Love on Earth, Not "Lust in Space"
Polycarp of Smyrna, Pastor and Martyr
23 February 2017
You may recall the tabloid headlines that abounded in 2007 when NASA astronaut, Lisa Nowak, tried to kidnap or murder or something a romantic rival for the love interest of a fellow astronaut. My favorite headline generated by this debacle was "Lust in Space." Besides embarrassing the government space agency, this ridiculous story points up the power of the sexual appetite. It may lead us into deeply self-destructive behaviors. When that lust is nurtured and treasured instead of schooled and controlled it can lead to the absurd lengths to which Ms. Nowak, by all accounts a technically competent astronaut and Captain in the US Navy, was led. Of course, many presume that Ms. Nowak acted this way because she was psychologically deranged. The jury is still out on that. Could we not credit the power of human lust, the divine gift of sexual desire bent by the fall into sin, with the power to drive human behavior into this tragic ditch? Without making any judgments about Ms. Nowak in particular, I think so.
But on Valentines Day no one wants to hear about the bent arrow that Satan launches into our devious hearts to ignite perverse lust outside of the gift of holy marriage. We presume that all love must be good. Uh, well, not quite. At the least, true love always has the good of the other in view. True love will always place itself at a disadvantage for the sake of the other. Some expressions of love are completely inappropriate because either they dishonor God and the gift of holy marriage or they dishonor the beloved. One must feel deep grief and abiding sympathy for Ms. Nowak's husband and children. How hurt they must have been by this Jerry Springer-style escapade.
Express your love for and delight in your spouse. Tell him or her of your eager desire. It is a gift of God to be schooled by the Word of God and shaped by the sacrifice of Christ. Above all, it is a thing to be given over for the good of the other. Love is the power by which you continue faithfully and amorously in marriage even when the desire has worn off, or age begins to bring sags and weakness. Yet, even in the midst of all that, you still have the command of God to love and cherish the one He has given you in marriage. Now you can live out self-sacrificial Christian love for the sake of the other. There cannot be mere "Lust in Space," but love on earth; through the God-given but earthbound gift of marital love. Thank God for that love.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"It is not possible to keep the devil from shooting evil thoughts and lusts into your heart. But see to it that you do not let such arrows (Eph 6:16) stick there and take root, but tear them out and throw them away. Do what one of the ancient fathers counseled long ago: 'I cannot,' he said, 'keep a bird from flying over my head. But I can certainly keep it from nesting in my hair or from biting my nose off.' So it is not in our power to prevent this or some other temptation and to keep the thoughts from occurring to us. Just be sure that you let it go at that and do not let them in, even though they knock at the door. Keep them from taking root, for they may make you sin voluntarily and purposely. It is still sin nonetheless, but it is included in our common forgiveness; for we cannot live in the flesh without a great many sins, and everyone must have his devil. Thus St. Paul complains (Rm 7:17-18) about the sin that dwells in him and says he knows that nothing good dwells in his flesh.
"This argument and question has come from some: 'Is it sinful for a man and a woman to desire each other for the purpose of marriage?' This is ridiculous, a question that contradicts both Scripture and nature. Why would people get married if they did not have desire and love for each other? Indeed, that is just why God has given this eager desire to bride and bridegroom, for otherwise everybody would flee from marriage and avoid it. In Scripture, therefore, He also commanded man and woman to love each other, and He shows that the sexual union of husband and wife is also most pleasing to Him.
"Hence this desire and love must not be absent, for it is a good fortune and a great pleasure, if only it continues as long as possible. Without it there is trouble: from the flesh, because a person soon gets tired of marriage and refuses to bear the daily discomfort that comes with it; and from the devil, who cannot stand the sight of a married couple treating each other with genuine love and who will not rest until he has given them an occasion for impatience, conflict, hate, and bitterness. Therefore, it is an art both necessary and difficult, and one peculiarly Christian, this art of loving one's husband or wife properly, of bearing the other's faults and all the accidents and troubles. At first everything goes all right, so that, as the saying goes, they are ready to eat each other up for love. But when their curiosity has been satisfied, then the devil comes along to create boredom in you, to rob you of your desire in this direction, and to excite it unduly in another direction."

Martin Luther, The Sermon on the Mount, 5.30
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (ESV)
Collect for Polycarp of Smyrna
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Polycarp boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world and courage to die for his faith, grant that we also may be ready to give an answer for the faith that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For Scott Murray, who is teaching at Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Nigeria, that the Lord Christ would grant him the strengthen and wisdom to offer the Word of God
For those who do not know of the love of Christ, God's Son, that they might be drawn into the greatest love affair of all, which He has with His bride the church
For the work of Concordia Publishing House, that the publishing arm of the LCMS would continue to produce products faithful to the Word of God, so that God's people everywhere might be built up in the holy gospel
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio  Wedding Feast at Cana  (c. 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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