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2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10


 

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (ESV)

 

 

 

 

Closer If He Comes Here

Monday of Epiphany 4

3 February 2014

Every religion teaches that humans should seek some kind of union with the divine. This union is inevitably accomplished through human effort. In religions of mystical union the practitioner seeks to meld into god through meditation, ascending on a ladder of contemplation, so that the person loses himself and is lost in god. In religions of action, the believer attempts to follow the pattern set by the god through a legal code, which, when followed, makes the believer increasingly god-like in his character. This is doing good to be good. His actions lead up the ladder, approaching to god more closely at every step. However, since these methods of union with god depend on human effort, they will never accomplish their lofty goals. This ladder of ascent is much more like a greased May pole which the local beaus try to climb to little avail, slipping to the bottom in attempt after repeated attempt to conquer the pinnacle. Humans remain at the bottom of the ladder of ascent no matter how hard they try to levitate themselves upward.

 

When I was a child, I was something of a smart-aleck. If a friend would say, "Come here. I want to show you something." I would shoot back, "No, you come here. It's closer." Of course, this was nonsense. It was only easier for me if my friend came to me. It is closer if God comes to us. It is easier for us, because if He does not come to us, we will never get to Him. The God of Jesus Christ has defied the conventional method of human ascent to God. Just as the religion of Israel was ever and always a brash rejection of the pagan religion of the ancient near east, so Christianity has decisively rejected the pagan tendency to treat religion as an upward ascent of humans into union with god. Instead of ascending to God, the God of Jesus Christ has descended to us humans.

 

How does God come among us then, turning the ladder of ascent into a down escalator? Christ becomes incarnate of the Virgin Mary and is made man. He becomes man that man might be fully united with God. All our scrambling up the May pole of human efforts or works is made foolish and unnecessary by the condescension of God in Christ becoming man. Our plans are brought to naught. God is united with man that man might be united with God. While we are flailing away attempting to be god-like, God has become man. What foolish and misplaced effort we expend when trying to conquer the ladder of ascent. It is sometimes said that Christians are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good. We can be so heavenly-minded that we miss the enfleshment of God. Have your head in the clouds and look up into the sky if you wish, but you will miss seeing the spectacle of the Son of God made man for us men and for our salvation. It is closer if He comes here.

 

John Cassian

 

"How is Christ proclaimed in Holy Scripture to be God without beginning, if by our own confession the Lord's manhood did not exist before His birth and conception of a Virgin? How can we read of so close a union of man and God, as to make it appear that man was ever co-eternal with God, and that afterwards God suffered with man, whereas we cannot believe that man can be without beginning or that God can suffer? God being joined to manhood, that is, to His own body, does not allow any separation to be made in men's thoughts between man and God. Nor will He permit anyone to hold that there is one person of the Son of man, and another person of the Son of God. But in all the Holy Scriptures He joins together and as it were incorporates in the Godhead, the Lord's manhood, so that no one can sever man from God in time, nor God from man at His passion. For if you regard Him in time, you will find that the Son of man is ever with the Son of God. If you take note of His passion, you will find that the Son of God is ever with the Son of man, and that Christ the Son of man and the Son of God is so one and indivisible, that, in the language of Holy Scripture, the man cannot be severed in time from God, nor God from man at His passion.

 

'No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man' (Jn  3:13). The Son of God while He was speaking on earth testified that the Son of man was in heaven: and testified that the same Son of man, who, He said, would ascend into heaven, had previously come down from heaven. 'What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?' (Jn 6:62). Here He gives the name of Him who was born of man, but affirms that He ever was upon high. The Apostle, when considering what happened in time, says that all things were made by Christ. For he says, 'There is one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things' (1Co 8:6). But when speaking of His passion, he shows that the Lord of glory was crucified. 'For if,' he says, 'they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.' (1Co 2:8) And so too the [Nicene] Creed speaking of the only and first-begotten Lord Jesus Christ, 'very God of very God, being of one substance with the Father, and the maker of all things,' affirms that He was born of the Virgin and crucified and afterwards buried. Thus joining in one body (as it were) the Son of God and of man, and uniting God and man, so that there can be no severance either in time or at the passion, since the Lord Jesus Christ is shown to be one and the same person, both as God through all eternity, and as man through the endurance of His passion; and though we cannot say that man is without beginning or that God is passible, yet in the one person of the Lord Jesus Christ we can speak of man as eternal, and of God as dead. You see then that Christ means the whole person, and that the name represents both natures, for both man and God are born, and so it takes in the whole Person so that when this name is used we see that no part is left out. There was not then before the birth of a Virgin the same eternity belonging in the past to the manhood as to the divinity, but because divinity was united to manhood in the womb of the Virgin, it follows that when we use the name of Christ one cannot be spoken of without the other." 

 

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 6.20
 

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

For Ileene Robinson, that the Lord would grant her healing and a full recovery

 

For all those who lament their sins, that they might also be comforted by the forgiveness of sins

 

For Pastors, who will lead their people, that they would be strengthened in their faith and confession through receiving in faith what they themselves are preaching

 

For all marriages, that they might be strengthened through the love of Christ

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

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