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Psalm 113

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!    (ESV)
God Gives His Best
Thursday of Easter 5
28 April 2016
The congregation I am serving has embarked upon a couple of building programs. These were challenging projects to the congregation because they were not inexpensive. Building isn't cheap. To some people it is a sin to spend any money at all on the church buildings or their maintenance. There will be members of this congregation who will vote against doing anything, and always do. Their preference is that the church should never spend a nickel on upkeep or renovation. This is an attitude they would never exhibit in their own home or personal property.
Churches in need often experience the attitude that the church can manage on leftovers. I recall expressing the need for a particular piece of furniture for the church building, to which someone replied, "Oh pastor, I have a table that we were just going to give to Goodwill that will be just fine in the church." Uh, huh. So much for first fruits giving. What if our heavenly Father only gave us leftovers? What if He did not offer up His own Son for us all, then where would we be?
Possessions will always need to be managed. Will we manage them like they are ours, or like they are God's? Will we seek to gain control over others and even our church with money? Those who give freely and generously to the church may be rich or poor, may give much or little according to the material blessings the Lord has given to them, but they never give leftovers and they certainly don't give to the Lord as though they are giving Him what belongs to them in the first place. "We give Thee but Thine own!" was the hymn sung as the Offertory in my grandmother's home church, to which we Christian folk should sing a hearty "Amen." Least of all should we enforce poverty on the church by our miserly attitude toward the house of the Lord. If anything should be opulently appointed, well-maintained, given the best that we have, it should be our church. The decision is quite simple, either we give the best to God, or we do not. Perhaps our miserly attitude is a sign that we are spiritually poor indeed.
Despite our spiritual poverty and even because of it, our heavenly Father gives the kingdom of heaven to us. His giving is never conditioned upon ours. His gifts are given even though we have not returned to Him what is His. He will have His Son's body and blood offered for the forgiveness of sins in a filthy hovel. That does not mean that we ought to keep our church like a hovel. What's good enough for God? It is good enough for God to give His utmost for us. That's true spiritual opulence and all given for Christ's sake. Alleluia!


Martin Luther

"We should learn to understand what it means in Scriptural language to be 'spiritually poor' or poor before God. We should not evaluate things externally,on the basis of money and property or of deficits and surpluses. For, as we have said above, we see that the poorest and most miserable beggars are the worst and most desperate rascals and dare to commit every kind of mischief and evil tricks, which fine, upstanding people, rich citizens or lords and princes, do not do. On the other hand, many saintly people who had plenty of money and property, honor, land, and retinue, still were poor amid all this property. We should evaluate things on the basis of the heart. We must not be over-concerned whether we have something or nothing, much or little. And whatever we do have in the way of possessions, we should always treat it as though we did not have it, being ready at any time to lose it and always keeping our hearts set on the kingdom of heaven (Col 3:2).
"We are not to run away from property, house, home, wife, and children, wandering around the countryside as a burden to other people. This is what the Anabaptist sect does, and they accuse us of not preaching the Gospel rightly because we keep house and homeand stay with wife and children. No, God does not want such crazy saints! This is what it means: In our heart we should be able to leave house and home, wife and children. Even though we continue to live among them, eating with them and serving them out of love, as God has commanded, still we should be able, if necessary, to give them up at any time for God's sake. If you are able to do this, you have forsaken everything, in the sense that your heart is not taken captive but remains pure of greed and of dependence, trust, and confidence in anything. A rich man may properly be called 'spiritually poor' without discarding his possessions. But when the necessity arises, then let him do so in God's name, not because he would like to get away from wife and children, house and home, but because, as long as God wills it, he would rather keep them and serve Him thereby, yet is also willing to let Him take them back.
"So you see what it means to be 'poor' spiritually and before God, to have nothing spiritually and to forsake everything."

Martin Luther,  Sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, 5.3
"We give Thee but Thine own, whate'er the gift may be. All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee. May we Thy bounties thus as stewards true receive.  And gladly as Thou blessest us to Thee our firstfruits give. And we believe Thy Word, though dim our faith may be. Whate'er for Thine we do, O Lord, we do it unto Thee." Amen. (TLH #441: 1, 2, 6)
For Larry Bless, who has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, that the Lord of life would grant him strength and confidence in His care and that health professionals would be endowed with wisdom as they bring him appropriate therapies

For all the people serving in the US military, that they might be kept safe in their mission through the attendance of all the holy angels
For the members of the LCMS Council of Presidents as they travel home, that the holy angels would watch over them
For all children and their families, that the Lord would give families calm strength and patient wisdom, that they would grow in love toward each other and children show honor and obedience to their parents
Art: RUBENS, Peter Paul  The Resurrection of Christ (1611-12)

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