I’m having a great morning, getting things done, making phone calls, attending to pastoral duties. Church attendance was pretty poor yesterday, as were the other statistics of congregational health (let the reader understand), but we had threatening weather, so not even that fact will make me sour. I’m in a good mood. Things are going right. The kids are well, the dining room is painted, I’m working on my dream fishtank build at home. We’re closing on our house here at the end of the month, God willing. Life is good.
Then I read this, written by Martin Luther:
“”If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing [Acts 14:22]. And let no one think that he shall have peace [Matthew 10:34]. He must risk whatever he has upon earth—possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam [Ephesians 4:22]. The test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience [James 5:7-8] in whatever way we are assaulted, and to let go whatever is taken from us [1 Peter 2:20-21]” (Large Catechism III, 65).
Ah. That’s disappointing. Trouble is around the corner. Not to sound like Chicken Little or Eeyore but I should expect this not to last. Who knows what disaster might fall? Perhaps the sin of a random stranger, perhaps in my household. Perhaps I will do something so incredibly foolish and prideful and bring all kinds of trouble on my head. Controversies at the next meeting, at the school, who knows. It’s all going to crumble. So much for the good life.
But this exposes the lie: we ought not glory in those worldly things like worldly success and prosperity, like smooth sailing at work and home. These are not permanent, and they are under our enemy’s cross hairs. ” If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19) Our hope and glory is not in this life, but in the life to come–in the Resurrection. Right now we walk the way of the cross, following Christ to the grave, but also to our resurrection.
Before I read that quote from Luther, I had fallen into that old theology of glory trap of measuring goodness and peace and joy in temporal, external, worldly things. After all, in our heart of hearts, we’re all theologians of glory. We expect and dream of peace and success and joy at every turn, and the news that this life is dangerous and the cross of Christ is over and in front of us–and our own crosses too–exposes our leaning toward false glory.
Instead, the Word calls us to true glory, to lasting peace, to the Host and Cup lifted high, proclaiming the Peace of God found in Christ Himself, in the blessings of the Eucharist, that sacred offering of God for us. Our glory is in Christ, lowered into the Jordan and anointed with the Spirit. He is our glory and peace. Not those things that are created, but in Christ our Lord.