That's No Joke
Tuesday of Pentecost 13
21 August 2018
Sometimes I feel like a comic at a comedian's convention when I consider the great gospel texts of the Bible. A comic who has heard all the jokes before no longer finds them funny. For him jokes are no longer worthy of humor; only of manipulation for the sake of his comedy act. He takes notes on the jokes, how to deliver them, timing, and bodily attitude, but he no longer thinks them funny. This is why listening to children tell old jokes is such joy; they tell them as though this was the first time they have been told, like the children in the AT&T commercials: "He doesn't get it!" In a similar way, I feel like I have heard all the texts before. The passion has gone from them. I am no longer moved to embrace them with joy and vigor. Of course, this is to my shame that I act as though I am too full of God's message of mercy in Christ. I am a pitiable creature when I respond like a stump to this life-giving proclamation that "there appeared the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13), taking apart the story from the outside as though it did not concern me personally any more.
 
That God has appeared among men as a Child should lead me to fall on my face in adoration and weep for joy that God has undertaken such an appearance for my sake. The story is told for me! The glorious appearance of God born of the little maid of Bethlehem should drive me to my knees in worship that such a light has come to rescue me out of my hard-hearted darkness. How remarkable that though I have often treated this message of my rescue as if it were yesterday's news, still the Lord sends His messengers to deliver it to me in the comforting dulcet tones of a Father awakening sleepyheaded children.
 
The Lord God has undergone the passion of the cross just to rescue me from my dispassionate consideration of His Word and work. He has covered my shame by filling up to the full the cup of God's wrath. This cup He brought to His own split and bloodied lips and gulped down its dregs that I might be freed from that wrath. What He has drunk down will never be set before me. Instead, the cup of life overflows before me on the table, which He has set before me in the presence of my enemies. Out of the stump of my carelessness he has tended the little shoot of life, nurturing it on baptismal waters, and coaxing it into being. How thrilling the message sounds when I consider what it does for me. Considering our own inborn sinfulness is not a morbid or depressing thing for us Christians, but it puts us in the black box in which the glorious appearance of our God and Savior becomes brilliant. Our God and Savior has appeared! That's no joke.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Cassian
"The Apostle Paul, the stoutest and clearest witness to Christ, can tell us everything about God in the most trustworthy way because God always spoke from his breast. The chosen teacher of the nations, who was sent to destroy the errors of Gentile superstition, bears his witness in the following way to the grace and coming of our Lord God: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13). He says that "there appeared the grace of God our Savior." He used a word well suited to show the arrival of a new grace and birth. For by saying "has appeared," he indicated the approach of a new grace and birth, for thenceforward the gift of a new grace began to appear, from the moment when God appeared as born in the world.
 
"Thus by using the right word, and one exactly suitable, he shows the light of this new grace almost as if he pointed to it with his finger. For that is most properly said to appear, which is shown by sudden light manifesting it. Just as we read in the gospel that the star appeared to the wise men in the East (Mt 2:2, 7). In Exodus Moses says, "The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush" (Ex 3:2). In all these and in the case of other visions in the Holy Scripture, Scripture determined that this word in particular should be used, that it might speak of that as "appearing," which shone forth with uncommon light. So then the Apostle also, well knowing the coming of the heavenly grace, which appeared at the holy nativity, indicated it by using a term applied to a bright appearance; expressly in order to say that it appeared, as it shone with the splendor of a new light." 

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 2.4 
Titus 2:11 - 3:8

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
 
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
 
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, our God and Savior, You appeared among men that we might be rescued from our own darkness. Awaken us from our lethargy and slumber that we might never tire of the message of Your appearing. Set us into the black box of our wickedness that the true light of Your epiphany might startle us to life. Amen.
 
For all baptized children of God, that they would walk in newness of life and honor God with their bodies
 
For Ian Pacey and his family, Clarissa, Rachel and Kirk, that the holy angels would watch over them
 
For all pastors who proclaim the truth of the gospel to the brokenhearted, that they might be upheld in their stewardship of the holy things
 
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty and staff of Concordia Theological Seminary, that they might ever remain faithful to their calling to teach the whole counsel of God
 
For Scott Murray, who is thanking God for 35 years of ministry since his ordination, that the Lord of the church would make his labors fruitful according to His good and gracious will
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by smurray@mlchouston.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact