Before God and In the World
Tuesday in Pentecost 26
15 November 2016
I feel badly for the people who are so distraught over the outcome of our national elections in the United States. Many people no longer have the spiritual distance which a Christian confession creates in their lives between what is important and what is penultimate. They are so invested in this world and its orders, that they no longer have a vision of life beyond this world. It's no wonder they are rioting. They had hoped for the nirvana ruled by their candidate and when she wasn't elected, that crushed their dreams and destroyed their hope in what was most important to them. Nothing was left for them. Their worldly gods had gone down to defeat. They are willing to riot because they have a religious commitment to their political goals. The only merit they know is earthly merit.
Earthly merit does not save from sin. Obedience to the law is meritorious; just not meritorious before God. Obedience to the law is meritorious in the realm of the world, where families must be cared for, congregations built, governments tended and restrained, children educated, armies led, and so on. We must not reject the merit of the world, but we must deny that it justifies before God. When Paul told the Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28), he did not wipe out earthly obedience or merit by the law. He was placing all the relations to God that are based on the law into the ash heap. In God's presence, yes, forget about the law.
Of course, 0ur own merit can never save us in God's presence. Preacher or pope, president or pauper, are all equally damned sinners apart from the merit of Christ Jesus. Through baptism all become one in Him before God; sin no longer staining, covered by the cloak of Christ's righteousness. This righteousness does not absolve us of the necessity of following in the patterns of good order that God Himself has created into the world for its good and our peaceful lives in that world. These creatures of God: order, law, obedience, are all good gifts of God and dare not be disdained within the sphere for which God created them. Yes, these creatures need to be ignored in our relationship with God. For there we are justified by Christ alone. We will live firmly planted in both spheres; before God and in the world, until we die. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"No matter how diligently a slave performs his duty, obeys his master, and serves faithfully; or if a free man directs and governs either the commonwealth or his private affairs in a praiseworthy way; or whatever a male does as a male, getting married, administering his household well, obeying the magistrate, maintaining honest and decent relations with others; or if a lady lives chastely, obeys her husband, takes good care of the house, and teaches her children well-these truly magnificent and outstanding gifts and works do not avail anything toward righteousness in the sight of God. In other words, whatever laws, ceremonies, forms of worship, righteousness, and works there are in the whole world, even those of the Jews, who were the first to have a kingdom and a priesthood that was divinely instituted and ordained, together with its laws, devotion, and forms of worship-nevertheless none of these can take away sins or deliver from death or save.
"'Therefore, O Galatians, your false apostles are seducing you when they teach that the law is necessary for salvation. In this way they are snatching you from the great glory of your new birth and sonship and are calling you back to your old birth and to the miserable slavery of the law. From sons of God who are free they are making you slaves of the law, so long as they seek to distinguish among persons on the basis of the law.' There is, of course, a distinction among persons in the law and in the sight of the world; and there must be one there, but not in the sight of God, where all men are equal. 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Rm 3:23). In the presence of God, therefore, let Jews and Gentiles and all the world keep silence (Hab 2:20). Of course, God has various ordinances, laws, styles of life, and forms of worship in the world; but these do not achieve anything to merit grace or attain eternal life. As many as are justified, therefore, are justified, not on account of their observance of human or divine law but on account of Christ, who has abrogated all laws everywhere. The Gospel sets Him forth to us as the only One who placated the wrath of God by His own blood, as the Savior; without faith in Him, the Jews will not be saved through the law, nor the monk through his religious order, nor the Gentile through his wisdom, nor the magistrate through political righteousness, nor the householder through domestic righteousness, nor the servant and maid through obedience."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.28
Psalm 82

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
 I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince."
 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! (ESV)
Almighty God, grant us the gift of obedience to earthly orders that this realm might run in accord with Your desire for a peaceable life and that in this peace Christ the Lord might be preached for the establishment of peace between humans and You. Amen.
For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, which is meeting this week in Chicago, that its oversight of the flocks of Christ would be in keeping with the divine Word
For all those struggling to live under the orders of this world, that God would assure them that those orders are not ultimate
For all farmers, that they might be good stewards of the gifts of creation, so that God can feed the world through them
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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