Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Under His Wings

A Devotion addressing the matter of a personal relationship with Jesus, from "Faith Alone," a collection of readings edited from the works of Dr. Martin Luther, followed by my commentary:
Under His Wings

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone to death those sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings." Matthew 23:37

In this passage, Christ gives us a beautiful illustration of faith. The Lord tenderly says to the Israelites that he would have gladly been their mother hen if they were only willing to be his chicks. Note carefully his words and illustration. Christ pours this out with his whole heart and with great seriousness. In this picture, we see how we should act towards Christ. it shows us how he can help us, how we should make use of him and enjoy him. If we watch how a hen behaves with her chicks, then we will see Christ and ourselves depicted better than any artist can paint.

Our souls are the chicks, and the devil and evil spirits are the hawks in the air. Except, we aren't as clever as the chicks who flee under their mother hen. Also, demons are more skillful in attacking us than are the hawks in grabbing chicks. I previously taught how it isn't enough to be devout, do good works, and live in grace. For not even our righteousness, let alone our unrighteousness, will endure before God's eyes and his judgment. I have said that faith, if it is genuine faith, doesn't rely on its own ability to believe but holds on to Christ and places itself under his righteousness. Just as chicks don't rely themselves and their own quickness but simply flee under the hens body and wings, so we must run to Christ and let him be our shield and protection.


Dear baptized children of God,

Luther speaks the truth in love when he says, "faith holds on to Christ and places itself under his righteousness." And furthermore, that faith does not rely on looking inward toward itself, but rather faith "run[s] to Christ and let[s] him be our shield and protection."

Of course, this leaves the question, "Where are we to find Christ in order to run to him?" If we were told to run to Christ, but then not told where to find him we would still be lost. And that is where the Third Article of the Creed comes in. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to deliver Christ to us and us to Christ. And in the Third Article of the Creed that teaches us what the apostles of our Lord taught, we confess: "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls. gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith...." [Luther's Small Catechism Explanation to the Third Article of the Creed]

Chicks, by instinct, do not duck their heads under their own wings for protection, they look for the cover of their mother's wings and the mother instinctively looks to gather her chicks. As Luther also poignantly observes, people "aren't as clever as the chicks." What does he mean by this but that people look to their own selves, their own works, even their own inner faith instead of fleeing to Christ where He is to be found -- the church, the mother hen where He Himself tells us He is.

And where is that?

In the Smalcald Articles of our Lutheran Confession of the Faith, Luther describes faith looking inward as, "enthusiasm [that] clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, .... Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil." [Smalcald Articles Part III Article VIII.9-10]

If you want to find Christ and the certainty of your salvation, look to where the Holy Spirit gathers people in Christ’’s name -- to baptize, to teach them everything He commanded, to forgive sins, and to receive His body and blood –– for there He is also even to the end of the age.