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Archive for January, 2008

This morning’s Daily Office readings are from Genesis 14 – Lot’s capture and Abram’s rescue and then his encounter with Melchizedek the King of Salem – Hebrews 8 – Jesus is our High Priest who is sinless and who is in heaven – and John 4:43-54 – Jesus performs the second sign by healing the man’s son who is dying.

Melch is a mysterious figure. Salem was the ancient name of Jerusalem. He was uniquely and strangely a priest and a king. We don’t see this combination in anyone else until we consider the person of Christ and his present ministry. Hebrews 8 tells us that we have a high priest who is seated at the right hand of the Father – a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up. His ministry is not like the ministry of priests on earth who offer up gifts and sacrifices. Their ministry is a shadow of a reality a reality that Christ inhabits clearly and in actuality.

This has never occurred to me before. True reality exists in the presence of God. Real truth is what happens with God. The true tent – not the one made by man – is where God dwells and Jesus with him.

By Christ being man in the true tent, he is able to really and truly fellowship with God. He is able to really and truly be with God to enjoy him and worship him. In the garden of Eden, God came to visit man and truly and really be together with him. Because of disobedience and rebellion, Jesus is the first man to be able to do that with God since the fall. This makes his role as a priest all the more important. His intercessions are truly and really effective. His worship of the most high God is untarnished and pure. His love and joy are completed by being the presence of his father.

His vicarious mediation on our behalf is essential to our lives lived before God because we live in the darkness were it not for Christ’s mediation – through him we dwell in the light of God’s presence through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Rest

coffee1.jpgI’ve had this past week off. As I’m noticing is part of my tendency, I feel like I’ve spent my time badly because I haven’t ‘done’ more. I haven’t read a lot of books or sent a lot of emails. It’s rather annoying because I have done something I’ve needed to do and that is rest. I’ve slept, exercised, and been with my family. I did tie up some loose ends early in the week but it’s been a nice slow easy week. I’m grateful for the time away from  my responsibilities at work. It’s been nice to slow down and rest. To sleep in on this Sunday morning was really nice. I’m waking up, drinking coffee, reading some of my favorite blogs. Thank you Lord for time to slow down and lean back and exhale.

By God’s grace, I’ve also been very aware of his presence this week. I’ve needed to remember who I am and why I’m here. I’ve had moments of extreme gratitude and thankfulness. I need to be more grateful in my day to day life for the gifts that come my way.

I’ve also wrestled with the fact that it is easy for my identity to root itself deeply in what I do. This came home to me this week when I was tempted time and again to check email, to get involved in the day to day at the office, to stay connected with work.

I approach the world from a posture of doing, of working, of serving rather than from a posture of awe and wonder. I miss so many miracles along the way because my head is down, focused on some allegedly urgent task. Lord, let the life and words of Brother Lawrence form and shape me:

“Since we believe that God is always with us, no matter what we may be doing, why shouldn’t we stop for awhile to adore him, to praise Him, to petition Him, to offer Him our hearts and thank him” (Practicing… p. 62).

Grant me an inner peace that enables me to relinquish control from moment to moment and take notice of you, to stop and say, “I see you. I am your’s. Thank you.”

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anselm.jpgInsignificant man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.

Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.

And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.

Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your face.

What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from you? What shall your servant do, anxious in his love of you, and cast out far from your presence? He is breathless with desire to see you, and your face is too far from him. He longs to come to you, and your dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find you, but does not know where. He desires to seek you, and does not know your face.

Lord, you are my God, and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have made me and renewed me, you have given me all the good things that I have, and I have not yet met you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet done the thing for which I was made.

And as for you, Lord, how long? How long, O Lord, do you forget us; how long do you turn your face from us? When will you look upon us, and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes, and show us your face? When will you restore yourself to us?

Look upon us, Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal yourself to us. Restore yourself to us, that it may be well with us, yourself, without whom it is so ill with us. Pity our toilings and strivings toward you since we can do nothing without you.

Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

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From this article in First Things.

The history of the doctrine of salvation through faith has gone through a number of stages since the High Middle Ages. Using the New Testament as their basic text, the Church Fathers regarded faith in Christ and baptism as essential for salvation. On the basis of his study of the New Testament and Augustine, Thomas Aquinas held that explicit belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation was necessary for everyone who lived since the time of Christ, but he granted that in earlier times it was sufficient to believe explicitly in the existence and providence of God.

In the sixteenth century, theologians speculated that the unevangelized were in the same condition as pre-Christians and were not held to believe explicitly in Christ until the gospel was credibly preached to them. Pius IX and the Second Vatican Council taught that all who followed their conscience, with the help of the grace given to them, would be led to that faith that was necessary for them to be saved. During and after the council, Karl Rahner maintained that saving faith could be had without any definite belief in Christ or even in God.

We seem to have come full circle from the teaching of Paul and the New Testament that belief in the message of Christ is the source of salvation. Reflecting on this development, one can see certain gains and certain losses. The New Testament and the theology of the first millennium give little hope for the salvation of those who, since the time of Christ, have had no chance of hearing the gospel. If God has a serious salvific will for all, this lacuna needed to be filled, as it has been by theological speculation and church teaching since the sixteenth century. Modern theology, preoccupied with the salvation of non-Christians, has tended to neglect the importance of explicit belief in Christ, so strongly emphasized in the first centuries. It should not be impossible, however, to reconcile the two perspectives.

Scripture itself assures us that God has never left himself without a witness to any nation (Acts 14:17). His testimonies are marks of his saving dispensations toward all. The inner testimony of every human conscience bears witness to God as lawgiver, judge, and vindicator. In ancient times, the Jewish Scriptures drew on literature that came from Babylon, Egypt, and Greece. The Book of Wisdom and Paul’s Letter to the Romans speak of God manifesting his power and divinity through his works in nature. The religions generally promote prayer and sacrifice as ways of winning God’s favor. The traditions of all peoples contain elements of truth imbedded in their cultures, myths, and religious practices. These sound elements derive from God, who speaks to all his children through inward testimony and outward signs.

The universal evidences of the divine, under the leading of grace, can give rise to a rudimentary faith that leans forward in hope and expectation to further manifestations of God’s merciful love and of his guidance for our lives. By welcoming the signs already given and placing their hope in God’s redeeming love, persons who have not heard the tidings of the gospel may nevertheless be on the road to salvation. If they are faithful to the grace given them, they may have good hope of receiving the truth and blessedness for which they yearn.

The search, however, is no substitute for finding. To be blessed in this life, one must find the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, which is worth buying at the cost of everything one possesses. To Christians has been revealed the mystery hidden from past ages, which the patriarchs and prophets longed to know. By entering through baptism into the mystery of the cross and the Resurrection, Christians undergo a radical transformation that sets them unequivocally on the road to salvation. Only after conversion to explicit faith can one join the community that is nourished by the Word of God and the sacraments. These gifts of God, prayerfully received, enable the faithful to grow into ever greater union with Christ.

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1895.jpgA nugget by James Torrance in Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, p. 20-21:

The Trinitarian view of worship is that it is the gift of participating through the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father. It means participating in union with Christ, in what he has done for us once and for all, in his self offering to the Father, in his life and death on the cross. It also means participating in what he is continuing to do for us in the presence of the Father in his mission from the Father to the world. There is only one true Priest through whom and with whom we draw near to God our Father. There is only one Mediator between God and humanity.There is only one offering which is truly acceptable to God, and it is not ours. It is the offering by which he has sanctified for all time those who come to God by him (Heb 2:11; 10:10, 14). There is only one who can lead us into the presence of the Father by his sacrifice on the cross (emphasis mine).

I’ve been guilty of thinking that the worship experience relied on the worship leaders in the sense that the quality of the worship here what matters there before God. I’m not saying we don’t strive for excellence but even our most excellent offerings are paltry and slim and lacking. Only our worship through Christ’s mediation is acceptable to God.

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Almighty and merciful God, who wills the faults of sinners to perish and not their souls; withhold from us the anger which we deserve, and pour out on us the mercy we implore, that through your mercy we may pass from sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

From The Gelasian Sacramentary

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The Epiphany

Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a King, myrrh for One who is to die. – St. Peter Chrysologus

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