Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother's sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! (ESV)
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A New Family
Monday of the Last Week of the Church Year
23 November 2015
Pastors are genuinely shocked when Christian people delay receiving the rites and sacraments of the church for unspiritual reasons. How often we hear people declining to be married because "they can't afford the reception," while those same people are living together. A big party trumps the divine command to keep the sixth commandment, by holding our spouse and purity and honor. As St. Paul says: "Each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God" (1Thess 4:4-5
). When we live this way, we are living like those who do not know God.
We hear similar things when people delay the baptism of their children until their family and friends can be present, sometimes for months. "Oh pastor, we are going to wait until Grandma Schmidlap can come from Peoria." With all due respect to Grandma Schmidlap, the baptism of a child is not about her. It is a gift that God wants to give to our children. What would happen if you (God forbid!) won the "Power-Ball Lottery" worth $100 million? The lottery commission would establish a date on which you would receive the check for your winnings. What would happen if Grandma Schmidlap was unable to be with you on the day you were presented with $100 million? Would you ask the lottery commission to wait several weeks, months, or even years, until she could come? I think not. You would be so excited about getting your winnings, that you would not be held back by Grandma Schmidlap's inability to be present. Why should we be any less excited about conferring this gift on the children whom God gives us? Isn't baptism far more valuable than $100 million? Infinitely. Yet so often God's gifts are held hostage to the whims of family, tradition, and social custom.
Gowns, parties, banquets, and family gatherings are all enjoyable. They may be beneficial accoutrements to a baptism or a wedding. But they are hardly the essence of the thing and must not be allowed to intrude upon God's gift to a child, who ought to be baptized or God's gift to an affianced couple, who ought to be married. Such delays are worse than those of the early church, which at least had spiritual reasons for delaying baptism, even if those reasons were misguided and based on a works righteous theology. In our day, we are often hostage to family relations. And as important as family is, baptism introduces us into a new family, the church, which supersedes the family of this world. Jesus, our Lord, asks who His mother and brothers are (Lk 8:21
), and looking around Him He sees us, because we have been baptized into Him and have done His Word. We are baptized into a new family.
"Be slow to do evil, but swift to your salvation. Readiness for evil and tardiness for good are equally bad. If you are invited to revel, do not be swift to go; if to apostasy, leap away; if a company of evildoers says to you, 'Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason' (Pro 1:11
), do not lend them even your ear. You will make two very great gains; you will make known to the other his sin, and you will deliver yourself from evil company. But if great David says to you, 'Come and let us sing to the Lord' (Ps 95:1
); or another Prophet, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord' (Mic 4:2
), or our Savior Himself, 'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Mt 11:28
)..., let us not resist or delay. Let us be like Peter and John, and let us hasten (Jn 20:3
); as they did to the sepulcher and the resurrection, so we to the baptismal font; running together, racing against each other, striving to be first to obtain this blessing. Do not say, 'Go away, come again, and tomorrow I will be baptized' (Pro 3:28
), when you may have the blessing today.
"Do not say, 'I want to have with me my father, mother, brothers, wife, children, friends, and all whom I value, and then I will be saved; but it is not yet the fitting time for me to be made bright in baptism.' If you say this, there is reason to fear lest you should have as sharers of your sorrow those whom you hoped to have as sharers of your joy. If they are able to be with you, it is well. However, do not wait for them. For it is inappropriate to say, 'Where is my offering for my baptism, and where is my baptismal robe, in which I shall be made bright, and where is the money to entertain my baptizers, that in these things I may become worthy of notice? For, as you see, all these things are necessary, and if I lack these things, the grace of baptism will be diminished.' Do not play with great things, or allow yourself to think so unrighteously. The sacrament is greater than the visible surroundings. Offer yourself. Clothe yourself with Christ. Give me the feast of your conduct. I rejoice to be so affectionately treated. God who gives these great gifts rejoices too. Nothing is greater in the sight of God, but what the poor may give, so that the poor would not here also be outrun, for they are not able to compete with the rich. In other matters there is a distinction between poor and rich, but here the more eager is the richer."
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 40.25
Lord Christ, you have called us into the new family established by Your life, death, and resurrection. Lead us to show due respect to our earthly family, but help us to confess that our mother and our brothers are those who listen to the word of God together with us. Amen.
For all those who are traveling over this week, that they would be kept safe and that their homecomings would be joyful
For the capital campaign committee of Memorial Lutheran Church, as A Memorial for the People continues to go forward, that God's people would be built up in the grace of giving
For Pastor Bart Day, the Executive Director of the Board of National Mission for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, that the Lord Jesus would bless his labor
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015