Church and Society
Thursday of Pentecost 13
7 September 2017
The church is a social construction while she exists on earth. The church on earth lives in the conditions which are set for her by the laws and disciplines of the earthly community in which she exists. However, she does not exist by these laws or disciplines. She exists by grace and has a goal quite beyond the earthly community. Her children live by faith, not by works, as the earthly city does.
 
God has set definite boundaries for the earthly city. Its business is works, obedience, earthly peace, safety, and all the other great blessings that God has put into the world. The earthly city may not strive beyond those boundaries set by God. It may not endeavor to control the hearts and souls of its citizens. These belong only to God. She may demand bodily obedience and honor be given to its earthly institutions. But the earthly city may not know what is in the heart and the mind, for these are open only to God. When the earthly city demands to know what is in the heart or claims to control heart, soul, and mind it has grievously overstepped the divinely-given boundaries so that the earthly city would be making divine claims for itself. The earthly city easily becomes totalitarian by claiming what is only God's. Such a claim to control hearts and minds make a slavery far worse than merely bodily slavery. It is slavery of heart and mind that only the true God can command. Only the Lord knows those who are His (2Ti 2:19).
 
The church, the heavenly city, seeks to remain at peace with the earthly city. She accepts and honors the world's laws as far as she can. The exception is when the world demands from her the worship due to the true and only God. We are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). She accepts all the world's social patterns as far as she can. She means no harm to the world's order, but accepts such order as a divine gift. Her life is arranged to provide service to the world in which God has placed her. She seeks the good of the world, even while the world might be seeking her harm. She cares for all in the face of disaster, although those whom she helps hate her. She prays for kings and powers, even when they are seeking to exterminate her.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"The families that do not live by faith seek their peace in the earthly benefits of this life. While the families that live by faith look for those eternal blessings which are promised, and use as pilgrims such benefits of time and of earth as do not enthrall and divert them from God, but rather aid them to endure with greater ease, and to keep down the number of those burdens of the corruptible body which weigh upon the soul. Thus the things necessary for this mortal life are used by both kinds of men and families alike, but each has its own peculiar and widely different aim in using them. The earthly city, which does not live by faith, seeks an earthly peace, and the goal it proposes, in the well-ordered concord of civic obedience and rule, is the combination of men's wills to attain the things which are helpful to this life. The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it passes away. Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it has not qualms about obeying the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of this mortal life are administered. Thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it.
 
"This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not having qualms about diversities inthe manners, laws, and institutions whereby earthly peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are, they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them, so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thereby introduced.
 
"Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, so far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and makes this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven. For this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God. When we shall have reached that peace, this mortal life shall give place to one that is eternal, and our body shall be no more this animal body that by its corruption weighs down the soul, but a spiritual body feeling no want, and in all its members subjected to the will. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses this peace by faith. By this faith it lives righteously when it refers to the attainment of that peace every good action toward God and man, because the life of the city is a social life."

Augustine, The City of God, 19.17
Psalm 6

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD- -how long? Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. (ESV)
Prayer
O Lord Jesus, while we live under the burdens of this life, set our heart on things above. Free us from the tyranny of sin through forgiveness. Help us to live at peace with our community serving the needs of others with divine graciousness. Amen.
 
For Anne Fontenot, who is awaiting a report on medical testing, that the reports would be negative for disease
 
For all the LCMS Disaster Relief workers, especially Pr. Ross Johnson, that the Lord would direct the work of service being carried out by them
 
For the Board of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary, that its members might be kept safe as they travel to their meeting and that the meeting would advance the cause of the gospel ministry in the church
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS that he might be upheld in every good deed
Art: DUBOIS, Tom,  The Invitation (2000)
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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