Being and Becoming
Friday of Pentecost 24
4 November 2016
When I was a child, I was proud of my father and looked up to him. I wanted to become just like my dad. As I grew older, I was occasionally mistaken for my father on the phone, and even in person. I became more like my father because I modeled myself after him. He was a man worthy of honor and respect. There was a certain inevitability about it, though. It was a matter of birth. I was his son; a second replica of the previous model. I couldn't help but have his life because I was his son. But more than that, I also became increasingly like him as the years went on because I intentionally formed myself in his image. I honored his example to me. For me it was both a way of being and a way of becoming.
Christianity is a life. First, it is the life of Christ. Every Christian has life because Christ is the life (Jn 14:6). The Christian life is also a life to be lived every day (Gal 2:20) by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself up for us. In the first way the Christian is a possession of Christ; he is in Christ. He exists in Christ. Christ is his way of being. In the second the Christian life is a gift from Christ that is always becoming. Christ's life has a way of becoming in our lives. Both are true, both a way of being and a way of becoming.
In the way of becoming there is the constant dialog of law and gospel. It is a refrain learned over and again. The dialog begins with tragedy, suffering, or death. These events set the law to echoing through our hearts, "See what you have deserved. You must have done something that you have had a child taken through a childhood disease. You must have sinned. That's why you are suffering from a chronic disease. Your sin brought you to the portal of death and you will be damned as sinners deserve." Maybe these thoughts are true. Maybe they are not. It almost does not matter, because they are not ultimate. The ultimate Word of God is not the law. The last Word of God is the gospel. "Yes, yes, all that may be true, and more. But because of the Gospel, I will not know it or see it, because I see only the face of my dear Lord Jesus Christ. I know not my suffering, because I know only His. I know not my own death, because I know only His. I know not my own life, because I live only His." I needn't despair or be cast down in the face of all trouble, trial, or sin. What shall I look at and see? Only God's good gifts in Christ. I shall have joy in the face of trouble, peace in the presence of trial and forgiveness in the face of sin. This is becoming in the time of grace.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"The time of grace is when the heart is encouraged again by the promise of the free mercy of God and says: 'Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me (Ps 42:5)? Do you not see anything except law, sin, terror, sadness, despair, death, hell, and the devil? Are there not also grace, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, comfort, joy, peace, life, heaven, God, and Christ? Stop troubling me, O my soul! What are law, sin, and all evils in comparison with these? Hope in God, who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up to the death of the cross for your sins (Rm 8:32).' This, then, is what it means to be confined under the law according to the flesh, not forever but until the coming of Christ. When you are terrified by the law, therefore, say: 'Lady Law, you are not the only thing, and you are not everything! Besides you there is something greater and better, namely, grace, faith, blessing. These do not accuse me; they do not terrify or condemn me. But they comfort me, command me to have hope, and promise me sure victory and salvation in Christ. Therefore, there is no reason for me to despair.'
"Anyone who would know this art well deserves to be called a theologian. The fanatics of our day, who are always boasting about the Spirit, as well as their disciples, seem to themselves to know it superbly. But I and others like me hardly know the basic elements of this art, and yet we are studious pupils in the school where this art is being taught. It is indeed being taught, but so long as the flesh and sin remain, it cannot be learned thoroughly.
"Therefore, the Christian is divided this way into two times. To the extent that he is flesh, he is under the law; to the extent that he is spirit, he is under the gospel. To his flesh there always cling lust, greed, ambition, pride, etc. So do ignorance and contempt of God, impatience, grumbling, and wrath against God because He obstructs our plans and efforts and because He does not immediately punish the wicked who despise Him. These sins cling to the flesh of the saints. Therefore, if you do not look at anything beyond the flesh, you will remain permanently under the time of the law. But those days have to be shortened, for otherwise no human being would be saved (Mt 24:22). An end has to be set for the law, where it will come to a stop. Therefore, the time of law is not forever; but it has an end, which is Christ. But the time of grace is forever; for Christ, having died once for all, will never die again (Rm 6:9-10). He is eternal; therefore, the time of grace is eternal also."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.23
Romans 6:9-18

We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  (ESV)
Lord God, You have given me the life in Christ. Let me become ever Yours by hearing only Your Word of the gospel. Amen.
For Pr. J. Bart Day, Pr. Charles P. St-Onge, Chaplain Donald Ehrke (Maj., US Army), and Pr. Charles Wokoma, that God our Lord would keep them steadfast in His word and grace that they might lead God's people in Christ's way of becoming through the gospel
For the presidential candidates, that they would elevate the political discourse of the nation
For Ellen Brda, who is undergoing surgery, that the Lord would bring her through and grant her the gift of healing

For the gift of Philip John Loll, the child of Lydia and Josiah Loll, that he would be kept safe until his entry into the kingdom of God's Son in the sacrament of baptism
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2016