God Speaks. We Listen.
Monday Before Reformation Day
30 October 2017
The Lutheran Reformation did not spring from the heart of Martin Luther. If it had, it should be repudiated with all dispatch. The Word of God is itself the authenticating and reforming tool of the God who comes with the winnowing fork in His hand (Mt 3:12). God sends His Word and it accomplishes that for which it is sent (Is 55:10-11; Jn 3:8). To be the Word of God means that it does not come into our control; it is not our possession, but a gift from God. The Word of God does what it says when and where God sends it. The Word of God, then, does not gain its power from churches or preachers. In their zeal they may not possess it nor do they add anything to it. It is a gift from God to be used in accordance with the purposes for which it was sent.
 
Unfortunately, what masquerades as the Word of God is often something less than that. How easily we humans establish our own forms of worship and honor ourselves by claiming that our worship activities are established with all due sincerity and righteousness. "Sincerity" is the modern touchstone of all religious value. If there is a modern reformation principle it is certainly sincerity. The rightness or wrongness of an action is not what is important to us, but whether we are sincere in our action. By such a standard an axe murderer stands justified, if he can just plead that he was an axe murderer who sincerely meant no harm to the people he chopped up.
 
The one forbidden form of sincerity is the sincere adherence to the Word of God created by the Word of God. The danger in this sincerity is that it commits the person to an external authority. God sends His Word. We listen. It seems to stifle our creativity; it implies that there is an authority outside of us. The claim of external authority terrifies the modern, committed as he is to the idea, sincerely held of course, that he is his own authority. If there is a Word sent from God it says that the idol of self requires crucifixion. Self is the most difficult god to kill.
 
Sometimes we try to split the difference by claiming to worship God and support the proclamation of the Word of God, when all the while we are satisfying our sincere views that our own self-generated forms of worship are attractive to God. We point to our actions and display to God how sincere we are. What are called "praise services" often partakes of this kind of misguided sincerity. The claim is made that the guests, or young people, or those who would never come to church otherwise, would be attracted by these dumbed-down worship forms. But let's be honest; often we are only sincerely playing to our own itching ears. It is easy to presume that what I want must also good for everyone else, like "praise choruses," a trap set in the chancel, or "less formal" worship. But this is only the blindness of old Adam, who loves himself so much that he can't really see the need of the other. Unfortunately, we are often only satisfying our own itching ears and seeking to be entertained rather than to hear the Word of God that was sent. When God speaks He speaks to take us out of ourselves. He rescues us from our self-centered sincerity by setting us in Christ our Lord. We have been baptized into His death that we might be put into the Word which He has sent. God speaks. We listen.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Now John says: 'He whom God has sent utters the words of God' (Jn 3:34). This means that God's Word is not thought of as other than being sent. Let no one suppose that God's Word comes to earth through human fervor. If it is God's Word, it must be sent. It is impossible to understand and to interpret Holy Scripture by yourself or arbitrarily (2Pt 1:20). It will not do to speak unless one is called. God's Word comes only when it is sent by God. If God had not sent it, the whole world would be ignorant about redemption from sin and comfort for the conscience. If God had not sent the Word and the ministry, we would have nothing. For this reason it is imperative that we neither speak nor hear anything but the Word of God. Avoid whatever had its origin in man's mind and fervor. The Word of God does not come unless it is sent from heaven.
 
"Anyone associating with the monks should inquire of them whether their system is also the Word of God. You will hear them claim that it stemmed from good intentions and that its purpose is to honor God. From this they conclude that it is a worship of God and that it is the Word of God. But for anyone to worship God aright and to atone for sin more is necessary than good intentions! All that flows from your heart is fervor and your own opinion. Tell me whether God sent it from heaven and whether He commanded it. 'But,' the monks will reply, 'it was all done to glorify God!' All the worse; it is twofold blasphemy that you call the Word of God and the worship of God that which you yourself have fabricated. That is the way the pope deceived the world as he hid under the name and title of the church. No Word of God comes to the world unless it is sent by God. If it has grown from my heart, or if I pattern myself after Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose, then it is not the Word of God.
 
"There is an enormous difference between the Word that was sent from heaven and that which is born of my own fervor and opinion. Holy Scripture did not spring from the soil of the earth. Thus John says: 'He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.' (Jn 3:31). Therefore we must base our salvation firmly on the power of God's Word, not on our own zeal and imagination."

Martin Luther, Sermons on John's Gospel, 3.34
Matthew 11:12-30

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."
 
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."
 
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people.  Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
 
For all those who suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol, that the Lord would free them from their slavery and grant them the friends and family who will support them as they live under God's grace
 
For Pastor Sagar Pilli, that the Lord of the harvest would give success to his labors
 
For Matthew C. Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, that the Lord of the church would give him peace and strength as he leads God's people in the proclamation of the divine righteousness

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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