Important to the Lord
6 July 2016
How easily we share Abram's dark anxieties (Gn 15:1-6) in our day, rich as we are in the things of this world, and yet because of our doubt and weakness we think ourselves bereft of God's spiritual blessings. We feel only that fools will inherit what we have worked for. We wonder what is to become of our little church after we are gone. However, the church does not depend on us. It cannot. It must depend on its founder, Jesus Christ our Lord. We may be transferred to the church triumphant. That does not mean that the church militant is bereft of anything important. If the truth be told, the church militant may well be better off without us. Despite our littleness and unimportance we belong to the God who moves heaven and earth, offering His own Son for us.

The first time I flew into Lubbock, Texas I came out of the airport into brilliant sunshine and blazing blue skies. But to the southeast, many miles away I could see a storm on the horizon with lightning flashing on a black background. What a dazzling sight! What a sky! I love going there, because I get to see things there that I don't see in humid, light-polluted, building-infested Houston. As a city dweller, I am not quite sure what God is driving at when he compares the offspring of Abram to the stars of the sky. In Houston, I can only see about a half a dozen stars on most nights. The rest are faded out by the haze or the light pollution. Out in West Texas, they really have a good idea about the enormous number of stars that God has placed in the sky above us. The Milky Way alone is thought to include between 100-400 billion stars. It is called the Milky Way because there are so many stars that it appears as a milky band in the sky. If you live where the sky is clear you know what God is talking about. You see it almost every night.

Let's number those stars! So shall your offspring be. But what certainty do we have of this? Our churches might be full, but we are not even 1 billion. McDonald's has served more than our church, just ask them. Abram must have been confronted with the same dilemma. The great cities, the conquering peoples, the enormous armies of battling minions all crushed his certainty of being the forerunner of a great people. So it always is. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer, was barren. Yet she produces the greatest New Testament preacher ever. No one is greater, who was born of woman. Mary is a peasant girl, with no royal family, no Kardashian-like caché. Yet her child is the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world.

Small doesn't have anything to do with importance. You are important because you belong to God. You are important because God reckons you so. You are important because Christ was the Offspring that filled the firmament of the church with your souls, shining like the stars of the morning. You are important because the very blood of God's Son has been poured out for you on the cross. You are important because God counts you worthy of all His spiritual gifts: holy ministry, holy Word, holy baptism, holy absolution, and holy Supper. You are important because God has made you shining and glorious Kings and Priests in His church. You are important to the Lord.
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"Inasmuch as God's message to Abraham is so profuse and His encouragement so lavish, even adding signs (Gn 15:5-6), the trial which tormented the saintly man was not a light one. For God does not indulge in empty talk. It is our opinion that the promise so clearly set forth concerning the natural son who was to spring from Abraham's own body was sufficient. But a sign is added. Abraham is led out. He is told to look toward heaven and to count the stars. And innumerable descendants are promised to him.

"These accounts are outstanding because the voice of God is heard in them. Thus this very passage, because of God's extensive conversation with Abraham, deserves to be regarded as highly important. For God speaks with Abraham in a manner that is no different from the way a friend speaks with a close acquaintance and another friend. It is God's practice to do so, and this is His nature. After He has properly afflicted His own, He shows Himself most benevolent and pours Himself out completely.

"The fact that Abraham is commanded to look at the stars is proof that this vision occurred at night, at a time when Abraham was sighing and lamenting. It is characteristic of sublime trials to occupy our hearts when we are alone. For this reason there is frequent mention in Holy Scripture of praying at night and in solitude. Affliction is the teacher of such praying.

"Because Abraham was occupied with these sad thoughts, he was unable to sleep. Therefore he got up and prayed; but while he is praying and feeling such great agitation within himself, God appears to him and converses with him in a friendly manner, so that Abraham, who is awake, is completely enraptured and carried away by the vision.

"This vision took place at night. Yet it was not a dream; it was an actual occurrence. Abraham heard the voice of the Lord, came out under the open sky from his chamber, looked at the heaven resplendent with stars, and finally heard the promise concerning his countless descendants.

"Furthermore, I have stated before that there is a difference between this promise and the previous one in which he receives the promise of descendants like the sand of the sea. Moses implies in a hidden fashion that this passage includes the promise about the spiritual and heavenly Seed, while previously he is speaking solely of physical descendants."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 15.5
Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. 
O Lord, You comfort Your beloved saints by speaking peace to them when they are in the midst of trouble. Send us Your Word, that it might be a sign of Your promises to us in Your beloved Son, who was crucified for us. Amen.

For all unborn children, that God would keep them safe in His place of nurture until He brings them forth from the womb

For the family of Janell Janhsen, whom our Lord Jesus Christ gathered to Himself where she now sees Him face to face, that the family would be comforted by the promises of Christ about the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

For Olivia Taylor, who is recovering from orthopedic surgery, that the Lord Jesus would grant her a full recovery

For infant Addison Kist, who is in the NICU, that those who minister to her needs would bring the right therapies and that those who support her would be strengthened in prayer and confidence in God's rescue

For the delegates, staff, and guests to the 66th regular convention of the LCMS as they travel to Milwaukee, that they might be kept safe in their travels
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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