Monthly Archives: August 2016
Devotional Thought for the Day:
10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)
It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.
Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world. The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.
Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify. During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police. Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others. I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.
We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay. Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results.
What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.” We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it. We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace. And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.
And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.
if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness. The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target. Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame. But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.
We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.
We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.
We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality. We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was. For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one. There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.
He also rose from the dead.
Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.
He died, and no one else has to be crucified.
He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.
Even those we wanted to crucify…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
76 And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,r
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our Gods
by which the daybreak from on high* will visit us
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1 76-79
Finally priests have been placed in the midst of the laity to lead them to the unity of charity, “loving one another with fraternal love, eager to give one another precedence” (Rom 12:10). It is their task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one need feel himself a stranger in the community of the faithful. They are defenders of the common good, with which they are charged in the name of the bishop. At the same time, they are strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine.56 They are united by a special solicitude with those who have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or perhaps even from the faith. Indeed, as good shepherds, they should not cease from going out to them.
Mindful of the prescripts on ecumenism,57 let them not forget their brothers who do not enjoy full ecclesiastical communion with us.
Finally, they have entrusted to them all those who do not recognize Christ as their Savior. (1)
As Zechariah considers his son’s birth, as the Spirit fills him, as it will fill John, the words are worth considering, worth being struck with awe.
John prepares a people who are lost, blinded, in fear of death ready for a miracle. He is to begin to reveal to them their salvation, to ready them for the day when the Glory of God, seen in Jesus, will shine into their darkness. He would give them the knowledge fo the forgiveness of sin, which his cousin Jesus would actually bring us.
That God, Himself and no other, would come to guide us, to shepherd us into a place of great peace. To prepare the people of God for the arrival of the messiah, that was John’s role, as it is the role of everyone in ministry, especially pastors and priests. (though really, every Christian is in ministry)
Decades before the term “missional” became in vogue, Vatican II noted this when it describes the role of priests. I would include pastors in this, but I want to draw attention to these things,
the are to reconcile
They are to see no one feels themselves a stranger in the community
the are to defend the common good, and the assert the truth – that is to present Jesus and His mercy so clearly that people aren’t blown about by doctrine.
But get this as well
We who are in ministry are to unite with those who haven’t encountered Jesus in the sacrament, who haven’t been trusting and depending on Christ. We can’t cease to try and guide them back to Jesus.
And if brothers are divided – knowing that Jesus would see us unified, we don’t just dismiss those whose theology is different than our own!
And finally, Vatican II says – those in ministry have entrusted to them ALL who do not recognize Jesus as their savior.
This was John’s ministry, it is ours. Some will call it being missional, some will call it the apostolate. I really don’t care which you use, as long as you actually are doing it. A mom guiding her children, a pastor guiding Hs parish, a friend reminding another that God is indeed with them, and cares and loves them.
This is the ministry, this is our life as a church, led by priests and pastors, we guide people to Jesus, we reveal His love, and then we are overwhelmed again and again, as He works in their lives.
Revealing to us that they are the children of God, the ones He died to reclaim.
Lord have mercy on us sinners, help us lay aside our own brokenness, that we can help others see their salvation. AMEN!
(1) Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
If I Only Had a Fork!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you rejoice at the thought of a meal, knowing it is a foretaste of the most wonderful of feast, that you’ve been invited to…
A portable feast…
Last Sunday, on the way back from dropping off our trailer in Hemet, we stopped in Riverside for dinner. I was kind of tired, and ate less than half my dinner, but it was so good, I had them pack up the rest to bring it home. It didn’t make it.
There was a man in the parking lot, and as we left, he asked if we had any money for food. He didn’t look homeless necessarily, and as my first thoughts doubted his sincerity, I decided to test him, and asked him if what he really wanted was food.
A simple nod, and I was hooked, I handed over the cashew nut chicken….
He didn’t even look me in the eyes as he said thanks, and quickly took off across the mall parking lot.
As we drove through the parking lot, I didn’t see him until we got to the street at the light. There he was, sitting on the curb devouring the food with his hands, oblivious to how sticky and messy it was…..
If I had only known how hungry, if I had only known how desperate,
Then the light turned green, and as I pulled out onto the road and then onto the freeway, I struggled with my thoughts, I could have got him a drink, or a gift card for more food – or at least a fork.
As people entered the rabbi’s house, their neighbor was in severe discomfort. I assume no one tried to help him, not one asked Jesus if he would heal this man. Instead they rushed to find a place to recline, close to the host, and able to easily hear the conversations between him and this guest, this wandering miracle worker.
Why didn’t they ask the miracle worker to care for their friend? Why was their first priority to make sure they got the best seat, the freshest coffee, the perfect donut?
Are you and I any better?
Do we rush by people, seeking to talk to someone else? Are we more concerned with getting to “our place”
Jesus also talked about who we invite over, or those we go out with, do we only invite those who can invite us back? Its the same thing – not that we should be hospitable, but that we have agendas going, agendas that serve ourselves, but also cause us to look past those struggling around us….
It’s a question about why we are here really, are we hear to love God and those He brings in our lives, or do we live to serve ourselves?
I encountered that question in my devotions yesterday, as the author wrote,
“They confuse renewal (God’s work in our lives, healing us) with comfort.”
And often we do this – and get upset with God when things aren’t as comfortable as we would want.
Sometimes it is better to be uncomfortable, if in doing so, we understand the incredible love of God that we see revealed in the life of Jesus. As He embraced discomfort to care for people, for us.
As we consider the lesson – the idea of stopping to care for the broken, the being humble and taking a seat in the servant’s area, and in inviting those who can’t pay you back, we see Jesus being not only one speaking this, but living it.
He doesn’t just stop to heal the man with edema, as He came to the cross, he came to die to heal you and me. His blood, poured out on the cross brings healing to our brokenness.
He didn’t run to the top spot, to lose the world, but he became a servant, and God the father would call him to sit at His side, He embraced the servant’s role, the life lived in the poor section, to minister to you and I, to care for us, to make sure we knew we are invited to the feast in heaven, even at the cost of his death, and that death on the cross.
He is our host, He says we belong here – with Him. He shares His life with us, even as the Father makes us co-heirs with Christ.
When Jesus offers us a feast – when he says, “
Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, from the creation of the world!”
That’s what He is talking about here, and making sure, than in our desire to be there, we leave no one behind.
What a Blessing!
In the original division of the readings the gospel reading stopped at verse 14.
One of the nice things about doing our own bulletins, is I get to fix it, when I think they made it too long, or in this case , too short.
Let’s read verse 15 together,
“15 Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
There is a man hungry enough for God’s kingdom that he wouldn’t care if he had a fork or not! It’s time to dig in…
Because of Jesus – that is you and I are attending that banquet, and in a moment, we get a little taste of it.
We’re invited, we been saved and healed and we’ve got great seats, and even a fork!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” 31 But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly.
The Agony in the Garden. 32 *Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,i and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”j 33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. 34 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” 35 He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, “Abba, Father,* all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” 37 When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 *Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.k The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” 39 Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. 40 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. 41 He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14:30-42 NABRE
They have confused renewal with comfort. To give a small but concrete example: a religious reported to me that the downfall of his monastery began very concretely with the declaration that it was “no longer practicable” for the religious to rise during the night to recite the nocturnal office. But that was not the end of the matter. The religious replaced this uncontested but significant “sacrifice” by staying up late at night to watch television. (1)
As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, they stung.
Have I done so? Have I justified my own comfort, my own desires, in such a way that I claim it is really about renewal and revitalizing my dependence upon God, and how that is practiced in life?
I had already realized something that I hadn’t seen before. Peter had already denied Jesus three times, prior to being questioned. He denied him in the garden, as his need for comfort outweighed his desire to have fellowship with God.
I’ve been there recently (Thursday and Friday), with a schedule so overwhelmed I haven’t taken the time I usually spend with God, praying, reading, meditating and journaling/blogging (my blog is just my journal, the coalescing of my thoughts, reading and a lesson). I said Thursday I would catch up with it later, but by the end fo the day, I passed it on to Friday and Friday to this morning.
Oddly enough, a friend had shared with me on Wednesday how devastating a similar experience had been. I would say I caught it before it was too late, but it was too late, when I sought my own physical comfort before quenching a physical thirst. Denying the time I desperately need with God. I missed out, and while God still used me, and I still saw His glory in the lives of those around me, I also experienced some spiritual emptiness, and my experience with God’s glory became more like an outsider looking in, than as a participant, one invited to share in it.
It is all too easy to fall asleep in the garden, to adjust our time to provide enough “rest and relaxation.” (or to become like Martha and avoid that time because of our “work”) To view our time in prayer and meditation on God’s love as a duty, and not the incredible holy blessing it is. For to take that time – to set it apart to pour out our hearts, and to listen to Christ’s heart poured out for us, that is a blessing, a foretaste of heaven, a time to realize His presence; to experience the peace that is beyond understanding.
To let Him guard and heal our hearts and minds.
Lord, Have mercy on us, and don’t let us fall asleep on you, or seek our comfort more than your face. Spirit, help us, lift us to see the blessings, to experience the glorious presence of God in our lives, and see Your work in Your Church. AMEN!
(1) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
6 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. (1)
For fifteen years or so, I’ve been hearing that we are in a post-modern world, and along with that, a post-Christian society.
Instinctually, I have questioned both claims. Especially the claim that the church, that Christianity is somehow past its course, that it no longer appeals to people. I would contend that it is not the church people have gone beyond, but the presentation of the church that is dependent solely on reason, that appeals to a logical and systematic view of our beliefs.
Nearly a generation after Dobson’s popular book suggesting that we can’t trust our emotions, a new generation is realizing what Luther taught so long ago, that we can’t trust our reason either. We hear it when they talk of not wanting religion but a relationship. We see it when they say they love our Jesus, but not his church. We see it when books like the Case fo Christ doesn’t have the appeal that it had 10 years ago, or Evidence that demands a verdict had 25 years ago.
A generation that bashes an emotional appeal to “come to Christ” is finding out the logical presentation doesn’t create a deeper faith, but often a rather hollow one. Holiness doesn’t come because of reason, or because of emotion. Nor can righteousness be measured by either one. (Maybe we should stop with our generalizations condemning or applauding those options?)
Holiness comes as both our emotions/feeling and reason/logic are sanctified. It is not a Venn diagram of where they intersect, but the entirety of both, as God comes to us, cleanses us of sin and all that is not right, and sets us apart to walk with Him, as He guides us. He is both our majestic Lord, and our loving Father.
It is He who keeps us, guards us, our hearts and minds, in this relationship that is completely dependent, even at the most intimate levels, at the most broken points of our lives, where we realize that both our emotions and reason fail, and are nailed to the cross.
Thye both have to be killed off, and they both have to be raised from the dead, with Christ, in Christ, focused on Christ, in awe of His love, dependent upon Him, cleansed by Him and humbly guided by Him.
It is then that our prayers are alive, that our desire to worship grows, that we aren’t focused on religious things as tasks or obligations, but rather as blessings, opportunities to see what really matters. It is here where revival happens, where brokenness is healed. It is this place where sin is set aside, because we begin to see the glory of God, not just as something distant, but something that we are drawn into by the Holy Spirit. This is repentance and renewal.
This is life in Christ.
Our life. TO love Him with our reason and emotions, with our heart, soul, mind and strength, because He came and loved us.
This is the work of God!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional thought of a Monday
And this is what he (John the baptist/cleanser) proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8 I have cleansed you with water; he will cleanse you with the holy Spirit.” Mark 1:7-8 – my paraphrase
Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in your professional work done for God. The incidents, the problems, the friendships which your work brings with it will give you food for prayer. The effort to improve your own daily occupation will give you the chance to experience the cross which is essential for a Christian. When you feel your weakness, the failures which arise even in human undertakings, you will gain in objectivity, in humility, and in understanding for others. Successes and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realize that you do not live for yourself, but for the service of others and of God. (1)
It’s Monday, and many of us on Monday’s are suffering from the toxicity of life.
Maybe it is because we overdid it on the weekends. Some have a tendency to enjoy some things a little too much, and what is good in moderation affects us when we move past the line of moderation into levels of excess. It can become toxic.
Others aren’t enjoying their weekends, the dynamics of what might be called their “home life” is the source of the toxicity. Broken families, broken relationships, broken lives. Or maybe those we love, are suffering from this, and we spend our free time anxious on their behalf. Our inability to do anything we consider tangible leads to a toxicity that is paralyzing.
Or maybe the toxicity is what we spend our weekends dreading, the return of Monday and the toxicity of our workplaces. Maybe our work situation forces us to be too competitive, to unethical, or to take on burdens and scars we are tired of facing.
I have a bunch of people who are into various cleansing diets. They purge the bad stuff from their system with shakes or drinks that basically cleanse their digestive tracts, and maybe their bloodstream as well.
I think we see our baptism as such – a spiritual cleansing – a purging of all the sin and unrighteousness that oppresses us. Confession and Communion, as sacraments, have a similar effect.
Oddly enough, my devotional reading this morning lead me to believe a similar blessing is found in that dreadful thing known as Monday. For in the suffering, in the toxicity, we find the cross, we find a reason for prayer, we find the need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s presence. For the Holy Spirit, often through the oddest people, brings comfort and cleansing to the toxicity. The Spirit enables us to know peace, unexplainable peace, that comes from being assured of the presence of God, and His cleansing, the power of His blood poured out for us in death, and his body, in which we are raised to life. Abundant life.
This is the work of the Spirit in our various vocations, the roles we take on, often just for physical survival, yet which the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, uses to bless us, and those around us. For in exercising our faith our trust in God, we come to hope, to expect, that His love sustains us, even on Monday.
For if in the midst of all the toxicity that surrounds such a day, we can know peace, then we realize His presence is with us, not just in church on Sunday, but in the moments of every day.
So rejoice, it is Monday! God is with you! The Holy Spirit is drawing yo into the glory of God, intoHolinesss, into that moment of peace!
And remember – when you are given food for prayer because of the incidents and problems, when the suffering helps you be aware of the cross, and the need for Christ’s love, cry out Lord Have Mercy on Us!
Know He will!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1477-1481). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44 NAB-RE
And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies. (1)
2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death. (2)
As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.
Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?
I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people. But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary? The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?
And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father? Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep. (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat. They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)
I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair. It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.
It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”. If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing. It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.
I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.
The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God. It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word. We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love. There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden. Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is. It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God. We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.
And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.
He will listen.
He does listen.
He is listening, right now!
And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed. This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.
As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him. That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.
And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now. It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.
Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. NABRE Matt 23:13-15
I have loved thy beauty, and the place of the habitation of the glory of my Lord, thy builder and possessor. Let my wayfaring sigh after thee, and I say to Him that made thee, let Him take possession of me also in thee, seeing He hath made me likewise. I have gone astray like a lost sheep: yet upon the shoulders of my Shepherd, thy builder, hope I to be brought back to thee. (1)
As I come to Matthew 23 in my devotions, I feel the necessity to guard my heart. It is all too easy as Jesus begins to challenge Pharisees and Sadducees to begin to name their modern counterparts.
I know them, as they sit on either end of the spectrum, trying to create a system out of the covenant relationship God calls us into being , as His children, His beloved. As they create rules and rubrics, best practices and by-laws, assuring others that doing so is faithful and proper, missional and confessional.
I see them as either throwing out the baby with the baptismal water or drowning the baby in it, oblivious to the baby, for the sake of the holy water.
And this is exactly why I have to guard my heart, for Jesus words aren’t just calling them to repentance, but they are calling me to repentance. For I can lock the door on these Pharisees and Sadducees as quickly as they do for those I find myself akin to, those who are broken, lost and trying desperately to hear His voice of hope. What is worse, my cynical and sarcastic response to the Pharisee or Sadducee sets a horrid example for those I am leading, those who I am discipling. An example which doesn’t shepherd them into the presence of Christ who would heal them, but away from Him, into the desert where they will trust no one, eventually including me.
So where is my hope, how can I allow my inner Pharisee to be called to repentance, and see God deal with those who would drive people to a place outside the church?
I think Augustine in his simple brilliance showed me an answer this morning.
Focus on the presence of God! Let him carry you broken back tot he Father. We have to abandon yourself into His care, His guidance, join Him on the cross, and let Him heal us, including killing off our inner pharisee, or at preferably, purifying that devoted pharisee in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need to let the Father remind us that we are in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, and call our mind back from the pigpens where our brothers were living large.
There is hope for Pharisees, and Sadduccees and so many others…
In the cross, in being carried back, physically or spiritually, into the presence of God’s glory, God’s mercy, God’s love.
And that is where we belong…. AMEN!
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 *“You have heard that it was said,x ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 yBut I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile,* go with him for two miles.z 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.a
Love of Enemies.* 43 b“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’c 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect. NABRE – Matt 5:38-48
24. Yet man must respond to God Who calls, and that in such a way, that without taking counsel with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16), he devotes himself wholly to the work of the Gospel. This response, however can only be given when the Holy Spirit gives His inspiration and His power. For he who is sent enters upon the life and mission of Him Who “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Therefore, he must be ready to stay at his vocation for an entire lifetime, and to renounce himself and all those whom he thus far considered as his own, and instead to “make himself all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22)
This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He earnestly desires that all men should come to him and let themselves be helped (2)
I have heard many people define holiness over the years. Some confuse it with purity, a lack of sinlessness and being completely remote from the world. But those who promote this view do not know how to deal with Jesus eating with whores and tax collectors, filthy sinners and fisherman.
Others would discuss holiness in view of martyrdom, the peaceful testimony of Christ in the presence of persecution and death. But most of us will only be inconvenienced because of our faith; if that is the real reason for people taking a dislike to us.
Others will look upon great acts, the work of those who are steadfast in the faith, who have this or that gift, who spend hours locked away in prayer, or tending to the poor and needy. As if holiness is some kind of heroic virtue, instead of a life we are called to live.
The last group treats holiness with little concern at all, saying in reaction to those above, that holiness is a virtual impossibility, that no one can attain holiness, that it is impossible by our own strength or power, and that God doesn’t really care, as long as we depend on Him to forgive our lack of holiness.
This last view is the most dangerous. It steals from us our hope in this life, and it convinces us that how we live, what salvation is about, isn’t living dependent upon God. It denies, faith, hope, and love. And it justifies our self-centeredness, our Machiavellian-inspired theology and practice, and our apathy towards evangelism and service.
In one of the greatest calls to holiness – in the Gospel reading above, Jesus tells us we need to be perfect, (other translations use “holy” here ) even as God is perfect and holy.
It is not an impossibility. If so, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded it, nor would the Father hold us to that standard.
The context provides the measurement of such holiness as well, the love The love of our enemies, and the love of those who you aren’t connected to, recognizing the fact that in Christ Jesus you are connected.
Those who would do evil to you, those who would demand more than is their “right” of you, those who you would say are your enemies.
Holiness is loving them.
Holiness is caring for them.
Vatican II notes this with the call to work in the vocation of the gospel – without thought or cost – even if it means a lifetime of service. It means living this way at the cost of renouncing yourself, or the people who are “yours”, serving instead “all men”, yes, including those aren’t “ours”
That they aren’t our religion, our countrymen, out ethnicity, our race, our culture, our family, or our friends; even so, we are to love them as if they are! We are to love them because they are.
This is having the attitude of Jesus, the attitude Philippians 2 tells us to have – as described in the great hymn that we love in verses 5-10. The preceding verses tell us we are to have this mind, this attitude, this same servant’s heart, and love those who are different from us.
NO option. This is what the people of God are to do.
By now – you are tempted to stop reading this – to write me off as naive, or pelagian, or some kind of fanatic. A blogger who obviously is so heavenly minded he can’t be of benefit.
We think we aren’t capable of that kind of holiness. We cannot possibly love like that, can we? Can we actually care more about our enemies and adversaries as much as those like us? Can God expect us to love our enemies and lay down our lives for them? WOuld any many?
Well, any man not nailed to a cross and who rose again three days later?
If we say we cannot, we miss the work of God. For He calls us, inspires us, and empowers us. This si the refreshment and help that the Lutheran Confessions describe as well, ad walking with God that is daily and practical, and incredibly effective. I
Holiness isn’t walking alone, it is walking with God, moving with Him. Loving as He loves, serving as He serves, bringing healing and trust as He brings it to us. Such is our calling, and such is our life
(1) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought for the Day
17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.* NABRE – Hab 3:17-19
Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.”10 Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.
Nothing is wasted! What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria!
Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!
“Life Sucks! YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!
For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God.
That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town, Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.
Nothing is wasted.
Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions. Where are you, my God? Why did You abandon me? Why did I have to go through this? Why do I see it repeated?
Nothing is wasted.
Not even the times of emptiness.
Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.
Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith. The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promsies I can’t believe are true for me.
Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.
You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.
You are here!
So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promsies through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.
Yet… a powerful word.
One I need to pull out and use… often.
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1394-1399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.