20 August 2019
I am ashamed that I fail to look for the things hoped for, the things not seen (Heb 11:1). I was reminded of this again this week when a dear friend, a layman, reminded me that the center of our Christian religion is focused on the presence of Christ through His Word, especially in the holy sacrament in which He comes to serve us. The incarnate Lord comes among us through the things he places in our hands. He is not a "past" God! He is not merely an artifact of history. He is not subject to our archaeological digs. He is not to be dusted off when we think we need Him, when our hope flags and our assurance wanes. He stands above and before all things. The Apostle Paul writes: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:15-17). He is the Lord of all time and history.

He is Master of all things and is not mastered by things. The things are His. However, in His compassionate love for us He delivers Himself to us in them and by them. He uses the things. He takes our common human flesh of Mary. He applies water in baptism. He grants a forgiving voice to our pastors through holy absolution. He uses the things of bread and wine in the Holy Supper.

To my shame, I want to airy-fairy-ize these things. I want to call the things unimportant because they are insufficiently spiritual, or at least they seem that way to me. What's a little bread and wine, a human voice, a little water, a few words on a page? I want to separate the things that are the means of grace from the gifts they deliver to me. How easily even we pastors become blasé about the common things we handle, touch, see, and taste! Luther reminds us that the devil turned Adam and Eve into enthusiasts, separating them from the specific command not to eat of the tree in the Garden. The serpent led them away from God's outward Word to spiritualizing and self-pride (Gn 3:2-5). They rejected God's simple command about the tree and its fruit and sought a higher and more spiritual word from our enemy: "Yes, you will be like God!"

My gracious God wants me to be assured and certain of the things hoped for through the things not seen. He wants me to live by faith that what is on my lips are His Word of mercy and compassion in the midst of the suffering and trial of my daily life. When my grief overflows because the world's brokenness confronts me with my own brokenness, His words comfort me and dry my tears. I come back to the water of baptism when I feel like I am being swept away by the flood of violence and depravity swamping my daily life. I can say with the Psalmist: "Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life" (Ps 54:4). God turns back the raging flood with a drop of water. He cleanses the sewer of my heart by taking me back to the sprinkled water connected with His Word. When I lack my own righteousness and I hunger and thirst for it, He feeds me on a morsel of bread and a sip of wine. Bread and wine deliver unseen things to me. I feed on Christ the Lamb in His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. He receives me at the Table He sets for me. I see not, but I do receive.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augsburg Confession
"The person who knows that he has a Father who is gracious to him through Christ truly knows God (Jn 14:7). He also knows that God cares for him (1Pt 5:7), and he calls upon God (Rm 10:13). In a word, he is not without God, as are the heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy (Rm 8:7) and do not call Him (Rm 3:11-12) and expect no good from Him. Moreover, as has now been indicated, Scripture talks about faith but does not label it knowledge such as the devil and the ungodly have. For Heb 11:1 teaches that faith is not only a matter of historical knowledge, but a matter of having confidence in God to receive his promise. Augustine also warns his readers about the word faith and teaches that the term is used in the Scriptures, not for the knowledge that is in the ungodly, but for the confidence that consoles and encourages the terrified mind."

Augsburg Confession, 20.24-26
Psalm 77:11-20

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. 

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, grant us the faith that is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen, that we might receive the substance of Your spiritual gifts. Amen.

For Herbert Mueller, as he undergoes therapy for cancer, that the Lord of all hopefulness would grant him strength and healing

For Jon Ogden, that the our gracious Lord would grant him a full recovery

For all those who travel professionally, that their ways would be kept safe and their homecoming would be joyful
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
¬© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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