Hear the Invitation: Come

Scripture
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water” (Revelation 22:17, New American Bible).

Devotion
St. John arrives at the end of his vision and audition of the apocalypse—the revelation—of Jesus Christ. He shares the simple invitation he hears from the Spirit of Christ and from His bride, the Church: Come.
Listen. The invitation is for you and for me and for all who thirst for that life-giving water.
Come and see. Come and hear. Come and drink. Come and live.
Come and see the uncountable multitudes gathering around the throne of God the Father. Come and see the white-robed martyrs on bended knees, literally genuflecting before the Father who spoke the word that made them, the Son who died that they might live, the Spirit who anointed them that they might believe.
Come and hear the four living creatures singing an unending acclamation:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come” (Revelation 4:8b).

Come and hear every creature, all made by God, sing unceasing praises in achingly sublime harmony:

“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

Come and drink. Drink from the clearer-than-crystal river that flows through the heavenly city. Come and drink from the water and the blood that flow commingled from the pierced side of the Son of God. Come and drink and never be thirsty again.
Come and live. Gather with all who have died and who now have been raised from death. Gather with all who died in hope that death would not speak the last word. Gather with all who have heard the living voice of the Lamb say, “Arise. Come forth from your grave. Come and live.”
Come and see. Come and hear. Come and drink. Come and live.

Questions for Reflection

  • Where in your life do you feel thirsty for God’s life-giving water?
  • How do you respond to God’s invitation to come into His presence?
  • Where do you encounter reminders of God’s promise of life-giving water?

Prayer
Father in heaven, help me to hear your invitation to come to you, to come and to drink the life-giving water that forgives my sin and restores my soul. When I have died, raise me up so that I may gather with all who have heard the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” I pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Note
Southwood Lutheran Church, Lincoln, provides daily devotions by e-mail. This reflection served as the message for Friday, January 10, 2014.

What Became of the Shepherds’ Flock?

In his sermon for Christmas Eve, our pastor, preaching on St. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, wondered aloud what the shepherds did with their flock after they had heard the angels’ assurance of the birth of the Savior and their promise of the sign the shepherds would find swaddled in the manger. Luke’s gospel does not tell us what became of the flock of sheep.

This morning’s Office of Readings began with the Invitatory psalm—Psalm 95. The antiphon appointed for Christmas framed the psalm, proclaiming:

Christ is born for us; come, let us adore him.

Then, lo and behold, the middle of this psalm, one that begins this office of the Liturgy of the Hours every morning, shone with new light, revealing God’s answer to the wondering question of what became of the shepherds’ flock:

Come, then, let us bow down and worship
bending the knee before the LORD, our maker.
For he is our God and we are his people,
the flock he shepherds.

—Psalm 95:6–7, LH

As David, the shepherd and psalmist, reminds us, we are the flock of sheep. And so, the shepherds do not leave us on the Judean hillside, grazing in the meadow. They bring us with them to the manger. On bended knees, we gather around the manger, and worship in true wonder the One who is our Lord, our God, our Shepherd. Amen.

Listening to Our Master

“Listen, O my son, to the teachings of your master, and turn to them with the ear of your heart” (Prologue 1, Benedict’s Rule, Terrence G. Kardong, trans., The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn., 1996).

St. Benedict begins his rule in simplicity by calling us to listen. When we put down what burdens our hands, when we set aside what concerns our hearts, when we stop moving for movement’s sake, and listen, then we have begun to follow his rule. In truth, though, listening to God is as much a part of the Christian life as it is the Oblate life.

While we typically read the Scriptures with our eyes, we can hear in “the ear of our heart” the times that God Himself, our Master, speaks to us and to all His people. Our world comes into being when God says, “Let there be …” (Gen. 1:3, New American Bible). St. John’s Christology tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NAB). Then the Invitatory that ushers in the daily divine office begins with a simple reminder that we respond to what we have heard, answering, “Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:15).

As we awake each morning, we can use our moments of silence to remind us to listen for the voice of our Master and to turn to Him, offering our attentive, listening hearts as an oblation to His glory.

David M. Frye, OblSB
Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus

On Allah and the Trinity

Miroslav Volf wrote an article, “Allah and the Trinity,” that appeared in The Christian Century, March 8, 2011, pp. 20–24.

I thought it was well written and did a solid job of presenting the fundamentals of orthodox Trinitarian theology. What I found intriguing was the thought about what part of a dialogue this article represents and the parts that are silent.

It presents a Christian view of statements in the Qur’an about Christianity, saying, “We do not see our faith reflected accurately in those statements, so what the Qur’an condemns is not what we hold to be the Christian faith.”

What was missing from the article, and may appear in the book, is how Christianity deals with Islam and its take on Christology, which seems, to me, to be the nub, or at least the tip of the nub. If Islam denies that God can be incarnate, then what it claims about God and what Christianity claims about God cannot both be right. That’s why one can view Islam as a Christological heresy. I would find it interesting to hear an Islamic theologian treat Christology from an Islamic perspective.

The question of truth comes down to the choice between “A” and “Not A.” These two choices together comprise the whole range of possibilities. If “A” is true, then “Not A” cannot be true, and conversely. The contentions of Christianity and Islam regarding Christology are of this form.

I suppose one could push Christian theology a little and say that not only is the incarnation an action that the Triune God chose to carry out to reveal himself to his creation, but that such an expression is constitutive of his very nature. If one grants that, then the divide between Christianity and Islam takes another step deeper. As I think this through, it strikes me that this may be the reason why the “Mohammedans” are condemned in the Augsburg Confession, Art. I, as ones who hold that “there is only one person” [in God].

The hopeful point about the condemnation is that one does not condemn as a heretic one who holds a belief in another god altogether. For example, we would not condemn Druids as heretics, but merely note they are pagans and therefore objects of the first fundamental round of witness to the faith in the Triune God. In contrast, at some level, those who pray to Allah and to the LORD are praying to the same God, so the conversation goes differently in this case.

Redefining Sin?

In his book, Making Sense of the Christian Faith, David J. Lose writes,

That’s how theologians have talked about sin for centuries. It’s a sin of self-assertion. Recently though, a number of theologians, and especially female theologians who didn’ historically have the same power that men did, have asked whether it is also a sin when we surrender the identity God gives us and accept the identity someone else gives us, even forces on us. In that case, we’re also not finding or receiving our identity through our relationship with God. This time it’s a sin of self-submission, letting someone else call the shots.
…it’s a sin to try to be more than God creates us to be—God’s children—but it’s also a sin to be less than God created us to be, too!

Among the things in this quote that give me vague feelings of dis-ease, the phrase “even forces on us” is perhaps the most troubling.

I’m reading Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, by Pope Benedict XVI, and so I’ve been reflecting on those events.

Jesus’ decision to submit to the temporal authorities provided them with the opening to place their identification upon him. If Lose’s definition of sin is correct, how did Jesus not sin? Or did he, by this definition? So, either the definition breaks down, or, if it doesn’t, it leads to an intolerable result and a type of Christological heresy. These are the only two logical conclusions to draw from applying the definition to Jesus.

That leads me to believe the premise of the definition is false.

The Gift of Tears

This past Tuesday at the Nebraska Synod’s annual Theological Conference,, when Bishop David deFreese shared a clip from A League of Their Own and mentioned that God makes some Christians “weepers,” I wrote myself a note to figure out why that sounded so familiar to me.

After a little digging, I discovered that I had just read a passage about the gift of tears the morning before. As part of my life as an Oblate, I pray several of the offices in the Liturgy of the Hours, the four-volume breviary used by priests and religious across the Catholic Church and by many Oblates regardless of their tradition. It would be tempting to call this a coincidence, but I’ve come to trust more in the guidance of the Spirit than the twists of fate. The second reading from the “Office of Readings” for Monday, Oct. 19, included this passage:

To spend much time in prayer is to knock with a persistent and holy fervor at the door of the one whom we beseech. This task is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech. He places our tears in his sight, and our sighs are not hidden from him, for he has established all things through his Word and does not seek human words. (From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, Bishop. Liturgy of the Hours IV, p. 413.)

There have been occasions in my devotions when God moves me to tears. It always feels like a gift, like I am somehow, as a gift of grace, brought into intimate contact with our Father, in companionship with his Son, as moved by their Spirit. My academic advisor in seminary, Robert W. Jenson, speaks of how the destiny of humanity is to be invited into the Divine Conversation that is the eternal life of the Trinity. It feels to me like these moments are glimpses of that coming reality. I don’t how we could be moved to anything other than tears, other than, perhaps, to be laughing while we cry!

Thanks to Bishop deFreese for his presentation and for bringing about this occasion for me to reflect a little bit on my emerging life of prayer.