quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sitting Down in the Kingdom - a homily

Epiphany 3, Matthew 8:1-13

What a great honor and privilege it is to be a member of the Church and on this day, the Church’s celebration of the Lord’s resurrection, to be able to hear the Lord’s teaching and come to the table where the Lord Himself serves His baptized believers with forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We know that God is omnipresent, present in all places and hears the prayers of His people but nowhere else is Christ Jesus present in the flesh to teach and heal. In other words, God is everywhere but only in the Church is Christ Jesus present with His authority and mercy to give people salvation, as He does in the proclamation of the Word and in the holy sacraments.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus had just finished His well-known teaching on the Mount and come down the mountain. The holy Scriptures record that “The people were astonished at His teaching” “and great multitudes followed Him.” “He taught as one having authority, and not as the” religious leaders. The Church remembers that before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told the Apostles that He had received all authority in heaven and on earth and that they were to go and make disciples of all nations through the teaching He gave them and baptism in the name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we enter the church building we are reminded of our baptism into Christ when we see the font, a reminder of God’s gracious gift of bringing us into new life, through Christ’s death and resurrection, and into His Church.

It is therefore a great honor and privilege for the Church, throughout the world ,and the Church, in this place, to gather in God’s name on this day. For this gathering is nothing less than God’s doing through faith. For this reason, believers are traditionally known as “the faithful.” This could also be understood as being full of Christ and being drawn by Him to worship Him. Of course, we know that we are sinners and that, by our sinful nature, we would rather be somewhere else. Sin leads us away from God. The devil attacks us in our weakness and leads us to doubt God’s mercy for us and the teaching and forgiveness, or healing, that we so need to be able to come into His presence. The world has little time for the Church. People are accustomed to being entertained. They have little time for God. So it is more than an honor and privilege to be here, it is a surprise that we are even here and maybe even a miracle. Once again, we would not be here except for faith, thanks to God’s grace and mercy in Christ.

This is the attitude toward Christ Jesus presented in today’s Gospel by the leper and the centurion. The kingdom of heaven is near. First, in the teaching on the Mount and now in the healing of the leper and of the centurion’s servant. The leper comes to Jesus and worships Him. He prays a prayer of faith, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” He leaves everything up to the Lord’s will and He trusts that Jesus has the power to cleanse him. Jesus touches him and with the words, “I am willing; be cleansed” he is healed. The centurion pleads to Jesus for his paralyzed servant in torment. The centurion has authority, he has soldiers under him, yet he says to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus said to those who followed him. “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” He said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. Jesus heals both by His word alone and by His word and touch.

Jesus’ teaching and healing draws people to Himself. The leper and the centurion have faith, not in themselves, nor in faith itself, but in the Lord who stands before them. This is a real faith that divides them from those, who are “sons of the kingdom” who do not have faith in Jesus and who “will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” These are those who are not content to be in the kingdom of God. They do not receive the kingdom that Jesus brings. The kingdom that Jesus brings means that he will suffer at the hands of man and handed over to be crucified. So He suffers and dies on the cross. Here He touches our sin and says, “It is finished.” He has fulfilled His work of fulfilling the law in our place and bearing our infirmities and sicknesses. He has crushed the serpent’s head. Now He is raised gloriously from the dead in the body and reigns at the right hand of the Father. His kingdom is near to His people even today even in the hearing of His word and in His Body and Blood that touches the roofs of our mouths. He brings His kingdom of forgiveness to us in person and the faithful are healed and strengthened in the eternal life they have received.

What great faith to be here this morning when everything else calls you to be somewhere else. We are not worthy to be here. We deserve nothing less than God’s eternal punishment for our sin. Yet He calls us here to teach us and heal us. He gives us His very self, in holy Baptism, in holy Absolution, in the proclamation of His holy Word, and in this holy Mass we are gathered at the altar to receive the touch of His salvation and the taste of His kingdom. He says, “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

This great High Priest in human flesh
Was icon of God’s righteousness.
His hallowed touch brought sanctity;
His hand removed impurity. (LSB 624:2)

God grant that through the Lord Jesus Christ we are given humble faith and receive this glorious kingdom together with those in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church on earth. God grant that we be united with those of His Church in heaven who eat and drink of the eternal wedding banquet in endless praise and glory to the one true God

To You, O Lord, all glory be
For this Your blest epiphany;
To God, whom all His hosts adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore. (LSB 401:6)


Thursday, January 18, 2007

the relationship of the two natures in Christ

Divine power, life, might, majesty, and glory was given to the received human nature in Christ. This did not happen the way the Father from eternity has communicated to the Son (according to the divine nature) His essence and all divine attributes, by which He is of one essence with the Father and is equal to God. (For Christ is equal to the Father only according to the divine nature. According to the received human nature, He is beneath God. From this it is clear that we make no confusion, equalization, or abolition of natures in Christ.) So the power to give life is not the same in Christ's flesh as it is in His divine nature, where it is an essential property.

Furthermore, this communication or impartation has not happened through an essential or natural infusion of the properties of the divine nature into the human. In other words, Christ's humanity would not have these by itself and apart from the divine essence. Nor has the human nature in Christ entirely laid aside its natural, essential properties. It is not transformed into divinity. In and by itself, it does not become equal to divinity with these communicated properties. Nor does it mean that there should now be identical or equal natural, essential properties and operations for both natures. For these and similar erroneous doctrines were rightly rejected and condemned in the ancient approved councils on the basis of Holy Scripture.

- Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VIII, paragraphs 61-62, condensed from CONCORDIA: THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS, copyright 2005 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

found obedient through faith

In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word." Luke 1:38 But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise"they were both naked, and were not ashamed," Genesis 2:25 inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16 And the prophet, too, indicates the same, saying, "instead of fathers, children have been born unto you." For the Lord, having been born "the First-begotten of the dead," Revelation 1:5 and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

- St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.4

one and the same

That John knew the one and the same Word of God, and that He was the only begotten, and that He became incarnate for our salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord, I have sufficiently proved from the word of John himself. And Matthew, too, recognising one and the same Jesus Christ, exhibiting his generation as a man from the Virgin, even as God did promise David that He would raise up from the fruit of his body an eternal King, having made the same promise to Abraham a long time previously, says: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Matthew 1:1 Then, that he might free our mind from suspicion regarding Joseph, he says: "But the birth of Christ was on this wise. When His mother was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Then, when Joseph had it in contemplation to put Mary away, since she proved with child, [Matthew tells us of] the angel of God standing by him, and saying: "Fear not to take unto you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins. Now this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, God with us;" clearly signifying that both the promise made to the fathers had been accomplished, that the Son of God was born of a virgin, and that He Himself was Christ the Saviour whom the prophets had foretold; not, as these men assert, that Jesus was He who was born of Mary, but that Christ was He who descended from above. Matthew might certainly have said, "Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise;" but the Holy Ghost, foreseeing the corrupters [of the truth], and guarding by anticipation against their deceit, says by Matthew, "But the birth of Christ was on this wise;" and that He is Emmanuel, lest perchance we might consider Him as a mere man: for "not by the will of the flesh nor by the will of man, but by the will of God was the Word made flesh;" and that we should not imagine that Jesus was one, and Christ another, but should know them to be one and the same.

- St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.16.2

Thursday, January 04, 2007

more on the Bible and the Liturgy

A few weeks prior to the Nativity of Our Lord I wrote a brochure, "Bible & Liturgy," which is an exploratory introduction by a Lutheran pastor into the relation between the holy Scripture and the divine liturgy. You can find it posted here and dated Nov. 15, 2006. This writing serves a dual purpose in helping to teach others the important role of the liturgy in the life of the Church as well as helping me to gather my own thoughts on this topic (all part of the learning process). In 1956 a book was published entitled "The Bible and the Liturgy" by Jean Danielou, S.J., a book I have not yet read.

This brings up another topic which, I believe, is intimately related to this whole discussion and that is the role of Tradition. For more on this see the excellent blogpost Lossky on Tradition Tradition is refreshing in that it reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. In another light the Lord's mercies are new every morning. Thanks to the Christian Tradition we can see that others before us appreciated and struggled with the same questions that we are working through.

In relation to Bible, Liturgy and Tradition I recently found this quotation in the Introduction to The Lord by Romano Guardini, a book published in 1954. What is intriguing to me in the life-long study of Bible, Liturgy and Tradition is that what the Church receives in the Bible and the Liturgy and the Tradition is both old and new. It is traditional and historic and, at the same time, new and living in Christ and in His mercy.

"As a student Romano Guardini had himself experienced the drama of liberalism and its collapse, and with a few friends he set out to find a new path for theology. What came to impress him in the course of this search was the experience of the liturgy as the place of encounter with Jesus. It is above all in the liturgy that Jesus is among us, here it is that He speaks to us, here He lives.

"Guardini recognized that the liturgy is the true, living environment for the Bible and that the Bible can be properly understood only in this living context within which it first emerged. The texts of the Bible, this great Book of Christ, are not to be seen as the literary products of some scribes at their desks but rather as the words of Christ Himself delivered in the celebration of the holy Mass. The scriptural texts are thoroughly imbued with the awe of divine worship resulting from the believer's interior attentiveness to the living voice of the present Lord. In the preface to his book, Guardini himself tells us of the way in which these texts have arisen: 'We can only reverently pause before this or that word or act, ready to learn, adore, obey.'"
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to The Lord by R. Guardini, xii)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

growth in godliness

This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness;
not health, but healing;
not being, but becoming;
not rest, but exercise.
We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way;
the process is not yet finished, but it has begun;
this is not the goal, but it is road;
at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being
- Martin Luther, A Defense and Explanation of All Articles
(AE 32:24)

Monday, January 01, 2007

a sign of the new life

And so the Child was circumcised. Who is this Child, unless He of Whom it was said: a Child is born to us, a son is given to us? (Is. ix.6). He was made under the Law, that He might redeem those Who were under the Law (Gal. iv. 4, 5). To present Him to the Lord. What it means to be presented to the Lord in Jerusalem I would explain but that I have already spoken of it in the commentary on Isaias. For He was circumcised with the vices (Gal. v. 24), and is judged worthy to be looked upon by the Lord: the eyes of the Lord are upon the just (Ps. 33.16). You see how every practice of the Old Law was a figure of that to come; for circumcision was a sign of the forgiveness of our sins.
- St. Ambrose, on the Gospel (Toal, I:189)