Category Archives: Devotions

We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…

God did it again! Grrrrrr! Can He frustrate me!

Devotional Thought of the day

23 Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.   Proverbs 4:23 GNT

Be open to the night…
Pray with open hand, not with clenched fist…
Shapes loom out of the darkness, uncertain and unclear: but the hooded stranger on horseback emerging from the mist need not be assumed to be the bearer of ill…
The night is large and full of wonders…

Lord Dunsany from Morning Prayer: 12/15 Northumbriacommunity.org

For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important beings to him; even if we are sinners we are the closest to his heart.

Again I find myself sitting in my office, upset at another injustice I see.

Something that seems dark and ominous, something that I’ve got to watch someone deal with, something that just isn’t right, or in my humble opinion, Godly.

I want to react, some might accuse me of wanting to overreact.  I want to step in and make things right, to bring light to the darkness, to bring healing where there was only division and repression…. and brokenness.

Even as I go to pray about it, I want to vent my anger to God and pray that He gets angry as well, angry enough to leave His throne and come done and do something about it.  As I tried to pray, I found my anger too strong, and I tried to ask God to bless all involved. and then I moved onto my readings for the day… 

You see some of these readings above…. and I my anger shifts a little, changes a little as I realize that God did it too me again.  He frustrated my anger, my agenda, my coming to Him with clench hands by pointing these readings right at my weakness, at my brokenness, at my lack of trusting, in Him. 

I need to guard these thoughts of mine, I need to be careful of how I think, of how I respond, of how I resent injustice. I need to realize that God could work through this dark time for my friend (actually friends – I am dealing with at least three such situations.. just one more appeared this mornign) and I need ot pray that God determines how this situation should go. 

And I need to realize the people involved in causing the injustice, they too are just mindless numbers, that they too are people that God cares about, even as they are broken sinners as much as I am. I need to pray for them, not just that their hearts are convicted, but that they know God would bless them, and work in their lives.

Of course, I don’t appreciate God pointing this out, arranging these readings in such a strong and powerful way.  It’s more than a little frustrating, not to mention I feel like he’s spying on me and playing with me a little.

Then again, I am incredibly grateful that He loves me that much, that He calls me on my anger when giving into it and when I forget His goal of revealing His mercy and love.  I am grateful He makes me wrestle with Him, and He allows me to see the Holy Spirit at work.  I am grateful He shares with us His love…and mercy…and enables us to (eventually) reach out in real prayer for those who antagonize and hurt us.

This is God…who knows and cares about us.

and I am thankful for His work in our lives.   AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Make Requests of God, with Joy! A sermon on Phil. 1:2-11

Making Requests with Joy!
Phillipians 1:2-11

I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ surround you with such peace, and such confidence, that it is a joy to place others into His hands, knowing His love for us all!

Making Requests…how?

So, we have this page that gets stuffed in the bulletin this week, one of the tasks that Dane does so faithfully. It was once the front half of a half page of paper, and then it grew, and we made the print smaller, and then we put it  both sides of the piece of paper, and we again had to make the print smaller,and then earlier this year, we went to a full page of paper, both sides, and on some days, we still have to make the print smaller.

You get to hear me say almost all of the names every week, and the list of players is almost as many words as this sermon. (999 to 1004 this week)  These are people who know one or two of us, or some are known to all.  They arepeople our hearts hurt for, that we worry about, some of us are on this list,and for good reasons.

We deal with life, and with grief, with cancer and other illness, with familyproblems, work problems, other problems we can’t even go into… and we workthrough the list together, giving the people into God’s hands.

Some of us, and Nancy is the obvious one who comes to mind, pray this listevery day, with many of the names coming up during the day….

It takes a while, and it may cause a tear or anxious moment or two, or fifty.

The challenge is to pray these, the way Paul does.  In our epistle reading today, he wrote to us,WheneverI pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy,” even as he notesthe partnership, the fellowship, the relationship he had with them, just likethe people we pray today, and I pray that we pray for every day, confident ofGod’s care for them, and therefore laying these requests out with joy

So how does this happen, how can I pray for you, making my requests for youwith all joy, and how can you do that for others?

Confident of God’s work – cause we can’t do it

Having that kind of faith in God, that leaving people we love, and thesituations they are in, in the hands of God takes great faith.  It requires confidence in God, the kind ofconfidence in God’s love that allows Paul to boldy say,

Iam certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his workuntil it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

That’s where our faith in God begins, knowing that what He began when the Holy Spirit worked through the word of God, which we’ve heard, and brought us to faith.  And what the Holy Spirit started with, will keep going through our life.

When we think about that, the first thing that comes to mind is that if we need to be worked on, (from the inside out) that means we must have been broken. 

That’s what sin does, more than anything. It breaks us, internally as we have to deal with guilt and shame, externally as sin harms the relationships we are in, including the relationshipwith God.

And God goes to work on us, a job that is more important to Him than sustainingthe universe, for it is for the relationship He wants with us that thisuniverse exists.

And so, we pray for people, confident in God’s work in their lives, some todraw them to faith, others to draw them deeper into a relationship with Him,causing us to rely on Him more, to trust Him more.  That’s what starts in our baptism, as we areunited to His death on the cross, the death that takes our sin onto Him, andallows us to be born again, to be raised with Him, and made His own.

If God loves people enough to do this for any and all then we can entrust theminto His total care, rejoicing because we know He loves us.

What that looks like

So what does it look like, when we pray for people?  What happens?

Well, Paul prayed that their love would overflow, that it would flood our communities and our lives.  And so, be a surprise when we pray, that we weep and laugh with those we are praying for. 

And we grow in knowledge and understanding of God and of His love, and what the sacrifice of Jesus means in our life.  For that is what really matters, that is what makes the biggest difference in our lives.

That difference leads to us living lives that are pure and blameless, words that have the picture of outshining the sun, of being glorious in their purity and unable to even cause another person to stumble, that our very lives draw people to God, not away from God.

That is what this work of God does in our lives, as we are made to reflect the image of Jesus into this broken world. This doesn’t happen in a second, but it takes our very lives to accomplish, but that is the promise that God makes to us.

We will be finished products, completely healed, completely made new…on the day when, Christ returns and completes the work began at the cross, when Hecompletes His labor of love.

And until that day, we can dwell in a peace that surpasses all explanation, apeace that even includes giving God everything that stresses us, and with greatjoy, entrusting everyone and everything that concerns us.

For we know Him, and His love for us. AMEN!

Let Nothing You Dismay: The Returning – A midweek advent message!

MidWeek Advent Service II  

Let Nothing You Dismay
The Returning

I.H.S.†

May the mercy of God of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so clearly revealed, that when you have strayed into disobedience and sin, you simply remember the promise and return, knowing He will cleanse you from all sin and unrighteousness.  AMEN!

The Trial

There are words that we hear God speak through Malachi this evening that are brutally scary.

“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?

That’s a hard question, will you be able to face God when he appears?  When he brings our the Law and compares your life against it?  Will you be ready?

Or will you be one of those who Jesus spoke of, when Matthew records,

21  “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
Matthew 7:21 (NLT2)

While my head knows I can count on God’s grace, my heart and soul struggle to hear those words.  And it gets scarier,

Malachai continues,

At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

I wonder if we have lost a healthy fear of God, a fear that drives us to Him, to ask for the mercy He has promised us?

Or do we just keep dwelling in our sin, in the guilt and shame that drives us into the ground?

You see, our fear of God shouldn’t drive us away from Him, but it should drive us toward him.  That is what God is talking about through Malachai when he says,

God doesn’t Change

“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them.

We have to understand that about God, that while he abhors the sin, He doesn’t hate us. He wants to be in a relationship with us, not destroyed for what we have done, and what we’ve not done.  A healthy fear of God realizes that He is patient and merciful, and has always intended to be.

That’s why he hasn’t wiped us out and destroyed us, pouring out His wrath upon us.

He has never wanted to, it is not what He desires, and so He is patient, waiting for us to remember the promise and return.

The Promise

Here is that promise,

Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Return to me, and I will return to you!   What a promise, what a God who promises not to leave us alone in the midst of our brokenness, but promises forgiveness, cleansing and healing!

The people of that day struggled, they ask how they could return when they never left.

We don’t have to do that, we know that He wants us to return, so we don’t have to play that game.  We see how much He wants us return, as we think about Jesus coming into the flesh, dwelling with us, teaching us about the love of God then demonstrating it on the cross.

Return to me He says, and so we do, as we move into our time of confession, knowing God will be faithful to forgive us…knowing that He will return to us.

The Forgotten People of the Exodus from Egypt

Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 The Israelites set out on foot from Rameses for Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 men, not counting women and children. 38 A large number of other people and many sheep, goats, and cattle also went with them.   Ex. 12:37-38 TEV

If a foreigner has settled among you and wants to celebrate Passover to honor the LORD, you must first circumcise all the males of his household. He is then to be treated like a native-born Israelite and may join in the festival.  Ex 12:48 TEV

342         The salt of the earth. Our Lord said that his disciples—you and I also—are the salt of the earth: to render immune to infection, to prevent corruption, to season the world. But he also added: Quod si sal evanuerit…—if the salt itself becomes tasteless, it will be cast out and trampled underfoot by men. On seeing the many things happening which we lament, are you now beginning to find an explanation for what you could not explain before?

As I was reading the account of the Exodus again, I saw them, almost hiding in the background.  And I realized they have long been forgotten in the histories, they have long been forgotten in the stories of the Jewish people.

“A large number of other people,”  these people that were not Israel, yet left Egypt with them.  Not related to Abraham, Issac or Jacob, this large crowd went with them anyway. We don’t for sure know all the reasons for this, could it be they were impressed by the miracles of Moses, could it be that they were in fear of Pharoah, could it be they actually believed in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob?

And yet ten verses later, they are mentioned again, and the transformation that takes place when these foreigners become people of the covenant.  They become as one with the people of God as if they genetics did tie back to the Jewish Patriarchs.

I would think, that without thinking about it, that Moses and his kinsmen were salt in the midst of Egypt.  That they had such an impact on their neighbors, because of the simple faith in God, the “I AM”.   Their lives brought hope and healing to the people that couldn’t stay behind!  That helped them deal with the brokennes of Egypt!

So I would ask you, who would go with you if you were to move?  Who would want to stay close?  Who lives would you have wanted to touch in such a way that they would want to follow you?

It is something to think about, for you are salt and light, and your work in this world is to point to the amazing love of God and demonstrate that love to those around you…

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1589-1594). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do we care enough to ask?

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional thought fo the Day:
19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.    James 5:19-20 (TEV)

Anyway, I would gladly know how things are with your soul. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.

What a question for Martin Luther to ask his friend George!

Can you imagine me, or any pastor, or any friend asking that question of you?  What would be your response?  How would you respond?

Maybe I should ask you!

Or perhaps it is isn’t as questionable as “maybe”.  We need to ask this question of each other.  We need to care enough about people to ask them this, to genuinely care for their souls, for their spiritual needs.

And while I am not exclusively talking about pastors, elders and other church leaders, it starts with us.  We are the ones tasked with shepherding souls, with reconciling the broken.  This job belongs to the entire church, the caring for souls, whether they are members of our church, or atheists, whether they are our family and friends or our nemesis.

The words of James’ epistle strike this home. if someone wanders away, we bring them back, we cover a multitude of sins, and we save them from death. 

As hard as it sounds, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters, to lovingly help them bring their sins to Christ, to let Him remove and annul them.  Not just to look the other way, not to just say, “well, really, except for this or that, Joe was a good guy, good enough to get to heaven.”  That is easy, but really, it isn’t loving, it doesn’t call him back to God, it lets him wander through this life. It leaves him bound to self-righteousness, or to the guilt and shame he dwells in. 

The church, you and I, have the ability to be there, to assist the prodigal on the way home, to help them know what we should know so well, the words of God declaring we are forgiven.  We need to help them do as Martin Luther encouraged his fried George to do, to take a  “deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.”

Lord, help us not to hide our sin, help us encourage others to be drawn closer to You, to receive your promise of absolution, and to live lives free and forgiven.  Help us to be one people, united together in Your presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 3). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Learning to Listen to God. STEP 1

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.” 21  That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.” 22  Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? 23  Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? 24  Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both… .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” 25  Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. 26  The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
Luke 5:20-26 (MSG)

God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.

Doubts and hesitations justifiably trouble those who feel they are spoken to by God as Gideon was. “Why is it,” comedian Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?”
Gideon, however, pursued the conversation with the angel of the Lord—testing the situation to see if it was real. We can do the same—think about it, wait, ask God to help us know if the speaker was himself or our own self.

There’s a new show, where a man receives text messages from God detailing his role in other people’s life. Though he is the son of a pastor, he struggles to believe in God, so these messages, well, he struggles with the messages, and the idea of a benevolent, loving God. A few years back there was another show with a similar twist, called Joan of Arcadia, and in a like manner, the young lady struggled with the idea that God would talk specifically and directly to her.

Lili Tomlin has a point, we will struggle to believe we are sane (and other people will as well) if we believe that God is talking to us.

But we need to hear Him, we need to hear His voice, as He talks to us.  We need to begin to trust in Him and to have faith in Him, and you can’t do that unless you are listening, (and along with Gideon, asking to Go to help us discern whether it is truly God, or just our heart speaking)

Listening to God isn’t easy, and discerning that it is Him is challenging. He speaks to us through His word, and through His sacrament, but this is delivered through others voices, through others hands. through others lives. And He speaks to us in prayer, which is more than just a monologue of our laying our burdens down.

So how do we start, listening to God?

I would say it starts with hearing one of the most important things we can hear, what the man lowered through the roof heard.

My friend, I forgive your sins!

The Lord, who will judge all of Creation, forgave your sin.

You have to hear that and know that no-one, not even you, has the right to judge you as guilty of them. You have to hear those words, spoken with so much love, “I forgive your sins!”

Hearing God starts there.  It opens up for you a great big can of healing (as opposed to the great gig can of whoop-#*& your think you deserve), it opens up the door to where God dwells and draws you in from the darkness of sin, shame, and the need for self-justification or self-pity.  And in His presence, as you are welcomed into His glory, you get to hear the next message from God.

I am the Lord your God, and you, you are my people.

Start hearing these two messages, let them sink deeply in your soul, and your will begin to hear and clearly understand God.

Lord Jesus, as you did for the blind, open our eyes to see You, and as you did for the deaf, heal our hearing so we can hear Your words, spoken in love, that our sins are forgiven, and that we are in a relationship with You.  ANd then help us to list, as you talk to us, thorugh the words You’ve given us, through Your sacraments, and through the people You bring into our lives.  AMEN! 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

The Power Hidden in Pronouns and the Beginning of Advent

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2  May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 3  Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Philippians 1:2-3 (NLT2) (italics mine)

God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope …always.

The Christians adopted this term to proclaim their special relationship to Jesus Christ. For them, he is the King who entered this wretched province, our world, and gifted it with the feast of his visit. He it is whose presence in the liturgical assembly they profess. With this expression, they intended to say, in general, “God is here.” He has not abandoned this world. He has not left us behind alone. Even though we cannot see and touch him like so many things—he is present, nevertheless, and visits us in many ways

As I started to prepare for next weeks sermon last night, the two pronouns in the reading caught my attention, and wouldn’t let it go.

I’ve read that passage hundreds of times, if not a thousand times, preached on it a lot, and those pronouns never hit me like they did last night. Technically they are genitive pronouns, called that because they have a relationship with a noun, as opposed to having a relationship with a verb.  They act more like adjectives than subjects or objects in a sentence.  In English, we might call them possessive pronouns.

Here is what that means to those of us who aren’t language geeks.

Those pronouns exist to tie the object in the sentence to the person/people the pronoun represents.  In the first case, “us”, in the second case, “Paul”.

And that makes all the difference in the world.  This God of whom Paul speaks is OUR GOD, OUR FATHER  this God he prays to is HIS GOD (or we can say when we pray MY GOD).  There is a relationship there, a connection that defines this God of whom we speak.  There is a personal close relationship that is so close we are defined by it, as is He.

This is a perfect thought to contemplate during Advent, especially as we begin this journey, contemplating what these pronouns mean.  That God, the creator and sustainer of the universe is our Father.  That we can go to Him in prayer, knowing that He not only will listen but that He desires too, offering comfort and peace in the times in our life that are the hardest.

This is the meaning of course, of Advent, the looking back and looking forward to Christ coming into our lives to reveal God’s love for us.  Looking forward as well, to the incredible time when we prodigals return home, for Christ has come for us.

Because of Jesus entering into our drama, we aren’t alone, we are in a relationship with God who never grows tired, who will not abandon us, whom we can and should talk to, who nourishes our famished souls.

In the past week, I have seen too much trauma, I have seen people experience too much brokenness. too much grief.  Perhaps more than any time in my ministry. It is in a time like this that the reality of Advent is such a treasured part of my life. I have to know God is here, I have to hear His voice comfort me, (through the scriptures and through those whom He has sent to encourage )

This is what Advent means, that until Christ’s return, we can dwell in His peace, something unexplainable, something unimaginable, yet something that is so real.

Lord, help us to realize your presence, as You surround us in your peace!  AMEN!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 381). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

We Can’t Avoid it (or each other) Any Longer…

MV5BMTE0NTI1MDAyNDZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg5ODg5OTgx._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1386,1000_AL_Devotional Thought of the Day:

10 But Moses said, “No, LORD, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”
11 The LORD said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the LORD. 12 Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”
13 But Moses answered, “No, Lord, please send someone else.”  Ex 4:10–13  TEV

22 “You don’t know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 “You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them.”  Mt 20:22–23  TEV

We cannot proclaim Christ’s promises to ourselves; we cannot store them away safely on a computer disk or in a safety deposit box for later reference. We need the word to come from outside of us so that it may reign over us. Someone must wash us, someone must feed us, someone must speak an inescapable and unconditional word of absolution, and in doing so these someones become Christ for us. The worldly spirituality of Luther with its emphasis on vocation and service to the neighbor is also a thoroughly churchly spirituality. We are called to venture forth on our individual paths of discipleship as members of a redeemed people, the very body of Christ.

There is no way for the Christian to avoid the brokenness in life.

We may try to hide it.  We may try to justify it in our hearts and minds, yet our soul will still feel the brokenness.

We may try to run from it, and to be honest, this week, there have been times I wish I could have.

We encounter brokenness in each day, in each relationship, and even if we could isolate ourselves from the world, lock ourselves up in some monastery, we would still be crushed by our own brokenness.

So too often we from this aspect of brokenness to that one.  From this shattered place to that, never having found the rest we need, never dreaming that there could be a way to see all of life healed, never seeing life restored.

Moses ran from where he encountered the greatest point of brokennes in his life. Everything he was. up to that point, disappeared in a moment of rage. And so he ran, rather than face his brokenness.  God sends him back, not to deal with his own, but to help others deal with theirs. To deliver them from slavery, not the physical kind primarily, but the spiritual kind.

Moses goes back to help people realize that God isn’t distant, but that He is here.  That God loves them, that He wants a relationship with them where He can love and care for them. (That is why Christ came as well!)  And Moses, broken, afraid, more than willing to let someone else bear the burden, Moses would let someone else address the sin and shame.

God wouldn’t let him, but God also didn’t let him wander back alone.  He never does.

We are meant to see people healed and find hope in the community.  For even as Moses ministers to Pharoah and Israel, Aaron will minister to Moses, serving him as his mouthpiece, being his right hand, and Aaron does what Moses cannot do for himself.  They were Christ for each other, as we need to be.

That can get pretty messy, as we, sent by Christ in his stead ( and yet paradoxically with Him) encounter their brokenness.  As we share the grace they need, speaking absolution, binding their wounds, helping them have hope.  Them helping us by serving us as Christ would. This interchange can get extraordinarily painful, as we sacrifice our own comfort, our own illusion of peace in order to encounter the brokenness.  And even then, God provides real peace – that passes our understanding, meeting us in the midst of soul-wrenching pain that brokenness causes.

It takes confidence in God to reveal your own brokenness, to confess is and let yourself It takes confidence to go, and embrace those who are broken, to reach out and give them the proof of God’s healing them, the hope of the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears.  When brokenness and the spiritual death it threatens is swallowed up in the greatest of victories.

This is what we hold onto, this hope of the new day coming. The day the church holds onto each other until, as we minister to each other, and remind each other of the love of Christ.

Lord, help us neither hide our brokenness or run from it, or the brokenness of those around us.  But let us begin to minister to each other, to be Your hands, Your feet, Your mouthpieces, even as You minister to us through others. AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. 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. xxx). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Christian Maturity is not Self-Sufficient

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.  Matt 19:20-22  TEV

5  That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6  I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)

One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.

he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.

We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.

We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized.  How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.

The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith.  he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well.  The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.

They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.

Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him!  Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.

Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above.  Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God.  It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.

This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated.  Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.

It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.

Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.

It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.

The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.

Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us.  AMEN!

 

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. 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. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Church Needs to Stop Betraying Sinners… now!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13 When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. 14 In just the same way yourq Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost.  Matthew 18:12-14

312         You should not want to make the world into a cloister, because this would be a disorder. But don’t convert the Church into some earthly faction either, because that would be tantamount to treason.

One of the great challenges facing the church today is sin, not its existence, but how we are to deal with it, and the damage it causes.

St Josemaria points out the two different dangers in our response to sin.

The first is when the church tries to isolate itself from the world, for instance, when we create all our own options so our people don’t have to mix with the world.  Our own schools, our own fraternal clubs, our own coffee shops, and even stores and social media.  When we try to create a community that isolates our people from the world, creating a victual cloister.   You see this as well in the attitude that the church is here to minister to its own, and those like them.

The second seems like the opposite, when the church, trying to “reach” people and bring them into the church, allow sin to convert them. We then bring into question what God really meant by sin, and was it only in that context, or since God will forgive all sin, why do we bother with telling people to stop, and just focus on healing the symptoms, trying to teach them to live a symptom free life, without getting at the cause itself, sin.

These two approaches aren’t really that different.  They both shy away from dealing with sin.  They try to avoid the appearance of sin, not by avoiding it or finding ways to absolve it, but rather just bury it, or hide from it, or try to justify it, because if it isn’t sin, we don’t have to confront it.

And in both cases, we betray the sinner, by denying them the grace they need, by blocking them from the healing and the restoration they need.

Dealing with sin and the brokenness it causes is brutal. Whether it is our own sin, the sin we have committed; or the sin people commit against us, or the sin we witness and are entrusted to help bring reconciliation to God to those who commit the sin.

And we have too often, afraid of being contaminated, or being labeled as accessories, as Jesus was mocked and berated for hanging out with sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes of his day.

It is time for the church to start going out after the sinners, to bring them to the place where they can find healing, and hope, and be restored.  It won’t be easy, we will have ot deal with both anger, and even being sickened by the sin and the damage it has caused.

The church must commit to helping people heal from this brokenness.  We can’t leave people out in the darkness anymore.  We have to do this cautiously as Jude warns, and aware of our own inability to deal with sin, depending on the mercy of Jesus.  That is the key to dealing with sin, to be so aware of Jesus presence, of His intimate role in our lives, in the place He dwells in our heart, soul, and mind.

This is our vocation, the true role of the church in this world, to go after the one, the broken.   Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, strengthen our relationship with You, through Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws us close to you.  Give us the courage to honestly address sin, our own, and the sin of the world, turning to You to be healed, to be absolved, to be made complete.  We ask this in Jesus name, depending on Your love, revealed to us at the cross.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1484-1486). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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