The Kingdom Ours Remaineth
Friday of Easter 3
20 April 2018
God does not forbid us to possess and enjoy the blessings of the temporal world. In fact, since He is the giver of every good gift (Jam 1:17), we ought to receive the blessings of the world with thanksgiving. We pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread," which includes, "food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like" (SC 3.4). So what is left out of this quaint list that every Lutheran can mumble in his sleep? It includes every blessing of this life "and the like." Nothing is left out.
There is no problem with things. The creation is not the problem. It was pronounced very good by God (Gn 1). We are the problem. Our hearts are oriented backward, so that we confuse the creation with the Creator. We begin to depend upon the gifts rather than on the giver. When my children were small, they, like many other children, presumed that all one had to do was to write a check to purchase anything that was desired. Some years ago, when my youngest child was reminded that we could not afford to buy a car she thought was particularly attractive, she replied cheerily, "Just write a check!" She had not yet learned that hard work stood behind the value of the check. If, God forbid, she would have been deprived of her parents, the income of the family would have disappeared. Parents are the wage-earning power of the family. A modern refrigerator without food in it is an electricity-wasting monstrosity. The thing works this way: No income. No groceries. It is a simple economic calculus. Things are of no value without the wage-earning power that is behind them.
This is especially true of God. The things of this world are of little value if He would withdraw His hand from the world. God is the value behind the things. Without Him, the stuff of the world is a burden and a bane. With Him, they are a blessing and a joy. Jesus teaches this when He says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Mt 6:33). To the unbeliever, although he thinks riches a great blessing, they are but an anchor that weighs down the soul. To the believer, counted right through the blood of Christ, there is nothing but delight in the things of the world. And even if the believer be stripped of all these things, if he has God he has still everything necessary for true delight. "Goods, fame, child, and wife; though these all be gone, they yet have nothing won. The kingdom ours remaineth."

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Greed is a dangerous vice, because it usually intrudes violently alongside the gospel and attacks not only the world but also the Christians. It is especially fierce against those who are supposed to preach the Word of God and who are surrounded by all sorts of dangers on its account. They suffer contempt and oppression from the world, and as far as the flesh is concerned, they would have reason enough to be concerned. Anyone who wants to be a Christian and to confess his Lord arouses the hostility of the devil, his enemy. The devil is a prince of this world (Jn 16:11), who therefore opposes and attacks Christ, not through the Word and faith, but through that which is subject to the devil's own kingdom and authority. Now our good-for-nothing body, our flesh and blood, is still in his kingdom. He can really plague this. He can throw it into jail. He can deprive it of food and drink and clothing. And so this danger continually surrounds us, together with everything we have. Meanwhile flesh and blood is trying to figure out how much it can get for its security and how it can avoid danger. This is the origin of the temptation called 'concern about making a living.' Of course, the world does not regard it as a temptation but as a virtue, and it praises the people who set their sights on great property and honor.
"Listen now to what serving money means. It means being concerned about our life and our body, about what we should eat and drink and put on. It means thinking only about this life, about how to get rich here and how to accumulate and increase our money and property, as though we were going to stay here forever. The sinful worship of money does not consist in eating and drinking and wearing clothes, nor in looking for a way to make a living and working at it; for the needs of this life and of the body make food and clothing a requirement. But the sin consists in being concerned about it and making it the reliance and confidence of your heart. Concern does not stick to clothing or to food, but directly to the heart, which cannot let a thing go and has to hang on to it. As the saying goes, 'Property makes a person bold.' Thus 'being concerned' means clinging to it with your heart. I am not concerned about anything that my heart does not think about, but I must have a heart for anything about which I am concerned." 

Martin Luther, Sermons on The Sermon on the Mount, 6.26

Luke 12:22-32
And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (ESV)
Lord Jesus, grant that I might have delight in the things of the world by seeing that You are the giver of every good gift. Amen.
For Michael Koutsodontis, that the Lord of the church would continue to grant him strength and healing
For the people of Syria, that they might be rescued from political turmoil and vicious war, that they might live in civil peace and tranquility
For medical researchers, that they would be blessed in their work, so that therapies to alleviate suffering would be brought to market
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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