It's So Easy!
Monday of Pentecost 9
7 August 2017
Advertising screams, "Look, it's so easy even a child could do it!" Parents in the UK found how true this is when their three-year-old son placed a successful bid to buy a Barbie-pink convertible automobile on e-Bay ("Boy, three, buys car on internet"). This endorsement of e-Bay's commercial powers highlights the ease with which the desires of even a three-year-old can be satisfied with just the touch of a button. Jack Neal's horrified mother commented, "Jack's a whizz on the PC and just pressed all the right buttons." It just doesn't get any easier than that. No matter how much of a "whizz" Jack might have been, the success of this innocent and relatively unskilled child highlights the power of the popular online auction tool. It heartens me to think that I too, Luddite that I am, might even be able learn how to use e-Bay some day. Even a child can do it.

While we might suggest to the parents of such a "whizz" that they close the e-Bay site when unable to supervise their son's computer time, we would not attack or excoriate e-Bay for making it too easy to operate its online auction features because a three-year-old was able to buy a little pink auto bling for himself. That would be unreasonable. Yet, this is exactly what humans do when presented with the ease with which sinners enter the city of God. They blame God.
The Bible teaches that all humans are equally without true faith in God or fear of God (Rm 3:23), and all are condemned to eternal damnation apart from God's intervention. Both Cain and Abel were outside the city of God and equally children of wrath. They were conceived as natural children of Adam, not spiritual children of God. Neither were worthy of salvation. Yet God saw fit to save the unworthy in His Son, purely by grace. Abel was brought into the city of God purely because of grace. Our inability to save ourselves highlights how easy it is to be saved when looked at from our perspective. It's so easy a child could do it. It is that easy only because the God who desires to save the damned from the city of men and raise them to His city has done everything in His power to save us poor sinners. From God's side the work of saving sinners is the hardest and most costly thing to do. It costs Him His Son. We should not chide God that he has highlighted the power and extent of His grace by showing us our inability. Our child-like inability to seek God is overcome by God's ability to bless little children (Mk 10:14-16). The worse I know I am, the greater His grace (1Ti 1:15-16).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Of Adam and Eve, then, Cain was the first-born, and he belonged to the city of men; after him was born Abel, who belonged to the city of God. For as in the individual the truth of the apostle's statement is discerned, 'It is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual' (1Co 15:46), whence it comes to pass that each man, being derived from a condemned stock, is first of all born of Adam evil and carnal, and becomes good and spiritual only afterwards, when he is grafted into Christ by regeneration: so was it in the human race as a whole. When these two cities began to run their course by a series of deaths and births, the citizen of this world was the first-born, and after him the stranger in this world, the citizen of the city of God, predestined by grace, elected by grace, by grace a stranger below, and by grace a citizen above. By grace-for so far as regards himself he is sprung from the same mass, all of which is condemned in its origin. But God,like a potter (for this comparison is introduced by the apostle judiciously, and not without thought), of the same lump made one vessel to honor, another to dishonor (Rm 9:21). But first the vessel to dishonor was made, and after it another to honor. For in each individual, as I have already said, there is first of all that which is reprobate, that from which we must begin, but in which we need not necessarily remain; afterwards is that which is well-approved, to which we may by advancing attain, and in which, when we have reached it we may abide. Not, indeed, that every wicked man shall be good, but that no one will be good who was not first of all wicked but the sooner any one becomes a good man, the more speedily does he receive this title, and abolish the old name in the new.
"Accordingly, it is recorded of Cain that he built a city (Gn 14:7), but Abel, being a sojourner, built none. For the city of the saints is above, although here below it begets citizens, in whom it sojourns till the time of its reign arrives, when it shall gather together all in the day of the resurrection. Then shall the promised kingdom be given to them, in which they shall reign with their Prince, the King of the ages, time without end."

Augustine, The City of God, 15.1
Romans 9:19-33
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay." And as Isaiah predicted, "If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah."
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." 
Lord Christ, You shall reign alone in glory when You return to reveal Your city among men. Help us to await that glory in faith confident of Your grace. Send Your Holy Spirit that we might reach out to every Cain and tell Him that Your city is a city of sinners freely forgiven by the cost of Your blood. Amen.
For Jill Stoneburner, who is gravely ill, that the Lord Jesus would send the holy angels to surround her bed, granting her the peace that surpasses all human understanding
For all those who despise God for His mercy, that they might be discovered by that mercy and find that sinners like them have been forgiven for Christ's sake

For John Hatteberg, that the Lord would grant him complete healing
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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