Up the Down Escalator
Friday of Pentecost 4
17 June 2016
For all of Augustine of Hippo's flowery ascent talk, in which he speaks of the soul rising to the beatific vision of seeing God face to face, he remains solidly planted in the incarnation and flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. For Augustine no ascent to God is possible except through the One who came down from heaven and was born of the Virgin Mary. In this way, ascent really is descent to the Lord who comes to be one of us. To ascend is to go down where the Lord is among the lowly, downtrodden, suffering, and dying. We are going up the down escalator. This is part and parcel of seeing the "back side" of God, so that in Christ's weakness we comprehend His glory. The flesh of Christ bears the divinity of the Son that God might not be bare.
 
The very flesh of Christ is the purveyor of salvation and justification through His bodily resurrection. That which faith grasps is the fleshly body of the resurrected Lord. This is why Augustine calls it the reward of our faith. It is not faith's reward, because faith is meritorious, but because it grasps the living Lord and in that way participates in His resurrected life. The Passover of Christ becomes for Augustine a "passing by" of the shading hand of God, that by not seeing we see (cf. Mt 13:13). No one has seen except the one who has the blinding hand of God thrust upon his face. Again God upsets our mental apple cart by telling us that only the blind see (Mt 9:27).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"In the flesh itself, faith in His resurrection saves and justifies us. For, 'If you believe,' Paul says, 'in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.' (Rm 10:9); and again, 'Who was delivered,' he says, 'for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification' (Rm 4:25). So the reward of our faith is the resurrection of the body of our Lord.
 
"For even His enemies believe that that flesh died on the cross of His passion, but they do not believe it to have risen again. Believing this most firmly, we gaze upon it as from the solidity of a rock: from which we wait with certain hope for the adoption; the redemption of our body (Rm 8:23); because we hope for that in the members of Christ, that is, in ourselves, which by a sound faith we acknowledge to be perfect in Him as in our Head. So it is that He would not have His back parts seen except as He passed by, that His resurrection may be believed. For that which is Pascha in Hebrew, is translated Passover [or a 'passing by']. As John the Evangelist also says, 'Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father' (Jn 13:1)."

Augustine, 
On the Trinity, 2.17
Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You give sight to the blind that those who do not see might see. Grant that through Your Passover in the flesh we might know and experience Your life in the resurrection. Amen.
 
For Sylvia Franzmeier, who is suffering with post-shingles pain, that the holy angels would attend her and the Lord Jesus grant her the gift of relief
 
For James Weaver, who will be undergoing surgery today, that the Lord Christ would bring him through safely
 
For Joy Campbell, who is near death, that the Lord would bring her to Himself in heaven, where she can behold him face to face
 
For military personnel in the Middle East, that they would be kept safe as they carry out their duties
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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