God Does What We Need
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor
7 October 2016
Drawing near to God through human flesh sounds impossible. Flesh and spirit are diametrically opposed to each other, aren't they? Flesh is where sin resides; spirit the vehicle by which God dwells among us. It would be altogether reasonable to assume that flesh cannot convey the spirit. In fact, many intellectual movements and systems of thought (such as Platonism), both inside and outside the church, have argued precisely this way.
 
Most memorably for Lutherans, was the contention of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) that "God does not need a cart," which undergirded his denial of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the holy Supper. In other words, the spirit has no need of a fleshly vehicle. No, God does not "need" one as though being under some external compulsion. But out of sheer love and compassion for us poor creatures of flesh and blood, has used flesh to convey His royal presence to us through the incarnation of His Son. The Lutheran insistence on the means of grace conveying the divine and eternal gifts of God is risible to human reason. Madame Reason says that the flesh cannot convey God. Yet, this is the life-giving contention of John's Gospel, "the Word became flesh." God does not do what we think He needs, He does what He thinks we need!
 
The Word's becoming flesh gives meaning to the whole world. The work of God to save through the incarnation means that both world and flesh are at God's disposal to use as He sees fit to save. Hilary of Poitiers saw all of Scripture as the witness to the saving work of God in the incarnation. As He considers the mystery of the holy Trinity everything begins with the Word becoming flesh. Even our mental vision will be opened to the great mysteries of God through the faith that "the Word became flesh and dwelt for a while among us" (Jn 1:14). We will only understand as we let God reveal to faith what we need to receive from Him.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"This lesson in the divine mysteries [about the incarnation] was gladly welcomed by my soul, now drawing near through the flesh to God, called to new birth through faith, entrusted with liberty and power to win the heavenly regeneration, conscious of the love of its Father and Creator, sure that He would not annihilate a creature whom He had summoned out of nothing into life. And it could estimate how high are these truths above the mental vision of man; for reason, which deals with the common objects of thought, can conceive of nothing as existent beyond what it perceives within itself or can create out of itself.
 
"My soul measured the mighty workings of God, wrought on the scale of His eternal omnipotence, not by its own powers of perception but by a boundless faith; and therefore refused to disbelieve, because it could not understand, that God was in the beginning with God, and that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but bore in mind the truth that with the will to believe would come the power to understand."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 1.12
Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.  As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!  Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, by becoming flesh of Mary, you have done what we need. Give us the faith to understand Your saving work as Your condescension to us poor creatures of flesh and blood. Amen.
 
For all those suffering inclement weather, that they might be kept safe by God
 
For the many subscribers of Memorial Moment, that they might be fed by the Word of God
 
For Bill Heine who is ill, that he would be under the watchful care of the holy angels
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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