Category Archives: they way
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT
The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in
First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.
This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.
Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.
And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.
There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.
Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?
It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.
You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.
Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.
That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.
The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.
It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.
Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.
That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.
Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:22-28 (NLT2)
The more fragile and vulnerable the persons are, the more we have to recognize their worth. Their dignity has to be aided, loved, defended and promoted. This is not negotiable
You see the videos start to come out this time of year, the football games where, i the last minutes, a young man is substituted in, and runs the entire field for a touchdown, cheered on by the players of BOTH teams.
Usually, the young man is affected by Down’s Syndrome, or perhaps is autistic. He usually just hangs out with the team, and wins their friendship by their determination to do whatever they can do. And so the “reward” for being part of the team is the run for the touchdown, The chance to be the star of the game and the center of attention for an accomplishment that only someone “normal” could make.
Yet oddly enough, it is that play that the teammates will remember all their lives, it is that moment that will impact them more than the trophies, more than the victories, it is that moment that defines them.
While it appears to be all about the young man who will score, it is about more than that. While it appears to be something to boost one person’s self-esteem, it is far more than that.
It is about our collective soul, about the fact that we aren’t just a group of individuals, but that we are, one people.
And as such, we cannot deny the dignity of an individual without comprising the entire body of humanity, without the entire community of mankind.
And yet we do this, as trash-talking has moved off the court, and off the field, into our daily lives. We see it constantly as criticism, so widespread in our culture, is so rarely constructive, but meant to belittle, to tear down, even destroy those we see as so different from ourselves.
Yet, all we are doing is destroying ourselves. When we fail to see the dignity in the baby in the womb, or the elderly person who only can devote their time to prayer. When we can’t see the work of God in the creation of our adversaries, when we try to eliminate the people in our lives who are a pain in our ass, what we are doing is crushing ourselves. We don’t know how weak and vulnerable they are, though we all know we need to find God as our refuge….as our safe place.
The answer to this, in my opinion, is understanding the nature of our baptism. For there, Paul tells, the Romans and Colossians, we are joined with Christ’s death, and raised with Him. We are united to Him, and we are promised that hear the Spirit replaces our heart with Christ’s, and our minds are renewed to be like Him.
But if this happens to one of us, it happens, they become part of the whole Body of Christ. And the great cloud of witnesses cheers us on, as we run the race set before us, which Christ has already won for us all.
So, before you open your mouth, before your fingers type that next message on social media, this about the blessing of your baptism, and the blessings the other person has received or hopefully will receive soon, and instead of tearing them down, hand them the ball… and run beside them in the race!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 329). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 HCSB
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.
The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.
Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.
What an incredible blessing! To be involved in such a work! What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken. Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness. It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.
I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord. It rings so true.
For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal. Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.
THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB
and which he tasked us to do as well…
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NLT2)
This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.
James’ last words are ones we need to hear!
Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16 but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (TEV)
182 What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and mortify yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society.
There should be, within each of us, the self-awareness that is seen in St. Paul’s words above. The realization that each of us is the worst of those who sin.
We struggle with the guilt and shame that comes from reflecting on our day, and realizing the people we may have hurt, either intentionally, or whom we neglected. The time where we should have helped, and like the priest and Levite on the road, passed by those who are broken and wounded. The times where we wanted what we want, and worked to make it happen, not counting into the equation, their need, their pain, and the fact that God put us there to minister to them.
But if I am, if we are the worst of sinners, barely saved, are we too broken for God to use? St. Josemaria describes it as being a miserable creature, who knows grace, who sees the world passing that offer of love by, unable to see it.
Could God use us, the admittedly broken? Those who sin haunt us, even as we struggle to trust that because of Jesus, we are righteous in the Father’s eyes? Could God use you and me? I mean, it is incredible that He saves us, yet how can we make a dent in the evil and injustice that has people so entangled that they can’t see God? Can God use us to change all that?
Indeed, He can, and does! He has always planned to share with us His incredible work of renewing all of creation. Ephesians 2:10 tells us of this, even verse 8 and 9 assured us of His delivering us from sin. Romans 12:1-8 describes it as well, as we consider the mercy He shows us and then urges us to lay our lives before Him, doing what He has gifted us to do.
It is a miracle, as great of one as God’s delivering us from sin. And it happens to all who depend on Him, all who trust to go where He places them. All who are willing to be humble, and to communicate with God, hearing His voice.
Here is your God, let Him work through you!
And then be amazed, as they find God in their daily lives.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek. T Acts 16:1-3, HCSB
13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” Esther 4:13-14 HCSB
524 “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.
I have a confession to give. I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating. It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!
( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)
The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work” Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding. Don’t those characters know how serious work is? Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!
Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.
First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul. Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive? Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment! ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)
Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love. The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people? How do you whistle or sing during that?
Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured. And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.
Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria. “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!” Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church. Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering. You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God. That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.
And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God. The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison. SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.
So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time. And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,
Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19 Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20 Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17 so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)
18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.
531 “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!
The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”
It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason. It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.
And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex. For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.
Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.
So it is one we need to have. Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.
We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.
but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them. To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.
We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use. I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us. They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.
This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.
This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others. Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.
This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 (TEV)
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NLT2)
15 See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, Hebrews 12:15 (NAB)
63 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
442 Never think badly of anyone, not even if the words or conduct of the person in question give you good grounds for doing so.
There will always be people we struggle with, people whose actions and words we don’t understand, and often, those words and actions seem to attach or denigrate or embarrass us.
Sometimes the original intent is harmless, like the joke that struck to close to home.
It is hard not to react. Some would say impossible.
They’ve given reason to think badly about them, to gossip about them, to strike back with words that would hurt them, and perhaps those around them.
Scripture pleads with you, as does Luther and a Catholic saint, don’t say, it, don’t think it. Don’t let your words add to the catastrophe that is occurring. Don’t let the bitterness rise up within you, and spread out like poison. DOn’t get involved in backbiting or slander. Don’t try to justify it, don’t try to
Your words will simply cause more damage, they will tear more people up, as the Psalmist says, these words are weapons, they do an incredible amount of damage, even to the point of killing.
So someone’s words hurt, they stung, they damaged you. How do you respond?
Prayer is the place to start, asking God to remind you of and reveal His grace to you. The grace that will remind you of your forgiveness and the promise to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Prayer is the place where you can ask God to give you the strength not to respond.
It is when we are secure in HIS peace that we can love past the pain, that we ae assured His cleansing of our lives includes the injustice, the unrighteous acts committed against us. It is there then, with Christ bearing all the sin in our lives, that we find hope, and the possibility of grace.
This isn’t easy, it takes the spiritual maturity of a saint.
That’s okay, God made you to be a saint…
So think of His love, and rejoice, and share that blessing with those whose words hurt.
The Lord is with you!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 400). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1087-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
5 A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, John 5:5-9 (TEV)
211 Lazarus rose because he heard the voice of God and immediately wanted to get out of the situation he was in. If he hadn’t wanted to move, he would just have died again. A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.
1 It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse. However, in confession it is not necessary to enumerate all trespasses and sins,2 for this is impossible. Ps. 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”
XIII. THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS
1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith. 2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.
I often hear people saying they miss the way church used to be. They may indicate the music or the preaching. Mostly what they long to see are the full sanctuaries on Sunday morning, and church campuses that were busy every day and night of the week. In dact, for a couple decades we can see the phenomena of people moving from one church to another, looking for the one that is coming alive, that seems to have a new life about them.
We want revival, much like the man who was at the pool wanted to be made well, much like Lazarus, to his surprise, found himself alive at the command of Jesus. ( I love St Josemaria’s idea that he could have decided to stay there, as I think it is descriptive of many of us!)
But are we ready for it? Do we really desire it?
For what it will take is the sureness of our absolution. Revival and renewal, whether individual or parish wife, requires something. The realization that every one of our sins are forgiven! Revival, being brought to life in Christ means we know and depend on the promises that nothing, including that sin, can separate us from the love of God.
What an incredible thing these sacraments are, these sacred times are, when we realize that God is at work as He desires to be, awakening and strengthening our faith, our dependence on Him.
For that is what having a strong faith means, we depend on God more, not less. We realize His presence in our lives more, not less. We let Him guide our lives, much like a leaf caught up in a stream…drifts and goes where the current takes it.
This kind of reliance on God’s mercy and love, these things we call grace, is at the heart of every revival, every renewal in the history of the church. It is the hope that underlies the Lutheran Reformation, and the Catholic councils we know as Vatican I and Vatican II. This is Escriva’s “The Way” and what Luther preaches so clearly in his catechesis.
So Jesus says to His church today and to you and I,
“Do you want to be healed?”
“Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?”
“Do you want to be renewed, and revived”
It starts with trusting in God enough to pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Holy Father, Lord Jesus, and Blessed Holy Spirit, in your mercy, help us to say yes, letting you in to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness, helping us not to fear coming clean as much as we fear to remain trapped in our sin, which drives us apart from you. We pray this in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 922-926). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche* to come to a mutual understanding in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my true yokemate,* to help them, for they have struggled at my side in promoting the gospel, along with Clement and my other co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. NABRE Phil. 4:2-3
174 Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”
Yesterday I wrote about the church being urged to work for unity at every level. That scripture urged us to do so, even as we find ourselves in opposition to others. That unity is found int he presence of God, in a sacramental (some would say incarnational) presence of God.
In my devotional reading today, Paul is again urging unity, but this time we aren’t the one’s who are divided – we are urged, as the church, to help bring two people back together, to help them reconcile and know the unity that can only be found in Christ.
Paul urges us to help them, and while we probably don’t have these names in our congregations and parishes, we have people that stand apart, that divided over something. People that we might classify as good people, people that work hard in the church, that minister to those hurting, that feed those who are hungry, that care and teach people about God’s love.
Let’s face it, we all have stubborn streaks, we all can be more than a bit irritable and irritating. We can all struggle and in those struggles, get a bit defensive, and bit anxious, a bit territorial. We all struggle with sin, and sin can divide people, even as it separates us from God.
Our sin, and the unrighteousness of the sins committed against us need to drive us to the altar, to the cross where the blood of Jesus cleanses us. That is where the healing between two who find themselves divided and antagonistic can happen. For there, face to face with sin being forgiven, with mercy being extended, we see what happens.
It is in the presence of God that we find that mutual understanding in the Lord. It is where love overwhelms us and where healing begins, as God heals us, as God draws into unity together.
And sometimes – the two parties need the third to remind them of this – that there they are together, that there they are both cleansed, and whatever divided them fades as quickly as their own sin does.
There, at the altar, where we celebrate the New Covenant, there is where they are reconciled. There, they find peace, and the joy of community united in Jesus is restored! AMEN!.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 I was left there alone, watching this amazing vision. I had no strength left, and my face was so changed that no one could have recognized me. 9 When I heard his voice, I fell to the ground unconscious and lay there face downward. 10 Then a hand took hold of me and raised me to my hands and knees; I was still trembling. 11 The angel said to me, “Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” When he had said this, I stood up, still trembling. 12 Then he said, “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 The angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia. Daniel 10:8-13 (TEV)
931 Saint Ignatius, with his military genius, gives us a picture of the devil calling up innumerable demons and scattering them through nations, states, cities, and villages after a “sermon” in which he exhorts them to fasten their chains and fetters on the world, leaving no one unbound. You’ve told me that you want to be a leader … and what good is a leader in chains? (1)
100 Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, still you are daily under the dominion of the devil, who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it.(2)
As I looked at our gospel passage for this Sunday, I realized it touched on something pastors and priests don’t like to talk about.
In it, a poor lady comes and asks for Jesus to free her daughter who has a demon. The passage is about God’s love, but it is demonstrated Jesus freeing the woman’s daughter.
He didn’t heal her from a mental illness, this wasn’t a medical or psychological problem. It wasn’t something that could be cured by becoing gluten free, or getting your sugar under control, or taking some supplements.
This was first class spiritual warfare.
Warfare that may be more common than we ever want to admit. More common than we eve want to face.
Heck we have enough trouble with those struggling through physical health issues or mental illness issues, dealing with cancer, dealing with being bereaved. Others whose marriages are challenges, those who are financially strapped, those whose families are damaged by criminal activity, people who are in bondage to alcohol or drugs. . It seems like the challenges to life grow and grow, peole are afficted, in ways that seem to frequent to be simply “coincidences”.
But how do you know which is a spiritual attack, and which is just “life” being a….pain. ( I so wanted to use a different word there!) I mean – there are attacks – really annoyances, just enough to distratct us from God’s presence. There are times of oppression – like the scene in daniel, and then there are the times more serious. The first two we might right off as coincidences, or just life being a pain. But the overwhelmi that darkness is looming, that God may have hidden his face from us, that isn’t just a coincidence. That is what Daniel experienced.
And we learn from his example how to deal with such times.
We pray and pray and then hear the voice of God,
“Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” and “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer.”
The methodology for dealing with demonic attacks is and always must be to hear the voice of God. We must hear and know and depend on His promises to us. We have to realize that He loves us and nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not illness, not jails, not losing it, not all the trials of life. He loves you – start there, hear it often (hence Luther’s comments about church) Remember your baptism, feast on God’s word, and at His table, hear his words (Not the pastor’s or priest’s) that you are forgiven, that you are His beloeved chidlren.
Hearing this changes everything for Daniel, knowing the presence of God is what is needed, for Satan can’t stand against those words. Even for the exocrcists – those skilled in dealing with demonic, the presence of God is always what makes the difference, always the necessity. The guarantees that we celebrate in the sacraments are that what tells us that there is more than our clining to thoughts and ideas given to us from those who have gone before.
He is clinging to us. He loves us. That is the message we need to know, to depend upon, to trust.
For the Lord will always answer our cry for mercy. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2164-2167). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 378–379). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. cited fromt he Large Catechism Explanation of the Third Commandment