Love in the Beloved
Tuesday of Pentecost 15
19 September 2017
As we age, we experience the loss of athletic prowess (whether imagined or real). I have a friend who in middle age returned to playing softball with his company's team. He is the oldest person on the squad and after every game, he feels like it. All of us feel this in some way or other. Hands begin to hurt when we open a jar. Four flights of stairs begin to be a daunting challenge when once we cruised to the top three steps at a time. Our bodies don't recover as quickly as they once did after exertion. The sense of loss that we all feel as we age reminds us of what we once were in the springtime of life. Our loss causes us to appreciate much more fully what once was and to grieve its loss. This is why we plaintively cry, "Oh, if I had only known then what I know now!"
 
Our experience of sin and our spiritual weakness cause us to yearn for the springtime of creation when Adam and Eve, endowed with perfect desire for God and the good, had a perfect relationship with God. Their harmony with creation and the Creator was unimpaired. Spiritual home runs jumped off their bats with Ruthian effortlessness; every one a "called shot." How we should now grieve and mourn for the decrepitude of humanity in which our spiritual athleticism has been taken from us by our own grievous fault. Neither our bodies nor our minds fully reflect the power with which the Creator endowed them. Our loss of free will means that we are subject to wicked appetites and a proclivity to failure and evil. Our nature is such that we have dug our own graves and then jumped into them.
 
Our tendency for self-destruction has not kept God from seeing to our good while we no longer desired it, nor its Giver. How wondrous that God, foreseeing our failure and decrepitude, sent His Son into the wintertime of humanity to rescue every human from the evil into which we had fallen and to transfer us into the kingdom of the eternal spring. The city of God will be filled with those who now see Christ the crucified God in the midst of their blindness, so that those, who see not, see. What we cannot love we love, because we are beloved.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"In the beginning God created the world full of all visible and intelligible beings, among which He created nothing better than those spirits whom He endowed with intelligence, and made capable of contemplating and enjoying Him. These He united in our society, which we call the holy and heavenly city, and in which the material of their sustenance and blessedness is God Himself, as it were their common food and nourishment. It is He who gave to this intellectual nature free will of such a kind, that if he wished to forsake God, that is, his blessedness, misery should directly result. It is He who, when He foreknew that certain angels would in their pride desire to suffice for their own blessedness, and would forsake their great good, did not deprive them of this power, deeming it to be more befitting His power and goodness to bring good out of evil than to prevent the evil from coming into existence. And indeed evil would never have existed, had not the mutable [human] nature (mutable, though good, and created by the most high God and immutable Good, who created all things good) brought evil upon itself by sin.
 
"Its sin is itself proof that its nature was originally good. For had it not been very good, though not equal to its Creator, the desertion of God as its light could not have been an evil to it. For as blindness is a vice of the eye, and this very fact indicates that the eye was created to see the light, and as, consequently, vice itself proves that the eye is more excellent than the other members, because it is capable of light (for on no other supposition would it be a vice of the eye to want light), so the nature which once enjoyed God teaches, even by its very vice, that it was created the best of all, since it is now miserable because it does not enjoy God.
 
"It is He who with very just punishment doomed the angels who voluntarily fell to everlasting misery, and rewarded those who continued in their attachment to the supreme good with the assurance of endless stability as the gracious reward of their fidelity. It is He who made also man himself upright, with the same freedom of will, an earthly animal, indeed, but fit for heaven if he remained faithful to his Creator, but destined to the misery appropriate to such a nature if he forsook Him. It is He who, when He foreknew that man would in his turn sin by abandoning God and breaking His law, did not deprive him of the power of free will, because He at the same time foresaw what good He Himself would bring out of the evil, and how from this mortal race, deservedly and justly condemned, He would by His grace collect, as now He does, a people so numerous, that He thus fills up and repairs the blank made by the fallen angels, and thus that beloved and heavenly city is not defrauded of the full number of its citizens, but perhaps may even rejoice in a still more overflowing population."

Augustine, The City of God, 22.1
Romans 3:9-28

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
 
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
 
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
 
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You are the desire of the nations. Grant that we might desire You who are the sole good because You are God. Break our self-will and bring it under subjection to You. Build Your city by Your gospel that we might live forever with You, then seeing what now we desire. Amen.
 
For John Hatteberg, that the Lord would grant him healing
 
For President Dale Meyer and the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that they would faithfully proclaim the truthful Word of God
 
For those who are feeling the decrepitude of age, that the Lord God would keep them in the palm of His hand
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017