Under the Cross
Martin Luther's Birthday
10 November 2017
We live under the cross. This is the whole theodicy. Theodicy means the "justice of God." Many people struggle with the moral righteousness of God. How can God be just if evil happens in the world? Lutherans should not struggle with this question. We cannot judge God's moral rightness on the basis of what happens in the world. How exactly do we discern His hand here and deny it is there. Is the death of my wife an ill or a blessing for me from God? Is God in Darfur or not? If He is there what is He doing? None of these questions can be answered based on our discernment. Why? We live under the shadow of the cross.
 
The cross stretches a veil of mystery across the actions of God. His face is only seen at the cross where there is death and life, sin and forgiveness, blood and water. We only know what things mean under that shadow that marks God's work in the world. When trouble comes, it is for my good and strengthening in hope. When good comes I believe that this comes to me for my service to others that I might lighten their load of trouble and share in their sufferings.
 
When troubled and suffering, God wants us to see through faith. I must not demand of God an accounting of His righteousness. Such an accounting will demand that God tot up what He owes us and give to us what righteousness requires. Such an accounting will have a reckoning far worse than the CitiBank "write down" for bad debt. We will find ourselves completely bankrupt if we demand an accounting according to the GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) of the divine righteousness. It is really wicked for us to demand of God that He account to us for His actions. What makes us think we have the right to judge God according to our standards of justice? How do we tear down the veil that stands over the work of the Almighty? Here we come up against the first commandment again.
 
What is it to have a God? It is to expect from Him every grace and blessing. It is not for us to judge Him. He cares nothing for our accounting (Ps 2:4). He wants us to live not by accounts, but by faith; trusting Him whatever befalls us. We live by faith if we have a God. Martin Luther lived this way, against all obstacles. No matter what trouble or suffering he felt, he always believed that God was blessing him under the cross. He was a man who lived by faith. He was sure that God only meant the best by him, even when he might have felt differently, even while tottering on the brink of despair or on the heights of the highest human joy. We truly live only under the cross.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"God places His own under the cross; and though He delays their deliverance, nevertheless in the end He gloriously snatches them out of their dangers and makes them victors, but only after they have first been greatly troubled and have been wearied to despair by various conflicts.
 
"To be aware of this divine process with which God rules us is profitable and necessary. Thus we learn to show patience in adversity, to trust in God's goodness, and to hope for salvation, but in prosperity to humble ourselves and give glory to God. For it is His custom to do both: to bring down to hell and to bring back, to afflict and to comfort, to kill and to make alive.
 
"This is the game, with its continual changes, that He plays with His saints. For there is no perfect joy in this life, as there will be in the life to come. Sometimes, like an angry father, He inflicts punishments; sometimes, like an affectionate father, He fosters and comforts His children.
 
"We must learn this carefully in order to be ready for every occasion, as Paul says about himself: 'I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content . I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound... . I can do all things through him who strengthens me. '(Phil 4:11-13)."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 14.13
Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, "As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.  (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have sent me the holy cross which You have borne, that I might bear it all my life. Put to death my legalistic heart that judges You. Grant that I would receive the gift of Your Holy Spirit that I might ever justify You through the faith You grant. Amen.
 
For all those who have lost loved ones on the field of battle and for all veterans, that we might honor our veterans and especially the war dead
 
For those who are participating in the Making the Case Conference in Houston, that the Lord of the church would guide and guard their deliberations with His Word
 
For the meek and persecuted, that the Lord their God would always be their refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble
Art: Tom DUBOIS, Martin Luther
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017