One Foundation
Thursday of Christmas 1
4 January 2018
Foundations are important. The most crucial part of any construction project is pouring the concrete slab upon which a structure will be founded. When the weather is perfect to pour the concrete, the crew labors feverishly to get the work done. If they fail to do it right and if the slab is in any way inferior, the rest of the project and the soundness of the whole building is put in jeopardy. Our foundation is Christ or we have none at all. All other sources of support will collapse into a quagmire of our sin and wickedness. We will lose ourselves in our own filth. Without Christ all is vain; all is empty.
I had a member of my parish remind me that my task was not to save his life, but to save his soul. How right he is. We can lose life with relatively little damage, but if we lose Christ we have lost everything. If we lose Christ, we lose body and soul in hell (Mt 10:28). We lose true and genuine life. It takes a cross-eyed spiritual clarity to see this. The worldly-minded do everything possible to keep life, but lose their souls, by pursuing what is worthless. The Christ-minded give up their lives, but gain their souls, receiving back again their lives from Christ. But this is not obvious to the world. It takes courageous faith to seek the soul's life above earthly life. Those who hate Christianity mock our willingness to lose our life for the sake of our soul. Who would die for an idea like Christianity? We would, who want to remain connected to the Head of the church, Christ.
But we need to be aware how easily we can become separated from Christ, our Head. Tragically, many think that they can go their own way because they are convinced that they haven't strayed far from Christ. "I can always make my way back to Christ and the church." Some stray while in college, remaining silent when called to confess Christ and his mercy. Some sell their lives by setting their hearts on worldly success in their career. Some lose the future life, by focusing on their future retirement. Some lose the rest for their souls by focusing on leisure pursuits. Some seek foreign ways of expiating their guilt, keeping it bottled up inside to be handled later. Some try to ignore their guilt only to die in their ignorance.
How far may we stray and still be sure to find our way back to Christ? Ask the branch severed from the tree how long until it is thrown into the fire. Ask the branch how many grapes it will produce after being pruned from the vine. Ask the head about to be removed from the body by the guillotine, how long until the body will die. The answers are clear and naggingly insistent. Even the smallest severance is death. Only Christ the miracle worker undoes this severance. There is only one foundation and from Him we must not be separated even the slightest bit. He is our life. What separation could we ever tolerate? 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1Co 3:11).
"Even from men's common notions Paul proves his whole point. His meaning is this: 'I have preached Christ, I have delivered to you the foundation. Take heed how you build on it, lest perhaps it be in vainglory or to draw away disciples to men.' Let us then not give heed to heresies. 'For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid.' Upon this then let us build, and as a foundation let us cleave to it, as a branch to a vine; and let there be no space between us and Christ. For if there is any gap, immediately we perish. For the branch by its adherence to the vine draws in the strength, and the building stands because it is cemented together. Since, if it is separated it perishes, having nothing upon which to support itself. Let us not then merely keep hold of Christ, but let us be cemented to Him, for if we are separated from Him, we perish. 'For those who are far from You, O Lord, shall perish' (Ps 73:27). Let us cling to Him, and let us cleave by our works. 'For whoever keeps my commandments,' abides in Me (Jn 14:2).
"Accordingly, there are many images through which He brings us into union with Him. He is 'the Head,' we are 'the body.' Can there be any gap between the head and body? He is 'a Foundation,' we 'a building.' He 'a Vine,' we 'branches.' He 'the Bridegroom,' we 'the bride.' He 'the Shepherd,' we 'the sheep.' He is 'the Way,' we 'those who walk in it.' Again, we are 'a temple,' He 'the Indweller.' He 'the Only-Begotten,' we 'the brethren.' He 'the Heir,' we 'the co-heirs with Him.' He 'the Life,' we 'the living.' He 'the Resurrection,' we 'those who rise again.' He 'the Light,' we 'the enlightened.' All these things indicate unity; and they allow no void space, not even the smallest gap. For he that moves but a little distance away will go on until he has become very distant. So the body, receiving only a small cut by a sword, perishes. The building, though there be but a small chink, falls into decay. The branch, when severed from the root, becomes useless. Therefore, this little thing is no trifle, but is almost the whole. Whenever we commit some little fault or even negligence, let us not overlook that little; since this, being disregarded, quickly becomes great. So also when a garment has begun to be torn and is neglected, the whole garment is apt to rip. A roof, when a few tiles have fallen, being disregarded, brings down the whole house." 

 John Chrysostom,
Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 8.7
Matthew 10:28-42

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (ESV)
Lord Christ, You are the foundation without which we perish. Grant that we might abide like the branch in the vine, in perfect union with You taking our life from You. Keep us from the unbelief that seeks the freedom from You that leads to death. Amen.

For all those who are seeking to be free of addiction, that they might admit their helplessness without Christ their loving Savior
For Rita Baker, that the Lord Jesus would continue to give her strength and healing
For Clare Staub, who gave birth to a baby girl, Christina Grace, that both mother and child might be kept safe by the overshadowing presence of the God who grants children
Art: MARATTI, Carlo  The Holy Night (1650s)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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