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Jesus, King of Israel, Saviour of the Nations by the Cross

palm-sunday

Sermon, Sunday Next Before Easter (Palm Sunday), on John 12.12–36.

Peace be to you, brethren. Today, David and the pastor are in the Holy Land, so I am preaching instead. But let our hearts follow them and other pilgrims to the Holy Land, back to the events of Palm Sunday 2000 years ago, things that by the Holy Spirit are alive to those who believe and bring them peace.

Today, the King of Israel rides to Jerusalem. Today, the prophecy of Zechariah is fulfilled. Today, the disciples do not understand, but they will. The King of Israel has come to claim his own, and his own is all the nations of the earth, and all the nations of the earth will be taught by his disciples, that they may look upon the one lifted up on the Cross, and in his blood be saved.

As the pilgrims are gathered for the feast of the Passover, to remember how God led all Israel out of Ægypt, Jesus comes into Jerusalem seated on a young ass. O daughter of Zion, fear not! he says silently. Why does the daughter of Jerusalem fear? Because of Israel’s enemies, oppressing the people of God. But God has said through his prophet, ‘I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.’ The Lord has promised, and he delivers: fear not, he says to his people, because thy King cometh unto thee, just, and having salvation. Israel is freed from fear, because the one who is just, the one who saves, is here. This is what Jesus shouts without a word, because he rides in on an ass’s colt.

But anyone can claim to be the Lord’s Anointed King by doing what the people suppose that the Christ will do; not everyone can make good on this claim. Many kings have inscribed their names and been erased by history; many kings have set themselves up and crumbled into the dust. I can proclaim myself king, and no one will believe it. Or many false messiahs have called themselves kings, whom God has destroyed. But Jesus, without speaking, has the testimony of others, bearing witness that he called Lazarus out of his grave and raised him from the dead; and by this the people have reason to hope that he is the promised King to deliver Israel.

Do you even dare to hope for a king who can raise the dead? This Jesus has done what the people have barely dared to hope. The people feel the longing of their hearts. They come to meet Jesus. By the testimony of the Pharisees who hate Jesus, the whole world has gone after him. The people see Jesus, joy of man’s desiring, because he has exceeded what man by his own imagination is able to hope. Perhaps they do not know by what nature can tell them, but by the revelation of the prophets they dare to hope.

And there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast and said, Sir, we would see Jesus. Do you see what kind of king Jesus is? Here he is, the King of Israel, here to free his people Israel from the oppression of the heathen, of the Phœnicians in Tyre and Sidon, of the Philistines in Ashkelon and Gaza and Ekron; and yet here come the Greeks, conquerors of the nations, desiring to see this King of Israel. If a foreign king is come to his own people, what is that to you? You may like the spectacle of a king’s procession, you may be glad for the people of another country that their king will deliver them from their enemies, but do you ask to see this king yourself? There are kings, and then there are kings like this. Let the prophet Zechariah declare to you what kind of king Jesus is: ‘And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.’ He makes wars to cease for his people, and to the nations he speaks peace. Once all authority in heaven and on earth is given to him, his dominion stretches from sea to sea. Is this the desire of nations, the king you have waited for, and the king who satisfies the longings of the hearts of your friends? Was your heart made for him?

Jesus came to make the whole earth his kingdom, the kingdom of reconciliation between enemies, of peace and justice. If Jesus is the king of your heart, think of your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your friends. These are made by God, and sinners before him; remembered with God, and sinners before him; beloved of God, and sinners before him. Think of their hopes and dreams, and their need to be just and to have justice done for them, an extraordinary justice that can raise the dead from hell. For Israel needs no ordinary saviour, and the earth needs no ordinary lord. We have ourselves anointed a thousand false messiahs; the world has seen various ordinary messiahs, such as Cyrus the Great; but the universe can be put together again by only one extraordinary messiah, begotten of the Father before all worlds. We need, and our loved ones need, a king of miracles. Do they know – do you know – the peace that comes from the justice of Jesus the anointed King of Israel?

And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. How fitting it is that such a man should be glorified! Not the son of Joseph, or even the Son of David, but the Son of Man, who was the root and the flower of the kingly line to inherit the earth, in whom the meek are to inherit the earth. For this he was sent from heaven, for this born of the Virgin Mary, for this now arrived in the holy city: that he should be glorified. This was the hour that he arrived, because it was the hour when he would lay down everything to receive glory from the Father. And this he did for you, that you might partake of his glory and by the Holy Spirit give glory to God. It was time. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. Do you hear what he says? This was the way of glory when the hour had arrived. There was but one way for the Son of Man to be glorified. The corn of wheat, who contains the entire life of the wheat, and without whom there is no wheat to speak of, and through whom the life of all worlds was made and sustained, that same seed must first fall into the ground and die. The Son of Man, who is come to bring life and peace to all nations by his reign, must first die. Yes, Jesus must die. We must look for his glory in his death; we must find our glory in the Cross. The Cross is how Jesus was to be glorified, and the Cross is how he is glorified. Even now, do not men die wondrous deaths in the sign of the Cross? For the sake of him who first died on it, do they not forsake all things and glory in the sign of the Cross? Is the Cross not now the sign dæmons fear, because of the one who has used it to break their power? Yes, in the Cross all nations are being reconciled today, and men that hated God and each other come to peace. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

If any man serve Jesus, let him follow Jesus; and where Jesus is, there shall also his servant be: if any man serve Jesus, him will the Father honour. If Jesus came to save his people Israel and extend God’s kingdom from Israel all the way to the ends of the earth, this is where his Church is too, bringing the nations to peace. To be sure, there are Christians – or men who bear that name – who in the name of freedom bring men to bondage, who in the name of life bring men to death. If the Church is what Scripture says it is, then those who are washed by baptism are called to condemn such blasphemies and call men to account by the word of God. Because God is love, he is willing to kill every last bit of sin in us, just as Jesus was destroyed on the Cross. The Pharisees of our time will complain that the world has gone to meet Jesus, because of the power he shows in the lives of those he has baptized. This power is available and promised to you if you are willing. Walk while you have light to see. Have you decided to enter Jesus’s service by submitting to baptism? Then follow him, and you will be where he is, and the Father will honour you just as he has glorified Jesus.

Jesus himself said, at the hour of his glorification, ‘Now is my soul troubled’; but he refused to say, ‘Father, save me from this hour,’ because for this cause he was come to this hour. To accept glory is to accept the Cross; to embrace the glory of the kingdom is to embrace the blessed Cross in which that kingdom is found. Do you wish to see glory? Think what you will say to your friends when everything that the faith demands is something society calls hateful, when the obedience to God is called hatred of the human race, when love is hate speech. Will you dare to speak, just as Israel dared to hope that her divine king was come at last? Think what you will say when you get expelled from a school, fired from a job, divorced by a spouse, because you stood up for what God taught and did not deny that he had forbidden the one juicy fruit in the garden. Your soul may be troubled, and it may be hard to believe God’s peace is still with you to defend you from your enemies. Do you say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? When we ask for the Lord’s kingdom to come, when we ask for his kingdom to overcome our oppressors, we ask for his will to be done, not ours. Not ‘Father, save me from this hour,’ but ‘Father, glorify thy name.’ Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

When God promises glory, and when glory is hidden, you may miss it. Think what God’s voice will elicit. The Lord speaks out of the clouds, and you may think it was thunder. Thunder it is, but not only thunder. For those who have no ears to hear, the voice of God himself may be just a rumbling, a rumour of a rolling, random and roiling; but for those who are listening, God speaks. This voice is not for Jesus, who already knows, but for you. God promises to honour you if you trust him with your life. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

Think how God has already honoured you by sending down his only-begotten Son to die in your place. You may have missed this neon sign as you drove by, but let us come back to it and see what it says. Already, before you ever trusted him, before you were even born, Jesus went to Jerusalem to die for your sins and defeat all the enemies that threatened to drag your life down to the pit of hell. He went trusting in God, and God so honoured him that by his resurrection even his death on a cross of shame became a death on a cross of glory. Before you were ever conceived by your mother, the Father in heaven had conceived of a way to become your Father, and the Son had fulfilled the plan. All your troubles, and all the troubles of your people, you can send to the Cross of Christ. Jesus has come to be the deliverer of all, of every nation on earth. Every nation will be saved, and indeed has been saved, by the shame that Jesus the king of Israel took upon himself to win the Father’s glory. This is the miraculous king, who turns lead into gold, wounds into gems. Your shame, if you entrust it to him, will become your glory, just as his shame became his glory, so that his riding toward his death was his entrance into his hour of glory. This is what he promised, that you would share in his glory if you joined him and stayed with him. We see that the Father fulfilled his promise to Jesus, to glorify his Name in him. Not only do we see that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but much more do we see that God raised Jesus from the dead with a body imperishable. The question, then, is not whether you should dare to trust him with your life: the question to ask is whether you should dare not to trust him with your life. If the Son of God has already died for you, do you think he will fail to honour his promise to you?

All men are being drawn to Jesus by the Cross on which he was lifted up, and through this Cross has come the destruction of Israel’s enemies, and deliverance from the hands of all that hate us. You have heard about the Son of Man, and all the world must hear from your mouth. He is the saviour of Israel; he is the desire of nations; he saves by the Cross, to the glory of his Father. The world is being judged, and the world is being saved. Choose to walk in Jesus while you can still see, that by the Holy Spirit you may share in the glory of his kingdom, which is an everlasting kingdom that holds all the world in it. Go to the king, go to the king of miracles, go to the king who is God. Amen.

Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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How Death Clarifies Life

monet-waterlilies

Le bassin aux nymphéas, Claude Monet (1919).

Aristotle, Althusius, and Donne, each in his own way, teach what a Chinese person knows in his heart to be true: that one man in himself is incomplete. When I think about things I want to accomplish in life, I see how limited a lifetime I have to accomplish things, but I also see how much God can take what he has done through me and make it bear fruit a hundredfold. Indeed, no person’s work is complete, or can be fulfilled, apart from others. Without successors, of blood or of spirit, who can have any legacy beyond living memory, and whose legacy means anything apart from the lives it continues to touch? Knowing that the very meaning of my life is contingent on others also reminds me that, by God’s purpose and according to God’s hidden ways, many of the things that have mattered most to me about my life will continue to unfold in others’ lives beyond my imagining; for from the start the idea was God’s, and the same God who has begun to build will surely finish what he has set out to build. Even if I haven’t planned for my own death within the next decade, if it does happen, then God has planned for it.

When I consider bucket lists, then, I think each of these events, each of these experiences, is a way of exploring a facet of who I am in God’s sight, and who God has been, is now, and will be in my life. But life is always full of surprises, and in each surprise I experience one aspect of dying. No one, dying a natural death, knows exactly when he will die: he knows only that he will die. If God has cut straight through my plans and intentions so many times, and in so doing brought good things I could never have known otherwise, then I think the same is true of death. I do not know, but he knows. This, I think, is how death clarifies life. Each surprise is, in microcosm, like death. It breaks the images we see on the face of the water, and we see that something we were looking at was a mirage. If living an abundant life means being open to surprises and responding to them, then so does dying an abundant death: both require a willingness to trust God – or, for those who do not know God, to at least basically trust that unknown – and to learn. In learning, we learn to know him.

A Few Reflections on Not Dying Suddenly

Stanley Hauerwas says, in the foreword to John Swinton and Richard Payne’s book Living Well and Dying Faithfully: Christian Practices for End-of-Life Care,

At one time, Christians feared the kind of death we say we want in answer to the question ‘How to [sic] you want to die?’ They feared a sudden death because that meant they had lost the opportunity to prepare to face God. They wanted time to be reconciled with those whom they had wronged, the church, and, most of all, with God. Like us, they loved life and did not want to die, but death did not determine their dying. Their dying was determined by their confidence in the love of God.

When I see the words sudden death, I think of the Litany’s petition for God to deliver us from sudden death. That my paternal grandfather was spared from a sudden death, in fact, has blessed me probably far more than I can tell in this life. It was as he struggled with liver cancer, in 1999 and 2000, that he came to know the Lord as our former pastor came to visit him and talk with him. Having stayed over at that pastor’s house when my brother was born, I knew that my grandfather had gotten to experience some of the love of Christ from outwith our own family, and it was wonderful to know that the pain of cancer had actually brought my grandfather, a long resister of the gospel, to the arms of Christ. And I myself, in Stanford Hospital, got to share something with my grandfather that I would never have experienced had he not had the time to get ready to die. The last time I ever saw him, before flying back to Virginia, there were some grapes on the table, but he couldn’t eat them because he could no longer take the skins. I peeled the skins for him, and in doing so I got to do more for him than I could ever have done before. We had not spent all that much time together before then, in the first 10 years of my life, but that event alone did more to bring us closer together than anything before or since.

When he died, I grieved, but I also felt greatly at peace about it, because I was sure he was with the Lord. I think, too, this experience is why my grandfather’s was the first funeral of which I had any specific memories (it was a beautiful funeral, too), and why I still feel the desire to go up to Mountain View Cemetery, in the Oakland hills, every time I go to the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s also why I feel that my own death, whenever the Lord has chosen for it to be, is something for which the Lord will surely have made me ready.

Dort and the Prayer Book on the Salvation of Baptized Infants

Christening of Victoria, Princess Royal.

On infants who are baptized and die in infancy, the Synod of Dort (1619) and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are agreed: there is no reason to doubt, and every reason to believe on the basis of God’s word, that God has chosen them to be saved.

The Canons of Dort confidently explain,

Since we are to judge of the will of God from his word (which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended), godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy.

Canons of Dort 1.17.

The Book of Common Prayer says likewise,

It is certain, by God’s word, that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved.

Publick Baptism of Infants, Book of Common Prayer (1662).

Whether or not you agree with John Davenant (who was influential at the Synod of Dort) that this is because baptism remits the guilt of original sin from infants, the Prayer Book states the general doctrine that baptized children dying in infancy are undoubtedly saved. This is not to deny that God may save – that the Spirit may regenerate – some or even all of those who die in infancy unbaptized: on such infants, whose cases God’s word does not make certain, Dort and the Prayer Book are respectfully silent. Neither is this claim of both the Synod of Dort and the English Prayer Book denied by the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), which says elect infants are saved by Christ through the Spirit:

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

WCF 10.3.

That all baptized infants dying in infancy are counted among this elect of God is reasonable to suppose, and expressly taught by the Synod of Dort; who else is elect is unknown. The Westminster Confession’s intent here seems to be to extend its affirmation of the regeneration of others who are elect but cannot possibly be outwardly called to salvation by the ministry of the word. Let the Reformed therefore not suppose that, on baptism, the Book of Common Prayer teaches anything contrary to Reformed orthodoxy. The teaching that baptized infants are (in their own manner) saved may seem strange to some, but it has the warrant of Scripture and is the common understanding of the Reformed.

How to Promote Chastity Among Christian Women

Vierge à l'Enfant, mosaïque de l'abside de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)

Encourage respect for the Blessed Virgin Mary as the greatest of saints, through whose chaste obedience Christ came into the world and saved us. Her image with that of her Son should be in every Christian home, that believers may remember and bless her godly example. Not everyone is called to give virgin birth, but every woman is called to obedience and some kind of motherhood.

For what God has done through her the Byzantines sing,

It is truly meet to bless thee, the Theotokos, the ever most blessed, and entirely blameless, and Mother of our God. The more honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who didst bear without corruption God the Word: thee, verily the Theotokos, we magnify.

I Like My School

I’m very thankful for fellowship with other teachers at my school, learning from them and challenging their thoughts as well. I hope other people get to enjoy this blessing as more classical Christian schools open around the world, and I hope more children get to learn in such places, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in loco parentis. Curriculum is great, but it’s the people who make the school.

Send a King, O Lord

O Lord, raise up men in the Church who will be kings indeed, humbling themselves before thee all the days of their lives, that they may give glory to thee and by emptying receive power from on high. For as David was a great sinner but learned his destitution before thy face, so empty us, Almighty God, of our self-sufficiency, and teach us the power that is made perfect in our impotence. Raise up for us Christian kings and emperors whose greatness is in having nothing to boast of but thy grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What the Mainstream Media Call White Nationalism

In my view, it’d be good to reduce immigration close to zero, make English the official language in the general government (while allowing coöfficial status to other languages locally, such as French in Louisiana and Hawai‘ian in Hawai‘i), and maintain as a goal the cultural and genetic assimilation of new Americans to the traditional Americans of each place. This would mean immigrants and their descendants tended to become culturally and genetically whiter, but the older diversity of now-indigenous American cultures (not only White but also Black and Amerindian) would better emerge as these native peoples’ cultural interests were protected by statute and custom.

Only remember how the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was destroyed by wicked men, and the Hawai‘ians dispossessed of control over their own native soil, against the protestations of Queen Lili‘uokalani, who appealed to the witness and justice of Christ, and you see the same thing can be done to America at large.

I’m sure someone will want to call me a White nationalist for this reason, but everyone should know I’m a Chinese-empire nationalist if it be accurate to call me a nationalist at all. And why have I, born in America, never assimilated? Because there was but little traditional culture for me to conform to – though I have learned Latin like a good American and generally dress like a respectable old-stock American – and I am not an Asian American but an overseas Chinese. One day, God willing, my family can return to the land of my fathers.

Aside

Oh, look, the UECNA has a new and much improved look for its website. And, as Prydain says, the website’s Theological Institute section has some very good videos covering such topics as the Apocrypha, English church history, the history and … Continue reading

New Heavens, New Earth, New Life

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lesson: Revelation 21.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. [He is risen indeed.]

DEAR brethren in Christ, today is the last Sunday of Easter. This Thursday, 40 days after our Lord’s bodily Resurrection from the dead, we will remember his Ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Since Easter Day, 1 April, I hope you have reflected well on what the Resurrection of a Jew from Nazareth, 2000 years ago, means for you today. If he conquered the grave 2000 years ago but it does not change your life today and tomorrow and the day after that, it is of no use to you.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. St John, at the end of his visions in heaven, after many momentous events and the rising and falling of nations, sees this. After many frightful signs and many encouragements of God’s faithfulness to those who love him, after long spiritual battles between the saints and the wicked, this is the place we are come to in the visions given to John: a new heavens and a new earth, when the first heavens and the first earth are passed away.

Here are three basic truths I would impress upon you today: The new heavens and new earth are real. The wicked will not partake of this kingdom. The kingdom is glorious for those who have a part in it.

The new heavens and new earth shown here, at the end of all things, is real, as surely as the Lord lives today. Many Christians imagine that the end of all things is heaven, a place up high above the earth, away from real life. They think of it as a kind of never-never-land. They think of it as a dream. That is completely backward. The Bible never teaches that we go to heaven when we die, and that this heaven is the end of every Christian. Let me say it in other words: Your destination is not heaven. The Bible does not say you will go to heaven when you die, and it does not say you end up in heaven. What the Bible teaches is something much more real and substantial. What does the Bible say?

I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. What is being made ready now is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, not some faraway thing called heaven. Look at your Bible. Look at John’s vision. Where is this city in the end? This city comes down from God, out of heaven. So where will this new Jerusalem be? The holy city, the new Jerusalem, will be on earth.

And this holy city is a bride adorned for her husband. As St Paul also says of the Church, in Galatians, Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. The bride is the Church, the holy city, new Jerusalem; the husband is Jesus Christ. Think who Jesus is, and you will see whether this holy city that will come upon the earth is real. The Son of God is the realest being there is, because he is God. Anything imagined by you alone is less real than you. If the new heavens and the new earth were just your imagination, it would be as real as your imaginary friend when you were five. But the Son of God is realer than you, because you were imagined by him. If Jesus did not continually imagine and sustain your existence, you could not exist. And for you he was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, descended from king David. And for you he tabernacled with men, and dwelt with men. And for you he was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem. And for you, on the third day, he was raised from the dead and walked out of his tomb. And for you he remains a man today, with a new and glorious body. And for you he has imagined the new heavens and the new earth, and has laid it before you as your hope at the end of the world, and says he will wipe all tears from your eyes, and declares that this holy city of the saints, this New Jerusalem coming to the earth from heaven, is his bride. I ask you, Is Jesus such a damned fool as to be married to a mere figment of your imagination?

Hear what Jesus says: Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus says, these things are true and faithful. What he has showed John, and us, is as good as done. It is done because his own glorious Resurrection from the dead is the firstfruits of our own resurrection. The two resurrections are part of the same thing. For this reason, if Jesus surely walked out of the grave alive, then just as surely we who trust him with our lives will be raised out of our graves and come into his new world. For he himself is the first person to live this reality. The first Adam brought death into the world, and Jesus is the last Adam, bringing life into the world by his own Resurrection. Therefore he says, Behold, I am making all things new.

So this kingdom, this city, is real; but the wicked do not partake of it. Jesus says, The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. You’d better believe it. Who has his part in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur? The fearful and unbelieving. Remember who feared the coming new world: those who did not believe in Jesus or love him above the things of this world, those who loved even a sick and dying world rather than Jesus. Those who love the world rather than Jesus, he tells us what that character looks like when taken to its logical conclusion. Unbelief makes people into the abominable, people who deserve to be hated. It makes people into murderers, people who are willing to kill Christians because they hate Jesus that much. It makes people into whoremongers, people who take what is meant for marriage and spoil their bodies by doing it with whores. It makes people into sorcerers, people who refuse to submit to God and instead use witchcraft to try to control the world. It makes people into idolaters, people who serve images of health, wealth, and beauty, who refuse to know God as he truly is and instead indulge themselves with pictures they have made for themselves. These are the fruits of unbelief, and unbelief ends in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.

Think about whether you believe when your belief is tested. Or, if your belief is being tested now by suffering, see if you actually believe. As C. S. Lewis says in his book A Grief Observed, ‘Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination. Yes; but should it, for a sane man, make quite such a difference as this? No. And it wouldn’t for a man whose faith had been real faith and whose concern for other people’s sorrows had been real concern. The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which “took these things into account” was not faith but imagination. The taking them into account was not real sympathy. If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came. It has been an imaginary faith playing with innocuous counters labelled “Illness”, “Pain”, “Death”, and “Loneliness”. I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find I didn’t.’ What is your belief like, and what is your share? Do you trust the rope, do you trust Jesus, or are you the fearful and unbelieving, who will die the second death in fire and brimstone?

But let us speak of better things. The kingdom of God, which will be fully revealed and burst forth out of our hearts when the power of the Holy Spirit has remade the whole world, is glorious for those who have a share in it. This is what baptism promises us. Scripture tells us, by the pen of St Peter, that baptism saves us by appealing to God out of a good conscience, that we might share in Christ’s death and resurrection. Let us look at the resurrection. Let us look at the bride, the Lamb’s wife. If we believe in Jesus Christ, we are that city, descending out of heaven from God. The wall of this city of God has 12 foundations, and in the 12 foundations are the names of the 12 Apostles. Look at the materials of the 12 foundations: each is made of a different kind of stone, like the 12 stones that in the Old Testament were inlaid in the breastplate of the High Priest. The priests led the worship of God. This city is a city of worship, in which the saints lead all creation in praising God. We have heard about the city of Jerusalem, in the land of Israel; but here John calls us to see the glory of what the new Jerusalem will look like on the new earth. The twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

This imagery is strange to us. We are hardly able to imagine it. God invites us to see it, and our minds are hardly able to look at it. This is the opposite of shadows, which we can easily look at. The world we live in now is not the real world. Because of sin, we are now living shadows of the real stuff we will be when God makes the new heavens and new earth. Whatever is good in this world now, whatever is worth loving in this world now, we love in the world to come because it will be realer then than it is today. Whatever you can lose in this world now, in the new world you will have it realer than you have it today; whatever good you do in this world now, in the new world you will see it realer than you have ever seen it here. What are your realest and greatest joys here and now in today’s world, and what will it be like when the former things are passed away and the real world of Christ’s Resurrection is begun?

The reality is, Jesus is the Lord of the world today, and in his new world this reality will be realer than ever before. The dying bodies we have now will be raised into bodies of glory and incorruption, worshipping God and doing great things with a strength we have never known. What heroism lives in us now, the heroism of Christ living in us and redeeming our bodies, it will be something greater than we can imagine, just as what John saw was beyond what he could fully describe. Justice and mercy, wisdom and power, we will see them real and glorious, stranger and truer than we have ever known.

Let us pray, that the Lord may grant us a share in his Resurrection.

O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of the enemy: Grant us so to die daily unto sin, that we may evermore live with him who died and rose again for us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus the Risen Keeper of the Church

Call to worship: Psalm 16.
Lessons: Revelation 6.1–8 and Matthew 28.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Alleluia, praise the Lord, Christ is risen. Give me the answer: He is risen indeed. Say it. Alleluia, Christ is risen. Tell me.

DEAR brethren in Christ, we are gathered today to continue to rejoice in the Resurrection of the Lord, to worship God’s Anointed king on his holy hill, and to see him by the Holy Spirit at his throne in heaven. For a week ago, after the Lord’s progress to Jerusalem, his knocking at the doors of our hearts, after the Lord’s Crucifixion outside the walls of Jerusalem, his death for you and me, he was then found on Easter Day, the third day from his death, to be alive. For this reason, since Jesus is risen from the dead, since Jesus has split the sea like Moses and made the faithful to walk through it, since Jesus has brought us over from death to life æternal, we count it Easter for 40 days, until the day of his glorious Ascension to the throne of God. This Easter, this feast of our Lord’s glorious Resurrection, is our Passover of gladness.

When John was taken up to heaven to see the throne of God, and the book was in God’s hand but no one could be found to open its seals, no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth, he wept. John wept because no one was able to break open those seven seals of the book, to unseal the revelation of God’s heart to us in the things which were to come. No one was worthy to do so. Now, by the power of his Resurrection in glory, Jesus the Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken the scroll from the open palm of God and is able to open its seven seals. In this man’s hand are all the corners of the earth, and the seals of destiny are in the hand of this man who was raised from the dead, and we can trust in him.

On the book are seven seals, and we have heard John tell us of four. Let us look at these with the eyes of our hearts, that the same Holy Spirit who showed these things to John may also show them to the eyes of our believing hearts. These visions in heaven are fantastical signs, wonderful and strange; but they were revealed to John, and thus to us, in order that we might understand God. Though we do not understand everything, yet we may understand what is given us to know. So let us now consider these seals, Revelation 6, that were opened by the man who conquered death.

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. Here, one of the four winged beasts at the throne of God, having eyes all over him and having the face of a lion, summons John with a voice of thunder: come and see. Come, draw near by faith, and see what you have not yet known. And we see a white horse, and on that horse a conqueror. This conqueror is the first horsemen of four, and these four are often called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This is the first seal that Jesus has broken open: a horseman is sent out on a white horse, and he has a bow, and he is given a crown, and he is sent forth conquering and to conquer. Remember, at the beginning of this book of Revelation, John calls Jesus Christ the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. For when the Lord ascended into heaven and opened all things, he held all authority in heaven and on earth. This righteous man took this kingly authority when God raised him from the dead, and thus he is today the prince of the kings of the earth. When you see the kings of the earth, when you see their power, do not be deceived: they can have no power except by the will of Jesus, whom God the Father has made King of Kings. But when Jesus goes forth to conquer with the authority given to him, he sends the Twelve. At his Resurrection, he sent the eleven disciples – the twelfth, Judas, had killed himself – he sent them to conquer the earth, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ This is the conquest of the white horseman, the conquest of Jesus the king, the conquest of the Church crowned with Christ. Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit, whose words the Church sent forth as arrows reaching to the human heart, that they might overcome unbelief. And the crown on the head is promised to the Church by the Holy Spirit. This is how our risen king conquers the earth. When the Lord conquers, we conquer. So he says to the church in Smyrna, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. Come and see, says the winged calf. Do not be frightened when there is war and terrorism on the earth, when men kill one another and take peace from the earth. When fatherless sons who do not know hope burst into a school and shoot innocents, it is not a surprise. When the unbelieving Jews kill Palæstinians in Gaza, and drop poison gas on innocents, it is not a surprise. When the Saudis use American funding to rain bombs upon the people of Yemen, and destroy their hospitals where innocents are, it is not a surprise. Jesus has opened the first seal for the Church to conquer the earth with his word, and he has also opened this second seal for nations to kill one another. Our king, who is risen from the dead and rules all the nations, is willing that the nations should kill one another with the sword. For he said, in Matthew 10, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. War and blood is nothing unusual, and we are not so great that it will leave us untouched. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was hated by those who did not want the temple cleansed, and they killed him; those who reject the gospel are like wild beasts, and they kill both us and one another. But the Lord was raised. The glorious Resurrection of our Lord brings peace and rejoicing to the hearts of those who love him, but war and the sword and the spilling of blood to the hearts of those who oppose him. Yet when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be frightened, says Jesus in Matthew 24; for he is king. So he says to the church in Thyatira, He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. Come and see, says the winged man. Just a quart of wheat for a whole day’s wages, and just three of barley for a whole day’s wages. The black horse is famine, for the Lord says in Matthew 24, ‘There shall be famines in various places’; but the word is particularly applied to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, 40 years after our Lord’s Resurrection, when there was a horrible famine in the land, and men killed each other for a hint of food, and a mother in the city killed her own baby to eat him. These dreadful events that befell Jerusalem at the destruction of the city and its temple are recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus, as the Lord Jesus foretold in Matthew. And today we also see starvation. The civil war in South Sudan, even with billions in American aid, has killed many with famine; an eight-year war in northeastern Nigeria waged by Boko Haram jihadi terrorists has killed many with famine; the war of the Saudis against their neighbour Yemen has killed many with famine, in the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. The balance in the hand of the black horseman weighs grain for food, but it also weighs the faithfulness of the Christian believer. In the midst of famine, the Lord keeps for those who love him the oil of the Holy Spirit and the wine of his own blood poured out for us. The Lord keeps for us the joy of his kingdom, and he assures us that the joy of the Church is not hurt even in time of starvation. The Lord provides for his people. He gave his judgement against Jerusalem in Matthew 24, and the Church heard and recorded what he said. A few years before Jerusalem was destroyed, all the disciples obeyed the Lord’s word in Matthew and fled to another city across the River Jordan. Because they had fled in obedience to the Bible, they were not destroyed. Against the enemies of the Lord, however, the Roman army brought against Jerusalem a holocaust that killed one fourth of all Jews on the earth. By the Lord’s care, the Church was not destroyed. So he says to the church in Ephesus, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. Come and see, says the winged eagle. Here is the horseman of pestilence and death, pale as sickness. This too, even as the other three, is a seal opened by the risen Christ for us to look into the book of God’s heart and God’s judgement: the sword, hunger, pestilence. As the Lord in the Old Testament once showed his mastery over the gods of Ægypt by the ten plagues he brought upon the land when Pharaoh would not let his people go, and as the Angel of the Lord struck down the firstborn of all Ægypt, so the resurrected God-man Jesus is master of even death and Hades. Those who hate him, especially, them he destroys with plagues that man is powerless to stop. Those who see the frightful scenes of the Black Death in the Middle Ages may feel relieved that modern medicine keeps this death away. Those who saw the HIV plague kill hundreds of thousands in the 1980s and 1990s think medicine saves them now. HIV is less and less caught through drug needles and natural sex, but has only increased among men who have sex with men, who believe their medicine will save them. But I am told that our medicines for preventing death by HIV already show signs of failure, and those infected with it need harsher and harsher drugs to live. We may be on the cusp of another outbreak. What God wills, no man can stop. But the Lord loves us. Those who love God, who trust Jesus the risen Christ, who has power over all sickness and death, will be masters of death. Jesus has been raised incorruptible, unable anymore to die, and we too share in his glorious body when we eat his flesh and drink his blood in his holy Supper. So he says to the church in Pergamon, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

The preaching of the gospel of God’s kingdom comes together with war, famine, and plague; the peace of the heavenly Israel comes together with the bloody destruction of the wicked Jerusalem on earth. For God’s people, who trust in him, the gospel is good news of peace. As surely as Jesus has been raised from the dead, so will we be raised from the dead immortal and incorruptible, masters of sickness and death. The Lamb that was slain has opened the seven seals of the book of God, and he has given us the oil of the Holy Spirit and the wine of his own blood, which will not be hurt by starvation. For the wicked, however, who reject the peace of God, the gospel of peace is a rumour of war, a hunger pang of famine, a smell of death.

In the words of John Wesley, ‘The Son of David rode forth, conquering and to conquer, and will reign ’till he has brought down all opposing rule, principality and power.’ If Jesus Christ is not the treasure of your heart, the one in whom you trust, every kind of death will catch up with you, because Christ is king, and you are with Death. The choice is before you today: Do I serve this Jesus of Nazareth, or do run away in horror? Shall I kiss him today, or shall I wait for war and sickness and death to catch up to me when God wills it? Without Christ, you will be mastered by death; but with Christ, you will master death, because Christ has already conquered, and holds the keys of hell and death.

This is the choice before you because Christ has been raised from the dead. Come and see, says the angel with the face of a lion. Come and see, says the angel with the face of a man. Come and see, says the angel with the face of a calf. Come and see, says the angel with the face of an eagle. Come and see the power and majesty and love of the one who is worthy to open the seals of the book of God. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Let others fear war and famine and sickness: for our own part, let us fear nothing but the King of Kings. This man is with us, and this man now reigns over war and famine and sickness. The war comes at the leave of the Son of Man. The famine comes at the leave of the Son of Man. The sickness comes at the leave of the Son of Man. Choose to live and reign with Christ, because he is the faithful one who overcame. Because Christ has conquered, we will conquer. Come, war! we will conquer. Come, famine! we will conquer. Come, sickness! we will conquer. Come, Lord Jesus! in thee, we will conquer, and we claim the crown through thee. Let us say with the Greeks today, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life.

Hell took a body and came upon God!
Hell took earth and encountered Ηeaven!
Hell took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the firstfruits of them that have slept. To him be glory and might, world without end. Amen.

Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Psalm of response: Psalm 2.

Flimsy Grounds for Dismissing Jason Reza Jorjani

My eyes are shot, enough that I donʼt believe I can take my final exams, but I thought I would post some comments from an email I sent a while ago, on a statement written by the history faculty of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University against Jason Reza Jorjani:

The entire statement is to denounce Jorjani’s ‘views on race’. I cannot feign knowledge of the details of Jorjani’s views on race, enough to judge his ability to ‘educate and evaluate [NJIT’s] students’. Some of the details given in the statement, however, are not to the purpose.

First, the ‘exposé’ cited is classified even by the New York Times as an opinion piece. Jorjani is there quoted as saying, ‘We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great. And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category – no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.’ While I disagree with classing Hitler together with Napoleon and Alexander the Great, I also think no good is done by maintaining a mythos in which he is the one great unique man of Europe, ‘without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life’, whether favourably or unfavourably. Is it objectionable to glorify Hitler? For his objectionable deeds, aye. But I do not think Hitler’s genocidal behaviour toward Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, and others unique. It is those who most strongly play up The Holocaust™ as a culture-defining mythic event that have most often find it useful to attribute to Hitler a quotation about the Armenians as a genocide no one remembered:

Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [Lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Indeed, I cannot see who still remains as a proper subject of guilt for The Holocaust™. The desire to foist it upon all White Europæans, and even upon all who can plausibly be called White (except Jews), is itself at least as despicable as the desire to rehabilitate Hitler for which the op-ed blames Jorjani.

Second, believing in differences in IQ distribution among broad population groups keeps no one from recognizing academic ability and achievement in students of all genetic and ethnic backgrounds.

Third, given most people’s firm support for keeping the likes of Peter Singer at Princeton, I cannot see how this quoted opinion of Jorjani’s is particularly problematic: ‘With the emerging technologies of embryo selection and genetic engineering, it would be possible, with the right leadership and government planning, to restore the pre-Arab and pre-Mongol genetic character of the majority of the Iranian population within only one or two generations.’ The implicit approval of abortion and related evils is objectionable, but that is not at all what the authors of the statement consider objectionable. Nor does it give any more reason to find Jorjani more inappropriate an instructor than Singer. A fortiori, if approval of abortion be insufficient to consider Jorjani unable to educate and evaluate students, so is approval of genetic engineering aimed at restoring a certain genetic character to a countryʼs population.

Marginalia on What?

In light of the impossibility of hope, I return to Dávila for Jerusalem.

Sang Calon Lân and Put It on YouTube

For YouTube, donʼt you think singing is easier than talking?

Symeon the New Theologian’s Account of Regeneration Agreeable to Reformed Theology?

symeon-nowy-teolog-autorzy-filokalii

The Byzantine monk Symeon the New Theologian, in Discourse 24.3, says that what unlocks the treasure enclosed and sealed up in the word of God, ‘eternal life together with the unutterable and eternal blessings which it contains’ (24.2), is God the Son himself, who has said, ‘He who loves me will keep my commandments, and my Father will love him, and I will reveal myself to him.’ The only way for the chest of knowledge to be opened, Symeon says expressly, that we may enjoy, partake of, and contemplate its good things, is for God to ‘[live] in us and [move] among us’, and perceptibly to reveal himself to us; thereupon we consciously contemplate the divine mysteries hidden in Scripture. These mysteries, says Symeon, consist in perfect love toward God and neighbour, contempt of visible things, mortification of the flesh. And it is in seeing immortality, incorruption, the kingdom of heaven, adoption as sons through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, that we indeed become sons by adoption and grace, and are called heirs of God and fellow-heirs of Christ.

But it is not clear to me whether Symeon sees this work of God himself – for he says no one but God can do it, since it is ultimately God and not the fulfilment of the commandments and the practice of the virtues that opens the door of knowledge – as being given all at once or over a protracted length of time, and how it is related to those works of ours. He does say it is by means of our fulfilling the commandments and practising the virtues (both given by God, as the commandments and the virtues) that God opens the door of knowledge to us, but he does not say explicitly how God uses these things to open the door. Instead, he contrasts those who enjoy the blessings and those who ‘lack the knowledge and experience of any of the things of which we have spoken’, who ‘have no taste of their sweetness, of the immortal life derived from them, since they lean on the mere study of the Scriptures’; for the latter ‘wish to commend themselves as though they were to be saved apart from the exact observance of Christ’s commandments, and so they altogether deny the power of the Holy Scriptures’. Nevertheless, by denying that our own fulfilment of the commandments and practice of the virtues is itself the power that opens the chest of treasure, Symeon seems to disclaim any notion of God’s respecting these things as meritorious works: they are instruments in some way, but God is the one who unlocks all these gifts to us when we cease to commend ourselves (trusting in our own meagre merits?) apart from the exact observance of Christ’s commandments, which is the true power of the Holy Scriptures!

To a Protestant, the expression here is unfamiliar, but the substance seems very much related to what Protestant divines held about regeneration in the broader sense. This intuition leads me to wonder how a Reformed scholastic such as John Davenant, Bishop of Salisbury, might have interacted with the thought of Symeon the New Theologian on the topic of regeneration. In a letter to Samuel Ward, Master of Sydney Sussex College, Davenant does treat carefully and sometimes subtly of regeneration in relation to infant baptism and perseverance of the saints. In that letter, Davenant’s purpose is different, but his categories might fruitfully be brought to bear on Symeon’s somewhat mysterious account here of the way in which God enlightens the soul and thus unlocks the treasure borne by Scripture, a treasure that none can reach by commending themselves, but that God himself must unlock.