Wed, 11 December 2019
(Is.41:13-20; Ps.145:1,8-13; Mt.11:11-15)
“I will make you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged.”
A “worm” and a “maggot” are we. We are “the afflicted and the needy [who] seek water in vain, [our] tongues… parched with thirst.” But holding our right hand, the Lord speaks to us: “Fear not, I will help you.” “I will open up rivers on the bare heights… I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.” And has not John the Baptizer come, into the desert, into the wilderness, and there poured the water of God’s compassion upon us for the forgiveness of sins?
Lush trees now grow in the desert: we who were once empty are now filled with God’s grace. And yes, “the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” For all these wonders accomplished in our midst are but to “make known to men [His] might and the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom.” Indeed, we now “thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff,” but all this is done in His power.
And how then do we understand Jesus’ words: “From John the Baptizer’s time until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force”? We know that John spoke boldly in the name of God; unafraid of his oppressors, he called all to repentance. We should all learn from the power of God he displayed in crying out in the wilderness. We know also that at the time Jesus spoke the above words, John was imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, suffering genuinely the violence of this generation. We know Jesus Himself will be crucified. We know all the apostles (save John) will be martyred for the faith – all His children suffer under the weight of the cross imposed by the violent of this world.
But we know also that this very cross is the means God has chosen to most poignantly reveal His powerful hand at work. For the nails which fix our hands to the wood have no power over us, and so by the humble acceptance of the violence of this age we do most dramatically destroy, crush into dust, the mountains of this world. And we upon whom the greatest violence is inflicted indeed effect the greater violence upon our oppressors, for by this sacrifice wickedness is destroyed and the righteous enter the kingdom of heaven. Let us act with such strength from God, brothers and sisters, for the sake of the kingdom.
O LORD, let there be springs of water
in the desert of this world,
that we poor souls might not die
but enter into your kingdom.
YHWH, Elijah has come as a threshing sledge preparing the way for your Son – and now all souls may enter your kingdom!
To the desert of our lives you have brought your water, O LORD. We who were parched and lifeless have heard the Baptist’s call to repentance and known the grace that comes to us thereby. Your Son, your very Son has come among us and opened the gates of Heaven; in His sacrifice you show your great compassion, and now this tree of life flourishes in our midst.
To the Cross we must all be nailed, dear LORD; all the evil in us must die. But what blessing such violence brings! For joining ourselves to your Son’s sacrifice, the glorious splendor of your reign is revealed to our eyes.
Though we must die, LORD, you live in us and remain in us until the end of time. And so for such grace we bless you; so this day we heed your Son’s voice. Let us be washed clean in the water from His side and come quickly to eternal life.