Our history isn’t pretty. Our human history. It’s not beautiful and appealing. It is glorious, but not alluring. It’s dirt and blood, clodding and clotting. It’s fear and anxiety and longing. Adam’s expulsion from the Beautiful lanced the souls of all men to bleed. We long for such Edenic beauty again, when God walked in the cool of the day with man, when the earth worked with us instead of raging against us, and when there was no shame lurking behind wetted eyes, and when blood was never spilled into the grains of the earth to harden black in the endless heat. Man became murderer. God became merciful. The only pretty one in our story is God. The only beauty is the curse-speaking Majesty whose curse exuded mercy, another day to behold and wait for a hero to pull us out of the blood and the mud.
The story of humanity isn’t pretty. From Adam’s murderous family we haven’t prevailed to a better condition. Nor was there ever a time when humanity was said to be great. The patriarchs in the Bible are not spoken of as great men and women of beauty, but of depravity, weakness, violence, deception, and fear. Yes, there is faith there, and it is good, but it is the faith of sinners, not supermen. Lamech’s violence bred hope in Noah as the curse-breaker. Yet, the promise of mercy in that mosaic of watery color brought hope of a future deliverance, but it did not bring relief from the sticky reality of blood swallowing dirt. Sin, death, and misery sailed its mutinous voyage stowed away in the hearts of that “blameless” man. The first words of God outside that floating sin-incubator, back on the cursed soil, is about blood. The clinging clods of earth and stone covered in blood. Through this bloody earth the promise of redemption was bent towards the sky, like a loaded bow ready to fire the violent arrow against its Maker. That is our story. Noah, the typified hope of Mankind, stumbled and passed out in the shame of nakedness, which preceded a curse – a crushing déjà vu of despair. Yet, God redeemed Noah through that blood-stained soil. God, while cursing the earth, at the same time and in the same event brought the dove through the waters to live. God is the only hero in this land.
Abraham’s cowardice bred the jealousy of siblings rivaling to power, Isaac’s failures blossoming into slavery in the brick-making mud of the delta. The abortive violence of the Pharaoh’s fears crushing the heads of the infant sons of Jacob. Mud and blood. It didn’t end in Goshen, and Abram broke no curse. The seeds of Adam’s weeds grew thick over the whole hearts of men. And the cry of the patriarchs shakes and chokes their souls as they long for the garden of God. But God…God flew down to rescue His chosen ones, to pluck them from the mud and the blood through the gash in the sea. Grasping them in talons of mercy and with the heart of a Father, he set them down in the wilderness to show them His glory. He hemmed them in cloud and fire, the smoldering fog of holy terror protecting and guiding them while they feared and faltered grimacing at the flashing power on the holy mountain. And he revealed Himself as holy, approachable only by blood. Adam’s sons, formed of the clod, would only be brought near through the terrible gore of the spilling life-blood. Israel was bloody mess. Daily sacrifices, the expense of sin and conscience and guilt and reconciliation always and ever filling their ears with silenced bleating and filling their noses with acrid accruing of their holy debts parlayed…for that day. Every sunrise the whetted blade traversed the boundary between life and death contained from ear to ear because of that damned and damning curse of their sin. The constant blood flowing in pulsing streams down the altar to pool in the dirt as the endless dirge of humanity’s perversity and the desperate need for a Hero to kill the dragon.
Why do we recall at this table the wine and the bread? Why do we speak of blood, sacrifice, and the terror of the holy? We retell the true story, always and often, of the One whose divine majesty transcended the bloody clods of our curse, who is clean and pure and untouched by our hideous hate. We tell His story, for He is the hero who voluntarily, according to the riches of His own grace, sent His Son to bear up the bloody justice for our wanton violence, to bear the shame of our hidden delights in the filth, to take it upon Himself to submit His holy blood to the cursed ground. Why? For Father’s fame…and for me! For me! “How can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood? Died He for me who caused Him pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, that thou, my God, should die for me?”
The steel which pressed against my flesh, pierced His holy heart instead;
of me who being Adam’s seed deserved the wrath, the rod, to bleed.
But it was love, divine, unique which brought the timeless Son to seek;
to bear my curse through opened veins, torn apart to cleanse my stains
The table set, it tells the story, terrifying, grievous, gory;
that through His bleeding death my pardon, purchased to dance in Heaven’s garden
My name is not “Beauty” this story has shown, He set His love on the vicious with hearts made of stone;
in clot and in clod He endured my disgrace, to name me, "Beloved", what wonderful grace!