John Donne, Priest, 1631
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Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalms , or 42, 43 (morning) 85, 86 (evening)
When Paul thinks about the wonder of Christ's cross and resurrection, he cannot help but declare total victory on behalf of Christ. He thinks of the consequences of Adam's disobedience -- judgment and condemnation for all. All die. Then he thinks of the consequences of Jesus' obedience -- justification and life for all. All live. If Adam's disobedience brought death, how much more will Christ's obedience bring life.
In one sense, Paul says, they can't be compared. Christ's victory is so much greater, so much more total and universal than Adam's failure. They are not to be compared, says Paul. Whatever was lost by Adam is more than restored by Christ. "If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
"Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all." The victory is total, says Paul. If because of Adam's sin every human being was consigned to mortal death, much more surely will every human being receive the free gift of eternal life through the victory of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians, Paul put it even more succinctly: "for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." (1 Cor. 15:22)
Paul also argues that later, with Moses, came the law, and the law increased the level of condemnation because the law gave people more consciousness of their sin. Yet grace abounds even more profoundly than law ever could. "But law came in," Paul writes, "with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Here in Romans when Paul contemplates the glory of Christ's gift, he can't imagine anything but total victory, universal salvation. There are other places in his writing when he seems to think there are some who can resist this gift of life, but here as he thinks of the consequences of Jesus' work, the implication is complete and total victory. Christ has established an ontological change in the order of things. In Christ, all that was separated is reunited, all that was lost is redeemed.
We still see a struggle going on in our own mortal lives, Paul says. We don't always live by the light and life we have been given. Some even resist the free gift of loving acceptance. For now, humanity struggles to live into the fullness of the grace we have been given. But Paul has absolute confidence in Christ, and in the final completeness of Christ's victory. We will see Paul work with the implications of this confidence later in this letter to the Romans as he discusses the circumstances of those who have rejected Christ and his cross, particularly his own kinfolk the Jews.
Every time Paul looks at something that seems to be partial failure, he can only imagine even greater future victory. The failure of the Jews to accept Jesus as their Messiah opened the door for the inclusion of all others into God's promises. No failure can threaten Christ's greater victory. Therefore be confident. Be fearless. We are free to love all, because Christ's grace extends to all.
Today is the feast of John Donne. In one of his poems, he picks up the tradition that the cross of Calvary happened at the place of Adam's sin or at the location of Adam's grave. Donne personalizes Christ's envelopment of Adam's sin into the triumph that Paul also celebrates. Donne asks that in himself may this wonderful victory of Christ be repeated in Donne's on person. That which is cast down is raised up.
We thinke that Paradise and Calvarie,
Christs Crosse, and Adams tree, stood in one place;
As the first Adams sweat surrounds my face
May the last Adams blood my soule embrace.
So, in his purple wrapp'd receive mee Lord,
By these thornes give me his other Crowne;
And as to others soules I preach'd thy word,
Be this my Text, my Sermon to my owne,
Therefore that he may raise the Lord throws down.
"Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification for all."
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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
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The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.
See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org
Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church