The Church Needs to Want This..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

So the LORD said to me, 5 “I, the LORD, the God of Israel, consider that the people who were taken away to Babylonia are like these good figs, and I will treat them with kindness. 6 I will watch over them and bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not pull them up. 7 I will give them the desire to know that I am the LORD. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:4-7 GNT

40  I want to obey your commands; give me new life, for you are righteous. Psalm 119:40 (TEV)

The parish of St Louis-St Blaise has been experiencing graces of charity which are drawn from Eucharistic adoration: links are forged or tightened, the parishioners are more attentive to each other, more supportive. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament overwhelms the heart of the parish and opens it gradually to the mission that we are trying to put in place.

In the title, it says “the Church”, and by that I do not mean any one congregation, or denomination. I don’t mean just the Lutherans, or the Romans Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Conservative or the Liberal/Progressive groups in the church.

I mean the One Church, the people set apart for God (Holy), Church that includes every time period, every culture, every demographic (catholic) and the Church that is on a mission from God (apostolic) whether she lies it or not.

What the Church needs is to have the desire the psalmist describes, a desire to treasure what God has called into being, what He has commanded. (Not just the do this/don’t do that – but every command God has uttered ) We need to hear the voice of God, and revel in the fact that He comes to us, and creates in us life.

We need the desire to know He is the Lord, to know that He is drawing us toward Him!

Please look at Jeremiah’s passage carefully, and see this. “Then they will be my people and I will be their God because they will return.” The words of God recognize His people, even when they are struggling in bondage, when they are in captivity, either to Babylon, or Egypt or sin! This is the God who hears the psalmists plea to give him (and us!) new life, and does so.

This is why parishes and congregations who dedicate time in the presence of God find themselves more attentive to each others’ needs, more supportive of those in their community that aren’t part of the church, yet! It is why churches that have dedicated times to adore Jesus, and/or spend time in prayer find themselves renewed and revived, responding to the needs of those around them.

it doesn’t come because we force it, it comes as a result of being drawn into intimacy with God. It is not a programmatic response, it is one from the depths of our souls, as the Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, and united to Him, we serve as He served.

This is our hope, this is who we are.

The people of God, who are being drawn back, who are returning to Him.

Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 208.



Coping with Ministry Burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8  Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. 10 . 18  Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 (TEV)

13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God’s message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God’s message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe 1 Thes. 2:13 GNT

261    I forbid you to think any more about it. Instead, bless God, who has given life back to your soul.

Two things showed up on my computer this morning.

The first was a copy of the picture above, reminding me that eleven years ago, I was installed as the Senior Pastor here at Concordia. The other, in my devotional reading, was Jeremiah’s words above. Ironically, these were the words I had to preach on the first Sunday after I received the call to Concordia.

It has to make you wonder, when one of the strongest prophets of God whines like that! What had he gone through, what had broken him so badly that he had to accuse God of deceiving him, and forcing him to do something that was,,, more than challenging.

This is month is also my twenty-first anniversary of being a full-time pastor and it is closing on 27 years since I started as a chaplain preaching and counseling in the detention centers of Los Angeles County. In that time, I have felt like Jeremiah more than a few times. Some call it clergy burnout, and if the numbers are still true, over 1000 pastors and priest leave the ministry every month, many because they can’t handle the feeling Jeremiah describes.

So many different things can cause it, to many traumas, such as deaths, or serious illness in the people you are entrusted to care for, and walk beside. Sometimes it is conflict, or maybe a power struggle, or just helping a church go through some significant change. (The number of guys who leave a church after a successful building program is staggering!) SOmetimes it simply builds up over the years, and all of a sudden, you find yourself weary and unwilling to go on.

You just want to shut up, move to someplace no one would expect, and leave the pain and struggle to someone else. Some guys don’t remember Jeremiah, and feel guilty about getting upset at God. Others just bottle it up, and find solace in video games, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, or they just turn their vocation and calling into a “job” and punch the clock until they can retire.

Some of us are blessed, and have parishioners, friends and mentors that look out for us. (Hint, if you have a pastor, look out for him! Pray for him often!) Others feel like they are almost invisible, when it comes to their needs. Even so, the wear and tear has an impact.

The point Jeremiah ends up discovering and struggling with is the power of the message we are given to share. The message that must get out, even if it has to burn through us.

The message of God’s love, and His desire for us to let Him heal our broken hearts and tortured souls. The message that He will take us back, that He will rescue our people. When all else we are doing fails, when the brokenness is overwhelming, when despair seems to drive out life, He is there. In that moment we need to hear and treasure these words the most….

“and also with you…”

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 692-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


God, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14 The LORD says, “The time is coming when people will no longer swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. 15 Instead, they will swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of a northern land and out of all the other countries where I had scattered them. I will bring them back to their own country, to the land that I gave their ancestors. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jer. 16:14-15 GNT

Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. Col. 4:2 GNT

How would our magnificent castles, houses, silk, satin, purple, golden jewelry, precious stones, all our pomp and glitter and show help us if we had to do without air for the length of one Lord’s Prayer?
These are the greatest gifts from God and also the ones that we deride most, and, because they are so common, we do not give thanks for them. We take them and use them each day so thoughtlessly, as if it had to be so and we were entitled to them; thus, we do not need to thank God for them even once. In the meantime, we tear off and care only to worry, quarrel, wrangle, strive, and storm after unnecessary money and goods, honor and luxury—in short, after something that cannot hold a candle to the blessings mentioned above. Worse, it hinders our joyful and serene use of the common gifts, such that we do not recognize them as such, nor do we thank God for them. Behind all of this is the devil, who does not want us to use and acknowledge all of God’s gifts to us and thus be happy.

When Luther explains the passage from the Lord’s Prayer about “give us our daily bread” he gets passionately pragmatic! We see that in the words above as he talks about our concerns that things that cannot hold a candle to the real gifts God has given us.

And yet, we let those things rob us of our peace, of our serenity, and our ability to use those things that God has given us!

I think it starts before that though.

In the passage of Jeremiah, he notes that there will be a point where Israel now longer looks back to God’s deliverance in the past, but rather, looks at their deliverance, the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. God’s presence, God’s work is no longer something He did for someone else, in a far distant time. It is something that presently affects them, that proves He is not some distant God, but a God who will allow us to be disciplined, and yet, restore us.

It is one thing to appreciate what God has done in the past, to those whose steps we walk in. We should appreciate these things and learn from them, for they reveal to us the character of God. It is another thing to realize He is here now. Delivering us from the bondage of sin, delivering us from guilt and shame, healing u of the brokenness that is all to common now, just as it was during the captivity. He is here! Providing for us all the things we need! Yes, life and daily food, Oxygen and gravity, To thank Him for giving us a new life, and walking with us through it, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

For all this, it is a simple thing to stand back in awe, and to Thank God.

We need to thank Him and that includes knowing we can ask Him to help us when we don’t understand, trusting Him to ensure all things work for good, for those called according to His purposes. Giving thanks for what He has and will do for us, now and until the day we join before His throne, there for eternity.

Lord, help us, when we are struggling, to remember and be thankful for the thousands of thing You have given and done for us, from the air we breathe to the food and drink, houses and homes, even the jobs that can stress us out. Lord, help us be most thank for your deliverance of us from our enemy, sin. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 206.

I Will Live! (and the Rest of the Story…)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live and proclaim what the LORD has done. 18  He has punished me severely, but he has not let me die.
Psalm 118:17-18 (TEV)

It is in the wounds of Jesus where we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart.

To better evangelize the adorer must first be evangelized. He must let the merciful love of Christ heal him, liberate him, enlighten him, raise him. To the question ‘What does Jesus do in the Blessed Sacrament? ‘the Cure of Ars replied, ‘He waits for us’. There, Jesus veils His majesty so that we might dare to go speak with Him, as one friend to another. He tempers the ardour of His Heart for us to experience its sweet tenderness. On the Cross, Jesus turns hate into love and death into life. Similarly, in the Eucharist, Jesus performs the same wonder in us: He changes evil into good, darkness into light, fear into confidence. Pauline-Marie Jaricot, an untiring Apostle of charity, living in Lyon in the nineteenth century, sums up this personal transformation that takes place in the heart of adorers who allow the Spirit to change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh:

I have heard verse 17 proclaimed with great power many times. It is a wonderful verse, and it should be proclaimed.

I think it is even more powerfully proclaimed when it is proclaimed from a point of recovery, a time when one is healing, but is so weak it is barely heard. It is the most powerful when said in the context of verse 18, as the realization dawns that I can get through this.

And I can speak of what the Lord has done! Not I can, but I will, I have to, for I didn’t think I would make it.

Several times in my life I have been there physically. After a cardiac arrest that killed me 5 times. Another time when I had two heart valves replaced, and again once when undergoing a procedure I didn’t think I would survive. ( Not a major one comparatively) But I know the feeling of waking up from anesthesia, and realizing, I am alive. It is shocking, for it is unexpected.

Spiritually, this happens when God has to circumcise our hearts, cutting away the sin which clings to our heart. This is easily seen as the punishment the Psalmist describes, as God has to subdue us, as He has to cleanse us of the sins we too often cling to, that we too often run to. As we refuse to see the damage that sin does, and how it leaves us broken, shattered, unable to relate to others, or find any comfort or peace.

But as the Holy Spirit has to “wound” us, we find another set of wounds, the wounds of Jesus. It is in those wounds that we find our how much we are loved, it is there we find security and peace, even as God removes the sin, and our healing begins anew.

That is why communion is so incredible, so needed in this broken world of ours. Go read the words in green again.

No, i meant it, I didn’t want to retype it all!

Go re-read it!

We need to find Jesus waiting for us, ready to begin again our healing. Ready to see us transformed, the power that raised Him from the dead at work in us.

Therefore we live, and will not die, and can tell what God has done….

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 266.

Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 202.

Follow the Ancient Paths…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16 The LORD said to his people, “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is. Walk in it, and you will live in peace.” Jeremiah 6:16 GNT

As you come upon verse 18 (1 John 7), you may prayerfully dwell on the ways in which love—God’s love for us, our love for him and love among people on earth—pushes fear out of all relationships. You may think of the fearless child surrounded by loving parents, of how loving neighbors give us confidence and relieve our anxieties. You may dwell on how the assurance of God’s love given to us in the death of his Son suggests that we will never be beyond his care. Seek God’s help in comprehending this and in seeing what your fear-free life might be like.

I do believe that the Church, from congregations like mine, to mega-churches and denominations, all the One, Holy, catholic and Apostolic church is at a crossroads.

To many of our communities are dying off, others are wandering away, some to be relevant, some to shrink back and protect what is theirs. Some will embrace change, and some will point to a passage like the one above from Jeremiah, trying to justify doing things the “old way” as it is good and proper and safe.

Not that the ways, from how we do liturgy to how we teach scripture are all relatively new. Not one of them existed at the time Jeremiah wrote this warning from God to His people.

So there is that.

Jeremiah isn’t talking about the liturgy, or the role of women in the church. He’s not talking about polity and structure, nor do I think we need to rebuild the temple. In fact, reading on in Jeremiah it was the worship they took so much effort in that God was going to reject. The tabernacle was already going to be rejected, which would include all the sacrifices.

If the system of worship established in the first 5 books of Moses isn’t the ancient paths walked upon how could we claim the latest liturgy or our favorite hymnal form the 1940’s or 50’s is this “ancient path?”

So what is?

Faith.

Faith, that relationship that is so special that we can depend on God in every circumstance of our life. Faith in the one we have a relationship with, the very thing that Hebrews 11 describes as how Abel, Abraham, our fore-fathers and the prophets saw sustain them,

Faith, which sustains because it is based on God loving us, a love revealed at the cross, and in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Faith, which is possible because we don’t travel down that ancient way alone, but Christ is that way, and we walk with Him.

The ancient way is the life in the Garden, where God walks with us, His people, as He did with Adam and Eve.

Finally a thought, that ancient way is none other than Jesus, the son of God. So let us walk with Him, as He leads us to Father, as He brings us home. AMEN!

Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015).

Why Would God Stay in this relationship?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“Unfaithful people, come back; you belong to me. I will take one of you from each town and two from each clan, and I will bring you back to Mount Zion. 15 I will give you rulers who obey me, and they will rule you with wisdom and understanding. 16 Then when you have become numerous in that land, people will no longer talk about my Covenant Box. They will no longer think about it or remember it; they will not even need it, nor will they make another one. 17 When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them. 18 Israel will join with Judah, and together they will come from exile in the country in the north and will return to the land that I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession.” Jeremiah 3:14-18 GNT

1  Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good, and his love is eternal. 2  Let the people of Israel say, “His love is eternal.” 3  Let the priests of God say, “His love is eternal.” 4  Let all who worship him say, “His love is eternal.” 5  In my distress I called to the LORD; he answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:1-5 (TEV)

152    Don’t you sense that more peace and more union await you when you have corresponded to that extraordinary grace that requires complete detachment? Struggle for him to please him, but strengthen your hope.

As you read the Book of Jeremiah, you see different aspects of God’s personality. There is the God who warns people about the wrath to come, there is the God who Jeremiah feels betrayed by, and there is the God who begs and pleads for His people to come home.

And yet, as we know, this God is one, and the focus is that on those who have rebelled, or walked away, or just ignored God, and getting them to return.

A God who promised to do away with the sacrificial system, a God who would promise to forget His anger toward them, a God who would provide everything, if only His people would come back.

Seems a little like a lovesick teenager, who will do anything if only their love would stop messing around with others, and be faithful. Between passages like this one above, and the Book of Hosea, God doesn’t appear in the greatest of light! How could He be such a sucker as to let people betray Him, disrespect Him, cheat on Him, and still beg for them to return?

Is He that infatuated with us?

If this was a human relationship, we would be telling Him to dump those unfaithful, ungrateful wretches, and if He didn’t we would wonder what kind of chicken He was. How could someone have such a grip on someone else and let themselves be so mistreated?

The difference is that with God the love is truly pure, His being faithful is not because He is blind, or because He things we will completely change in this life. He knows how we will struggle, He is in this for the long haul, and the Spirit works within us.

That is why Psalm 118 was Luther’s go to, we have to have God’s love for us revealed often! We need to help our people (and ourselves) realize that God will be this faithful and has planned things for us beyond our ability to imagine.

We have to know we can call to Him, and be set free.

When we do this, it is what St Josemaria describes, this detachment from everything but God, for it is in union with Him that we find peace.

And having found that, and seen how He has promised to truly perfect our lives, we can rejoice in His work in our reconciliation.

Lord, help us to hear Your plea and, led by the Holy Spirit, return and rejoice in Your faithful love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 488-490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Devotions aren’t for the devoted…

One of my first Bibles looked like this..

Devotional Thought for the day:

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT

While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.

You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?

My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.

It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.

I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.

What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.

Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)

I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.

It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Don’t Dare Settle For a Functional Church!

Devotional Thought of the Day

The LORD said, “I was ready to answer my people’s prayers, but they did not pray. I was ready for them to find me, but they did not even try. The nation did not pray to me, even though I was always ready to answer, ‘Here I am; I will help you.’ 2† I have always been ready to welcome my people, who stubbornly do what is wrong and go their own way. Is. 65:1-2 GNT

2 We honor God for what he conceals; we honor kings for what they explain. Proverbs 25:2 GNT

A church that merely “functions”, that is merely “functional”, no longer provides what was special to it: a space in which to be, a space in which to leave the world of goals and to enter into the freedom of God. To erect such spaces is, especially today, a rewarding task that becomes all the more pressing the more we are isolated in the towering domiciles of our cities.

If one were to gather all the churches together, including their clergy, they would have to confess that they never prayed from the heart even for a drop of wine. Not one of them took it upon himself to pray out of obedience to God or faith in the promise. Nor do they reflect on their troubles, but do not think any farther (to put the best construction on it) than to do a good work in order to pay God; they do not want to take anything from, but instead give to God.
If a prayer is to be prayer, it has to be done with earnestness, so that one feels one’s need—and such a need that it squeezes and drives us to call out and scream. In this way the prayer happens by itself, the way it should, and requires no teaching as to how one should prepare oneself for it and prepare oneself for devotion. In the Lord’s Prayer you will find sufficient need generously expressed that should be our concern as well as the concern of others.

Do not hurry. Do not dabble in spiritual things. Give time for each stage to play itself out fully in your heart. Remember, this is not something you are doing by yourself. Watch and pray.

The quote from Proverbs this morning interested me. How do we honor God for what He conceals? For that matter, why would we honor Him for hiding things from us?

It was the last of my scripture readings, and it took some thought, and indeed the other passages and some thoughts began to form.

Look closely at God’s words to Israel. See His desire to step in and help, and yet they didn’t ask. See how He’s always ready to make himself known to those who ask, who plead with them. It is what Luther noted in the Large Catechism quote in green as well, that people in prayer, pray with the earnest of a desperate cry for help – a cry that comes from the gut, and with all our heart and soul. It cries out in need, knowing that God will respond, that He will be faithful.

It doesn’t have the sense of trying to figure out how to work the machine, how to impress or pay off God for His blessing. That kind of sincerity Willard mentions as well, when he talks of taking the time for spiritual things to play out in our heart. For someone does not do this “by themself” it is something worked out in a deep relationship with our Creator, with our Lord who loves us.

That’s where Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) comes in to play. Prayer isn’t just functional. It has no mechanical attributes, it is not an automaton, it is relational, it is dynamic and changing as our life changes, as we encounter brokenness, sin, and the traumas that call us to cry out.

It’s not functional because we need more than a functional God. We need one that moves with us, in every way and movement. We don’t need a God who punches a time clock, or gives us blueprints for our lives. (Gosh, if we knew what He had planned, would we? could we deal with it?) We have to have a God who is bigger, who is stronger, who adapts and heals our brokenness. And a church that moves with Him in that process. Not changing for the sake of change, but changing as He meets our needs, and the needs of our community.

CS Lewis one said that Aslan ( a picture of Jesus) was not tame. Indicating God is not tamable, not able to be put in a box. Neither can a church that is in a relationship with him be simply functional. So don’t settle for one that goes through the motions like Israel, but doesn’t call out to Him. Go for the one that relates, and even at time is dysfunctional. And doesn’t hesitate to cry out to God when it does.



Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 258). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 201). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Pray… even if you don’t have the words.. (A lesson re-learnt)

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Isaiah 62:6 (GNT) — 6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have placed sentries; They must never be silent day or night. They must remind the Lord of his promises And never let him forget them.

I can ground myself on this, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the commandment. Similarly, in this case, we should consider what and for what we pray as requested by and done in obedience to God. We should therefore think, For my sake it counts for nothing, but it is most important that God commanded it. Therefore, each one of us should come before God in prayer for whatever we need in obedience to this commandment.
Therefore, we urgently entreat and admonish all people to take this to heart and in no way forsake their prayers.

To take up a life of prayer every day is to allow ourselves to be accompanied, in the good moments and the bad, by him who best knows and loves us. Our dialogue with Jesus Christ opens up new perspectives for us, new ways to see things that are always more filled with hope. 

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit and through the Son. He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

These words have been credited by many to St. Francis. “Preach always, use words when necessary”. Last week, I experienced a twist on those words. “Pray always, use words when necessary”

I had stopped by a chapel where a friend serves. Technically it is called an Oratory, a place not open to the public, but where members of a religious community worship and pray in the house they share.

I was in the area, and between a couple of visits, so I stopped in, and welcomed, ascended the stairs up to the chapel.

I went through the normal prayers, recounting things I needed God to forgive, and some situations that just cause my heart to ache. The kind of things that only God can solve. I talked to Him about the things coming up, and then… just couldn’t go on.

I had no more words.

That has happened more than once before… so I did what usually works, simply saying the Lord’s prayer slowly, savoring each word, confident that it covers every prayer I could ever pray. Confident of the Holy Spirit’s intercession as promised in Romans 8…

26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Rom. 8:26-27 GNT

Then, in the midst of the Lord’s prayer, I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t find the words, words that I repeated tens of thousands couldn’t be grasped, couldn’t be remembered. All I could do, is sit there, and look at the crucifix.

This bothered me… why couldn’t I pray, and yes, there were things to pray about, to pour out of a heart that is broken and struggling. And then I started to realized it was time to be still, to be reminded of the promises of God, to see that God was there, to realize the presence of God, the One to whom I spoke.

Not even to hear Him speak, or the Spirit to guide my thoughts. But just to be there, praying and realizing His presence. To pray without words, even without thought.

To dwell in the silence… with the One who loves me and knows me better than myself.

After, as I made the long trek home, I didn’t feel ecstatic, I don’t think I glowed like Moses, and all my situations weren’t miraculously taken care of…but I felt whole, and more sure of His guiding hand. A very subtle thing… but quote good.

God is with us, and we need to take the time to experience it.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 199). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

From https://opusdei.org/en-us/section/pastoral-letters/ Aug. 10,2019

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 260). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Get Dressed to… Be Served? A sermon on Luke 12:21-40

Be Dressed to…
Be Served
Luke 12:21-40

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, so that no only are you ready for Christ’s return, but that you wait with great joy and expectation!  AMEN!

Remembering the Long Nights

Reading the gospel, I was taken back nearly forty years, to my second job in 1980, washing dishes and doing all the grunt work, working 10 pm to 6 am – the graveyard shift.

Those nights were long, and hard at times, but there were some moments, especially as the morning sun light shattered the darkness, that are unforgettable. The peace, the beauty, the relief, I don’t know if I can find the words to explain it.

I think the time we are in, as we await the return of Jesus, is a lot like those dark nights.

As surely as the dawn came to end those nights, so to will our “dark nights” end, as we experience the return of the Son.

The Dark Nights of the Soul
    
Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God, and about the time when it will be seen in all of its glory.  A lot of these conversations, as today’s has Jesus urging us to seek God’s Kingdom and to be ready for the moment our Lord returns.

It’s something we need to take seriously, just as I had to have all the dishes done, and the plates stacked, the maple syrup heated and the vat of coffee ready for the people who would come in the morning, expecting to be served.

But those nights were long and dark.  There was a lot of work to be done. There were times of fear, like when we got robbed, or a man had a grand mal seizure.  There were other times where it was so tempting to fall asleep, because the early morning was so boring and slowwww, and one could get so tired, one might even fall asleep while sitting on the toilet.  Not that I know anyone who would have possibly done that.

But our life, waiting for Jesus to return, is much like that.  We might be distracted by the business, and all the tasks, we might have moments where trauma seems dominant, and anxiety paralyzes us.  Other times, we get so, so tired, and rather than looking to Jesus, we just fall spiritually asleep, unable to pay attention to the promises of God, and His warnings about His return.

I am not talking about actual sleep, but spiritual sleep, the kind of lethargic and eventually unconscious feeling that comes over us, as we stop looking to God, and start falling into temptation, and unaware of God’s grace, we are put into bondage or oppressed by the sin which Hebrews says can so easily trap us.

For nothing will cause us to be unprepared for Jesus return like sin does.  It grabs our attention, it coddles and pleasure us for a moment, and having broken us, leaves us.  We might not consider it all that much, a little lie here, a thought there, and well, that action can’t be as bad a sin as others would make it out to be.  I mean, it didn’t hurt anyone, and other people seem to think it is okay.

And heck, pastor never mentions “that” sin.

Sin is sin, and if you aren’t sure, the simple test is whether it takes your mind off of God, and how would you feel if He came back the moment you said that word, or thought that thought, or were engaged in that deed?  If you don’t like His presence in that moment, you can bet it is a sin… and it will eventually put your soul into a comatose state.

And then what happens if God comes back?

Getting Dressed for..to be served

  It is with that thought Jesus tells us to be dressed and ready to serve, because we don’t know when Jesus is come back.  But when He does, we will be ready to open the door, and greet Him.

But that is where what Jesus says gets interesting.  Seek first Jesus Kingdom, put it above everything else, for Jesus is coming back.  We get that, and if we dare, we might even think about the fact that those who are not ready will be set aside, where they will be judged based on their actions.

But hear again what awaits those who are dressed, and ready to serve.

37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!

This is what is so amazing about our Lord, and the work He gives us, leads not to being slaves, or even servants. But valued guests and friends in the kingdom of God.  He took up our serving apron, and fixes us a feast, rewarding us who are his. 

Even though there were moments in the night where we struggled to get our work done, moments where sin had lulled us to asleep, or the stresses and anxieties of life overburdened us.

In His joy, for at Christ’s return the Father and His greatest desire is fulfilled, for we have been transformed, our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.  That is what repentance truly is and being repentant, being transformed we are alert, and care about His coming in the first place.  Not from fear, but looking forward to it with great expectation! 

Until then, in the midst of the night, the Holy Spirit helps us realize the peace of God, which passes all understanding… as Jesus protects our hearts and minds.  AMEN!

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