Speak, Lord!
Wednesday of Epiphany 4
31 January 2018
On one of those rare occasions when I see a movie in a theater, inevitably some person with a cell phone starts a conversation that disturbs my experience of the film. The last time a crying infant was the problem. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I so seldom go to the movie theater. The person who is talking on the cell phone is often shouted down by people in the theater who came to the theater to actually watch the film. Movie goers generally understand that if the audience talks and begins disturbances no one will enjoy the film. Normally, we accord a great deal of respect to the talent which movie production represents. Carefully crafted dialog and evocative musical scores demand to be savored and carefully attended to. The artistry of a consummate actor, like Katharine Hepburn, Alec Guinness, or Robert Duvall, delivering a great script commands our attention.
What greater script is there than the one that tells of our fall into sin and God's sacrifice of His only Son to redeem us from sin and death? What greater story has ever been told? What greater dramatist ever staged so powerful a drama? None. Despite the power and meaning of the divine Word as God delivers it in our churches, we have brought the habits of street into the church. It has become a place to chat, visit, meet our friends, renew acquaintances, balance our check book, and make plans for the coming week. I myself am fully guilty of this transgression against the presence and speaking of God. My wife's now sainted grandfather would leave church after greeting the pastor and march directly to the car where he would sit waiting, no matter how hot or cold it was, for the other members of his family following their Sunday confab with friends. When they would ask him why he sat in the car rather than socialize, he would say, "I came to hear God's word, not to gab." He may have been right. Now he is in the blessed church where that happens all the time.
It is a shame that we can keep silent for several hours transfixed by a comic portrayal or even a depiction of great immorality, yet cannot remain silent for a little over an hour on Sundays while God is depicting the drama of our salvation to us. Repentance is called for. Who, if granted an audience with Queen Elizabeth, would chatter to his neighbor about the weather or about the score of the football game, or chew gum, as he was approaching her? Why, when the King of all is coming into our presence, would we do this? Heaven's gates are opened to us when the table of the Lord has been set with His body and blood. We hear the voice of the King speak to us from heaven when the books are opened and His Word is read out. If we are quiet and listen attentively, we will hear what God the Spirit has said to the churches (Rev 2:7). Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening (1Sa 3:10).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"Previously, the houses were churches. But now the church itself is a house, or rather worse than any house. For in a house one may see much good order, since both the mistress of the house is seated on her chair with all seemliness, and the maidens weave in silence, and each of the domestics has his appointed task in hand. But in the church great is the tumult, great the confusion. Our assemblies differ in nothing from a vintner's shop, so loud is the laughter, so great the disturbance; as in baths, as in markets, the cry and tumult is universal. And these things are only here in Antioch, since elsewhere it is not permitted even to address one's neighbor in the church, not even if one has received back a long absent friend, but these things are done outside, and very properly. For the church is no barber's or perfumer's shop, nor any other merchant's warehouse in the market place, but a place of angels, a place of archangels, a palace of God, heaven itself. Therefore, if you had departed from heaven and someone had brought you in here, and even though you should see your father or your brother, you would not venture to speak. So neither here ought one to utter any other sound but those which are spiritual. For, the things in this place are also truly a heaven.
"If you don't believe this, look to this table, call to mind for whose sake it is set, and why: consider who it is that is coming forth here. Tremble with awe even before the time. For so, when one sees the throne of a king, in heart he rises up, expecting the king's coming forth. And do you accordingly thrill with awe even before that thrilling moment: raise up thyself, and before you see the veils drawn aside and the choir of angels marching forth, ascend to heaven itself?
"But the uninstructed person does not know these things. Well then, it is necessary out of concern for him also to introduce other topics. For there is no lack of reasons able to stir him up thoroughly and cause him to soar. You then who do not know these things, when you hear the prophet saying, "Thus says the Lord," quit the earth, ascend also to heaven, and consider who it is that speaks with you.
"But as things are, for a comedian who is causing laughter or for a whorish and abandoned woman, a vast audience of spectators sits listening in absolute silence to what is said, and this when none commands silence; and there is neither commotion, nor cry, nor the least noise. But when God is speaking from heaven on subjects so awesome, we behave ourselves more impudently than dogs, and even to the harlot women we pay greater respect than to God. Does it make your flesh creep to be told of these things? No, then, much rather let it creep when you do them!"

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 36.9
Revelation 4

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."
Lord Jesus Christ, you have come among us through Your written Word and upon our altars in Your body and blood. Grant us the confidence to listen quietly to your speaking and worship you in spirit and in truth by receiving in contrition and faith what you set upon our altars. Free us from worldly mindedness that we might not use our churches like marketplaces or meeting halls. Keep us from the impatience that demands to be heard rather than to listen to you and forgive us our impatience when we exhibit it. Amen.
For all those who minister to the needs of the dying, that they would be upheld in their service and grow in acts of love
For the faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran Church and School that they would all work together that God would be glorified through them and that the holy gospel would be proclaimed to the joy of those who are brought into the kingdom of Christ through it
For all those who mourn the death of Flo Dula, that they would be strengthened in their confession of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come
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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