Kruiz edited
The Highest Virtue
Monday of Lent 1
19 February 2018
What were the great proto-criminals thinking when they perpetrated murder? Did they really think that if they lured their victims into the countryside God would be ignorant of their wickedness? Just because their fellow humans were none the wiser about their wickedness, they perhaps surmised that God could somehow be kept out of the loop. What does this say about the supposedly high religious sense of even the best humans? Behold Cain killing Abel. Who could have had a better or more intimate understanding of the Creator and His powers than the one who stood only one generation removed from the creation of humans through the breathing in of God? Yet he responded with the famously cavalier, "Am I my brother's keeper?" which established ever after a common excuse for neglect. What high spirituality that shows! Yes, blood cries from the earth to the highest heaven. While Abel's blood reeked of judgment against wickedness, the blood of Christ, the righteous One, cries for our pardon. He who sees all, sees to our salvation in Christ.
Who could better have understood the divine will than those men who were the grandchildren of the father of faith, Abraham, who received the promise from God that all would be blessed by his Offspring? Now his own offspring were dashing one of the offspring into an empty cistern and selling him into the living death of slavery. Those same cowards excused themselves by claiming some senseless beast ripped Joseph apart, when they were far worse than beasts for so treating their brother and then ripping the soul of their aged father. Both the brothers and Cain thought that they had maintained their public integrity, because others knew not their evil deeds. These paragons of public virtue were self-deluded into thinking that God, who sees all, saw not them. There is religious sense for you.
They will stand with us before the judgment seat of God. We needn't kow-tow to human opinion, political correctness, or the latest poll of likely voters. All together will be under the God's judgment, God who sees and knows all. Just because we have the good opinion of our neighbors or friends, does not mean that we have God's good opinion. Even if all people speak well of us, we may still fall under the divine wrath for what we have done in secret or the rebellion that has swirled around in our conflicted hearts. Even if the Supreme Court considers private what you do at home because of a "penumbra" of constitutional protection, it does not mean that it is unknown to God or that you will not stand before a higher bar than the one protecting earthly government. We have a society established by God and judged by Him. Morality is not established by the Supremes (and I don't mean the group that sang back up for Diana Ross).
We are freed by the righteousness of Christ, which is ours by faith, from seeking the approbation of the human tribunal. If He has done all for us, then we can easily refuse to consider human accolades important. We will not seek to fawn over those whose good opinion might be bought the price of our faith or integrity. We have no need to prostitute ourselves or our God for the approval of others. We are truly free persons under the righteousness of Christ offered by a righteous God. We should always seek to serve the will of God even, and especially, when it conflicts with human standards (Acts 5:29).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"The highest virtue is to refer everything to God, to consider nothing to be our own, to do nothing out of regard to men's opinion, but to do what God wills. For He it is that requires an accounting. Now however this order is reversed. We have no fear of Him who shall sit upon the tribunal and require the account, yet we tremble before those who will stand before that tribunal and be judged with us.
"Where then does this disease come from? How has it broken out in our souls? From not meditating continually on the things of that world to come, but being riveted to things present. Therefore, we both easily fall into wicked doings. Even if we do any good thing, we do it for display, so that way also loss comes upon us. For instance, we often look on a woman with unbridled eyes, unseen by her or those who are with her. Yet to Him who sees all it was not unseen. For even before the commission of the sin, He who sees all saw the unbridled soul, and that madness within, and the thoughts that whirled about in storm and surge. For He has no need of witnesses and proofs, who knows all things. Therefore, do not look to your fellow-servants for praise. Although man offers praise, it avails not if God does not accept it, and when man condemns, it does no harm if God does not condemn.
"Do not provoke your Judge by making a great account of yourself before your fellow-servants and when God Himself is angry, you show no fear or trembling at Him. Let us then despise the praise that comes from men. How long shall we be low-minded and groveling? How long, when God will lift us up to heaven, will we make such effort to be trailed along the ground? The brothers of Joseph, had they had the fear of God before their eyes, as men ought to have, would not have taken their brother in a lonely place and killed him (Gn 37). Had Cain feared that sentence as he should have, he would not have killed Abel out in the field (Gn 4:8). For to what end, O miserable and wretched man, did you take him apart from him that begat him, and lead him out into a lonely place? For does not God see the daring deed even in the field? Hadn't you been taught by what happened to your father that God knows all things, and is present at all things that are done? And why, when he denied, did God not say to him: 'How can you hide from me who is present everywhere, and know the things that are secret?' As yet Cain did not rightly understand these high truths. But what did God say? 'The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground' (Gn 4:10). Not as though blood had a voice; but like as we say when things are plain and clear, 'the matter speaks for itself.'"

 John Chrysostom,
Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 5.3-4

Genesis 4:1-16

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man, the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 
Lord Christ, judgment would overwhelm us because our sin speaks for itself. Grant Your mercy to us in our contrition and repentance that we might not despair of your mercy and our salvation. Amen.
For Ileene Robinson, as she continues her chemotherapy, that she would be kept safe and receive healing
For the military in harm's say, that God would keep them safe
For Christians who are being persecuted by so-called church authorities who are enemies of the gospel and are enforcing politically correct manias in place of the gospel of Christ, that God the Lord would keep these persecuted Christians steadfast in His Word
For all marriages that God the Lord would continue to grant peace and forgiveness in the marital estate, that husbands and wives would live in harmony
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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