"Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. "Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' or 'Your work has no handles'? Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?' or to a woman, 'With what are you in labor?'"
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: "Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward," says the LORD of hosts.
Thus says the LORD: "The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: 'Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.'"
Truly, you are a God who hides yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior. All of them are put to shame and confounded; the makers of idols go in confusion together. But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): "I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain.' I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right.(ESV)
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Monday of Pentecost 19
5 October 2015
We struggle to believe that the Child who is born of Mary in the stable of Bethlehem could also be the eternal Son of God and Creator of all that is (Jn 1:3
). How is it that the suckling Child could be the maker of the mother who brings Him nourishment? What does it mean that such a One is nourished on created things at all? If we stumble on our way into the stable, there is nothing in the faith that will not cause us to stumble. The life of the incarnate Christ is full of such anomalies. The whole plan of salvation partakes of glorious weakness, in which as a man, Christ is subject to the same burdens we bear, and as God, completely overcomes such burdens. All this is done for us, that we might be freed from sin and its horrible results.
If we stumble at the stable door, we will stumble all through His life in which, He who made fine wine out of water, cries out for thirst, He who needs no forgiveness is baptized, He who sleeps walks on water, and He who cannot die dies. Gregory of Nazianzus gives us an extensive list of such things from Holy Scripture. This list was all calculated to demonstrate that Christ was of two natures, human and divine. The person of Christ was both weak and susceptible to suffering is also powerful and could overcome human suffering in His person.
Everything that Jesus does for our salvation is a strong weakness. The birth of the baby at Bethlehem is not more or less likely than His suffering on the cross. The predication to God of birth and death are equally jarring to our ears. The mind is boggled at Golgotha and at the stable. Only the divine gift of faith digests such leaps, such irreconcilable acts in a single person, the person of God's Son born of Mary. If you are stumbling at the stable, you haven't seen anything yet.
Gregory of Nazianzus
"Christ was baptized as man, but He remitted sins as God (Mt 3:13; 9:6
). He was baptized, not because He needed to undergo purification rites Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water. He was tempted as man, but He conquered as God. Yes, He bids us to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world (Jn 16:33
). He hungered, but He fed thousands (Mt 16:9
). He is the bread that gives life and is from heaven. He thirsted, but He cried, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink' (Jn 7:37
). Yes, He promised that fountains should flow from those who believe (Jn 7:38
). He was wearied, but He is the rest of those who are weary and heavy laden (Mt 11:28
). He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea (Mt 8:24
). He rebuked the winds and made Peter light as he began to sink (Mt 14:25-30
). He pays taxes, but it is out of a fish (Mt 17:24-27
) and yet He is the King of those who demanded it (Jn 19:19
). He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac (Jn 8:48
), but He saves him who came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves (Lk 10:30
). The demons acknowledge Him, yet He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits (Lk 8:28-33
), and He sees the prince of the demons falling like lightning (Lk 10:18
). He is stoned, but is not taken (Jn 10:31
). He prays, but He hears prayer. He weeps, but He causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God (Jn 11:43
"He is sold, and very cheaply, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:15), but He redeems the world, and at a great price, for the price was His own blood (1Pt 1:19). As a sheep He is led to the slaughter (Is 53:7), but He is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also. As a lamb He is silent (Is 53:7), yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Jn 1:23). He is bruised and wounded, but He heals every disease and every infirmity (Mt 9:35). He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life He restores us. Yes, He saved even the thief who was crucified with Him (Lk 23:43), but He wrapped the visible world in darkness (Lk 23:44). He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? The One who turned the water into wine (Jn 2:1-11), who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is sweetness and altogether desire (Song 5:16). He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again (Jn 10:18). The veil is torn, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise (Mt 27:51). He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death (1Co 15:26). He is buried, but He rises again; He goes down into hell. He ascends to heaven, and shall come again to judge the living and the dead, and to put to the test such words as yours."
Gregory Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, 20
Lord Jesus, form our mouths to say to the world that You, the weak God, are alone strong enough to redeem from sin and death. Bring us to the stable of our churches, there to see the dawning of our salvation and to prepare for Your return in glory, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For those who are grieving the passing of Marsha Johnson, that the Lord of all would give them the comfort
For President Barack Obama, that the Lord of all would grant him wisdom as he carried out his duties
For all who travel, that they might have safe travels and joyous homecomings
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015