Category Archives: Ancient Future
Thoughts to encourage your love of Jesus…
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT2)
In order to bring peace, genuine peace, to souls; in order to transform the earth and to seek God our Lord in the world and through the things of the world, personal sanctity is indispensable. In my conversations with people from so many countries and from all kinds of social backgrounds, I am often asked: “What do you say to us married folk? To those of us who work on the land? To widows? To young people?” I reply systematically that I have only “one stewing pot.” I usually go on to point out that our Lord Jesus Christ preached the good news to all, without distinction. One stewing pot and only one kind of food: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” (1)
There is no doubt the Church is diverse.
Likewise, there is equally no doubt that it is called to be united. After all we confess that the Church Christ established is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” Catholic there not referring denomination, but to the universal church, throughout time as well as throughout the world.
The question is how can we see the church, which will gather at the end of time with people from every language, every tribe, every ethnicity to praise the Lord of lords, and King of kings. How in the midst of an incredible diversity can we see unity?
I don’t think we can….
I don’t think we can if we are looking toward the diverse group. THere are too many issues, from language barriers, to cultural dissonance, to the smell of the food cooking in the church kitchen! (Not everyone likes as much garlic as i do!) People dream of this diverse unity, and attempt to force the church to create a fortaste of the diversity experienced on judgment day. We are encouraged to create strategies, layout plans, hire staff that will create the diverse look we claim is God’s will.
And what we’ve forgotten is the message of Ephesians.
We are united… when we are in Christ.
There is only one faith, that is we have only One to trust and depend on – Jesus.
The Spirit baptizes us, uniting us to Jesus’s death and resurrection, together.
And there is only one God and Father of all. In all through all, here is where unity exists! Here is where we are made one, not forced to try and be one. If we realize the blessing of God’s love, and share it with those around us.
That is why Josemaria Escriva talks of One Message. There is only one gospel, only one way to be saved. And in that salvation, we find our unity. In that sharing the reason we have hope with those around us, with our neighbors and co-workers, and those we encounter, diversity should occur. Fear of reaching out to the older lady from Japan living next door, or the Guyanese family down the street, or the German guy you work with disappears when the peace of God can be known in the midst of the trials and trauma of their lives.
The more we treasure the gift given to us… the more we want everyone to know it is for them.
This is our Lord. In Him, we are one… even as He and the Father are one…just make that known…
(1) Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus….
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:40-43 (NLT2)
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Luke 23:34 (NLT2)
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45 (NLT2)
It is 9-11.
And last night, another friend passed away. One who made me think often of the incredible dimensions of God’s love, displayed on the cross.
And I woke this moring, on 9/11, thinking about the thief on the cross next to Jesus. The one who would be with Jesus in heaven in just a few hours.
God’s mercy extended out to him, even a few pain filled hours before he died.
How incredible is GOd’s mercy!
I don’t know how many people in the towers, on the rescue crews, in the planes, knew Jesus prior ot that day.
Even if they didn’t, in their last moments, any of their cries would be met with the same kind of mercy. THe same forgiveness, the same love, the same promise… today you will be with ME, in heaven.
For God did not want any to perish – but all to come to repentance…. (2 Peter 3:9)
And God doesn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked… (Ezekiel 33:11)
We wil never forget the events of 9/11.
But I pray we remember them in such a way that we are motivated to see all reconciled in Christ to the Father. To love those who seem unlovable, to bless and pray for those who persecute God’s people.
Lord have mercy! CHrist have mercy! Lord have mercy on us all!
“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me,x but you will see me.y Because I live, you will livez too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father,aa you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:18-20 CSB
It was a time of drought, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he [Martin Luther] said, “Lord God, thou hast said through the lips of thy servant David, ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, etc., and saves them’ [Ps. 145:18, 19]. How is it, then, that thou art unwilling to give us rain? If thou dost not give us rain, at least give us something better, like tranquillity, life, and peace.
Two of Spurgeon’s greatest sermons were “God in The Silence” and “God in The Storm.” The heart that knows God can find God anywhere. I surely join with Spurgeon in the truth that a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who has met God in a living encounter can know the joy of worshiping Him, whether in the silences of life or in the storms of life. There really is no argument. We know what God wants us to be. He wants us to be worshipers!
This love of poverty should be especially practised by religious who have made the vow of poverty. “Many religious,” says the same St. Bernard, “wish to be poor; but on the condition of wanting for nothing.”2 “Thus,” says St. Francis de Sales, “they wish for the honor of poverty, but not the inconveniences of poverty.”
The last quote stings… it hurts…
I know the truth of it, that I am willing to embrace any suffering God would allow- if I don’t have know I am suffering.
I can endure all things – if I don’t have to really endure it – just sort of let the time pass me by.
That’s the kind of thing we all want, it is why we love to state that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.
Even as I read that, and am crushed by it’s truth, I resonate with Luther’s take – that if God won’t give us the water, he will give us something better. Not something which hides or denies the pain, but in the midst of it, finds the presence of God and is comforted by the Holy Spirit. That encounter is so…. beyond words… that you begin to love the suffering, and you even find joy int it, (even as you despise it) because there you find the prsence of God.
As Spurgeon notes, there you find yourself worshipping the Lord in whose presence you are!
It may take me a while ot see the suffering I am observing in that way, and yet, by the enxt time I share in the Lord’s Supper, – there it is. Christ is in me, even as the Father was in Him! What an incredible truth this is, when the words sink ito our soul and we realize their truth.
In the midst of this poverty, whether financial, mental or spiritual, here is Jesus, with me… with me!
truly, the truth of that sinking down into my sould can cause me to love that whcih made me aware of His presnce, and His promises.
This is my reality in these days…not so much from my suffering, but that which I witness around me….and weeping (and sometimes laughing ) with them, we find His presence together.
This is a blessing impossible to understand, hard to endure, absolutely one I will not by-pass. Even when there are days I wish I could. So,
Lord Jesus, as we face trials, and spiritual poverty, may your Spirit gather us and make us aware of Your presence. Comfort us, sustain us, and Lord, as You promised, keep us safe in You! Amen.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 192.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 424.
Thoughts for this day, that draws me closer to God….
7 When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. 9 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:7-13 (CSBBible)
At dinner on the day after Pentecost [ Martin Luther said], “One shouldn’t think of any other God than Christ; whoever doesn’t speak through the mouth of Christ is not God. God wants to be heard through the Propitiator, and so he’ll listen to nobody except through Christ.
We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires.
I have never gotten tired of talking about prayer, and with God’s grace I never will. I remember that, back in the thirties, as a young priest, people of all kinds used to come to me looking for ways of getting closer to our Lord. To all of them, university students and workers, healthy and sick, rich and poor, priests and laymen, I gave the same advice: “Pray.” If anyone replied, “I don’t even know how to begin,” I would advise him to put himself in God’s presence and tell him of his desires and anxiety, with that very same complaint: “Lord, I don’t know how to pray!” Often, humble admissions like that were the beginning of an intimate relationship with Christ, a lasting friendship with him. Many years have gone by, and I still don’t know of a better recipe. If you think you’re not quite ready to pray, go to Jesus as his disciples did and say to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”18 You will discover how the Holy Spirit “comes to the aid of our weakness; when we do not know what prayer to offer, to pray as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us, with groans beyond all utterance,”19 which are impossible to describe, for no words are adequate to express their depth.
I find it odd, that when people talk about repetitive prayer, they often mention the verse just before Jesus teaches the disciples to pray… the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t babble on, or don’t be vain and repetitious as others translate the passage. And then comes the Lord’s prayer, which people say is vain and repetitious.
I will be the first to admit I have used it that way. Back in junior high school, we had races to see who could say it the fastest, or the entire rosary (I went to a Catholic parochial school.) And in doing so, we sinned, violating the
command about using God’s name in vain, for we didn’t think about Jesus when we prayed, we focused on speed and diction… not even the meaning of the words. There are days when I say it in church – that my thoughts are not focused on the words as much if we are saying it. (Which is why we more often sing it) It is easy to disengage. but that does not change it… just me.
As I have grown older, there have been more than a few times where I did not know how to pray. The words would not come through the anxiety, the words wouldn’t come through the tears, or even the times, where so overwhelmed, I
couldn’t cry. Finally, out of frustration, I would cry out, and pray the Lord’s prayer, letting the words of Jesus burrow through all the debris crushing my heart and soul.
And then, as St Josemaria put it, it was up to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in those times, it is only the comfort of the Holy Spirit that brings that prayer to mind, who uses these words of Jesus to bring life where there is no life.
Tozer is dead on accurate with his point – it is the Spirit we need to trust, as we pray as Jesus said. For Satan loves to deny us hope, and peace, and the realization of God’s love.
And so by praying as Jesus taught, we again admit we don’t know how to pray, and in that humility the intimacy with God grows, we hear what He’s told us He will provide – from His kingdom, to His perfect Will occurring in our lives, to
what we need daily, food, the ability to know we are forgiven and the enabling of our forgiveness. What wonderful things! He goes on to provide us a way from temptation, and rescue us from evil….. WOW….
Because I didn’t know how to pray in the brokenness of the moment, I pray, and as the Trinity hears, my heart is reminded of what God provides.
And somehow, miraculously, I find peace in the storm.
That is why I pray the Lord’s prayer, it is where God leads, and the comfort it brings is extraordinary.
I pray you may as well!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 155.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NLT2)
“Why does God love us, but that he may be loved?”1 wrote St. Bernard. And Moses had said the same before him: And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but that thou fear the Lord thy God … and love Him?
It’s a three day weekend.
Some are having barbecues, some are marching in parades or running 10ks. Some are working, trying to prepare for another weekly grind.
But in the midst of all of that, we, are loved.
But that love is illogical, it loves those who sin against it, who spit on it, and would dance on the grave of Jesus. For that is what sin is, it mocks the love that God has for you. It says everyting else is more important, every else is a priority. Everything else is worth more than his love.
There is one thing though, His grave we dance would dance on is empty,
And the one who loves us enough to die for us, still makes us His priority, as He intercedes for us with the Father. We are still His priority. He still loves us.
So take some time, think about His love… and think of ways to show Him your love…even while you are drawn to adore Him!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 293.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” John 6:53-58 (NLT2)
But when Christ says “My flesh,” I take notice of the identity of the speaker. I ask: To whom does the little word “My” pertain? Then these words will denote more than mere flesh; it will not be a flesh that has the strength of mere flesh and blood. By virtue of the word “My” it is invested with greater strength than plain flesh and blood. It is “My flesh.” You must take note of Him who speaks these words. Then it will not be the sort of flesh from which red sausages are made.
He could not satisfy his love by giving himself to the human race by his Incarnation and by his Passion, dying for all men upon the cross; but he desired to find out a way whereby he might give himself entirely to each one of us in particular; and for this end he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to unite himself wholly to each: He that cateth My flesh, he said, abideth in me and I in him. In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: “In no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful.”
Reading the title of this post, the question might sound like a mother talking to her toddler, or a man talking to his dog. But it is one of the most important questions that can be asked, and answered in the church today.
Not because of the theological doctrines that have been debated since Zwingli, (and to the gnostics whose thoughts convinced him that the sacred cannot inhabit the physical, that is the profane) THose arguements can go on in classrooms, coffee shops and bars from now until eternity. THis is more than theology.
It is about faith – about trusting Jesus at His word. To realize that He promises to come to us in the bread and wine, so that we might have Him, that we might have life! THat is why Luther points out the power of the word my, this little pronoun that changes everything.
This is His body, given for you. This is His blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Not mere flesh and blood, Far ore than the greatest steak and noblest wine. De Ligouri points out what a tremendous communion this is, as Christ again unites us to Himself, and unites Himself to us. This is not just some simple rite that we do every week, this is God with us, that we can behold His glory.
He says, this is my body… this is my blood…
Rejoice in that moment, treasure that moment….. find your peace and sanctuary there…
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 23 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 119.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 279–280.
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)
We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.
O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.
The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!
As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.
I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.
I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.
As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well – but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)
That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.
As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.
As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him. As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.
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), 147.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)
Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.
“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.
As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.
Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..
Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.
Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.
That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!
God is with us… meeting us where we are at.
It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.
But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!
For the Lord Jesus is with us….
We just need to learn that… together.
A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 96.
Devotional Thought for our Days
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he rescued them from their distress. 7 He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:6-7 (CSBBible)
13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Psalm 107:13-14 (CSBBible)
19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent his word and healed them; he rescued them from their traps. Psalm 107:19-20 (CSBBible)
Aidan’s statue, Holy Island
Aidan stands. His head is close to the heart of the cross.
His eyes, far-seeing, scan the horizon, the joyous venturing of little boats.
A torch burns clearly in his grasp, a faithful challenge in his generation, meeting, listening, heart-connecting.
In his shadow is a place I covet, a challenge in a present time and confluence of cultures.
Aidan, let me lie down in your shadow. While I live may I be the shadow of a Rock in a weary land, a shelter from the heat.
When our Bohemian interrupted to say that he still had doubts about baptism, he [Martin Luther] replied gently,“When you first came here you were not at the stage which you have now attained. Continue to be patient. Give our Lord God time. Let the trees bloom before they bring forth fruit. Who was I before? I used to worship saints who hadn’t even been born! The time hasn’t come yet for me to speak otherwise [about baptism], I should now say, but wait and you’ll see what the Word of God is and can be.”
To embrace the cross, courage and endurance are needed. There are some “strong” Christians who undertake apostolic work but falter when faced with difficulty. They don’t know about patience.
What requires patience also requires the ability to endure exhaustion. Whether a marathon, or a long journey in a car, or the ministry, one must be able to endure the shadows. One must endure the times where you aren’t sure you can make it another mile, another hour, another day. Life is filled with such shadows, as we work through a world that has no direction and no ability to see where we are going, and yet we strive to define progress in so many areas.
Most of the people we minister to live there, in those shadows of exhaustion. Not quite in spiritual darkness, but neither are our lives always filled with the glorious light of Christ. We are not patient; we want our life on earth to be heavenly. When we cannot see that perfection, the shadows form, and tired and weary, we are anxious, not knowing when the next storm will hit or this one will subside.
We need to embrace the cross, not just with strength but patiently. We need to, as Luther advises, be patient and give the Lord time. (this not just with those we minister to, but with ourselves!) We need to see what the Word of God is, and what it can be.
That is why I find so much hope in my reading from Psalms this morning. There we see people cry out to the Lord, those lost in their wandering, those imprisoned by gloom and shame, and those whose foolishness caused their own suffering. The eventual response was to cry out to God to have mercy, and His response was to rescue them. In those times in the shadow, it is good to find the Aidans of our time. Those whose lives point us to Jesus. Those who keep close to the cross and draw us there. They dwell in the shadows as well (why else would they need torches?), and as they are in the presence of Christ, their shadow is a place of rest, a place of peace. As Jesus delivers us, slowly, we too become like Aidan, or Paul or Peter, and we dwell in Christ! Others will come, and we will learn to deal as patiently with them as God deals with us. Aidn’s image is so powerful, in the shadow of the cross, he provides light to others!
This is life in the shadows; this is ministry in the shadows… be patient. Find those who help you keep your heart and head near the cross, and then look for those who need to be drawn into His presence, and provide them the rest, the sanctuary they need, in the shadows.
Andy Raine – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/meditations/meditation-day-16/ (text reformatted to fit the page)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 92.
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), 132.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2 I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)
Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.
Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.
WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?
I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.
I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.
As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.
My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!
We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.
It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.
It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.
Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.
God is with us!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.