Category Archives: Devotionals
Devotional Thoughts for 9/11:
14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death. 15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying. Heb 2:14-15 CEV
We doubt God’s love when we see and feel all the sufferings that our freedom to sin has brought upon us. Like Dostoyevski’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, we prefer happiness to freedom. We wish God had given us less freedom and had guaranteed that we would stay in Eden forever. We wish that He had put up a sign saying “No snakes in the grass”, that He had given no law that we could ever have chosen to disobey.
I was in Del Taco, the one on 29 Palms Highway, the one from which you can see Yucca Valley High School. I had just placed my order, and heard people gasp. I rounded the corner. and froze.
And we, along with millions of others, watched as thousands died.
I don’t remember what I ordered, or if I ate it. I was supposed to go play golf on the base golf course, that would be cancelled. I drove to my church, threw open the doors, let 107.7 know people could come and pray…. and they did.
19 years later, the memories, along with many of the people I’ve stood by the bedside of, as they died. Many of those times are passing before me this morning. Some people were at peace, others not so much. All, along the journey, questioned God about the suffering that they, or the loved ones they cared for endured.
Why does it have to exist? Why couldn’t god just leave us in paradise, and make it impossible for us to sin? Impossible for us to suffer, impossible to…die. Why do we fall for temptation, again and again? Why do we have to suffer the consequences of the freedom God has given us all? Why did Adam and Eve fall for the lie that all freedom is good? Oh the power of that lie! Oh the damage that freedom can wreak… for freedom means that we often choose that which leads to death. Our death, or others.
Wouldn’t we be happier if God just programmed us perfect, and we knew no freedom, but only happiness? If we knew naive bliss, but not how love is still love in the midst of our brokenness? Would it not be nirvana if there was no war, no discrimination, no terrorism, no death?
Perhaps it would, but nirvana is but emptiness, it is the emptiness, the lack of self, and while this may seem peaceful, it misses out on what truly creates and sustains peace. It lacks the thing we need to know the most
The kind of love that brings peace in the midst of suffering and death. The kind of peace that has us give up control, but in order that God’s love may be revealed to be in control. The kind of love that rescues us from the fear of dying, by reminding us for the promise of heaven.
Kreeft finishes the paragraph above with this,
Mere kindness or compassion would keep us protected against suffering by denying us real freedom. That is the love we have for pets but not for persons, at least not persons we really respect. We are not meant to be God’s pets. He did not create us for that. We are to be God’s lovers.
We aren’t not God’s pets, His naive, companions. Who wants a scratch behind the years, or a treat when we behave right, and ask to go out rather than leaving a puddle on the kitchen floor. We are the bride who will cry on His shoulders, who will depend on His strength to get us through life,e who will sing His praises, for eternity is more than death… and even in the times of death, those who know Him, can know His peace. We need the Holy Spirit to come, and to comfort us, in the midst of terrorism, amid the brokenness of a country torn apart by disease, or sin, or natural disaster. We need to find something so amazing that we can leave the painful emptiness behind, in view of the amazing love.
That is why people ran into First Christian Church on 9/11. That is why they cried at the altar, and why they could leave… still distraught, still not believing, but knowing that God was with them, and therefore knowing peace on a horrendous day.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 116–117.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus turned. He saw the woman and said, “Don’t worry! You are now well because of your faith.” At that moment she was healed. Mt. 9:22 CEV
29 Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, you will be healed.” Mt. 9:29 CEV
5 Jesus could not work any miracles there, except to heal a few sick people by placing his hands on them. 6 He was surprised that the people did not have any faith. Jesus taught in all the neighboring villages. Mark 6:5-6 (CEV)
Some people meditate on Christ’s passion by venting their anger on the Jews.1 This singing and ranting about wretched Judas2 satisfies them, for they are in the habit of complaining about other people, of condemning and reproaching their adversaries. That might well be a meditation on the wickedness of Judas and the Jews, but not on the sufferings of Christ.
We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.
Their faith made them well.
And their lack of faith stopped Jesus from working in their midst.
We hear so much about faith, and yet we have such a vague understanding of it. We say we practice our faith, we have statements of faith, we know we are saved by faith (through grace – but what does that mean?) There are faith healers, and people who promise that you will have an ever increasing faith. SOme will say faith is a noun, something we base our lives upon, some will say it is a verb, and our life sucks because we don’t have enough of it.
WIth all these ways the word is used, it is no surprised we are confused!
Luther starts his meditation on Christ’s passion by talking about the ways people screw up meditating on Christ’s passion by meditating on everything else but the passion of Christ. I included one example above, but he will include several. In the same way, we screw up faith, talking all around it, but never engaging in it, never engaging in Christ, never depending upon Him as Spurgeon urged us to do, with our lives, with the mission and vocation God has laid on us all.
Faith is simply a description of the relationship we have with God, where we depend on Him, recognizing He is God and we are His beloved people. It is a relationship where we are confident of His presence, and confident of His work in us, and being patient to let it happen.
It is not easy to do, in fact it is impossible to do!.
It is simply a way we live, knowing His presence, taking time to remember that, and being grateful for what He did to create this relationship, to reveal Himself and His love. You can’t do states of existence, any more than you can force a relationship. But existing in it defines you in relation to the “Other”, the You to your I. Everything we are, defined by that relationship where He provides all we need.
So be still, know He is God, then move, guided by Him through life. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 7.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
If the LORD does not build the house, the work of the builders is useless; if the LORD does not protect the city, it is useless for the sentries to stand guard. Ps. 127:1 GNT
456 To criticize, to destroy, is not difficult; the clumsiest laborer knows how to drive his pick into the noble and finely-hewn stone of a cathedral. To construct—that is what requires the skill of a master.
It seems the church, mirroring the culture, has grown to use to using a pick or a sledge hammer to destroy each other, and the impact is that this destroys our churches.
All I had to do is look at Facebook or Twitter and I see people tearing at the heart and souls of others. It gets tiring, and to be honest I am often tempted to unfriend or unfollow those whose lives are so focused on destroying others.
But to deny this exists, to deny my friends and often my family (and myself) can engage in this type of destructive behaviour, doesn’t do anything about it. Neither often does direct confrontation, for most of us are experts in self-justification.
The problem is that justification is not a skill that we have. For true justification doesn’t tear down over there to build up over here. Justification is not relative, being more just/righteous than those people over there doesn’t mean we are just and righteous.
We need, desperately need to stop making justification or the determination of justification our job. (Even a pastor/priest can declare someone just by the command by declaring Christ’s words) We don’t have the right to sit in judgment over people, condemning them because they don’t meet our warped standard of what is righteous and just.
We do have the ability and the responsibility to urge them to be reconciled to God. We can tell them that He will declared them just and righteous. That He will forgive their sins and heal them of all brokenness living in this world can cause.
We have to remember it is God that justifies, that this is His role as God, His justification is the way He builds His church. He does the building, He does the justification, otherwise it is useless, and vain.
We can thank Him and praise Him for doing so! Meditate upon how great His declaring you just and righteous and how frequently you need this gift in your life. Praise Him, instead of justifying yourself at others expense, help them to know that they too are those God longs to justify, that God longs to reform them, and share with them Him glory.
Rejoice and relax, God has got this justification business down, and his motivation to do so is most compelling, He does it because loves us.
(which is a lot better than doing it from fear)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1115-1118). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
15 You are doomed! In your fury you humiliated and disgraced your neighbors; you made them stagger as though they were drunk. 16 You in turn will be covered with shame instead of honor. You yourself will drink and stagger. The LORD will make you drink your own cup of punishment, and your honor will be turned to disgrace. 17 You have cut down the forests of Lebanon; now you will be cut down. You killed its animals; now animals will terrify you. This will happen because of the murders you have committed and because of your violence against the people of the world and its cities.e
18 What’s the use of an idol? It is only something that a human being has made, and it tells you nothing but lies. What good does it do for its maker to trust it—a god that can’t even talk! 19 You are doomed! You say to a piece of wood, “Wake up!” or to a block of stone, “Get up!” Can an idol reveal anything to you? It may be covered with silver and gold, but there is no life in it. Habakkuk 2:15-19 GNT
Indeed, when we refuse to make the effort to understand God’s dealings with humanity or to study the Bible and whatever may help us understand it, we rebel against the express will of God. For God commands us to love him with all our mind as well as with all our heart, soul and strength (Mark 12:30; compare Proverbs 1–8). We can therefore say on scriptural grounds that it is the will of God that we study his ways of communicating with us. Rejecting this thoughtful, careful study is not faith, and it does not spring from faith. It is the rejection of the God-appointed means to God-appointed goals.
Most people don’t like to talk about sin.
Let’s be honest, unless a pastor is a sadist, he doesn’t like to talk about it either. He has to, for the sake of the people he is talking to, and for the sake of those they interact with, who have the same problem with sin.
We don’t understand it.
In some cases, we don’t want to understand it. We’d just rather enjoy it, or enjoy not struggling with it, and deal with the consequences later. Take it from me, as a pastor I am not just an advocate against sin, unfortunately I am a skilled practitioner, you might even say an expert in the field. ( the Apostle Paul was as well. ( 1 Timothy 1:16)
When I read Dr. Willard’s words about refusing to make the effort to understand God’s dealing with humanity, the passage I read earlier from scripture came immediately to mind. We don’t understand why God doesn’t like sin, we just know He doesn’t, and that there are punitive action against it. So we run and hide from Him, or we deny He says this is sin, or that is.
But we don’t understand sin, we don’t realize the chaos and pain it generates, we can’t see reality the way God does. And rather than looking at the scriptures, to see the effect of sin there, we hide it, or deny it.
Habakkuk deals with it, especially the sin of idolatry, The punishment for sin is something we choose when we dwell on the sin in our thoughts, both the punishment in the now, and the eternal consequences we will have to deal with on Judgement Day.
But if we understand what sin does, the havoc it causes, both now and generations to come, we begin to see God’s problem with sin is not just our disobedience, but why He asks us to trust Him in that matter. Why he says, this isn’t good for you. In the case of worshipping idols, whether they be hand crafted or our retirement fund, or a person we think has it all together, the idol will fail! It can’t do anything for us, and it will leave us more empty than when we started.
He tells us not to sin, so that all will be good in our life, so we can avoid the brokenness, the emptiness that comes when guilt and shame are given control.
Instead, He would draw us back to Himself, heal us of our brokenness, rescue us from the consequences of our sin. Care for us, as He always has planned. THis is God, our God, who is here… and listens.
Maybe we should begin to, and as we read and stury scripture, come to realize how God wants to deal with us, and the sin that so easily ensnares us.
Trust Him…and know His peace!
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2015).
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 “How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong. 9 I will not punish you in my anger; I will not destroy Israel again. For I am God and not a mere human being. I, the Holy One, am with you. I will not come to you in anger. Hosea 11:8-9 (TEV)
386 Don’t forget, my son, that for you there is but one evil on earth: sin. You must fear it and avoid it with the grace of God.
I recently started taking my son ot the gym. His first day, the trainer started working with him and talked about working on his core – and if he takes care of that (unlike Dad has) everything else he does would benefit him far more.
The thought was in the back of my mind as I wrote a paper last week on the Biblical theological foundations of worship. There had to be a core thought that threaded through scripture. FOr while the form may change a little from Adam’s sons times, through Abraham and Moses, through the Kingdom and into the New Testament, the core doesn’t change.
It cannot change.
That core is our struggle with sin, and more importantly, the ability to know God’s heart, and instead of fearing wrath, responding in confession, and the desire to be forgiven and healed.
A theologian would talk of this as the primacy of the Doctrine of Justification. I think, pastorally, we should talk of it as our core. Not core doctrine – but core as the place where our strength health comes from, the place that if it is swell exercised and strengthened, the rest of our spiritual nature will follow. If it is breaking down, if it is ignored, then the rest of our spiritual formation will crumble, and we will struggle, and even let our faith be minimalized and maybe disappear.
If however, we remember God’s heart, His determination and His unwillingness to give up on His people, that trust grows. If we understand the strength and power of His love, the love that raised Jesus from the dead, then we begin to trust Him, and trust Him with our brokenness.
There are exercises in the gym to strengthen our physical core. Crunches, working on certain machines, doing certain stretches. Spiritually there are exercises as well, all of them based on interacting with the love and mercy of God. Bible Study can be, as can prayer. But those things can often be focused on something other and our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. The sacraments are great core practices, as they cause us to encounter this heart of God.
Specifically, I want to address Confession and Absolution. For there we encounter God’s command to those serving you, and the power in hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven”
You need to hear that. I do as well. We need to desire to hear that as well, so that when we do sin, we run to God, knowing how He won’t give up on us, and how He is there to heal and forgive, even to strength against temptation.
This is our core, this relationship where broken sinners can trust God enough to let Him deal with their brokenness.
So come, confess your sins. Hear you are forgiven, and strengthen your ability to depend on the God who loves you…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 976-977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
When I saw this, I fell face downward on the ground. Then I heard a voice 2 saying, “Mortal man, stand up. I want to talk to you.” 2 While the voice was speaking, God’s spirit entered me and raised me to my feet, and I heard the voice continue, 3 “Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were. 4 They are stubborn and do not respect me, so I am sending you to tell them what I, the Sovereign LORD, am saying to them. 5 Whether those rebels listen to you or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them. Ezekiel 1:28-2:5 GNT
274 “Father,” said that big fellow, a good student at the Central* (I wonder what has become of him), “I was thinking of what you told me—that I’m a son of God!—and I found myself walking along the street, head up, chin out, and a feeling of pride inside …a son of God!” With sure conscience I advised him to foster that “pride.”
As I read the details of Ezekiel’s call, I resonate with the idea of falling on my face. THough usually for me it is not because of seeing the glory of God. Too often, it is because I’ve screwed up, or something in life has tripped me up, and I landed hard, as if I did a belly flop/face plant.
I hear the voice of my dad, “get up, brush yourself off, and take your stand!”
Except there are times that is impossible, what knocked me down seems improbable to deal with, if not impossible. All those proverbs about getting up one more time just seem, well, ignorant.
In the prophets case, God even prepares them for the rejection, for the fact that he will do a faceplant.
But in that position, there is some hope. There is the Holy Spirit that enters us and raises us to our feet.
You see there are days when the only way to get up, is to have God raise us up. There are days where we have to realize it is God that raised us up, and placed us where He knows we need to be.
To depend on Him for lifting us up? That’s a challenge! To depend on Him to keep us up is a whole different challenge.
It is in those moments, realize that we aren’t the first to fall down and think we can’t get up (or we are just tired and don’t want to get up) becomes helpful. What is even more helpful is what the student realized. That we are the beloved sons and daughters of God. That He is looking out for us, that He is caring and providing for us, that He doesn’t tire of picking us off, healing our bruised hearts and souls, and being our paraclete, the comforter called alongside to help us carrying our burdens.
As we realize that we also realise this, and pray it for each other
18 I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20 which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.
Ephesians 1:18-20 (TEV)
This is our God, and here we stand, we can do not other.
And with apologies to Martin, the reason we can stand is not because of our conviction that we are right, but simply because of the love, mercy and grace of God. Because He has made us His kids, because with all of His power supporting us, we can stand.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 728-731). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our day:
15 I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. 16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
John 15:15-16 (MSG)
In an effort to embrace the intimacy between the Savior and the sinner, the difference between the holy and the sinful was lost, the distinction between the sacred and the mundane was greatly blurred. To affirm that the Lord Jesus has gone before us so that believers might “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16) doesn’t make the “throne” a cozy loveseat or a beanbag chair. The only reason Christians can enter “with boldness” into God’s presence is because they are invited and because Jesus, as the mediator of both the invitation and the distance, has gone before them. Access to the divine may be unfettered by the mediation of God’s Son, but it is still access to the sacred, the holy.
I am not sure which word, describing what our relationship with God looks like is more intimidating.
The challenge is that these words are often positioned as contrary to each other. As if intimacy cannot be holy, and holiness wants nothing to do with intimacy. (This may be vestiges of a mindset vexed by platonic, gnost and victorian thought – but that is a thesis paper, not a blog) If we can only get past the fear of these two words, and the panic that sets in when people (especially men) hear them, I think the church would benefit.
What is really ironic, is that these words aren’t in opposition, they have a similar meaning. For holiness means to be set apart, to be saved for some special purpose and not defiled by doing some other thing. Think f the chef who has different knives for different tasks, each honed a special way. Or the professional athlete, whose contract prohibits him from doing things, often stupid things, which would put his performance at risk.
Holy – set apart for a specific purpose. Intimacy is being involved deeply in that purpose, being involved with every part of us, body (which we often restrict intimacy to) mind, ssoul, and spirit. It is beyond being focused, or sold out on something, it is defining yourself within the relationship. It is not thinking of the relationship as part of who you are, but the relationship is who you are.
Castleman tries to negotiate this above – noting that while we are invited, the place we are invite too is holy, and that means something. But what i think he is leading to, he stops just short of – we are not just invited by Jesus, we enter that holy space with/in/united to Jesus. The holy and intimate relationship that we are defined by means we belong there. Remember Paul talks of us “sharing His glory,” (Romans 5:2,Col. 1:27, 2 Thes. 2:13) a profound thought that is both intimate and holy – in a way beyond our belief. Castleman does have the right idea in saying we need to embrace this intimacy, even as it reaches our very core, shaking our perception of who we are.
We are His…
Now live, knowing every step you take is on holy, intimate ground because the Spirit indwells in you. AMEN
Castleman, Robbie Fox. Story-Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History (p. 74). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11† my persecutions, and my sufferings. You know all that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the terrible persecutions I endured! But the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted; 13 and evil persons and impostors will keep on going from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14 But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. 2 TImothy 3:10-14 GNT
228 “Have a good time,” they said as usual. And the comment of a soul very close to God was, “What a limited wish!”
Looking at the words of St. Josemaria this morning, I was a little… I don’t know the words. I had to sit and think about it for a moment.
What’s wrong with wishing that someone have a good time, that they enjoy whatever it is they do? Isn’t that what we would hope they would want for us?
How can it be considered “limited?”
It takes a moment or too to think it through, to consider some of those times that are not “good” in the sense of enjoyable, in the sense of time where everything brings a smile to your face, a time that is “fun”
But some of the most blessed times are not enjoyable, that are not easy, that start in the midst of strife, or at the side of someone dealing with trauma or tragedy. Times where division and discord are dominant, time where I would prefer not to go. Times where the brokenness that is being experienced is crushing, and I walk away feeling drained and exhausted.
Times that end I end up looking back on in awe of what God accomplishes. In spite of the exhaustion, in spite of the pain, in spit of the suffering, these times are the times I have come to learn to treasure.
Because it is in those times, I see the grace of God revealed, and the healing that only God can create brings peace where there is no peace. I have learned to seek and expect miraculous things in those times. That helps, stay focused on God in the midst of the struggle, and to remain hopeful and pray for the grace to be confident in God’s faithfulness.
The Apostle Paul indicates that tough times happen to those who follow Christ. It’s going to happen, you can’t address brokenness without being affected by it. Paul puts it clearly, those who deceive are deceived themselves. Ministering to such people often is like wrestling an alligator! But the battle is not against the one deceived, but the spiritual powers that have them in bondage.
At the end of the day, which would you rather have done? Enjoyed a pleasurable time, or rejoiced in God’s work? Which will you remember 20 years from now?
Desire something more… even though it seems to have a cost… remembering God is with you!
Lord Jesus, help us desire to see You at work, more than we desire our own comfort. Help us to enter those situations were things are broken, looking for the miracles You are doing. In Jesus name… AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 629-631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
24 As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. 1 Tim 4:24-26 GNT
Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Sacred Host, recognize Him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.
Our educational work should have a purpose: to elicit a change in our students, to make them grow in wisdom, to help them undergo a transformation, to provide them with knowledge, with new feelings and, at the same time, achievable ideals. Many institutions promote the formation of wolves more than of brothers and sisters by educating their students to compete and succeed at the expense of others, with only a few weak ethical standards.
For most of my life, I have loved a good argument. I loved getting into it with someone, whether over politics, sports (an easy one NOW, since Boston teams have been great for a couple of decades), philosophy, even, I am embarrassed to say, religion.
I still occasionally still enjoy a good debate, and with a highly intellectual 12 year old in the house, I have a ready made opponent. Yet I would dread to see him observe me arguing about religion. For what I would be teaching him is that our belief is God is not as important as winning an argument.
Our relationship with God, our ability to trust in Him is too precious, to important to argue about. Correction needs to me more loving, more patient, and this is something every single one of us needs to grow in and mentor others, helping them develop an attitude like Jesus.
This is something we need to model, to teach, whether as pastors, elders teachers, parents, our purpose is to help those entrusted to our care to mature in faith. What Pope Francis noted about our educational system is true in our lives as well – we need to stop pushing competitiveness in a way that humiliates and demonizes the competition. It has invaded to many relationships, wrecked to many friendships and divided too many communities, and sad to say, to many churches.
I think the quote from Benedict XVI shows us where the hope of the answer is found. I have long thought the answer to division is not found in an office or conference room, but at the altar. To realize that the Body broken and the blood spilt for me was also broken and spilt for my nemesis, to realize my being drawn to the table to communion is matched by the same Holy Spirit drawing them there, puts ou relationship into a different form. It helps us recognize Jesus in them, or the work the Spirit is doing to draw them to Jesus, a work that is either advanced or hindered by my actions, words and attitudes.
This is one of the myriad of blessings found in the Lord’s Supper, and it is one of the reasons I run to it, or spend time contemplating the gift it is, especially when I am in conflict. To realize what God is doing, bringing us all to completion, bringing us all into the holy relationship with Him that He has created and set us apart for, is amazing. At my church, we still have an altar rail, where everyone kneels together, and receives this blessing together. The choir and praise team especially, but many others have begun to hold hands after they receive, another sigh of unity. This isn’t forced, and it started during a time when one member was struggling. It is a sign of this unity that transcends anything we could argue about.
We can still strive to do our best, we can still try to correct what we see is in error, we can still hold strong opinions, but when we see Christ in the other person, it calms our spirits, it helps us still do our best, but to do so in a way that glorifies God, and encourages them to trust Him.
Lord, help us not only be good examples of Your love and care, help us to encourage that in others, including those we struggle with…AMEN
Benedict XVI, “Homily for the Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 221.
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), 286.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God. Job 2:9-10 GNT
Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and most sacred function of every priest. As for me, from the very first years of my priesthood, the celebration of the Eucharist has been not only my most sacred duty, but above all my soul’s deepest need.
For a while our dear God looks on and lets us lie between a rock and a hard place, and from our experience we learn that the weak, suffering word is stronger than the devil and hell’s gates. The devil and his followers can storm the fortress all they want. They will find something there that will make them break into a sweat and still not win the day; it is a rock, as Christ calls it, that cannot be overcome. Thus, let us suffer what we will; we will experience that God will stand by us to guard and protect us against the enemy and all his followers.
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
As I finished reading my daily readings this morning, I pondered aloud if there was something up. I mean the reading in Luther in green and starting the book of Job (In my read through the Bible in a year) could be considered ominous.
As in… what’s coming that I have to be prepared for it by all this?
I mention this aloud, somewhat as a joke, and one of my co-workers said something to the extent of, “it worked out okay in the end, so as long as it works out alright…”
While I know that it all does indeed work out in the end, and that GOd has promised it all works out for good, it is hard in the midst of trauma to focus on the end result. Indeed, it is more than challenging, and while we talk about patience, persistence and prayer, we also must admit that there is a drain mentally, physically and spiritually to the repetitive trauma that life and ministry throw at us.
So how do we learn what Job advocated for, this idea that we should not complain, but welcome the suffering of life, simply, because like the blessings, it comes from God!
Even as I looked at what I just typed, it strikes me as wrong, as unjust, and to be honest, impossible. I might be able to teach this as a theory, but an honest reaction is that this is not how I think, normally.
The key word is normally.
What i need is what Luther wrote about at the end of that citation. That Christ is the rock that cannot be overcome. We can endure suffering and struggles, aware of God’s presence, that He stands by us and guards us, even in the valley of the shadow of death that David describes.
In the midst of the suffering I need to experience His love, and there it seems even more sweet, more rich, more real, more comforting. In the midst of the struggle, when I take a breath (Psalm 46) and slow down, I can realize He is my God, He is my fortress, Luther is absolutely correct, aware of God”s presence we can echo Job’s welcome – suffering simply then becomes a tool by where we realize even more the blessing of being God’s people,
Which is where the other two quotes come in, and the role of the sacraments. You see, as much as it is a privilege, and my sacred duty to distribute the body broken and blood shed for the people of God, I need to receive it, I need to realize the blessing that it is, the presence of God there in my hands, even as it is given away and shared. Francis is right, as we administer the sacraments our hands should tremble, as should the hands of those who receive it.
For there, at the altar, over the font, at the bedside, there is the inescapable presence of God, there specifically for the people I am ministering to, and there for me. It is at that point I can release all the stress, and the pain. I can find hope for reconciliation, I see God’s mercy helping me realize my sins are taken away. It is there peace overwhelms us, and we realize God has answered our prayers, and come to us.
So even before it all works out in the end, we find what we need, what makes the difference, even if on a Monday we begin a journey like Job’s.
God is with us.
He is our sanctuary, our place where even Satan’s hordes and suffering cannot separate us from God.
Lord, as we struggle in life, help us not look past you. Help us to realize we dwell in your presence, that Your Spirit is there to comfort us, and enable and empower us to endure, and minister to others, revealing to them Your healing and grace. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 145). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 159). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 207). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.