Friday, November 7, 2014

Her Children Rise Up and Bless Her

“But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26).

I love this verse. I love it more and more as I get older and fall more and more in love with the Church.

Here’s Martin Luther’s comment on this passage: “...this heavenly Jerusalem which is above, is the Church, that is to say, the faithful dispersed throughout the whole world, which have one and the same Gospel, one and the same faith in Christ, the same Holy Ghost, and the same Sacraments. Therefore understand not this word ‘above,’ αναγωγικως, of the triumphant heaven; but of the militant Church on earth. For the godly are said to have their conversation in heaven, Philippians 3: ‘Our conversation is in heaven,’ not locally, but in that a Christian believeth, in that he layeth hold of those inestimable, those heavenly and eternal gifts, he is in heaven. Ephesians 1: ‘Which hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.’ We must therefore distinguish the heavenly and spiritual blessing from the earthly. For the earthly blessing is to have a good civil government both in commonweals and families; to have children, peace, riches, fruits of the earth, and other corporal commodities. But the heavenly blessing is to be delivered from the Law, sin, and death; to be justified and quickened to life; to have peace with God; to have a faithful heart, a joyful conscience and a spiritual consolation; to have the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the gift of prophecy, and the revelation of the Scriptures, to have the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and to rejoice in God. These are the heavenly blessings which Christ giveth to His Church. Wherefore Jerusalem above, that is to say, the heavenly Jerusalem, is the Church which is now in the world...the new and heavenly Jerusalem which is a queen and a free-woman, is appointed of God in earth and now in heaven, to be the mother of us all, of whom we have been gendered, and yet daily are gendered. Therefore it is necessary that this our mother should be in earth among men, as also her generation is. Notwithstanding she gendereth by the Holy Ghost, by the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, and not in the flesh” (from lectures at the University of Wittenberg in 1531, first published 1535).

The Church on earth is a heavenly institution, for its members receive identity and benefit from above. It is the result of our union with Christ, Who is at the right hand of the Father. This accomplished work – our being made part of the heavenly Church currently on pilgrimage down here – should remain an encouragement to us as we continue along the Way:
  • “...God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
  • “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
  • “ have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22).

On my run yesterday I followed a new trail up a ridge. It was steep, and the barely-there trail was lined with cat-claw. When I finally made it to the top, a long stretch of the trail was still very muddy after a rain a week ago. The sludge stuck to my shoes, making running feel like clomping. Didn’t matter. The 360° view was exhilarating. I could see the townsite where I live two miles away from a totally different perspective. I could count distant mountain ranges in a few seconds all around. Beautiful. Exertion, scratches, and weighted down by mud...didn’t matter. The view from the top made me feel like I was flying.

Biblical truth on our heavenly estate ought to be received by faith. We should remind ourselves of it often (like the self-talking “O my soul” of the Psalmist). It should become our worldview.

The Church used of God the Holy Spirit to birth you through the Word and Sacraments has a heavenly address. “Her children rise up and bless her” (Proverbs 31:28). Well, we are risen. Where's the blessing? May it be so. It’s easy, popular, conformist, and natural to our flesh to criticize and hate on the Church (ignoring the fact that we are her children – our criticism makes us look very foolish since it reflects on us). Change your vision and speak transcendent truth over and about the Church. Is it possible that this would cleanse her of the clinging mud more effectively than our sarcasm, grumbling, and skepticism (since when is it good for us to be in agreement with the evaluation of the world)? I have found that most of the things that irritate me about the Church can be traced back to my own prayerlessness, lack of faith, lack of love, pride, etc. Tripping over my eye (Matthew 5:29), dark-eye (6:22,23), plank-in-the-eye (Matthew 7:3-5), you know.

Rise up, Church. Look up, Church. Walk upward, Church. Let this become your worldview, manifesting itself through your speech, attitudes, and actions.

This is freedom, for she is free. Paul and Luther (merely echoing Paul) speak truth.

No comments: