Just Preach It!
Monday of Pentecost 11
26 August 2019
Just preach the gospel. Preach it in all its clarity, beauty, and its outrageousness. Preach it to shock the pious imagination of the hearer out of his slumber. He dreams that his piety has brought him close to God's kingdom, if not into it. He dreams that his best efforts are accepted by God because they are sincere and heartfelt (at least most of the time they are). He turns to gaze at his own interior religious thoughts and admire them. He thinks that his faith is valuable to God because he can see that it is strong, or at least stronger than the next fellow's faith. He asks how he can believe more strongly, how he can be more sure in his own heart. But if he really gets in touch with his own feelings, he will begin to feel rather depressed and unhappy about the weakness of his faith, because he has that vague, but persistent, feeling that there is something inadequate about the whole effort to base his confidence of salvation in something so ephemeral and uncertain as the human capacity for faith. The law continues to beat us from pillar to post as we seek better, greater, stronger, more glorious things within ourselves. But within us dwells no good thing (Rm 7:18). This spiritual navel gazing finds very little more than spiritual lint.
 
What is the remedy for this interiority? How do we get out of the trap of the personal certainty question? We don't. We cannot. The only hope must come from outside; breaking our self-centered paradigm. The help must come from God, who sends Christ to be born under the burden of the law, the very same law that is beating us both inside and out. He takes our place under the law. What we could never climb out from under, He freely chooses to shoulder. He places Himself in the dock under the withering accusations against sinners and becomes the sinner of sinners (2Co 5:21) bearing the full penalty which impends over us. This is what Paul is talking about when he says that Christ was born under the law (Gal 4:4). He is our substitute under the law. Quite simply that means that the law does not count against us in the presence of God. We have been acquitted of all charges!
 
That acquittal does not happen within us, any more than a trial verdict is created by the accused. The acquittal occurs outside of us; carried out and proclaimed by God. His judgment fell with all its ferocity upon the One who was accused of our sin and depravity, because He was born under the law. We need to hear this proclaimed again and again. We are slow learners because we prefer to be stuck in the law. We want to turn the gospel into the law, because that is what we know in our hearts. We think that if we just get the list of things that must be believed and done straight we will be alright with God. But in this way we have turned ourselves into the subject of religious consideration. God then becomes an addendum and afterthought; not the subject of our religion.
 
Christ must be doing the doing in the gospel. This is why the gospel must be preached with such profligacy and generosity. We do not listen to it, accept it, or believe it by nature. It is a miracle of divinely commanded proclamation every time it comes to us. The scriptural revelation is so rich and varied in its multifaceted gospel content that we will never exhaust it. God's people must learn to treasure this message so tenaciously that they demand its proclamation whenever their preachers open their mouths to speak for God. Let your preacher outrage your pious imagination by dragging you outside of yourself into the presence of the holy God, who for Christ's sake will proclaim you not guilty. Just preach it!

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"In what manner or way has Christ redeemed us? That manner was: He was born under the law (Gal 4:4-5). When Christ came, He found us all captive under pedagogues and tutors, that is, confined and constrained under the law. What did He do? He Himself is Lord of the law; therefore the law has no jurisdiction over Him and is not able to accuse Him, because He is the Son of God. For while He was not under the law, He subjected Himself voluntarily to the law. There the law worked every tyranny against Him which was against us. It accused us and terrified us. It subjected us to sin, death, and the wrath of God; and it condemned us with its judgment. And it had a right to do this, because we are all sinners and naturally the sons of wrath. On the contrary, Christ 'committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.' (1Pt 2:22). Therefore he owed nothing to the law. Yet the law raged against Him, even though He was so innocent, holy, righteous, and blessed, as much as it does against us accursed and condemned sinners, and even more dreadfully. It accused Him of blasphemy and rebellion; it found Him guilty in God's presence of all the sins of the entire world; finally it so troubled and frightened Him that He sweat blood (Lk 22:44); and eventually it sentenced Him to death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8)."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.4-5
Psalm 112

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish! (ESV)
Prayer
O Christ, Lamb of God, You were accused of all our sin because You chose to be born under the law for our sakes. Send Your Spirit to us that we might believe precisely what our hearts refuse to believe. Confirm all Christian preachers in this faith and proclamation that they might disturb our human piety with the divine truth that Christ is the substitute for all sinners. Amen.
 
For all firefighters, that they would be kept safe in the conduct of their duties
 
For those who are being confronted by the claims of Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that they would be strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit
 
For the teachers and staff of Memorial Lutheran School, that they would be strengthened in their callings
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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