The Giver, Not the Gifts
Tuesday of Epiphany 3
22 January 2019
Houston has been found to be the most generous city in the country. It gives more to charity than any other city in the United States. As a pastor in this city I see this generosity on a daily basis when my church members come to me asking how they can help hurricane victims, children in Nicaragua, our Lutheran School, Lutheran seminaries, our missionaries, and so on. I never have to cajole money out of them. Instead, they beg for the opportunity to give it. All they need is the opportunity set before them.
The people of Houston are among the richest people on earth. Here oil money flows like liquid gold; Texas tea. Nevertheless, in the midst of this richness God has blessed us with generous people. They don't keep their money to themselves, but are always concerned about others, the welfare of Christ's church, and the proclamation of the holy gospel.
Often, they live as though they were not rich. Some years ago, I overheard the conversation of a teenage boy and his mother in the narthex of the church after divine service. The boy had espied a beautiful red Ferrari sports car in the church parking lot. He said to his mother, "Mom, we should get a red Ferrari like that one! Oh, but I guess we couldn't afford one."
The mother replied very quietly, "Oh, no son, we could afford one. We just don't think that that would be a good use for our money. There are much more important things to do with God's gifts." This family knew where their gifts came from. Their heart was set on the Giver, not the gifts.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Having money, property, honor, power, land, and servants belongs to the secular realm; without these it could not endure. Therefore, a lord or prince should not and cannot be poor, because for his office and station he must have all sorts of goods like these. This does not mean, therefore, that one must be poor in the sense of having nothing of his own. The world could not endure if we were all to be beggars and to have nothing. The head of a household could not support his household and servants if he himself had nothing at all. In short, physical poverty is not the answer. There is many a beggar getting bread at our door more arrogant and wicked than any rich man, and many a miserly, stingy peasant who is harder to get along with than any lord or prince.
"So be poor or rich physically and externally, as it is granted to you-God does not ask about this-and know that before God, in his heart, everyone must be spiritually poor. That is, he must not set his confidence, comfort, and trust on temporal goods, nor hang his heart upon them and make Mammon his idol. David was an outstanding king, and he really had his wallet and treasury full of money, his barns full of grain, his land full of all kinds of goods and provisions. Despite all this he had to be a poor beggar spiritually, as he sings of himself: 'For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers' (Ps 39:12). Look at the king, sitting amid such possessions, a lord over land and people; yet he does not dare to call himself anything but a guest or a pilgrim, one who walks around on the street because he has no place to stay. This is truly a heart that does not tie itself to property and riches; but though it has, it behaves as if it had nothing, as St. Paul boasts of the Christians: 'As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything' (2Co 6:10)."

Martin Luther, Sermon on the Mount, 5.3
Psalm 86:1-13

Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you-you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (ESV)
O Lord, help me to live as if I were not rich that I might not set my heart on the things of this world, but on the things of Your kingdom and its holy gospel. Amen.
For Jenessa Murray, who is with child, that her Lord Jesus would grant her a safe delivery and the gift of a child from Him
For all those whose hearts are set on the treasures of this world, that they would be rescued from their idolatry and that the Lord would free them from their slavery to the things of this world and bring them the riches of his glorious kingdom
For all those who labor outdoors, serving in construction trades, that they would be kept safe on job sites and that they would have joy in the accomplishments of their hands
Art: Paolo VERONESE, The Wedding of Cana (1562-63)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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