Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)
938 Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.
As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have. From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.
Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you. Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics. Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.
And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.
What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change? What if the sacrifices became our way fo life? What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?
Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God? Is this even a desire in our lives? Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God? Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth? Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?
This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)
917 Nonne cor nostrum ardens erat in nobis, dum loqueretur in via?—“Was not our heart burning within us, while he spoke to us on the way?” If you are an apostle, these words of the disciples of Emmaus should rise spontaneously to the lips of your professional companions when they meet you along the ways of their lives. (1)
At first, I felt an incredible burden as I read the words of St Josemaria this morning. While I know, we are sent into this word, that we are all apostles, the idea of people responding to us the way the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did seems so unlikely.
I read these words, and my heart asks whether St Josemaria knows we aren’t Jesus. We aren’t perfect; we don’t have the wisdom, we are righteous enough, we are too bogged down by brokenness and anxiety.
So how could people react as if they encountered the holiness that is natural for the Son of God?
Because they have. When they enocunter us, they encounter Jesus, for He is with us!
The promises are there; we will never be forsaken by Jesus, He will be with us for eternity. The Holy Spirit dwells within all those who believe and are baptized. The Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of Christ, even as we see His glory.
We know these things theologically, that is not enough! We have to realize the reality of what we know. It has to sink deep into our hearts, our souls, even as we explore the vast dimension of the Love of God for us, revealed in Jesus.
This doesn’t happen through academic learning. It happens as we pray, as we spend time aware of God’s presence and peace, His comforting us and healing our brokenness, forgiving sin, removing resentment. We are altered at the altar, as we receive Him, His precious Body broken for us, His blessed Blood, which confirms our relationship with Him and reminds us of all of His promises. This is a life that is one of prayer, and meditation on His word. Not to prove our righteousness, but because in these encounters with God, we find His peace, we rest in Him.
As much as some would shy away from experiential aspects of our faith, these experiences where God is transforming us through His promises we hear in HIs word, through the sacraments He commissioned, these are His means.
We may never be aware of the result of the work, save when someone realizes Christ’s passion and care for them through us, and that is okay.
It’s not about our glory; it is about people being changed by our dwelling in HIs glorious presence. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2132-2134). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
36 As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 So he said to his disciples, “The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. 38 Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38 (TEV)
914 How pitiful are those crowds—high and low and middle-class—without an ideal! They give the impression that they do not know they have souls: they are a flock, a drove, a herd. Jesus, only with the help of your merciful love will we turn the flock into a legion, the drove into an army, and from the herd of swine draw, purified, those who no longer wish to be unclean.
The coach of my favorite football team has two very simple and yet profound slogans.
The first is “do your job.” which helps keep focused each member of the team, from players to coaches, trainers, the owner, and even entry level office staff and custodians.
The second talks about the nature of the focus. “No days off.” That speaks of the team as something more than a job, working on that team is what theologians call a vocation. It is who you are, it is part of what defines them. These two catch-phrases have come with a fair share of success. Actually, according to some, far more than just a fair share.
These are lessons those in the church and who lead it need to understand. Our ministry is more than just a job. It is a vocation, it is what we’ve been sent to do, our apostolate, our mission. Because of the nature of what we do, it demands our focus, and it should define who we are.
It is critical, far more critical than winning trophies and wearing five rings.
We see this in words from the Old Testament, a passage often translated “where there is no vision, people perish” or sometimes “where there is no prophetic vision.” But the translator of the Message has its sense – for the vision is not of what we are called to do, but what God is doing. It is the vision of the promises God the Father has given to us, delivered in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord who delivers us from evil. This isn’t just a vision for the church to grow, or build a new building, or raise money for this and/or that. It is the vision of God, gathering His people from every tribe and language, to live with Him. The vision of God being their God, and they being His holy people.
It is the vision that pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets and apostles are to give them, what our worship is to cause them to be aware of. Which is where we come in, and where Jesus’ words about shepherds are so relevant.
People need those who are ministers in their lives, so that they might be drawn to God, and be given the vision of what God is doing in their lives. This is our job, primary and completely. It is the care these souls need, it is the mission that our sermons are tasked with, our Bible Studies, and why we baptize and commune people.
For without that, they are lost… they may not even realize what a soul is, never mind that theirs needs to be cared for, to have life spoken into it. It is only with God’s help that this is changed, only His Spirit can breathe life into them who are dead, trapped and imprisoned by sin.
This is what we do, and as we study, as we visit and teach, as we lead and inspire, may it be focused, every day, on Christ, and drawing people to Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Be Different: Act like God’s kids
† In Jesus Name †
May the gifts of God’s mercy, love and peace enable you to truly live life, as you learn to love those God brings into your life.
The hardest lesson to live!
The words of Jesus that I read this morning are hard to hear.
They are easily understood, but how easy are they to live up to?
Turn the other cheek! Give up more than you are sued for, give to those who demand of you, don’t turn away those who want to borrow.
And these hard words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, pray, that is, ask God to bless, those who persecute you.”
In a world where we are trained to look out for ourselves and those we love, how do we even do this? How do we set aside our resentment, our fears and anxieties, and the pain others cause, and love them?
Yet Jesus asks us to do exactly that….
And it doesn’t matter who our enemy is, whether it is a global one or the bully that lives down the street.
How can God ask this of us? What is really going on here? What is God up to?
What is God up to?
We see a clue in another of the verses,
In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Why would God give good stuff to those who are evil? Why would He rain blessings on those who are not just? And what does that have to do with the challenge we have, in loving those who are our enemies, or who we think are, and therefore are afraid of them?
The first answer is the old one, (First written by Augustine) that talked about the fact that in hating our enemies we are hurting ourselves more than we could ever hurt them.
A better answer is seen in one parable, where Jesus taught that He doesn’t remove the weeds among the wheat; because we can’t be sure of not uprooting wheat when we dig out the weeds. Likewise, the enemy of today may become the friend, the brother in Christ. The one which we are praying for may stop persecuting us, as Paul the apostle went from killing and tormenting Christians, to being one who preached about Jesus’ love from Jerusalem to Athens to Rome and perhaps beyond.
We don’t know, we just know the heart of God, who the apostle Peter tells us is patient, not willing that any should die in their sin, but that would come to the transformation that happens when our sin is forgiven.
To put it another way, what makes the different between a weed and what is not how they look, but what happens when they encounter Jesus. That’s why the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel would write this, “
21 But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. 22 All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. 23 “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:21-24 (NLT)
Knowing God’s heart, and knowing that neither we nor angels can know how someone will turn out, these are things that help us love those that others tell us can’t be loved. Knowing that every single one of them God loves and desires to be one of His own. This helps too…
Acting like God’s kids!
But what helps the most is knowing that God loves us, while we were His enemies, while we chose to live without him, choosing to do what we thought was right more than we cared what He thought, what He wanted.
Paul makes it clear – while we were all His enemies, Jesus died for us. He died, taking on the judgment we deserved. He died to make sure that our sin wouldn’t divide us from God. He died that we might live, and live life knowing God loves us and is with us.
So for us to be God’s kids – to live like that, we need to know what He loves, and how Jesus lived. Loving those the rest of the world considered unlovable, loving those who are our enemies, and asking our Father to bless those who make our lives difficult.
For when we know that, loving those who the world considers our enemies, is nothing more that loving those our Father in heaven would have become our brothers and sisters. And loving them becomes possible because we dwell in God’s glorious peace, peace that the world doesn’t understand, which is the peace in which Jesus guards our hearts and minds. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34 (NLT)
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69 (NLT)
906 Et regni eius non erit finis—“His kingdom will have no end.” Doesn’t it fill you with joy to work for a kingdom like that?
A little over a year ago, I was at a funeral where one of my early mentors preached. He made a point very clear that we no longer preach about eternity. He asked me if I, no longer in that denomination, ever mentioned eternity in my sermons, and I indicated I did, and while I do, the conversation took a back burner for a while.
I do mention it in sermons, for it is the 2nd great promise of our baptism,, the first being the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is why the removal of our sin is so critical, for those who are counted as sinners, those who are bound by them, have an eternity that is not what I would call life. (hell does exist, but how it is clearly described is an existence that is not what we think of as life.)
But I think we put off eternity, we have defined it as a reality we cannot know until we die. It is “after-life” in many people’s thoughts. Not life right now, eternity and heaven are not visible we think. I believe this is, in part due to passages that describe the final judgment, and what theologians call the “not yet”.of the “now and not yet.”
We need to understand that there is a “now” to eternity. That even as we struggle to see it, the love we know now is no different than the love we shall know then. We will just be more aware of it, we will see it more clearly.
How different would our lives be if we could begin to realize the truth of Paul’s words to the church in Colossae,
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT)
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)
Eternity has begun. It is hard to see at times, and yes, Satan and the world would love to obstruct our vision of Jesus, to diminish our ability to sense His presence and be comforted and consoled by it. As we realize that, our duty becomes reminding each other, teaching and preaching about our eternal life. Meditating on it, partaking in the sacraments, and celebrating those who enter this life by being united to Jesus in the sacrament baptism.
This is who we are…those living in Christ eternally… this is our hope, our trust, and dependence on God and His promises, including the love that will see us to the day when we see Him face to face.
Until then, as St. Paul says, sets your sight on the realities of heaven… for that is where you real life is, hidden in Christ. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:32 (NLT)
1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT)
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (NLT)
We must indeed meekly bear with our friend in his imperfections, but we must not lead him into imperfections, much less imitate his imperfections ourselves. But I speak only of imperfections; for as to sins, we must neither occasion them, nor tolerate them in our friends. It is either a weak or a wicked friendship to behold our friend perish and not to help him; to see him die of an abscess, and not to dare to open it with a lancet of correction, to save his life.
I am preaching this weekend on Jesus’ direction to us to really love those around us, even our enemies. To be so committed to people that we won’t even consider what we sacrifice to help them. To be so dedicated to what is best for them, that we don’t look at the impact on us.
But before we get to loving our enemies, I need to consider whether I really love my friends, and those I claim to love.
Given the passages above, it is not as easy a question as I would like to think.
Do we love our friends enough to rescue them from sin? To bring them back when they wander away from the truth?
Are we willing to see the relationship deep enough to where they know our love and care enough to respond when we ask them to confront the demons that assail them and allow them to do the same for us?
Or will we ignore the sin that so easily takes us captive, the temptations that so distract us from the presence and grace of God? Will we even let our friends think we approve of their sin? ( or will we simply abandon them in their sin?)
I think, more than we want to admit, that we need to repent, so that we can encourage their repentance.
So that we can hear the answer, together, to our cry,
“Lord,, have mercy on us, for we have sinned, and need your healing touch.”
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Then Jesus went home. Again such a large crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples had no time to eat. 21 When his family heard about it, they set out to take charge of him, because people were saying, “He’s gone mad!” Mark 3:20-21 (TEV)
910 Your ideal, your vocation: it’s madness. And your friends, your brothers: they’re crazy. Haven’t you heard that cry deep down within you sometimes? Answer firmly that you are grateful to God for the honor of being one of those “lunatics.”
It’s been a while since mad was a synonym for crazy, but the idea is that you are not in control of your emotions, and your emotions are in control of you.
It sounds like an odd description for Jesus, the one who is fully God, fully man! Especially the fully God part. Can God really be mad, crazy, a lunatic? There were times people were sure he was insane, a raving madman.
Who else would tell people to love their enemies? To not stand against what was evil? Who would demonstrate these were not just sayings, but would actually prove the logic of the madness.
And while we may doubt the sanity of some of his followers, Jesus did tell us the world wouldn’t understand our madness, even to the point they would persecute us.
There is another word for the madness, in Hebrew, it is cHesed; in Greek, agape; in Olde English, it was Charity; in modern English, the depth of the word love. An affection, a care for someone where you do what is best for them, no matter the cost. Where you put their salvation before your comfort, and often times, their comfort before you own need, or wants, or desire.
Not just those like you, Jesus makes that clear in Matthew 5. All people.
Which means you must know His love, and how it put you first, without any thought of cost. To know God’s love…because He loves us, we love Him.
This is madness to the world, but it is God’s logic, God’s love… it is reality.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2116-2118). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
13 So brace up your minds, and, as men who know what they are doing, rest the full weight of your hopes on the grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ reveals himself. Live as obedient children before God. Don’t let your character be moulded by the desires of your ignorant days, but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’.
1 Peter 1:13 (Phillips NT)
887 That discouragement produced by your repeated lack of generosity, by your relapses, by your falls—perhaps only apparent—often makes you feel as if you had broken something of exceptional value: your sanctification. Don’t be worried: bring to your supernatural life the wise way simple children have of resolving such a conflict. They have broken—nearly always through frailty—an object that is dear to their father. They’re sorry, perhaps they shed tears, but they go to seek consolation from the owner of what has been damaged through their awkwardness; and their father forgets the value—great though it may be—of the broken object and, filled with tenderness, he not only pardons, but consoles and encourages the little one. Learn.
Like most pastors, I struggle with this thing called holiness.
On the one hand, Scripture clearly lays it out as a requirement for our lives, and as a measuring stick for me personally, and for my vocation, my life as pastor. If my goal is a pastor is to present you perfect and holy to God (see Col. 1:28)) then it is the standard to judge my work, my vocation, my life.
I’ve looked at how pastors treat holiness, looking for examples and encouragement, but I find too little. I see most pastors and priest taking one of two attitudes about it, and neither seems to help. I will go so far as saying both are contrary to scripture.
The first attitude is one of regimentation, of physical and mental obedience that doesn’t affect the heart. This quickly develops into legalism, that is less concerned about you than about your life being lived visibly according to the set standards. Everything becomes measured, notated and analyzed like a geometry test. It is not discipleship as much as a form of cloning. And it burns people out, for no one can live up to the standard, including those who see themselves as being responsible for measuring people against it.
The second attitude is just as dangerous, even though it seems the exact opposite. TO deny the need for holiness, to say it is a unachievable goal, and that Jesus broke us free from answering completely to the law. ( For Lutherans, this would be those who deny that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a third use of the law) As the legalists do this is not about the person, it is about the behavior. They might say since holiness is impossible, just rely on grace to forgive you. Not directly, but that is the result of their theory.
So I either push them too hard or don’t care what they do.
So where am I to shepherd them too? How are they to be holy even as the Father is holy if they aren’t taught what holiness is, and how it develops in a person?
Even harder is my own application of holiness if I am not holy, how in the world can I expect to lead them into holiness, into a deeper, more committed, more fulfilling relationship where the peace and comfort that comes from knowing God loves them is their primary desire?
I think it comes from understanding what holiness is, what it looks like.
St. Josemaria gives a picture of it, with his description of a child breaking a treasured item. This is going to God, the owner, the author, and perfector of our holiness, and asking for comfort, for consolation – this is holiness. At the very purest level, this seeing God’s help in restoring what is marred, what is broken, what is shattered, this is the kind of holiness we need to see.
The holiness of a child, seeking comfort, seeking peace, because we know what we have done, this destruction of what God treasured, is an act of faith, and an act of trust.
God will look past it; He promised He could because it was taken care of by Jesus on the cross. Knowing this, we can run to Him; we can tell those running to Him the words of comfort, “Your sins are forgiven!”
This is the faith that runs to God, knowing He is with us. Knowing and depending on a love that will allow nothing to separate us from Him. Providing for the people of God this encouragement, this blessing, this life.
Not just dismissing their sin, as if it didn’t cost the blood of Christ, nor scourging them and beating them up for their not living like the Lord who shed His blood for them.
It is in His death, which we are united to in baptism, that we find the grace St Peter talks of, the grace that gives us our hope, the hope that sustains us, and actually sanctifies us, for when we walk in His presence, when we run to Him for forgiveness and comfort, there He is working, making us Holy.
May we all run to our Father, and cry out for His help!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2049-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 Then some little children were brought to Him (Jesus), so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples frowned on the parents’ action but Jesus said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!” Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way. Matthew 19:13 (Phillips NT)
870 Don’t try to be older. A child, always a child, even when you are dying of old age. When a child stumbles and falls, nobody is surprised, and his father promptly picks him up. When the person who stumbles and falls is older, the immediate reaction is one of laughter. Sometimes, after this first impulse, the laughter gives way to pity. But older people have to get up by themselves. Your sad experience is that each day is full of stumbles and falls. What would become of you if you were not continually more of a child? Don’t try to be older. Be a child, and when you stumble, may your Father God pick you up by the hand.
Of all the spiritual writers I have read, and there have been a lot, from every little corner of Christianity, St Josemaria Escriva has had the most profound impact, because of the practical way he sees our faith, our dependence on God. I would recommend his book “The Way,” to anyone seeking a faith that is more than Sunday morning, or 5 minutes reading a devotion the size of a postcard. It is no different today, my 52nd birthday, as his words hit home, and hit home hard.
There is a part of me that wants to know more, be wiser, have words of wisdom and maturity that are profound. To be able to preach words that inspire those who are down, which call people to repentance in a way that they run like mad into the waiting arms of God, trusting in His mercy. I want to help people explore the height and depth, the width and breadth of God’s love for them.
This has been my dream since I was an awkwardly tall 8-year-old with untied sneakers, telling a family friend, Fr. Alex, that I wanted to be a priest, I wanted to tell people about Jesus and give them His body in communion.
At 52, I am still awkward, my sneakers are still often untied, and though my falls aren’t physical, they are still there. I understand Paul’s words in Romans 7 all too; clearly, I am not the mature, wise, holy person I know I should be. In fact, like most pastors and priests, there are days I wonder why I am here. Can’t God do better? Can’t He make me the kind of shepherd these people need? Can’t Jesus find someone who does better with temptation, and able to deal wisely with the evil that is so oppressive?
St. Josemaria snaps me out of this spiritual downward spiral with his words this morning (odd they show up on my birthday, isn’t it?) The best thing I can do is not astound people with wisdom, it is to let them see God pick me up. To let them see the joy in my eyes when He does. To be the child that runs and desires to be in His presence, even if the foolish disciples try to bar my way, I am going to see Him, I am going to hear His blessing.
Hopefully, along the way, I will drag some of my friends with me, and maybe even an enemy or 2….000?
If I pretend to be something other than a child, as I’ve tried, I will still fall. But I will try, as an adult, to excuse the fall, to justify it, to make it out to be less painful. I will force myself to try and get up on my own, only to fall again, and perhaps even harder, or take others with me. But as a child, as one who is confident of God’s presence, who knows His love and mercy, then I know He will pick me up, that He will run to my side, that He will care for me.
Not that I want to fall, I want to make Him proud. But as a child, when I do, I can cry out for help, and He will come.
And if I can teach my people that, and they confidently cry out (knowing His love and mercy) when they fall as well… I’ve done my job as a brother in Christ, and as their pastor. For they have learned about His love… and have experienced it.
A simple cry, “Lord Have mercy on me, a sinner….Papa, help!”
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2005-2010). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. 16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.
Romans 12:9-17 (MSG)
Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.
Union with God, what a concept laid out for us in this quote in blue. Union with God.
I hear in the background two voices, one saying we can’t be buddy buddy with God, the other where Jesus tells us that we are not his servants, but his friends. One that cries out for reverent submission, one which sees God the Father running faster than anyone else to welcome us home.
I struggle with this because I have seen the extreme where Jesus being our friend mutates to the idea that He is a good ole boy who understands our sinful nature and simply turns a blind eye to it. I have seen the other extreme as well, where we are so terrified of being caught in sin that our reaction is to try to run and hide from Him, rather than run to Him.
The balance isn’t even on the radar of the extremes, for the balance is found as God draws us in and in His cultivation of our relationship with Him.
Even as we do this, we need, we must realize when we talk of God loving us this way, we are talking about a larger group than you and I. We are talking about all the people that Christ died for, really we are talking about all people.
You aren’t just a bunch of dirt, and neither am I. Our value is that our lives don’t just matter to God – they are previous, we are precious – priceless in His evaluation. So are those we discount, those we struggle with, those we fear. Their lives are just as precious, they are people that God has in His heart.
This is why Paul calls us to love people, to recognize God’s Spirit in them, and to see God’s desire that all would be His family. Just as we are. To realize our enemies have the same God who cares for them, the God who doesn’t dismiss or write them off, or consider them lower that dirt. He discovers the beauty in each of us, or rather, He created us with that beauty, and reveals it more and more as we know HIs love.
This no “them” for a Christian, no dividing line, even that label enemy cannot divide people from us, for it didn’t divide us from Jesus. He draws us into himself anyway, loving us, cherishing us, healing our souls, and helping us to see others whose souls He would heal as well.
Lord have mercy on us all… AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.