This Child Asks, “God, what can I do to please you?”

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The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God. May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

Devotional Thought for our days:
4  But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:4 (Phillips NT)

195      Just now, Jesus, when I was considering my wretchedness, I said to you: Allow yourself to be taken in by this son of yours, just like those good fathers, full of kindness, who put into the hands of their little children the presents they want to receive from them… knowing perfectly well that little children have nothing of their own. And what merriment of father and son, even though they are both in on the secret!

St. Josemaria’s words give a definition to my greatest fear in life.  That because of my wretchedness, because of who I perceive myself to be, I will never, ever do anything for God that pleases Him.  

It just won’t happen, despite a desire to do it, despite an attempt to dedicate my life to serve Him, and led people to Him.  There are days when it seems to happen, but those days are far apart, and seem more like an accident than anything I really do. 

The challenge is in getting my mind off of my wretchedness, and see what God is doing around me.  It’s not easy to do at times, as my own failures and wretchedness dominate my landscape. The sins that seem so obvious, and even the things I strive to do like my sermons, seem to fall so short, so often failing to show people what they need to know, the presence of God in their lives.  

But it is that very presence I need to see, as God works through us, His hand masterfully, artfully guiding us, doing the work He planned for us to accomplish.

It is only by seeing His presence, by resting safely in His arms, that I can see this.  It is only by relenting, and meditating on His love, that this assurance, this peace, can comfort a soul that is not as wretched as it thinks. 

I know God does work through me, like the Father who helps the child create the gift to be given back to the Father.  Or the Father who makes the gift the son brings truly become something special.  What I need to do is let this amazing, wonderful truth sink deeply into my heart and soul, creating a joy that is described as unspeakable by the Apostle Peter.

I would imagine that I am not the only one….. so let us pray for each other!

Lord, Have mercy on us, and give us the ability to know this joy, to know that the Spirit works through us, doing what is pleasing to the Father!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 876-880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An amazing discovery, that changed the focus of my preaching….

20170124_103703Devotional thoughts for our seemingly broken days…

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. g
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one priceless h pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.  Matthew 13:44-46  HCSB

The sermon, moreover, should draw its content mainly from scriptural and liturgical sources, and its character should be that of a proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation, the mystery of Christ, ever made present and active within us, especially in the celebration of the liturgy.

One of the most amazing discoveries I made, when I moved from being “non-denominational” to being Lutheran is seen in how I viewed the scripture above.

I always thought we were the ones seeking the Kingdom of God, which was the treasure buried in the field, that we were the merchants in search of the priceless pearl.  We had to search, to work to find that treasure. Perhaps there were commentators that disagreed with this, but most sermons I heard taught us to reach out, to give it all, for being in the Kingdom of God would be more than worth it!

But what do we have to sell that would allow us to purchase the field, what do we have that could acquire the pearl that is beyond price? My brokenness? My sin?  My pride and narcissistic nature?

Nothing I have, nothing I am is worth that much, there is nothing I can do.

But to reverse the understanding, to make us the treasure buried in the much, the pearl that required a high price doesn’t seem right.  It doesn’ seem right that the Kingdom of God was about our being sought and found, then buried till the price was paid. (for we were buried with Christ Jesus) That the Kingdom of God is seen by our being bought with something priceless

Yet that is the Kingdom of God that Jesus revealed to us, we are the people He found and bought for a great price.  Our fellowship, our communion with God, that is what the Kingdom of God is, the place where God makes Himself a people, and where they recognize He is their God.

This is what Vatican II stated when it clarified what the role of preaching is, to make God’s wonderful work of salvation known, as it reveals them through the history. This is the incredible mystery of Christ. This is what we preach, Christ, present and active with us.

For me, this is the what needs to be done in every sermon, whether on Sunday or Wednesday night, whether it is in a church service, or in a Bible Study, this is what we are called to do, not just to Christians, but to the entire world.

We need to know God loves us, that He is here, that He has searched out and found us, and purchased and treasures us, because He sees in us what we can’t see.  That we were made in His image.

May all our words and actions proclaim this.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

 

The Truth about the Ministry.

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…

16 “I am not able to,” Joseph answered Pharaoh. “It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 
37 The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone like this, a man who has God’s spirit o in him?” Genesis 41:16, 37  HCSB

33. Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful34. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read “which were written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace.

It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.

One of the most challenging things to teach on in the church is the concept of the ministry.  Specifically, who can and should preach and administrate/officiate the sacraments.  

Some would open up the doors to anyone to do so, and God can and does choose a group of diverse people to serve Him, that doesn’t mean all can/should preach, or administer the sacraments.  To follow this path leads to chaos, and everyone teaching what is right in their own eyes.  Even worse, when someone is speaking on God’s behalf, and by His order, there is doubt about it.  When we make the ministry about our “rights” to be the pastor, we aren’t listening to God.

Others would follow the opposite extreme, reducing every part of ministry to those who are called and ordained as pastors.  This would include things like evangelism and even to teach Bible studies.  This leaves the church weak, undernourished, and unable to meet the needs of a broken world.  The pastor surely is the primary messenger, when he is speaking God’s word” but that doesn’t make him the only servant of the church!

I wish it would be as simple for us as it was for Pharoah, that every person could see clearly whom God chose to shepherd them. That every shepherd could do their job perfectly, without fault or hesitation. Such a thing would be an incredible blessing.

Pastors and priests are human though, and we do screw up, sometimes royally.   We stand in God’s presence as we lead His people, and there are times we do act as Jesus, speaking for Him, feeding His people, drawing them to Him at the cross.  It is in those times where it is not our perfection that matters but His. We are at our best when we realize as Joseph did, that we aren’t able to, but God can.

You see the ministry is never about the man, it is about the Man whom he stands in for, the Man who works through our voices and our hands.  The ministry is about those who receive God’s word and promises, whom the sacraments, these sacred moments are there to bless.  And when we make it about the man standing there, preaching, standing there, putting Christ’s body into the hands of hungry souls, that we have sinned.  We then have taken our eyes off of the Lord, off of the promises, and orbit outside the relationship in order to critique and judge it.

This is contrary to the gift Jesus gives the church, as a simple gift of men He calls the church to recognize His call upon.  Men who are qualified to serve based on God’s teaching.  Men whom He will speak through, and limit their words to drawing people into God’s glory.  men who see the ministry as simply God and the church, and find great joy in seeing them together.

 Focus there, on people hearing God say, “you are my people” and the people saying “You are our God!”  

Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

No Time For Complacency! A sermon on Zephaniah 1:7-8

No Time For Complacency

Zephaniah 1:7-18

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the Gifts of Serenity and Peace of God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ not just sustain you in these days, but empower and drive you from being complacent about sin, to reconcile those divided by it.

Did you come here to hear that reading?

What were you thinking of, as you heard the Old Testament reading from Zephaniah this morning?  Was it what you expected to hear, what you thought about when you getting ready to come to church?

Anyone like the picture on the cover?  Although it is there, not sure many of you saw the word “hope” there!

This is a hard reading, for sure, and I wonder how many of us truly agreed with Bob as we said “Thanks be to God!”, to his “this is the word of the LORD!”

Even as we struggle with this, we have to realize that the day of the Lord is near, and that means there is, no time for complacency.

For while that day is one we hope for, for others it will be terrifying.

Being sucked into the dregs of Life (Complacency)

This idea of complacency in the Old Testament has an interesting word picture.  It is a word picture of someone so drunk that they do not notice they are drinking the bottom of the barrel of wine, what are called the dregs.

They are so drunk they do not notice they are drinking wine that is thicker than soup, and it causes them to be even more inebriated, even more, unaware of the situation around them.  They are simply numb to reality, unaware of what they are witnessing, unable to even care.

While we don’t realize it, that is the power of sin over us.

It makes us numb, unaware of those around us, unable to care for them, as long as we are able to continue in the sin.  Like the alcoholic who doesn’t realize the damage he is doing to himself and to others, sin slowly and surely claims those who are victim to it, slowly demanding that we give ourselves into it more and more.

You see, sin is the strongest addiction out there, and it doesn’t matter the sin!

That is what scripture is talking about when it talks about God searching through Jerusalem, searching through people that claim to be his, people that are so drunk in their sin that they don’t recognize His presence.

Please understand – God isn’t just searching out these sinners just in the world, but here, among His people.

And for those complacent in their sin, hear again what waits,

14  “That terrible day of the LORD is near. Swiftly it comes— a day of bitter tears, a day when even strong men will cry out. 15  It will be a day when the LORD’s anger is poured out— a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, 16  a day of trumpet calls and battle cries. Down go the walled cities and the strongest battlements! 17  “Because you have sinned against the LORD, I will make you grope around like the blind. Your blood will be poured into the dust, and your bodies will lie rotting on the ground.” Zephaniah 1:14-17 (NLT)

This is the word of the Lord!

Thanks be to God?

For judging us this harshly for our sin?

The Gospel of Jealousy

O wait, darn it, I forgot the last verse, the place where we will find not just the terror, but the hope. It’s a bit hidden, the gospel in the passage, so look closely

18  Your silver and gold will not save you on that day of the LORD’s anger. For the whole land will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy. He will make a terrifying end of all the people on earth. Zephaniah 1:18 (NLT)

 Do you see the hope there?  Right in the middle of that verse….

It might not be obvious at first, see it there?

In the fire of His jealousy, we see hope, right when our silver and gold does no good, when we can’t purchase our salvation, there is hope.

You see, God is jealous enough to burn it all up, yet when we take prophecy as a whole, and not simply focus on one passage, we realize that this too must be considered,

9  I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” Zechariah 13:9 (NLT)

Throughout scripture, we hear about God’s jealousy, that God desires to make for Himself a people.  But God’s way of doing that is incredible, for He purifies us, He cleanses us, even as He burns off the impurities.

Remember John the Baptist promised this when He said,

“But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Matthew 3:11 (NLT)

The fire of God’s wrath was poured out on Christ at the cross, all of His anger, all of His rage, and those of us in Christ were raised with Him when God broke the power of both sin and death.

Even are we can’t be complacent about our sin, we can’t be complacent about the sin of others.  Not just about warning them about the sin, but we need to reconcile them to God!  We need to help them wake up from their complacency that sin causes. We need to give them the hope that will see them through the fire to the resurrection, assured by the promise of Jesus.
That is why we are here, and knowing God is near, let us not fall into complacency, but rather hear God say that we are His people, while we rejoice that He is our God…and that He brings us through the fire, cleansed, holy, pure, and His.  AMEN!

Are You Ready for this? Do you really want this revival/renewal?

20141022_100825 - Copy - Copy - CopyDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
5  A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6  Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7  The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” 8  Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9  Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, John 5:5-9 (TEV)

211      Lazarus rose because he heard the voice of God and immediately wanted to get out of the situation he was in. If he hadn’t wanted to move, he would just have died again. A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.

XI. CONFESSION
1 It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse. However, in confession it is not necessary to enumerate all trespasses and sins,2 for this is impossible. Ps. 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”

XIII. THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS
1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.  2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.

I often hear people saying they miss the way church used to be.  They may indicate the music or the preaching. Mostly what they long to see are the full sanctuaries on Sunday morning, and church campuses that were busy every day and night of the week.   In dact, for a couple decades we can see the phenomena of people moving from one church to another, looking for the one that is coming alive, that seems to have a new life about them.

We want revival, much like the man who was at the pool wanted to be made well, much like Lazarus, to his surprise, found himself alive at the command of Jesus.  ( I love St Josemaria’s idea that he could have decided to stay there, as I think it is descriptive of many of us!)   

But are we ready for it?  Do we really desire it?

For what it will take is the sureness of our absolution.  Revival and renewal, whether individual or parish wife, requires something.  The realization that every one of our sins are forgiven!  Revival, being brought to life in Christ means we know and depend on the promises that nothing, including that sin, can separate us from the love of God. 

What an incredible thing these sacraments are, these sacred times are, when we realize that God is at work as He desires to be, awakening and strengthening our faith, our dependence on Him. 

For that is what having a strong faith means, we depend on God more, not less.  We realize His presence in our lives more, not less.  We let Him guide our lives, much like a leaf caught up in a stream…drifts and goes where the current takes it.

This kind of reliance on God’s mercy and love, these things we call grace, is at the heart of every revival, every renewal in the history of the church.  It is the hope that underlies the Lutheran Reformation, and the Catholic councils we know as Vatican I and Vatican II.  This is Escriva’s “The Way” and what Luther preaches so clearly in his catechesis. 

So Jesus says to His church today and to you and I,  

“Do you want to be healed?” 

“Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?”

“Do you want to be renewed, and revived”

It starts with trusting in God enough to pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!” 

Holy Father, Lord Jesus, and Blessed Holy Spirit, in your mercy, help us to say yes, letting you in to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness, helping us not to fear coming clean as much as we fear to remain trapped in our sin, which drives us apart from you.  We pray this in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 922-926). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Why the Church Needs to Be One…

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for our Days:

18 Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, My beloved in whom My soul delights; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not argue or shout, and no one will hear His voice in the streets. 20 He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick, until He has led justice to victory. 21 The nations will put their hope in His name.

1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.
2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.

194      Nam, et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis, non timebo mala—though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no evil will I fear. Neither my wretchedness nor the temptations of the enemy will worry me, quoniam tu mecum es—for you Lord are with me.

Our Lord prayed that His church would be one, as united as God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are one.  Historic churches usually use either the Apostles or Nicene Creed each week, in which they state they believe and depend upon the Holy Spirit to work through the church, which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

And most of us desire the church to be unified, if by unified we mean that those who disagree with us come to our position, imitate our practice, and bow to our superior, more Christ-like version of the one true faith.

But do we ask why we need to be one?

Do we seek the underlying reason to put our own preferences aside, to work diligently through the different understandings, why we need to humbly listen and work with each other?

It is seen in my devotional readings this morning.

This world is broken without hope.  It is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and it does fear evil, the anxiety seems to be growing at a palpable rate.

Our only hope is in the Lord, who will deal with us with both His incredible power and HIs incredible care.  He will nurse us back to heal, like someone tending a bruised plant, the Holy Spirit’s gentle comfort us will take us and kindle in us a roaring fire.

Our unity directly affects that witness, the ability to give that hope.  That doesn’t mean we compromise on things critical to having trust in God, but rather, we work all the harder at making it happen.  We acknowledge our broken fractured church and pray together, then work to see it become one, for it is one in Christ Jesus.

Lord, give us the desire to see You heal our brokenness, our divisions. Help us to seek you together in prayer, and to work diligently together to give this world the hope it can only find in You.  Lord, have mercy on us all, for we are sinners in need of your healing.  AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 873-876). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I’ve fallen, and how can I get up?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our days:

15  After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16  JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17  A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18  “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19  Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)

8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?” 
“To find favor with you, my lord,”  he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.”  Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB

 

173      Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.

There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin.  We want to get past it, but we cannot.  It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.

Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him.  Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection.  Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.

Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit.  Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost.  But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.

We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!

That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off.  This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him.  Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us?  It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.

He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.

He holds us close to His heart,  so very close!  As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.

It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.

But He is there, with us.

For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.

Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why the Little Things in Ministry Matter More…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for Our Day:

42 And whoever gives j just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple —I assure you: He will never lose his reward!”  Matt 10:42 HCSB

Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand questions of a pilgrim.
Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Most of us will never baptize 30 people in a day, never mind 3000.  Most of us will never write a book that will revive and change the church at large.  We aren’t Calvin or Luther or Pope Ratzinger.  We aren’t the great minds of the church, nor the servants whose love and sacrifice is honored by millions

Yet our ministry is just as powerful, if not more so, even when it is as simple as praying with someone who is struggling or offering a cup of water to someone who is tired and weary.

Pope Francis explains it well if a bit technically. Mission, the work God sends us to do, doesn’t come about because of our doctrinal knowledge. It doesn’t come about because we have all the questions answered, and know it all.  We will still have thousands of questions, many of them which will go unanswered in this life.  For doctrinal statements are not really statements of faith.

Nor does faith come about just because we have security in this life and for the next. It is not because we are assured of heaven that we spring up to serve others, to care for them, to reveal to them the God who loves them.  We can’t even anticipate what heaven is, it is unfathomable.

But faith, the kind of faith that leads to being “mission-minded” comes from encountering Jesus.  An encounter that is irreplaceable, an encounter that leaves us in awe, and in peace that is inexpressible.  For in our encounter, Jesus takes away our burdens, our sins, our resentment,  It’s all gone.  Even the anxieties of today and eternity, and the academic explanations of religion, they slide into the background,  for there is only Him.

Only Him….

only HIM!

And it is wonderful, it is beyond explanation.

And from there, we find something else happening.  We see our hearts aware of those in need around us, the very people God has sent us to minister too, even when that ministry is a simple cup of water…given because the Lord is with you!

I pray that we all experience Jesus’ presence, revealed by His word, know in His sacraments, and therebt dwel and minister to others in His peace.  AMEN!

 

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. Print.

Discouraged? Remember His Claim

DSCF1421Devotional Thought for our Days:

6  “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7  I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8  I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’” 9  So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 (NLT)

Now it becomes clear that what took place on Sinai, in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the land. Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters. No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. Israel is constituted as a people through the covenant and the divine law it contains. It has received a common rule for righteous living. This and this alone is what makes the land a real gift. Sinai remains present in the Promised Land. When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.

As I read these two quotes above, as it talks of people who are discouraged and inwardly lost, they resonate with me.   A lot of my ministry is helping people who think they are lost realize that they’ve been found,   The role of a shepherd/pastor is to bring people home who are broken and lost.

Israel was there in Egypt, it wasn’t where they belonged.  They would later confuse the belonging to being attached to real estate, and when they lost that and were taken in captivity again, they had already lost the belonging that made the land special in the first place. 

It wasn’t the dirt they lived on that made them special, it was who they lived with, as God shared His glory with them.  It was the interior life, as we dwelled with God that made the place special. It was the fact that they were aware that God had claimed them…

Even as He claimed us.

At Sinai, the people couldn’t do anything but dwell in God’s presence.  They struggled with the glory, they struggled with depending on God for food (manna again!) and water.  They struggled with idolatry, and with obedience.  

Yet they lived in His presence, and they had access to the restoration God provided.

There is a lesson here, as we remember how dependable God was at Sinai, how eagerly He would restore those who came for forgiveness. He was there for them, He would rescue them again and again.

He will rescue us, and refresh our shriveled interior life, and help us to again live in His glory.  For He has claimed us as His own>  We are His people, whom He loves. 

Discouraged by the evil you see in this world? The brokenness you feel in your life and the brokenness in the lives of those you love?  There is hope, there is the promise.  You are His!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

New Year’s resolutions, Mondays, and our Spiritual Struggle

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Devotional Thought for our Monday!
22  So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. 23  Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24  and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. Ephesians 4:22-24 (TEV)

163      You shouldn’t be so easy on yourself! Don’t wait until the New Year to make your resolutions. Every day is a good day to make good decisions. Hodie, nunc!—Today, now! It tends to be the poor defeatist types who leave it until the New Year before beginning afresh… And even then, they never really begin.

Yesterday, some 60 friends and I knelt at the altar at Concordia, and celebrated the mercy of God.  We celebrated by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, broken and spilled for us, to cover our sin, to remind us of the glorious life God gives us, where we walk with Jesus.

It was glorious, it was incredible, this sharing of God’s love, of realizing God’s desire to make us His has been fulfilled at the cross, and we celebrated it, together! What an incredible, overwhelming experience, as we were there, together, and realized the love of God!

Yet today is Monday, and what we used to call the “tyranny of the urgent” has found its way to dominate my life.  Too many critical things to do, competing with daily tasks, deadlines, and meetings to finish planning.  While balancing out the people who need help. 

It is as if yesterday’s moment of bliss happened a long time ago, not just yesterday.

It feels so distant, so much not part of who I am, today.  

And if I have trouble remembering – reliving those moments – how can I easily connect to my baptism?  And if I struggle to connect to either, my connection to Christ and to the cross where I was united to Him fades into the distant past as well. 

It would seem like those moments fade like our New Years’ resolutions, with a lot of great intent, and little impact and little change if anything.  To use Paul’s thought, we struggle to get rid of the old desires, the old self.

And what difference would it make; make these resolutions real as Paul advises?  How would it change the tyranny of the urgent, how would it change my Monday? 

The Psalmist tells us how to make this new beginning happen.  With words, words we know so, so well.

Be still, and know I am God…. God Almighty is with you, the God of Jacob is your refuge.

As He was when we knelt at the altar, He hasn’t left, He hasn’t stopped loving us, He hasn’t stopped being our God….. rely on that, for He promised.  He is with you, right now at your desk, or while you sip your coffee and wonder how to escape. He is there in the midst of this broken world. He is there with you.

Knowing that, makes every moment new, it makes every moment a communion, a fellowship with God who loves us. 

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 768-772). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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