Blessings from God
Friday of Easter 2
13 April 2018
People sometimes ask me to bless their children at the altar rail when they come to receive Christ's body and blood. The theory is that we should not be leaving children out. Children should be treated in a way that is appropriate to their age. This means that they should participate equally with adults in some ways and times, and in other ways and times, they should not. As a child, I was deeply offended when at a cookout at the home of a relative, the adults were served steaks and the children served tube steaks. When I inquired of the children of the household about this culinary deprivation, I was informed that this was standard operating procedure. I remember thanking God that my parents always shared the same food with me and my brother and grieving for my relatives' children, who seemed to be second-class citizens in their own home.
By contrast, I do not recall feeling any kind of deprivation at being left in the pew while my parents communed at the Lord's altar to receive the body and blood of Christ. However, I did realize that I did not belong there and that my time would come. Maybe I was just insufficiently spiritual as a child. Still, I knew the Supper was the feast of forgiveness even as a small child. To this day, the mildly yeasty scent of the wine that lingers about communicants after they return from communing is still the odor of forgiveness to me. As a child I knew how forgiveness smelled. I envy the joy and passionate embrace of the Savior's body and blood that confirmands experience when they commune for the first time on Confirmation Day. It reminds me of that same intense joy that I experienced at my first communion when I tasted what I had only previously smelled. There is a time for a child to wait, because sometimes they are not ready to fully use all of the divinely given blessings in the Word of God.
All of this centers on the clear command of the good Shepherd, who feeds His sheep, "Take, eat. This is My body. Take, drink. This is My blood." Here we have a clear command from our gracious Lord to take and eat what He has promised in His Word. Here there is certainty that the Lord has invited to His table and has fed those who commune. There is no such certainty about anything else that a pastor might do. God ties us down to His express words and promises. What gift does the pastor confer that God has not place in His hands? None at all. So before we go about multiplying church rites with this blessing and laying on of hands, let us be quite sure that we have heeded the word of Christ the good Shepherd. There is no blessing greater than to receive the Word of God and that alone. This is why Jesus so passionately encourages us: "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it" (Lk 11:28). Christ commands that we parents should be teaching the Word of God to our children, so that they would truly be blessed by God. No pastor's blessing can make up for a lack of parental instruction in the holy faith at home. And there is no greater blessing than to be in the Word of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Cling to God's Word and promise. Listen to your Shepherd, and whatever He speaks to you. Judge according to His voice and not according to what your eyes see and your heart feels. Then you have gained the victory. That is how David acts in his own case. He confesses that he is walking through the valley of the shadow, that is, that he is surrounded by distresses, sadness, anxiety, and trouble, as can also be seen from his life's history and from other psalms. But his need of comfort is indicated sufficiently by the fact that he is grieved and has enemies. Nevertheless, he says: 'Though my trials were even more numerous and great, and though my lot were even worse, and though I were already in the jaws of death, yet I will fear no evil. Not that I could assist myself through my own care, efforts, work, or help. Nor do I depend on my own wisdom, piety, royal power, or riches. Here all human help, counsel, comfort, and power are far too weak. This, however, avails for me, that the Lord is with me.'
"It is as if he would say: 'As for me, I am indeed weak, sad, anxious, and surrounded by all kinds of danger and misfortune. Because of my sin, my heart and my conscience are not satisfied either. I experience such horrible terrors of death and hell that I almost despair. Yet though the whole world and also the gates of hell (Mt 16:18) should oppose me, that will not dismay me. Yes, I will not be afraid of all the evil and sorrow that they maybe able to lay on me; for the Lord is with me. The Lord is my counselor, comforter, protector, and helper-the Lord, I say, who has created heaven and earth and everything that is in it out of a more trifling thing than a speck of dust, that is, out of nothing. To Him all creation is subject: angels, devils, men, sin, death, etc. In summary, He has everything in His power, and therefore I fear no evil.'"
 Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.4

"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
"And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you--with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant- and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.  
O Lord, You are my counselor, comforter, protector, and helper. You have created heaven and earth and everything that is in it out of nothing. To You all creation is subject: angels, devils, men, sin, death, and everything. You have everything in Your power, and therefore I fear no evil. Amen.
For the Catechism Convocation of the People in Orange, California, that the participants would be built up in the simple faith of the Small Catechism
For families who are praising the God of the living not the dead in funeral services in these Easter days, that they would be strengthened in the faith of the resurrection in the midst of grief
For all shut ins, that the Lord would continue to feed them on the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and assurance of eternal life
For pastors who are being persecuted for righteousness sake, that they would confess faithfully the truth of the gospel in the midst of their cross-shaped suffering
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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