-huh. What will you do when the Cheez-Its run out? What will happen when it gets dark? Where will you sleep?" The father does whatever he can to induce the boy to stay, because he knows that running away isn't all it's cracked up to be. He's tried it once too. He reminds the boy of every gift and blessing he has. He showers him with love. He hugs and kisses him, trying to change the boy's confused heart. He will set a vigil for him to forestall a midnight flight. He will do whatever it takes to keep him safe.

 

Our Father has done whatever it takes to keep us safe in His love. He has sent us every blessing of earth, as Luther puts it: "house, home, fields, cattle, and all my goods." Yet even these, as great as they are, are not sufficient gifts for Him to shower upon us. He turns us from the contemplation of these gifts to the heavenly riches of His heavenly kingdom, the church, to which He calls us in Christ. He gives us the Word of His grace delivered from the pulpits of our churches (Acts 20:32), He showers the new life upon those baptized into Christ at the fonts of entry (Rm 6:3), and He feeds us upon His Son's body and blood that we might proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (1Co 11:26). Yet even these things do not suffice in themselves. They are pointing from the gift to the giver. The gift is great and the giver greater.

 

We are like the child who, by staying close to his father, receives all the benefits of that closeness. As a child, I would beg to go with my father on his Saturday delivery route when he did his door-to-door deliveries. I just liked to be with my dad. Many of his customers treated me like an honored guest. We made deliveries at a small local dairy, where the men working there would pull a pint of chocolate milk in a glass bottle from the production line and give it to me. This was the best chocolate milk in the world after a hot day in the delivery vehicle! However, the only reason I was treated this way, of all the children in that neighborhood, was that I was by my father's side. 

 

Sometimes the gift and giver are the same. In the Supper the Lord gives Himself to us when the body and blood of the Lord are eaten and drunk from our altars. We have been clothed with Christ in baptism. Since the Word is Spirit and it is life, we receive Christ Himself in its proclamation. He gives us Himself with His benefits. If we have Him by faith, we will have all that He deigns to give us. When we remain with our Father, the benefits are great. 

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rm 8:38-39). What then should we deserve, when Paul is found not to value even the things in heaven as compared with the desire for Christ, while we set greater value on things of mud and clay than on Christ? Paul, out of desire for Him, would take falling into hell and being banished from the kingdom, if the choice between the two were put to him. We do not so easily rise above the things of earthly life. Are we worthy then to touch his shoes, when we have come to be so far short of his greatness of mind? For Christ's sake Paul does not think anything of a kingdom. While we think slightingly of Him, but of the things that are His we make a great fuss. Would that it were just of His things. But it is not even this. While a kingdom is held out to us, we let that go, and keep pursuing shadows and dreams all our days.

 

"Yet God in His love toward man and exceeding gentleness, has done the same as an affectionate father would, if his son tried to run away from home. He would work to keep him home in whatever way he could. Since we have not the right desire for our Father and His house, He keeps putting many other things before us, so as to hold us to Himself. Yet not even for this do we remain with Him, but we keep springing off to childish play. Not so Paul, but like a noble spirited child, who is attached to his father, he seeks only after the Father's presence, and other things he does not care much about. For he does not value the Father and things that are His at the same rate, but when he looks to the Father, he counts those things nothing. He would choose rather to be chastised and beaten, so that he was with Him, rather than be separated from Him and be indulged in his ease. We should shudder, because, even for Christ's sake, we do not even think about anything other than money.

 

"Paul truly suffered all things for Christ's sake, not for the sake of the kingdom, or his own honor, but owing to his love for Him. But as for us, neither Christ nor the things of Christ draw us from the things of this life. As worms, snakes, swine, or even as all of them at once, we keep rolling in the mire. How are we better than those insensible creatures, when we have so many and such great examples before us, yet we still keep bowing down and have not the heart to look up to heaven even for a little time? Yet God gave up His own Son. But you will not so much as share your bread with Him, who was given up for you and who was slain for you. For your sake the Father spared Him not, and this too although He was indeed His Son, but you can't look up to Him even when you are starving. Even then you should spend what belongs to Him, and spend it for your own good (Is 55:1-2). What could be worse than such a breach of law as this? He was given up for you, He was slain for you, He hungered for you. You should give of His, that you might get the gain, and still you do not give! What sort of stone is more senseless, who in spite of such great encouragements, continues in this demonic hardness of heart? He was not satisfied with death and the cross only, but He took up poverty, became a stranger, a beggar, and naked, was thrown into prison, underwent weakness, that He might call you."


John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 15
 
Prayer

Lord God, heavenly Father, from Your hand we receive all good gifts and by Your grace we are guarded from all evil. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that, acknowledging Your boundless mercy, we might always thank and praise You for Your kindness and tender mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For those struggling with dependency on alcohol, that they would be granted strength by Christ

 

For Vice-President Herbert Mueller of the LCMS, that he would be strengthened in his labors

 

For auto mechanics, that they would serve those who drive by providing repairs that keep them safe while on the road

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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