For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.(ESV)
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Glory Hidden and Revealed
Thursday of Advent 1
3 December 2015
The glory of the church is always hidden, just as the cross hides the glory of Christ. In that hiding the glory of Christ is revealed to the world. The weakness of the man hung upon the cross shows the divine glory. This is the way of the disciples of Christ also. The church's glory is the cross, her glory is in the cross, and the glory of her weakness is that in her the cross is revealed. We should not be offended by her weakness any more than we are offended by the weakness of our Lord on the cross. We are to take up our cross and follow Him. Why should we be shocked that the church is cross-shaped in her daily life? Although they do not appear glorious as they wend their homeward way, the faithful are being fitted for the ultimate glory through the glorious weakness of the church. The world mocks the children of the church as insignificant and unimportant and yet the Lord gives them exalted names, titles, and offices. They are royal priests, a holy nation, His own possession, kings, judges, and the precious to the Lord. These are the titles and names with which the Lord addresses His own children. And why shouldn't He? He is the King, the high priest, the judge of all, and our most precious possession. Shouldn't the children also share in the father's honors and titles? Do not princes inherit the name king and their father's throne?
Our experience of the cross in the world will always need to be interpreted by God's Word. For our glory as the King's children is always hidden under the shadow of the cross. "The cross alone is our theology," as Martin Luther says. It gives meaning to all that we suffer. The suffering itself we will never understand. Think of the last time you had blood tests done. The technician said, "This will pinch for a second." And the needle stick is no worse than an insect sting. We would slap down the insect that bites us and then complain about the pain. We only understand the pain of the blood test because we know what it's for. The doctor tells us. The technician reassures us. So it is with the cross. Only the good Physician of soul and body is able to tell us what the stings of human suffering really mean. Only then can we suffer rightly under the shadow of God suffering in the crucified Christ.
Since the church is people; people redeemed by precious blood, that is the most valuable possession of the church and her most precious resource. I attended a wonderful Lutheran funeral for a dear friend over the weekend. What's wonderful about a funeral? At a funeral the meaning of suffering, life, death, the cross, and the glory of the life to come become clear. The church sings to the highest heaven the glorious hymns of her faith. She extols the power of the Christ to save. In the weakness of death she confesses the power of life. She knows that the faithful buried with Christ in baptism will rise to newness of life when He returns to call us from the grave to be with Him forever. The church calls the faithful to see the glory which is hidden and revealing that same glory.
"Hear God shouting to His people, which once were few and scattered and miserable, and have now become many, pressed together and enviable, 'Go through My gates (Is 62:10
) and be enlarged. Must you always be in trouble and dwell in tents, while those who trouble you rejoice exceedingly?' To the guardian angels, for I believe, as John teaches me in his Revelation, that each church has its guardian (Rev 2:1
), He says, 'Prepare the way of My people, and cast away the stones from the way (Is 62:10
), that there might be no stumbling block or hindrance for the people (Is 62:10
) in the divine road and entrance to the temples made with hands (Acts 7:48
). But soon after I will take you to Jerusalem above (Gal 4:26
), and the holy of holies there (Heb 9:3, 24
), which will be the end of suffering and struggle for those who here bravely travel on the way. Among these you are also called to be saints (Rm 1:6
), a people of God's possession, a royal priesthood (1Pt 2:9
), the most excellent portion of the Lord, a whole river from a drop, a heavenly lamp from a spark, a tree from a grain of mustard seed (Mt 13:31
), in which the birds come and lodge.
"These people we present to you, dear shepherds, these we offer you, with these we welcome our friends, guests, and fellow pilgrims. We have nothing fairer or more splendid to offer you, for we have selected the greatest of all our possessions, that you may see that, strangers as we are, we are not in want, and though poor are making many rich (2Co 6:10). If these are small and unworthy of notice, I would like to learn what is greater and more important."
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 42.9-10
O God, by the patient suffering of Your only-begotten Son on the cross You have beaten down the pride of the old enemy and revealed Your glory. Now help us, we humbly pray, rightly to treasure in our hearts all that our Lord has of His goodness borne for our sake that following His blessed example we may bear with all patience all that is adverse to us and then to learn the meaning of our suffering in Your Word; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For those grieving the violence and death wreaked in California yesterday, that there would be peace from Christ the Lord of life
For Trudy Kallus, who is gravely ill, that she might know Christ as her resurrection and her life
For God's people at Memorial Lutheran Church as they conclude the capital campaign, A Memorial for the People
For families struggling to keep their marriages strong and together, that they would receive strength from the God who has joined them together by His Word
Art: VOUET, Simon Annunciation (1640s)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015