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Deuteronomy

12:1-7

  

"These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you." (ESV)

 

A New Testament Presentation

Tuesday of Pentecost 5

30 June 2015

Equipping an army is an expensive proposition. In ancient times the nobility would either provide whole squadrons at their own expense or equip another, if they didn't have the manpower or training. In the fourth century B.C., the famous Athenian navy was built almost entirely by subscription. Similar practices must have prevailed in the way in which the Byzantine war machine was equipped at the time of John Chrysostom. War horses must have been offered by Constantinople's rich for use by cavalry squadrons. The person who offered a war horse to a cavalry officer for use in war has very little expectation that the horse will ever be returned. Horses died in war at a rate exceeding even that of men. The offering of the horse must be complete.

 

Our life of spiritual sacrifice is a glorious way of life, in which we offer our redeemed and renewed fleshly members into the service of Christ our Lord. This glorious life of self-sacrifice can be lived when we know our members have been presented to God. When Paul says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rm 12:1), the verb "to present" is adopted from the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. When sacrificial animals were brought for burnt offerings the person who offered the animal "presented" it. This presentation implied a full and complete offering; that it was to be consumed completely on the altar in the sight of God.

 

The spiritual offering of ourselves is likewise to be complete. When called to account for the hope that is in us, we are to offer our tongues into the service of Christ's gospel by bridling them unto God's purpose to bless and not to curse. When our neighbor has need of our service our hands are presented to God by helping to carry furniture on moving day. When a friend or coworker is struggling with spiritual problems, we dedicate our ears to listening to his trouble. This is our priestly service, to use our fleshly members as offerings that though they are used fully are not fully consumed and remain for continuous service. This kind of dying has a wonderful outcome. We are not consumed by it but live, and more than live. In the Old Testament what was offered for a burnt offering was lost by being completely consumed on the altar. The offering of our members returns to us our flesh into greater life and greater service. This is the shape of the Christian life into which Christ led us by dying and rising again to life.

 

Christ himself has cleansed this flesh unto these sacrificial purposes. This is the flesh of the Virgin Mary. This is the flesh by which bore all the weaknesses and burdens of humanity. This is the flesh which was crucified for us sinners. This is the flesh which we return now in service to Christ by serving our neighbor. This is the offering which He accepts and wholly returns to us holy. On the altar of the New Testament the fire does not consume, but refines. How could it be any different? For this is the flesh which He has cleansed by taking it. This is no loss, but what is offered is returned again and again for our use, for service to the neighbor, and to the glory of Christ, whose flesh we share.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship' (Rm 12:1). Paul does not say, make your bodies a sacrifice, but "present" them, as if he meant you should have no more interest in them. You have given them up to another. For even those who furnish (present) war-horses for use in battle have no further interest in them. You too have presented your members for the war against the devil and for that fearful battle. Do not use them for selfish uses.

 

"Paul shows another thing from this, that one must make them approved, if one means to present them. For it is not to any mortal being that we present them, but to God, the King of the universe; not to war only, but to have them settled on the King Himself. For He does not refuse even to be settled upon our members, but even greatly desires it. The Lord of angels chooses to do what no earthly king, who is but our fellow-servant, would ever choose to do. The sacrifice of our members is both to be presented (i.e. for the King's use) and is a sacrifice."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 20
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You have taken our flesh of the Virgin Mary that you might return them to us as right offerings in Your presence. By our baptism plunge us into Your crucifixion and glorious new life by Your resurrection. Help us to put to death our flesh by priestly service that we might present our members to You for Your use. Show us that such dying is the only way to live. Amen.

 

For Yvonne Menard and Margaret Peddycoart, that Jesus the Lord would grant them the healing they need

 

For those who are struggling with shame and guilt and are unable to approach the throne of grace, that we who are God's people and live in the divine mercy might welcome them with open arms

 

For those who seek work, that the Lord would grant labor useful to the neighbor to each of them

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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