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Exodus

36:2-7

 

And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, "The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do." So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, "Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary." So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

 (ESV)

The Lord Gives His Best

Wednesday in Advent 3

18 December 2013

It never ceases to surprise me that Christian folk are willing to give their unwanted discards to the church. I often hear people say something like, "Oh, pastor, we don't need these two old end tables any more. We bought brand new ones when we redecorated our family room. Do you think the church would want the old ones?" The church is often treated like Cinderella, who gets the worn out hand-me-downs from her members. No one ever seems to be able to hear what they are saying when they say such things. And while the church can certainly make do with less when necessary, it is shocking that we demand the best for our homes, families, and businesses, but consider the church worthy of something less than our best. This might tell us whom we think reigns in the church.

 

The seventh commandment and the first commandment must have some actual relationship to each other in our church practice. This is most obvious in the matter of sacramental vessels, where we should never ignore that they contain the most precious gifts of Christ's body and blood upon our church altar. Will Christ deign to come among us if we place His body and blood in Styrofoam cups and set the altar with paper towels instead of fine linen? Of course. God is always more gracious to us than we are respectful of Him. However, our table setting tells us (not God) what we believe about the feast. No matter how glorious the vessels are, they receive their ultimate glory from what is contained by them.

 

So it is for the human flesh. Though it sags, decays, and will molder in the grave, its honor is determined not by what we see or feel in our own flesh, but by what God says about it and what He does with it. He has molded our flesh out of the mundane, but in the molding, He has honored the mundane. Soul and flesh are indivisibly conjoined. Much that the soul enjoys can only be received through the flesh. The hearing of the Word of God comes only through ears of flesh. The water of baptism suffuses skin and hair. The Lord's body is enthroned on our calloused hand. Christ's blood is tasted and swallowed that we might know the goodness of the Lord. These things give life to body and soul together. Our Father has made us: body and soul; and in that making He has given great honor to the flesh which He has fashioned, shaped, and kissed into life.

 

Tertullian

 

"You have both the clay made glorious by the hand of God, and the flesh more glorious still by His breathing upon it, by virtue of which the flesh not only laid aside its clay-ish rudiments, but also took on itself the enrichments of the soul. Surely, you are not more careful than God. Wouldn't you refuse to mount the gems of Scythia and India and the pearls of the Red Sea in lead, or brass, or iron, or even in silver, but wouldn't you set them in the most precious and most highly-wrought gold? Again, you would provide for your finest wines and most costly ointments the most fitting vessels. On the same principle, wouldn't you find for your swords of finished temper scabbards of equal worth? While you think God consigned to the vilest sheath the shadow of His own soul, the breath of His own Spirit, the operation of His own mouth, and by so ignominious a consignment secure, of course, its condemnation. Well, then, has He placed, or rather inserted and commingled, it with the flesh? Yes; and so intimate is the union, that it may be deemed to be uncertain whether the flesh bears about the soul, or the soul the flesh; or whether the flesh acts as servant to the soul, or the soul to the flesh. However, it is more credible that the soul has service rendered to it, and has the mastery, as being nearer in character to God (Jn 4:24). This circumstance even redounds to the glory of the flesh, inasmuch as it both contains an essence nearest to God's, and renders itself a partaker of the soul's actual sovereignty. For what enjoyment of nature, what benefit from the world, what delight in the elements, is not imparted to the soul by means of the body? How can it be otherwise?

 

"Is it not by means of the flesh that the soul is supported by the entire apparatus of the senses-the sight, the hearing, the taste, the smell, the touch? Is it not by means of the flesh that it has a sprinkling of the divine power, there being nothing which it does not effect by its faculty of speech, even when it is only tacitly indicated? And speech is the result of a fleshly organ. The arts come through the flesh. Through the flesh also effect is given to the mind's pursuits and power. All work, too, and business and offices of life, are accomplished by the flesh. So utterly, are the living acts of the soul the work of the flesh, that for the soul to cease to do living acts, would be nothing else than sundering itself from the flesh. So also the very act of dying is a function of the flesh, even as the process of life is. Now, if all things are subject to the soul through the flesh, their subjection is equally due to the flesh. That which is the means and agent of your enjoyment, must also be the partaker and sharer of your enjoyment. So that the flesh, which is accounted the minister and servant of the soul, turns out to be also its associate and co-heir. And if all this in temporal things, why not also in things eternal?"
 
Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 7
 

Prayer

Almighty God, by the death of Your Son Jesus Christ You destroyed death, by His rest in the tomb You sanctified the graves of Your saints, and by His bodily resurrection You brought life and immortality to light so that all who die in Him abide in peace and hope. Receive our thanks for the victory over death and the grave that He won for us. Keep us in everlasting communion with all who await Him on earth and with all in heaven who are with Him, for He is the resurrection and the life, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For those suffering inclement weather, that they would be kept safe

 

For all those celebrating wedding anniversaries, that the Lord Jesus Christ would bless them with ever more of His grace

 

For Pr. Scott Murray, who is traveling tomorrow, that he would be kept safe and that his homecoming would be joyful 

Art: WEYDEN, Rogier van der  Annunciation Triptych  (c. 1440)

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