Kruiz edited
What Happened to God's Agenda?
Wednesday of Lent 4
14 March 2018
Some years ago, there was a mania in theology in which some theologians argued that the church needed to let the world set the agenda for the church. The church was to be oriented radically for and to the world. There is a certain truth to this turning of the church toward the world. Has not Christ told us that God has loved the world (Jn 3:16)? The church's mission is to proclaim Christ and His salvation for the sake of those who are not yet saved. What is that but to turn toward the world? But like all truths it can be bent by overemphasis. At the time that this thinking emerged in public theological discourse, many theologians warned that this emphasis would begin to bend the church into the world. If the world sets the church's agenda, then the agenda will no longer be Christ's. In the heady days of the 1950s and 1960s this sounded like Chicken Little's warning. The church seemed to be growing and getting with the world's agenda all at the same time.
The idea that the world should set the church's agenda had legs, despite all the warnings. Although the theological sources of this movement are now passé, their ideas seemed to have crept into the churches' practice like a virus that infects a host. Now the churches no longer preach sin and grace, law and gospel. The churches now preach good advice about life in this world. A well-known pastor, not known for his theological depth, declined to say that Christ was the only way to heaven on national television for fear of offending his viewers. Everything must be "user-friendly;" however that might be defined. The churches no longer accuse us of sin, even though this is the divine mission (Jn 16:8). Sin is just something to be passed over or ignored for fear of hurting "market share." The church's life must remain centered not in our wants or desires but in God's mission for the world.
Therefore, we must not let worldly standards judge the church's proclamation, or her blessings and gifts. For the world's standards must be inimical to Christ's. His kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36) and therefore this world will never support, encourage, or agree with His mission. The world is blind and will never see the glory of Christ in His suffering and death. The world will never recognize the gifts of Christ or His glory in the weakness of the church because it does not have the tools to understand these great spiritual things (1Co 2:14). If the church hands over its agenda to the world, it will be betraying God's Son anew and inheriting in His place a mess of pottage. Neither the church nor the world will be better off, the church having betrayed her Lord and King and the world being deprived of the message of salvation.
This is not a matter of keeping the nasty old world out of our churches either. For the world dwells in the heart of every fallen human in the world, that is, in me dwells no good thing (Rm 7:18). Battling the flesh is not a matter of keeping "them" out. Every one of us will have to keep up the war against our flesh until God dissolves our flesh at death. What does this mean for the church's agenda? It means that the world's agenda lives in every Christian and can creep into our churches through our own fleshly mouths. Every word that proceeds from our mouth therefore, must be judged according to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"As having nothing, yet possessing everything." (2Co 6:10). And how can this be? Indeed rather, how can the opposite be? For he that possesses many things has nothing; and he that has nothing possesses the goods of all. And not here only, but also in the other points, in which opposites were to have all things (2Co 6:8-10), bring forth this man himself into the midst, who commanded the world and was lord not only of their substance, but even of their very eyes. Paul says, "For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me" (Gal 4:15).
Now these things Paul says, to instruct us not to be disturbed by the opinions of the many, though they call us deceivers, though they know us not, though they count us condemned, and appointed unto death, to be in sorrow, to be in poverty, to have nothing, to be (us, who are cheerful!) despondent. The sun even is not clear to the blind, nor the pleasure of the sane intelligible to the mad. For the faithful only are fit judges of these matters, and are not pleased and pained at the same things as other people. For if anyone who knew nothing of the games were to see a boxer, having wounds upon him and wearing a crown; he would think him in pain on account of the wounds, not understanding the pleasure the crown would give him. Therefore, since unbelievers know what we suffer but do not know why we suffer them, they naturally suspect that there is nothing other than sufferings; for they see indeed the wrestling and the dangers, but not the prizes and the crowns and the subject of the contest.
Let us therefore, when we suffer anything for Christ's sake, not merely bear it nobly but also rejoice. If we fast, let us leap for joy as if enjoying luxury. If we are insulted, let us dance as if praised. If we spend, let us feel as if gaining. If we bestow gifts on the poor, let us count ourselves as receiving; for he that does not give this way will not give readily. So when you decide to scatter largess, look not at this only in alms-giving, but also in every kind of virtue, consider not only the severity of the toils, but also the sweetness of the prizes; and above all the subject of this wrestling, our Lord Jesus; and you will readily enter upon the contest, and will live the whole time in pleasure. For nothing is more able to cause pleasure as a good conscience. 

 John Chrysostom,
Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 12.4-5
Psalm 37:1-31

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish - like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.  (ESV)
Lord Jesus, help us to suffer the reproaches the world heaps upon Your children, that we might confess the power of Your weakness. Amen.

For those who are enjoying the time of Spring Break, that they would be safe and sensible in their leisure activities and safe in their time of travel

For the elderly, who struggle with the infirmities due to age, that the Lord who is ancient of days would be with them upholding them
For the delegates to the LCMS District Conventions, that they would extol the power of God's Word in their meetings
For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that they would be true churchmen and that the Lord's Word would form and inform all they say and do
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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