Priorities
Easter Tuesday
3 April 2018
Our priorities are just wrong. We worry and fuss about that which is not in our hands or what is unimportant. It is as if a musician preparing for a major brass music competition spent long hours polishing her trumpet, so that it gleamed brilliantly but neglected to practice. The instrument sparkled. The music did not. She had not focused on what was really important to a successful musical performance. We who claim to be Christians also spend little effort or thought on those things that are most needful. Our Lord leads us into the pleasant green pastures of His Word and yet we spend very little time or effort on studying and learning what it says. We have inordinate amounts of time to do all manner of peripheral or unhelpful things: channel surfing TV, watching YouTube videos, lurking on Facebook, doing yard work, sleeping in, sailing, and reading email. None of these things are in themselves wicked, but if these things or anything thing else keep us from the green pastures of the Word of God, we will forfeit what the Lord Jesus, our good Shepherd wants us to have from His hand.
 
There is no better place for us sheep than being hand-fed by the good Shepherd. The green pastures are what He brings us in Scripture. It is food that leads to eternal life (Jn 6:27). Our safety is and remains the work of the good Shepherd. He is the way to where we shall be fed. The sheep must never follow their own road to enlightenment. Even a flock of sheep can be spooked and run headlong into a ravine where the sheep will perish, but they will certainly be on the road together. Such a road is the road to destruction. The church's life cannot merely be "walking together," but rather being on the same road and way as our Lord Jesus who is the true and living Word. A bunch of drunks can be "walking together" right into oncoming traffic. Those on the way of the good Shepherd will never walk together into such danger. His way is where we are, not how we are getting there.
 
The children I am catechizing repeatedly express complete amazement, even shock, when I tell them I did not watch any broadcast television for about 15 years. Recently, it has seemed to me they would be less shocked if I had told them that I was a secret adulterer. "Whew, pastor, we thought you were really abnormal because you didn't watch television. We are so relieved to find out that you are at least an adulterer." Even now I only watch Houston Astros baseball games. By turning my back on the decadent entertainment culture of the television, I am committing a major social faux pas. It is as though a kind of madness has overcome me, even a heresy. I do not mean to say that viewing the television is itself a sin; that would be foolish. I do not mean that I have reached a higher piety by rejecting the television's "entertainment," that would self-righteous. I am quite adept at finding other ways to ignore the Word of the Lord in my life. Nonetheless, it grieves me to hear young people telling me how much I am missing by not watching television with all the missionary zeal that should be focused on telling others how much they are missing by not consuming the living Word of God. I am an outcast from them, because what they have considered valuable, I have declined to value so highly. There are more important things in the world; especially the Word of God.
 
In comparison with the Word of God everything else is absolutely worthless. If we understood how delicious and sustaining food is to the man who is starving to death, we might begin to understand what it means to have the Word of God as the Shepherd's gift to us. I am famished, fainting, and weak. When the Shepherd brings me where there is nothing but the sweetest, most sustaining food, I devour it. All other things must be considered worthless by comparison. Christ and His way is our priority.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"See how beautifully David can speak! 'I am,' he says, 'the Lord's sheep; He feeds me in a green pasture' (Ps 23:2). For a natural sheep nothing can be better than when its shepherd feeds it in pleasant green pastures and near fresh water. Where that happens to it, it feels that no one on earth is richer and more blessed than it is. For it finds there whatever it might desire: fine, lush, heavy grass, from which it will grow strong and fat; fresh water, with which it can refresh and restore itself whenever it likes; and it has its joy and pleasure there, too. At this point David would also say that God had shown him no greater grace and blessing on earth than this, that he was permitted to be at a place and among people where God's Word and dwelling place and the right worship were to be found. Where these treasures are found, there things prosper well, both in the spiritual and in the secular realm.
 
"It is as if he were saying: 'All people and kingdoms on earth are nothing. They may be richer, more powerful, and more splendid than we Jews, and they may also boast mightily of what they have. Moreover, they may glory in their wisdom and holiness, for they, too, have gods whom they serve. But with all their glory and splendor they are a mere desert and wilderness. For they have neither shepherd nor pasture, and therefore the sheep must go astray, famish, and perish. But though we are surrounded by many deserts, we can sit and rest here, safe and happy in Paradise and in a pleasant green pasture, where there is an abundance of grass and of fresh water and where we have our Shepherd near us, who feeds us, leads us to the watering place, and protects us. Therefore, we cannot want.'
 
"That man had spiritual eyes and therefore saw plainly what is the best and noblest thing on earth. He does not glory in his royal splendor and power, for he knows well that such possessions are gifts of God. He does not run away from them either and let them lie idle, but uses them to the glory of God and thanks God for them. Above all he glories in this, that the Lord is his Shepherd and that he is in His pasture and in His care, that is, that he has God's Word. This blessing he can never forget, but speaks about it very beautifully and with great joy, and praises it far above all possessions on earth, as he also does in many other psalms. Thus he says: 'The word of Thy mouth is dearer to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces' (Ps 119:72); and also: 'It is more precious than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb'" (Ps 19:10). 

Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.2
Psalm 63

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.(ESV)
Prayer
Lord God, give me spiritual eyes that I might see plainly what is the best and noblest thing on earth. Let me glory in the Lord my Shepherd. Keep me in His pasture and in His care, that is, in God's Word. This blessing let me praise far above all possessions on earth. Put the Psalmist's words on my lips, so that I would speak and live like Your Word is dearer to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces, indeed, more precious than gold, even much fine gold and sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Amen.
 
For the family of Carlos Broughton who was taken to His Savior, that his family and friends would mourn with the hope of the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world come
 
For LouAnn Webber, that the Lord Jesus Christ would encourage and strengthen her as she faces health challenges
 
For the Supreme Court of the United States, that it might judge rightly in the cases before it, so that we would be ruled by law not by the will of men
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (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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