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Psalm 50:1-6


 

The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: "Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!" The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!

(ESV)

 

 

 

 

Hanging Together

Joseph, Patriarch

31 January 2014

When I was a child, my father always bought a used car that had some mileage on it. His car usually worked until my dad really needed it to work, then it would decline to start. That usually happened on one of those Canadian arctic winter mornings. The car would decline to "turn over." On those mornings, I was happy that my father's car wouldn't start because I knew my grandfather would be coming with his car to pull my dad's with a chain until it started or they got to the repair garage, whichever came first. My grandfather was a joker and was a great favorite with me. One morning their plan of pulling my dad's car didn't work out so well, when a link in the chain my grandfather brought snapped. Unaccountably, the two of them speculated that the cold did it. It would be one of those legendary stories of the Canadian winter, "It was so cold that winter! Remember how we snapped that chain trying to pull the car?"

 

In any case, a chain with a broken link was as useless as none at all. The car was going nowhere since they were unable to tow it until it started (remember standard transmissions?). Christian theology is something like my grandfather's chain. Break one link and the whole thing becomes in operative. The Christian teaching is not made up of discrete and separate bits and pieces to be mixed and matched according to our whims. The theology of the church is a unity that is to be held whole and undefiled (Athanasian Creed) by the faithful. The faith of the church is not a do-it-yourself project.

 

The church believes that the one who died is the Son of God. This is no more likely than that the one who died also rose, ascended to the right hand of God, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. This is no more likely than that He who is the second person of the holy Trinity is but one God and not three gods. This is no more likely than poor sinners being redeemed by the blood of one man poured out on a remote hill through a grotesque execution. Doubt about one is doubt of the others. It is like setting up dominoes in one of those crescendos of collapse. The first domino tapped over knocks over the whole serpentine construction. Modern Christian theologians have attempted to deny the divinity of the Son and somehow hold the Christian faith. What does not hang together, falls together.

 

John Cassian

 

"By denying that Jesus Christ the Son of God is one, you have denied everything. For the order of the mysteries of the Church and the catholic faith is such that one who denies one portion of the sacred mystery cannot confess the other. For all parts of it are so bound up and united together that one cannot stand without the other and if a man denies one point out of the whole number, it is of no use for him to believe all the others. And so if you deny that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, the result is that in denying the Son of God you deny the Father also. For as St. John says: 'No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also' (1Jn 2:23). By denying Him who was begotten, you deny also Him who begat. By denying also that the Son of God was born in the flesh, you are led also to deny that He was born in the Spirit. For it is the same person who was born in the flesh who was first born in the Spirit. If you do not believe that He was born in the flesh, the result is that you do not believe that He suffered. If you do not believe in His passion, what remains for you but to deny His resurrection? For faith in one raised springs out of faith in one dead. Nor can the reference to the resurrection keep its place, unless belief in His death has first preceded it. By denying then his suffering and death, you deny also his resurrection from the dead. It follows certainly that you deny His ascension also, for there cannot be the ascension without the resurrection. If we do not believe that He rose again, we cannot either believe that He ascended either, as the Apostle says, 'He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens.' (Eph 4:10). Thus, if the Lord Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, nor ascend into heaven, nor sit at the right hand of God the Father, nor will He come on the day of judgment which we look for, nor will He judge the living and the dead." 

 

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 6.17
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have revealed Yourself as the God who died for us sinners. Grant us the power to confess You and the fullness of Your person and work. Thwart the demonic devices that would delimit Your ability to be God for us. Free us from all delusion and keep us steadfast in Your divine Word. Amen.

 

For Anita Markwardt, that she would be strengthened in her body and soul by the gifts of the Lord's body and blood

 

For Jessica Webber and her unborn child, that they would be kept safe in childbirth and that the child would be kept safe until baptism

 

For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that he would be faithful to the whole and undefiled Christian faith

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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