“SAUL SPEAKS THE SAVIOR”
Romans 15. 4-13
Advent Midweek Vespers II: 12 December Anno Domini 2013
Father J. Watson SSP
Grace, Mercy and Peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus + Christ
Saint Augustine, an influence of Luther, wrote: “The New Testament was in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New Revealed.” Augustine could say this because he knew Saint Paul, he knew the Good News of the Advent Savior!
Paul was no pie-eyed, gauzy mystic but a hard as tacks practical manly-man missionary. He didn’t look to Delphic oracles, animal entrails, or Philippian silver idols. Paul had met the God/Man, the Living Glorified Christ on the Road to Damascus. Paul had heart the vocal chords (still Incarnated) of Christ speak to him and then teach him for three years in the Arabian Desert—his own 40 year wilderness seminary. But likewise, Paul was no secular scoffer. Paul believed in the transcendent Trinity and in the Imminent but Invisible Word of God. Paul confessed what the Spirit, what Christ had given Him to confess—the Word of God: the Hebrew Scriptures!
Not only did Paul know the Bible better than even the other Apostles, but Paul had met Peter, James and some of the others in Jerusalem. Paul had heard John’s story which mirrored everything he had already been granted by special revelation from Jesus. Paul knew John’s testimony was Christ’s testament: “search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me.” [Jn. 5.39] Paul tells you that it’s all true: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” [Heb. 13.8]
So, Paul’s epistle to the Christians at Rome was no mere “howdy-do; I’m Paul, and here is my program.” Instead Paul preaches boldly: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.” The Apostle is Gospelling the Old Testament as containing the Living Jesus! The Old Testament, also referred to as the “oracles.” (Acts, Romans, Hebrews, 1st Peter) are the Spirit’s words of Jesus from Genesis 1.1 to Malachi 4.6. The “learning” that Paul, the Holy Spirit, constrains on all of you, no less than the Romans, is not noetic—head knowledge of facts, dates, and arcane trivia, but normative gut-level faith and trust!
This “learning” is catechesis to form your body, both physical and spiritual to the shape of Jesus and His cross. Paul knows that you, like him, our chief of sinners. Paul knows that your old Adam daily produces actions and words, and desires, which are not befitting a follower of Jesus. Paul, the Holy Spirit, would have you see this shameful sinful situation! Do the words that come out of your lips bespeak the lips that have been touched by God’s Body and Blood to give you breath and sustenance and joy? Do the works of your hands icon the blessing that the pierced Hands of your Redeemer worked for you? Does your heart, your reins, grown with desires to help, to forgive, to bear your brothers burdens, as your Lord’s Heart bled Water + and Blood just for you? This is how you are supposed to live and hence Paul writes much of admonition, exhortation, and encouragement to “BE! Be what you are!”
Because of your epic failures Paul also gives the Hope that is only in Jesus… “That we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” If you are more miserable than you want to be I would only likewise exhort you: read the Scriptures! Are you reading the Apostles, the Holy Spirit’s, words to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Ephesians regularly, daily? Why not? Do you do what he told the Berean Christians to do—to search the Old Testament? Why not? Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. If Esaias could be fed a living coal from the altar by the tongs of a Seraph, than you can, should, and must, pick up the living coal of Christ’s Word and eat! By being “in Scripture” (whether Exodus, Jeremiah, or…Job) you are in the Lord’s riven side and He is in you in all ways possible and seemingly impossible. For even the Blessed Virgin was told that “with God all things are possible!”
What produces the patience that Paul prays you have and which the Lord gives? Christ is patience personified—in the flesh—as the Lamb that opened not its mouth as it was being led to slaughter; Who cursed not back when He was being cursed but forgave His enemies and murderers (i.e. all of you).
Patience is made durable and most beneficial by suffering. The longsuffering Christians undergo in their Advent journey to the Creche, to the true Altar of Bethlehem’s manger, produces Saints and little “lights of the world” that eat, drink, speak, and share Jesus with all the company of the redeemed. Jesus Himself remains perfectly patient and longsuffering until His final Advent. He is not fast to return, nor is He slow to return. Jesus wants all men to repent and believe and He will return when His message, the Holy Ghost’s, through Paul has been preached.
Your suffering, your patience, these gifts of God, make you hope and trust in Jesus and Jesus alone!
“That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is true homologia that is Paul’s evangel. There is only One Word, One grouping of words from One Word. This is why the ancient “kiss of peace” meant so much to the early church—lips to lips mouth to mouth, brother to brother, meant that there was only One Truth, One Peace, One Baptism, One Lord and One Church—One Jesus Christ! In the one liturgy, Gottesdienst (God’s Service), there is but one Creed and one Confession of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And you do most glorify God in the Mass wherein He feeds you and you reflect praise and thanksgiving.
“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” Faith, true faith and not empty parroting, produces works. Christians receive one another and do for one another with hospitality, bridled tongues, sacrifice, and care. Jesus says Paul wants you to practice what you preach. This is what Advent Christians do because they know the Master is returning very soon; maybe tonight; maybe before the sermon is over.
So that the Gentile Romans would understand that the God of the Hebrew Dessert and the Jerusalem high ground was the same Living Jesus of the Forum, Agora and Hill of Mars (Areopagus) he quotes the Old Testament four times wherein the inclusion of all ethne, pagans, barbarian, Greeks, Romans and Americans is made abundantly clear—four times for the four-fold Gospel! These four weeks of Advent bespeak the arrival of the Jesus that wants and has you!
Yes the Christ was first the Messiah to the Jews, the Suffering Servant of Esaias’ Gospel. But in His Bethlehem Advent, His Calvary Advent, and His final Advent (from Pentecost to Sunday Communion to final trumpet blast) He is The Light to lighten the Gentiles! He is the Glory of His New Israel!
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” AMEN.