Category Archives: Pope Francis

Don’t Say it!!! (but what do we say then?)

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NRSV)

How does God console?
Certainly not with pious platitudes like, “after all the tribulation it’s not as bad as it seems.” On the contrary, he allows us to see the suffering that has befallen us in all its horrors, but silently and calmly he shows us heaven.

I’ve seen it too many times, and even more, have I heard it.

SOmeone walks up to someone who is suffering and gives them some words that are supposed to be comforting, but are not. They think they are giving them Biblical advice, but they aren’t.

Sayings like, “God wouldn’t give you anything you can’t handle.”

What these words, these platitudes do is demean and minimalize the pain the person is trying to endure. They come across as uncaring as if the grief and pain you are dealing with are not that overwhelming, as if you can brush it off, pick yourself up, and act as if nothing happened.

But something did, and the pain is…enhanced by the “well-wishers” and people that think they are really helping.

But they don’t know what to say…and so they open their mouths, and stuff comes out…

All of us have done it, and most of us have the scars from hearing it.

So what should we say, when we don’t know what to say?

The first lesson is that you don’t have ot say anything. Be there, cry with them (see Romans 12:15) Your presence, empathy and compassion will be heard louder than even the nest words of comfort.

If you have to say things, reminders of God’s presence matter most, something like Psalm 139, or Psalm 23. Give them permission to cry out and grieve (check out Jeremiah 20 for instance)

Pray with them, that God would help them find a revitalizing rest and peace, for that He has promised.

To say it in another way, be there, but let the Holy Spirit comfort them

Be there… be quiet, help them know God is there…

Help them realize, carefully, that we are in the presence of God, and that is our ultimate hope and peace.

That is our role, and it is what we need to…

Lord, bless us as we encounter pain and suffering, help us to be wise and compassionate, investing time in being there for others.  Help us to allow the Holy Spirit to bring the healing, as we step out of the way. Thatnk You Father, for ensuring that we aren’t alone as we minister as your hands. In Jesus name. we pray, AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 40). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Holiness isn’t an option, so what is its well kept secret!

Devotional Thought of the Day.

The LORD told Moses 2† to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
4† “Do not abandon me and worship idols; do not make gods of metal and worship them. I am the LORD your God
! Lev 20:1-2 GNT

7 Keep yourselves holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Obey my laws, because I am the LORD and I make you holy.” Lev. 20:7-8 GNT

1   Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. 2  Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. 3  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 32:1-4 (TEV)

It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people
who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him,
“Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds
and wash it away with your blood.”
And I always see that God does just this: He welcomes, consoles cleanses and loves.

Throughout scripture, we hear this theme over and over again. Be perfect, be holy, be mature, imitate me as I imitate Christ,

If you know church history, you know that there have been several seasons where this was the focus of the church. It drove the earliest monastics, it found roots in the immigration from Europe to America, we see it in the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street revival also comes from a holiness movement that resulted as well in the formation of the Nazarene churches. and before that the Wesleyans. The Catholic and Lutheran Churches as well had their moments of pietism, often forced, guilt-driven pietism. Even the moral majority was a passing thought to see the image of holiness cast on our nation.

But all these movements, as movements, eventually lost their momentum. You can only drive holiness into your people so long before they will abandon it, the guilt and shame too hard to handle. Or again, harassed by an unreachable goal, they opt for the image of holiness, (the appearance of Godliness – see 2 Tim. 3:5) often creating a pharisaical system which focuses on some minute behaviors while ignoring others.

But the failure to maintain the appearance of Godliness, the failure to be truly holy is not an admission that we can’t be holy, that we can’t imitate Christ Jesus. Indeed, if anything, these failures should help us realize we go about being holy in a way that is the cause of our unholiness.

Our holiness isn’t about us. It isn’t about our effort, our determination, our will being broken and tempered correctly through this practice, or that book, or following these spiritual exercises. Ultimately, these things can be beneficial, if they help us understand the secret of holiness.

The secret is found in the first two readings….

Don’t abandon God…. and I am the Lord your God, I make you holy! 

There it is, the secret to holiness.

Let God do it!

Just relax and focus on walking with God. Revel in His presence, rejoice in His promise, as often repeated throughout scripture, of forgiving, cleansing, us of all sin, making our lives right, restoring our lives which were broken. Reconciling, redeeming, declaring us innocent, and righteousness. Removing the burdens of guilt and shame, all these things He does makes us Holy.. That is why God begs us not to abandon Him, not for His sake, but for ours.

As God does all this, what is left, is simply….. holy. It has been sanctified.

And if you look at the early works of the great revivalists, this freedom, this joy of being freed from the burden of our sin, would result in people restoring that which was stolen, reconciling with those they sinned against, and finding the sins and temptations of the world as what they really are, unsatisfactory, destroyers of peace.

Know my dear friend, that you are forgiven. Stay in the presence, or stay aware of the presence of God in your midst. Just rejocine in the work He has promised to do, and is doing in your life.

You will be holy, for this is what God does. AMEN!


Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 20). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

God is Not like a Cell phone charger..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19  Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20  May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21  May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.
2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (NLT2) 

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT2

You can fool others about the relationship you have with God. A pious posture, a liturgy held with angelic face, the breviary opened and handy when someone enters the room are masks which have stuck so well to certain persons whom they really believed to be respectable and pious.

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.

We too often treat God as if he the cable we plug into our cell phones at night. We go to church on Sunday, and maybe Wednesday night, and plug in to get “recharged”.  Not a bad illustration in a way, because that is what God’s word and the sacraments do, they revive us, and they help us to remember God’s presence.

They help us to remember that God is showing us mercy, that when we pray, God forgives, restores, heals us of our brokenness. That is why our time at church should be such a great moment in our lives, and a blessing we know we can’t go without.

The problem is that we take this “recharging” and then it is as if we “unplug” from God, and walk out the door. We act and live as if God lives at church, and stays there, waiting for us to return next week.  During that week, having returned to our brokenness, we find ourselves drained of power, unable to overcome the sin which easily ensnares us, and our piety and holiness become an act, a facade which is easily seen through…

and does fool God for a moment. 

No matter what we believe, whether we believe in God or not, He is here.

Full of mercy and truth, ready to hear our prayer and forgive, ready to restore and heal what is broken, and comfort us in the process. 

God isn’t our recharging station, God is more like our battery, and the charging station doesn’t restore the charge in the battery, it simply restores our ability to realize He is there, and He is our life.  

And as He reveals our brokenness, as we stop playing games and trying to hide it, a wonderful thing happens.  We realize He is with us, dwelling with us, dwellin in our midst.  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.


Escaping the ghost of Monday’s past

Jesus asks, “can i cleanse your past? can i redeem it for you”

Devotional Thought of the day!

15  Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16  redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17  Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (ASV)

365         You became very thoughtful when you heard me say: I want the blood of my Mother the Church to run in my veins; not Alexander’s, or Charlemagne’s, nor that of the Seven Sages of Greece.

When human time is no longer tuned to God’s time, it becomes repetitive, boring, unbearable, infinitely long or too short and, what is worse, deadly “times.”
Economic deadlines, for instance, do not consider hunger or the lack of schools for children or the unhappy situation of the elderly. Technology produces a kind of time so instantaneous and full of images that it does not let the hearts and minds of young people mature. Political time often seems circular like a carousel where the free-ring ride is always taken by the same people.

As I read the words of Pope Francis this morning (the words in green) the phrase “redeeming the time” came to my mind.  

Too often we lose time, worrying about things like our personal economic situations, or by those in the world.  By political maneuverings, by wasting time on technological pursuits.  

Our time isn’t tuned to God’s time, and I don’t think that Pope Francis is exaggerating when he talks of such time becoming deadly.  Such time lost is dead, whether it is stolen by anxiety, or wasted in pursuit of some escape. 

It’s gone, we can’t get it back, and even if we did, would we make the most of it this time? 

Most modern translations don’t talk about “redeeming the time”, they talk about making the most of it. But looking at the word in greek, it is definitely redeeming, of buying it back, to pay the ransom to see it returned. 

That may seem impossible, we can’t go back in time, we can’t purchase the time machine.  It seems more logical, what the modern translations advising us to make the most of the time we have in front of us.  

Except that isn’t what it says.  It talks of redeeming the time, not just the present, or preparing to do so for the future, but redeeming the past.  And in context with the light of Christ, His glory shining upon us, revealing all. 

And in that glorious light of Christ’s love, we can find our pasts redeemed, the sin and unrighteousness that cause our brokenness touched and healed.  We begin to see that even there, in the past, God is able to use that past for good, because that is what He does. Redeeming the time isn’t about our making the nest of the future, it is about letting Christ has our past, our present our future.

FOr He is the God of Abraham, and Issac and Jacob, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end.  And as we allow Him to redeem the time in our lives, free of what haunts us, we find an amazing thing. 

He is with us, now….

I added in the comment by St Josemaria, this idea of the blood of the church running through our veins, rather than the blood of leaders, or the wise.  But rather the blood of the church, Christ’s blood, poured out to redeem everything, to create everything anew. That is where we begin to realize this, in those moments of sweet communion, when God simply reminds us that Jesus died…for us.

So redeemed the time… let God have it, and watch what he does with it.

Even last Monday.

God’s peace flow over you my friend…know He is with you, and has promised you great things!


question for you to consider (and even answer)
What is the challenge of letting God bring healing to your past?

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.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1677-1679). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

Being “Not Ashamed” of the gospel, is harder than we think

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.   1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”   Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?

Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.


For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.

This is what we do, or what we try to do.

Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think.  It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist.  It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!

And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.

To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.

6  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)

There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him.  All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear.  Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it. 

Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness. 

That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin. 

And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that. 

Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God.  We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)

It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence.  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. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion.  The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us. 

Are You Ready for God to Invade Your life?

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept thinking about the whole matter.   Gen 37:11 TEV

True evangelization presupposes a desire in the Church to come out of itself and go to the peripheries, not only geographically but also to areas where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, ignorance, and indifference to religion has its permanent dwelling.
We have no right to keep caressing our soul, to stay locked up in our own little, tiny bubble.

we see persons who regard personal communion and communication with God as life-changing episodes and as daily bread. Untold thousands of humble Christians who will never preach a sermon or have their name appear in print can testify to the same kinds of encounters with God as are manifested by the great ones in the Way.
Reflect: How do you respond to God invading human personality as a daily occurrence? How might you want God to invade your personality in greater ways?

As I was reading Genesis this morning, the sentence above struck me.  It reminded me of the times Luke records Mary pondering these things in her heart, and of the Psalms urging us to meditate on God’s word, to consider what He has done for His people.

So Israel considered all that God was showing Joseph, and he tried to think it through, tried to understand these encounters with God, for he recognized that was what his beloved was enduring.

The quote from Dallas Willard in green notes the same kind of encounter. Some radical, something life-changing, something where God invades not just our lives but invades our personality.  Where communion runs deeper than our minds can express, where our hearts and souls are overwhelmed by His mercy and love.  It is what we so desperately need, this invasion of God.

When God invades, there is nothing that He doesn’t affect, there is nothing left untouched. Oh how we need to learn to desire this more, how we need to grow comfortable with His presence!

This is what truly empowers evangelism, It brings us to the place where we are drawn to the brokenness, where sin and all its accompanying problems overwhelm people, we need to be there, as God invades the brokenness.

For while we need to meditate on His love, on His presence, this meditation gives us the ability to be there when the darkness seems to dominate, to be there when the presence of God is needed.

I think, even for those of us who ponder his love, who sit in awe and wonder at the things God is doing, if there isn’t a temptation to stay there, and not join God’s invasion.  The gates of Hell cannot withstand His invasion, His actions to rescue people from their brokennes, from their sin.

So spend time, thinking about how He has sustained His people in the past… and then… be ready, to dwell with Him now means we go places to invade the brokenness with Him.

Lord, help us to be so comforted by You, so confident in your cleansing, so aware of Your presence that You reveal to us, that we become those who reveal Your glorious healing light to those trapped in darkness… 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 Missing Piece in Missional Thinking: D_____ !

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?”   Matt 11:2-3  TEV

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you.  Ps. 9:9-10 TEV

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn  THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)

Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.

I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.

And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.

And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.

The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.

Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.  ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?

His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs.  It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus.   It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us.   But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….

Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all.  Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.

Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything.  The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma.  The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.

So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.

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.

 

A Lesson We Need to Learn. Church is not “Respectable”

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The devotional thought of the day:

12 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13† Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”  Matt 9:12-13 Good News Translation (TEV)

Neither illumination nor contemplation but rather spiritual attack (tentatio) concluded Luther’s engagement with scripture. For him, when the Holy Spirit breaks our reason and reveals to us the true intention of God’s word, we are not drawn into some sort of heavenly realm or closer contact to the divine by our effort. Instead, all hell breaks loose. The flesh, the world, the devil and any other anti-spiritual power attempt to wrest from the believer the comfort of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. No wonder the psalmist cried out for deliverance from his enemies in Psalm 119!

One of the most serious temptations that lead us to break our contact with the Lord is the feeling of defeat. Facing a combative faith by definition, the enemy under the disguise of an angel of light will sow the seeds of pessimism. No one can take up any fight if, from the outset, one does not fully trust in winning. Those who begin without trust have already lost half the battle.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.
Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship.

When 3 of my devotional readings go in a certain direction, it is not unusual.  When four do, when I see how they resonate,  the lesson just is about to burst forth, not from the readings, but through experience. So it is today;

I guess I will start with Luther’s thoughts, about this idea that the way we learn about God, is found in its last step in a fight, in the tension and battle that comes as all hell breaks loose, and Satan tries to wrest from us the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the comfort that is found in His cHesed, that incredible combination of love and mercy and peace that comprise what we call grace.

The fight is echoed in the words of Pope Francis, as we deal with an unnatural pessimism, a moment of despair and depression that is not like normal depression but is contrary to it.  As Satan tries to convince us that God wouldn’t care about us, that God sees us as riff-raff, as not worth His time or interest.  We know this is not true, yet, it is so hard to shut out the voice of the ones who are masquerading as messengers of God.

It is hard because we struggle to see ourselves as God does, as the beautiful, pure, bride, set apart as the bride of Christ, as one who deserves the respect and admiration of God.  Instead, we see ourselves as those who are broken, not worthy of a glance, nothing close to deserving respect.

Yet we often treat the church as if it is the place we have to demonstrate how respectable we are.  We might pretend, dressing us, smiling and saying we are okay when people ask, smiling and greeting each other as if every day was a party.  When what we really feel like is staying home, hiding under the blankets and ignoring the world.

I think this is enhanced by how we see what some call the heroes of faith, the incredible men and women we see described in the Bible. Except we forget that Moses was running from Egypt, a prince hiding out with sheep in the wilderness.  That Abraham was an exile looking for his home and future as well, that David wasn’t the hero, but the man broken by his sin, and then by the sins of his children.

As shattered as we are, yet…

Willard reminds us that they are examples of a normal human life and that God was present, and lived with them.   That God walked with them in their brokenness, even as He walks with us.   They are not exceptional, their walking with God, finding hope there, is our example, for we can as well.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to snob around with the perfect and respectful.  He came to draw outcasts, broken folk, exiles and those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.  Because He loves us…..

And Satan will unleash all of hell to stop us from experiencing this, and in that tension, we find God’s comfort, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, and our hope.

We are His people, He is our God… and He is calling us to His side, so He can comfort and heal us, the children He loves.

Let us pray,  Heavenly Father, in the midst of trials, in the midst of brokenness, and when it seems all hell is breaking loose.  Help us to see Your glory, revealed in Your love and your comfort.  AMEN!

Wengert, T. J. (2007). Preface. 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. xiv). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 352). 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.

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