Faith in Christ
Wednesday of Easter 6
9 May 2018
Faith is impossible. Theologians used to babble on about the "leap of faith," as though it was something we Christians did. Sure, let's give it a try. Let's leap into the chasm where we can see neither the bottom, nor the other side, nor any help or rescue, like Indiana Jones leaping to his destiny. If faith is such a leap, faith becomes an act of sheer terror. Like standing at the edge of Niagara's gorge watching the water leap over the Falls; our palms begin to sweat as we think about flowing over the precipice into the roiling waters below. Such a leap is but death. God does ask for such a deadly leap. However, we can never bridge the chasm between unbelief and faith. We would be left spiritually exhausted, palms still sweating, upon the edge of faith if this is all we know about faith, as though it were a leap into the unknown.
 
Faith's impossibility is a divine requirement. However, with God nothing is impossible. The gorge between faith and unbelief is traversed by Christ, who is not constrained by the terrors of death, but can rise triumphant from death's roiling depths. He can span the gap between faith and unbelief as He did suspended between heaven and earth. On the cross He was stretched out between the unbelieving world and the faith granted to it by a gracious God and Father. He teaches us of the doubt and fear that we will know standing on the precipice of God's heart gazing at nothing but our sin and weakness and the impossibility of bridging the gap. He cries out in the forsakenness of dying for sin: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34), yet, unlike us, He remains absolutely certain that His Father will rescue Him. He knows His God will not let His holy One see decay (Ps 16:10) and so He abandons Himself to the will of His Father leaping into the chasm of death supremely confident of rescue and in His rescue winning our own.
 
So we look not into the unbridgeable chasm by faith, but into the heart and mind of Christ who in His life, death, and resurrection disclosed the fully gracious attitude of God toward poor sweating sinners like us. The chasm is bridged by His suffering and death. We leap not into the great unknown but into the arms of Christ stretched out in death, full of life-giving blood. We step up onto Calvary's quake-cracked hill. We stand upon the immovable cross that is the only passage across the gorge of faith, and see only God's love for the world in the death-dimmed sight of His only-begotten Son. We leap not into the great unknown, but in the arms of Christ who has reconciled us to God through His death. Faith itself remains God's gift to sinners, not our leap from a cliff. This is why St. Paul can say, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" (2Ti 1:12). That faith is always in Christ in whom we see the mercy of God. Faith is always in Christ.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"If you ask where faith and confidence may be found or where they come from, it is certainly the most necessary thing to know. First, without any doubt it does not come from your works or from your merits, but only from Jesus Christ, freely promised and freely given. As St. Paul writes, 'God shows his love toward us as exceedingly sweet and kind in that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners' (Rm 5:8). This is as if Paul said, 'Shouldn't this give us a strong, unbeatable confidence in that before we prayed about it or cared about it, yes, while we still continually walked in sin, Christ died for our sins?' [Paul] goes on, 'If then Christ has died for us while we were yet sinners, how much more shall we be saved through him, being justified by his blood. And if, while we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be preserved through his life' (Rm 5:8-11).
                 
"Look here! This is how you must cultivate Christ in yourself, and see how in him God holds before you His mercy and offers it to you without any prior merits of your own. It is from such a view of His grace that you must draw faith and confidence in the forgiveness of all your sins. Faith, therefore, does not originate in works. Neither do works create faith. But faith must spring up and flow from the blood and wounds and death of Christ. If you see in these that God is so kindly disposed toward you that He even gives his own Son for you, then your heart in turn must grow sweet and disposed toward God. And in this way your confidence must grow out of pure good will and love; God's toward you, and yours toward God. We never read that the Holy Spirit was given to anybody because he had performed some works, but always when people have heard the gospel of Christ and the mercy of God. Faith must rise at all times from this same word and from no other source, and in our own day, too. For Christ is the rock from which men suck oil and honey, as Moses says in Deuteronomy 32(:13)." 

 Martin Luther, Treatise on Good Works, 1
Romans 4:13-25

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring-not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.(ESV)
Prayer
Dear Christ, give me the faith that must spring up and flow from Your blood and wounds and death. Let me see in these that God is so kindly disposed toward me that He even gives You for me, that my heart would grow sweet and disposed toward God. By Your Holy Spirit, grant confidence that must grow out of God's pure good will and love, so that I might have love and good toward God. Amen.
 
For all those who are afraid to confess Christ to those who need to know the faith of the church, that they might be encouraged by the gift of the Holy Spirit and say what He gives them when called to account for the hope that is in them

For the dying, that they might have care unto life's end from those whom they love and the faith which believes in sins forgiven for Christ's sake unto eternal life
 
For those who will gather in congregations tomorrow to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, that they would be encouraged by the enthronement of Christ Jesus in our heavenly home
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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