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Beginning, Failing, Enduring

3 Lent

Ex. 3:1-15Ps. 63:1-81 Cor. 10:1-13Luke 13:1-9

In the name of “It is I” and of the voice, and of the flame, one God, let us think (Ex. 3). Admitting the baffling complexity of our long story and turning keen eyes to the details, it is nonetheless true that the Christian story is one story, Jesus Christ our Lord. Wherever we look, there he is. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Thus, to even suggest that there was a time when the Son was not is a blatant heresy.

St. Paul is bold to see in the ancient story of the exodus a typology of what is to come. They were baptized into Moses; they ate spiritual food, and drank a spiritual libation. The old story anticipates the new, to be sure, but there is more at stake than a pattern of promise and fulfillment. Because Paul lives in Christ, he is not at liberty to bracket or otherwise hem in his perception of received tradition. Simply, he cannot avoid being the self he is, and that self is defined and informed by the words in Christ. So, what he sees in the story is not merely a type awaiting fulfillment, but the very presence of Christ. “For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Yet more precisely, noting the continuous action implied by the imperfect tense (they were drinking) and a present participle modifying the rock (Christ following them), we observe that Christ was with them moment by moment, moving with them, sustaining them. How could it be otherwise? Christ is all in all.

Both the church of Israel and the church confessing Christ are baptized in water and blood, sustained by miraculous bread and water from the rock. This cleansing washes away the foul dirt of oppression, summons to freedom and the risk of responsible living under the Spirit-cloud that leads the church into all truth (Gregory of Nyssa, Moses, bk. II, par. 121). And yet not all is perfected. “God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness” (1 Cor. 10:5). “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Thus, a checklist of warnings: Do not become idolaters, do not indulge in sexual immorality, do not put Christ to the test, do not complain. In other words, repent! Indeed, “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did” (Luke 13:3,5).

Repentance involves turning soil and mixing manure under the gaze of providential patience (Luke 13:8-9). The God-man waits for the fruit of the fig tree. Symbols aside for just a moment: What does Jesus want? He wants the fruit of his presence and the pouring forth of righteousness, but he also wants a different fruit, the bitter victory of people who endure. Life is a test, and with the test there is a way out that is strangely to remain in and to endure and to go on until we are parted by death from the sorrow and pain and sighing no human can avoid (1 Cor. 10:13).

Baptized into the life of Christ, we find ourselves yet less than what we might be. We find failure, but Christ calls us on and on and into his future. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). So with the moment comes the food of his presence. Thus we endure.

Look It Up
Read Ps. 63:6. Make sure you meditate in the night watches.

Think About It
The same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Even Jesus endures.


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