What God?
Wednesday of Pentecost 21
12 October 2016
"Oh, I believe in God," is often the response to the question, "Are you a Christian?" The answer intends to be affirmative. Often the person who answers this way does not intend to deny the faith of Scripture, but in fact, this answer is a functional denial of the Christian faith. Any western religion, including Islam, Judaism, and even paganism can answer, "I believe in God." So it isn't the answer that a Christian believer wants to give. Which God are we talking about? For the God in whom we Christians believe is not generically divine, but He has revealed Himself in a specific and definite self-revelation in the incarnation of the Son of God of Mary.
 
There is nothing more un-generic than to be born in a specific place, in a specific time, of a specific woman. This is not an act of "general" divinity, but the act of the God of God, who chooses to reveal Himself this way for the salvation of the world. This is the self-revelation of the God who seeks not merely to be made known to humans, but who comes to act decisively in the world for their salvation.
 
Those who fail to confess that God of God became man of Mary do not confess the Christian God, but something that has more in common with the generic gods of other religions. If left to our own mental resources in imaging God, we shall worship the god who conforms to our own arbitrary standards. We Christians remain students of the prophets and apostles, so that God might save us from the substance-less specters of divinity that belch forth from our own feeble minds. Could it be that the truth of God's self-revelation is deeper than can be contained by our limited grasp of unity or multiplicity? Do I believe in God? No way! I believe in the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"The very centre of a saving faith is the belief not merely in God, but in God as a Father; not merely in Christ, but in Christ as the Son of God; in Him, not as a creature, but as God the Creator, begotten of God. My prime object is by the clear assertions of prophets and evangelists to refute the insanity and ignorance of men who use the unity of God (in itself a pious and profitable confession) as a cloak for their denial either that in Christ God was born, or else that He is very God. Their purpose is to isolate a solitary God at the heart of the faith by making Christ, though mighty, only a creature; because, so they allege, a birth of God widens the believer's faith into a trust in more gods than one. But we, divinely taught to confess neither two Gods nor yet a solitary God, will set forth the evidence of the Gospels and the prophets for our confession of God the Father and God the Son, united, not confounded, in our faith. We will not admit their identity nor allow, as a compromise, that Christ is God in some imperfect sense; for God, born of God, cannot be the same as His Father, since He is His Son, nor yet can He be different in nature.
 
"And you, whose warmth of faith and passion for a truth unknown to the world and its philosophers, must remember to reject the feeble and baseless conjectures of earthly minds, and in devout willingness to learn must break down the barriers of prejudice and half-knowledge. The new faculties of the regenerate intellect are needed. Each must have his understanding enlightened by the heavenly gift imparted to the soul. First he must take his stand upon the sure substance of God, as holy Jeremiah says (Jer 23:22; LXX), that since he is to hear about that substance he may expand his thoughts till they are worthy of the theme, not fixing some arbitrary standard for himself, but judging as of infinity.
 
"Though he is aware of being a partaker of the divine nature, as the holy apostle Peter says in his second Epistle (2Pt 1:4), yet he must not measure the divine nature by the limitations of his own, but gauge God's assertions concerning Himself by the scale of His own glorious self-revelation. For he is the best student who does not read his thoughts into the book, but lets it reveal its own; who draws from it its sense, and does not import his own into it, nor force upon its words a meaning which he had determined was the right one before he opened its pages. Since then we are to discourse of the things of God, let us assume that God has full knowledge of Himself, and bow with humble reverence to His words. For He whom we can only know through His own utterances is the proper witness concerning Himself." 

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 1.17-18
Jeremiah 23:1-8

"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: "You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.
 
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'
 
"Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but 'As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' Then they shall dwell in their own land."  (ESV)
Prayer
O Blessed Holy Trinity, You have revealed Yourself to us through Scripture. Give us the faith to conform our minds to Your self-revelation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
For those who will be seduced by Satan to avoid the gathering of the people of Christ around His gifts of Word and Sacrament Sunday, that they might be rescued from Satan's sulfurous embrace
 
For those who know only fear when they consider the Day of Judgment, that they might be brought into the peace of Christ through the blood of His cross
 
For those who give offerings to the church, that they would be led by heartfelt thanksgiving to offer generously so that the gospel may be proclaimed in all the world
 
For the Interim Principal of Memorial Lutheran School, Darrel Shepmann, that the Lord would be with him as he serves the school
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016