Holy Stuff?
Friday After the Epiphany of our Lord
11 January 2019
Some years ago, there was a dispute between a Jesuit priest at a large collegiate church and his well-to-do parishioners. The priest, thinking that he needed to do something decisive to show solidarity with the poor, gave away all the costly silk vestments that the church owned. He replaced them with rough burlap-like vestments. Needless to say, the parishioners were deeply offended by this priest's action. They and their family members had donated these vestments, which had been given in memory of their dead family members. The people took the priest's actions to be an insult to their alms-giving and to the memory of their deceased. As much as we might side with the people and deplore the priest's actions, there is plenty of fault to go around.
 
The priest was wrong, not merely in giving away the vestments, but in presuming that burlap vestments would be a blessing to the poor of the community. Both silk and burlap are creatures of God and can be used for his purposes when and where it pleases Him. It is an insult to the poor to presume that they would not desire God's house to have the best and richest furnishings. Even King David presumes (perhaps wrongly) that God ought to have a dwelling at least as beautiful as his palace (2Sa 7:2). Who wouldn't want their home church to be at least as beautiful as their own home and ever more splendid?
 
The people of the parish were wrong, not because they were offended by the priest's actions, but because they put more stock in the monetary value of their offerings to the church than in the Word of God that consecrated these vestments. Such things are intended only to serve the Word of God, they are not goods in themselves. God's Word alone is the true treasure, which makes holy the church and all sacred things.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"God's Word is the holy thing above all holy things. Yes, it is the only one we Christians know and have. Though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap, still that would not help us at all. All that stuff is a dead thing that can make holy no one. But God's Word is the treasure that sanctifies everything (1Ti 4:5). By the Word even all the saints themselves were sanctified (1Co 6:11). Whenever God's word is taught, preached, heard, read, or meditated upon, then the person, day, and work are made holy. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes holy ones of us all. Therefore, I constantly say that all our life and work must be guided by God's Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled."

 Martin Luther, 
Large Catechism, 1.91-92
2 Samuel 7:1-10

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." And Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you."
 
But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" ' Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. (ESV)
Prayer
O Lord Jesus Christ, Living Word of God, although we in no way deserve the gift of Your Word, preserve to us Your holy Scriptures, that through it all things might become holy. Amen.
 
For Charlie Shorre as he recovers from heart bypass surgery, that he would receive strength for a full recovery
 
For Ian Conchola, who will be receiving the new life in Christ in the sacrament of baptism on Sunday, that the Lord of life would keep him in his baptismal faith until the Lord calls him into the eternal kingdom
 
For Charlie Hinrichsen as he travels in India, that he would be kept safe and given success in his labors
 
For the family of Jack Lanstad who was called to his rest, that they would mourn with the hope of the resurrection and the life of the world to come
 
For the members of the board of Luther Academy, which will be meeting at Memorial Lutheran Church tomorrow, that God's will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven
Art: COSTA, Lorenzo Adoration of the Magi  (1499)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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