Category Archives: Martin Luther
Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Yes, Teacher,” he said, “tell me.”
41 “There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42Neither of them could pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.” Luke 7:40–43. GNT
Then he said to the disciples, “Where is your faith?” Luke 8:25 GNT
A “mystery” is a hidden secret that is not known; and the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” are the things in the kingdom of God, as for example Christ with all his grace, which he manifests to us. He who knows Christ aright understands what God’s kingdom is and what is in it. It is called a mystery because it is spiritual and secret, and it remains so where the spirit does not reveal it. For although there are many who see and hear it, yet they do not understand it. There are many who preach and hear Christ, how he offered himself for us; but all that is only upon their tongue and not in their heart; for they themselves do not believe it; they do not experience it.
The Truth was hunting for those who would receive it, and relatively few did, for “many are called, but few are chosen.”
When I first started listening to language with these discriminations, I realized how thoroughly culture-conditioned I was. Talk about being conformed to this world! My use of language in the community of faith was a mirror image of the culture: a lot of information, a lot of publicity, not much intimacy. My ministry was voiced almost entirely in the language of description and of persuasion—telling what was there, urging what could be. I was a great explainer. I was a pretty good exhorter. I was duplicating in the church what I had learned in my thoroughly secularized schools and sales-saturated society, but I wasn’t giving people much help in developing and using the language that was basic to both their humanity and their faith, the language of love and prayer.
I think we need to spend some time thinking through Luther’s idea that people (and some preachers) do not believe the gospel we preach (and preach clearly and well) because we have not experienced it The faith remains mysterious to them (ok, us) because we are so caught up in the details and questions, that we fail to simply be in this intimate relationship with the Lord who died for us.
Jesus’ interaction with the “used-to-be-harlot” and Simon the Pharisee demonstrate this all too well. Simon doesn’t understand the gratitude of this lady who knows the depth of her own sin, now forgiven. But she does, she has experienced Christ offering himself for her, even before the cross. She is being made whole, she realizing that her re-creation is God re-creating her in His image once again. At least she understands this in her psyche, and the gratitude–well that is an unprovoked response to His love, to His care, ot he intimate relationship she found herself in, so different from the physically intimate relationships she surrendered herself to. Simon doesn’t think he needs to be as forgiven, so he receives little forgiveness. And the disciples in the boat, haven’t experienced it either, for if they had, their faith would be automatic, and they would be at peace!
This is what Peterson is getting at with his use of language–he elarned it was time to stop talking about Jesus, but time to demonstrate and live talking to Jesus, and hearing Him. THat’s what this pastor’s people needed, it is what my people need as well.
Experience is what Tozer is getting at, as well. Jesus didn’t say I will teach the Truth, the Way and the Life. He said He was the Truth. The Truth that frees us, the Truth that changes our lives. the Truth that is our life, as we live in Him. That is the experience that causes our faith, our trust in and dependance on Him to grow. FOr faith is not a group of beliefs, faith is a relationship you know you can invest in, because you have experienced that the other Person has done just that. Jesus is the Truth that hunted us down, and we are thankful He did!
Heavenly Father, please send the Holy Spirit to cut through our hearts and minds, cutting away all that is not of You. Help us to rejoice, to celebrate, to be in awe of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives, and then guide our lives lived in awe and gratitude. We pray this in Jesus name! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 51–52.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 99.
Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. Matthew 6:33 (TEV)
When the prophets try to describe for me the attributes, the graces, the worthiness of the God who appeared to them and dealt with them, I feel that I can kneel down and follow their admonition: “He is thy Lord—worship thou Him!”
Here everything must be abandoned: friends, acquaintances, the whole city of Jerusalem, and everything belonging to these and to men; for all this neither gives, nor aids comfort, until the Lord is sought in the temple, since he is in that which is his Father’s. There he can truly be found and the heart is made to rejoice, otherwise it would have to remain without the least comfort.
Annie Dillard goes to church: “I know only enough of God to want to worship him, by any means ready to hand.… There is one church here, so I go to it.” It doesn’t matter that it is out of fashion, she goes anyway: “On a big Sunday there might be twenty of us there; often I am the only person under sixty, and feel as though I’m on an archaeological tour of Soviet Russia.”
It is unfashionable because it is ridiculous. How can searchers after God and seekers after beauty stomach the “dancing bear act” that is staged in Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, week after week? Dillard, cheerfully and matter-of-factly, goes anyway.
Most Christians know we are to seek first Jesus Christ and His righteous life.
But do we do it?
Peterson’s Annie gets it, I think.
SHe chooses to go to a church which isn’t particularly proper or professional. She goes to a small church where two or three are gathered in His name, and share in His gifts of word sacrament. Finding the God she barely knows, but knows enough to know she has to worship Him, that is her focus…
A million and one things to criticise, but she goes to find God, in the middle of His people.
She succeeds, for God will always be found where He says.
Arriving there, Tozer’s words make sense—it is too much to try to comprehend the God who draws us into His presence. There, realizing the very special incredibly intimate relationship He has created, we are drawn to our knees and our face flooding with tears of joy; we praise Him!
We don’t even think about abandoning everything – we just do. We abandon our sin, we abandon those things we think will make life perfect; we abandon our fears and anxieties and simply desire to join Annie, and worship God, who loves us.
Seek Him first and then be aware He is here… and allow that to change and guide your life. When you mess up – be assured, He will be there.
He loves you.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 35.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 88.
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to HIs cross.
They assembled before Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the LORD, and the LORD is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the LORD’s community?”
When Moses heard this, he threw himself on the ground and prayed. Then he said…… Numbers 16:3-5 NLT
Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him, and he will help you; he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6 NLT
For no one desires to be lifted if he is unaware that he has fallen, just as one who does not feel the pain of a wound does not seek to have it healed. Therefore, these people must first be shown that the things they love are vain, and then carefully (and over time) they should be made aware of the usefulness of the things they ignore.
We must be careful to follow neither the customs of the world nor our own reason or plausible theories. We must constantly subdue our disposition and control our will, not obeying the dictates of reason and desire.
Faith in God is possible now. What we are blind to is not the law of God, but the glory of God—calling into being that which is from that which is not.
Most of us like to think we are reasonable. Yet we can often see that which is unreasonable in others. Indeed, a loto f the counseling I do will hear the complaint that the other party is “unreasonable” or is too “emotional”
It is too bad that we cannot see the frailty of our own reason, and our need to be suspicious of it. Otherwise, we could prevent our own rebellion, whether we are rebelling against God, or against those whom God has allowed to be in place.
What we need to do is follow Moses example. Whether we are the one’s questioning someone else’s reason, or those whose logic is being questioned, we need to throw ourselves down, and pray and seek God’s wisdom. We desperately need to follow the psalmist’s advice, and give ourselves to the LORD who has saved us already.
This is the only hope for those who know their reason is faulty, that their logic has significant holes and gaps. The challenge is realizing it, for we are blind and deaf to such problems. This is nothing new – Gregory the Great points it out quite clearly, as well as reminds us it takes time to first realize we are broken, to stop defending it, and then to hunger for the healing found in the logic, the logos of Jesus.
It is only then, as we grow and humbly cope with our broken reason, that we can see that our problem wasn’t God’s logic, His definition of right and wrong. Rather, the biggest hole in our reason was not accounting for the glory of God!
For God creates something out of that which is nothing. He does this for one reason – He loves us. Broken, injured, flawed, yet being reconciled and healed and conformed to the image of Jesus.
Heavenly Father, with grace and patience, correct our flawed logic and reason, our emotions and feelings as well. Help us to welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in conforming us to the image of Jesus, cutting away that which is not like Him. We pray this in Jesus’ name.. AMEN!.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 194.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 25.
Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preacher,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 77.
I do this in order that they may be filled with courage and may be drawn together in love, and so have the full wealth of assurance which true understanding brings. In this way they will know God’s secret, which is Christ himself. 3 He is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 (TEV)
All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
When he was dead and buried, his followers did not get together in a little liberal clique and comfort themselves with the fact that they still had his teachings. It was over. Mostly his disciples seemed afraid that they might share his fate!
To remit a man’s past without transforming his present is to violate the moral sincerity of his own heart
The apostle reminds us that we are to conduct ourselves in a Christian manner toward our persecutors, who, to a great extent, are to blame for the distress of the saints. It is well to observe that we are not merely advised, but commanded, to love our enemies, to do them good and to speak well of them; such is the fruit of the Spirit.
The observation in blue is one we need to meditate on, this dramatic and unexpected change in the lives
From locked in a room, scared out of their wits, grieving the loss of their mentor, the One who gave them life, to praying in jails, to rejoicing in martyrdom.
The change is stunning, and some would call it evidence of the resurrection.
I think it is more than that, for the Lord Jesus had promised something when he went away, that He would send the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit. (John 14:16, 15:26)
It is the Holy Spirit that transforms us, for God could not simply forgive our sins. There had to be a reason for that, and that reason is fellowship with God. That transformation Luther discusses as well, for there is no reason to love our persecutors, to do good to them, and to speak well of them. The Holy Spirit draws us together in the love that the Trinity shares, that Jesus embodied, that the Holy Spirit pours into our life, as our transformation is accomplished.
This changes us from a liberal or conservative clique into the body of Christ, gathered around His altar, celebrating His love and His work. I am not trying to diminish the importance of the Resurrection, but the transformation in Christians is due to work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and preserves us.
This is why the change in the apostles and disciples is so radical, and why it is proof of something far more potent than a resurrection 2000 years ago.
This change testifies to and celebrates the presence of the Holy Spirit in His people, the church.
God is with you – right now, right here…
and He changes everything….
Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preacher,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 73.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 20.
34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34-35 (NLT2)
The holy Virgin was a real martyr for three days, and these days were harder for her than was the external pain of martyrdom to other saints. She had had such anxiety on her Son’s account that she could not have suffered any more bitter pain. For that is the greatest torture and woe, when the heart is attacked and tortured. That is only half-suffering when the body alone is afflicted, but when the heart is compelled to endure suffering, only great and noble spirits, with special grace and strength, are able to endure it. But why does God permit these afflictions to come upon his loved ones?
…..Thirdly, God does this that he may teach his saints to prepare themselves to find Christ and keep him. Mary and Joseph sought the child Jesus for three days without finding him either in Jerusalem or among their friends and acquaintances, until they came to the temple where he sat among the teachers and where the Scriptures and God’s Word are studied.
I never made the connection between the three days that Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, finding Him in the Temple, and the 3 days His body was in the tomb. That is, until I read Luther’s thoughts this morning. Knowing what she knew from prophecy would only make the anxiety more unbearable – “how could I have lost the Messiah?”–“could this wreck the plans God had to save Israel?” Her mind (and stomach) must have done more flips and somersaults than a Olympic gymnastics competition.
She must have thought that this was the answer to Simeon’s prophecy, this was the time that the sword pierces her soul.
For how could she know this One, the baby she held, the rabbi that was her Son would be tortured and killed? To wonder if He was alive, or to know He was dead. To wonder about all she had seen and heard, from her cousin’s son proclaiming that Jesus was the Lamb of God, to the miracles and the teachings. That was agonizing, and yet, as she would find Him in the Temple, she would find that death could not contain Him.
We, too, occasionally leave Jesus in the Temple, we occasionally leave Him at the altar. We head back home, only to realize we’ve lost our peace, and wonder where He is at. Realizing that, our life crashes down again, and only “finding Him” can lift us back up. The third reason Luter points to (i deleted the first two) is so that we know this can happen, we can find Him again, and keep Him. Or rather, find out He’s been keeping us the entire time. We can find Him where word and sacrament are offered, where His love and His mercy become tangible. We find Him and what we desperately need to live life in peace.
I don’t think Mary had as much anxiety the second time she found Jesus after “losing” Him. For the resurrection changed everything in her life, and the lives of those around her. As it changes our lives, yours and mine today.
I just need to ask…
have we lost Him in the midst our pilgrimage….and are we ready to find Him where He dwells with His people?
Heavenly Father, reveal our hearts, and in doing so let us never be content with leaving Jesus behind. Rather, make us hunger and thirst for your presence, and rejoice in Your satisfying our desire to dwell in Your presence. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 18–19.
34 *Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If anyone wants to come with me,” he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 35*For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! 37There is nothing they can give to regain their life. Mark 8:34-37 GNT
But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.
But a solved life is a reduced life.
There are days where I would love the idea of a solved life. To have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. (same thing for…things) The clean desk, the organized calendar, the perfect family. To have a government that isn’t petty, but actually does it work with the intent of providing peace and safety to all.
It sounds like a nice utopian village, and is utterly, completely impossible.
And as I think about it, I am glad it is.
For knowing that life will be chaotic is a blessing, for it strips away that part of me that wants to play God. There is no illusion in my life that life is under control, much less “solved”. I have to approach life much as Luther indicates, satisfied to know the basics of survival – and what must be done now, With that, I find more time to seek after Jesus, to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence. Or to see that presence revealed, for Jesus was there all the time.
This resonates with the gospel of Mark, where Mark is urging us to set aside everything–to lose it–in order to see Jesus save it. For we can’t save ourselves, or even manage our lives once they are saved.
Being not in charge means living in a way that seems out-of-control – even chaotic. But that is okay, when we realize the promise of the one who does understand, and shapes all that chaos into blessings beyond our expectation. Blessings that are full of peace and joy, for they are given by the Lord who is present. I might hate the chaos, but in Christ, we will thrive on it. That isn’t a paradox, it is a promise of God Almighty and All-knowing. Understanding this doesn’t make the chaos any less hectic or disturbing, but it can build a joyous expectation as we wait to see how God will make it all happen.
Heavenly Father, when life seems chaotic and out of control, remind us of Your care, and Your will for us! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 72.
“The LORD told Moses *to say to the community of Israel, ‘Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy’…. ‘Keep yourselves holy, because I am the LORD your God. Obey my laws, because I am the LORD and I make you holy.’” Leviticus 19:1-2, 20:7-8 GNT
And all who heard were completely amazed. “How well he does everything!” they exclaimed. “He even causes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak!” Mark 7:37 GNT
When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4 Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained,
as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Psalm 32:4 GNT
Therefore he first gives the law, by which man recognizes this sin and thirsts for grace; then he also gives the gospel and saves him.
None of us can approach a consideration of the eternal nature and Person of Jesus Christ without sensing and confessing our human inadequacy in the face of the divine revelation…..This is the only one who can assure us: “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me!”
It should be clear that the cure of souls is not a specialized form of ministry (analogous, for instance, to hospital chaplain or pastoral counselor) but is the essential pastoral work. It is not a narrowing of pastoral work to its devotional aspects, but it is a way of life that uses weekday tasks, encounters, and situations as the raw material for teaching prayer, developing faith, and preparing for a good death. Curing souls is a term that filters out what is introduced by a secularizing culture. It is also a term that identifies us with our ancestors and colleagues in ministry, lay and clerical, who are convinced that a life of prayer is the connective tissue between holy day proclamation and weekday discipleship.
I found one of those calculators that tell you how long you’ve been alive.
Over a half million hours. 30 million minutes, over 1,826,841,618 seconds – almost 2 billion seconds!
No wonder I feel old!
If I cannot even think through the enormity of those numbers, how in the world can I attempt to understand Jesus, who has been there. He knows me far better than I know myself – for I might remember a thousand or 2 of those hours– He knows every one of them.
What is overwhelming is that i remember as many of my failures and sins, maybe far more, than the good moments. Luther is right – the law causes me to recognize my sin, and thirst for this idea of grace! I hear the words from Leviticus–this call to holiness, and know I far too often fail spectacularly to meet that standard. I usually don’t even get to last part of verse 7, and the declaration that GOD MAKES US HOLY!
That is the point where a soul is cured. And it is revealed with more and detail every time we pray, every time we contemplate the scriptures.
It begins as Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus, who binds us to Himself in baptism, and brings us into the presence of the Father. And the ongoing work of revealing the cure our heart, soul and mind,
This is the work of the people of God, and those who shepherd them to Jesus.
It is why we pray, to revel in the relationship, to let God remove our burdens and empower us to live as Christ, giving hope to other sin the middle of their 1-3 billion seconds… to help them know they aren’t alone in this moment. This is what it means to be holy – to live in Christ, to love, to care for, to point people to the place where their souls find the cure they need. Even as the Holy Trinity provides the cure we need…
This is the work of the church…reviving the people Gpd called to be His own…seeing them cured.
This is the holiness God creates in us, as we are bound to Him.
Heavenly Father, help us see the cure provided as we are united to Jesus. Help us see that healing provided by the Holy Spirit, and help us look with joyous expectation to the moment we dwell with You forever! AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 9.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 68.
Thoughts which draw me to the cross
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had had the demons begged him, “Let me go with you!” But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.” Mark 5:18-19 GNT
1 I praise you, LORD, because you have saved me and kept my enemies from gloating over me. 2 I cried to you for help, O LORD my God, and you healed me; 3 you kept me from the grave. I was on my way to the depths below, but you restored my life. Psalm 30:1-3 (TEV)
Had not these shepherds believed the angel they would never have gone to Bethlehem, they would have done none of those things related of them in this gospel. One might say, I would gladly believe if an angel from heaven were to preach to me. But whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him.
The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation.
Luther points out something we know, at least we should know it. The shepherds, the first of the New Testament evangelists, went to share what they saw in a manger. This is what the angels shared with them, but their message was not about the angels, it was about the Messiah, who came to them.
Likewise, the man posessed by demons, commissioned to bring the gospel to his gentile community, is to talk about what God has done to him.
Hear the Psalmist as well, who understands that they’ve been saved at the gates of hell. Saved from those depths, and restored!
These are the seeds of a revival. These are souls that are being changed by God, souls that have been cured. There is little need ot but point them at their community, at their world and let them go bring the news about God’s ministry in their lives. (Luther goes on to say they shouldn’t remember the messenger – so overwhemed by the presence of God and His love.) This changes communities, it changes the world.
Revival doesn’t just target a demographic. It tells everyone, and they come, for they need God’s love and cure as well. This is so different from the Church Growth Strategies I’ve been taught over the last 40 years! Those strategies want the pastor and leadership to plan the ministry, to control the way the Holy Spirit focuses, bsaed on data and marketing strategies, leadership principles and, to be honest , investment strategies. (Investement of time and resources, not just money).
Revival means the pastor is, as Peterson notes – more focusd on helping people deal with sin and sorrow by planting seeds of grace, and encouraging people’s awareness of the Christ revealed to them in prayer, study, sermons and the sacraments. Done well, the people treasure these moments of being cured, and it is so amazing that they will share it with those they encounter. Their hunger is for Christ, and to see the Holy Spirit at work.
“Seek God first, and the rest shall be added to you” THis is true for the church, as well as for the individual.
Lord, please help us look to You, to cry out for Your minisry, for You to revive Your church. Help us to seek Your face, and then send us to tell others what You have done! Help us hear Your message, and to see You revealed to us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 456.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 65.
Thoughts which draw me to Jesus, and to His cross
Put this altar outside the curtain which hangs in front of the Covenant Box. That is the place where I will meet you. Exodus 30:6 GNT
Contemplation is that wisdom which makes man the friend of God, a thing which Aristotle thought to be impossible. For how, he said, can a man be God’s friend? Friendship implies equality. That is precisely the message of the Gospel:
But you may argue that the statement of Paul is too awful, when he says, whosoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, eats and drinks judgment unto himself, and is guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. Dear friend, you must not consider yourself so much from the standpoint of worthiness or unworthiness of your person as from that of your need, which makes the grace of Christ necessary. If you recognize and feel your need, you have the requisite worthiness and preparation.
It is not hard to see myself as a servant, a slave of God. And I resonate with Paul, as he refers to himself as a doulas – a fully owned slave. Not that I am a particularly good one, I am stubborn, and I don’t follow directions all that well. But God can use us, often despite our thoughts and actions.
That is amazing…
But Merton’s words this morning, I know they are based in scripture (John 15:15), they are still tough for me to work through. A “friend of God?”, even contemplating on that leaves me shaking my head for a while. My mind comes up with 1000 reasons Jesus wouldn’t befriend me. He has to love me, but “friends”? That seems too much, too overwhelming!
Yet that is what God wanted from the beginning, as He walked through the garden with Adam and Eve. That’s what the meetup with God was about at the Ark of the Covenant, and the wonder of the mercy-seat, where blood would cover the sins of Israel.
All done so we could know God is with us, as a friend. That is what Job sought as well,
I want someone to plead with God for me, as one pleads for a friend. Job 16:21 GNT
And as it would be seen at the Ark of the Covenant, it would really be seen at the cross. As Jesus would tell the Father to forgive us..
He pleaded for His friends would be forgiven, to be restored to Him.
It is not a bad thing we struggle with this idea, though. That is where Luther’s quote come into play. We need to know Jesus makes this friendship possible! Even as we realize our sins have damaged it, for the moment. We can’t assume we deserve it. We know better. But we can rejoice in His actions to make it real, to make it true.
But He does all this, so we can be friends.
Amazing! This is the greatest miracle in all of scripture.
But Merton was right, we need to contemplate; we need to think through and work through and struggle with this thought. But we need to – it is true.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 12.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 400–401.
I said, “I have sinned against you, LORD; be merciful to me and heal me.” Psalm 41:4 (TEV)
The error of universalism is that it simply cuts off the move to proclamation. As a result, the God who supposedly loves and elects everyone never gets around to saying it to anyone.
But what do those do who are filled with fear and do not desire to have him come, when they pray, “Thy kingdom come,” “Thy will be done”? Do they not stand in the presence of God and lie to their own hurt?
Every once in a while, i have someone try to convince me that it doesn’t matter which god you worship, or if you even worship a god. All you have to do is be good to people. And then life will be good, and everything will be all right.
I have a significant problem with that.
A god without definition cannot meet my needs. I can’t be assured this universal and therefore unknown God is listening.
That’s a problem. I need a God who listens,
I need a God who hears my cries, whether they are for mercy because my life is challenging, or because I am struggling with guilt and shame. My cries for mercy, for healing—I need to know these cries, these prayers are heard. I need to know God loves me enough to hear and respond.
And a generic god who is an amalgamation of all religious systems, that god cannot tell me he/she/it hears, nor can I have any confidence that they can hear me.
That’s the difference about God who reveals Himself throughout the Old and New Testaments. The God who reveals Himself as a baby in a manger, as the suffering servant on the cross. The God who talks to us, whether as Jesus talks to the apostles and people, or as the Holy Spirit talks to us, as He dwells in the new heart given us in our baptism (Ezekiel 36:25ff)
He’s here, He listens, He speaks, and He heals.
His message–throughout scripture–I will be your God, and you WILL BE my people.
So whether oppressed by sin, or struggling with health, life, finances, relationships, know He will hear you.. and answer.
Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preached God,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 34.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 431.