Die Like a Dog
Wednesday of Easter 4
10 May 2017
Credo propter absurdum, Tertullian said. "I believe because it is absurd." He was driving at the idea that the divine truth does not always fit the pathways of our human reason. Often, the divine truth runs completely counter to our expectations. Yet this should not surprise or shock us Christians. If there is a God, what are the chances that He thinks exactly like us? Pretty slim, by just about any standard (Is 55:10-11). Whenever God discloses Himself to us, we are amazed at the content of that revelation (Is 53:1-2). The greatest miracle is that we would believe what God says to us in His inspired Scriptures.
 
It shouldn't shock unbelievers either. Why should religious truth be able to be reduced to terms that are acceptable to the carnal mind? It would be like complaining that Quantum physics cannot be a true representation of reality because it is not able to be reduced to terms the average eighth grader can understand. The more we know about the physical universe the clearer it becomes that there are some irreducible mysteries in it. Quantum theory is a superb example of this. Basically, the question of Quantum theory is "is light made up of waves or particles?" And the answer is: "Yes." All that we know about what light does leads us to be uncertain about how it actually functions. We just are unable to produce a model that accounts for everything we know about what light does. Perhaps some brilliant physicist will account for those things in the future that are at present not understood by us. But maybe there are things about nature that will never be resolved by the pathways of ordinary human reason. So what makes the unbeliever so certain that religion needs to be as reasonable and simple to understand as a cook book? What happens if God's pathways do not square with our expectations? What happens if the source of all light is Himself even more mysterious than created light?
 
The Light of the world has assigned mysterious meaning to the death of all persons. Death has to do with sin, redemption, and eternal life. We don't just die "like a dog" as the modern myth runs according to Franz Kafka. For precious in His sight is the death of God's saints (Ps 116:15). God has assigned moral meaning to death. It is the wages of sin (Rm 6:23) and it comes from Adam. This is why grief is attached to human death. But, because there is a God in Christ, death and grief are not ultimate. Completely contrary to the pathways of the human mind, Christ has taken up and suffered our death and burial that He might burst forth from our tomb to give life to those who have not deserved life. He does not die "like a dog." Therefore, neither shall we.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"We must all profess that it seems so ridiculous that we all must die. However, that this derives from Adam we must learn to believe here. For no human heart or wisdom ever devised or thought this out, that death is a penalty for sin. No, everybody thought and regarded death as man's natural lot, comparable to the death of a dog or a pig or any other animal, or comparable to the rising and the setting of the sun, or the growing or the withering of grass. All things are considered perishable by nature, vanishing again as they came. However, Scripture teaches us that our death and dying does not come in a natural way but that this is a fruit of and the penalty for our father Adam's sin. He offended the sublime Majesty so outrageously that he and all who are descended from him and are born on earth must die eternally. No one on earth can escape or ward off this tragedy.
 
"Again it sounds so absurd and so false to the world, yes, much more incredible, when Paul declares here that in one Man all men shall rise again; that both death and life rest with and depend on one man; that the whole world is unable to do anything in this matter; that no man's power or might, no saints life, virtue, and work, are adequate reason for rising from the dead; that this is absolutely beyond the ability and the merit of every other human being and is centered solely in one single Man, who was unknown to the world and despised by it, who, moreover, died a most shameful and miserable death. To Him all the world is to accord honor, and He is to be regarded as the One by whom we all rise again. No holy monk, Carthusian, yes, no prophet, apostle, or martyr, can contribute anything toward this or merit it with all his doings. This appears preposterous as we ponder it. It often appeared strange and odd to me myself. It is surely hard to convince the heart of this article. When I behold a corpse carried out and buried, it is hard to go my way and believe and think that we will some day rise together. How, or by what power? Not by myself or by virtue of any merit on earth, but by this one Christ. That is indeed certain, far more certain than the fact that I will be buried and see someone else buried, which I know with certainty and behold with my eyes. Therefore, this is a sermon for Christians and an article of faith. All who are of the world regard this as sheer fraud. They argue that it is impossible for God to be so foolish and to condemn the whole world without distinction for the sake of one man, or, on the other hand, to save all men without any merit of theirs for the sake of one Man."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 22
Romans 6:15-23

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)
Prayer
Spare us, O Lord, and mercifully forgive us our sins. Though by our continual transgressions we have merited Your rebukes, be gracious to us. Grant that all these punishments which we have deserved may not come upon us, but that all things may work to our everlasting good; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
For Pastor Charles Wokoma, that God the Lord would continue to bless his efforts to proclaim the gospel to all nations
 
For Cantor Janet Muth, who has a call to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL, that she would have divine wisdom to heed the church's call
 
For Lutheran High School North, that God would continue to permit growth in faith and knowledge to flourish there
 
For Pastor Sagar Pilli, as he reaches out to the Telugu-speaking people in the Houston area, that the Lord Jesus would send them the Holy Spirit
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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