Loving God: November 2003 Archives

Christ Altogether Lovely XII


Here's another passage that needs very little in the way of explication. The vision of humanity is distinctly puritan and somewhat repugnant to Catholic sensibilities; however, if we transfer that description to the description of a soul in sin, we are not too far off the mark.

from "Christ Altogether Lovely:
Rev. John Flavel

Secondly, He is a lovely bridegroom to all that he betroths to himself. How does the church glory in him, in the words following my text; "this is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O ye daughters of Jerusalem!" Heaven and earth cannot show anyone like him, which needs no fuller proof than the following particulars:

1. That he betroths to himself, in mercy and in loving kindness, such deformed, defiled, and altogether unworthy souls as we are. We have no beauty, no goodness to make us desirable in his eyes; all the origins of his love to us are in his own breast, Deut. 7:7. He chooses us, not because we were, but in order that he might make us lovely Eph. 5:27. He came to us when we lay in our blood, and said unto us, "Live"; and that was the time of love, Ezek. 16:5.

2. He expects no restitution from us, and yet gives himself, and all that he has, to us. Our poverty cannot enrich him, but he made himself poor to enrich us, 2 Cor. 8:9. 1 Cor. 3:22.

3. No husband loves the wife of his bosom, as much as Christ loved his people, Eph. 5:25. He loved the church and gave him self for it.

4. No one bears with weaknesses and provocations as Christ does; the church is called "the Lamb's wife," Rev. 19:9.

5. No husband is so undying and everlasting a husband as Christ is; death separates all other relations, but the soul's union with Christ is not dissolved in the grave. Indeed, the day of a believer's death is his marriage day, the day of his fullest enjoyment of Christ. No husband can say to his wife, what Christ says to the believer, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you," Heb. 8:5.

6. No bridegroom enriches his bride with such honours by marriage, as Christ does; he makes them related to God as their father, and from that day the mighty and glorious angels think it no dishonour to be their servants, Heb. 1:14. The angels will admire the beauty and glory of the spouse of Christ, Rev. 21:9.

7. No marriage was ever consummated with such triumphal proceedings as the marriage of Christ and believers shall be in heaven, Psalm 14:14,15. "She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needle-work, the virgins, her companions that follow her, shall be brought unto thee; with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the king's palace." Among the Jews, the marriage-house was called the house of praise; there was joy upon all hands, but nothing like the joy that will be in heaven when believers, the spouse of Christ, shall be brought there. God the Father will rejoice to behold the blessed accomplishment and confirmation of those glorious plans of his love. Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom will rejoice to see the travail of his soul, the blessed birth and product of all his bitter pains and agonies, Isa. 53:11. The Holy Spirit will rejoice to see the completion and perfection of that sanctifying design which was committed to his hand, 2 Cor. 5:5, to see those souls whom he once found as rough stones, now to shine as the bright, polished stones of the spiritual temple. Angels will rejoice: great was the joy when the foundation of this design was laid, in the incarnation of Christ, Luke 2:13. Great therefore must their joy be, when the top-stone is set up with shouting, crying, "Grace, grace." The saints themselves shall rejoice unspeakably, when they shall enter into the King's palace, and be forever with the Lord, 1 Thes. 4:17. Indeed there will be joy on all hands, except among the devils and damned, who shall gnash their teeth with envy at the everlasting advancement and glory of believers. Thus Christ is altogether lovely, in the relation of a Bridegroom.

Just as man and woman are made whole and one, in some sense, through the sacrament of marriage, the Marriage of the Soul to Christ is the sign of being made complete. Christ as bridegroom welcomes us to the completion of our days, and so this may be the loveliest of the image of Christ presented.

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Christ Altogether Lovely XI

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We approach the end of the sermon. We will discuss His loveliness in His relations in four parts, and then we will arrive at application. And this is what I love about this kind of sermon--it is rounded out with "So how do I make that useful in my life?" Often the sermons we here, the homilies propounded give a nice glimpse into the world of the Bible, but too often one leaves with no real expectation of acting on what was said because little was provided in the way of guidance. The Puritan sermonizers left little to the imagination when it came to this aspect of preaching. Preaching was to be a practical application of God's prinicples to human life.

from "Christ Altogether Lovely"
Rev. John Flavel

He is Lovely in His Relations.

First, He is a lovely Redeemer, Isa. 61:1. He came to open the prison-doors to them that are bound. Needs must this Redeemer be a lovely one, if we consider the depth of misery from which he redeemed us, even "from the wrath to come," 1 Thess. 1:10. Consider the numbers redeemed, and the means of their redemption. Rev. 5:9, "And they sang a new song, saying, 'You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people and nation.'" He redeemed us not with silver and gold, but with his own precious blood, by way of price, 1 Pet. 1:18,19. with his out-stretched and glorious arm, by way of power, Col. 1:13. he redeemed us freely, Eph. 1:7, fully Rom. 8:1, at the right time, Gal. 4:4, and out of special and particular love, John 17:9. In a word, he has redeemed us for ever, never more to come into bondage, 1 Pet. 1:5. John 10:28. O how lovely is Jesus Christ in the relation of a Redeemer to God's elect!

He opens the doors of the prison. Where there was darkness, He shines light. Where one could not see, now all is clear. Is there anything more lovely than the smell of fresh air when one has been confined for hours in a stuffy room? How much more so then, when one has been wallowing in the enclosed chamber of one's own sinfulness for a lifetime--what must the breeze of the spirit smell like then. Altogether lovely.

And consider this--He is altogether lovely in that the redemption He offers is for all people for all time. He leaves the ninety-nine and searches out the one lost. He harrowed hell to take back His own, and He constantly works wonders to redeem souls thought lost--consider Matt Talbot, Dorothy Day, (St.?) Charles de Foucauld, St. Augustine, and others who initially lived less than exemplary lives. See how their lives were transformed in His own. Altogether lovely.

See how the action of redemption works in your own life when you let it. See how it can free you from present misery and render you capable of service to the Kingdom of God. Through you, God may speak and redeem a great many others. Altogether lovely.

And the redemption was in His blood and His suffering. He didn't wave a magic wand and cause all human suffering to pass away. He suffered, toiled, died, was laid in the tomb, and rose again in glorious splendor. He ascended into heaven in a sign of our own destined ascension. Altogether lovely.

He is indeed altogether lovely in His relations. He has paid the price for us, and we are unfit to wash His feet, and yet He raises us to the dignity of sons and daughters. Altogether lovely.

Flavel's sermon makes me want to sing His praises all day and all my life--and that is truly the Spirit of God speaking through a man of God. Praise God for His goodness and mercy, the redemption He won for us. Praise Him, the One, Altogether Lovely.

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Christ Altogether Lovely X


I continue now the discussion of "Christ Altogether Lovely." While the doctrine is not thoroughly Catholic, the expression of love for Jesus is profoundly stirring and Flavel points up some things that we too often miss. Find the complete sermon here.

from "Christ Altogether Lovely"
Rev. John Flavel

He is Lovely in His Offices

Secondly, He is altogether lovely in his offices: let us consider for a moment the suitability, fullness, and comforting nature of them.

First, The suitability of the offices of Christ to the miseries of men. We cannot but adore the infinite wisdom of his receiving them. We are, by nature, blind and ignorant, at best but groping in the dim light of nature after God, Acts 17:27. Jesus Christ is a light to lighten the Gentiles, Isa. 49:6. When this great prophet came into the world, then did the day-spring from on high visit us, Luke 1:78. By nature we are alienated from, and at enmity against God; Christ comes into the world to be an atoning sacrifice, making peace by the blood of his cross, Col. 1:20. All the world, by nature, is in bondage and captivity to Satan, a miserable slavery. Christ comes with kingly power, to rescue sinners, as a prey from the mouth of the terrible one.

Secondly, Let the fullness of his offices be also considered, which make him able "to save to the uttermost, all that come to God by him," Heb. 7:25. The three offices, comprising in them all that our souls do need, become an universal relief to all our distresses; and therefore,

Thirdly, Unspeakably comforting must the offices of Christ be to the souls of sinners. If light be pleasant to our eyes, how pleasant is that light of life springing from the Sun of righteousness! Mal. 4:2. If a pardon be sweet to a condemned criminal, how sweet must the sprinkling the blood of Jesus be to the trembling conscience of a law-condemned sinner? If a rescue from a cruel tyrant is sweet to a poor captive, how sweet must it be to the ears of enslaved sinners, to hear the voice of liberty and deliverance proclaimed by Jesus Christ? Out of the several offices of Christ, as out of so many fountains, all the promises of the new covenant flow, as so many soul-refreshing streams of peace and joy. All the promises of illumination, counsel and direction flow out of Christ's prophetic office. All the promises of reconciliation, peace, pardon, and acceptation flow out of his priestly office, with the sweet streams of joy and spiritual comforts which accompany it. All the promises of converting, increasing, defending, directing, and supplying grace, flow out of the kingly office of Christ; indeed, all promises may be reduced to these three offices, so that Jesus Christ must be altogether lovely in his offices.

In all that He was appointed to do for us, there is perfection that transcends the human ability to express. He has perfectly served God's purposes in the redemption He won for us and more perfectly yet served each one of us. I am amazed most particularly by the last paragraph here. Is there a sound sweeter to those burdened than the music that means rest and quiet? Is there a gift greater to those who are in captivity than freedom, and not only freedom, but freedom with dignity and with possibility? We are not set free to struggle yet further for ourselves, as often happens with human captives. Rather we are set free to continue in the perfect freedom of Jesus Christ.

Indeed Christ is altogether lovely in all that He has done for us. In all that He is appointed to do He answers the office to perfection. Another cause for deep praise and tremendous devotion.

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Sharing from Lectio--The Gospel of Mark


In case you haven't noticed, I'm not in any real hurry to get through the Gospel of Mark. The pace is uncannily slow, and yet, every time I open up the Gospel this first chapter screams at me to spend more time and to truly understand the message intended for me. I offer the following not as exegesis or a pretence of some profound explication of the realities of scripture, but as a model of what one can do in the course of lectio and to encourage all to give it a try--daily if possible. Always check your conclusions and "revelations" against the truth revealed in the treasury of the Magisterium, but listen to the Spirit of God breathed out through the words of Scripture as well. The two cannot conflict, and so, if you come to some conclusion counter to that of the Church, discard it as a fancy, a momentary aberration of thought in the course of deep meditation. And always pray and ask God how you might apply what you have gained in the course of your meditation and prayer to the betterment of your life in God. He reveals what He reveals for a reason.

You'll note in the excerpt below, three different movements from three different times of prayer over this scripture. I excerpt to remove much of what is entirely personal and only share the things that may have broader implications and utility.

A Sharing from Lection on the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1

Mark 1: 7-8 The Preaching of John the Baptist

7 And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Now we know that these are not the only words the Baptist preached. One wonders what else he was saying at the time. Whatever it was, it compelled a great many people to make a long and hazardous trip into the desert to hear him. He had a powerful and persuasive voice and a way of conveying the urgency of the coming kingdom.

The vast sands of the parched wilderness stretch out to touch the deep blue sky. The river itself is a silver gash, alive with ripples. Where are these people in their masses and hordes coming from? What truth do they see in this strange man? And how do I learn to see the same thing? How can I look past the merely unpleasing and see what God is doing? How do I learn not to seek the favor of others by agreeing where agreement is not required? We all must, to some degree begin or become prophetic and our setvice is to all the world, but most particularly we are called to witness to the efficacy of repentence--we best proclaim the Father's love for us as repentant sinners. Our joy is in the Lord who was at this moment in the narrative still unknown.

[2]So here is the problem for each of us--we need to find the desert in which we must dwell to better hear the sweet name of the Lord who redeems us. He speaks to us continually, and we don't hear it--we long to hear his voice and yet we stop our ears against the sound of it. I fear failure so much that often I do not even try--the cost seems too high. The cost is nothing less than all that I am and all that I have.

[3]Repentance and forgiveness go hand-in-hand

From Barclay's Commetary on the Gospel of Mark

A man must make confession to God. The end of pride is the beginning of forgiveness. It is when a man says, "I have sinned," that God gets the chance to say, "I forgive." It is not the man who desires to meet God on equal terms who will discover forgiveness, but the man who kneels in humble contrition and whispers through his shame, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

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Evening Examen--The Beauty of Christ


"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen."

Where O Lord did I see your beauty today? Did I bring You to the world as altogether lovely and the perfect vessel of Love? Where did I fail in an opportunity to convey Your love to the people around me? Where did I fail to appreciate Your loving-kindness to me? Lord, give me the strength to love You and to help others to love You. Strengthen my vision so I may see You in Your loveliness, strengthen my voice so that I may always sing of Your loveliness, strengthen my heart that I may always love You in your loveliness, and by loving You make You known to all the world.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Loving God category from November 2003.

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