Holy Saturday

Absolution and Newness of Life in Christ

God has been at work throughout this Lenten Season rebuilding the walls of His Temple, the Body of Christ, the Church. He has taken us, “living stones, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious”, and now we “are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5). We have repented for our past sins, shortcomings, and failures, and have been forgiven. He has refreshed and renewed us by His life-giving Spirit. Now it is time for us to walk in newness of life in Christ. We have put off the old self and put on the new, and we have begun to be built up in walls of virtue and righteousness. We have received His pardon and absolution. Now is the time to move forward in the power and grace of His Holy Spirit.

As the sun sets this evening we will transition from the 40 days of repentance in the Season of Lent to the 50 days of joy in the glorious celebration of the Resurrection. We are resurrection people! We have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. The tomb is open, the grave has no power to hold us. For “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

The world is watching. The nations are hungering for the sons of righteousness to be revealed. As St. Paul declared, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). Will we accept the call of God to continue to be built up into His Holy Temple? Will we let the light of Christ shine forth from this new Temple? Will we “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2)? He has called us to a new life in Him. Let us walk together in the joy that is set before us, and stand together in virtue and righteousness in the Walls of the New Jerusalem.

Soli Deo gloria — To God Alone Be Glory!

Good Friday

The River of Life

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east…And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live…And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”   —Ezekiel 47:1,9,12  

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive…”  — John 7:37-39  

“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”   —John 19:34  

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  —Revelation 22:1-5

“The Temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). From His Temple flows the River of Life, “And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live…” (Ezekiel 47:9). On this Good Friday we are reminded that the Lamb that was slain reigns. Jesus reigns. He reigned from the Cross. From this throne He forgave those who crucified Him. He promised salvation to the penitent thief. He made provision for His mother and beloved disciple. He prayed to the Father, and commended His spirit to Him. And from the throne of the Cross the river of cleansing blood and water flowed (John 19:34). Even in His death, new life flowed from the One who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). From the life of Jesus comes new life, and He promised that the River of Life will also flow from those who are in Him. Jesus said in the quote above, “He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this He said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive…” And just as Jesus reigns, all those who are in Him share in His reign “forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

We are coming to the end of this season of penitence, and as was pointed out on Monday of this week, we need to move forward. We have repented, and God is faithful to forgive. We need only to receive that forgiveness, turn and be renewed in the River of Life. The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple in her midst is an ongoing process. We must continue to be built up, equipped, to reach the nations and bring others into the fulness of Christ’s Kingdom. The tree of life from which Adam and Eve were barred in Genesis 3:24 has multiplied, and now it lines either side of the River of Life. The tree of life, “with its twelve kinds of fruit” are for “the healing of the nations.” 

Jesus died upon the cross that His life might flow forth in power and grace for the healing of all mankind. He has called us to share in His life, and we do so by sharing in His death. The old self must die that the new self may live. For, “one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:7-8). Now that the rebuilding has begun in us, may God release the Spirit in each one of us, and let the waters of Life flow from His throne through us to all the world. 

Maundy Thursday

The New Temple

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”  —Revelation 21:22

On this Maundy Thursday, as we celebrate the Body of Christ, receiving His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are reminded of the Love of Christ. Even as His time grew near to be crucified, He strengthened and nourished His disciples with His Body and Blood. We are being built up into the Holy Temple, and as St. John reminds us in the verse quoted above, “the Temple is the Lord”. We are being built up into the Body of Christ. God is creating a new heaven and a new earth, He is rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and all of this begins with the rebuilding of the Temple, the Body of Christ. 

But there will be opposition. As Nehemiah and the Jews began to rebuild the Temple after the exile in Babylon, Sanballat and others opposed their efforts. Nehemiah reports that, “when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel…they jeered at us and despised us…” (Nehemiah 2:10,19). While Jesus broke bread with His disciples in the upper room, “Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees” conspired to arrest Jesus (John 18:3). And we should not be surprised if there will be those who oppose us as we “seek the welfare of the people”, serving one another and loving our neighbors. When those opposing Nehemiah “plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it…” Nehemiah and the Jews “prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night” (Nehemiah 4:8). Jesus, knowing Judas had gone out to betray Him, instructed His disciples to “Pray that you may not enter into temptation…” and He, Himself, “knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done’” (Luke 22:40-42). We must be earnest in prayer against the powers that would oppose us, that “nothing unclean will ever enter [the Temple], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false…” (Revelation 21:27). We must choose, and pray as Jesus did, for the Father’s will to be done and not our own.

This is Maundy Thursday, “Command Thursday”. On this night Jesus gave His disciples three commands: “Do this in remembrance of Me…” (Lk. 22:19); “wash one another’s feet” (Jn. 13:14); and “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34). We are to cling closely to Jesus “in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers”, to serve one another, and to love as Jesus loved us. God is creating a new heaven and new earth, a New Jerusalem, and it all begins with the rebuilding of the Temple of God. In this New Temple, the “glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it…” (Revelation 21:23-24). The dismantling and rebuilding of the Church is not about you, and it is not about me. It is not about our parish or the CEC. It is about the Kingdom! It is about bringing the light of the Lamb to the nations. St. John says that the gates of the Temple will always be open, and the kings of the earth “will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (vs. 26).

On this Maundy Thursday, as we continue to be rebuilt into the Temple of the Lord, let us draw strength from the Body of Christ. Let us be cleansed by His Blood. Let us serve one another, washing one another’s feet. Let us love one another as Jesus loved us. And Let us worship Him in His Holy Temple, “for [the] temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”

Wednesday of Holy Week

The New Jerusalem

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel…”  —Revelation 21:10-11  

“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”  —Revelation 21:21

The creation of the New Jerusalem is happening right now.  We have already been exhorted to live in the moment, for it is in the present moment that time and eternity intersect. God is rebuilding His Church right now. He is creating a new heaven and a new earth. And in that new world He is placing His new Jerusalem. This great city will have “the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel…” and we are part of this new creation. We are the living stones being built up into His Holy Sanctuary. And His Holy City will be sound, strong, and secure, built on the firmest of foundations—“a most rare jewel”.

Precious stones and jewels are measured for hardness on what is called the Mohs scale. Jewels are rated on a scale of 1 – 10, with the hardest stones, like diamonds, measuring 10, and the softest, like talc, rating a 1. All of the stones which will form the foundation of the New Jerusalem are on the harder end of the Mohs spectrum (Rev. 21:19-20). They all rate between 7 and 10. John tells us that the New Jerusalem will have a foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone. And in this vision given to John in the Revelation, he sees the twelve stones of the apostles. The foundation stones of the Apostolic Church are hard, strong, unbreakable. This foundation is firm. Martin Luther was right when he wrote the lyrics to his familiar hymn: “How firm a foundation…is laid for your faith…Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed…When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.”

As has been pointed out earlier in Lent, the walls built on this foundation are not to be dividing walls, but will have open welcoming gates. There will be twelve gates, with three gates on each of the four sides of the city. The fact that there are gates on all sides of the city shows that God wants all people, everywhere, to come and dwell with Him in His New Jerusalem. “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl” (Rev. 21:21). I have often joked that I would like to see the oyster that produced the pearls of that size. But in ancient times, pearls were a symbol of truth. They are the only precious jewel that cannot be shaped by a jeweler. They are unchangeable. In Matthew’s Gospel (13:45-46), Jesus refers to the pearl in a parable. He says, “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” There is only ONE pearl for each gate. You can only come into the city through the One Truth—through Jesus. He is the unchangeable One, and it is worth selling all we have, leaving the old self behind, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

God is creating the New Jerusalem. It is a rare jewel. Those of us who are in Christ are being built up into the walls of this Holy City. Isaiah prophesied that God is creating “Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness” (65:18), and He will rejoice over us. What a joy it is to be part of God’s great plan for His Church. Rejoice and be glad.

Tuesday of Holy Week

A New Heaven and A New Earth

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind….I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness…Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”   — Isaiah 65:17-25  

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”  — Revelation 21:1-3

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”  —Revelation 21:5

Jesus makes all things new. St. John tells us in the prologue to his Gospel that “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (1:3). He is making us new. He is rebuilding His Church. He is creating a new heaven and a new earth, “and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…” Many people have been crying out during this pandemic that they want things to “get back to normal”, to get back to the way things used to be. That is not going to happen. “Behold,” Jesus says, “I am making all things new.” God has been dismantling the Church, and turning our world upside down. His plan and purpose is to remake His Church, His Holy Temple, His people into a new creation. Without putting away the old, we cannot put on the new. 

Revelation 21 picks up the promise given in the prophecy of Isaiah 65. God is creating a new heaven and a new earth. But notice that “the first heaven and the first earth have passed away.” This is the loving work of our gracious Father, for His desire is for us. He created us to dwell with Him, but we chose in our fallen nature to separate ourselves from Him. Now, with the creation of a New Heaven, and a New Earth, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

We may grieve the loss of what was familiar, but “Behold”, says our Lord, “I am making all things new.” And all that God creates is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Many years ago, as I came home from church, my former neighbor was standing in her driveway crying. We had a long talk, and she was grieving “the loss of her life.” Her daughter had just started first grade, her car had just died and would need to be replaced, not repaired. Her husband had a new job as a delivery man and would have to leave home before dawn, and her son was weaned, out of diapers, and “didn’t need her any more.” Sadly, a few weeks later, she tried to slit her wrists. She was unable to put off the old to receive the new. We may not be ready to commit suicide, but many of us grieve the loss of so many familiar and comfortable things.

Take heart in the words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (65:18-19). God is creating something so much better than any of us can conceive. We need only cooperate with Him to see the magnificence of His new creation.

Monday of Holy Week

Promise of Forgiveness

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”  —Mark 1:14-15

When Miranda and I lived in Mesquite, Texas, we had a neighbor who attended a Baptist Church. He came by one day to talk about their new pastor. He said he was doing his best to support this new leader, but it was difficult. This pastor measured his success by the number of people who would walk the aisle each Sunday. There were some Sundays, my friend said, when no one would walk the aisle and this made him uneasy. He confessed that he would occasionally come forward, even though he had been unmoved by the sermon, just to support the pastor. “I have repented for my sins so many times,” he said, “I am looking for new ways to sin, just so I can walk the aisle and support my pastor.”

When I thought of that conversation as I was writing this meditation, I had the image of a Whirling Dervish. The word repentance means “to turn around”. Once we have turned around, we don’t stay where we are and keep turning; we need to move forward. When we are sinning, we are walking away from God. To repent is to turn around and move toward God, to walk in His Way. We are to “walk in right pathways for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

When Nehemiah heard the call to rebuild Jerusalem, he immediately repented on behalf of the nation of Israel. Then, he turned his eyes toward the Holy Land and pressed forward to fulfill God’s call to rebuild the Holy City. The walls would never have been rebuilt if Nehemiah had not accepted the remission of sin that God was offering. He received God’s promise of forgiveness and moved forward in the power of a redeemed life.

At the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry, St. Mark tells us that “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel’” (1:14-15). The “time is fulfilled” simply means NOW! The Kingdom of God is present now, in this moment of time. It is time to believe the Good News. He has told us during this Lenten season what we need to do. He has forgiven our sins and called us to newness of life. We have accepted that call. Now is the time to move forward in “right pathways for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). There are new walls to be built!

Many people have a hard time accepting that God’s forgiveness is assured. They spend their energy repenting of the same sins over and over again. We made a vow in our baptism that we would “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord”. And we must honor that vow. But we must also respect the Lord and His gracious gift of forgiveness of our sins. We do not honor Him by repeatedly repenting of the same sins! His Word is sure. His promise is secure. We are forgiven. We need to accept that forgiveness and move forward in His grace, His love, His power.

As we move forward in this Holy Week, and look toward carrying out God’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, let God remind us of His loving redemption. His promise of forgiveness resonates throughout both covenants in the Bible. We need to accept that forgiveness, put away the old self, and put on the new self in Christ. Here are a few Scriptures promising forgiveness. Take a few moments, read through these promises. Receive and cherish God’s gracious forgiveness.

Psalm 103:12  “…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Isaiah 43:25  “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Jeremiah 31:34 “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Micah 7:19  “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Mark 2:10 “…the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”

Ephesians 1:7  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…”

Hebrews 10:17 “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

The Lion and the Lamb

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.”  — Isaiah 65:25  

In the mid-1980s, I was leading a retreat for the vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. At the retreat, I read the passage from Isaiah 65 that contains the verse quoted above. I asked the various members of the Vestry to comment on that passage. One of the women in attendance said that she had no comment. She pronounced that she did not believe in fairytales, and as a successful businesswoman she could not waste her time thinking about things that obviously could never be true. 

The Scriptures that we have studied through this season of Lent reveal to us that God has a plan and purpose for the rebuilding of his Church. It is a comprehensive plan, and as has been pointed out it can be a daunting prospect. It’s not that we don’t believe God’s Word, like that dear parishioner at St Thomas, but we recognize that it is a difficult calling. For many it will be a challenge to take the risk to do the things God demands of His people. And thus, it will be hard to fully embrace this rebuilding process. It will require an effort and decision on our part to yield our will to His. The Theologian and author, G.K. Chesterton, said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.” What the Lord is calling us to do is difficult. But now is the time for us to step up to the challenge, to not leave the plan and purpose of God for His Church untried.

In Isaiah 65, the Lord gives a vision to his people of what he desires to provide for them. It is a vision of the New Jerusalem.  Here is the entire quote from verses 17-25:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Why would we not want to take part in the rebuilding of this Jerusalem that God wants to create? The prophetic word is sure: God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. And He is preparing the ground NOW. The New Jerusalem is a present reality being realized in in us, in our day. And we are “living stones” being built up into His Holy Temple.

As we enter this Holy Week, let us remember the words that we prayed on Ash Wednesday. In the litany of penitence we prayed that “those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is creating a pure and holy Temple. And John’s vision in the Book of the Revelation tells us that Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Lamb that was slain. He is the Lion and the Lamb, and He has conquered every foe by His sacrifice (5:5). Let us walk with the Lord through the days of this Holy Week, and experience the promises made sure through His sacrifice.

Saturday of 5 Lent

Confess

We do not lose heart. We do not give up. We persevere. We act justly. We practice self-control. Or at least that is what we are called to do. But are we conscientious in seeking that newness in Christ? Have we put off the old self, that the new self may be created in us? God is building a new creation, a new Temple in His New Jerusalem. Are we cooperating with Him in that construction process? Are we open to learn Christ and His ways? Do we want to see the world around us as He sees it? Do we want to learn to desire what He desires; to yield our will to His?

In the self examination in St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, he offers these prompts for us to consider:

  • Have we refused to respond to our opportunities for growth, service, or sacrifice?
  • Are we concerned over injustice done to others?
  • Are we mindful and responsive to the suffering of other parts of the world?
  • Have we ignored the needy, lonely or unpopular persons in our community?

So, let us pause and reflect on these questions. The Great Commandment reminds us that we are not only to love God, but also to love our neighbor. And who is our neighbor? Jesus tells us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that the one who loved his neighbor was “The one who showed mercy…” Then Jesus said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). So, let us confess our negligence in loving God with our whole heart, and failing to love our neighbor as Christ loves us.

O God of mercy, You are just in all Your doings and have commanded that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with You. We confess that we have not always loved You with all of our heart, with all our strength, and all our mind, but have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. We have not done all that You have commanded, and we have done things that were not of Your will. We have also not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. Have mercy on us, we pray, and forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen. 

Friday of 5 Lent

Perseverance

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”  — James 1:19-25  

“…pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…”  — Ephesians 6:18  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” — Hebrews 12:1-2

There are two meanings for the Greek word that is translated perseverance. When it refers to our relationship with God, it means to “wait on Him”, or “to cling closely to Him”. When it refers to world, it means to “endure”, “stand fast”, or “wait patiently”. The New Testament uses the word in both ways, but the overall sense is that as Christians we are to endure the hostile and unbelieving world where we currently live, and to cling closely to our life in the Kingdom of God which is our eternal home. What this means is that perseverance is a precondition for attaining salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ. We stand in faith, and hope in Christ. To do otherwise is to lose our way and fall out of relationship with Him. We are able to endure the suffering in this world because we are found in Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” And for us, standing fast in Him, and through perseverance in His Spirit, we will reign with Him, as He “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Over this last year we have had numerous opportunities to practice perseverance. It has been a year in which we have all been called to endure many hardships. But just as we have seen in the other virtues we have examined, the learning is in the doing. St. James says in the quote above that “the one who…perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” It would be so easy for us to hunker down and try, like Elijah did, to run and hide in a cave (1 Kings 19). But as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, we are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

There has never been a more important time for those who are in Christ to persevere. The world is watching. Are we going to point to Jesus, and put our trust in Him to carry us through these troubled times. Or are we going shy away from the challenges and rely on our own resources to deal with the difficulties. We persevere by waiting on Him, clinging closely to Him. So let us stand fast in the knowledge and the love of God, and wait patiently for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. “To that end, [let us] keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…”

Thursday of 5 Lent

Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him…Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  — James 1:5;3:13-18

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…”  — 1 Corinthians 1:27-30  

When describing government by consensus, Bishop Adler would refer to a time when St. Michael’s was facing a financial crisis. The Rector’s Council met and discussed the situation, then went to prayer. The Bishop then polled the council, beginning with the youngest. Each of the young men said that they should borrow the money to alleviate the situation. But when Bp. Adler polled the two eldest members, each said that if they borrowed money “it would grieve the heart of God.” Bp. Adler asked the younger ones why they had counseled to borrow, and each said that it was the only way they could see to solve the issue. They were looking at the problem and applying worldly wisdom. The elders were seeking the wisdom of God. They didn’t borrow, and the following Sunday there was a check for $10,000 in the plate.

St. James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Wisdom comes from above, and God is generous with His gifts. We need only ask, seek, and we will find (Matthew 7:7). James goes on to say that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” He contrasts the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God. Godly wisdom results in morally upright behavior: “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” But the one who relies on his own wisdom fosters strife and discord: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

The Old Testament authors personified wisdom. For example, in Proverbs 1:20, Solomon says, “Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares…” We can see the close connection between this person of wisdom and the Person of the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit who gives us the Wisdom of God. At the birth of Jesus, God’s wisdom became incarnate, and made that wisdom readily available to all who are in Christ. St. Paul says, “you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.” And in his prayer for the Church at Ephesus, Paul prays, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…” (1:17). 

Wisdom has been described as the conjunction of knowledge and experience. And there are many worldly wise men and women whose experience in the temporal world, and their knowledge of things earthly, have propelled them along the way. Most have acquired worldly wealth and stature, often coupled with heartbreak. What we are seeking is the knowledge of God and His Word, His will, and His ways, and to experience the power and presence of His Son through the Spirit in our lives that we may walk in His wisdom. That is why the Psalmist prayed, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:4-5).

For the walls of the Temple to stand we must practice the gift of wisdom for the building up of the Body. Yes, God does give wisdom to us individually, but that wisdom will be confirmed by the Body. We are called to work and to stand together as one in Him. God will not give to one member of the Body a word of wisdom that contradicts the consensus of the whole Body. When Bp. Adler heard the young elders of the church tell him something that he had not heard from the Lord, he knew something was amiss. After confirmation from the eldest members that they were to wait on the Lord, he knew he had heard the Word of the Lord. The Body was built up. Stand fast in the wisdom of God, and He will lead us in His truth.