Out of the Cave
Thursday of Pentecost 19
19 October 2017
Austin EMS workers rescued three amateur spelunkers who got lost in an Austin area cave some years ago. The cave, which was known as a tight spot for inexperienced spelunkers, turned out to be quite daunting to these young people. They were found after being lost for 30 hours in Airman's Cave. A father of one of the three University of Texas students said, "We're very elated for sure and thankful that God protected them."
When we are faced with tragedy that is averted we are often numb with relief. The anxious hours spent in a hospital waiting room until a life-saving surgery is completed successfully makes the experience of rescue so powerful that it is often life changing. Certainly, the lost spelunkers were relieved to be rescued. So it is for the Christian who fully understands the desperate condition into which mankind was plunged by the Fall into sin. Often, we take Scripture's dire descriptions of human depravity to be merely doleful and depressing. They are at least that. The unbeliever takes them in that way and decidedly so. The result is that he often disregards these descriptions as being unnecessarily hopeless or even plain wrong. Unwelcome news is often ignored, like the investor who declines to open his quarterly brokerage statement when he knows that his account has lost money. No one wants bad news.
But the Christian does not flee the bad news about his own depravity, because the story only begins with depravity. Like a good news, bad news joke in reverse order, the Christian hears the bad news about his pitiful state over against God's law and also craves to hear what God has done about it in the message of good news in Christ. The bad news only heightens the joy he feels when confronted with the remarkable salvation worked in Christ. The law only sweetens the taste of the gospel. So the believer's view of the law is changed by being placed into Christ. Wedged into the cave of our wickedness and unable to find our way out, we are thrilled by our first breath of fresh air and glimpse of sunlight in Christ. The depth of our sinfulness shows the wondrous height of the mercy of God in Christ, who died for us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Chemnitz
"First, the Scripture describes the superiority, perfection, and integrity of human nature before the Fall in order to show from the contrast how those good things have been in part lost and in part darkened and corrupted. According to Gn 1:27, God created man after His image and likeness. In Eccl 7:29 we read: 'This alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.' But after the Fall, we are told in Gn 5:3 that Adam begot sons in his own image and likeness. What the image of God in man was can in some measure be understood from its restitution, which is begun in our renewal. And this entire description of the image of God and its loss is described in the Decalogue, if it is compared with our nature. Therefore, Paul says, 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Rm 3:23), but renewal is called 'glory' in 2Co 3:18.
"Second, Scripture describes what and of what kind our corrupt nature is in itself, before its restoration and renewal. Thus Paul says: 'By the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners' (Rm 5:19). How Paul wants this understood he explains in the same place. For he calls us wicked and enemies of God before we are reconciled to Him through His Son. Eph 2:1-5 sets these two things over against each other, while the believers have been made by grace and what they were by nature. Yes, it mentions actual sins, namely walking in sins, following the prince of the power of the air, living in the passions of the flesh, doing the will of their thoughts; but it adds that evils are brought about not by custom, not by imitation, but 'by nature,' it says, 'we were children of wrath,' namely, having the passions of the flesh, the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts. It says we who have been born from circumcised parents, were by nature children of wrath, even as the others also, that is, those born of Gentiles. The Scripture, however, distinguishes these two things, to commit sin (1Jn 2:4), or to walk in sins (Eph 2:3) and to have sin (1Jn 1:8), which is called indwelling sin (Rm 7:17, 20), sin that is close at hand (Rm 7:21), sin which besets us on all sides and takes possession of all the powers in man (Heb 12:1), and the ignorance that is in them (Eph 4:18).
"Third, when the restoration and restitution of man through that Spirit of renewal is described, there is shown at the same time the contrast of the corruption (Rm 12; Eph 4; Col 3; etc.). But the restoration is begun in all parts and powers of man in this life. This must grow so that the body of sin is finally destroyed (Rm 7:24). From the contrast, therefore let it be considered, what kind of corruption that has entered into human nature through the sin of Adam and has taken possession of all its parts."

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent
Romans 12:1-18

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, our depravity is deep. Your mercy deeper yet. Give us the joy of the gospel through which we have been raised to newness of life in You. Amen.
For all those who do medical research, that they might relieve human suffering and bring proper care into the lives of those who need healing
For Sophia Benton, who will be baptized today, that the Lord Jesus would keep her in the life-giving waters of the sacrament all her days
For Ed Jutzi, that the Lord would remember him in his trials and give him peace
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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