Kruiz edited
Life of Christ
Friday of Lent 5
23 March 2018
Anybody can teach the law. It comes naturally to us. We have had its content knitted into our very bones and sinews. Scripture tells us that every person has it written into their hearts, so we both know it and others can recognize it when they hear it. Even the excuses and accusations we humans employ indicate that we are trying to escape the moral code engraved upon our hearts by God, as Paul teaches in Rm 2:15. So it is a cinch to preach the law to understanding, even if resistant, hearers. It rings true to everyone, even if it only seems to be clearly accusing "those other sinners." Most of the "lifestyle" preaching that is delivered from Christian pulpits is really just one or another form of the law. Telling you how to live your life is not the gospel.
 
It is far more difficult to preach the gospel, but yet it is the more important teaching. The gospel alone gives to the hearer forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The gospel is the news that Christ, the Good Shepherd has done all by His death and resurrection to save us poor, miserable sheep from our degraded and fallen existence and restored us to His sheepfold freely and without any cost to us. The gospel is about what God has done for us in Christ, never what we have done for God. As soon as we begin to talk of our works, we are no longer talking about the gospel, but perhaps our response to His grace in Christ.
 
When I teach teenagers the faith, I require them to keep sermon journals, that is, they have to keep notes on the sermons to which they listen. Some years ago, a teenage girl to whom I was teaching the faith of the Bible expressed concern about the sermons she had heard at a church other than her own. She wondered if it was OK to take notes on sermons in other churches, and when I replied that it was, she looked only mildly relieved. And when I asked if there were any other problems, she said that there were. I wondered what they might be. She said, "Pastor, your outline for our sermon journals asks the question, 'What was the gospel in the sermon?' What if there were no gospel in the sermon I heard last week?" Needless to say, I was relieved that this was not a sermon preached in the church I serve, but I probed, "What do you mean, there was no gospel?" With a hint of vehemence in her voice, she related that the preacher had given a very good speech about family values in her father's church, and even though she conceded that was a much-needed subject, especially for her own father, it was not a sermon on what God has done for His people in Christ, but merely a good speech on getting along in marriage and family. This young girl understood the Bible's teaching of the holy gospel and its importance. All the good advice in the world can never replace the gospel message that the good Shepherd gave up His life for the sheep. The gospel is not merely lifestyle preaching, but the life of Christ preaching.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"The voice of this Shepherd (Ps 23:1) with which He speaks to His sheep and calls them, is the holy gospel. It teaches us how we may win grace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal salvation: not by the Law of Moses, which makes us even more shy, unstable, and discouraged, though even in times past we were excessively timid, shy, and frightened; but by Christ, who is "the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls" (1Pt 2:25). For Christ has sought us miserable, lost sheep and has brought us back from the wilderness. That is, He has redeemed us from the law, sin, death, the power of the devil, and eternal damnation. By giving His life for us He has obtained for us grace, forgiveness of sin, comfort, help, strength, and eternal life against the devil and all misfortune. To the sheep of Christ this is a dear, sweet voice. They are sincerely glad to hear it, for they know it well and let themselves be guided by it. But a strange voice they neither know nor hear, because it sounds unfamiliar; they avoid it and flee from it (Jn 10:5).
 
"The pasture with which Christ feeds His sheep is also the dear gospel, by which our souls are fed and strengthened, preserved from error, comforted in all trials and sorrows, protected against the devil's wile and power, and finally saved from all need. But His sheep are not all equally strong; in part they are still lost, scattered here and there, wounded, sick, young, and weak. He does not reject them for that reason but actually gives more attention to them and also cares for them more diligently than He does for the others who have no faults. As the prophet Ezekiel says in his thirty-fourth chapter (Ez 34:16), He seeks the lost, brings back the strayed, binds up the crippled, and strengthens the sick. And the young lambs that have just been born, says Isaiah (Is 40:11), He will gather in His arms and carry them so that they may not grow tired, and will gently lead those that are with young. All of this, Christ, our dear Shepherd, effects through the office of preaching and the holy sacraments, as is taught elsewhere frequently and with many words."

 Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.1
Jeremiah 23:1-6

"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: "You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. 
 
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'"  
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, our dear Shepherd, You have found the lost, bound up the wounded and broken hearted, strengthened the weak, and cared for them by pouring out Your blood to cleanse their wounds and rescue them from their trials and suffering. Help us to rest in the arms of Your gospel preaching. Lead all Christian pastors to be true shepherds for the sheep that you send them by giving them the Sprit of truth that they might always preach Your saving gospel. Amen.
 
For LouAnn Weber, who has been diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing surgery, that the Lord of all compassion would grant a full recovery and a complete return of health

For all those who are traveling, that they would be kept safe on the roadways and in the skies and the holy angels would watch over them
 
For the people of Memorial Lutheran Church as they prepare to walk toward Golgotha and the empty tomb during Holy Week, that they would be led into the peace of God
 
For all who are responsible for law enforcement and public safety services, that they would be kept safe in the fulfillment of their duties and they might be shown the respect due their station in life
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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