3 Lent, March 4

Ex. 20:1-17Ps. 191 Cor. 1:18-25John 2:13-22

The heavens above, the earth beneath, the waters under the earth and all that dwell therein bear witness to the light. They are not the light, but bear witness to the light. They tell the glory of God. Creation speaks and instructs, exudes beauty, and gives joy (Ps. 19). The very nature of things announces that each and all are fearfully and wonderfully made. The heart may and must go out to these things, the observing eye hold them, the mind investigate them, the ear listen to what they say and do not say.

The sun and moon and stars of the firmament, vegetation and fruit-bearing trees, the birds of the air and the great sea monsters, cattle and creeping things, beasts of the earth, and men and women everywhere created in the image and likeness of God emanate glory and proclaim the mystery of their origin. Nature and all beings speak in this way: “We tell the glory of God; we are not God. We proclaim his handiwork; we are creatures. We bear witness to the Light; we are not the Light.” Our duty is this: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood” (Rom. 1:20). Creation is itself a sacrament, a sign pointing to the eternal mystery of creation out of nothing. Creation bears witness to an austere and jealous word: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Indeed, nature worships the cause of her being in the great Song of Creation (BCP, p. 88).

And yet nature, for all her beauty and order, experiences disorder and deformity as well. She is in travail. She witnesses to her creator and yearns for a redeemer. Something has gone terribly wrong that a story illustrates: “He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well’” (Matt. 13:24-26). No true account of nature and human nature as we see it from day to day can ignore this fact. Sin and death have come into the world. Beauty and brutality are in the order of things as they stand today.

Human attempts to fix this problem, notwithstanding the necessity and importance of always working for a more just and humane world, fail again and again. The God who creates is the God who redeems. God alone will separate the weeds from the wheat, at the close of the age, but even now God is plowing the human heart with the cross of Christ. Listen to St. Macarius: “So Christ our heavenly king came to till the soil of humankind devastated by sin. He assumed a human body and, using the cross as his plowshare, cultivated the barren soul. He removed the thorns and thistles which are the evil spirits and pulled up the weeds of sin” (Homily xxviii). In a similar way, an old Latin hymn shows the judge tearing open the deeds of the breast [rimari facta pectoris], which we could not endure but for God’s perfect balance of justice and mercy. The cross is the power and wisdom of God breaking open the human heart, piercing nature, and harrowing hell until all things are one in Christ. This hidden purgation, this silent path toward holiness, is the work of a lifetime.

Jesus, consumed with zeal, plows through the house of his Father. You and all creation are that house, the treasures of which are goodness, truth, and beauty beyond all knowing.

Look It Up
Read Psalm 19.

Think About It
How does God redeem nature?

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