Inoculation Against Death
Friday of Pentecost 6
1 July 2016
In February 1513, the warrior Pope Julius II, Il papa terribile, suffering from several diseases including syphilis and weakened by a pontificate of making war in both things spiritual and things temporal, became gravely ill. After experimenting with the healing properties of seven of his favorite wines and in a desperate gambit to preserve his life he took a drink suffused with gold flake that was a familiar but expensive quack remedy of the time. Predictably enough, after drinking this gold-standard remedy the pope died within twenty-four hours. The medicine might have hastened his death. The wrong medicine can cause a premature death.
 
Some medicines bring the patient to the precipice of death and yet give life. For example, antidotes to snake bites are created from snake venom. The very thing bringing death also brings life. Similarly, some vaccines use an impotent form of a virus to create an immune response that suppresses the virus. The immune system attacks both the impotent or "attenuated" virus used in the vaccine and also the disease-causing form of the virus. Our immunity is created only by the virus itself. That which brings illness and death is a proof against illness and death.
 
The means of grace offer a similar immunity in that they are things temporal and cannot in themselves confer eternal life, yet because we humans are not able to ascend to things eternal our heavenly Father uses that which is common to bring life to us. For example, ordinary bread and wine bring us the antidote to death: Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper. That which cannot confer life eternal brings exactly that when connected with God's Word according to God's command and promise. God condescends to employ what is temporal to confer what is eternal.
 
The incarnation, life, and death of Jesus Christ the Son of God is the best example of this conferral of life through the mortal flesh. Mortal flesh is itself subject to death, and yet in Christ it becomes the very conferral of a life that cannot die. When we share in that Truth which became incarnate in human flesh, mortality is vanquished in us as well. The disease of death is undone using the remedy of mortal things conferred by the church at Christ's command and with Christ's promise. By inoculating with Christ's mortal blood God attenuates death itself and in this way we will share in His immortal life.
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Since we were not fit to take hold of things eternal, and since the foulness of sins weighed us down, which we had contracted by the love of temporal things, and which were implanted in us as it were naturally, from the root of mortality, it was needful that we should be cleansed. But cleansed we could not be, so as to be tempered together with things eternal, except it were through things temporal, with which we were already tempered together and held fast. For health is at the opposite extreme from disease; but the intermediate process of healing does not lead us to perfect health, unless it has some congruity with the disease. Things temporal that are useless merely deceive the sick; things temporal that are useful take up those that need healing, and pass them on healed, to things eternal. And the rational mind, as when cleansed it owes contemplation to things eternal; so, when needing cleansing, owes faith to things temporal.
 
"Since our faith will become truth, when we have attained to that which is promised to us who believe: and that which is promised us is eternal life; and the Truth (not that which shall come to be according as our faith shall be, but that Truth which is always, because in it is eternity,-the Truth [Christ] then) has said, 'And this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent' (Jn 17:3). When our faith by seeing shall come to be truth, then eternity shall possess our now changed mortality. And until this shall take place, and in order that it may take place,-because we adapt the faith of belief to things which have a beginning, as in things eternal we hope for the truth of contemplation, lest the faith of mortal life should be at discord with the truth of eternal life,-the Truth itself, co-eternal with the Father, took a beginning from earth (Ps 85:11). The Son of God so came as to become the Son of man, and to take to Himself our faith, that He might thereby lead us on to His own truth, who so undertook our mortality, as not to lose His own eternity.
 
"Therefore our faith has, in some measure, now followed where He in whom we have believed has ascended. We were born, dead, and will be risen again and taken up. Of these four things, we knew the first two in ourselves. For we know that men both have a beginning and die. But the remaining two, that is, to be raised, and to be taken up, we rightly hope will be in us, because we have believed them done in Him."

Augustine, On the Trinity, 4.18
1 Corinthians
15:44-58

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
 
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)
Prayer
O Son of God, You have attenuated death by dying and rising again. Inoculate us through the blood of Your death that we might live without fear in faith. Amen.
 
For Michael Golchert as he goes through therapy for cancer, that the Lord of all faithfulness would grant him healing and the strength to bear the therapy

For Janell Janhsen, who is under hospice care, that she might have the peace that surpasses human understanding and that those who care for her in her last hours would express their love and the compassion of a God who dies for His people

For the family of Robert Frerking, who was called to his heavenly home by his Lord Jesus, that those who love him might grieve with confidence that Christ has done all things well

For the MLC youth group and chaperones, who are returning from the Higher Things Conference,  that the holy angels would watch over them and that they be returned safely to home and church

For the people of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wilson, Texas, who will celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of their congregation, that they might give thanks to God for His abundant grace

For the family of Larry Bless, whom our Lord Jesus Christ took to Himself, as they lay his remains to rest, that they would mourn as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
 
For all the US troops who are stationed away from their homes and families that they might be kept safe and brought home to be reunited with loved ones
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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