Ps. 95:1-9; Romans 5:1-8
Rock, O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!... O come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!... Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test… though they had seen my work. (vv. 1, 6, 7c-9)
Most of you recognize the Psalmody assigned for the third week in Lent, the Venite that opens the church’s office of Matins. Observe how beautifully it recapitulates last Sunday’s Readings, identifying Christ, “the Rock of our Salvation” in old and NT.
God commanded Moses to direct his staff; the sign of his Office, for parting the Red Sea, leading Israel’s rescue by baptism and a deluge of death for their pursuers from Pharaoh.
On journey to Sinai, the mountain of God, Israel grumbled; they considered the Lord sluggish in responding to their need for potable water. Ironically, they just escaped through a deadly flood but now complained the dearth of water.
God called Israel out of Egypt to be his firstborn son for service and worship; but the sin of ingratitude is not how a son honors his father. Our Psalm records God’s heart toward Israel’s attitude, “For forty years I loathed that generation… “they have not known my ways” (v. 10).
Still God is gracious and long-suffering. In the desert the pre-incarnate Christ stood on the Rock of Horeb. At God’s command Moses struck the Rock for the issue of quenching water. We in the NT recognize Christ on cross to be “the Rock of our salvation” struck by a Roman spear; from that Jesus’ side disgorged “living water” and blood for the life of his new Israel, a “generation” on which God pours out his love in this manner.
God creates baptismally; by water, Word and Spirit. On the sixth day of the first creation, by Word and water the dust of the earth became the stuff of which man was fashioned. God then breathed the spiritual moisture of his HS into the face of Adam for an interior Life to hear his Word (Gen. 2:5-7). With the creation of man in the Garden, a river [welled up and] flowed out of Eden to irrigate it and the four corners of the world (v. 10a).
From our Psalmody we hear Gospel echoes of the first creation; Jesus as source of “living water” for the new creation, speaks to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water… The water that I will give…will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:10, 14b).
It is by “living water”and Word by which man is able to worship in Spirit and Truth. The HS breathes the Truth of God’s word into our being; and that Truth is naught other than a partaking of Christ’s life, the struck “Rock of our Salvation” scourged and crucified, only to receive the Roman coup de grace for the sin the world, that men might receive forgiveness and his gift of faith.
Living and walking by faith is hardly possible for sinful men, which is the point of “living water”welling up in us from God in Christ. But how are we sinners destined for return to dust, able to live the life of our crucified Lord? How do we live a cruciform life according to the Spirit when every fiber of flesh and bone cries out against participating in Jesus’ unspeakable suffering?
With Cain, on the one hand, we assert innocence by a lie; denying that we are our brother’s keeper; but when guilt is nonetheless established beyond doubt, we plead the Judge, “My punishment is too great to bear…” (Gen. 4:14).
Well know this; by Baptism, God in his new creation through Christ, restores us to his image and likeness of his Son. Baptism is not a past occasion of magic that recedes from memory. In the giving and receiving the Spirit of Christ, Baptism is an on-going formation of new water on earthy dust, a Divine fashioning of new man to live eternal life in Christ, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
Baptism is the on-going creative action of God that brings us through its killing water lapping at our feet in this world in “living water” by which all boats will rise in Christ. St. Paul speaks to our formation, a life of faith, “[W]e rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2c). What is Paul saying, but that God’s glory resides with his Son’s broken body for sin. Baptism grafts us into Jesus’ bleeding flesh which is the glory of God.
This is the glory of the cross, Christ’s suffering for our hope. Paul then directs us to baptismal formation for life, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (vv. 3, 4a) and so come full circle in hope; participating in the cross.
Have you noticed, not only in your own life, the assaults of a 24/7 news cycle, and the particulars of the church’s Prayer in her mass, that Christians are as prone to suffer in the world as others, perhaps more? As sons and daughters begotten from above by Baptism, Christian suffering; thirsting in the desert, if you will, is different from those without faith, under Satan’s lash?
You are being formed in love to a mature faith by endurance to the character of God in the face of sin; that in the end your hope in a cruciform life is not in vain.
In Christ, when God looks on you, he sees only the glory where he has placed his Name, the flesh of his only Son into which you are enrolled. The sight of Him so thoroughly occupies God’s heart that rivers of his love is daily poured by his HS into us welling up to eternal life. Amen.