Monthly Archives: June 2014
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Then I said, “LORD, you understand. Remember me and help me. Let me have revenge on those who persecute me. Do not be so patient with them that they succeed in killing me. Remember that it is for your sake that I am insulted. 16 You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17 I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18 Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:15-19 (TEV)
419 An apostle must not remain at the level of the mediocre. God calls him to be fully human in his actions, and at the same time to reflect the freshness of eternal things. That is why the apostle has to be a soul who has undergone a long, patient and heroic process of formation. (1)
A few days ago, I wrote a blog that we as Christians don’t really have enemies, we have adversaries. That our goal was not to defeat them, or crush them, but instead to love them, to pray for them, to come alongside them, that they may know the love of God. That is what following in the footsteps of Jesus is, that is what being a child of God looks like. Growing in our trust of God to the extent that we begin to love as Christ does.
I got a bit of feedback, some quite defensive saying we can’t avoid enemies – they will come after us. My point seemed to be lost, or maybe poorly communicated? It is not that they don’t oppress us, or challenge us, or even hate us. That’s on them. But when we decide that they are enemies, when we make that judgment, it places us in a battle, either offensive or defensive, and negates our ability to minister to them. Our reaction to enemies is different than our reaction to an adversary.
this morning in my devotional time, I read the passage from Jeremiah above. Jeremiah is one who had significant opposition, primarily for speaking out for what God wanted from His people, what He expected as part of the relationship, how He expected them to love each other, and Him. Not a easy message then, nor is it one today. He got a lot of opposition, and here we see him asking God to take care of it. The opposition is real, death threats have been made, serious ones. This isn’t just whining because he didn’t get his way.
But his attention in the midst of the opposition has shifted. It has become personal, this opposition to God’s word. Jeremiah has lost his focus, as we all do at times. He focuses in on his on righteousness, his own goodness.
And God rebukes him, takes him back to the beginning.
God doesn’t promise vengeance on them, instead He tells Jeremiah to return, to repent, to re-focus on the relationship between God and Jeremiah.
That’s a message many of us, including me, perhaps today especially me, need to hear. For we get tired and weary, as we see people choose evil, make decisions that ignore God, and walk on paths that are self-destructive. The temptation is to compare their journey to ours. “Wouldn’t they be better off like us, why can’t they see this?”
While what we should be doing is speaking to them about Jesus’ love, about His mercy, about their need for it in their lives. They need to hear His message, His gospel, His word, and that may take some time. It may take some time for us to get it right, to learn to speak His word, not focus on our situation, to bear His cross, to pray for those who persecute us. Rather than just condemn them and desire wrath, or to give up hope for them, we need to learn that if God is patient with us, not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance… than that is our path, our desire. This focus on the eternal takes time – even for prophets and apostles… we just need to remember to turn to Him…..
So we need to pray for them, ask God to save them, Speak the truth in love regarding their sin and ours, and that God offers hope… He will return them… He will welcome them home.
Lord, have mercy on us ALL…. AMEN
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1878-1880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church, June 29. 2014
The Paradox of Life in Christ
† IHS †
May we understand that this grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, is what makes life worth living.
But I thought…… The paradox that isn’t
As I read the gospel reading first two verses last Monday, (for I did not come to bring peace… but a sword.. and cause division in homes) other Bible passages started to run through my mind.
Isa 9:6 — For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end.
Ac 10:36 — This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Ro 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Eph 2:14 — For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Eph 2:17 — He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.
Col 1:20 — and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
And as I read the verses about division, I thought about the 4th Commandment, and our duty to Honor our father and mother. Then St, John’s words, questioning how we can love God who we can’t see, when we don’t love our neighbor whom we can see. I mean – isn’t God all about love? The two greatest of commands are love Him and love our neighbor, right?
It seems confusing at first, that this passage contradicts so many others in scripture, indeed, some which form the basis of our relationship with God.
There is a word for this – it is called a paradox… and certainly, from the view of the world, this life we have been given in Christ is a paradox
So let’s look at this passage – and see something truly amazing…..
Yeah – Jesus does mean it –
Does Jesus actually mean it, when He talks about coming to cause division, to cause strife? That He didn’t come to bring peace, but a weapon of war? A sword to separate us from each other?
I mean, I like swords and knives and such, but is this the tool we need for ministry? Does following in His steps mean that we all have to carry swords and machetes? Of course not!
But does Jesus mean it, when He prophesies that families will divide, father against son, daughter against wife? That some who hate us, will be those in our very homes? That we have to love God more than any. More than our parents, than our children? Or if we do not, we aren’t worthy, we aren’t capable of being in a relationship with him
Yes, He does. He means it.
As we struggle with this, it is helpful to know which of the words for “love” is used here. It is phileo – the love usually expressed within a family. Within that, there is a sense of loyalty, the recognition that these are “my people”, that no one takes precedence over them. It is a tight mutual bond, one of great loyalty, one that can go deeper than we have words for, or the logic to explain.
Jesus says that this is the kind of love that we should have for Him, more than any other person in our lives. It’s not new in scripture, remember God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac? Remember Gideon, tearing down the statue of the idol Ba’al in his dad’s backyard? Or the cry of Joshua to his people, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?
That word actually cuts deeper and harder for many of us. Challenging our loyalty to our family, our very natural desire to care and protect those we love is a dangerous thing. Which is more important, the kids chance for a sports or academic scholarship, or spending time in church and Bible Study? What about God’s commands about marriage, or wanting them to just enjoy being “in love?” What about having to sacrifice time with our family, not to minister to a friend, but to show love and pray for an adversary, maybe their adversary?
Who is closer to us, who are we going to be loyal too? Who are we going to listen to, and base our “right and wrong” on?
Please here me! I am not talking about nagging people to death, or condemning those we love who aren’t living as God planned for them to live. But there has to be an option between tolerating that which is evil and wrong in God’s eyes, and condemning them and turning our back on them.
The option that is only found… in loving God more than all. The only real option we, who trust in Jesus have….
For Jesus does mean these words, but not just to convict us of our sins, or to give Him a reason to condemn us. This call, this command to love Him more than all others
The Reason – “being Mine” Phileo!
One of the challenges of preaching on a portion of a chapter, is remembering the context of the entire chapter. We noted this last week, as we talked about the context of these verses before – these are Jesus’ words to the men he is sending out, His representatives to proclaim that God’s kingdom is here, among us. That God does care and is helping, comforting, saving and defending us.
That is the same context here. Jesus is speaking to those who know in part, and will soon know how deep God’s love for them is, as they realize the message they are coming to give – is that God loves us so much, that His son would be crucified for us.
They recognize, intuitively, that this Jesus has for them the words of life, that He is going to free them from all that restricts life, from all that limits it from being lived to the fullest.
That when we respond to His love, when our loyalty, our priorities are all based in responding to His love.
A side note – to be explored more, but when we love Him first, when our loyalty and the primary relationship is with Him, then all the other relationships we are in take on a deeper and truer nature, they are less effected by sin, or by anxiety, they become less our gods, as we put them into God’s hands…..
We are called to walk with God, as His family. Not just for a while, it is who we are, now and forever. It defines us, this relationship we are in, more than our being a son, or a dad, a mom or a daughter. More than any things else – we have to know we are loved by God to the point where we are now family.
His people, Close family, His children.
We are the people God is willing to die for, we are the people that Christ did die for, willingly, for the joy set before Him, he endured that cross.
He welcomes us to pick up ours, and walk with Him. That may test us, as family and friends don’t get us, as they don’t understand why we do what we do, why we act like we act, as we struggle to leave behind the sinful behaviors and attitudes that they find normal. They will wonder as they see us struggle and sacrifice to love our enemies, rather than get revenge. This relationship will test us as we struggle with our desire to do what pleases us, rather than what pleases God.
This isn’t what we have to do to save ourselves, for Jesus has done that already! But as we realize His love, it is how we respond to His love, to His faithfulness to us. As we remember the new life He gave us in baptism, as He claimed us as His children, as we come to this altar and receive His body and blood. As we realize that this is where we need to be, for chasing after the world’s idea of life stifles us, kills us….reduces us to mere animals
But in Him, there is life….
So welcome those who speak of His love, of His promises and yes, call you to repentance and life. Welcome those who live life in Christ, struggling with the righteousness that is there. Love those He brings into your life, helping them, even if it is by offering them a cup of cold water….
For following Him, walking in His steps is a life that is rewarding, for we realize the life He has given us, through the cross….
A life of God’s peace which is beyond our ability to describe, as we live it secure in Christ Jesus….. Amen!
Discussion Thought of the Day:
4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. 6 For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. 2 John 1:4-6 (NAB)
431 You should always be well-mannered towards everybody, especially towards those who present themselves as your adversaries (you should never have enemies) when you are trying to let them see their mistake. (1)
I started composing this blog this morning, based on the Bible passage above, from my devotional readings. It’s been a thought on my mind for a while, this idea that we cannot separate loving God from being obedient to Him. We can’t say we love Him, and then live a life that rebels against the way He has revealed for us to life.
Then I came across the words of St. Josemaria, this morning, and it is the words that are in parenthesis that stunned me. What does it mean that we shouldn’t have enemies? Is there such a great difference between enemies and adversaries?
Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. He’s saying the same thing – for in loving our enemies, they are not enemies anymore. They may work against, us, frustrate us, even ignore us, but if we love them, if we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, they aren’t our enemies any longer. They are those we are willing to make sacrifices for, that we desire the best (which is knowing God’s love) , that we are willing to die for, to become martyrs, those who death testifies of Jesus Christ, and His love.
Adversaries can be convinced, not by carefully planned arguments, but by those who love them and sacrifice for them. We in turn are changed as we pray for them, as we unite our hearts with God’s heart, as we ask Him to bless them. As we sacrifice our right to be resentful, angry, our plans of revenge and retribution, as we simply pray, and learn to love them.
This is easy to say as I sit in my church office in California, No one is pointing a gun at me, or throwing me in jail. Yet if I look at the lives of the martyr’s throughout history, I am not so sure I have it easier. There was a level of trust, a level of faith, an awareness of the presence of God that was beyond anything I can even imagine. Oddly enough, I find myself desiring it, being a little envious of their stories, of their ability to love their enemies.
This is the way we, who trust in Jesus, are supposed to walk. Loving all, confronting their errors for sure, but loving them in that. We have to realize that our job isn’t to convict them, but to shepherd them into Christ’s love, into His truth. We can do that with adversaries, we cannot with enemies. Of course, they may still see us as enemies, but it is not their perspective that matters. It is ours.
We are called, commissioned, commanded to love them, even as that demonstrates our love and trust in God. Even as it screams that we are walking in Christ’s steps, united to His death, and to the life which we are raised with Him to live. This is how we are God’s masterpiece, as Paul tells the Ephesians, re-created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He has planned for us, from before time. The good work of loving others, bearing witness in that supernatural love, to the love of Christ.
Lord, have mercy on us, and teach us how to love as You do!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1925-1927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT)
19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21 We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:19-25 (TEV)
409 “I was a guerrilla fighter,” he wrote, “and I moved around the hills, shooting whenever I wanted. But I thought I had better become a soldier, because I realised that wars are won more easily by organised armies and well-disciplined armies. A poor guerrilla fighter on his own cannot take whole cities, or conquer the world. I hung up my old musket—it was so out of date!—and now I am better armed. At the same time, I know that I can no longer lie down in the hills, under the shade of a tree, and dream about winning the war all on my own.” Blessed be the discipline and blessed be the unity of our Holy Mother the Church! (1)
I was asked this week, how do I respond to people who think that they can worship God all by themselves. It’s not the first time, people have asked that question of me. Apparently someone asked Pope Francis that earlier this week as well, as one of his tweets responded to such a question. He admitted that it was difficult, because people are sinners, and we can frustrate anger and even cause each other great anxiety. But it was, nevertheless necessary.
We know God because others who are part of the body of Christ have shared His love with us. No one comes to know Jesus, unless He is revealed to us by another. It could be parents, uncles or aunts, a friend, even someone we were interested in dating. But someone revealed to us the depth of God’s love for us.
The writer of Hebrews knows this all too well, as he begins to some up his letter, he address those who want to have some kind of individual relationship with God – where it is just God and them, at the beach, in the forest, on their motorcycle, playing their music, where ever. The argument is that the relationship could be purer, less restricted, less affected by hypocrisy, or their own inability to be patient and deal with others. But that presumes that the kind of relationship God has designed for each of us is one on one with Him. That we don’t need the encouragement of others, that those times where we stress, where we worry, where we hurt, are going to take away from our relationship with God, rather than intensify it, as we realize our need for God, to need to know His presence, His comfort, His peace. It
I love the quote from St. Josemaria, because it nails me to the cross. For years growing up, desiring to be a pastor, I thought about my winning the world for God, the great things I could do. I was the idyllic “guerrilla”, solider of the cross. There was a lot of encouragement for this, a naivete about the need for true fellowship – as working as one body in Christ. Of realizing what affects one believer affects us all, without regard to denomination or theology, or personal journey. It’s not about what I’ve chosen to believe, or you think in right.
Paul explains it well in his letter to the church in Ephesus,
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
Our unity is not found in our diversity, but in Christ, in His revelation, in His Love. In what binds us together in His un-explainable peace.
That’s why we need to no abandon each other, finding reasons to walk alone.
It can’t be done. For God has designed us to be His people – together, and He comes to us to be our (together) God.
The strength we find in this, the peace, the encouragement, even in times of stress, of anxiety, of dealing with brokenness, of dealing with sin…
It’s why church and Bible study are important. Not to prove our holiness, but to encourage each other to remember we are holy, separated together for a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That’s the Church, simply put, His people….
Come and join us, as we walk with Christ, together.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1835-1841). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:14-18 (NLT)
“Obviously, he said, it is not always easy to walk the path of faith with other people. “Sometimes it’s tiring. It can happen that a brother or sister creates problems for us or scandalizes us, but the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to human beings, to us, to witnesses,” he said.
“It is through our brothers and sisters with their gifts and their limits,” the pope said, “that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means.” (1)
Back in college, I had a class in dramatic literature. (hey it was a better option than Shakespeare – or so I thought) One of the things we had to do was tell a story in mime, which meant we had to learn to mime. You know the pull the invisible rope, imitate some poor victim walking by the class, and of course the infamous idea of being locked in the invisible box.
I was thinking about that this morning, as I read the passage from Ephesians this morning in my devotional reading. It was probably Paul’s image of a wall, but somehow I pictured being back in the class, and my struggle to be a mime…..you see, I had trouble finding the invisible wall. Is it 2 feet away, 28 inches? Sometimes closer, sometimes farther, I just couldn’t find the perception to discern the wall.
It has been said, from everyone from Tony Campolo thirty years ago, to the latest church growth theorists that the church is the most segregated group in the USA, and Sunday mornign 9-12 is the most segregated time in the week. Not just because of ethnicity, but because of age, music preference, language barriers, culture, and too often – what my denom brotherhood called “non-essentials” and what my Lutheran brethren call “adiaphora. Where we fail to surrender our freedoms, not because someone opposes them, but because we want to protect what we prefer.
But for those of us in Christ, those walls are as much an illusion as the walls that box the mime in; that which restricts us is but our own perceptions, and not reality.
For those walls are based in the sins of idolatry, or hatred, of believing the worst about those that we think are unlike us. For those walls exist because we have been taught to be afraid of, for those that we have to extend pastor our comfort zone.. We’ve been told we don’t have to change our music, our vocabulary, just as the jews were told they didn’t have to change their diet, or which day they worshipped. But we can change those things, in view of Christ ministering to those, we can change them in love, We can be patient with each other, sacrificing, not the Jesus who brings us together, but those things we really can’t divide us, as we dwell in Christ. Walls that needed to be broken down and nailed to the cross in the first place.
Can’t we realize, if we have found our life in Christ, then we can abandon that which we thought defined our life? Can’t we treat those walls, like the mime does, at the end of his show, and simply ignore them? Can’t we simply look to Christ, and in our weakness, be transformed to where we realize we are One? That we are called to live in love, even when that love means we sacrifice for others? As Pope Francis points out – the church isn’t optional, and he isn’t talking about just belonging to a congregation, but the Church – all of it. Where God calls us together with our
Our hope is in Him, in a place where walls do not exist. Where sinners are gathered, granted repentance and love and mercy… and find themselves to be one in Christ.
May we realize this reality sooner than later, as we realize the Lord is with us all.
(1) Pope Francis, public Address, 6/25 http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1402635.htm
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! ” Revelation 12:10-12 (NLT)
36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36 (NLT)
Driving home from a meeting last night, I drove past a place where my dad had worked……wasn’t planning on it, just trying to avoid the mess on California freeways.
But there it was, another company in the building, but it still looked the same…. still a place where carpet and tile was sold, still had the weeds I was paid to pull out some 30+ years ago…..grief I thought that I had processed welled up again…
It’s not been a year since my dad died… and when I got home, I heard that another friend had passed away. A man unique in that, though my dad’s age, he treated me like I was his dad, a spiritual father perhaps. Not the only one he had, by any means, but still, even at our last breakfast together, as he told me of his days left…. I found myself in awe, as he asked me how to live that life. “Pastor Dt,” Bill asked, “How can I minister to people in the last months of my life….”
No one has ever been that direct. Like the first reading above, my friend wasn’t afraid to die, or even the process of dieing. He was afraid of not being a significant part of God’s work, in the months (actually less a little more than two) that he had left. He knew the power of sharing the gospel with people – even rejoiced and joked about his struggles to do so. He, I think, got the idea that Pope Francis wrote, that I quoted yesterday….
“Our mission, then— the mission that frightens us and makes us offer excuses like the ones we hear from the lips of the reluctant prophets in the scriptures— is to evangelize, to shepherd the faithful people of God. And that mission establishes us in our vocation. In calling us to that mission, Jesus gives us solidity in the depths of our hearts: he establishes us as pastors and makes that our identity. In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments , in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly activity, we are collaborating with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own.” (1)
He desired that Jesus would take root deeply in his heart, in his soul. He knew the joy of baptizing someone, of partaking in that miracle. Or in handing someone the chalice containing the blood of Christ.
I am not saying he was perfect – heck, he would be the first to indicate that was so untrue, that it wasn’t even funny. He struggled with a lot of things, things he didn’t think were right. He sinned, like the rest of us,
Yet, as he was facing death, his concern was how to see God use his time, how God could redeem it, make it worth the suffering, the pain.
That’s the edge he had over most of us, for we feel like we are immortal, that we’ve got decades ahead of us, and in a way, I hope we do….
But may we learn that these days are still but too short, may we realize the vocation we have as disciples, as the priesthood of all believers. That death comes way to fast, even for men who have lived 8 decades or 9. That we find life in its fullest, not when we make ourselves the center of our universes, but Christ that center, when His will becomes ours, when we ask Him, Lord, use us….may we be your instruments being the means of hope, of mercy, of love. May we too, defeat satan by the power of the blood of Christ, by our trust in Him, and our testifying of that love, and that we come to love our life in Him, that we no longer longer cling to find our life in this world.
And as we think of those who have gone before us, may the examples of Christ’s faithfulness to them help us get our priorities right….. Lord have mercy…
(1) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 and Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and told him to say to the Israelites, Jacob’s descendants: 4 “You saw what I, the LORD, did to the Egyptians and how I carried you as an eagle carries her young on her wings, and brought you here to me. 5 Now, if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own people. The whole earth is mine, but you will be my chosen people, 6 a people dedicated to me alone, and you will serve me as priests.” 7 So Moses went down and called the leaders of the people together and told them everything that the LORD had commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has said,” and Moses reported this to the LORD. Exodus 19:3-8 (TEV)
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (TEV)
377 The Lord wants a definite apostolate from you, such as catching those one hundred and fifty-three big fish—not others—taken on the right-hand side of the boat. And you ask me: How is it I know myself to be a fisher of men, can live in contact with many companions, and be able to distinguish to whom I should direct my specific apostolate, but still catch nobody? Is it Love that is lacking? Do I lack interior life? Listen to the answer from Peter’s lips, on the occasion of that other miraculous draught:—”Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” In the name of Jesus Christ, begin again. And being strengthened, rid yourself of that indolence! (1)
From the very beginning, God has determined that those whom he has saved, those He has delivered are special to them. They have a special role in the world, acting as priests, serving Him, interceding for others. This is done in various ways, as the Spirit determines, as the Spirit distributes the charisms, the gifts described in such places as 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12. Many of those gifts are simple, others more visible, all are miraculous. Not because of what we see, but because God has rescued us, placed us in specific roles, specific vocations, all to bear witness to His love. That is as much the miracle – the way the Holy Spirit coordinates all of this, gifts, people, places,
We are all to share a hope that we have come to know, as we realize what God has done for us. We all have to be ready to explain the reason we have hope – which for most of us strikes fear into our very core.
I don’t think it is because of our fear of persecution, whether that being tortured or being thought not relevant. I think it is because we are afraid to reveal how dependent we are on God, to reveal how precious this intimate relationship is to us.
But that is exactly what they need to know! That is exactly where they need to be, exploring how high, how wide, how deep is the love of God is for them, for their family, for all who have wandered, or run far off from God. They need to know God desires that they not be lost, not be wandering, but that they come home…..This is our vocation, our mission, our apostolate…..
He has sent us all out to let them know this, to call them home, to bring them hope…..
So where is Jesus taking you to this day? Where is He sending you, even as the Father sent Him? Where is your mission field this week, who will you encounter? Have you prayed for them yet? Have you prayed that you would hear God’s guidance? Have you considered your baptism, the Body and Blood of Christ which you received yesterday, the gospel that was shared with you? These are all the things, these means of grace, that will guide you, the very thing that will help you know He is with you….
As you walk with God, as you go to the places He sends you, you will realize something I quoted from Pope Francis yesterday,,
“Our mission, then— the mission that frightens us and makes us offer excuses like the ones we hear from the lips of the reluctant prophets in the scriptures— is to evangelize, to shepherd the faithful people of God. And that mission establishes us in our vocation. In calling us to that mission, Jesus gives us solidity in the depths of our hearts: he establishes us as pastors and makes that our identity. In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly activity, we are collaborating with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own.” (2)
Lord have mercy on us all, as we share His mercy with those He has sent us too!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1720-1728). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
How to Deal with the Stress… Of His Mission!
Matthew 10:5a, 21-33
† In Jesus Name †
As you go out, bringing the news of God’s loving us enough to take responsibility for our lives, may you endure, knowing the grace of Christ!
There were some words I read this week by a priest that resonated deeply with me.
I am going to paraphrase them here, putting the thoughts in words that would make sense to us…
In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly (pastoral) activity, we are collaborating (serving) with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)
What he is describing is what we are sent to do, to bring Christ to people. We all do it differently. Dane does it while going and checking on a good friend, Joanie does serves in such a way, at the Korean grocery Store, where she invited Jenny to Bible Study. It is what Rainbow does at Hope International University, and what Wanda and Kay do as they interact in the office with all who come into see them.
This is our mission, the same one that started among us when Jesus sent the twelve out to a certain group – but now sends us to the entire world.
It is the same mission, to bring the gospel, the news of the Kingdom of God coming among them, or as the pastor said, seeing “the Lord establishing and rooting our hearts in His own!”
This incredible mission is ours, but, you need to be warned, as the apostles were, it might not be the easiest…
One might read these verses in our gospel reading and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself involved in, following Jesus, hearing and trusting Him and sharing your faith with others.
I mean what is this about, breaking up families, even to the point of one handing over another to be executed. Why would people hate us? And real persecution, the kind of persecution where people zealously hunt us down and enslave or oppress us?
There are a number of temptations to dealing with such opposition.
The first is simply to be okay with their sin, to not see their sin, or ours as something we have to worry about. Christ died for all those sins, right? For jealousy and envy, for gossip and sexual immorality, for wanting to kill people, well at least with our thoughts and words, for not honoring those God placed in authority, or those who dismiss the times of rest with which God desires to bless them. Or maybe we become comfortable with people using God’s name wrongly, or even worse, with their not using it at all.
The reading of Paul’s epistle should straighten us out on that….
Don’t be slaves to sins, and don’t let others continue to dwell in spiritual death as their reward,
Don’t weaken the message of God’s mercy, by pretending we don’t need it. That will not free you from persecution. Don’t be cowed by those who would dismiss you from doing God’s work, by saying it isn’t necessary to treasure the life God has given us.
But that doesn’t give us the right to just stand up and act as jerks condemning people as sinners left and right. We can’t combat the opposition to God’s word, by getting ready to wield the rock with which to stone them. We can’t use the idea that using the Bible offensively is the best defense of the gospel.
We are called to love, and yes, sometimes to suffer, for the sake of those who need to hear of God’s love and mercy. As I heard yesterday, a basic summer of the gospel, that they know God matters, and that people matter to Him.
So how do we do this, in the face of opposition from friends and family and those that would rather not hear of their need for God, and His desire to show them all His love?
How do we deal with the stresses of the Mission that God has given us, to take His message to the world, that they would be saved?
The Key – the Relationship We Have with Jesus
If you could see the verse that precedes the bulk of our passage, you would hear how we deal with it.
19 … don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19b-20 (NLT)
How can this be? That as we focus on God, the words we speak are not ours, but those of the Holy Spirit? Who are we to speak for God, to utter not our words, but His?
We aren’t apostles, are we?
Hear verse 24 of the gospel again:
24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! Matthew 10:24-25 (NLT)
We are His students, His disciples, His slaves, He is our Teacher, our Master, the One into whose image the Holy Spirit is transforming us. It should be natural, the more we think about His love, the more we contemplate the cross, and realize the link their to our unity with Him in baptism, and how we testify to that death for us, as we eat His body, as we drink His precious blood in communion, that we take on His nature, That we understand His desire is that not one of the people around us would perish in Hell, but that all would come to know His love and mercy.
The very unity we have with God in Christ, will see us through any discomfort, ever persecution, even as it did Jesus as He started this mission.
We are so His, that nothing can separate us from Him, and so we should go, and do that which He has sent us to do, to preach the gospel to all creation, to do so with each of our talents, with each of our gifts, abilities, to see this as the reason we are here, even as He came to us.
For that is the greatest miracle of this, that we dwell, we find our life, as St Paul said, in Jesus.
Or as the pastor I quoted at the beginning of this wrote,
In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly (pastoral) activity, we are collaborating (serving) with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do (in Christ), the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)
hear the last line one more time… as you go into the world to share Christ in such a way that people’s hearts are established in Christ…. Then know
At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do (in Christ), the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)
Established there, we know the incredible, indescribable peace of God our Father, the peace we know in Christ… in which He guards our hearts and minds. AMEN?
(1) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Why Are You Still Being Paid…
For the Wages of Sin?
† In Jesus Name †
May you know in the depths of your being, that incredible gift of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the freedom from sin, satan and the fear of death, and the gift of eternal life!
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you worked so hard you were physically and emotionally exhausted? Where you were so tired you couldn’t get up to walk to the refrigerator to get something to drink?
When you finally got home, kissed your spouse, hugged your kids, patted the dog (at least you know you did those things, not sure which thing to whom! ) sat down and fell asleep?
And then, you wake up, realize your paycheck is still in your pocket, you open it up and wonder…. “that’s it?”
That’s all I get for breaking my back, for losing my hair over this job?
I ought to go look for another one. There has got to be something better out there… something less exhausting, something with more of a reward, something that gives me some sense of satisfaction, some sense of life.
Now let’s say that you are offered the position of a lifetime, you are to replace the president of Microsoft, or Apple computers, or become the new head of the I.R.S. Your salary won’t be 6 figures, it will be 8……. A 30 hour work week, and that includes your own staff that does your nails, combs your hair, flies you to Hawaii in your own personal jet….gets you front row tickets to the Spurs, Patriots and Red Sox games…
After taking a week to think it through, you aren’t sure, and so you ask for a month, and for some reason you still aren’t sure…..
Wait – why wouldn’t you take that job?
Well, my bet is that is what you are doing spiritually these days… because I know I am doing it too! Matter of fact, that problem goes all the way back to St. Paul, and the church in Rome!
We have to stop collecting the wages of death, and allow God to give us life!
Why are still collecting death?
As we look at this passage of Romans, we see this point in each paragraph.
In verse 12 and 13, Paul begs us,
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:12-13 (ESV)
In verse 16 he Says,
16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16 (ESV)
And in verse 21, Paul reminds US,
21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. Romans 6:21 (ESV)
What don’t we understand about this?
Yet we freely give in to envy, to lust, to hatred, to gossip about each other, to selfishness. We forget the needs fo those around us, and focus on our wants. We even disregard what God says, choosing to think what we want, thinking what we know is right, doing what brings us momentary pleasure?
We should be receiving Holiness, Righteousness, the Ability to do the things that take us this way…
Paul has spent an entire chapter telling us to live so hindered, so in bondage to sin is unnecessary. In the next two chapters, he will describe this war even more, For he fights it as well. Paul knows what it is, to do the things we know are sin, and do not want to do. He knows the heartache of wanting to do what is right, but failing to do it, over and over.
He started by saying we died to the power of sin, and satan, and the fear of death in our Baptism, when we were united to Christ’s death and resurrection, He will say in chapter 8, again referring to our being united to Christ, that there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ.
Here he says,
“present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Romans 6:13 (ESV)
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18 (ESV)
the free gift of God is eternal life….
You see, this justified, sanctified life that we have, isn’t by our power, it isnt’ lived by our strength. It is found in dwelling in Christ, in realizing His work, in keeping our eyes on Him, and realizing He lives in us. It is found in being quiet, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
It is realizing what happened to you in your baptism, what is given you at this altar, it is the reason we have joy and hope, the answer we have when others wonder why we can have hope, in the midst of this exhausting world.
It is the same power at work in us, when we look around us, and see the needs of others for Christ, and do everything we can, even more than we can, sacrificing to help them see Christ revealed in their lives. That same power, as we are focused on Christ that enables us to serve the hurting, the broken, whether they don’t know Jesus yet, or whether they’ve known Him for 30 years, or 80.
For we all struggle, for we all do battle with sin, and all need to be re-focused on God’s work in our lives, as He counts us righteous, as He works through us, to see His greatest desire come pass, that all come to repentance, to realize that He is their delivered, their Lord.
As we realize that those who serve Christ, aren’t just counted as slaves, but as His friends, (John 15:15) As we become adopted children of God the Father, co-heirs with Christ.
This is why we don’t continue to dwell as if we’ve earned death as our paycheck, as if we are still slaves, employed by the firm of Sin, Shame & Guilt LLP
Know my friends, that this is God’s plan for you, that you would see Christ. That would know Christ, that you would love Christ…..
And then look back, and see that God has used you, to bring to others, that incredible peace you know, the peace of God our Father, in which you dwell in Christ, your hearts and minds secure in Him. AMEN?
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
16 When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (MSG)
52 Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 53 Jesus replied to them: In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. John 6:52-56 (NJB)
“Don’t recoil: your life is going to be a soothing of suffering. This is why you are a disciple of the Master!” (1)
“When I made you a present of that Life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: ‘May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.’ These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first one?” (2)
When I started writing this blog this morning, I was thinking about the chapel service I led last night for a bunch of seminarians. Great guys, who for the last three weeks I have been privileged to watch engaged in worship, To engage in worship with for a short period of time. Last night, I had the greatest honor, as I fed them the body of Christ, as another pastor gave them the cup of blessing.
The reaction of some was gratefulness, thanks, rejoicing… comments I overheard talked about how they felt more united to each other. That’s cool.
It’s one of the reasons for this blog….those Bible verses above, make it clear – this isn’t just ritual, it is a communion, a time to give thanks, a time to realize the presence of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, given and shed for us, that we may live!
This morning, instead of opening the Furrow, (the devotional book I am reading) for some reason I opened the Way. (Both are written by the same guy, St Josemaria Escriva) The two quotes are from the introduction and the forward, They hit me even harder with the necessity of our people to regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
The first is that we encounter much suffering. In the last two weeks, not only have I seen it in the eyes of my friends, my parishioners, but I have seen it as well in the hearts of my brothers who shepherd God’s people, who feed them the Body and Blood of Christ. Severe pain, caused by hard transitions. Some are forced, some are taken on because they knew it was time, even though the pain is excruciating. (Including the pain of those who second guess and play armchair quarterback) We are called to soothe each others wounds, and that is critical in our actions, in our life.
And the best place for dealing with such suffering is on our knees, receiving the Body of Christ. drinking from His fount, reveling in His cleansing presence in our very bodies, in our very lives. For us who are called to soothe suffering and for those who are suffering, this time is precious, it shouldn’t be rushed, it becomes a time of peace.
For the other comment comes into play. Seek Christ, Find Christ, Love Christ. For He is seeking you indeed, but here at the altar, you find him. You know His love, you turn and love in turn.
We devalue this precious time with God in so many ways. When we think it only worth a twice a month offering. When we fail to find ourselves united together with Christ, when we fail to work to see the entire Church able to participate in it together. When we refuse to let what we believe call us to the altar, instead maintaining it must be the name on our church that determines who is worthy. When we fail to point out the healing that occurs, the relationships mended, the life given. We devalue it when we reduce our appreciation of it to what we can observe, when we evaluate the celebration and the bread an from a rational, logical, scientific position. When we fail to recognize the Body and Blood of Christ given and shared with us, for us. When we fail to see the Body of Christ, all those whom it was given for.
This time is precious, it is ordained by God. That alone should be enough for us… but there is so much more…..
Come my friends, you are invited to the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…. Let us rejoice and go to the house of the Lord!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 72). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 111-113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.