God Speaks Today
Monday of Epiphany 5
11 February 2019
When Ezra read the Word of God to the people they answered: '"Amen. Amen," while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground' (Neh 8:6). They showed awe, honor, and respect when the Word of God was read. Why? Because they believed that the Lord God himself was present in, with, and under the Word of God. Dr. Martin Luther said, "For where the word of God, by which he created heaven and earth and all things, is present, there God himself is present with his power and might." God is where He speaks and He speaks where He is. God speaks. We will listen.

Baptism is so exalted too, because God Himself is present through His Word in connection with the water. This is no small thing, no baby-ish tradition, no cutesy event to be filed away in a book of infant memories. No, it is much greater and much more important than that! Our catechism says that "baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's word." And why is this so important? Because "it works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare."

We should not be offended like the people of Nazareth were at the humility of God's Son there among them (Lk 4:28-30). For He is among us in his Word just as much. That's why we believe that water can do such great things. Why? Because "certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God's word the water is just plain water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism that is a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit." What God has said He does in baptism, is done today in our hearing and in our sight. We too ought to bow our heads in awe of the work done by the Majestic Lord who is present in His Word.

What was true in Ezra's time remains true today. What was true in the Nazareth synagogue is true today. This is why Jesus sits down and calmly says about his reading of Isaiah: "Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21). He was proclaiming the good news to the poor. He was proclaiming liberty to the captives. He was giving sight to the blind. He was freeing those who are oppressed by their sin. He was proclaiming the favor of the Lord.

What was true that day is true today. This is why we Lutherans believe in the power of the Word of God. It is not a dead letter, but a living word from God that delivers all that God wills us to have in his gracious care for us. It defeats death and the devil, as only God can. Today, when we hear Christ's voice, we have all that His voice would give to us. Let us not fall away from the living God by defecting from his Word and rebelling against it. Today we have received perfect Sabbath rest because our Lord Himself has come among us and fulfilled his Word in our hearing (Heb 3:7-4:7). The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever" (Heb 13:8). And if this is so, He who is the same will always deliver in the eternal present of his word today the same that he delivered in Nazareth and when Ezra read the book of the law in the square before the Water Gate of ancient Jerusalem (Neh 8:3).

We Christians are re-sacralizing our world; a world from which divinity has been drained off by a world gone mad. The Lord has given us His living Word and it is fulfilled in your hearing today. He is setting all things right. Today.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Martin Luther
"We should learn from God's Word in order that every Christian may know what baptism is; for hitherto there have been many sectarians and heretics, and they will always be present, who attack holy baptism. This comes from the fact that they view baptism as being only water, as our eyes tell us it is. With such a stupid view a man can never judge any differently of baptism or know any more about it than a cow. Therefore, a Christian must be differently and better instructed in this matter....

"God's Word beside and with the water, which is not something we have invented or dreamed up, but is rather the Word of Christ, who said, 'Go into all the world and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' (Mt 28:19). When these words are added to the water, then it is no longer simple water like other water, but a holy, divine, blessed water. For where the Word of God, by which he created heaven and earth and all things, is present, there God himself is present with his power and might....

And this must be noted above all things-we must not look upon the water as simply water without the Word, but rather know that the Word with and beside the water constitutes the substance of baptism, as St. Paul says clearly in Ephesians 5 [:26] that Christ washed and cleansed his bride, the church, by the washing of water with the Word, which is quite a different bath and washing than that which occurs through natural water or human washing and bathing in a tub. For here, says St. Paul, is the Word of the living God which says, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; in other words, here not a man, but God himself is baptizing. For when it is done in his name it is done indeed by the holy Trinity."

Martin Luther, Sermon for the Baptism of Bernhard von Anhalt
Nehemiah 8:1-6

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, Living Word of God, grant us the speech in our homes and churches that gives life. Forgive us our hard-hearted unbelief that doubts Your ability to accomplish what Your Word says. Let us look upon what Your Word gives us in the holy sacraments with faith and confidence, confessing that where the Word of God, by which You created heaven and earth and all things, is present, there You Yourself are present with Your power and might; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Philip Lehmann, in thanksgiving for being brought through an auto wreck without serious injury

For Rita Sue Rosenfield, that she would be enabled to take nourishment

For all public safety officers, especially Roman Conchola, that the Lord Jesus would watch over them
Art: DAVID, Jacques-Louis Christ on the Cross (1782)

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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