Right Tools?
Monday of Pentecost 20
3 October 2016
Have you ever noticed that duct tape is not used to tape duct work anymore? Therefore, duct tape must be for fixing things. So, like every handy man I keep duct tape with all my tools (just ask my wife). If it can't be fixed with a hammer and duct tape, it just needs to be replaced. In one of my favorite episodes of "The Red Green Show," Red Green (the show's star) duct tapes a cardboard snow plow to the front of the "Possum Lodge" van and salt dispensers to its hubcaps. That way he gets a handyman "two-fer" while driving; he removes snow and melts the ice on the road. Red's plan furnishes solid evidence of the Red Green handyman motto: "If the women don't find you handsome, at least they'll find you handy." Well, yes, just so.
 
The right tools need to be used the right way. A hammer and duct tape can be useful tools. But they will not repair the ice dispenser in your freezer. No, really! Just ask my wife. The law and the gospel are tools used by God for radically different purposes. The law kills and destroys, like a sledge hammer shattering old concrete. The hammer of the law smashes our pretense to righteousness in the presence of God.
 
Yes, we can put on a good public face for our community and feign holiness before the law by external show. This external show is necessary for the maintenance of peace and good government in the world. We could use a few more pious hypocrites in worldly matters these days. The law does not make right with God, as much as it might and should justify us within the community of humans.
 
Only the gospel can mend the destruction the hammer of the law works in the presence of God. God speaks and unlike duct tape, which is just a partial and temporary fix (as hard as that is for you handymen to believe), the gospel makes whole because it is not the partial, groping holiness of the law, but it is the complete and glorious righteousness of the Son of God. Your standing before God is not some duct-taped-together fix, but being a new creation in Christ. And so if you are anything like me, before the law you're neither handsome nor handy. You expect the full replacement value of the death of Christ. He does all. The tools of the Christ include a hammer, but not one He lays on you, but one that He places in the hands of His executioners. While He meekly waits for the place of execution to be readied, He Himself stoops to place all the law's power into the calloused hand of the Roman guard. And so the hammer of the law works His death that through it He might work my life.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"Paul often speaks very condescendingly about the law. He calls it 'the letter that kills' or 'the ministry of death and damnation' or 'the power of sin.' He deliberately chooses these abhorrent names, which show the power and function of the law clearly and accurately, in order to frighten us away from the law in the matter of justification. For when it is used at its very best, the law is unable to do anything but make the conscience guilty, increase sin, and threaten with death and eternal damnation.
 
"Paul calls the law 'elements of this world,' (Gal 4:3) that is, the outward letter and traditions set down in some book. For even though the law restrains from evil and drives to good works in society, such an observance of it does not deliver from sin, does not justify, and does not lead to heaven but leaves one in the world. For I do not obtain eternal life in return for avoiding murder, adultery, and stealing. These outward virtues and this honest way of life are not the kingdom of Christ or heavenly righteousness. They are the righteousness of the flesh and of the world, which not only self-righteous people like the Pharisee in Luke (Lk 18:11) but even heathen have. Some people produce this righteousness of the world to avoid the penalties of the law; others, to be hailed by men as reliable, righteous, and patient. Therefore, it should be called a deception and hypocrisy rather than righteousness.
 
"In its highest use and force, then, the law cannot do anything but accuse, frighten, condemn, and kill. Now where terror and a sense of sin, death, and the wrath of God are present, there is certainly no righteousness, nothing heavenly, and no God, but only the things of the world. The world is nothing but the dregs of sin, death, the wrath of God, hell, and all the evils that the terrified and the sad experience but that the smug and the contemptuous do not experience. Even in its best use, therefore, the law can only produce a knowledge of sin and the terror of death. Sin, death, and the other evils are things of the world. It follows, then, that the law does not produce anything life-giving or saving or heavenly or divine, but only things of the world. This is why Paul correctly calls it 'the elements of this world.'"

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.3
Galatians 4:1-7

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have handed Yourself over to the hammer of the law, so that we might live by Your life. Crush us that we might be mended by Your mercy alone. Amen.
 
For all those suffering chronic diseases, that they might be supported in their pain by the holy gospel
 
For Michael Golchert, that he would be strengthened while undergoing cancer therapy
 
For all those who were absent from the gathering of the church yesterday, that they might be crushed by the law and seek God's face and receive from Him His grace
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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