Mask or No Mask
Wednesday of Epiphany 3
23 January 2019
God places us in different relations over against other persons. This is the Bible's teaching of "office" or vocation. Our vocation may be to be a parent, an employer, a church leader, and citizen. God places us in many different offices or vocations simultaneously. In fact, we may hold different offices in relationship to the same person. So for example, while teaching my youngest daughter in catechism instruction I was functioning as pastor and catechist. At another time, when I was helping her to prepare for that same class, I am functioning as her parent.
 
Knowing which relation God places us in is crucial both to our own sanity and to the proper functioning of our community and its social institutions. What if I managed my catechism class as my daughter's father? What authority would I have over the other children in that class? The class would devolve into absolute chaos (so much for my sanity!). I would have no more authority over the children in this class than I do over other people's children at the mall. However, while teaching catechism I'm not merely a parent, I am a pastor and a teacher. I may not act like a private individual or as a person who is seeking to inherit the earth through meekness. For in the classroom the meek are not blessed, but run over. The pastor is in loco Dei (in the place of God) when he teaches our children in catechism class, because he is delivering the Word that God Himself wants to bestow on the children in his care. Our pastor is one of the masks of God, as Luther says. He is not functioning as an individual with meekness, but under the command of God with the authority of God.
 
Meekness is called for when we function not in official capacity in holding a God-given vocation. If I transgress against my children by provoking them to anger (Eph 6:4), then I may no longer defend my actions by appealing to my authority as their father, but must meekly ask their forgiveness for my transgression as a humble sinner. I must cast aside the masks of God in my authority as pastor or parent. I must humble myself in the presence of my children. Here we may uncover the full inheritance our Father has set aside for us and we will find it true that "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Mt 5:5).    

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"What does it mean, then, to be meek? From the outset here you must realize that Christ is not speaking at all about the government and its work, whose property it is not to be meek, but to bear the sword (Rm 13:4) for the punishment of those who do wrong (1Pt 2:14), and to wreak a vengeance and a wrath that are called the vengeance and wrath of God. He is only talking about how individuals are to live in relation to others, apart from official position and authority-how father and mother are to live, not in relation to their children nor in their official capacity as father and mother, but in relation to those for whom they are not father and mother, like neighbors and other people.
 
"I have often said that we must sharply distinguish between these two, the office and the person. The man who is called Hans or Martin is a man quite different from the one who is called Elector or doctor or preacher. Here we have two different persons in one man. The one is that in which we are created and born, according to which we are all alike-man or woman or child, young or old. But once we are born, God adorns and dresses you up as another person. He makes you a child and me a father, one a master and another a servant, one a prince and another a citizen. Then this one is called a divine person, one who holds a divine office and goes about clothed in its dignity-not simply Hans or Nick, but the Prince of Saxony, father, or master (Ps 82:6). He is not talking about his person here, letting it alone in his own office and rule, as He has ordained it. He is talking merely about how each individual, natural person is to behave in relation to others.
 
"Therefore, if we have an office or a governmental position, we must be sharp and strict, we must get angry and punish; for here we must do what God puts into our hand and commands us to do for His sake. In other relations, in what is unofficial, let everyone learn for himself to be meek toward everyone else, that is, not to deal with his neighbor unreasonably, hatefully, or vengefully."

Martin Luther, Sermon on the Mount, 5.5
Psalm 82

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
 
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
 
I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince."

Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, you have placed me in divinely given vocations in relation to other persons. Help me to know when I must speak for You in relation to others and when I must speak for myself as a meek, sinful Christian in need of mercy and forgiveness from others. Amen.
 
For Paul Kehrer who is recovering from knee replacement surgery, that God his heavenly Father would give him complete healing through his convalescence
 
For all those who have suffered losses and injuries in the winter storms, that God the Lord would be their strength and shield
 
For all faithful teachers of the Word of God, that they may be bold in their calling and meek in their own person
Art: Paolo VERONESE, The Wedding of Cana (1562-63)
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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