Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Homily Magnus: Ends and Means (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"O Lord, Thou art my God. I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name, for Thou hast done wonderful things.... For Thou hast made a heap of the city, a ruin of the fortified city...." Is. 25:1-2

In the previous chapter, Isaiah had been going on and on about the desolations of God. Then, without missing a beat, he praises God for the "wonderful things" that He has done, and those "wonderful things" are those desolations. This reasoning would seem mad at best and masochistic at worst if not for the fact that the desolations of God are never about themselves. They are not the temper tantrums of the divine, but rather the purging out of imperfection in His people (Is. 1:25). In short, God's desolations are always leading towards glory; specifically in Isaiah's case, the glory of God's coming kingdom (Is. 24:23), the deliverance of the weak (Is. 25:4), and the death of death (Is. 25:8). These glories are ours as well, for the desolations of the Lord are always working towards greater and greater glory (Rom. 11:25-36).

In light of this, it would seem that the ends do in fact justify the means, but only if those ends so greatly outweigh and outshine those means that the latter fade into insignificance. Such thinking is radical (and surely offensive), but it is also apparent within the New Testament: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). In view of the "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" that is waiting for us, all of our afflictions are deemed "light" by comparison (II Cor. 4:17). This is shocking language, but it is the language of the Bible. We, whose lives are consistently shaped by tragedy, are told that those tragedies are moving us towards something so magnificent, so unspeakable wonderful, that before it all our tragedies will shrink and shrivel away into the smallness beyond thought. To some, this understandably may seem to be an insensitivity to our condition as humans; for me, I see it as a beautiful hope for our condition.

Yet that hope is even greater than I have stated, and that in two ways. The first is in the nature of that glory, viz., it is "Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). This glory is not some vague mystical abstraction but a concrete identity. We are to be "conformed into the image" of Christ (Rom. 8:29), who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), and in whom "the fullness of the Godhead" dwell (Col. 2:9). The glory that we are moving towards is the very glory of God Himself. We are moving closer and closer, and deeper and deeper, into a oneness with Him (John 14:20; 17:3, 23), so that "when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). Thus will begin the "manifestation" and "glorious liberty" of the children of God, where God's glory will rain through His children to the redemption of all things (Rom. 8:19-21). And we and all creation will dance in that glory as lover with lover, for it is Love that bade us come and Love that brought us in and Love that keeps us in (Rom. 8:31-39).

The second way that our hope is even greater than I have said is in this: I actually misspoke earlier when I said that our tragedies and pains will fade to insignificance in the light of our coming glory. It is not quite right to say that, for "all things work together for good" for those who are called to God's purpose of glory (Rom. 8:28-30), and "all things" includes our tragedies as well. It is still true to say that the ends justify the means, but it is because the means will be gloriously justified before our eyes. They will find their significance. They will not fade, for they too will find their place in the infinite goodness of God. When the grey rain curtain of this world rolls away, and our eyes see the good country all hearts long to have, we will see that our pain and sorrow has infused every blade of grass and ray of sunshine, making them even more glorious. When the tapestry of God turns to us at last, so that we move from its back to its front and what was once a gibberish of stitches reveals itself to be a glorious pattern of color and beauty, we will also see our pains, our broken hearts and broken bodies, woven into the whole, adding to the pattern, accentuating the colors, and bringing more beauty than it had before. When we see Him, and are like Him, and watch His glory unfold and unfurl like a banner of victory across the stars, then we will find the words of Job on our lips: "Oh! Now I see."

We shall see. We shall see the significance, the consummation, the great and glorious meaning behind it all. We shall behold the King in His Beauty, and all action and activity will converge in Him and through us like a myriad of mirrors all reflecting back the light of the Sun. And in the light of that glory and grace, every part will find its place, even the ones that hurt the most. That is hope. Live in that hope. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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