Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

The Most Precious Preaching Lesson…I have ever learned

Devotional THoguht of the Day:

20 But dear friends, use your most holy faith to build yourselves up, praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the Lord Jesus Christ with his mercy to give you life forever.
22 Show mercy to some people who have doubts. 23 Take others out of the fire, and save them. Show mercy mixed with fear to others, hating even their clothes which are dirty from sin.  Jude 20-22  NCV

 

“I noticed,” Pastor Crabtree told me, “that as I told the story of God’s identification with us, of the pain God himself experienced in the death of his son, that the weeping stopped, that people, including Rebecca’s mother and father and fourteen-year-old brother leaned forward in their seats and listened intently. God’s story was touching them where they hurt most and giving them hope.
“Many people in this small town were deeply touched by the story of God. A high school history teacher, for example, said to me, ‘What I took home from that funeral message was this: this world is turned upside down, and Jesus is the only one who can fix it.’
“ ‘You got it,’ I said, and he answered, ‘Yes I did!’ ”
What can I say? There is no story in this world that is more profound than the story of God’s embrace. My dinner companions heard the gospel in a new way. And each of them, in their own way, is growing in the life-changing embrace of God, as I am and I trust you are too. For there is no story but God’s; no God but the Father, Son and Spirit; and no life but the baptized life.

As I looked on FB this morning, to see who I should add to my prayer list, it revealed ot me that this is a special anniversary, the day I took my then 7-year-old son home for the first time.  Not home as in the place we live, but home as in the place that I consider my home.  Not a house, nor a place where the family gathered, but the place I want to be more often than not.  Not even a church, but a simple road.

It is the place where we could be still, or walk slowly, and just rest in God’s peace.

I mentioned it in a sermon once, a sermon delivered before other pastors, a sermon that was to be critiqued, and shredded, but there were tears instead.  You can read about that time here: https://asimplechristian.org/2014/10/21/walking-with-god/

The reading from Dr. Weeber this morning also reminded me of this.  My job as a preacher, as a shepherd is not to dazzle people with my theological acumen, or grind them into the ground with guilt, only to let them up at the last second.  It isn’t to make statements about politics or drive them to give and support just causes.

That will happen, as I disciple, as I teach and counsel, as people realize what I am here to tell them.

That God’s story is their story, that their story completely involves God.  We don’t walk on deserted stretches of road alone, nor do we drive the freeways of Southern California unaccompanied.  Whether it is at the beach, or a party, or crying alone in a park, or even on our deathbed, He is here…. with us.

That’s what our people need to know, that God doesn’t leave us alone, and in order to be here, He does what is necessary, forgiving us, cleansing us, healing us, loving us, comforting us, welcoming us to share in His glory and peace.

He is here…in our story, we in His.  He is our God, we are His people…..

That’s what we need to tell them…and that is what we preachers need to hear.  AMEN!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

 

 

How Do We Deal With All the Trauma?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our days
15  Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don’t become set in your own opinions. Romans 12:15-16 (Phillips NT)

15  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:15-17 (NLT)

When the news just makes us exclaim “What a disaster!” and, then, we turn the page immediately or change the channel, we have destroyed our “fellowship,” we have further widened the gap that separates us.

It seems so much of my email is filled with news of trauma, or shortly thereafter, with appeals for money to care for the victims.

Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Tennessee, now the victims of the California wildfires.  And that is only the events in the USA.  There were Typhoons hitting Macao and Hong Kong, earthquakes in Mexico, and other traumas caused by men in England and other places.

There there are the traumas that are even closer to home.  A friend’s daughter passes away, another friend is dealing with a spouse whose illness is beyond their ability to cope with, other friends are struggling with cancer or even a pinched nerve.

And like I said, I am then deluged with the requests to help.  Houston is a good example.  Four friends are working with different church groups – all affiliated together.  They each ask for money, as does the district of our denomination.  I even received a request from another district to support their work in arranging for help for the district affected!  This doesn’t include all the churches and para-church organizations that spammed my email, for surely a pastor would help them? 

Part of me wants to react as Pope Francis described, just turn the page, just delete the email. Part of me wants to write letters to each group that seems less than above board, or those that insist their group is more in need or more deserving of money and tries to manipulate using guilt or shame, or hyper-emotional appeal.

And then I wonder if I am becoming too hard, too cynical, to suspicious,  to callous. What is the reaction all this is causing in my heart? Am I allowing my fellowship with humanity to be destroyed?  Will i end up on an island, with a huge gaping hole separating me from the rest of the world?   Or us the only other option to burn out, emotionally, physically, financially?  Will my faith become dead, because I can no longer bring myself to act?  Will I try to justify that by simply saying the system is overloaded?

I think the answer comes from the passage in Romans, this idea of living in harmony with each other. The example being weeping with those who weep, laugh with those laughing.  To take the focus from just giving a donation, to actually being with those who are in need.  ( One might say that just dropping 50 or 1000 bucks into an envelope may not meet the help they really need)  To be compassionate, to love, for there we find ourselves helping. Not just within the circle of friends we have, but with people we encounter, every day.

And mostly, the answer comes from trusting God, knowing His presence, hearing His voice, following His lead. For as we walk with Him, as we depend upon Him, we find the needs, and the resources he would have us meet.  Often those far different than we would have thought of… and yet, the peace and joy, even amidst the tears, confirms the presence of God.  

Here is the point.  Too often we rely only on our own strength, our own wisdom, our won will, overlooking the obvious, the presence of God.  As we cry out, “Lord have mercy,” we need ot rely on that mercy, even as we help others see it.  That will eradicate the gap that separates us, as we fellowship together with Him. 

 

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

What if Today Was truly HOLY Day…. What Would It Look Like?

St Francis Catholic Church

This was the church of my parochial school… a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Devotional Thought for our Days:

 

27 Then, Israel, you will know that I am among you, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. My people will never be despised again.

The Day of the LORD 28 “Afterwards I will pour out my Spirit on everyone:  your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your old people will have dreams, and your young people will see visions. 29 At that time I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, both men and women.  Joel 2:27-29  TEV

61      Sanctity does not consist in great concerns. It consists in struggling to ensure that the flame of your supernatural life is never allowed to go out; it consists in letting yourself be burned down to the last shred, serving God in the lowest place… or in the highest: wherever the Lord may call you.

When Paul makes the third point, “Let him not steal but do good works,” Eph. 4:28, he is showing that in the individual commandments we must daily undertake our new obedience, that is, so that our meditation on the Decalog may demonstrate the exhortation to good works. If we have the beginnings of renewal, we should give thanks to God for beginning in us the restoration of His image, and we should pray that these beginnings be increased and finally brought to perfection. We should also consider how sluggishly we follow the Holy Spirit as He helps and leads us into new obedience, and if we stumble or undo the work of the Holy Spirit, we must confess our wretchedness and seek mercy.

When I was a child, the nuns taught us about something called a “Holy Day of Obligation,”  I always liked them, because it meant we took time to leave school walk about 6 blocks, and go to church.   Which I preferred to going to school and being bored.  It didn’t even matter if it was cold and snow and ice made the walk challenging.  We got to go to church, which was far better than doing the same old drills in math and diagramming sentences again.   

I was probably the only one who liked these days, at least I remember a lot of kids complaining and the Sisters “encouraging” them not to complain. In our old, worn down church in Lawrence there was a sense of holiness, a sense of God’s presence.  Even though we couldn’t always understand what the priest from Lithuania said, we knew he spoke of God’s amazing love, as did the liturgy.

Let’s drop the phrase “obligation” for a moment, and what if today was a holy day.  If we took our day, and responding to God’s incredible mercy and love, dedicated it to Him.  What if we took a moment, thought of His incredible love, and decided, this day, I am going to remember His love for me?  

We might do as Martin Chemnitz (one of Martin Luther’s students and theologians) suggested, and meditate on the individual commandments and try to live in what the Lutheran Confessions call, “the new obedience”, even as we see God renewing our life, a renewal that began in our baptism. We would ask God to continue and increase the speed of this renewal, knowing that it is He that brings us to perfection.  When we fail, as we will, we wouldn’t just try to ignore the sin, or justify it, we would simply ask God to forgive us.  Or, if still bothered by guilt and shame, we could approach a pastor and ask them to hear our confession, that we might hear them tells us God has cleansed and forgiven us.

This is the same thing St Josemaria wrote of when he wrote about not letting the flame of our supernatural life go out, even as we let it burn us out, even to the last shred as we realize the day is holy and sanctified by God, as we walk with Him through it, loving and serving those people He brings into our lives for the moment.

Joel’s prophecy (in red above) is not about the future, someday when God brings us home. It is about every day since Pentecost.  Days when God is with us, among us, working with and through us.

It is about today, a day when YOU are holy, for God has our out His Holy Spirit upon you!

May you rejoice, may you vry out in joy, and in prayer that you see this clearly, and respond, depending on our God, for there is no other.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 441-444). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

 

Is There Life Beyond Today?

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for our days…and our future:

10 My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. 11 And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:10-11 NCV

“Life’s” destination lies beyond this life because it depends on “Someone” with a capital letter. All this is rooted in the hearts of our people, even if they are unable to express it conceptually.

There are times in my life, where surviving the evils of this day is my only goal.  Where i just try to hang on to God, and His presence long enough to help this person or that one. Where I deal with these problems, those challenges, this person’s sin, or worse my own.

I drag myself home, climb the stairs, and hopefully remember to thank God that He carried and dragged me through the day…..only to have another day come all too soon.

I do not think I am alone, not by any means.

We need to learn to live for something more, something that is glorious, something that is perfect.  Something that is beyond us, this destination that Pope Francis speaks of, the place where we will find Him, our “Someone”. A place that is truly home, a place of incredible, unbelievable peace, a place of joy, a place where tears, sorrow, weariness are unknown.

Francis is correct about our not knowing how to express it conceptually. We don’t know how to talk about heaven, we don’t know what it will be like, and to talk about it, sooner or later, we might have to talk about death and dying.  We really don’t want to talk about that.  NOT. AT. ALL.

But heaven is our reality, dwelling with God, in His glory, in His peace, in wonder and awe that He wants us there, that is what Christianity is about.  An eternal, everlasting relationship that we can’t even begin to conceive of (see 1 Cor. 2;9) 

But we know we shall be with Him. 

At the end of the day, that is what matters, 

At the beginning of tomorrow, we need to realize He is still here…revealing to us His love and mercy, comforting us, healing us, and preparing us for life with Him.

A life that began when we were baptized into His death, into His resurrection.. and given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, keeping us til then.

 

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

 

 

This is Ministry…This is What Being Missional Is All About.

Devotional Thoughts for our days:
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you wanders away from the truth, and someone helps that person come back, 20 remember this: Anyone who brings a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and will cause many sins to be forgiven.  James 5:19-20  NCV

What were the practical benefits of attending and participating in an evangelical church?… What we were asking had to do with our spiritual walk, with sanctification, and with spiritual maturity. Were we being helped, encouraged, uplifted by the music? ( A few sentences later) Were we supported by the fellowship with other believers?
What fellowship? Social interaction based on convenience and conformity can hardly pass for the communion of God’s people. Or should we have focused on our desire for spiritual nourishment on the ordinances, in particular the Lord’s Supper? But here too, we were disappointed. The infrequently celebrated sacraments had long since been reduced to mere symbols, i.e., gutted of all divine power and mystery.

78      Heroism, sanctity, daring, require a constant spiritual preparation. You can only ever give to others what you already have. And, to give God to them, you yourself need to get to know him, to live his Life, to serve him.

On the other hand, he constantly stressed that absolution offers forgiveness from God himself. He violently denounced the view of the Roman church which made absolution conditional upon the proper attitude and penance of the penitent. According to Luther, the absolution that one Christian offers to another in the name of God is absolutely valid. God forgives through the word of the brother. If a man fails to believe this word, so much the worse for him. But the fact that God’s peace was offered to him remains unaffected whether he accepts the offer in faith or not. Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.

The church has a job, one job, and we need to get back to it.  Whether we call it “Making disciples of all nations” (Matt 28) or being “Ambassadors of Reconciliation” (2 Cor.5) Or simply “loving our neighbor” (Luke 10), or “seeking and saving the lost” as we imitate Christ, this is what Jesus has sent us, his people to do in this world, even as the Father sent Him.

I think, as Webber and others complain about modern worship, or what they see happening in some places, this is what they are missing.  The incarnate Jesus welcoming sinners, cleansing them, healing them, breaking the power of Sin, and its partners, guilt and shame, and resentment.  For these four do more to damage our heart, our psyche and our soul than anything else.

Luther, even as he struggled with  Catholic Church in his day, could not see a reason to get rid of confession, in fact, he encouraged it greatly!  The freedom that confession gives, the freedom that is salvation is incredible, it is wonderful, it is beyond words to describe the peace that comes from knowing that all that has been taken away.

Which is why Luther could not conceive of a person who would not benefit from it.

We sin, we need the power of God revealed in our lives, to realize that He will forgive us, so that we don’t hesitate, but run to Him, counting on His love and mercy.

The more we understand this, the more we will be equipped to share with others this incredible hope we have been given in these sacraments of baptism, confession and absolution and the Eucharist.  Each reminds us of the presence and power of God in our lives. the same power every person in the world needs, and we need to share.

This is our mission – revealing to people the amazing love and peace with which God would fill their lives!  This is the basis of why we want our churches to grow, why we want to have buildings and schools, why we spend money on chalices and sound systems and send men to seminary.  Without the good news of the forgiveness of sin, and the restoration of the relationship God has desired…. we have done nothing.

It’s simple – as James tells us, our mission is to help people come back to being GOd’s people, and when they do, sin is covered!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 493-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 53. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

 

 

A Long Awaited Day….

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Devotional thought for our days…

14  “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. 15  I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. 16  When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT)

15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect 1 Pet 3:115-16 NCV

66 My God, teach me how to love! My God, teach me how to pray!

Every once in a while, when doing bills, I put the wrong month in, and sometimes the wrong year.

It is hard for me to accept we are in 2017, and that we are almost at 2018.  It seems that this should be in the future, way in the future.  

Similarly, it sometimes feels like the promises of God aren’t here yet, like 2017 shouldn’t be,  I can’t see it, I can’t picture it, even while I long for those days when my hopes, my expectations will be fulfilled.  The expectations and hope that make up my faith, the answers I need to answer people with, as St Peter says, in a gentle way and with respect. Even to those who do not respect me, especially to those who do not respect me, or God.

That is the amazing thing that gives me hope!  

We see it in the underlined part of the first reading, these people who hated GOd, who turned away from Him and worshipped gods they made of wood and metals and gems.  Those who ignored what He would say, especially when He told them that He loved them.

These people of God wouldn’t call him master, they wouldn’t call Him by some official titles, but they were to use an endearment to call Him by, a name that revealed the love that they recognized was between them.

For God would win our affections back, God would restore us, and we would willingly give ourselves to Him, a response to His healing and caring for us.

FOr we would finally realize that He loves us!

We are Christ’s bride, not His slave, we are the Father’s beloved children not, the servants who run from His anger. We are the companions of the Holy Spirit.  RElationships that are not bound by law, but love.  A relationship that began because God was stubborn and patient, not willing to let us perish, but bringing about in us a change of mind…

A change that comes when we begin to see His love for us fully revealed at the cross.

May we realize this is now – this hope, this expectation is not just in the future, some far off date when we finally realize He loves us.  That was revealed at the cross, and at our baptism, and every time we share in the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar.

This is our reason for hope, our assurance of everlasting life, with the God who doesn’t want us to call Him Lord and Master, but beloved…for

He loves us…

And so we pray, with St Josemaria, that God would teach us how to love, how to interact with Him!.  Lord have mercy on us!  (And be confident and know He has!)

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 452-454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Causes People to Do Evil? Some defect? Some Dysfunction?

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional thought for our days:’

9  Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10  For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11  But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12  In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13  And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” 14  Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15  It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. Mark 7:9-15 (NLT)

9 We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like himself. 10 Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. James 3:9-10 NCV

79      I will not stop repeating until it is deeply engraved in your soul: Piety, piety, piety! For if you lack charity it will be for want of interior life, not for any defect of character.

As I have talked to people since the Las Vegas shooting, as I have read articles, posts and tweets about it, one question is asked over and over.  It is the same question that was asked after the Sandy Hook or Florida shootings, or the bombing in Oklahoma City, or even 9/11.

Why?

What defect is there in those who commit such horrors, what kind of evil lurks within them?  What dysfunctional part of their nature causes such evil?

And two questions follow those:

“Can we stop this from happening again?”

And the question we are afraid to ask,

“Am I capable of such evil?”

Most of us would believe we aren’t capable of that level of evil, of creating such trauma, such horror.  If you asked the Pharisees of Jesus day, they certainly didn’t believe they were capable of such evil; they were too holy.  Sure, a little sin here, a little lie there, some unforgiveness and pride, even a smattering of gossip.  But real evil?

Nah, not us.  We’re the good guys, remember?

If that isn’t our attitude, the contrary position we take, seeing every moment in our lives as proof that we make Hannibal Lector and Hitler look like simpletons when it comes to evil.  We believe our character to be broken, our dysfunctionality beyond salvation, our defects to irreparable.

We see the passage from Mark, and we know that there is something within us to cause such horror, we hear James and wonder how we can gossip or lie or brutally treat someone one moment, and sing A Mighty Fortress or say the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostles Creed the next.

Well, sin is pictured several times (including James 5) as an illness, a sickness, a disease that has weakened us. Yes, we are responsible for our thoughts, our words, our actions, but at another level, we are incapable of living life free from the bondage in which sin grips us.  It is more than just a defect or dysfunction, this sin that so easily ensnares us.

I think St Josemaria points out the answer, as he mentions our interior life.  Our struggle with sin as Christians is because we don’t understand what it means to dwell in the presence of God.  It is that interior life, that time that we spend living in Christ, resting in His presence, being transformed by the Holy Spirit that provides the love we need to love others, and to love and adore God.

This isn’t some exercise in finding God, it doesn’t take a pilgrimage around the world, though there are places where realizing He is there is easier, like in a church as they celebrate the Eucharist, or in a gathering of people singing His praises. He is with you on that sleepless night as well, or in the heat of the moment, when you want to respond in anger, or in pain.

The interior life is simply living and recognizing the presence of God, and hearing His voice.

So call out to Him, give Him your burdens, pray that He will help you, confident of His promises too….especially when it is dealing with temptation, or with the ghosts of the past.

The Lord is with you!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 495-498). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Millenials Aren the First to Seek Something Deeper and More Meaningful…

Devotional Thought for our days:

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)

During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.

Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”.  According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation.  (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi.  One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system. 

They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago) 

Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.  

What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.

A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me.  As it did the generations before us.

It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.

The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it.  To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it. 

I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!

May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.”  Amen!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

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.

The Real Spiritual War We Must Fight…

Life is painDevotional Thought for our days…
24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TEV)

13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.

60      Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.

Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders.  Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy.  Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.

Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation.  And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection.  (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_

The struggle is real.

The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives.  Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,

But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it?  Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it?  Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle?  A different sort of discipline?

There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing.  I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.

So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it?  Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries?  Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?

I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us.  Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God.  These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.

That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple.  Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.

In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it!  We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us.  FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far… 

And still, He is here…

 


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

A Life in Retreat? Yes and No….

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional thoughts for our days
4  Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.
6  Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.
8  Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-8 (Phillips NT)

39      I see myself like a poor little bird, accustomed only to making short flights from tree to tree, or, at most, up to a third floor balcony… One day in its life it succeeded in reaching the roof of a modest building, that you could hardly call a skyscraper. But suddenly our little bird is snatched up by an eagle, who mistakes the bird for one of its own brood. In its powerful talons the bird is borne higher and higher, above the mountains of the earth and the snow capped peaks, above the white, blue and rose pink clouds, and higher and higher until it can look right into the sun. And then the eagle lets go of the little bird and says: Off you go. Fly! Lord, may I never flutter again close to the ground. May I always be enlightened by the rays of the divine sun—Christ—in the Eucharist. May my flight never be interrupted until I find repose in your Heart.

Far too often do I resemble St Josemaria’s little bird, content and yet bored with the simple life we struggle through.  Not only do I lack the power and skill to soar above the heights, I fear to do so, for flying that high means I could crash.  And if crashing close to the ground is hard, how much more devastating would it be to crash when I am spending time in the heavens?

The idea of soaring with eagles sounds nice, it sounds incredible, but I’ve been on too many retreats and had to come back to “reality” from the mountaintop experience.  Even worse, I’ve seen what it can do where people only see that mountaintop experience as the only blessed thing in their lives.  Where they live, remembering the high of the last retreat, and looking forward to the next one.

If only we didn’t have to come down!  

If only I wasn’t so afraid of those heights.

Paul urges us to delight in God, to give to him every detail of every problem, depending upon Him to receive them as He promised when He asked us to cast all our burdens upon Him.  He begs us to keep our eyes on the things that are good, that are Godly,

Does that require us to stay soaring in the heavens, only to be worthless here on earth?  Do we like the monks of old or the Amish, separate ourselves from the world?  How can we be in the world but not of it, as Jesus asks?

Is this command of Paul, to delight in God, to rejoice in all things possible?  Or is it just an unfulfilled dream?  And if it is unfulfilled, does this mean the negative impact I think it does, a life lived in disobedience and therefore condemnation?

I can’t worry about that question, nor its answer.  it is beyond my role, beyond my experience. For if I worry about that, the more I will not spend my time delighting in Him, and the less likely it will be for me to run to Him for the forgiveness I so need, for the comfort and consoling that will restore to me the joy of my salvation, and the awe of being found in His presence, and loved.

For that is where the delight comes from, in realizing how incredible God’s love is, a love that desires to make itself manifest in every moment of our lives.   love that would shape our lives with thoughts about what is righteous and just, what is lovely and pure, what is of God.

May our desire to dwell in His presence be satisfied, and may be not be satisfied with anything else.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 366-374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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