Beyond What Is Felt
Wednesday of Easter 2
26 April 2017
Being wrapped up in our feelings is a breach of the first commandment. When our focus is on ourselves, it cannot be on God. Self is always the idol closest to hand. The Word of God turns us away from ourselves and toward the God who has defeated all our enemies, especially those within, in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The whole picture changes when we give up ourselves in favor of God. There is nothing but defeat within. The old Adam is a continual plague to us, dragging us into the morass of our own sin and weakness. He is a continual witness to our depravity howling in satanic verses. The irony is that this internal witness is the truth. Old Adam, Satan, and world all are telling us our own sin and rightly. They just have wrong what our sin means. They claim again and again that our sin means our damnation. Sinners we are. Damned we are not for Christ's sake.
Modern thought rejects God partly because we cannot get beyond the idolatry that focuses on the self. There is nothing beyond me, my experience, my feelings, my satisfaction or my dissatisfaction. Truth is not part of the equation, merely how I feel about things. When you make me feel badly, you are offending me. I don't particularly care to ask myself if you are telling me the truth, I just harrumph indignantly. Politicians have made themselves immune from substantive criticism by pleading that they are offended by it. There is a cottage industry in taking offense these days because feelings are our most precious god. The army of the offended march to the tyrannous drumbeat of their feelings.
Many in our fallen age have so focused on themselves that they feel alive only when they are experiencing the most intense feelings; whether it be pain or joy, suffering or exhilaration. This occasionally exhibits itself in the way that some fall into the desire to hurt themselves merely to feel alive. May God rescue us all from this self-centered bent. For that way lies death and damnation. The only way truly to live is to give up focus on self and live in Christ alone through His Word. The Word of God gives far beyond what is felt. Christ felt the sentence of death within Himself, but believed only the promise of God that the holy One would not see decay. Believing trumps feeling, no matter what you feel.
We who are in Christ Jesus believe that our sin is on Him. Oh, it's our sin alright, that we feel and experience in our hearts. But He has taken it away from us. No matter what we feel within ourselves a new Word is spoken over us. It comes from outside of us. It depends on God and not us. It tells us who we really are in Christ Jesus. Such a divinely wrought work cannot find confirmation within us. It cannot arise out of our own depraved hearts. We have a Word of God that quite goes beyond our feelings and tells us a new song of mercy from the God who is greater than our hearts (1Jn 3:19-20). If we find ourselves wallowing in the feeling that we are sinful, damned, and hopeless, we are capitulating to God's enemies and denying that God has changed the meaning of our sin by putting it upon the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So what are you going to believe? Your own heart? Or God's Word?

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"The wisdom of faith renders the wisdom of the world, which regards this a stupid message, foolishness. The world's wisdom gives itself great airs and says: 'Well, all the gospel can talk about is that we are to be lords over death, sin, and all things; and yet we observe only the opposite in us and the whole world, namely, that death, sin, and devil prevail, and not life.' Worldly wisdom is based and founded on such observations. It says: 'Preach as you may and say what you will, but I see things differently.' Therefore, these two facts must stand side by side, that we are lords over devil and death and that we at the same time lie prostrate at their feet. The one must be believed, the other is felt. The devil must be lord over the world and whatever is part of it. He holds us with all his might. He is far stronger than we are. For we are his guests, residing as strangers in an inn. Therefore, whatever dwells in us, in our flesh and blood, of the world and this life must be subject to the devil, enabling him to deal with us as he wishes.
"Now you will say: 'What are you preaching and what, after all, do you believe? Since you yourself confess that we do not feel or perceive this, your message is necessarily vain and a mere dream. For if there were some basis to your message, this would have to be demonstrated also by experience.' I reply: 'That is exactly what I am saying, namely, that we must first believe contrary to our experience what cannot be believed humanly, and that we must feel what we do not feel.' Accordingly, in the very thing in which the devil, with respect to feeling, is my lord, he must be my servant. And when I lie prostrate and the whole world lies on top of me, I am still lying on top. How is that? If it is to be true, you say, experience must come along, and this must be perceived. You are right; however, perception must follow later, and faith must precede it, working without and beyond perception.
"Thus my conscience must, as it feels sin and as it fears and trembles, become lord and victor over sin; not through feeling and thinking but through faith in the Word. And thereby it is comforted and sustained against and over sin until sin is banished entirely and is no longer felt. Thus death, too, lies prostrate under us, so that it cannot devour or hold us. And yet it attaches itself to our neck with pestilence, sword, and all sorts of troubles and hurls us under itself into the grave, where we have to rot. And yet we do not remain there permanently but break away and come forth more gloriously than the heaven with sun and stars. That is what Christ also experienced. When He died and was buried, there was no perception or expectation of life. And it was so very hard for the disciples to believe that the Christ lying in the grave behind a sealed rock was the Lord over death and grave. They themselves said: 'We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel' (Lk 24:21)."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 1-2
Psalm 98

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn-- shout for joy before the LORD, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, without expectation of life, you offered Your life for me, confident that God Your Father would not let Your body see decay. Grant me that same faith, that I too might believe God's Word and not my own heart. Help me to live in that new life that trusts Your work given to me in baptism. Amen.
For the family of Daniel Harrison, as they give thanks for the resurrection and the life that comes from Christ the Victor over death and the grave
For all military personnel deployed to the Middle East, that the holy angels would watch over them
For the Lutheran Educational Association of Houston, that God would bless its work bringing Christian education to our community
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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