Not Sad, But Glad
Tuesday of Pentecost 7
5 July 2016
A man born in a no account rural town, who disobeyed his parents by giving up a lucrative profession in the law and became a lecturer at a tiny, newly-founded university in a little town, ended up reforming the Western church while shaking to its foundations the Roman papacy. Perhaps you've heard of this man: Dr. Martin Luther. Who could have predicted his impact in the world? Who could have said that this man's work would be read all over Europe? Who could have known that Luther would return to the church the old biblical teaching that we hear in our text for this occasion that our righteousness is counted to us by the merciful act of God in the person of his Offspring born of Mary?

Yet, this is always God's way. Just when things look most hopeless, unaccountable, beyond rescue, even beyond our comprehension, just then God fulfills his promises to his people. The small are made great. The week strong. The meek inheritors. The fearful become the confident. The hopeless are given hope. The barren are promised children numbering like the stars in the sky.

The world counts you as nothing. You belong to a little, faithful parish, perhaps in some little town. How big places and big churches boast over against you. They have the authority. They have the great Emporia in which thousands gather. They are demanding greater political clout in the church. They have television audiences. They have the beautiful preachers. You have a little church. You have only the authority which God gives His little flock. You have little clout. You have no television audience. And most clearly of all, you don't have beautiful preachers.

How God mocks greatness as the world counts it! Abram can't even boast a single child (Gn 15:1-6). It appears his own faithful household steward, Eliezer, was beginning to count on inheriting the estate of Abram upon his passing, after all the great man can't even sire a child. How distressing this must have been for Abram. He has heard God's promises repeated to him. He has seen God's blessing given to him in material possessions and in great military victories, but after all the sheep are counted and all the loot added up and distributed, the richness of Abram will not calm his heart; it cannot give him a child. He sees so clearly the vanity of things, even things that are divine blessings, when God seems to be withholding the spiritual blessings He has promised. Yet, Abraham will not be afraid. He has God's own Word and promise to him, which the Lord is not hesitant to repeat to him.
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"I am going along with the general rule: that God makes His saints sad again after they have been gladdened, lest they become proud and smug; that after they have been made alive, He leads them down to hell, in order that He may lead them back from there. But if our surmise as to the specific and individual nature of the affliction now under consideration is not correct, we are not in error with regard to the general pattern.

"The words 'Fear not, Abram' are absolutely clear. They show that the saintly man did have great fear and the very affliction of mistrust. Otherwise why would God add: 'I am your Shield; your reward shall be very great'? Therefore Abraham thought: 'Perhaps God has chosen someone else, since He will fulfill this promise; and who knows whether this very victory is everything He has promised you?'

"When God withdraws His hand, the flesh creates for itself an odd dialectic and rhetoric. Against these battering-rams, so to speak, with which Abraham's heart is pounded the Lord erects three grand bulwarks: 'Fear not, Abraham; I am your Shield; your reward shall be very great.' It is as though He were saying: 'Whom will you fear if I protect you? What more will you demand for yourself if I am your Reward? Do you not have a greater prize than either the land of Canaan or the entire world would be?' This is a very extraordinary comfort, and it shows that the trial and fear which Abraham experienced were extraordinary too."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 15.1
Genesis 15:1-6

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir." And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: "This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir." And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 
O God, You have made Your saints sad after they have been gladdened, so that we do not become proud and smug. After we have been made alive You lead us down to hell, in order that You alone would lead us back. Sends us great blessings in Your word and sacraments that our afflictions now would seem light, but Your rescue great; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For those celebrating the founding of a nation on the ideal of freedom, that we might treasure the gift of freedom and pray that we might retain it

For all those who travel, that their ways would be safe and their homecomings joyful

For the delegates to the 66th regular convention of the LCMS, that they would be heartened and encouraged in the faith that we are built on the Rock
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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