Golden Armor
Thursday of Epiphany 1
11 January 2018
As Gentiles, we have taken the Magi to our hearts. They were the first Gentiles to have worshipped the King. This is why Epiphany is sometimes called "Gentile Christmas." We like them so well that we have dressed them up with a mythological intensity. They are "the three wise men" in our piety. However, they were probably neither "three" nor "wise." For example, it was entirely unwise for them to have presented themselves at the palace of King Herod with news of a newborn king, another king. They only escaped that escapade alive through a divine intervention. In his day, John Chrysostom was far less complimentary than our "three wise men" piety. Chrysostom frankly called the Magi "barbarians;" by which he meant that they were non-Greeks. Political correctness did not have a high premium in the Byzantine Empire. It could, however, be legitimately said that the Magi were not very well informed about the Old Testament's prophecies, or they would never have shown up in Jerusalem, losing sight of the star that they should have been following. They were stumbling worshipers, like us.
 
Yet these men, with apparently so little scriptural knowledge, when they saw the Child with His mother, fell on their faces to honor Him. How carefully they showed Him worship! Here there was no silk, or gold, or royal trappings, yet they knew Him to be the King whom they sought. They did obeisance to the Child who was God of God in human flesh. We come to the altars of our churches with no such ignorance, unless it is willful. For we have received the full instruction from the Word of God telling us what has been placed upon our altars through the speaking of Christ in our churches, "This is my body." This is why the communion elements are front and center in our churches. Those things, which become the body of the Lord, are set not off to the side, or kept in a corner; instead are set in a place of honor and displayed before the people of God.
 
We ought to be filled with awe that so great a gift should be grasped by the fingers of our pastors and distributed to our unclean lips, that we might be partakers of immortality. There can be no mistake about what it is, for the Lord has spoken it. The body of the Lord is here. Who would not properly prepare to receive this Supper in faith? Who would not hurry with reverent steps to the altar where we receive the sacred repast? Who would not prostrate himself before such unspeakably great gifts? For here is the antidote to death.
 
If some mad scientist had concocted the elixir of life, discovered the antidote to death, and uncovered the fountain of youth, would not the greedy world beat a path to his door? Would not millions offer any price to receive this promise of unending (not eternal!) life. Think of the riots that would erupt if it were found out that there was only a limited supply of this antidote. Yet that very antidote has long ago become available at the table of the Lord, supplied not by some mad scientist, but our truest friend, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is offered every Lord's Day in the Lord's Supper. There is no end to the offer. The supply has no limit. His body is wherever He speaks it into presence. How often we take this for granted! Yet still the Lord gives His body to us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"The body of Christ, even lying in a manger, the Magi worshiped. Yes, men profane and barbarous, after leaving their country and their home, set out on a long journey, and when they came, with fear and great trembling worshipped Him. Let us, we who are citizens of heaven, then, at least imitate those barbarians. For when they saw Him but in a manger, and in a hut, and no such thing was in sight as you behold now, drew near with great awe. But you behold Him not in the manger but on the altar, not a woman holding Him in her arms, but the pastor standing by, and the Spirit with great richness hovering over the gifts set before us. You do not merely see this body itself as they did, but you know also its power, and the whole meaning, and are ignorant of none of the holy things which are caused by it, having been completely initiated into them all.
 
"Let us therefore rouse ourselves and be filled with awe, and let us show forth a reverence far beyond that of those barbarians; that we may not by random and careless approaches heap fire upon our own heads. But I say these things, not to keep us from approaching, but to keep us from approaching without consideration. For just as approaching without preparation is dangerous, so also is not communing in these mystical suppers is famine and death. For this table is the sinews of our soul, the bond of our mind, the foundation of our confidence, our hope, our salvation, our light, our life. When with this sacrifice we depart into the outer world, with much confidence we shall tread the sacred threshold, fenced round on every side as with a kind of golden armor."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 24.8
Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.  (ESV)
Prayer
Gracious God, our heavenly Father, You have given us a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Supper of Your Son's body and blood. Keep us firm in the true faith throughout our days of pilgrimage that, on the day of His coming, we may, together with all Your saints, celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For Chaplain Donald Ehrke, US Army, that the Lord Jesus might be with him as he serves the men and women in the Army
 
For Kim Cheng, who is recovering from a fall, that the Lord Jesus would grant her a full recovery
 
For the leaders of Memorial Lutheran Church who will be attending a leadership retreat this weekend, that they would work toward our common good through the proclamation of the holy gospel
 
For President Dale Meyer and the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary, that they might ever remain faithful to their calling to teach the whole counsel of God
Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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