He Promises to Be Present
Tuesday of Pentecost 11
2 August 2016
God has come here in fleshly form under bread and wine to the altars of our churches among His people. We come there not to ascend to Him but to permit Him to be who He is; to let God be God. He is the God who is willing to seek and to save the lost, the God who comes down to be present with His people in the midst of His own weakness, that we in our weakness might receive the fullness of His grace. He is present there on the lips of your pastor. He is there present when your children are brought to the font and given the triune name upon their heart and forehead to mark them as redeemed by Christ the crucified. He is there when holy absolution is intoned over you: "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Of course, like Zacchaeus in the Gospel ( Lk 19:1-10), we may well question whether or not we are too small to expect God to be present with us. If you were to believe and confess, as God's Word tells us, that our God is among us in these humble means, in the signs of weakness; in preaching, in word, in water, under bread and wine, your neighbors would proclaim you mad, self-righteous, and proud: "How dare you presume upon God's greatness! Does His presence not fill heaven and earth ( 1Ki 8:27)! How can you be so self-righteous and proud as to presume that the Creator of all things comes to your humble church! You Lutherans are out of your minds!"

How can we make the claim that such a God is willing to place Himself within the four walls of a little church? We would be criticized as being the people who "put God in a box." However, we are not putting God anywhere. Out of amazing, divine compassion He has determined to dwell among us in lowly places, like our homes and our churches. So Solomon in all his wisdom proclaims: "Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, O God; how much less this house that I have built!" Yet this God has promised, 'My name shall be here." Where His name is, He Himself is present and in His presence He hears our plea for mercy, and when he hears He forgives ( 1Ki 8:27-30). He comes to our altar to set the table before us that we have set. He comes to consecrate the food of eternal life that we have offered. Our gifts of bread and wine bear His presence because He says so. Because He promises to be among us by His Word, we shall never doubt that this place has been made holy through the things that mark His presence among us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

 

"He who does not believe that Christ's body and blood are present does well not to worship either with his spirit or with his body. But he who does believe, as sufficient demonstration has shown it ought to be believed, can surely not withhold his adoration of the body and blood of Christ without sinning. For I must always confess that Christ is present when his body and blood are present. His words do not lie to me, and he is not separated from his body and blood. And when he lay dead in the grave, he was still Christ and worthy of His honor, even when there was no longer any blood in Him. Moreover, we must honor and adore one another, as Paul teaches in Romans (Rm 12:10), for the sake of Christ, who dwells in us spiritually through our faith.

 

"Of course, it is true that there is a distinction between Christ sitting on high in heaven, and being in the sacrament and in the hearts of believers. For certainly he ascended to heaven so that men should and must worship him there and confess Him to be the Lord, mighty over all things (Phil 2:10-11). But He is present in the sacrament and in the hearts of believers not really because he wants to be worshiped there, but because he wants there to work with us and help us; just as He also came to earth in the flesh not that men should worship him, but to serve us, as he himself said: 'I have not come to be served but to serve and to give my life for many' (Mt 20:28).

 

"But from this it does not follow that one should not worship him. For many people worshiped him when he was upon earth and he accepted it too, such as the three kings at the manger (Mt 2:11), the blind man (Jn 9:38), and many others." 


Martin Luther, The Adoration of the Sacrament
1 Kings 8:27-30

Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, 'My name shall be there,' that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. 
(ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, heavenly Father, we thank You that You refresh us with the body and blood of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ. Grant that this heavenly food which we receive according to Your promise would strengthen our faith that we may bear all crosses and trials with patience and trust until You grant us deliverance, peace, and health; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Barbara Dubé, who has been released from the hospital and returned home, that she might rejoice in the gifts of a gracious God and that she would be strengthened in body and spirit

For Cohen Cunningham, who is suffering cardiac problems, that the Lord of the church would grant wisdom to doctors and healing according to His gracious will

For Vicar Matthew Bless, as he learns the disciplines of the Bride of Christ, that He might serve the church's children with integrity and faithfulness
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016