Practice
Martin Luther's Birthday
10 November 2016
When I was a child my grandmother baked bread every week. I looked forward to visiting her home on bread baking day. There is nothing like freshly baked homemade bread! It suffuses the whole house with that wonderful fresh yeasty aroma. Not only did the aroma delight me, but I was also intrigued by the process of mixing flour, salt, sugar, milk, water, and finally the leavening agent, baker's yeast, which out of that gooey mixture became the soft doughy mass left to rise in a warm place and after emerging from the oven to be devoured with fresh country butter and homemade preserves. I kept hungry eyes on the whole production.
 
When my grandmother became tired of my incessant questioning about bread production, she gave me my own lump of dough to occupy me. I would try to repeat the steps that she followed, but inevitably my little lump of dough would emerge from the fragrant oven with the consistency somewhere just south of a hockey puck. While I gnawed on my fallen creation, she would patiently explain that I had "over processed" my dough because I "didn't have the touch." Well, how was I ever going to get that? Practice.
 
Bread production is an intriguing process, not least because a little yeast has such a powerful effect. "A little yeast leavens the whole lump" (Gal 5:9). With the yeast working the dough triples or quadruples in size and bread after being baked is shot through with tiny air holes; soft on the inside, hard and chewy on the outside. The powerful ability to change dough into bread the Bible uses to illustrate the power of sin to creep in and affect everything in life. However, it can also be used to illustrate the power of the gospel in life (Mt 13:33). Luther describes the power of the gospel to suffuse the Christian life. It happens over time, like the dough sitting in the south window of the kitchen rises over an hour. The dough of the Christian life is only done when Christ comes to rescue us from this evil age. Until then, living the Christian life is a matter of getting the touch. It takes practice.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"The conscience takes hold of Christ more perfectly day by day; and day by day the law of flesh and sin, the fear of death, and whatever other evils the law brings with it are diminishing. For as long as we live in a flesh that is not free of sin, so long the law keeps coming back and performing its function, more in one person and less in another, not to harm but to save. This discipline of the law is the daily mortification of the flesh, the reason, and our powers, and the renewal of our mind (2Co 4:16).
 
"Thus we have received the first fruits of the Spirit (Rm 8:23), and the leaven hidden in the lump; the whole lump has not yet been leavened, but it is beginning to be leavened. If I look at the leaven, I see nothing but the leaven; but if I look at the mass of the lump, there is not merely the leaven anymore. Thus if I look at Christ, I am completely holy and pure, and I know nothing at all about the law; for Christ is my leaven. But if I look at my flesh, I feel greed, sexual desire, anger, pride, the terror of death, sadness, fear, hate, grumbling, and impatience against God. To the extent that these are present, Christ is absent; or if He is present, He is present weakly. Here there is still need for a custodian to discipline and torment the flesh, that powerful jackass, so that by this discipline sins may be diminished and the way prepared for Christ. For just as Christ came once physically, according to time, abrogating the entire law, abolishing sin, and destroying death and hell, so He comes to us spiritually without interruption and continually smothers and kills these things in us.
 
"I am saying this in order that you may know how to reply when the objection is raised: 'All right, Christ has come into the world and abolished our sins once for all, cleansing us with His blood. Then why should we listen to the gospel? What need is there of the sacrament and of absolution?' It is true that if you consider Christ, the law and sin have really been abolished. But Christ has not yet come to you; or if He has come, there are still remnants of sin in you, and you have not yet been completely leavened. For where there is lust, sadness of heart, fear of death, and the like, there the law and sin are still present; there Christ is not yet present. For when He comes, He drives out fear and sadness, and brings peace and security to the conscience. To the extent that I take hold of Christ by faith, therefore, to that extent the law has been abrogated for me. But my flesh, the world, and the devil do not permit faith to be perfect. I would, of course, wish that the little light of my faith that is in my heart might be diffused through my whole body and all its members. But this does not happen; it is not diffused all at once, but it has begun to be diffused. Meanwhile our comfort is that we have the first fruits of the Spirit and have begun to be leavened, but that we shall be completely leavened when this sinful body is destroyed and we arise new with Christ. Amen.
 
"Therefore although 'Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever' (Heb 13:8), and although Adam and all the faithful before Christ had the gospel and faith, nevertheless Christ came once for all at a set time, and faith came once for all when the apostles preached the gospel throughout the world. In addition, Christ comes spiritually every day; through the Word of the gospel faith also comes every day; and when faith is present, our custodian, with his gloomy and grievous task, is also forced to yield. But Christ comes spiritually as we gradually acknowledge and understand more and more what has been granted to us by Him. 2 Peter 3 says: 'Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ' (2Pt 3:18)."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.25
Psalm 146

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
 
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his plans perish.
 
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.
 
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
 
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! 
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, grant me grace to acknowledge and understand You more and more, that the leaven of your gospel would suffuse my whole life. Amen.
 
For Bill Heine, who is gravely ill with cancer, that the Lord of the church would carry him in on the wings of His mercy
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that he would be upheld and strengthened in every good deed
 
For all those who will receive the body and blood of the Lord that they might be the leavening in the Christian life for all who receive them
 
For President-elect Trump, that the Lord of all nations would grant him strength, peace, faithfulness, kindness in victory, and a capacity to govern with equity the entire nation
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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