Faith Sees Riches
Thursday of Pentecost 2
22 June 2017
Kingdoms and nations arise and are overthrown. Economic vitality appears and fails. Great learning is exhibited by a people only to fall into ignorance. There is no easily discernible pattern to history, at least as far as seeing the hand of God accomplishing His will. The sun rises and sets upon the wicked and the righteous alike (Mt 5:45). The idea that a particular nation is the chosen nation or the new Zion makes a mockery of the inscrutability of God.
 
Often we hear that the United States is a Christian nation or that it consists of the chosen people. Such discernment presumes that external might and affluence are signs of the blessing of divine providence. Blessings do come from God, but they are not necessarily able to testify to the status of a nation or household in the presence of God. There are those who have barns full with the bounty of the land, who will be named "fool" by the God who requires an accounting of their life from them. Earthly blessing, although from God, does not identify the chosen. It merely tells us of the evenhanded graciousness of God in granting to all equal access to the natural goods of land, nation, and community.
 
External blessings might also be taken from us without telling us of God's wrath against our sins. While traveling in the Midwest, I have seen corn crops only ankle high, sucking the last moisture from parched fields. Another 30 miles north I saw the corn thigh high in fields bursting with fruitfulness. What are we to say of the farmers farther south? Are they morally deficient? Have they worked some impiety for which they are being punished by God? No, that is not the way the Christian God, who made heaven and earth, works among us. He orders the world in which those who labor righteously will succeed externally, even if through trouble and trial. Success in human endeavors do not happen by accident, for God's blessings do not come to us by luck. But that success will not tell the story of God's grace in Christ.
 
By faith we need to interpret our experiences, both those of abundance and scarcity. So that we live when we have much, as though we had little, and when we have little, as though we had much (1Co 7:29-31). Only Christian faith can make sense of either kind of blessing: straightened circumstances or felicitous wealth. The unbeliever interprets God's mind through the signs of wealth or its lack. The wealthy say, "I am rich, therefore God loves me." The poor grieve, "I am poverty stricken. This is God's judgment against me." By such standards the eternal Son of the Father was Himself not blessed of God, for He was poor (Mt 8:20). But He who was most poor also was the most blessed, so that in the great reversal worked by God His poverty was richness. In Him we who are truly poor become rich. Only faith sees this. When kings and kingdoms no longer stand, what now is known only by faith will be seen by sight.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo
 
"God, the author and giver of every blessing, because He alone is the true God, Himself gives earthly kingdoms both to good and bad. Neither does He do this rashly, and, as it were, fortuitously,-because He is God, not fortune,-but according to the order of things and times, which is hidden from us, but thoroughly known to Himself. This same order of times, however, He does not serve as subject to it, but Himself rules as lord and appoints as governor. Blessing He gives only to the good. Whether a man be a subject or a king makes no difference; he may equally either possess or not possess it. And it shall be complete in that life where kings and subjects exist no longer.
 
"Therefore earthly kingdoms are given by Him both to the good and the bad; lest His worshippers, still under the conduct of a very weak mind, should covet these gifts from Him as some great things. And this is the mystery of the Old Testament, in which the New was hidden, that there even earthly gifts are promised: those who were spiritual understanding even then, although not yet openly declaring, both the eternity which was symbolized by these earthly things, and in what gifts of God true blessing could be found."

Augustine, 
The City of God, 4.33
Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, "As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.  (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, You have showered abundant blessings upon the world of Your creation. Help us to interpret both trouble and bounty as blessings from You. Amen.
 
For Michael Koutsodontis, that the Lord would be with him as he recovers from cancer surgery
 
For judges and all officers of the court that supporting the system of justice with which this nation has been endowed, equal justice under the law might be assured to all persons
 
For all pregnant women and young children, that God would grant them increasing happiness in their blessings
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by smurray@mlchouston.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact