In All Things Like Us
Reflecting on the First Sunday in Lent: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 32
Old Testament: 1 Kings 19:1-8
Epistle: Hebrews 2:10-18
Fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter's vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with an upright heart. Amen.
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested (Hebrews 2:14-18).
“What [he has not] assumed has not been healed; it is what is united to his divinity that is saved” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistle 101).
The quote above by Gregory highlights the critical necessity of the full divinity and humanity of Jesus. This is not speculative theology about the person of Jesus, but practical divinity that unites the divine and human in Jesus which is indispensable for salvation. It is wrong to portray the earliest church councils as a bunch of ivory tower theologians gathering to make doctrinal pronouncements for the purpose of maintaining their power over the masses of congregants. In this view, everything was going fine in the church. Congregations were unified with people just loving God and their neighbors until the bishops stepped in to make dogma that divided the church. No serious church historian would embrace such an uninformed account of the earliest councils. The councils met because the church was seriously divided over their understanding of the person and work of Jesus. The ecumenical councils were a necessity in the hope of unifying the church.
The position expressed by Gregory above springs forth from the New Testament itself and is expressed in Hebrews 2 an other places as well. In short, two claims are made: 1) Jesus must be fully divine because only God can make salvation possible. 2) Jesus must be fully human for only humanity can respond to God in acceptance because men and women are the one’s who made salvation necessary. Moreover, Hebrews also makes the profound claim that in Jesus, God identifies with humanity in all things; because of incarnation, no one can say that God does not know what it is like to face human temptations and frailties.
The good news is that God of the Universe, the One who hurled the planets into their orbits and put the stars in their place has become one of us that we might become in character like God.
And that is divinity made practical.
PRAYER: Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ.
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