Kruiz edited
Let Us Pray
Wednesday in Lent 1
21 February 2018
The Old Testament is blood-spattered literature. At every page turn there is sacrifice and the pouring out of blood. All this pointed forward to the blood of the New Testament poured out by Christ as the paschal victim who consummated all the blood of the previous testament. With the blood of Christ poured out, not one single drop more is required. For that to which blood pointed, Christ completed in His once and for all sacrifice for sin (Heb 7:27). Yet the New Testament still demands sacrifice. It is the un-bloody sacrifice of ourselves as priests in the new priesthood established by Christ, the high priest of the New Testament (Heb 9:11). Our spiritual act of service is nothing other than ourselves. We are to re-orient who we are and what we do in conformity with the priesthood into which the blood of Christ has placed us. The old Adam is to be put to death by daily sacrifice of our sinful desires. There is no better or higher offering to be made when we follow Christ. For this is the offering of ourselves. This is not just any bovine, but me. This is a truly thoughtful offering (Rm 12:1).
 
Think back to a special Christmas gift given to you by a small child. Many years ago, one of my girls gave me a gift made of construction paper and scotch tape. My first thought when I opened the crudely wrapped package was, 'what is this?' Yet, because of the effort that the small child put into that gift it was one that I have remembered with great fondness and joy. I recognized it as a great expression of love that cost the child some sacrificial effort. So it is for the priests of the New Testament. Their gifts have no value in comparison to the redeeming sacrifice of the High Priest of the Church. Yet their heavenly Father receives them with great joy. That is how our heavenly Father receives our sacrifice of prayer.
 
Our object in a life of self-sacrifice is to offer ourselves to others for God's sake. For example, we do that in a consistent prayer life by praying with and for our children in devotions at home. In our chaotic daily lives this truly represents a sacrifice of the New Testament. My children and I always did family devotions together when it was time for bed. Over the years it took various forms, including hymns, prayers, and catechism recitation. But when my children reached high school age I gave them the responsibility to do their own bedtime devotions. I thought their lives and mine were too busy to continue doing it together. I was wrong. When she was a high school sophomore, my youngest daughter came to me and requested a resumption of those family devotions. How embarrassing that a teenager had greater spiritual sense about which sacrifices were most useful. God's Word is again proved right: 'Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger' (Ps 8:2). Only when the sacrifice is made is the benefit so clear. You give up yourself putting to death less important and more worldly concerns and get far more in return.
 
This will remain a bloody struggle until our last breath because it involves putting to death old Adam. Spiritually we must keep the sacrificial dagger at his throat, plunging it in every day, that we might offer thoughtful worship (Rm 12:1-2). This will be a daily sacrifice because our old Adam is as resistant to death as was the mad monk, Rasputin of Czarist Russia, who just refused to die, no matter how often he was shot, poisoned, beaten or drowned. The battle is on. We are the victim slated to die on the altar of prayer, and yet we are not consumed by the burning fervency of prayer. Let us pray.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"Surely it is fitting to have the Word of God before our eyes, and all earthly terrors are extinguished. So too in prayers we can keep awake, if we bear in mind with whom we are conversing. We should reflect that we are offering for sacrifice and have in our hands a knife and fire and wood. If in thought we open wide the gates of heaven, if we transport ourselves there, if we take the sword of the Spirit and infix it into the throat of the victim, we are making watchfulness the sacrifice and tears the libation to Him. For such is the blood of this victim and the slaughter that crimsons that altar of prayer. Do not permit any worldly thoughts to occupy your soul then.
 
"Consider the fact that Abraham also, when offering sacrifice, permitted neither wife nor servant nor any other to be present. Then you should not permit any slavish and ignoble passions to be present with you, but go up alone to the mountain where Abraham went up, to which no other person is permitted to go. And should any such thoughts attempt to go up with you, command them with authority, and say, 'Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you' (Gn 22:5). Leaving the donkey and the servants below, and whatever is empty of thought and sense, go up, taking with you whatever is thoughtful, as he took Isaac. Build your altar as Abraham did, having nothing human, but having stepped outside of nature. For he too, if he had not stepped out of nature, would not have gone to slay his child.
 
"Let nothing disturb you then, but be lifted up above the very heavens. Groan bitterly, sacrifice confession, sacrifice contrition of heart. These victims turn not to ashes, nor dissolve into smoke, nor melt into air; nor do they need wood and fire, but only a deeply-pierced heart. This is the wood, this is the fire to burn, yet not consume them. For he that prays with warmth is burnt, and not consumed; like gold that is tried by fire becomes brighter." 

 John Chrysostom,
Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 5.4
Romans 12:1-18

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
 
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
 
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
 
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(ESV)
Prayer
O Lord, you have perfected Your praise on the lips of children. Help us to slay old Adam within us that we might always trust You with that child-like trust that You extol. Lead us to sacrifice ourselves as our thoughtful act of worship, by leaving behind the world to pray fervently to You for Your gifts. Receive our contrition with fatherly compassion and remit our sins and trespasses against You. Amen.
 
For all those suffering from seasonal diseases, such as flu, that the Lord Christ would bring them the help and medical care that they need
 
For doctors and other medical workers, that they would be strengthened in their labor of serving those in any distress
 
For Principal Cynthia Lumley and the community of the faithful at Westfield House as they enjoy the great blessings the Lord has bestowed on them, that the Lord Jesus would bestow ever greater blessings in the future He grants
 
For all those who support the work of Jesus at Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would be kept safe in their labors and find joy in their vocations
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
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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