Category Archives: Poeima
7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:7-8 GNT
Trial and temptation are the initial means of spiritual formation. Through them the Christian is stripped time and time again of presumption and the delusions of righteousness. One is thrust into a kind of existential free fall with nothing to break the descent into darkness, nothing to hold onto but Jesus the Christ.
309 Far away on the horizon heaven seems to meet the earth. Do not forget that where heaven and earth really meet is in your heart of a child of God.
Yesterday, I posted on FaceBook the following thought
“Struggling with the idea that Maranatha shouldn’t be just a prayer of despair, but one of expectation.”
Let me be honest, the last week or so, as I’ve have witnessed so much trauma, that I would be very grateful for the Second Coming of Christ. And in a desperate way, I want to plead for it, for the release from the tribulation and tears that seem to be occurring wherever I turn.
And yet part of me regrets wanting the Second Coming for such a personal excuse, for such a homecoming, for such peace. I know I should know this peace, and there are times where I know it, especially as I hand to my brothers and sisters the Body of Christ, as my elders and deacon encourage them to take and drink the Precious Blood poured out to activate the New Covenant, a relationship where we are free from sin.
As I look out on this broken world, this shattered community, as I see the sin ravaged relationships, my instinct to run and hide from the pain.
And gently confronting my angst this morning, I came across the readings above, and sit in wonder, as I realize God’s providence.
In the reading from Luther’s Spirituality, I see the blessing of such tribulation, as it strips from me everything but Christ. Out of need I cry out to Him and find He’s already there. He’s not on the distant horizon, not somewhere out there in time. But He is here, He is wonderfully sustaining me! He is wonderfully here!
And then, like Joseph, I realize the pain’s purpose, the salvation of all of those around, the chance we all have because even in this midst of the trauma, I see God at work. Oddly enough through some of the most broken, those in the deepest pain, those with no other option but Christ.
What an amazing paradox, what a wondrous mystery. What an unbelievable peace that is found now, in the presence of the Lord who will wipe away every tear one day, yet now cries with us, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us,
And as I think this through, I realize the peace, the incredible peace of being claimed and cleansed in baptism, of the feast where God celebrates our being united to Him. And though the trauma remains… so can we.
If you too are dealing with, or surrounded by those who are dealing with trauma, pain, whether from nature or because of sin, consider this prayer for you as well.
Lord, there are so many in need of Your peace, as they feel pressures crushing them, or feel for those who are being crushed, Lord reveal yourself to them, may they know the presence of the Holy Spirit, that in the midst of everything, builds within them the undeniable peace that is unable to be explained, but comes from knowing they are loved by you, Jesus, and the by the Father and Holy Spirit, as You reign and care for us, forever and ever, 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. xxvii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1471-1472). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
the devotional thought of the Day:
12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:12 (TEV)
1 To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else. 4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-4 (Phillips NT)
The circumstances of various regions being duly considered, students are to be brought to a fuller understanding of the churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Apostolic Roman See, so that they may be able to contribute to the work of re-establishing unity among all Christians according to the prescriptions of this holy synod.
Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions, so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions, in God’s providence, possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Even back to my childhood, I remember people telling me who the enemies of God are, and therefore who the Church’s and my enemies are. And often, far too often, we would rise up to figure out how to start a new Crusade to crush this new enemy.
Some of the enemies were external to the church. Atheists and Agnostics who were so burnt by the church that they felt they had to “save” people from it. Other religions that were out to convert us (before we converted them!) Some of our enemies were internal to Christianity, (ex the Catholics pointing to Luther, the Baptists pointing to the Catholics, the Pentecostals pointing to the less emotional Presbyterians and Methodists. And some of these enemies were even in our congregations, like those who went to war over worship styles, or those that supported t this change, or those that just wanted them to remain the way they always were.
But we treat our enemies as if we were on a holy crusade against the heretics and infidels of our times. The church too often focuses on witch-hunts rather than ministering to those who are in need. Especially the ministry of reconciliaiton, and the ministry of deliverance,salvation. Deliverance from sin, deliverance from idols, (see Ezekiel 36:25) deliverance from the broknness that plagues our lives and relationships. THat should be our focus, to the believer and unbeliever, to our brothers and sisters in Chirst, and towards our enemies and adversaries, who, we pray, will become our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As Paul says, we don’t battle against them, but aginst those that hold them in bondage! Vatican II and Luther note that they have some ideas of God, What they know isn’t enough, because while they understand that God must be just, that there has to be “karma”, a payment your have earned for the sin you have committed, they have no idea that God could be, that God desires to be merciful.
That is our message, that is why we need to understand their religions, not to defeat them in battle, but to realize what they do teach about God, however they have veiled Him, and reveal Him fullu, so that they can depend on Him fully. We need to tell them the good news about God’s mercy and love, so that the Holy Spirit will fulfill the promise of working through the word, to illuminate their hearts.
We can’t have that kind of focus if we remain in ignorance, nor can we see this as our mission, what we’ve been sent to do, if we think of the people as our enemies and adversaries. This is why scripture commands us to love our enemies, because, in the final analysis, they are not our enemies.
Get to know them, share wth them the reason that we broken sinners have found hope…. and look to God, who loves you so much, and has an eternity planned for you that is beyond comprehension.
The Lord is with you!
Question of the day: If we know God is with us, why would we fear those with different beliefs?
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8 Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9 With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10 Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11 Keep us alive with three square meals. 12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)
551 Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.
Recently, my son wanted to help me. He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.
In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer. I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”
Pray, simply pray.
It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern. Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition. For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them. I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.
That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God.
Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there. To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.
For experiencing love is never simply routine…
I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message. I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean. (the words that are like family) How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.
We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.
This is God, right now, right here! He is with you! (me too!)
Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You! Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.
Dwell in His merciful peace.. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments. 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing •fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors.
23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy, 2 Chronicles 30:18-23 HCSB
462 The power of charity! If you live that blessed brotherly spirit, your mutual weakness will also be a support to keep you upright in the fulfillment of duty—just as in a house of cards, one card supports the other.
I have read this Bible passage before. and yet it struck me this time as a critical part of the love that is shared between God and His people. What amazing lesson about God and His people!
Despite the sin of the people, and despite them following the proper methods and rites for being cleansed of those sins, the prayer of Hezekiah was heard, and those who were supposed to be shut out were welcome to the feast. (even the foreigners and aliens among them if you keep reading down to verse 25)
The people prayed for weren’t pure, they weren’t holy, they shouldn’t have been included according to a strict reading of the Law of Moses. Hezekiah should have just told them – forget about it, take a year, study more, ensure you know the right way to appear before God, then we will welcome you back.
He didn’t. He prayed, acknowledging the sin, and asking that God would provide the atonement, the satisfaction, the healing that would allow these people to enter into the celebration of God and His people, and the life that is ours as we dwell in God’s presence.
And as James would right centuries later,
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT2)
God heard the prayer, healed His people, and the party began. A party that was supposed to last a week, and lasted two. A party that resulted in people giving away their riches, of the congregation having more money than the people could give, and of those who were previously unclean going home, and removing from their lives of all of their idols. (see Chapter 31)
Not by command, they just knew this was how they could live, assured they were God’s people. This is the power of charity, the power of love. You see it in the prayer of Hezekiah (would all church leaders have this heart!) who prays on behalf of these people. You see this charity in God, whose love Hezekiah knew so well that the Spirit could lead him to pray on behalf of those who were sinners and unclean. You see this love in the people, bound together in celebrating the love of God, and in their charity/love in their destroying their idols
This needs to happen in the church today, for this is how the church is revived, how it is renewed, how it returns to its First love!
Let us pray †
heavenly Father, cause the hearts of your leaders to be so filled with your love, that they think of those who are cut off, who the world says aren’t clean enough. Lord, help us, for their sake, pray that they would know that Jesus has fully atoned for them, that they are welcome to this feast of those who love You, who would walk with you, depending on your love. Move our hearts Lord, and may all those around us come to dwell in Your peace, in Your Presence. AMEN!
NOTE: If you have been made ot feel like an outsider by the people of God, please forgive us,
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1128-1130). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts were following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?” 17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.” Mark 2:15-17
580 Humbly ask God to increase your faith. Then, with new lights, you’ll see clearly the difference between the world’s paths and your way as an apostle. (1)
They were the those who were sent away, either to an island for toys that didn’t meet the standard, or out of the camp of Israel because they had sinned, or perhaps, their sin was just more obvious than the rest.
They didn’t fit in, and to be honest, I count myself as one of their number, and sometimes, I even wonder if I am a mis-fit in their circles. I have days like that, even a year or two where I feel that way.
Which is why it is hard at times to realize I do fit in at my church.
If I, their pastor, can feel this way, how many others do as well?
How many of us who gather on a Sunday morning know intuitively or because someone told us, that we aren’t like the others. Maybe it is a psychological challenge, or one of intellect. Maybe it is what appears to be a physical deformity or disease. Maybe it is the weakness of character, or some other distinguishing factor that the world would use to separate us from the norm.
But the church is Jesus’s territory, not the worlds! It is not so different from the Island of Misfit toys, the place where the outcasts would be gathered, and form a tightly-knit community. One gathered around Jesus, because He shows us we do fit, we are fine and safe.
The incarnation was not for the people in perfect places, with perfect clothes, with sinless perfect lives. The incarnation was among the misfits, the outcasts, those who others sent away, as if they were broken, or undesirable. Such make up the One, Holy, catholic (universal/complete) and Apostolic Church, and indeed, of those who were judged mis-fit, some become some of our greatest heroes of the faith, those we call saints (even though all who walk with Jesus are!)
For the world’s paths can’t be tread by them, and as they learn to depend on God, as their faith increases, as they talk and pray with God, He sends them out to bring the healing they are experiencing to the world. They reach out to the other outcasts, and even to those who have pretended they are not!
This is church, real church, with real people who have real problems, and are sustained by a real God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1386-1387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first! NAB-RE Rev. 2:2-4
414 How pathetic: a “man of God” who has fallen away! But how much more pathetic: a “man of God” who is lukewarm and worldly!
A lot of conversations I’ve been in recently have been about the church in decline.
One talked about how we need to start lots of new churches because old churches can’t grow.
With another friend we talked about how three churches, healthy two decades ago, may share in the services of one pastor, rather than simply have someone come in every Sunday to preach.
A third conversation was about one of the largest of mega-churches, and how it, and its worship, are but a shadow of what they once were.
We look at the extremes of the church, and it is no less grievous. One side wants to embrace society’s ills, setting aside the scripture that tells us to shine the light in the darkness. They do such by just agreeing to live there. The other extreme also avoids shining light in the darkness, by shining light where there is the brightness of day. Like in the passage from the Revelation, they do all the good things, they detest the false teaching, they suffer abuse and endure.
What you don’t often hear anymore, is how in love the church is with God!
How head over heals we are, how much we are in awe and wonder, and how we adore God. How amazed we are to find ourselves counted as His loved ones.
The result of loving our love for God? Lukewarmness, busyness, being focused more on what is going on around us, than being aware of His glorious presence in our life. A church that focuses itself on outreach, or on maintaining a level of purity.
We need to remember this – we need to rekindle that love! But how does that happen?
We need to spend time, resting in God’s presence, meditating on His love, hearing His voice which calls out to us. We need to hear of His love for us, His desire for us to be in His presence. As we meditate on such things our love for Him grows, depending on Him, having faith in Him becomes easier, as does sharing that love with others.
Pastor – you want you church to come alive, for people to grow in faith (and in a pure faith?) Then fall in love with God, rejoice in His love for you.
The rest will fall in place.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for the weekend:
16 He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. 17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ 18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’ 23 The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. 24 For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ” Luke 14:16-24 NABRE
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)
I’ve got to work! I’ve got responsibilities! I’ve got family obligations! (Though what obligation a newlywed has to his wife… or wait – nevermind!)
Following Christ doesn’t have a simple agenda. It can’t be planned out a month in advance. There are times it means that after a hard day’s work, you spend the night helping a neighbor, or helping (with love) to that obstinate, pain in the ass relative.
There will be long days, days where plans are changed, days where things are moved around. Days where our devotions may not happen when we want. There might even be a day when we have to miss church, not to go to a ball game, but to help a hurting person.
The temptation is just to skip it that day, to pick up tomorrow what we should have done today, and just push it all back a day. Been there, done that. One year – my read through the Bible – which should have gone November 1 to October 31st, well – I gave up mid-February as I was already a month behind! Guilt and shame set in, because I wasn’t giving God the proper response He deserved. I wasn’t a good disciple, and I wondered if I was so weak, why would people follow me as a pastor?
But I didn’t understand discipleship – and I didn’t really understand the purpose of devotional time, and that misunderstanding gave me the ability to set it aside, to declare it inconvenient. An inconvenience somehow excused the necessity, because the ministry was more important than devotions, or work projects were, or family and family…uhm… obligations.
I realized sometime in that year that I missed the reading, and the liturgy I entered into every morning. I realized I didn’t “do” devotions to prove that I was devoted to God! (Sometimes we do it to prove to Him, and sometimes just to prove it to ourselves.) I can’t prove my devotion, and too be honest, as long as was my motivation, I would falter and fail.
Devotional time is not about proving our devotion as if providing us improved us. I need my devotional time – because it proves His devotion to me. I need to know that, I need to know the love that won’t let me go, I need to be convinced that I can run to His arms, depending on a mercy that promises to forgive my sin, and cleanse me from the sin of a world that could crush me.
This is my time with my Father, to hear of His love, His mercy, His desire to rescue me from the brokenness of my life.
And so, if life made me miss, I get back and make it up, savoring the little steps I take with Him, as He points out a little more of the height, the depth. The width and breadth of His love for me, and for my people, and for the community of humanity.
I need this time, which comes all together as I write a blog, or a sermon, or just worship and pray. I desperately need it, so much so I can’t count it inconvenient to miss, I consider it theft, and do what I can to get what God would give me back….
You too need a time like this, not just to read, not just to pray, but to realize the blessing of God; that is in your life. No, that is your life.
Start simple – and as you begin to be in awe – add a little more….. and become hungry to know more and more of this Lord of life.
For this is His mercy… the mercy we sinners cry out for…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 O God, you are my God— it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
3 I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.
4 For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you! Ps 63:2–4 NAB-RE
Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I am known. Power of my soul, enter into it, and fit it for Thee, that Thou mayest have and hold it without spot or wrinkle. This is my hope, therefore do I speak; and in this hope do I rejoice, when I rejoice healthfully. Other things of this life are the less to be sorrowed for, the more they are sorrowed for; and the more to be sorrowed for, the less men sorrow for them.
About twenty years ago, there became a movement known as being “seeker-sensitive.” The problem is that they were looking for the wrong seekers.
The seekers were the people in the pews already, the members and regular folk who came to church, seeking God. To learn that they could pray like David did in the Psalm above, or like Augustine in the quote in blue.
The seeker-sensitive movement, later re-defined as the “attractional model” didn’t change the course of the Church. Nor did the counter reaction to it, which focused on purity of teaching and practice before doing anything else.
In the meantime, the people who could have been seeking the presence of God, who could have learned that God would answer their desire, their yearning for His presence, were given academic studies, and told to save the world. And the Church suffered, having lost her First Love, the one She was betrothed to marry at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
What would happen if we realized God was waiting for us, yearning for our company, desiring our love, wanting to enter our souls, making them fit for Him, and holding them in that condition?
What if we realized that in sanctuaries, we could find the stillness that would allow us to know that He is our loving God, our refuge, our impenetrable fortress? That there we would see the glory of His love for us, pouring out in the words fo scripture, and through the waters of baptism, and in the celebration that His body was broken, and blood poured out for us?
My dear brothers in ministry, my dear fellow believers walking with Jesus. Seek Him out! Know that the Lord is with you! Yes! Revealed in Word and Sacrament, there incarnationally, and truly present with you, even when the sanctuary is your body. For you are the temple of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a broken world that the Spirit would bring hope and healing too.
If what you desire is to see the Church stop its death spiral, seek Christ. Dwell in Him. Rejoice in His love and mercy.
Years later, you will look back in awe.. amazed at what He has done.
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
devotional thought of the day
8 And when he comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God’s judgment. 9 They are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in me; John 16:8-9 (TEV)
Prayer does not fall into a void; neither is it just a kind of psychotherapy that helps us to assemble our spiritual forces and bring them once more into balance; nor is it merely a kind of pious fiction to exercise our souls and calm them. Prayer is directed to reality. It is both heard and heeded. God, then, is someone who has the power, the ability, the will, and the patience to listen to us men. He is so great that he can be present even for those who are small.
If I bring you to this point, I have also brought you to confession. Those who really want to be good Christians, free from their sins, and happy in their conscience, already have the true hunger and thirst. They snatch at the bread just like a hunted hart, burning with heat and thirst,
33 as Ps. 42:2 says, “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” That is, as a hart trembles with eagerness for a fresh spring, so I yearn and tremble for God’s Word, absolution, the sacrament, etc.
34 In this way, you see, confession would be rightly taught, and such a desire and love for it would be aroused that people would come running after us to get it, more than we would like.
I am curious about who you thought “they” would be, when you read the title of this blog.
Maybe you were hoping I would lay into those rejoicing over the jailing of the court clerk in Kentucky. Maybe you were hoping I would chastise those who complained about her being arrested, sure that she is the bravest person under persecution in the world today.
What if both groups of people are those that are wrong about sin? What if, when they are describing sin, when they are pointing out sin in others are proving Jesus correct. They don’t understand sin because they don’t get that it isn’t about breaking this rule or that rule.
It is because they don’t trust in God, they don’t know Him. They don’t understand about sin because they don’t have the relationship where they depend upon Him.
Take away hat intimate relationship with God away from someone’s understanding, and sin can only be defined as breaking all the rules. But that can’t be what defines sin, because to do so would result in condemnation, and there would be no hope.
For hope, for relief and comfort comes within a relationship. Forgiveness, mercy, love are all words that exist withing the nature of a relationship.
And sin is ultimately, denying that relationship is the ultimate sin.
You see that clearly in the quote from Pope Benedict XVI where he talks about prayer, about what it is and what it isn’t. It is that greatness of God that He can relate to us, not in a condescending manner, but He comes to us. He listens to us, not as a king listens without empathy or interest to his serfs, (or a CEO to one of his p/t employees) but as a friend, as a Father, as one who loves us. He listens, He cares, He knows us.
Which brings us to the quote from Martin Luther, about confession and absolution. Sometimes we treat a sin, or a tendency to sin as if it is the worst thing that can happen. In the Kentucky case, she is either the greatest sinner since Hitler, or those that deny her the office she was elected to.are the equivalent of those who crucified Jesus. In either case, I will not say there is no sin, my instinct is that both groups of observers need to be called to repentance, and to reconciliation. As do the actual people involved in the case
In fact, if there is a need to be reconciled to another person, you can be pretty sure that there is a need to be drawn closer to God. Not for Him to punish, but for Him to heal. For God to be so manifested in their life that His call on their life is understood, not just a law to obey, but as the loving guidance of a parent, We need to realize His law is not punitive, bt based in wisdom. Wisdom beyond us.
That is why reconciliation, why confession and absolution are so critical. We desperately need to hear that our sin is not going to wreck our relationship with God, that He will still hear and answer our prayers, that He will comfort us as anxiety threatens, That is what absolution does. It reconciles us to Him; it assures us of His presence. It helps us to trust, to wait in His presence.
That’s why Luther says if we understand what Absolution gifts us with, we won’t hesitate to confess our sins. We wouldn’t hide in denial of them, we wouldn’t play the game of “their” sins are worse than ours. We would rejoice in the word of God, rejoice in our forgiveness, and we would plead with others to be reconciled, rather than condemn others without the intent of showing them the love of God.
May we spend our days rejoicing in God’s answers to our plea – “Lord have mercy on us sinners!”. Amen.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 286). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 460–461). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene* was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”
42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too. (Lk 18:35–43 NLT)
914 How pitiful are those crowds—high and low and middle-class—without an ideal! They give the impression that they do not know they have souls: they are a flock, a drove, a herd. Jesus, only with the help of your merciful love will we turn the flock into a legion, the drove into an army, and from the herd of swine draw, purified, those who no longer wish to be unclean. (1)
27 The need which ought to be the concern of both ourselves and others is quite amply indicated in the Lord’s Prayer. Therefore it may serve to remind us and impress upon us not to become negligent about praying. We all have needs enough, but the trouble is that we do not feel or see them. God therefore wishes you to lament and express your needs and wants, not because he is unaware of them, but in order that you may kindle your heart to stronger and greater desires and spread your cloak wide to receive many things.
As I hear the words of the gospel, as I picture the blind man there, I would hope to be him. I would hope my church would be like Him as well. I would hope that when we need healing, that nothing would stop us from calling out to God, that nothing would quiet us, that nothing would stand in our way, until was are sure He heard us, and we were confident of the answer. Such is Luther’s point about prayer. God wants to hear them, even if we are the flock that St Josemaria talks of, and we are simply praying that we would no longer be unclean.
I fear that the Church (not just my congregation – the Church as a whole) is often like the crowd that surrounded the poor blind beggar. Rather than hear their cries and carry them to Jesus, we tell them to shut up, to be quiet, to not cause trouble with their cries for help.
Maybe it is because they seem like poor broken beggars, and we forget it is for such Jesus came. (and that we are no better)
Maybe it is because we don’t recognize their cries as cries for help, or that the help they need is something that God can help with? In those cases, we try to drown them out, rather than hear them out, till we see the brokenness and can offer them help and hope.
Maybe it is because we are afraid that if we are called to help them, to bring them to Jesus to be healed, that will somehow require us to reveal our own brokenness, the things we are still struggling to see completely healed.
Maybe it is because we forgot our call is to be pastors, shepherds, ministers, servants, priests. Instead, we may have thought we are executives, entrepreneurs, ranchers, consultants and motivators
We have to stop silencing their cries. We have to have the compassion of those who would point them to Jesus, and point Jesus to them. We have to want them to know the healing we are experiencing.
Even if their brokenness is a threat to our own lives.
We need Jesus to kindle our hearts, to reveal His merciful love through us, to see all of those who are blind to it healed. We need for them to catch the kind of fire Luther so eloquently talks of, as he shares about the Lord’s Prayer. They need to spread their cloaks out wide, to receive the presents that come with His presence. We need to help them..which means we too need to spread our cloaks wide, to call out to Jesus to heal us.
Such is our vocation, not to quiet them from crying out to Him, but to encourage, lift their pleas even louder, to help them know the God, who hears… and heals.
Lord Have Mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 424). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. The Large Catechism