Joy Will Come
Wednesday of Epiphany 4
1 February 2017
The Psalmist says, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps 30:5). Tears are indicative of sorrow and suffering of the soul. The believer often feels the anguish that comes through bearing the cross. Sometimes he grieves for the wickedness of the world, sometimes for his own unchaste depravity, sometimes for the suffering of others. His eyes pour out what Hilary of Poitiers so powerfully described as "the sweat of the agonized soul." But the believer's swimming eyes are raised to Him who wept in deep grief for His people when He looked over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37). What agony He felt that those for whom He would die had scattered this way and that, trying to escape the sheltering security of His embrace.
 
What manner of God is moved this way? How does the impassible God suffer such grief? Remember He sweat great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion (Lk 22:44). By reason of His incarnation Christ has taken our passable nature, with all of its weaknesses, yet without diminishing His eternal Godhead. He experiences the suffering of His own soul when those whom He called fled from His presence, those whom He taught contradicted His instruction, and those for whom He died mocked Him in death. How precious this sweat of the agonized Son of God is to us.
 
We too suffer so, yet He greater things has suffered. How comforting to see our God suffering over and for sinners like us. See how persistent He is in His salvific mission for fleeing children. He knows how we feel when we are suffering, for He has suffered greater agony of body and soul. In the agonized night of the soul He whispers the encouragement that comes from the midst of His genuine agony, we recognize the voice of the God who suffers, "I have come to gather you under my wings, as a hen gathers her chicks." Under the shadow of the wings of the suffering God, joy will come.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"For the present I will speak of the incarnation only. Tell me, I pray, you who pry into the secrets of heaven; the mystery of Christ born of a Virgin and His nature, how will you explain that He was conceived and born of a Virgin? What was the physical cause of His origin according to your arguments? How was He formed within His mother's womb? Where do His body and His humanity come from? And lastly, what does it mean that ' No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man'  (Jn 3:13)? It is not possible by the laws of bodies for the same object to remain and to descend. The one is the change of downward motion; the other the stillness of being at rest. The infant wails but is in heaven. The boy grows but remains ever the immeasurable God. By what perception of human understanding can we comprehend that He ascended where He was before, and He descended who remained in heaven? The Lord says, 'What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before' (Jn 6:62)? The Son of Man ascends where He was before. Can sense apprehend this? The Son of Man descends from heaven, who is in heaven. Can reason cope with this? The Word was made flesh. Can words express this? The Word becomes flesh, that is, God becomes Man. The Man is in heaven. God is from heaven. He ascends who descended, but He descends and yet does not descend. He is as He ever was, yet He was not ever what He is. We pass in review the causes, but we cannot explain the manner. We perceive the manner, and we cannot understand the causes. Yet if we understand Christ Jesus even thus, we shall know Him. If we seek to understand Him further, we shall not know Him at all.
 
"Again, how great a mystery of word and act it is that Christ wept, that His eyes filled with tears from the anguish of His mind (Lk 19:41) . How did this defect come on His soul that sorrow should wring tears from His body? What bitter fate, what unendurable pain, could move to a flood of tears the Son of Man who descended from heaven? Again, what was it in Him who wept? God the Word? His human soul? For though weeping is a bodily function, the body is but a servant; tears are, as it were, the sweat of the agonized soul.
 
"Again, what was the cause of His weeping? Did He owe to Jerusalem the debt of His tears, Jerusalem, the godless parricide, whom no suffering could requite for the slaughter of Apostles and Prophets, and the murder of her Lord Himself? He might weep for the disasters and death that befall mankind. But could He grieve for the fall of that doomed and desperate place? What, I ask, was this mystery of weeping? His soul wept for sorrow; was it not the soul which sent forth the Prophets, which would so often have gathered the chickens together under the shadow of His wings (Mt 23:37) ? But God the Word cannot grieve, nor can the spirit weep. Nor could His soul possibly do anything before the body existed. Yet we cannot doubt that Jesus Christ truly wept."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 10.54-55
Matthew 23:29-39

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
 
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"  (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have sought to shelter us in the shadow of Your wings, while we have sought our own flimsy salvation while fleeing from Your sheltering love. Send Your Holy Spirit to change us that we might not flee you but ever to remain under Your bloody arms outstretched. You have wept for us that we might see joy in the morning. Help us to use Your Word to call the weeping to the shelter of Your gospel that they too might rejoice in the morning. Amen.
 
For all those in the agony of drug addiction, that they might shelter secure under the arms of Jesus and be released from their burdens by His love
 
For all those who are suffering from cancer, that Christ would be with them in the dark night of their agony, that they might see joy in the morning brought by Him
 
For Pr. Charles Wokoma, who is a missionary instructor at Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Nigeria, that the Lord would grant him success in his labors to raise funds for his work
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio   Wedding Feast at Cana  (c . 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017