Monthly Archives: August 2019
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 The LORD said to his people, “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is. Walk in it, and you will live in peace.” Jeremiah 6:16 GNT
As you come upon verse 18 (1 John 7), you may prayerfully dwell on the ways in which love—God’s love for us, our love for him and love among people on earth—pushes fear out of all relationships. You may think of the fearless child surrounded by loving parents, of how loving neighbors give us confidence and relieve our anxieties. You may dwell on how the assurance of God’s love given to us in the death of his Son suggests that we will never be beyond his care. Seek God’s help in comprehending this and in seeing what your fear-free life might be like.
I do believe that the Church, from congregations like mine, to mega-churches and denominations, all the One, Holy, catholic and Apostolic church is at a crossroads.
To many of our communities are dying off, others are wandering away, some to be relevant, some to shrink back and protect what is theirs. Some will embrace change, and some will point to a passage like the one above from Jeremiah, trying to justify doing things the “old way” as it is good and proper and safe.
Not that the ways, from how we do liturgy to how we teach scripture are all relatively new. Not one of them existed at the time Jeremiah wrote this warning from God to His people.
So there is that.
Jeremiah isn’t talking about the liturgy, or the role of women in the church. He’s not talking about polity and structure, nor do I think we need to rebuild the temple. In fact, reading on in Jeremiah it was the worship they took so much effort in that God was going to reject. The tabernacle was already going to be rejected, which would include all the sacrifices.
If the system of worship established in the first 5 books of Moses isn’t the ancient paths walked upon how could we claim the latest liturgy or our favorite hymnal form the 1940’s or 50’s is this “ancient path?”
So what is?
Faith, that relationship that is so special that we can depend on God in every circumstance of our life. Faith in the one we have a relationship with, the very thing that Hebrews 11 describes as how Abel, Abraham, our fore-fathers and the prophets saw sustain them,
Faith, which sustains because it is based on God loving us, a love revealed at the cross, and in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Faith, which is possible because we don’t travel down that ancient way alone, but Christ is that way, and we walk with Him.
The ancient way is the life in the Garden, where God walks with us, His people, as He did with Adam and Eve.
Finally a thought, that ancient way is none other than Jesus, the son of God. So let us walk with Him, as He leads us to Father, as He brings us home. AMEN!
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“Unfaithful people, come back; you belong to me. I will take one of you from each town and two from each clan, and I will bring you back to Mount Zion. 15 I will give you rulers who obey me, and they will rule you with wisdom and understanding. 16 Then when you have become numerous in that land, people will no longer talk about my Covenant Box. They will no longer think about it or remember it; they will not even need it, nor will they make another one. 17 When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them. 18 Israel will join with Judah, and together they will come from exile in the country in the north and will return to the land that I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession.” Jeremiah 3:14-18 GNT
1 Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good, and his love is eternal. 2 Let the people of Israel say, “His love is eternal.” 3 Let the priests of God say, “His love is eternal.” 4 Let all who worship him say, “His love is eternal.” 5 In my distress I called to the LORD; he answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:1-5 (TEV)
152 Don’t you sense that more peace and more union await you when you have corresponded to that extraordinary grace that requires complete detachment? Struggle for him to please him, but strengthen your hope.
As you read the Book of Jeremiah, you see different aspects of God’s personality. There is the God who warns people about the wrath to come, there is the God who Jeremiah feels betrayed by, and there is the God who begs and pleads for His people to come home.
And yet, as we know, this God is one, and the focus is that on those who have rebelled, or walked away, or just ignored God, and getting them to return.
A God who promised to do away with the sacrificial system, a God who would promise to forget His anger toward them, a God who would provide everything, if only His people would come back.
Seems a little like a lovesick teenager, who will do anything if only their love would stop messing around with others, and be faithful. Between passages like this one above, and the Book of Hosea, God doesn’t appear in the greatest of light! How could He be such a sucker as to let people betray Him, disrespect Him, cheat on Him, and still beg for them to return?
Is He that infatuated with us?
If this was a human relationship, we would be telling Him to dump those unfaithful, ungrateful wretches, and if He didn’t we would wonder what kind of chicken He was. How could someone have such a grip on someone else and let themselves be so mistreated?
The difference is that with God the love is truly pure, His being faithful is not because He is blind, or because He things we will completely change in this life. He knows how we will struggle, He is in this for the long haul, and the Spirit works within us.
That is why Psalm 118 was Luther’s go to, we have to have God’s love for us revealed often! We need to help our people (and ourselves) realize that God will be this faithful and has planned things for us beyond our ability to imagine.
We have to know we can call to Him, and be set free.
When we do this, it is what St Josemaria describes, this detachment from everything but God, for it is in union with Him that we find peace.
And having found that, and seen how He has promised to truly perfect our lives, we can rejoice in His work in our reconciliation.
Lord, help us to hear Your plea and, led by the Holy Spirit, return and rejoice in Your faithful love. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 488-490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the day:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT
While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?
My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.
It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.
I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.
What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.
Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)
I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.
It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
The LORD said, “I was ready to answer my people’s prayers, but they did not pray. I was ready for them to find me, but they did not even try. The nation did not pray to me, even though I was always ready to answer, ‘Here I am; I will help you.’ 2† I have always been ready to welcome my people, who stubbornly do what is wrong and go their own way. Is. 65:1-2 GNT
2 We honor God for what he conceals; we honor kings for what they explain. Proverbs 25:2 GNT
A church that merely “functions”, that is merely “functional”, no longer provides what was special to it: a space in which to be, a space in which to leave the world of goals and to enter into the freedom of God. To erect such spaces is, especially today, a rewarding task that becomes all the more pressing the more we are isolated in the towering domiciles of our cities.
If one were to gather all the churches together, including their clergy, they would have to confess that they never prayed from the heart even for a drop of wine. Not one of them took it upon himself to pray out of obedience to God or faith in the promise. Nor do they reflect on their troubles, but do not think any farther (to put the best construction on it) than to do a good work in order to pay God; they do not want to take anything from, but instead give to God.
If a prayer is to be prayer, it has to be done with earnestness, so that one feels one’s need—and such a need that it squeezes and drives us to call out and scream. In this way the prayer happens by itself, the way it should, and requires no teaching as to how one should prepare oneself for it and prepare oneself for devotion. In the Lord’s Prayer you will find sufficient need generously expressed that should be our concern as well as the concern of others.
Do not hurry. Do not dabble in spiritual things. Give time for each stage to play itself out fully in your heart. Remember, this is not something you are doing by yourself. Watch and pray.
The quote from Proverbs this morning interested me. How do we honor God for what He conceals? For that matter, why would we honor Him for hiding things from us?
It was the last of my scripture readings, and it took some thought, and indeed the other passages and some thoughts began to form.
Look closely at God’s words to Israel. See His desire to step in and help, and yet they didn’t ask. See how He’s always ready to make himself known to those who ask, who plead with them. It is what Luther noted in the Large Catechism quote in green as well, that people in prayer, pray with the earnest of a desperate cry for help – a cry that comes from the gut, and with all our heart and soul. It cries out in need, knowing that God will respond, that He will be faithful.
It doesn’t have the sense of trying to figure out how to work the machine, how to impress or pay off God for His blessing. That kind of sincerity Willard mentions as well, when he talks of taking the time for spiritual things to play out in our heart. For someone does not do this “by themself” it is something worked out in a deep relationship with our Creator, with our Lord who loves us.
That’s where Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) comes in to play. Prayer isn’t just functional. It has no mechanical attributes, it is not an automaton, it is relational, it is dynamic and changing as our life changes, as we encounter brokenness, sin, and the traumas that call us to cry out.
It’s not functional because we need more than a functional God. We need one that moves with us, in every way and movement. We don’t need a God who punches a time clock, or gives us blueprints for our lives. (Gosh, if we knew what He had planned, would we? could we deal with it?) We have to have a God who is bigger, who is stronger, who adapts and heals our brokenness. And a church that moves with Him in that process. Not changing for the sake of change, but changing as He meets our needs, and the needs of our community.
CS Lewis one said that Aslan ( a picture of Jesus) was not tame. Indicating God is not tamable, not able to be put in a box. Neither can a church that is in a relationship with him be simply functional. So don’t settle for one that goes through the motions like Israel, but doesn’t call out to Him. Go for the one that relates, and even at time is dysfunctional. And doesn’t hesitate to cry out to God when it does.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 258). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 201). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Isaiah 62:6 (GNT) — 6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have placed sentries; They must never be silent day or night. They must remind the Lord of his promises And never let him forget them.
I can ground myself on this, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the commandment. Similarly, in this case, we should consider what and for what we pray as requested by and done in obedience to God. We should therefore think, For my sake it counts for nothing, but it is most important that God commanded it. Therefore, each one of us should come before God in prayer for whatever we need in obedience to this commandment.
Therefore, we urgently entreat and admonish all people to take this to heart and in no way forsake their prayers.
To take up a life of prayer every day is to allow ourselves to be accompanied, in the good moments and the bad, by him who best knows and loves us. Our dialogue with Jesus Christ opens up new perspectives for us, new ways to see things that are always more filled with hope.
In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit and through the Son. He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.
These words have been credited by many to St. Francis. “Preach always, use words when necessary”. Last week, I experienced a twist on those words. “Pray always, use words when necessary”
I had stopped by a chapel where a friend serves. Technically it is called an Oratory, a place not open to the public, but where members of a religious community worship and pray in the house they share.
I was in the area, and between a couple of visits, so I stopped in, and welcomed, ascended the stairs up to the chapel.
I went through the normal prayers, recounting things I needed God to forgive, and some situations that just cause my heart to ache. The kind of things that only God can solve. I talked to Him about the things coming up, and then… just couldn’t go on.
I had no more words.
That has happened more than once before… so I did what usually works, simply saying the Lord’s prayer slowly, savoring each word, confident that it covers every prayer I could ever pray. Confident of the Holy Spirit’s intercession as promised in Romans 8…
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Rom. 8:26-27 GNT
Then, in the midst of the Lord’s prayer, I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t find the words, words that I repeated tens of thousands couldn’t be grasped, couldn’t be remembered. All I could do, is sit there, and look at the crucifix.
This bothered me… why couldn’t I pray, and yes, there were things to pray about, to pour out of a heart that is broken and struggling. And then I started to realized it was time to be still, to be reminded of the promises of God, to see that God was there, to realize the presence of God, the One to whom I spoke.
Not even to hear Him speak, or the Spirit to guide my thoughts. But just to be there, praying and realizing His presence. To pray without words, even without thought.
To dwell in the silence… with the One who loves me and knows me better than myself.
After, as I made the long trek home, I didn’t feel ecstatic, I don’t think I glowed like Moses, and all my situations weren’t miraculously taken care of…but I felt whole, and more sure of His guiding hand. A very subtle thing… but quote good.
God is with us, and we need to take the time to experience it.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 199). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
From https://opusdei.org/en-us/section/pastoral-letters/ Aug. 10,2019
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 260). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Be Dressed to…
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, so that no only are you ready for Christ’s return, but that you wait with great joy and expectation! AMEN!
Remembering the Long Nights
Reading the gospel, I was taken back nearly forty years, to my second job in 1980, washing dishes and doing all the grunt work, working 10 pm to 6 am – the graveyard shift.
Those nights were long, and hard at times, but there were some moments, especially as the morning sun light shattered the darkness, that are unforgettable. The peace, the beauty, the relief, I don’t know if I can find the words to explain it.
I think the time we are in, as we await the return of Jesus, is a lot like those dark nights.
As surely as the dawn came to end those nights, so to will our “dark nights” end, as we experience the return of the Son.
The Dark Nights of the Soul
Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God, and about the time when it will be seen in all of its glory. A lot of these conversations, as today’s has Jesus urging us to seek God’s Kingdom and to be ready for the moment our Lord returns.
It’s something we need to take seriously, just as I had to have all the dishes done, and the plates stacked, the maple syrup heated and the vat of coffee ready for the people who would come in the morning, expecting to be served.
But those nights were long and dark. There was a lot of work to be done. There were times of fear, like when we got robbed, or a man had a grand mal seizure. There were other times where it was so tempting to fall asleep, because the early morning was so boring and slowwww, and one could get so tired, one might even fall asleep while sitting on the toilet. Not that I know anyone who would have possibly done that.
But our life, waiting for Jesus to return, is much like that. We might be distracted by the business, and all the tasks, we might have moments where trauma seems dominant, and anxiety paralyzes us. Other times, we get so, so tired, and rather than looking to Jesus, we just fall spiritually asleep, unable to pay attention to the promises of God, and His warnings about His return.
I am not talking about actual sleep, but spiritual sleep, the kind of lethargic and eventually unconscious feeling that comes over us, as we stop looking to God, and start falling into temptation, and unaware of God’s grace, we are put into bondage or oppressed by the sin which Hebrews says can so easily trap us.
For nothing will cause us to be unprepared for Jesus return like sin does. It grabs our attention, it coddles and pleasure us for a moment, and having broken us, leaves us. We might not consider it all that much, a little lie here, a thought there, and well, that action can’t be as bad a sin as others would make it out to be. I mean, it didn’t hurt anyone, and other people seem to think it is okay.
And heck, pastor never mentions “that” sin.
Sin is sin, and if you aren’t sure, the simple test is whether it takes your mind off of God, and how would you feel if He came back the moment you said that word, or thought that thought, or were engaged in that deed? If you don’t like His presence in that moment, you can bet it is a sin… and it will eventually put your soul into a comatose state.
And then what happens if God comes back?
Getting Dressed for..to be served
It is with that thought Jesus tells us to be dressed and ready to serve, because we don’t know when Jesus is come back. But when He does, we will be ready to open the door, and greet Him.
But that is where what Jesus says gets interesting. Seek first Jesus Kingdom, put it above everything else, for Jesus is coming back. We get that, and if we dare, we might even think about the fact that those who are not ready will be set aside, where they will be judged based on their actions.
But hear again what awaits those who are dressed, and ready to serve.
37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!
This is what is so
amazing about our Lord, and the work He gives us, leads not to being slaves, or
even servants. But valued guests and friends in the kingdom of God. He took up our serving apron, and fixes us a
feast, rewarding us who are his.
Even though there were moments in the night where we struggled to get our work done, moments where sin had lulled us to asleep, or the stresses and anxieties of life overburdened us.
In His joy, for at Christ’s return the Father and His greatest desire is fulfilled, for we have been transformed, our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. That is what repentance truly is and being repentant, being transformed we are alert, and care about His coming in the first place. Not from fear, but looking forward to it with great expectation!
Until then, in the midst of the night, the Holy Spirit helps us realize the peace of God, which passes all understanding… as Jesus protects our hearts and minds. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 “No longer will the sun be your light by day Or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; The light of my glory will shine on you. 20 Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the LORD, will be your eternal light, More lasting than the sun and moon. 21 Your people will all do what is right, And will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, To reveal my greatness to all.
Isaiah 60:19-21 (TEV)
It isn’t God who must change but the person. This is the obvious goal of prayer, and that is the reason why prayer is the privileged place of exile where the revelation is given, that is, the passage from what one thinks of God to what he truly is.
It is an exodus of purification where we are led by God through the dark night of the exile on the way to the contemplation of his face.
Then, we finally will be changed and transformed into the likeness of Him.
Often it will be an act of real humility and creaturely honesty to stop what we are doing, to acknowledge our limits, to take time to draw breath and rest—as the creature, man, is designed to do. I am not suggesting that sloth is a good thing, but I do want to suggest that we revise our catalogue of virtues, as it has developed in the Western world, where activity alone is regarded as valid and where the attitudes of beholding, wonder, recollection, and quiet are of no account, or at least are felt to need some justification.
Before we explain the Lord’s Prayer sequentially, we must first counsel and entice the people to prayer, just as Christ and the apostles did.2 First, we are obligated to pray because God has commanded it. Thus, we heard in the commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain,” that God’s holy name should be praised, called upon, or prayed to in every need. To call upon it is nothing other than praying
It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”
I am hoping you made it through the incredible quotes above, looking forward to finding out where this incredible joy is found. What the “Re” is… are you ready for it?
Yes, you read that right, there is an incredible joy when the Holy Spirit gifts us with repentance. It is freeing, it lifts burdens, it is that wonderful mysterious transformation that God works in us.
It is why Luther urges us to prayer, reminding that this commanded, not for God’s sake, but for ours. For it is in that transformation that we experience that mercy and love of God that causes the repentance to occur.
Repentance, this transformation, finds us with the ability to bhold, wonder and remember the presence of God leaves us stunned, and sometimes, unable to speak, because the grace of God is so wonderful, because it so sets our hearts at ease, our mind cannot proceed. Repentance leaves us in awe, for the work the Holy Spirit crafts turns causes us to reflect and resemble Jesus , something that is beyond our ability to conceive of..
That is why Pope Francis talks of this change in the way he does. As we go from our thoughts and our visions of what a god should be, and it is revealed to us, who God is. He is the One who loves His people, and repentance is that process where experiencing that love changes everything, for it changes us.
Lord, help us not fear this work of Yours that is repentance. Help us to embrace it, to revel in it, for it is an experience where Your love is so manifested in our lives. When we are struggling with sin, grant the desire ofr repentance. in Jesus name. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 258). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 255). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD says,
“Listen to me, you that want to be saved, you that come to me for help. Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut. 2 Think of your ancestor, Abraham, and of Sarah, from whom you are descended. When I called Abraham, he was childless, but I blessed him and gave him children; I made his descendants numerous. Isaiah 51:1-2 GNT
In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. Eph 3:12 GNT
105 If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others?
In our first quote from Isaiah, God tells us to look back at our past, at the people who came before us. The passage will start with Abraham, but it will not stop then. God wants us to think about those who went before, to consider their situations deeply.
But the reason why is critical. We look back at the past not to glorify them (they were sinners – notorious ones at times) or imitate their actions (they were sinners remember) and turn what they did into our traditions. They aren’t superheroes, and people for us to adore. They were sinners.
We can talk of Abraham or Moses, we can move to the New Testament and talk of Peter and Paul. We can talk about the saints through the ages, ones like Francis of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, modern favorites like St. Theresa or Billy Graham, or my two favorites Martin Luther and St. Josemaria Escriva.
Looking back at those who went before us is good, unless we begin to turn them into idols, or people whose faith and practice was so much “holier” than our own. We need to remember Paul didn’t say “imitate me!” He said imitate me as I imitate Christ”
So what do we do with these saints? what do we learn as we look back at those whose faith precedes our own?
The Lord tells us in Isaiah, we look back and see that Abraham was a broken guy, just like the rest of us, and then God worked in His life!
As we look at the past, that’s what we need to see, that the Lord worked in the life of Abraham, that God worked in the life of Moses, and King David, and stubborn and broken guys like the Apostles Peter and Paul
God works in our lives too. Which is why the chief of all sinners can tell the church in Ephesus to enter the presence of God the Father with confidence. Not when we die and get to heaven, though that surely will happen then. But to do so now, as we be still and take time to pray, to seriously find ourselves in the presence of God, laying burdens down, letting Him strip us of sin, talking with us, being with us.
This is why we look back at the our ancestors in the faith. To realize as broken and sinful as they were, God worked in their lives, He drew them into a relationship with Him, and in the process, things happened. But the major lesson – they lived in the presence of God, learning to depend on Him, whether in their prayers, or the times where He was physically present.
That’s what we need to know. That is what we must experience. that is what every person in our world needs. Looking back shows us He will be there, because He always has been there for His people, no matter how broken, even calling them back when they wandered or ran off.
He was faithful, He is faithful, and we learn He will be faithful in our lives, and in those who follow us… and look back to us.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Pastor Parker Parable/Devotional Thought of the Day
6† The LORD said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved.” Isaiah 49:6 GNT
12 At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God’s chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God’s promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God. 13 But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God. 17† So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all—to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. 18 It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.
19 So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God. 20 You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets,f the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. 21 He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22 In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit Eph. 2:11-13,16-22 GNT
In the Year of our Lord 1985, a classic movie came out. It told the story of 5 high school kids, the janitor and their vice-principal. What was supposed to be a day of punishment ended up to one of the moments that would become life-changing, and something they, or those who watched the movie, would never forget.
The Breakfast Club, the Brain, the Jock, the Preppy/Glamour girl, the Bad Boy, and the nonconformist. Each in their own world, and yet each of them a goyim, an outsider. SOmeone viewed with as much disdain as we might view the refugee or illegal immigrant today.
Throughout the movie they would struggle with each other, they would argue, cry, laugh, and bond together. Despite the stereotypes, despite the angst, despite the suspicion, they would come to know each other, and what the Vice Principal meant for evil, God would use for good. You even have a great picture of the transformation God works in people, through people, as Ally Sheedy’s character is transformed. Not that the others weren’t transformed, given hope, and started on the journey of healing. But her transformation was more visible.
It could be a parable of the New and Old Testament Quotes above, a prophecy of the work and its fulfillment, as Christ links us to His suffering and death and we rise from that death, as one. No longer alien, no longer the outcast, all welcome in the presence of the Father.
This is something we need to continually learn in our lives. It is something we continually have to be aware of as we encounter people that seem different that us. THat in Christ, we are meant to be one people, and we can trust God more than give into the fears and stereotypes. We can welcome those looking for help, those in trouble, even those who sins were as blatant and evil as they can get. God can redeem them, God can transform them. That is why Christ came and died…to set us free, to transform us, not into rule following robots/clones, but into the people of God, as diverse as the parts of a body.
Lord, help us look past stereotypes, not just we have of others, but those we have of our own lives. Help us to know Your presence, and Your love for all whom You are calling to be Yours – even though they might not know it. AMEN!
This is the power of Christ at work in His people, even those who are on detention for their sins