True Joy
Tuesday of Epiphany 2
16 January 2018
John Chrysostom was preaching to a world very much like our own. While preaching to the people of Antioch (he only later became bishop of Constantinople), he chided them for allowing the luxury of their community to crowd out concern for the gifts God bestowed on them in the mystery of Christ's body and blood. He exhorted them not to be absorbed by worldly concerns to the detriment of their faith, the Christian life, and the needs of other persons. He pleaded with them not to walk away from the feast of the body of Christ only to fall into the vices which are characteristic of affluent societies: drunkenness, undisciplined feasting, and carelessness about the needs of the poor. The Christians who have been nourished on the body and blood of Christ, cannot just fall back into the self-centered life of pleasure seeking.
The church receives at the hand of Christ such great riches in the divine service. She has been married again to the bridegroom in the consummation of the altar. By partaking of His body, the church is united with Him so that His becomes hers and hers His. She has feasted at the altar set with royal care for the children of the King. She has sung honor to the Thrice Holy. She has received heavenly food under earthly means. A joy above all sadness has been bestowed upon her in this royal feast. But her children sometimes seek to prolong that joy using the means of this world to manufacture the prolongation of it. True joy is to be sought (Ps 4:6-7), but is not to be found in the luxuries of this world.
This is not to say that luxury or riches per se are evil. On the contrary, if we have them we should live as if we did not. If we do not, as if we did (1Co 7:29-31). They must not be the guarantors of joy in our lives. Only Christ is the treasure in whom true joy is to be found (Mt 6:21). We must walk away from the altar with the fullness of joy that Christ gives. Only then will we no longer be enticed by the flimsy and fleeting joys of this world.
When we compare the joys of the feast of the Lord to those which are offered by the enticing world, the joys of the feast far outweigh those of the world. Thus the self-discipline required of the Christian life is no burden to us or a thief of true joy. For our joy has been made full and complete in the Supper, which conveys the very body and blood of Christ to us. No one who partakes of this can ever walk away from it unchanged. It is the true luxury to feast at the royal banqueting table of Christ the King.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"Have you heard holy hymns? Have you seen a spiritual marriage? Have you enjoyed a royal table? Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? Have you joined in the choir of the Seraphim? Have you become partaker of the powers above? Do not cast away so great a joy, waste not the treasure. Do not bring in drunkenness, the mother of dejection, the joy of the devil, the parent of ten thousand evils. For it is a sleep like unto death, and heaviness of head, and disease, and obliviousness, and an image of dead men's condition. Furthermore, if you would not choose to meet with a friend when intoxicated, can you tell me, if, when you have Christ within, would you thrust upon Christ Himself so great an excess?
"Do you love enjoyment? Then, on this very account stop being drunken. For I too would have you enjoy yourself, but with the real enjoyment, which never fades. What then is the real enjoyment, ever blooming? Invite Christ to dine with you. Give Him to partake of yours, or rather of His own. This brings pleasure without limit, and ultimately everlastingly. But the things of sense do not bring everlasting pleasure; rather as soon as they appear they vanish away. Whoever has enjoyed them will be in no better condition than he who has not, or rather in a worse condition. For the one is settled as it were in a harbor, but the other exposes himself to a kind of torrent, a besieging army of madnesses, and hasn't even power to endure the first swell of the sea.
"Let us follow after moderation, that these things do not happen to us. For thus we shall both be in a good state of body, and possessing our souls in security, shall be delivered from evils both present and future. From these may we all be delivered, and attain unto the kingdom, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and honor, now and forever. Amen."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 27.7
1 Corinthians

When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
Lord Christ, You are the source of true joy. Help us not to seek ultimate joy in the things of this world. Keep us gathered around the feast that You have set for us at the altar of our churches. Rescue us from luxury and leisure that the true richness of Your mercy might be our constant and passionate desire. Amen.
For Chaplain Don Ehrke, U.S. Army, that the holy angels would watch over him in the commission of his duties
For those who are suffering inclement weather, that their faithful God would keep them safe
For children who are not wanted by those to whom God gave them, that they would be adopted into loving families where they can be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord
Art: POURBUS, Frans the Younger  The Last Supper (1618)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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