Don't You Just Love It?
Friday of Pentecost 8
4 August 2017
You can't have it both ways. Either you love the things above or the things on earth. But that should be easy to sort out, right? The things above are the things up in heaven, where Christ is. The things below are the tangible, earthly elements, such as food and drink, house and home, wife and children, body and clothing, etc. So if our hearts are to be set upon the heavenly things, then we should pay no mind to the things below, of the earth. At first face, that would seem to be true. But not so fast. Does heavenly mindedness mean that we, who are citizens of the city of God, are free to abandon our wives and children to do mission work? Are we free to decline to work, and expect to be fed by God like the birds of the air? Shall we refuse to support the physical plant of our church and Christian school, arguing that the city of God is a spiritual thing and therefore cannot partake of steel, concrete, sheet rock, and glass? At various times Christians thought this, for example when monastic communities depended upon beggary for sustenance. Today, people who are turning monastic thinking on its head, are building veritable mansions in which to raise their families, and refusing to support the maintenance of the house that God uses to house his family for the proclamation of the gospel. I remember a man who was proud of the fact that our church roof leaked every time it rained, because it proved how interested we were in "the things of God and not on the things of the world." I am sure his home roof never leaked. Are such people really just being more fully spiritual and heavenly-minded by declining to support the church on earth? No, they are turning God out to beggary. Clearly, the heavenly uses the earthly.
 
The earth/heaven divide in the Bible is really a moral divide, not an "up" and "down" divide. The things of the world are turned to the good purposes of God when they are used to proclaim the forgiveness of sins. This is an implication derived from the incarnation of our Lord, who, although Lord of heaven (Jn 3:13), was made Man of the Virgin Mary that He might create a new city, the city of God among men. The earthly did not become heavenly, but the heavenly became earthly, thereby raising the earthly to God's use, making it heavenly. For example, God has hallowed family as a divine gift. Marriage and children are spiritual blessings and given by God. Those who are truly heavenly minded will love, care for, and support wife and children. Those who are truly heavenly minded are a great earthly good. The heavenly God hides himself in the guise of earthly things, susceptible only to humble faith. So it is that what is on the altar is but bread and wine until the Lord Jesus Christ says differently. The water in the laver of life is mere water until the Lord Jesus commands that we give new life with it. Then these earthly things are truly heavenly things hidden with God in Christ.
 
In the city of God the meaning of heaven and earth are changed. The city of men strives upward to God. In the city of God heaven comes to earth. In the city of God, men do not strive for heaven. It comes to them in Christ and the gospel. In the city of men, men love ruling. In the city of God, men rule by loving. In the city of men, men seek their own glory. In the city of God, the saints seek God's glory. In the city of men, their own wisdom brings all goods. In the city of God, God's knowledge brings all goods, so "then Christ is all and in all" (Col 3:11). Don't you just love it?

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men. But the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory. The other says to its God, 'But you, O LORD, are my glory, and the lifter of my head' (Ps 3:3). In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, 'I love you, O LORD, my strength.' (Ps 18:1).
 
"And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known God 'did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,' that is, glorying in their own wisdom, and being possessed by pride, 'they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.' For they were either leaders or followers of the people in adoring images and, 'worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever' (Rm 1:22-25). But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, 'that God may be all in all' (1Co 15:28)."

Augustine, The City of God, 14.28
Colossians 3:1-11
  
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (ESV)
Prayer
O Lord God, let the power of Your love overshadow the love of power in my life, that I might give myself up for the other. Build Your heavenly city using the earthly means You have ordained to give life and gather many more people to their rightful home hidden in Christ. Amen.
 
For John Hatteberg, in thanksgiving that God has brought him safely through surgery and that He would grant him a full recovery
 
For police and other public safety officers, that they would be kept safe and given success in their duties
 
For all Christians as they follow Christ, that they might take up their crosses in faith
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
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