The Increase of Righteousness
9 May 2019
When I was a child my parents permitted me to spend a couple of weeks every summer at my grandparent's Ontario farm. Nothing was sweeter than those early summer days spent in bucolic bliss; watching livestock, stalking feral cats, and tramping the maple woods on the farm's fringes. My fondest memories, though, are of the afternoon teas which were indulged by my grandparents in the mid afternoon upon the broad front porch immersed in cooling shade. Digestive biscuits and a pot of freshly steeped "Red Rose" ("Only in Canada, you say? Pity!") tea were set out for the old folks, but for me there was the ever after famed confection called "the concoction." The concoction was a root beer float served in a huge frozen glass mug filled to frothing overflow with a long spoon and plastic straw bobbing in the foaming brown liquid. The mug, infamous for having been stolen from an A&W drive-in in the quasi-wild youth of my mother's younger sisters, perhaps made the concoction better. As tea time drew near, I would hang around in my grandmother's always busy kitchen waiting for her to say, "Time for tea, eh?"
At just that propitious moment, as the homely liturgy went, I was quick to petition for that day's daily concoction. My grandmother always seemed to be delighted by my childish request for that which she knew I would ask. We always indulged in our happy little kitchen colloquy about the concoction, even while I knew that her love for me would overflow in that delightful drink at tea time. Sometimes love is that way. It eagerly waits to hear the request for what it has already planned to give. While our heavenly Father has in eternity seen to our salvation even long before our conception and birth, still He delights to enter into the colloquy of the Word with us so that the divine liturgy of faith is repeated with Him. He wants to hear us ask Him to be that which He has promised to be: "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ps 86:15). And He is eager to hear and fulfill his loving promises to us.
We have every reason to ask for what He has promised. We need what He promises and He wants to give what He has promised. Every day we find ourselves needing His reassurances, "for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment" as Martin Luther says in his explanation to the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer. There is always more to be experienced of that which in God remains perfect and complete. A fuller experience of that which is full pardon is ours for the asking. A more extensive reception of that which can have no greater extent than the love of Christ who offered Himself on the cross for us sinners is offered to us daily in holy absolution. The righteousness of God which cannot grow or be diminished and which is ours through faith in Christ Jesus becomes more and more ours through our suffering of its content daily. Here suffering means permitting and receiving, but it also means the suffering of daily sorrow and the grief that arises because of our wickednesses. How we should look forward to having more of what cannot increase. Our Lord Christ desires to give it.  

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augustine of Hippo
"Whatever the quality or extent of the righteousness would be which we may definitely ascribe to the present life, there is not a man living in it who is absolutely free from all sin; and that it is necessary for everyone to give, that it may be given to him (Lk 11:30, 38); and to forgive, that it may be forgiven him (Lk 11:4). Whatever righteousness he has, he should not presume that he has it of himself, but from the grace of God, who justifies him. He should go on hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Mt 5:6) from Him who is the living bread (Jn 6:51) and with whom is the fountain of life (Ps 81:9). He it is that works justification in His saints, while they are laboring amid temptations in this life, so that He may still have something to impart to them generously when they ask, and something mercifully to forgive them when they confess."

  Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 1.65
Psalm 86


Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you - you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.ESV)

Heavenly Father, we have ever more to confess and You ever more want to have mercy on poor sinners as You Yourself have said in Your unalterable Word. Grant, O Lord, that we would be delighted to hear more of Your mercy and receive more of Your perfect righteousness. Amen.
For Joanne Bobbie, that her Lord Jesus would keep her in His gracious care
For Herbert Mueller, who has come through surgery, that the Christ His Lord would grant him strength and full recovery
For President Dale Meyer, the faculty, and staff of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that they would ever proclaim the greater righteousness of God
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
©  Scott Murray 2019