God Promises
Wednesday of Pentecost 13
6 September 2017
Houstonians have had an especially hard couple of weeks. Hurricane Harvey drifted around in the neighborhood far too long. The rain fall amounts are just mind-boggling. Unbelievable flooding devastated the area. Many homes were damaged by the rising waters and Houstonians are still taking stock of the ruination. It may be weeks before the waters recede in some places. We are grateful for the sacrifices made by first responders and uncounted ordinary people who rescued others and helped them in a time of need. Those who are prepared to help in recovery efforts, such as LCMS Disaster Response, are now arriving to assess the needs and encourage spiritual care for suffering Houstonians and others throughout the disaster area.

Of course, this disaster is also a spiritual crisis. We would be foolish to ignore the spiritual impact it has on everyone touched by it, even on people who have come through it relatively unscathed. I heard from a Houstonian who was working out of town when Harvey hit and whose home was dry. She said that she sat in front of the television watching the news reports before going to business meetings and wept, "I cried out my stress this morning, heart breaking views of the city." Everyone is touched by this. No one is immune. We are grieving and will be for a while. We need to be aware of the long-term effects of this suffering in our community. We will need to minister to each other for a long time.

Because this is a spiritual crisis, we need a spiritual interpretation of it and response to it. I heard from a member of our congregation, whose home flooded. He and his family were living with relatives whose home was dry. He said that they were giving thanks because they were alive and safe. This is a wonderful, faithful perspective in the face of devastation. "My home is flooded, but I still have what's most important to me, my Lord, my family, and my life."

When the Lord brought the flood of Noah upon the earth, no one survived except Noah and his family, eight souls in all. Despite God's warning to Noah and his contemporaries about that devastating flood, only Noah's family was saved in the ark "in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water" (1Pt 3:20). Notice that the source of devastation, the water, was also the source of their salvation. What brought death to others became a source of salvation to the faithful few. This salvation is certain because it is backed by the Word of God. God promises.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"We possess God's many encouraging promises and rich assurances. In fact the entire psalter, all the gospels-yes, all Scripture is filled with them and they are by no means to be scorned but should be highly valued, such as Psalm 55, 'Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved' (Ps 55:22). And Psalm 27, 'Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!' (Ps 27:14)! Furthermore, Christ himself says in John 16, 'Take heart; I have overcome the world' (Jn 16:33).

"This cannot be wrong-I'm sure of it-that Christ, the Son of God, has overcome the world."

Martin Luther, Sayings in Which Luther Found Comfort, 8
1 Peter 3:13-22

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 
O Lord, in the midst of trouble and suffering, send us the comfort of Your Word. Send Your Spirit to us that we might listen to Your Word and not be overcome by the trouble we see around us. Give us good cheer that we might confess Your goodness to us against all external evidence to the contrary. Help us to believe against the contraries. Amen.

For LCMS Disaster Relief, that those who serve might be kept safe in their labors and that their efforts would be successful

For those whose homes are still flooded or who are in any danger or need, that they might find rescue in a time of need and be brought to give thanks to God

For Brenda Blackwell, who is receiving hospice care, that the Lord of the church would grant her strength of faith and confidence in the divine promises
Art: DUBOIS, Tom,  The Invitation (2000)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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