Kruiz edited
"Further Up and Further In"
Monday in Lent 4
27 March 2017
In His death Christ embraces the world; the very world howling for His crucifixion. Was there ever a love like His that overcomes the world's hostility by patiently absorbing it into Himself? The Psalmist prophesied His universal mission, 'You have worked salvation in the midst of the earth' ( Ps 74:12). Although (we think) Golgotha is not at the geographical center of the world, Jesus makes it the epicenter of His mission of compassion for sinners. By stretching out His arms at Golgotha he pulls all that needs redemption into the mathematical point of His cross. Nothing is beyond His grasp; no sin is too great or too powerful, too insignificant or too unimportant. No human is too great for Him to draw to Himself nor too small for His concern. No future or present or past is unable to be drawn into the point of the cross. It pinions all under the pole round which everything revolves. The nails, which affix Him to the pole, enable Him to embrace the world. What makes Him captive to death frees Him to unfetter the captives.
 
This one truly free person puts His freedom into the chains of death that we might be set free. The one truly righteous person puts His righteousness at risk by placing it in our hands by faith, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And how did we repay Him for this? What have we returned to Him for this one act of mercy? We return to him nothing but vinegar and gall to drink. When He looks for good fruit in us, we have only yielded bad. The branches have been unfruitful. But He, the Vine, has determined to give His life-sustaining body and blood for us Christians to eat and to drink. While we produced only sour grapes, He has given us to drink of His blood returning again and again to draw us into the fellowship supper of His love. We behold God, and eat and drink ( Ex 24:11). Who goes away from this repast unchanged?
 
It is ironic that the narrower the point under the cross the more there is to experience of God's compassion in Christ. The more completely we focus on Christ and His cross the more rich and broad our experience of the grace of God. When the Church proclaims the narrow message of Christ crucified it embraces all people, races, languages, nations, and tribes. Christ stretches out His arms to embrace all. In C. S. Lewis's consummation of the Chronicles of Narnia, entitled The Last Battle, he portrays Aslan's faithful coming into a tiny stable on a battlefield where his warriors presume a faithful but certain death will befall them. As they enter the stable they become aware that as it grows smaller everything gets greater and ever larger. As they pass from Narnia into the paradise of the blessed, experiencing the full expanse of Aslan's world, their refrain is "Further Up and Further In." The Lord Jesus calls us from the narrow confines of our sin-sick world into the point of His cross where all the expanse of His love will open out for us. Our refrain then this Lenten season should be, "Further Up and Further In." Let's go into the cross!

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Cyril of Jerusalem
 
"He stretched out His hands on the cross, that He might embrace the ends of the world; for this Golgotha is the very center of the earth. It is not my word, but it is a prophet who said, 'You have worked salvation in the midst of the earth' ( Ps 74:12). He stretched forth human hands, who by His spiritual hands had established the heaven. They were fastened with nails, that His manhood, which bore the sins of men, having been nailed to the tree, and having died, sin might die with it, and we might rise again in righteousness. For since by one man came death, by one man came also life ( Rm 5:12, 17); by one man, the Savior, dying of His own accord. Remember what He said, 'I have authority to lay down my life, and I have authority to take it up again' ( Jn 10:18).
 
"But though He endured these things, having come for the salvation of all, yet the people repaid Him with evil. Jesus said, 'I thirst' ( Jn 19:28), He who had brought forth the waters for them out of the craggy rock; and He asked fruit of the vine which He had planted. But what does the vine do? This vine, which was by nature of the holy fathers, but of Sodom by purpose of heart--('For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison; their clusters are bitter.' [ Dt 32:32])--this vine, when the Lord was thirsty, having filled a sponge and put it on a reed, offers Him vinegar. 'They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink' ( Ps 69:21). See the clearness of the prophets' description.
                 
"But what sort of gall did they put into His mouth? They gave Him, it says, wine mingled with myrrh (Mk 15:23) . Now myrrh tastes like gall, and very bitter. Are these things which you return to the Lord? Are these your offerings, O vine, unto your Master? Rightly the prophet Isaiah beforehand bewailed you, saying, ' Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill;' and 'He looked,' he says, ' for it to yield grapes.' I thirsted that it should give wine; but it yielded wild grapes' (Is 5:1-2); and thorns. See the crown with which He is adorned."

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.28-29
Isaiah 5:1-7

Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.  (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, lead Your people into the point of Your cross that they might be rescued from the stifling confines of our world and brought into the breadth and depth of the kingdom of God. Amen.
 
For Pastor Joseph Randrianasolo of Madagascar, that the Lord Jesus would continue to grant him the fruitful gifts of His broad and deep kingdom
 
For Christopher and Linda Clark, who have been granted the gift of a healthy baby born prematurely, that the good Shepherd would watch over and guard them

For NLSA School accreditation team visiting Memorial Lutheran School, that the members of the team would would both learn and impart wisdom
 
For all those who are suffering marital difficulties, that God would lead them to see that marriage is a sign of Christ's love for his bride, the church
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias   Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017