He Lives
Thursday of Easter 2
27 April 2017
Some years ago, a Muslim man attended the divine service of the church I serve. This man represented some society dedicated to religious understanding and harmony. He wanted to talk to me about supporting their efforts by joining the organization. He had a beautifully printed brochure showing their conferences at very posh hotels in which were pictured slick looking be-collared Christian clergy holding forth, no doubt, on the benefits of religious tolerance. I suspect that Saudi Arabian money goes a long way to fund this organization and their events. My guess is that this organization is about as independent as the American Communist Party was before the fall of Soviet Communism, bankrolled as it was from Moscow. The coercive power of Saudi money is enormous.
 
This Muslim man was more than a little shocked when I told him that I was not as interested in religious tolerance as I was his conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ. I told him that his heavenly Father wanted him to know the peace of the forgiveness of sins given by Christ and to rescue him from the legalistic religion of works invented by Mohammed. The look on his face led me to believe he had never heard a Christian pastor say such things. This is a shame to our Christian clergy. It magnifies the cultural degradation of the church in general and the clergy in particular, seeking to feed at the trough of Saudi money. And while he specifically asked, upon departing, if he could come back to our church in the future, he never returned.
 
If you think that I wasn't very politically correct in my response to this man, I will plead guilty to that accusation. Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut. I might easily have mouthed the culturally required platitudes about the equality of all religions, etc. Maybe some well-meaning but misguided "Christian" organization, like the Templeton Foundation was bankrolling the work of this group (but I doubt it). If I had played nice, maybe they would have invited me to one of their posh events. However, such acquiescence would be degrading to my office as a Christian pastor, a contradiction of the first commandment, and an insult to Christ, the Savior of the world. Such acquiescence would fail to carry out the much-recommended Great Commission. It is an enormous irony that those who, in a mantra like chant, demand that we carry out the Great Commission are also those willing to compromise the theological teaching of the unique divinity of Christ by implying that "we all worship the same God on differing paths to heaven." Worse yet when this is done to gain a measure of personal fame or a measure of the Saudi money. This is nothing other than theological prostitution.
 
You might say that my abrupt attempt to introduce this Muslim man to the faith of Christ was misguided because it was unlikely to succeed. You are right, if I was to be the instrument of this man's conversion. But I am not. The Word of God alone can convert. The Word of God about the life, death, and resurrection of the Word of God is what works all. I have planted that seed of life, the rest is up to God. And He is capable of managing the task. Is He not, after all, the One who after giving Himself over to death rises again on the third day? This same Word of God long pronounced Him alive who was dead. The Word of God bespoke the Messiah alive even while He made His repose in the tomb. This God ignores the fact that His ministry is a lost cause and triumphs through death. Humanly speaking, Christianity never ought to have succeeded. But it did; carried on the back of the Lord who, though dead, is alive. All that remains is for us to live in that fact. It isn't up to you to succeed. It is up to you to die. In such is life.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"It is all-important to heed St. Paul's admonition here (1Co 15:1-2), to adhere firmly to the Word which we received, to call this to mind constantly, and with it to fend off all questioning, subtle arguing, and disputing, and not to give way to the devil's suggestions, whether these be from without by his factions or from within by our own heart. And in that way, we must learn to know the power and might of God in this same Word, namely, that we are saved thereby and solely by it resist the devil's power and all errors. For to believe firmly that I am a Christian, a child of God, and that I am saved, when I feel sin and a bad conscience; to believe that I will live eternally, endowed with a beautiful, glorious body, although I lie under the sod-that requires a divine and heavenly power and a wisdom which is not governed by any feeling or perceiving, but which can look beyond that, convinced that this is not human prattle or fantasy but that it is the Word of God, 'who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think' (Eph 3:20). For He has already resurrected our Lord Jesus Christ. Although no one else was executed so ignominiously and shamefully nor died such a vile and (according to the Law) accursed death, etc., so that His name was in much worse odor than that of any other person on earth, yet He proved that Scripture is more than the feeling, the thinking, and the experiencing of all men.
 
"For no one could ever have understood or thought that Christ would be alive on the third day. Within all the world's wisdom there was not an iota of knowledge regarding this. And yet we have the Word which declared Him alive while He was still lying in the grave. And as this Word declared, so it had to happen, even though all the world's senses and reason and everything else contradict it. Thus, it also happens to us. The dead repose under the ground, long decomposed or devoured by maggots and all sorts of other vermin, or they are turned to dust, or they lie dispersed everywhere; but in the Word which we believe and profess they are assuredly alive and risen. The world does not have this power and is unable to do this; but the Word has it and is able to do it. And thus it must come about, for it is God's own power and might.
 
"This must strengthen and comfort us, even though our faith is not so firm as it should be and even though we do not feel this as clearly as we should like. Yet we should hold to it, constantly pursue it, and never dismiss it from our heart. Thus we also believe but feebly that we through Christ are lords over world and devil; we feel the direct opposite much more. But we console ourselves as much as we can with the fact that we have the Word, which excels all might and wisdom." 

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 1-2
2 Timothy 4:1-8

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
 
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, send Your Spirit among Your people that we might faithfully confess Your Word of life. Keep us from the greed and venality that would lead us to deadly compromise. Give us grace to proclaim Your mission in the world to save sinners by Your precious blood poured out, so that Your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
 
For all the candidates for the office of the holy ministry, who received their calls at the seminaries, that they would be upheld in their studies as they prepare to move to serve their flocks
 
For the elders of Memorial Lutheran Church as they provide leadership to the congregation, that they would be encouraged by the Word of God
 
For all church musicians, that they might be upheld in leading the people of God in the Lord's song
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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