Secondhand Lion
Wednesday of Epiphany 2
17 January 2018
Death is not normal. God has wired our created being not for death but for life. This is one of the reasons why dying comes so hard to us humans. God has created us for the purpose of a perfect fellowship with Him. God intended this fellowship to be everlasting and therefore perfect. Its unending nature is only one component of the perfection of that fellowship as God conferred it on Adam and Eve. We now have no idea how that unending fellowship would have looked for them as timeless time rolled on. We will just have to wait and see.
What we see now is death. Because we have seen so much of it, we have tried to convince ourselves that it is normal. Our minds have gotten used to it. "You are born. You live. Then you die." Simple. Well, no, not so simple. While our heads seem to have taken this in, our hearts have not. While our heads are saying that is normal to die, like every other creature, our hearts have never bought into this idea. Our hearts cry out against the lie of repetition. Before every casket and every open grave human nature rebels, "It should not be so. We were not created by God for oblivion, but for life!"
We should not be surprised then that the deathbed and the funeral cause such deep emotional responses; responses not often fully understood by us. Our sorrow and weeping well up from hidden springs of life with which the Creator endowed us. These responses clash with the clear-eyed fact of death all about us and the certainty of our own impending death. We protest, "Yes, but it shouldn't be this way!" Right. God did not intend it to be this way. Death is a foreign element. Death is a negating imposition upon the paradise that God made for us. We must continually return to the gospel of life to be reminded that it was not supposed to be this way. Death is not right, nor inevitable; it just is.
However, death overstepped its authority when it attempted to swallow up the Life. Yes, it could do us to death. But Christ could not be defeated by death. Death's power was powerless upon the Life. Christ has taken the prowling lion of death and denatured him. Like the lion in the movie "Secondhand Lions," he can roar and rumble and prowl about; but he cannot gum us to death. The Lord Christ has shattered his terrible teeth by bursting forth from the mouth of the grave. Noisy he is. Yes. But, toothless. We must set our hearts at rest by looking to the God who has taken on death and shattered its hold on us. Death has become but a secondhand lion. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Martin Luther
"'For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive' (1Co 15:22). We must all profess that it seems so ridiculous that we all must die. However, that this derives from Adam we must learn to believe here. For no human heart or wisdom ever devised or thought this out, that death is a penalty for sin. No, everybody thought and regarded death as man's natural end, comparable to the death of a dog or a pig or any other animal, or comparable to the rising and the setting of the sun, or the growing or the withering of grass. All things are considered perishable by nature, vanishing again as they came. However, Scripture teaches us that our death and dying does not come in a natural way but that this is a fruit of and the penalty for our father Adam's sin. He offended the awesome Majesty so outrageously that he and all who are descended from him and are born on earth must die eternally. No one on earth can escape or ward off this calamity.
"And again, it sounds so absurd and so false to the world, yes, much more incredible, when Paul declares here that in one Man all men shall rise again; that both death and life rest with and depend on one man; that the whole world is unable to do anything in this matter. No man's power or might, no saints life, merit, and work, are adequate reason for rising from the dead. This is absolutely beyond the ability and the merit of every other human being and is centered solely in one single Man, who was unknown to the world and despised by it, and who, moreover, died a most shameful and miserable death. To Him all the world is to accord honor, and He is to be regarded as the One by whom we all rise again. No holy monk, Carthusian [friar], yes, no prophet, apostle, or martyr, can contribute anything toward this or merit it with all his doings. This appears preposterous as we ponder it.
"It often appeared strange and odd to me myself. It is surely hard to convince the heart of this article. When I behold a corpse carried out and buried, it is hard to go my way and believe and think that we will some day rise together. How so, or by what power? Not by myself or by virtue of any merit on earth, but by this one Christ. This is indeed certain, far more certain than the fact that I will be buried and see someone else buried, which I know with certainty and behold with my eyes. Therefore, this is a sermon for Christians and an article of faith. All who are of the world regard this as sheer fraud. They argue that it is impossible for God to be so foolish and to condemn the whole world without distinction for the sake of one man, or, on the other hand, to save all men without any merit of theirs for the sake of one Man." 

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15
1 Corinthians 15:20-34

In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? Why am I in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, You have triumphed over death smashing his teeth at Your glorious resurrection. Grant that I would not acquiesce to the power of death, but live in Your Life, so that I can live for You, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For all those who wait at the deathbed of loved ones, that they might know Christ to be the resurrection and the life and confess to those who are dying that the Life is theirs in Him
For President Trump, the Supreme Court, and the Congress of the United States, that they might rule the people with equity and justice
For those who are dealing with inclement weather, that they might be kept safe
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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