Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Tale Of Two Gardens





 Genesis 3: 1-24

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”


To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
    and he shall rule over you.”


And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”


The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.


Luke 24: 1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.


In the first Garden, Adam's sin put man at enmity with God, and subjected the whole of creation to 'its bondage to corruption' (Romans 8:21).  Adam's dominion over the 'birds of the air' and 'the beasts of the earth' tainted by the Fall, which produced death and not life, as subsequent generations grew old and died coming under Adam's federal headship.   Named as 'children of wrath', we were born once to die twice, first from natural death, secondly from God's eternal judgment ('the second death') poured out on those 'in Adam'.  

However, in the second Garden, where Christ's tomb was located, Christ was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit for our justification that brought us peace with God.  When by grace through faith, we were placed under the care and Lordship of Christ, death lost its power over us.  Born from above in our baptism, we were gifted with a new name that removed the inheritance of Adam, and seated us in heavenly places where all 'sorrow and sighing shall flee away' (Isaiah 51:11).  This new name is "the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven" that identifies us as Christ's children who are promised an eternal inheritance 'imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you' (1 Peter 1:4).  Named 'in Christ', we were born twice to die only once, and then to live forever and ever in the midst of the glory of God.  In the name of Christ.  Amen.

 


 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece

File:Mathis Gothart Grünewald 019.jpg

Good Friday = The Day of the Lord




 


Ezekiel 32: 7-8

When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens
    and make their stars dark;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
    and the moon shall not give its light.All the bright lights of heaven
    will I make dark over you,
    and put darkness on your land,
declares the Lord God.


Matthew 27: 45-54

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
 
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”


Colossians 2: 13-15

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.


The "Day of the Lord" is a term used in the prophetic texts of the Old Testament to describe a coming day of God's judgment. In the Old Testament reading from Ezekiel, it refers specifically to God's verdict on Pharoah, where God condemns Pharoah for his pridefulness and his idolatry with other gods; in a future tense, 'the day of the Lord' points to Christ's second coming, his 'parousia', where he will return to 'judge the living and the dead' and to separate his sheep from the goats.  

Often "the day of the Lord" in the Bible points to apocalyptic scenes of destruction and death, but if we look at our reading from Matthew, it also points to eternal life: God the Father pouring out judgment on His Son, standing in our place, for the sake of the entire world.  On the cross, Jesus Christ was forsaken for us,  as the entire weight of our sin was placed on him and he bore the guilty verdict we deserved so that we could go free.  Jesus is our propitiation, as he turned away God's wrath from us, and placed it squarely on him, like the scapegoat described by Moses, used on the Day of Atonement, on which Israel's sins were placed before it was driven into the wilderness.

However, there was another judgment that was delivered on the cross.  Not only Christ was forsaken, but the powers of death, sin and Satan were 'disarmed', as St. Paul writes in his epistle, in the act of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice that fulfilled what Genesis 3:15 had promised.  As Christ paid the debt for sin, he cancelled the law's death sentence standing over us, and Satan's dominion over us, reverting the fall committed by Adam so we can approach God as his blameless children, whose sins God has promised to remember no more.  The cross is therefore the second Tree of Life that has reconciled man and God, whereas the first Tree broke that relationship, as St. Paul writes in Romans 5,


Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ambrose on Baptism I








 from Ambrose's "On The Mysteries":


What did you see? Water, certainly, but not water alone; you saw the deacons ministering there, and the bishop asking questions and hallowing. First of all, the Apostle taught you that those things are not to be considered “which we see, but the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” For you read elsewhere: “That the invisible things of God, since the creation of the world, are understood through those things which have been made; His eternal power also and Godhead are estimated by His works.”Wherefore also the Lord Himself says: “If ye believe not Me, believe at least the works." Believe, then, that the presence of the Godhead is there. Do you believe the working, and not believe the presence? Whence should the working proceed unless the presence went before?
Consider, however, how ancient is the mystery prefigured even in the origin of the world itself. In the very beginning, when God made the heaven and the earth, “the Spirit,” it is said, “moved upon the waters.” He Who was moving upon the waters, was He not working upon the waters? But why should I say, “working”? As regards His presence He was moving. Was He not working Who was moving? Recognize that He was working in that making of the world, when the prophet says: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their strength by the spirit of His mouth.” Each statement rests upon the testimony of the prophet, both that He was moving and that He was working. Moses says that He was moving, David testifies that he was working.

Take another testimony. All flesh was corrupt by its iniquities. “My Spirit,” says God, “shall not remain among men, because they are flesh.” Whereby God shows that the grace of the Spirit is turned away by carnal impurity and the pollution of grave sin. Upon which, God, willing to restore what was lacking, sent the flood and bade just Noah go up into the ark. And he, after having, as the flood was passing off, sent forth first a raven which did not return, sent forth a dove which is said to have returned with an olive twig. You see the water, you see the wood [of the ark], you see the dove, and do you hesitate as to the mystery?

The water, then, is that in which the flesh is dipped, that all carnal sin may be washed away. All wickedness is there buried. The wood is that on which the Lord Jesus was fastened when He suffered for us. The dove is that in the form of which the Holy Spirit descended, as you have read in the New Testament, Who inspires in you peace of soul and tranquillity of mind. The raven is the figure of sin, which goes forth and does not return, if, in you, too, inwardly and outwardly righteousness be preserved.

There is also a third testimony, as the Apostle teaches us: “For all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” And further, Moses himself says in his song: “Thou sentest Thy Spirit, and the sea covered them.”You observe that even then holy baptism was prefigured in that passage of the Hebrews, wherein the Egyptian perished, the Hebrew escaped. For what else are we daily taught in this sacrament but that guilt is swallowed up and error done away, but that virtue and innocence remain unharmed?

You hear that our fathers were under the cloud, and that a kindly cloud, which cooled the heat of carnal passions. That kindly cloud overshadows those whom the Holy Spirit visits. At last it came upon the Virgin Mary, and the Power of the Highest overshadowed her, when she conceived Redemption for the race of men. And that miracle was wrought in a figure through Moses. If, then, the Spirit was in the figure, is He not present in the reality, since Scripture says to us: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

 Marah was a fountain of most bitter water: Moses cast wood into it and it became sweet.For water without the preaching of the Cross of the Lord is of no avail for future salvation, but, after it has been consecrated by the mystery of the saving cross, it is made suitable for the use of the spiritual laver and of the cup of salvation. As, then, Moses, that is, the prophet, cast wood into that fountain, so, too, the priest utters over this font the proclamation of the Lord’s cross, and the water is made sweet for the purpose of grace.

You must not trust, then, wholly to your bodily eyes; that which is not seen is more really seen, for the object of sight is temporal, but that other eternal, which is not apprehended by the eye, but is discerned by the mind and spirit.

Lastly, let the lessons lately gone through from the Kings teach you. Naaman was a Syrian, and suffered from leprosy, nor could he be cleansed by any. Then a maiden from among the captives said that there was a prophet in Israel, who could cleanse him from the defilement of the leprosy. And it is said that, having taken silver and gold, he went to the king of Israel. And he, when he heard the cause of his coming, rent his clothes, saying, that occasion was rather being sought against him, since things were asked of him which pertained not to the power of kings. Elisha, however, sent word to the king, that he should send the Syrian to him, that he might know there was a God in Israel. And when he had come, he bade him dip himself seven times in the river Jordan.

Then he began to reason with himself that he had better waters in his own country, in which he had often bathed and never been cleansed of his leprosy; and so remembering this, he did not obey the command of the prophet, yet on the advice and persuasion of his servants he yielded and dipped himself. And being forthwith cleansed, he understood that it is not of the waters but of grace that a man is cleansed.

Understand now who is that young maid among the captives. She is the congregation gathered out of the Gentiles, that is, the Church of God held down of old by the captivity of sin, when as yet it possessed not the liberty of grace, by whose counsel that foolish people of the Gentiles heard the word of prophecy as to which it had before been in doubt. Afterwards, however, when they believed that it ought to be obeyed, they were washed from every defilement of sin. And he indeed doubted before he was healed; you are already healed, and therefore ought not to doubt.