Chemo for Life
Friday of Easter 7
2 June 2017
People suffering from cancer often undergo chemotherapy. Because of its toxicity a person undergoing "chemo" usually becomes sick. A deadly chemical is being introduced into the body in carefully controlled amounts in an attempt to kill the cancer cells, without killing the person. Chemotherapy is the struggle to kill one part of the body, while keeping the rest of the body alive. The therapy often takes weeks, sometimes months, because it would be deadly if administered all at once. Chemotherapy is really poison introduced to purge the body of that which threatens its health.
Our Lord is purging our bodies of the cancer of death, but He does so by killing us (Job 13:15). Yes, slowly and in small doses, but killing us all the same. This killing begins in baptism in which the therapy is administered. We Christians will live with doses of dying in repentance through the daily use of baptism. All sins and evil desires are killed every day that the "new man might daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever" (SC 4.4). The dying goes on daily, because God causes the dying of baptism to become a way of life. Death, then, is a way of life. It is a way of life because the dying is caused by what God sends in the sacrament of baptism. Baptism is a means of grace not just at its administration, but baptism continually functions as a way of death to life.
Dying comes gradually to us through these sacramental gifts. The sacramental blessings are all ours at once by grace. Whatever the Word promises is ours fully and completely. However, we often do not feel the life given by the Word. Instead, we feel the weight of death within us through the killing power of the Word. The burdens of our body and this life in the flesh are full enough of trial and trouble. This is real, not imagined as in Scientology. The reality of our weakness and suffering, however, does not make less real the verdict that God holds us now to be deathless and that the purgation will one day be complete when our corpse is put six feet under. Our feeling does not change the verdict spoken and though we feel death and are dying every day, yet life is ours, even to the full (Jn 10:10). Christ's promise to us in baptism will come to its fulfillment when we die. The Lord is purging our sin from us through the therapy of baptism. It kills to make alive. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Poison and pestilence are a death which does not kill suddenly and immediately; but it kills nevertheless. It gradually makes its way through the whole body until it reaches the heart. That is the way God also treats us. He does not want to carry out the victory over death and the devil all of a sudden, but He has this proclaimed for a while for the sake of the elect who are yet to be born. So He begins to mix and prepare the potion to be a purgatio or a medication for us, to refresh and to invigorate us but to be poison and death for the devil. This is comparable to a potion prescribed by a physician. This is conducive to a patient's health, but it is poison to a fever. Thus He could well call His medicine or antidote a poison or a pestilence. Here, too, it is true that one poison expels another, that one pestilence kills the other.
"This also applies to Christendom now, when Word, baptism, and the sacrament are administered and nothing is proclaimed but that Christ died and rose again. That is the only prescription or purgatio for our sin and death. That we must take daily and let it work, in order to drive the poison from our heart and take us from death and hell to eternal life. He promised us that; and He commanded us to proclaim it and to believe it. Thereby He brings it about in us daily that it penetrates like a leaven, as Christ says in Matthew 13 [:33]. Then the heart grows and grows in faith and learns to despise and overcome this life and its hardships.
"That is the victory by which death is to be swallowed up, so that we need fear death no longer or remain in it. For the heart is already saturated by the gospel, which shall be poison and pestilence to death. It weakens death from day to day and deprives death of his strength, until he is submerged entirely and disappears. For although he is not yet entirely swallowed up in us, the victory gained by Christ is already present, and through gospel, baptism, and faith it has become our victory. On the Last Day, when we have taken off the old, earthly, perishable garment and put on a new celestial one, we can destroy him completely with this victory. Then we will remain in life forever; then we will behold and perceive life as we now behold and feel the reverse, namely, that death is in us and that we are stuck in death. The victory appears to be his alone, as he as the lord of the world devours and consumes one person after another up to the Last Day. But nevertheless we know from Scripture that victory was wrested from him by Christ, who began to swallow him up in Himself. And through Him we, too, are spiritually victorious over him. Later we will bury death also physically and do away with him entirely, so that nothing will be seen or known of him any longer. Instead, we will have nothing but life and bliss."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 54-55
1 Corinthians

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.   Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.   I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-   not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.   But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler- not even to eat with such a one.   For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?   God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."
Lord Christ, You have administered the medicine of immortality to us in holy baptism. Grant that we might live in the death of this sacrament, that we might arise to the new life in Your righteousness and purity forever. Help us to share the death of this life with those who live only in death, that they might have Your life. Amen.
For President Trump, his Cabinet, and all those that serve the executive branch of our government, that they would lead the people with integrity and wisdom
For all those undergoing cancer therapy, that the Lord would grant them strength and healing
For all unborn children and pregnant mothers, that God would keep both mothers and children safe in his loving care
Art: GAROFALO,  Ascension of Christ (1510-1520)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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