What difference will it make….and when?
Devotional Message of the week:
10 Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, 11 So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. 12 “So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. 13 No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— Monuments to me, to GOD, living and lasting evidence of GOD.” Isaiah 55:10-13 (MSG)
1 Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: 2 proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement—but do all with patience and with care to instruct. 3 The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; 4 and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths. 5 But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfil the service asked of you. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NJB)
In times of general confusion it may seem as though God is not listening to your pleading with him on behalf of his souls, and is turning a deaf ear to your calls. You even reach the point of thinking that all your apostolic labours have been in vain. Don’t worry! Carry on working with the same cheerfulness, the same energy, the same zeal. Allow me to insist: when you work for God, nothing is unfruitful. (1)
I am sitting at my office desk this morning, looking at the texts for another funeral, and wondering how they will be preached. After that, the Palm/Passion Sunday Sermon await, and then, planning the 4 services and sermons for the next week. I should be excited, I should be energized. I know that this is what I am called to, and most of the time, I enjoy it. I’ve even been told I am pretty good at it, by people I know would not hesitate to let me no otherwise.
Even more – I know well the first passage above, the promise that God’s word never returns void – that it is always doing its work, quickening, giving birth in the people listening, the trust, the faith that we have in God. It’s not about my skills, it’s not about the hours put in, trying to craft a sermon. (the best sermons/homilies are not written, they are crafted and forged within the life of the pastor/priest ) Pentecost is a great model of this – as Peter – yeah – the dude who denied his relationship with Jesus three times… spoke a sermon – and the Holy Spirit cut open the hearts of those listening – even as prophesied in Ezek 36:25ff.
God does the work – that is our promise! His word doesn’t return without accomplishing what He determined to accomplish with it…
So why don’t we see the results? Why don’t we see the tears of joy that come from those who have realized His love covers their sin, heals their broken lives, gives hope to those who had none? Why can I preach at a funeral or a wedding or a midweek service – where people are obviously touched for a moment… but then forget the message, more importantly, they forget God?
As I look at the workload this week… I wonder… what difference will it make in people’s lives, and when?
As I woke up this morning – and thought of all the stressed people I am ministering to in the next few weeks – their situations weighed me down…. a lot. When will they see relief – whether from repentance and absolution, from healing, or from the thing we all have promised to us, the comforting, encouraging presence of God. Will they receive that which the Lord would bless them? Will they recognize His presence in their lives? Will my words make a difference in their lives today, tomorrow and all of next week?
That is where the words of the second quote of scripture – St. Paul’s advice to Timothy, and the next point in St Josemaria Escriva’s “The Forge” come into play. ( I read a few of those with my daily devotions) The passage to Timothy popped into mind as I read the note in the Forge. And a little comfort entered my heart – if it is not my work, but God’s, then perhaps I don’t have to see the results. What I am called to do – encouraged to do is keep preaching about Jesus – preaching about our need for Him, because – hey the evidence is there – we don’t live the lives that reflect it. We need to be encouraged to love – to engage in relationships that go beyond just a “hello” or that are very serious – and ready to pray, when we ask, “how are you doing?” And I can, in sermons and through the sacrament, through Bible Studies and conversations in my office and on the golf course, and even on FB.
God will work in my people’s lives – I know that… because I know Him. I know His desires, I know His love, and that is what I need to focus on… far more than “my results”
And on the Friday before Holy Week, with funerals on the calendar, it is good to know the message I preach… is true for me as well…
“The LORD IS with you!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3452-3456). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- 300 posts, 59 countries…a Wedding, a Funeral, and the Pope’s First Sermon…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- We Don’t Lecture about Christ, We proclaim His Love and Crucifixion (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Bored or Tired at Work? The Answer is not finding something new, but… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- You Didn’t Preach That Sermon (bluechippastor.org)
- Weary of Praying? (justifiedandsinner.com)