Christ in the Lap of the Church
St. Mary
15 August 2018
Mary too is set under the shadow of the cross, just as the church of her Son remains under that same shadow. She is not such a remarkable person by the standards of the world. She has never been a queen, or received an Academy Award, written a book, or been chairman of a multinational corporation. She has done nothing but been a mother. She received her Son by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. She confesses that she merely has great things done to her (Lk 1:49). Those who have things done to them are considered to be powerless and despised in our wicked thoughts and considerations. They are slaves to the will of another. We all want to be doers. We want to be "movers and shakers" as the popular phrase puts it. If we can become one of those persons, then we will be perceived to be really great and powerful. Such calculus leaves Mary entirely out of our esteem and honor. Through her weakness the Lord scorns our thoughts and ways. For from her womb comes one who is called and is Son of God.
Our own way does not seek this One who comes among us by divine doing, but scorns to stoop down from our own self-esteem to see the Son born of the Virgin in humility and weakness. His weakness overshadows His whole life and ministry. Those who will not condescend from the brilliant clarity of their own wisdom into the shadow of the divine wisdom under the suffering and death of the cross will never see God. They shall only see their own brilliant schemes to find the Christ with their own efforts. The piercing light of the law will illuminate all around to show the beauty of good works and obedience, but it can never penetrate under the shade cast by the cross. A false Christ will be illuminated by the light of the law. This Christ will empower good works, lead to miraculous deeds, drive a high piety, and prove to the world His utility to shape family, encourage good behavior, and make good choices. He will not save. He is not the Christ born of Mary.
If we are to find this Christ we must look for Him upon the lap of His mother. Here He is hidden in her arms; a sign of weakness and humility. Herod understood clearly that this is the moment in which to strike. He must kill his rival at this moment. A newborn doesn't command enough battalions to defend Himself. But God is His protector in weakness. Weakness makes Him so improbable. Weakness also makes Him impossible to thwart. Such a humble person is capable of reaching everywhere, from the meanest hovel to the most opulent palace. So this Son born of Mary is a universal Savior, whose kingdom and priesthood knows no bounds of nation, ethnicity, poverty, age, or any other human distinction. He is able to be set in the lap of every person, child, adult, great and humble, because just as he sat quietly in the lap of humble Mary, He settles in our laps revealing Himself through His Word. Scripture remains the hovel-manger through which the living Word still comes.
Because the Lord creates His church with the humble signs of preaching and sacraments, it is the Word alone that marks her presence in the world, not hierarchies, tall hats, boards, organizations, foundations, meetings, breathtaking buildings, or federations. The Word alone founds her and marks her because of the humility of God in Christ of Mary. The church too is not so remarkable by the standards of the world. She has never been a queen, commanded battalions, forced obedience from others, nor been great in the eyes of the world. The church has done nothing but been a mother, the mother of believers. She receives Christ by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The church confesses that she merely has great things done to her (Lk 1:49) by her Lord Christ. She has her way defined by the signs that bring Christ among us. There is only the divine speech in the Word of God. Christ is set there in the lap of the church giving Himself to us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Let everyone remember to walk on the way God Himself has prescribed, not on the one we ourselves have chosen; for our own choice is sinful and deluded. Thus the prophet says: 'These have chosen their own ways' (Is 66:3); and Paul condemns self-elected religions (Col 2:18, 23). For it is certain that man is not able to find God by his own wisdom. For this reason, too, there is a huge danger because Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2Co 11:14) and surrounds himself with divine majesty while producing signs and wonders to confirm his errors.
"We shall be safe from these dangers if we follow that visible form or those signs which God Himself has set before us. In the New Testament we have as a visible form the Son of God on the lap of His mother Mary. He suffered and died for us, as the Symbol (the Creed) teaches. Beyond this we have other visible forms: baptism, the eucharist, and the spoken Word itself. So we cannot complain of being forsaken.
"In the first place, however, Satan, and, in the second place, his ministers, the pope with his entire church, strive to call us away from these divinely appointed visible forms to their own forms: the canonization of the saints, the invocation and worship of the departed saints, and the statues set up in special places for the sake of gain, etc.
"Therefore we must be fortified against these plots in order that we may say: 'Just as I have no knowledge of any church before Christ's coming except the one which was in the home of Abraham and was marked by circumcision, so after Christ's coming I know nothing except Christ and Him crucified, who reveals Himself to us in visible forms: in the use of the keys and in the eucharist. There I know that I find God. There I receive forgiveness of sins and nowhere else.'"

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 17.6
1 Corinthians

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (ESV)

Grant, we humbly pray, O Lord, to your servants the gift of Your heavenly blessing that, as the Son of the Virgin Mary has granted us salvation, we may daily grow in Your favor; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all those who despise lowly service to others, that they might find in such service an opportunity to serve Christ
For President Dale Meyer and the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that they would be faithful to the public confession of the church in all their tasks
For all those who labor outside, that they may be kept safe in the midst of the heat
Art: Medieval Altarpiece, Sweden
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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