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Psalm 39

 
I said, "I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence." I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
 
"O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
 
"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand. When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath!

"Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!" (ESV)
God's Poverty
Wednesday of Easter 5
27 April 2016
Some years ago while standing in line at a Starbucks coffee shop, my wife and I noticed an infamous and easily recognized street person ahead of us. We had often seen this person panhandling at major intersections in our city. We had speculated about her particular need and why she was a regular feature of urban life.
 
We were shocked when just ahead of us she purchased a large Starbucks mocha drink and pastry, spending more than both my wife and me combined. The most charitable interpretation that could be put upon such an expenditure was that homeless persons are homeless because of the poor choices they have made, and this was just another one of those poor choices. Poverty, whether chosen or not, is no antidote to greed, wastefulness, and ungratefulness. And indeed there is no doubt that I'm equally susceptible to setting my heart on the things of this life and making them my god. I can make a penny my god as easily as a $100 bill. I am reminded of the joke that copper wire was invented by two Scotsmen who were disputing over the possession of a penny.
 
Possessions in themselves are a sign neither of God's grace nor his curse. Our attitude toward them is what makes all the difference. Either our possessions are our god, or they are purely a means to an end defined by our heavenly Father. The question really is "what purpose will our possessions serve?" This is why it's important to be clear that the poverty of which our Lord speaks in the beatitudes is the spiritual poverty that sees dependence on God as the proper attitude of the Christian heart.

 

Martin Luther

"In the beatitudes Christ is not dealing at all with the secular realm and order, but that He wants to discuss only the spiritual-how to live before God, above and beyond the external.
 
"Having money, property, honor, power, land, and servants belongs to the secular realm; without these it could not endure. Therefore a lord or prince should not and cannot be poor, because for his office and station he must have all sorts of goods like these. This does not mean, therefore, that one must be poor in the sense of having nothing at all of his own. The world could not endure if we were all to be beggars and have nothing. The head of a household could not support his household and servants if he himself had nothing at all. In short, physical poverty is not the answer. There is many a beggar getting bread at our door more arrogant and wicked than any rich man, and many a miserly, stingy peasant who is harder to get along with than any lord or prince.
 
"So be poor or rich physically and externally, as it is granted to you-God does not ask about this-and know that before God, in his heart, everyone must be spiritually poor. That is, he must not set his confidence, comfort, and trust on temporal goods, nor hang his heart upon them and make Mammon his idol. David was an outstanding king, and he really had his wallet and treasury full of money, his barns full of grain, his land full of all kinds of goods and provisions. In spite of all this he had to be a poor beggar spiritually, as he sings of himself (Ps 39:12): 'I am poor, and a guest in the land, like all my fathers.' Look at the king, sitting amid such possessions, a lord over land and people; yet he does not dare to call himself anything but a guest or a pilgrim, one who walks around on the street because he has no place to stay. This is truly a heart that does not tie itself to property and riches; but though it has, it behaves as if it had nothing, as St. Paul boasts of the Christians (2Co 6:10): 'As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.'"

Martin Luther,  Sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, 5.3
 
Prayer
Lord Christ, grant me the poverty of spirit which You Yourself exhibited when you became poor for my sake that I might become rich in You. Help me to see the riches You give me as a gift from You to be used for the purposes of Your kingdom. Amen.
 
For Vicar-designate, Matthew Bless, who was placed as vicar of Memorial Lutheran Church at a service last night in Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that he would be prepared for his vicarage by the Word of God
 
For those who have made gods of their possessions, that they might be rescued from slavery to this false god
 
For all those who suffer from addiction, that they might be freed from this demon and that God might give them a clean heart and renew a right spirit within them
Art: RUBENS, Peter Paul  The Resurrection of Christ (1611-12)

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