The Transfiguration: The Gospel, the Law and the Prophets

 

transfiguration Gospel Law Prophets

by St. Augustine of Hippo

We heard, as the Gospel was read, the story of the great vision in which the Lord showed himself to three disciples, Peter and John and James.

“His face shone like the sun”

– this means the splendor of the Gospel.

“His clothes became as white as snow”

– that is to say, the purification of the Church, about which the Prophet said:

“Though your sins be red like crimson, I will make them white as snow” (Isaiah 1.18 ).

Moses and Elijah were talking with him, for the grace of the Gospel receives the witness of the Law and the Prophets. For Moses, one understoods the Law; for Elijah, the Prophets are meant. Peter suggested that they build three tents, one for Moses and one for Elijah, one for Christ. He liked the solitude of the mountain; he was bored of the tumult of human affairs. But why did he wish to make three tents? Did he not know that the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel come from the same origin? In fact he was corrected by the cloud.

“As he said this a bright cloud overshadowed them.”

So the cloud made one tent, so why would you want three? And a voice from the cloud said,

“This is my beloved Son: heed him” (Mt17.1 to 8).

Elijah speaks, but “listen to him.” Moses speaks, “but listen to him.” Prophets speak, the Law speaks, but “heed him”, the voice of the Law and the tongue of the Prophets. It was he who spoke through them, and then he spoke by himself, when he deigned to be manifested. “Hear him,” listen to him.

When the Gospel spoke, know who was the voice of the cloud; from there, it came to us. We hear him; do what he tells us. Let us hope what he promises.

Source

 

The Transfiguration: Gospel Law Prophets

On Pulpit Freedom

by Abbot Tryphon

St. John Chrysostom Pulpit FreedomThe necessity of a pastor’s freedom to preach

The adoption of the Johnson Amendment in 1954 was the moment the Internal Revenue Service was given the power to dictate what could and could not be preached from American pulpits. With the threat of fines, or even losing tax exempt status for their parish, the Johnson Amendment threatened the very freedom of pastors to address biblical issues that stand at the core of what it means to be Christian. Many biblical issues revolving around marriage, the family, the poor, and sexuality, were politicized, and America’s pastors were informed that preaching on certain subjects could be interpreted by the IRS as infringements by religion into the area of the political.

The fear of being labeled “political” has sidelined many a pastor from injecting the Church’s biblical teachings into the life of the American scene. Sermons that were one day seen as simply preaching Gospel morality, are now seen as the injection of the Church into politics. A sermon preached on the issues of abortion or same-sex marriage, are now seen as an infringement into the realm of politics, and the unfair entrance of the Church into the affairs of the State. Pastors are now expected to remain on the sideline, keeping silent about basic moral issues that were, in the past, seen as their duty to address as religious leaders of this nation.

The truth is, it is not the Church that has become “political”, but rather the invasion of the State into the realm of the religion. The free exercise of religion requires freedom for the clergy to preach on moral issues that confront our modern society. The pastor must be free to address the care of the poor, national health, abortion, the position of the institution of marriage in our society, and issues that touch on the education of our youth.

The free exercise of religion, guaranteed by the First Amendment, prohibits the government from dictating what can, or can not, be preached from the pulpit, and is one of the core activities of the free exercise of religion. The Johnson Amendment violates the free exercise of religion, for it directly interferes in the role of religious leaders to speak prophetical on issues that are specifically addressed in scripture.

Freedom of religion based only on the freedom to worship is not freedom of religion. The free exercise of religion can not be allowed to be reduced to freedom of worship, for our Christian faith is not about worship only, but entails the whole of biblical living. Pastors must preach the whole message of the Scriptures, even if they affront the sensitivities of some. The Church can not be silenced in her prophetic duty to preach the Gospel, for a forced silence will turn biblical Christianity into nothing more than an homogenized State religion.

The Church must reclaim her constitutional right to speak out without fear of reprisal, and boldly stand for her own First Amendment right to engage in the political life of this great nation, freely preaching the Gospel of Christ.

Source

 

What Did Jews Identify the Gospel With?

Jews Identify the Gospel

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

The very notion of the “Gospel,” the Evangelion, lies so deep in Christian memory that it takes on a tautological quality, as it were: The Gospel is the Gospel. The “idea” of it is so integral to what we mean by “Christian” that the two concepts can hardly be dissected. We know that the Evangelion has component parts, but these are so structurally intertwined that isolating them for analysis is nearly impossible and never convincing.

So how do we go about identifying the Evangelion? Probably we should identify the source of the word, the literary place where the early Christians found the idea. That source was the Greek version of Isaiah 40:9:

“Ascend a high mountain, you evangelizer (evangelizomenos) of Zion. Raise your voice in strength, you evangelizer (evangelizomenos) of Jerusalem.”

It is significant—it is essential to observe—that the form of the word in Isaiah is a participle (of the verb evangelizo, traditionally rendered “to speak glad tidings”). When we speak of the Gospel, then, we should think in terms of a verb. (The underlying Hebrew word is also a participle: m-vashereth.) The evangelion is a living and dynamic proclamation. The content of its message is inseparable from its power. Its “idea” itself is an action. The Gospel, according to an early evangelizer, is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

The Isaian reference to the evangelion is not incidental to the theme of the larger section in which it appears. The second or middle section of the Book of Isaiah (chapter 40-55) is, in fact, thematically concentrated on the “glad tidings” of God’s new and final appearance, to give deliverance of His people.

The author even describes it as a renewal of the Exodus. As when ancient Israel first marched into the desert, he promises,

“The Lord (Adonai, YHWH) goes before you, and the God of Israel (Eloei Israel) is your rear guard” (52:12; cf. Exodus 14:19-20).

Once again,

“water will flow from the rock for them” (Isaiah 48:21; cf. Exodus 17:5-7; Numbers 20:8-11).

As the Lord, in the Sinai desert, sustained His people of old, so now, as well,

“They shall not hunger nor thirst” (Isaiah 49:10).

Once more the Lord

“will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom. He will gently guide those that are with young.” (40:11).

This message is the evangelion of Isaiah 40-55. The author of these texts, who

“was introduced most deeply into the mysteries of God’s grace” (am tiefsten in Gottes Gnadengeheimnisse eingelassen wurde—Von Balthasar),

prophesied nothing less than the personal arrival of the Lord, the God of Israel, coming to redeem His people.

To declare this message, said the prophet, the Lord assigned a special herald:

“The voice of someone crying out in the desert (en tei eremoi): ‘Prepare the way (hodos) of the Lord. Make straight the pathways of our God'” (40:3).

The early Christians were not in doubt whose voice this was; all four gospels identify it as that of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23).

And whose arrival does John the Baptist announce? Isaiah already identified Him:

“The Lord . . . our God”— Adonai . . . Eloheinu, the very “Lord” confessed in Israel’s Sh’ma’ (Deut. 6:4).

The four gospels, by citing Isaiah 40:3 at the beginning of their accounts, declared that the advent of Jesus was the fulfillment of the Isaian prophecies. With the arguable exception of the Book of Psalms, no part of the Old Testament was more important to the New Testament Christians than these central chapters of Isaiah.

And here, perhaps, we stub a hermeneutical toe on the edge of an irony: This middle section of Isaiah is utterly dominated by a monotheistic accent; the rock-base of its message is,

“I AM, and there is no other” (Isaiah 43:11; 45:5-6; 46:9).

The saving and redeeming Lord is the only God.

If we keep this fact in mind, it is instructive to observe how easily and readily the early Christians (along with, a bit later, the gospel writers) identified Jesus with this God, the “God in our midst”—Emmanu-El—foretold by Isaiah.

Think on this: the first Christians—Jews all—who regularly recited Israel’s Sh’ma’, apparently feeling no strain on their strict monotheistic conviction, and without significant dissent among their membership, begin to include a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, in their prescribed and official references to the God revealed in the Burning Bush.

How, for heaven’s sake, did this come to be?

 

 

 

 

On Reading the Scriptures

by St. John Chrysostom

Gospel and Cross

It would indeed be proper for us not at all to require the aid of the written Word, but to exhibit a life so pure, that the grace of the Spirit should be as though books to our souls; and that as these are inscribed with ink, even so should our hearts be with the Spirit. But, since we have utterly put away from us this grace, come, let us at any rate embrace the second best course. For that the former was better, God has made manifest, both by His words, and by His doings. Since to Noah, Abraham, and to his offspring, to Job, and to Moses also, He discoursed not by writings, rather He Himself, finding their mind pure. But after the whole people of the Hebrews had fallen into the very pit of wickedness, then and thereafter was a written word, and tablets, and the admonition which is given by these.

And this one may perceive was the case, not of the saints in the Old Testament only, but also of those in the New. For God did not give anything in writing to the Apostles, but instead of written words He promised that He would give them the grace of the Spirit.

For “He,” our Lord said, “shall bring all things to your remembrance.”

And that you may learn that this was far better, hear what He said through the Prophet:

“I will make a new covenant with them, putting My laws into their mind, and in their heart I will write them,”

and,

“they shall be all taught of God.”

And Paul too, pointing out the same superiority, said, that they had received a law

“not in tablets of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

But since in process of time they made shipwreck, some with regard to doctrines, others as to life and manners, there was again need that they should be put in remembrance by the written word.

Reflect then how great an evil it is for us, who ought to live so purely as not even to need written words, but to yield up our hearts, as books, to the Spirit; now that we have lost that honor, and are come to have need of these, to fail again in duly employing even this second remedy. For if it be blameworthy to stand in need of written words, and not to have brought down on ourselves the grace of the Spirit; consider how heavy the charge of not choosing to profit even after this assistance. On the contrary if we treat what is written with neglect, as though it was cast forth without purpose, and at random, we shall bring down upon ourselves an increased punishment. So that no such effect may occur, let us give strict heed unto the things that are written.

Now we are on the point of entering into a city (if God permit) of gold, and more precious than any gold. Let us then mark her foundations, her gates consisting of sapphires and pearls; for indeed we have in Matthew an excellent guide. For through his gate we shall now enter in, and much diligence is required on our part. For should the Lord see any one not attentive, He casts him out of the city. Yes, for the city is most kingly and glorious; not as the cities with us, divided into a market-place, and the royal courts; for there all is the court of the King. Let us open therefore the gates of our mind, let us open our ears, and with great trembling, when on the point of setting foot on the threshold, let us worship the King that is therein.

For have one leading us with the eyes of the Spirit—Matthew the Publican, who offers to show us all; where the King sits and His host who stand by Him. He will show us where are the angels, where the archangels; and what place is set apart for the new citizens in this city, and what kind of way it is that leads there, and what is the manner of portion they have received, who first were citizens therein, and those next after them, and such as followed these. Let us not therefore with noise or tumult enter in, but with a mystical silence. For if in a city, a great silence is made, when the letter of the king is to be read, much more in this city must all be collected, and stand with soul and ear erect. For it is not the letters of any earthly master, but of the Lord of angels, which are on the point of being read.

So today we set foot within a holy vestibule. Let us consider, the Jews, when they were to approach

“a mountain that burned, and fire, and blackness, and darkness, and tempest,”

—or rather when they were not so much as to approach, but both to see and to hear these things from afar—were commanded for three days before to abstain from their wives, and to wash their garments, and were in trembling and fear, both themselves and Moses with them. Therefore, much more should we who are not to stand far from a smoking mountain, but to enter into Heaven itself, show forth a greater self-denial; not washing our garments, but wiping clean the robe of our soul, and ridding ourselves of all mixture with worldly things. For it is not blackness that we shall see, nor smoke, nor tempest, but the King Himself sitting on the throne of that unspeakable glory, and angels, and archangels standing by Him, and the tribes of the saints, with those never-ending myriads.

For such is the city of God, having

“the Church of the first-born, the spirits of the just, the general assembly of the angels, the blood of sprinkling,”

whereby we are all knit into one. Heaven has received the things of earth, and earth the things of Heaven, and that peace has come which was of old longed for both by angels and by saints. Herein the trophy of the cross stands glorious, and conspicuous, the spoils won by Christ, the first-fruits of our inheritance, the booty of our King; all this we shall see in the Gospels. If you follow along with befitting quietness, we shall be able to lead you about everywhere, and to show where death is set forth crucified, and where sin is suspended, and where are the many and wondrous offerings from this war, from this battle. You shall likewise see the tyrant here bound, and the multitude of his minions led captive. You will see his hiding places, and the dens of his robbers, broken up now, and laid open.

But do not be weary, beloved, for if anyone was describing a visible war, and trophies, and victories, you would feel no satiety at all; no, you would not prefer either to eat or drink to such an account. But if that kind of narrative is welcome, how much more this. For consider what a thing it is to hear, how on the one side God from Heaven, arising

“out of the royal thrones, descended” (Wis. 18.15)

unto the earth, and even unto hell itself, and stood in the battle array; and how the devil on the other hand set himself in array against Him; or rather not against God unveiled, but God hidden in man’s nature. And what is marvelous, is that you will see death destroyed by death, and curse extinguished by curse, and the dominion of the devil put down by those very things whereby he did prevail. Let us therefore rouse ourselves thoroughly, and let us not sleep, for lo, I see the gates opening to us; but let us enter in with all seemly order, and with trembling, step straightway within the vestibule itself. But what is this vestibule?

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham.”

Source

 

 

The Lord Commanded…

plugged in

Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should earn their living by the Gospel.

 – 1 Corinthians 9:14

This is a reality for all the Church. Almost everyone has vehicles, cell phones, computers.

This is a command of the Lord.

Discuss.

 

 

P.S. – I’m going to be publishing an article on Small Parish Permaculture shortly, which will go a long way towards making  up for what is lacking in parish commitments to their clergy. Stay tuned.

The Subtle Unity of 25% of the New Testament

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

lukeThe intentional unity of Luke/Acts is more than sequential. It is also thematic, in the sense that both works carry the same images, ideas, and preoccupations.

In Luke/Acts there is, as well, a more subtle kind of unity, of a sort different from merely thematic and more complex than merely sequential. Perhaps we may call it “organic.”

The author of this double work is a historian, not just a chronicler. Indeed, he is more than a historian; he is a historiographer.

One perceives this quality of his work, for example, in his organic account of how the Church from the “little flock” to which the disciples of Jesus were reduced as he was progressively rejected by official Israel. The author discerns the growth of this rejection and indicates its actual effects on Jesus’ relationship to his disciples.

Thus, in the Gospel of Luke we see emerging a separate “Christian” group as a kind of “alternate Israel.” By at least halfway through the Gospel this group is becoming self-conscious as a new and distinct thing.

The developing leadership of this new and distinct group takes shape in the relationship of the Apostles to Jesus-and to one another-in the context of his changing relationship vis-a-vis official Israel. The author discerns and describes that development.

The established ecclesiastical authority we see as fully formed in the Book of Acts grows organically from the new mission of the Apostles evidenced in Luke 9. From the moment that Jesus authorizes them with “power and authority” (dynamis kai exsousia), the Apostles no longer feel themselves subject to the administration of official Israel. The boldness they manifest in the early chapters of Acts was rooted, not only in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but also in the earlier development of their relationship to Jesus and to one another.

In other words, the Evangelist appears to “read” the events narrated in the Gospel “through” the lens of the Acts of the Apostles. From the full fruit he is able to trace the earlier growth of the plant

One suspects that, in discerning that development, Luke was aided by his opportunities to speak with individual Christians in the Holy Land.

In pursuing this path to his narrative, the author of Luke/Acts is very distinctive among the New Testament writers.

This organic stricture in Luke/Acts has a permeating quality discernible in other ways. Take, for instance, the story about Herod that follows immediately the account of Jesus endowing the Apostles with “power and authority.”

The author, adhering to the sequence established in Mark 6, inserts a story about Herod between the mission of the Apostles and the multiplication of the loaves. But how differently!

Whereas Mark deftly uses his long account of Herod’s beheading of John the Baptist to indicate the significant interval between the sending of the Apostles (“So they went out . . .”-6:12) and their return

(“Then the Apostles assembled with Jesus”-6:30),

Luke has in mind a completely different purpose, conveyed in a peculiar organic narrative:

First, Luke had already removed John the Baptist from the story back in 3:19-20. Indeed, he removed John so thoroughly that the Baptist is not even mentioned in the account of Jesus baptism (2:21-22)!

Second, Luke joins this story of Herod to the things (ginomena panta—9:7) the dispersed Apostles are doing. This conjunction ties the present account to the narrative in Acts, which further extends the relationship of the Apostles to Herod’s family.

Third, in the introduction of Herod at this point in the Gospel, Luke prepares for Herod’s later appearance at Jesus’ trial (23:6-12). He does this in a curious way: He takes various popular assessments of Jesus (“Elijah” or “one of the old prophets”) and makes them rumors in the Herodian court. In portraying Herod as “weighing” (dieporei) these popular interpretations of Jesus, Luke likely relies on the witness of Johanna, who was tied to the Herodian court (cf. 8:3; 13:31).

Luke ends the account with the comment that Herod wished to “see” Jesus, thus setting up the later trial scene, when the king does see Jesus.

 

 

10 Reasons Why Friends and Family Struggle to Believe the Gospel

Communication1

By Chuck Lawless

I concur with the items on this list. What’s your take?

Southeastern Seminary, where I work, challenged all students, staff, and faculty to share the gospel at least once a day during the month of September. Based on my experiences that month, in addition to years of sharing Christ with family members, here are my thoughts about why my family and friends struggle with believing the gospel.

  1. They have never really heard the Gospel. The more I speak to people in North America, the more I realize this truth: some folks on our continent are just as distant from the gospel as unreached people groups around the world. Within the shadows of our church buildings are people who have never heard the truth.
  2. They struggle understanding the Bible. Even for those who are willing to read the Bible, the content is often new – and challenging. If genuine believers wrestle with interpreting the Bible, it shouldn’t surprise us that non-believers face the same battle.
  3. They see the gospel as too good to be true. The story of the gospel really is quite astounding. That the one and only creator God would forgive our sins, make us whole, place us in His family, and indwell us is hard to fathom, especially if the story is new. Nobody I know – believer or unbeliever – fully grasps God’s work of salvation.
  4. They see hypocrisy in the church. I’ve heard this general excuse for years, but more recently I’ve heard the words with specificity. “I don’t expect people to be perfect,” a family member told me, “but if _______ represents what a Christian is, I don’t want to be a part.” We may defend the church all we want, but we must not forget that watching unbelievers see the reality in our lives.
  5. They hear other messages more loudly. Even if a non-believer hears three one-hour Christian sermons per week (which seldom happens), he still hears dozens of hours of other messages throughout the week. The media emphasizes moral stances in opposition to Christian teaching. Preachers of false gospels dominate the television. Political correctness reigns – and the gospel gets clouded in the process.
  6. They are enjoying their sin. There’s no other way to describe this obstacle. Sin can be fun (at least for a while), and some of the people I know are having a good time. Following Christ, they assume, would cost them too much fun. Combining this reasoning with the next reason, they see no need to turn to Christ today.
  7. They believe time is on their side. This is not always the case, of course. Some of my older family and friends are now more willing to talk about eternal matters as they see their own generation passing away. Those who are younger, though, have been more interested in waiting to consider Christianity. No urgency drives them to consider life and death matters now.
  8. They still fail to see their lostness. Their reasoning is neither new nor unique. “I treat people well, and I try to help my neighbors.” “Let me tell you some of the good things I’ve been doing.” “I just don’t believe a good God will send good people to hell.” “I don’t do anything that’s just evil.” Folks who see no need for forgiveness seldom seek it.
  9. They cannot understand the preaching. Obviously, this reason assumes non-believers who have attended church (as does the next one). A family member told me, “I like hearing _______ preach, but I don’t really understand him.” Granted, the Spirit of God helps us to understand the Word, but this message is nevertheless clear: we who preach the Word are not there to impress; we are there to communicate the life-giving message of the gospel. Clarity is a must.
  10. They are overwhelmed by Christian follow up. Frankly, this response has surprised me. Occasionally, a church fully committed to outreach and follow up has been so faithful to the task that they have frightened off a non-believer. I am grateful for churches this passionate, but it’s worth remembering that non-believers may not be prepared for our zeal. Sensitivity matters.

I suppose there are few new findings here, but I needed this reminder. Obstacles to the gospel have not changed much, at least in my experience.

What other obstacles have you found?

Source

The Beginning of Evils

lift up your heartsby St. Ignatius of Antioch

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again.

It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion of Christ has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved.

But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.

 – St. Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans (ca. 105)