Pr. Eric Swensson
January 28, 2015
Prayer of the Day for Epiphany 4 reads, “O God, you know that we cannot withstand the dangers which surround us. Strengthen us in body and spirit so that, with your help, we may be able to overcome the weakness that our sin has brought upon us; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.”
“Corum deo.” What does this mean? I can tell you the Latin for this term, but the word of the Lord in Deuteronomy certainly convey its meaning: “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.”
“Corum deo.” We all stand accused. The law always accuses, even when it becomes New Adam’s friend and teacher. The Law helpfully illumines the path on which to walk, still it shows with negative certainty what happens should the believer stray.
“Corum deo.” Saul was on the road to Damascus and in a moment he found himself before the throne of God as it were. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Who are you, Lord?
Saul learned the answer to that question. Jesus was so good to the new man we know as Paul. He redeemed him, freed Saul from a bloodthirsty hatred of those who would not keep the Law as he understood it. Jesus changed Saul into an apostle of love and as such Paul traveled the Mediterranean basin, surviving horrible persecutions, sharing the love lavishly bestowed on him.
Paul writes instructions to us in First Corinthians, “...yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled."Food will not bring us close to God." We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
In our Gospel Lesson Mark tells us that when Jesus began His public ministry, people stopped and listened. At Capernaum “They were astounded at his teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Not only people, even the demons found themselves addressed by the power of the Word. Mark tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue there. He began to teach. We can imagine how powerful a preacher Jesus must have been. It was to much for a certain demon. The demon cried out in fear!” What, have you come to destroy us?” Jesus commanded the demon to come out, the demon obeyed, thus the man was healed.
This is the Word of the Lord! How many times the person reading the Gospel Lesson ends the public reading with these words. I confess there were many times I did so with a certain chagrin. Sometimes the text does not sound like gospel, rather it appears as judgment.
And so it is. Corum deo. Everyday we stand before God accused. Whether we know it or not. All of us. All the time. And this is why the gospel is the gospel. Justified and sinner. I understand myself to be condemned and pardoned. And this is how I live. I read about other understandings, for example, there seems to be a nearly universal question amongst other Protestants about whether one can lose their salvation. Catholics are left to only wonder if they have salvation. Lutherans live acquitted. We do not plead not guilty. Rather we plead guilty in the belief of a certain hope. Acquittal. This is our existential condition. We live in Christian liberty, freed from the power of sin, free from the fear of death, and free of the demons that roam the land. And that’s good enough for me! Thanks be to God.