Desire for Blood
Monday of Epiphany 1
8 January 2018
Blood sports are repulsive to civilized folk like us. Right? Occasionally, people repelled by bull fighting will campaign to have it banned in Mexico and Spain. We are horrified by the primeval desire for the shedding of blood that such blood sports represent. Yet, even in the sedate Western world, there seems to be an increase in the desire for shed blood. Dog fighting has been growing as an example of morally degraded blood sports in the United States.
The pious nineteenth-century Victorians thought they had stamped out blood lust among humans coming of age in a time of rationality and science, "We're beyond all that!" A resurgence of blood lust was unthinkable in such a time. Yet blood lust growled just on the horizon of human consciousness waiting to pounce upon humans not yet freed from their degraded and sinful character. The mad philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (d. 1900) was the prophet of the degraded age to come. The twentieth century witnessed the bloody slaughter of more persons than all previous centuries combined. Blood sport is not dead by a long shot. Hundreds of millions of persons were sacrificed upon the altar of political expedience and the blood-stained manias of dictators intent upon enforcing their will upon others. Blood lust boils just below our thin skin. Paganism gave an outlet for this lust in the sacrifices that were performed in their temples.
Perhaps you are angry with me for saying this. You consider yourself beyond falling for such depravity as blood sports. But perhaps we hate and condemn most viciously what lurks nearest the surface of our own perversity. Paul warns us, "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man" (1Co 10:12-13). You have been restrained only by the very thin patina of civilization that externally condemns such things. We should not get too puffed up about this. In the last few days I listened to a review about recent films, and while I usually ignore these reviews, my ears pricked up when the reviewer extolled the realism of the violence in several recent movies. He piously said that they were rightly given "R" ratings, yet were great films. Why? Because of the great plots? No. Because the stories had redeeming value for revealing the human condition? No. The realism of the bloody gore in the flicks. That's it. Just blood. Ah, so we are over the blood lust, are we?
Our lust for blood is a warning and a lesson. It warns of our depravity, but also instructs about the moral shape of the universe in which God has placed us. All lust is a perversion of a true blessing from God. Sexual lust perverts marital love. Lust for blood perverts the blood of the testament given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. Blood payment is woven into reality. Sin demands the shedding of blood. The writer to the Hebrews says, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb 9:22). Christ has given the blood of the testament to us to wean us from our bloody lust. There is something to be said for just blood. It is Christ's. It was shed for us on the cross of Calvary. It is given to us in the cup of blessing that we bless. We should passionately desire the blood that gives us communion with Christ.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ" (1Co 10:16)?
"What are you saying, O blessed Paul? When you appeal to the hearer's reverence, when mentioning awful mysteries, do you give the title of 'cup of blessing' to that fearful and most tremendous cup? 'Yes,' says he, 'and no mean title is that which was spoken. For when I call it 'blessing,' I mean thanksgiving, and when I call it thanksgiving I unfold all the treasure of God's goodness, and call to mind those mighty gifts.' Since we too, while recounting over the cup the unspeakable mercies of God and all that we have been made partakers of, draw near to Him, and commune. We give Him thanks that He has delivered from error the whole race of humanity; that while being far off, He brought them near. When they had no hope and were without God in the world, He made them His own brothers and fellow-heirs. For these and all such things, we give thanks, as we approach. So, Paul is saying, 'How then are you Corinthians not inconsistent; blessing God for delivering you from idols, yet running again to their tables?'
"'The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?' Very persuasively he spoke, engendering awe. For what he says is this, 'This which is in the cup is that which flowed from Christ's side, and of that we partake.' But he called it a cup of blessing, because holding it in our hands, we so exalt Him in our hymn, wondering, astonished at His unspeakable gift, blessing Him, among other things. What is in the cup is poured out that we might not abide in error, and not only for pouring it out, but also for the imparting of it to us all. 'Therefore, if you desire blood,' He is saying, 'redden not the altar of idols with the slaughter of brute beasts, but Christ's altar with His blood.'
"Tell me, what can be more tremendous than this? What more tenderly kind? Lovers do this. When they see those whom they love desiring what belongs to strangers and despising their own, they give what belongs to themselves, and so persuade them to withdraw themselves from the gifts of others. Lovers, however, display this liberality in goods and money and garments, but never in blood. Whereas Christ especially here exhibited His care and fervent love for us. And in the Old Testament, because they were in an imperfect state, the blood which they might have offered to idols He Himself submitted to receive, that He might separate them from those idols. This very thing again was a proof of His unspeakable affection. But in the New Testament, He transferred the service to that which is far more awe inspiring and glorious, changing the very sacrifice itself, and instead of the slaughter of irrational creatures, offered up Himself." 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 24.3
1 Corinthians 10:14-33

Flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience- I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have given us Your blood upon the altars of our churches. Grant that we might seek to drink of Your cup of blessing that we might receive the forgiveness which You have promised in that cup. Free us from the lust that boils away the peace that comes from You. Though we have not deserved this gift, do not, we beseech You, take the cup of Your blood from us. Amen.
For Barb Dube, who is recovering from a lung transplant, that the Lord would grant her continued healing
For the catechumens of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they might grow in faith and knowledge
For those who suffer depression at the end of the Christmas season because they do not know the meaning of Christ's incarnation for them, that the Lord Jesus would be proclaimed to them as their Savior
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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