Category Archives: Thomas Merton
The Necessity of Self-Examination
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross!
Do not work for food that goes bad; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you, because God, the Father, has put his mark of approval on him John 6:27 GNT
We must at least know ourselves well enough to recognize our own illusions, our own limitations, our own weaknesses, enough to be able to tell when it is not the charity of Christ that speaks in our hearts, but only our own self-pity … or ambition, or cowardice, or thirst for domination.
Dry bones. We see sin and judgment on the sin. That is what it looks like. It looked that way to Ezekiel; it looks that way to anyone with eyes to see and brain to think; and it looks that way to us.
“But we believe something else. We believe in the coming together of these bones into connected, sinewed, muscled human beings who speak and sing and laugh and work and believe and bless their God. We believe it happened the way Ezekiel preached it, and we believe it still happens. We believe it happened in Israel and that it happens in church. We believe we are a part of the happening as we sing our praises, listen believingly to God’s Word, receive the new life of Christ in the sacraments. We believe the most significant thing that happens or can happen is that we are no longer dismembered but are remembered into the resurrection body of Christ.
I read the words of Merton in my devotions this morning, and they stung.
As they should!
Perhaps they should have even stung more!
We must regularly examine our thoughts, words and deeds, as Paul tells us to in 1 Corinthians. To walk thorugh the valley of Romans 7 and realize that Paul wasn’t talking about a battle prior to coming to Christ, but the battle within each of us this day. We need to recognize when it is Christ that lives, and when we are struggling not to die to self.
We need to see the dry bones, to see the ravaged wasteland caused by sin in our world, but even more in our lives.
We have to see them, there is no option. It is depressing, it can suck the life out of you. But we need to see the effect of our sin.
For only by doing so, can our knowledge become our plea, and the answer our reality. For just as we had to acknowledge our sin in order to see our need for the cross, so to do we need to see our sin so that the Holy Spirit can create new life in broken lives. We need to know that our cry, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” is, and always will, be answered!
Peterson’s words come in the midst of a dialogue about the necessity and focal point of pastoral ministry, that of word and sacrament–and the need of people to receive that – even if they don’t presently want it. That’s the message of Jesus’ words this morning as well–to go after what really matters, what really brings us to life– the work of the Holy Spirit as the words and Sacraments serve as the conduit of a grace beyond measure.
This is how life begins… this is how it is nurtured, as the old, sin-burdened man is put to death, and a life transformed in and conformed to Jesus begins anew.
Lord, once again, heal our brokenness by killing off that which is not of You, and bring us to life, in Christ. AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 138.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 144.
Maranatha – for the right reason!
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross
2 Let me see you in the sanctuary; let me see how mighty and glorious you are.
3 Your constant love is better than life itself, and so I will praise you.
4 I will give you thanks as long as I live; I will raise my hands to you in prayer.
5 My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you. Psalm 63:2-5 TEV
We are delivered from ourselves when we finally seek God for Himself alone!
Our union with Him depends on His love for us, which is simply the extension of the Father’s love, through Him, to ourselves. And the charity of Christ, which springs from the Father as from its hidden and infinite source, goes out through us to those who have not yet known Him, and unites them, through Christ in us, to the Father. By our love for other men, we enable them to discover Christ in themselves and to pass through Christ to the Source, the Beginning of all life, the Father, present and hidden in the depths of their own being. Finding Him, they who have long been torn and divided by the disintegrating force of their own illusions are able to discover and integrate themselves in one.
Too often these days, I find myself tired of life… and I know I am not alone.
I want to cry out, “Maranatha!” (which means ‘Come Lord Jesus!) with all I am. I so want Jesus to come back, to bring His people into the presence of perfection in the presence of God the Father.
I want God to return, I really, really want Jesus to return and put an end to all the suffering, all the evil, all the health issues, all that I see people going through…
And as I contemplate how wonderful it will be to be free of all of that, I realize I am praying for His return for the wrong reasons.
I need to grow in this area – perhaps more than any.
I need to want Jesus to return, simply so I can be with Jesus, to be welcomed into His presence, and God our Father. I need to have what Tozer speaks of, to be delivered of everything that is me, and simply seek to be with Him.
Merton is correct as well, that the only way this happens is Jesus. Our union with God depends completely on His work, on the Spirit’s cutting open and circumcising our hearts. It is that love, which spreads through us out into the world, that enables us to praise Him. As the Spirit draws us into Christ, everything the Psalmist says is now real, as God reveals Himself – and we know He is everything.
He is our life, our hope, our joy, our love, and He reveals Himself in us, much as He reveals Himself in and under the Bread and Wine.
Lord Jesus, as we go about our days, help us to recognize your presence. May we see you in the people we speak to, and may they see You as You love them through us! May the Spirit help us to empty ourselves, so that truly our lives are Yours, and may we long for Your return. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 135.
The Paradox of Freedom and Faith
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross!
If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. John 8:36 (TEV)
Not that grace somehow adds to an otherwise imperfect creation, but that grace puts a stop to our misguided attempts to usurp God’s place and so allows creation to shine forth in all its glory
The “world” is the body of those who hate, because they are prisoners of their own narrow illusions and petty desires. They cannot recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit because they are not willing to conform their lives to His inspirations. They cannot become free with the freedom Jesus compared to the unpredictable blowing of the wind, for they are rooted in their own attachments and bound down by their own compulsions. They have a fixed way of acting (which may be wild and erratic and possess a spurious “freedom” of its own) and they cannot break away from it. They have rendered themselves incapable of doing anything but their “own will” in the sense of their enslaved will. Only the Spirit Himself can penetrate their hard carapace of resistance, and too often they will not let Him do so. They are unable to love freely because they are afraid of freedom.
The power and effect of faith are especially seen in temptations, when sin, death, devil, and hell are overcome. Nor are these weak enemies; they bring out perspiration, weaken our limbs, and make heaven and earth cramped. When the devil and death come, no one can help except only the person who has said, I am he who shall sustain thee. Under such conditions we learn what faith is.
Yesterday, my son’s high school was locked down, and for several hours I waited for him to be released. First, they were kept secure in a classroom. Then, they were escorted to some fenced in tennis courts where, eventually, they were released to parents. The parents waited in the sunlight for hours, because of miscommunication.
My thoughts upon getting into the car hours after I arrived was the old phrase, “Free at last, Free at Last!” A couple of hours of inconvenience, and yet I treated it like a lifelong trauma. ( A little projection here, as I was also wanting to deal with some other traumatic events)
So I was thinking about freedom as I came across these words this morning. And the illusion of freedom was shredded, again and again.
When we clamor and protest to have freedom, we must contemplate two things:
- What are we wanting freedom from?
- What do we want to do with this freedom?
Answering those questions will help us determine whether what we want is truly freedom, or simply the ability to serve our own preferred slavery –to our lusts and desires, our addictions and other sins that plague us. The problem is, enslaved to those things–we don’t even realize we are enslaved! Or, if we do, the lure of that which we are enslaved to overshadows the life we don’t know we can live.
Luther’s words about faith are clear here. It is not an easy fight to overcome sin. It requires a lot sweat and a lot of tears. It takes prayer, and mostly, it takes dying with Jesus on the cross to break those shackles, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to that cross.
Forde’s words are so clear to that as well, as the Holy Spirit convinces us to set aside our self-idolatry, nailing that sin to the cross as well. That when the Son sets us free- we can begin to see glimpses of the glory of God.
There is freedom from everything we need to be free from – hatred, violence, anxiety, resentment, sin, guilt and shame…
And there is freedom to do one thing… to love.
Upon getting home, just before 6, homework and chores awaited both my son and I. As did dinner. We weren’t free to do whatever we wanted, but we were free to do that which was good, and beneficial. Mostly, my family was free to be together. And so it is with freedom we find in Christ Jesus-we are free to be in the presence of God, to know His love, to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ…
This is accomplished simply by having faith in God, depending on what He’s promised – that He will set you truly free..
Gerhard O. Forde, “Hearing,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 144.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 132.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 102.
Why The Report of the Death of the Church is Highly Exagerated!
Thoughts which draw me to Jesus, and to the Cross
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT2)
We shall see that in order to enter fully into communion with the life brought to us by Christ we must in some sense—sacramentally, ascetically, mystically—die with Christ and rise with Him from the dead. The whole life of the Kingdom of God consists then in the gradual extension of the spiritual effects of the death and resurrection of Jesus to one soul after another until Christ lives perfectly in all whom He has called to Himself.
This gospel is to us a true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes in three great and hard fought battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word.
Is the church dying? Is it dead? Is it no longer relevant to a society that ignores its brokenness? Will we continue to consolidate and merge ministries, selling this off to try something different over here? Will we believe the post-covid reports abut what the decline in church attendance means?
There is no doubt attendance is less across all Christian denominations, but what does that mean?
I think it is time to listen to St. Paul, and focus on the cross of Jesus, to think through that which is our only hope, to realize we have died, and risen with Him. We have to get back to that message – for the sake of our people. Merton states this clearly – the whole life of the Church nad its believers consists of the death and life of Christ, and our unity with it. Luther adds the grace of God experienced and revealed through His word which proclaims Christ crucified.
We can’t afford to be in a defensive position any longer! In fact we should have never gone down that road to begin with, relying on our own intellect and ability to strategize the next moves for the church..
Paul, one of the greatest intellects in the history of the church, says he abandoned the things which communicated loftier ideals with larger words.
Just Christ. Just the cross.
This is where we die, and live…
This is the message that sparks revivals and reformations. That Jesus dwells with His people, His church. This is what is seeing churches in other places in the world grow so fast they are sending missionaries here.
God at work, in the lives of people, redeemed and reconciled by the body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, and found on the altar.
Let’s celebrate that love, that passion, that presence… and depend on Him. As we do, we will find the rumors of the death of the church to be greatly exagerated, and in fact, lies from hell.
Merton, Thomas. 1976. The New Man. London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.
What worship is… the place where souls are cured
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
The Greatest Miracle! (If I only remember to think of it!)
Thoughts which draw me to Jesus, and to His cross
Put this altar outside the curtain which hangs in front of the Covenant Box. That is the place where I will meet you. Exodus 30:6 GNT
Contemplation is that wisdom which makes man the friend of God, a thing which Aristotle thought to be impossible. For how, he said, can a man be God’s friend? Friendship implies equality. That is precisely the message of the Gospel:
But you may argue that the statement of Paul is too awful, when he says, whosoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, eats and drinks judgment unto himself, and is guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. Dear friend, you must not consider yourself so much from the standpoint of worthiness or unworthiness of your person as from that of your need, which makes the grace of Christ necessary. If you recognize and feel your need, you have the requisite worthiness and preparation.
It is not hard to see myself as a servant, a slave of God. And I resonate with Paul, as he refers to himself as a doulas – a fully owned slave. Not that I am a particularly good one, I am stubborn, and I don’t follow directions all that well. But God can use us, often despite our thoughts and actions.
That is amazing…
But Merton’s words this morning, I know they are based in scripture (John 15:15), they are still tough for me to work through. A “friend of God?”, even contemplating on that leaves me shaking my head for a while. My mind comes up with 1000 reasons Jesus wouldn’t befriend me. He has to love me, but “friends”? That seems too much, too overwhelming!
Yet that is what God wanted from the beginning, as He walked through the garden with Adam and Eve. That’s what the meetup with God was about at the Ark of the Covenant, and the wonder of the mercy-seat, where blood would cover the sins of Israel.
All done so we could know God is with us, as a friend. That is what Job sought as well,
I want someone to plead with God for me, as one pleads for a friend. Job 16:21 GNT
And as it would be seen at the Ark of the Covenant, it would really be seen at the cross. As Jesus would tell the Father to forgive us..
He pleaded for His friends would be forgiven, to be restored to Him.
It is not a bad thing we struggle with this idea, though. That is where Luther’s quote come into play. We need to know Jesus makes this friendship possible! Even as we realize our sins have damaged it, for the moment. We can’t assume we deserve it. We know better. But we can rejoice in His actions to make it real, to make it true.
But He does all this, so we can be friends.
Amazing! This is the greatest miracle in all of scripture.
But Merton was right, we need to contemplate; we need to think through and work through and struggle with this thought. But we need to – it is true.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 12.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 400–401.
“Take Only Two?” Learning to Accept God’s Work
Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross
Moses said, “The LORD has commanded us to save some manna, to be kept for our descendants, so that they can see the food which he gave us to eat in the desert when he brought us out of Egypt.” 33*Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put two litres of manna in it, and place it in the LORD’s presence to be kept for our descendants.” Exodus 16:32-33 GNT
The union of the Christian with God is the exact opposite of a Promethean exploit, because the Christian is not trying to steal something from God that God does not want him to have. On the contrary, he is striving with his whole heart to fulfil the will of God and lay hands upon that which God created him to receive. And what is that? It is nothing else but a participation in the life, and wisdom, and joy and peace of God Himself. This is greater than any other gift, higher than any other power.
In my reading this morning, I was struck by the detail given in the directions to Aaeon. Only put 2 litres (an omer) of Manna in the jar. It was something I had to go back and think about. Why 2 litres/quarts, Why that sampling amount?
The only thing I could find was that was the amount each person was supposed to collect off the ground each day, for that day’s need. 2 quarts and that was it – collect more and it spoiled quickly. Now think of the Lord’s prayer, where we are asking God not for a month’s supply, not a weeks, but the bread we need for this day. That is what we are to depend on Him for, one days need at a time.
I think this is to form us, to keep our conversation with God going. Not that God won’t provide it all, but asking daily helps us stay in communication with Him, and to realize He is keeping His promises. This is what Merton is getting at as well, our regular communication—and more. The more being a partnership – a fellowship, a sharing in the wisdom, joy and peace of God Himself. It is about walking with God,a nd realizing that is what He’s always done for His people.
The Manna was to help Israel remember God providing for them, caring for them – food, drink, protection, healing, forgiveness. He would provide for each, every day, that is the reminder of the 2 litres. He came to them and made sure they all knew His presence and that they could depend on His care! They could know He would provide, even though they struggled to talk with Him, preferring to use Moses as a buffer zone. They didn’t need this buffer zone, God didn’t want it, but He is patience with us. Even when we don’t understand how He works, even when we get anxious for next Tues, or next year.
The manna reminds us – give us this day…
Still He was there, a pillar of fire at night, the cloud of smoke by day.
He was there, as He is with us…and He gives us reminders of His presence and provision. May we appreciate these things that point us to Him, even as we worship and praise Him, right here where we live.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 34.
Necessary Sermon Study Beyond the Scriptures…
Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross!
So tell the Israelites that I say to them, ‘I am the LORD; I will rescue you and set you free from your slavery to the Egyptians. I will raise my mighty arm to bring terrible punishment upon them, and I will save you. I will make you my own people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God when I set you free from slavery in Egypt. I will bring you to the land that I solemnly promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as your own possession. I am the LORD.’ ” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they would not listen to him, because their spirit had been broken by their cruel slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 GNT
Two blind men who were sitting by the road heard that Jesus was passing by, so they began to shout, “Son of David! Take pity on us, sir!” Matthew 20:30, GNT
Therefore, the discourse of the teacher should be adapted to the character of his audience so that it can address the specific needs of each individual and yet never shrink from the art of communal edification.
As the good works which Christ does to you have no name, so your good works are to have no name. They have no name so that there may be no distinction made and they be not divided, else you might do some and leave others undone. You shall give yourself entirely to him with all you have, the same as Christ gave himself wholly to you, with praying, fasting, all works and suffering, so that there is nothing in him that is not yours and was not done for you. Thus it is not your good work that you give alms and pray, but that you offer yourself to your neighbor and serve him, whenever he needs you and in every way you can, be it with alms, prayer, work, counsel, comfort, apologizing, clothing, food, and if need be, with suffering and death.
It is true that man can, by his natural powers, arrive at a natural and imperfect beatitude. This may include within itself a certain knowledge of God, even a kind of seemingly mystical contemplation. Those who are satisfied with the Pelagian solution find this to be quite enough for them. And if that is the case, we are quite willing to admit that they are right as far as they go. For they can, by their own power, reach what they think is the end of the journey. But what they call the end is not even the beginning.
When I first entered the ministry, I was a last second invite to an exclusive seminar on preaching. Last second because I had called a mega-church about a leadership gathering at 4 pm on a Friday, and someone cancelled out of the seminar a few minutes before my call. So I went…. and learned something not taught to me in the 9 classes I have had on preaching.
They all taught how to prepare the sermon, how to work through the passage or the theme. How to draw up the outline and the summary sentence, and even critique by peers on the delivery. All this was good – and faithful, and absolutely necessary.
But it left out something critical to know. We have to study more than the scriptures. We have to know more than theology.
We have to study, to know our people, and where they are at in their journey.
Moses had to realize the people of God could not listen, because their spirit was broken. They could not trust in the wonderful message of being rescued from Egypt. Notice is say – “You will know, I am the LORD-your God-when I set you free. Moses has to realize this, if he is to be patient with the people of God. (he had to learn this – like all pastors!) The two blind men were not ready to hear about the cross, they needed to know God’s pity extended into their lives, were they were at sitting by the side of the road. Merton’s gnostic person, not far from God, still needs to encounter Him, and have his entire life reset, even though he is spiritual and discerns there is a god. These examples, are found over and over–those who minister to others, need to know whom they are ministering to!
This is not new – Gregory the great – a Pope from 1400 years ago, taught this in his book to train pastors. We have to adapt our preaching and teaching to minister to those people we are encountering. This is true about pastors, and their example should lead their people to do the same thing–to know who they are trying to draw closer to Jesus. We have to meet the spiritual needs of the individual and the entire Bible study or congregation. (That this was one of the 4 major lessons from Robert Schuller was, I believe, part of the reason his ministry reached so many that would not give time to other pastors!)
So this brings us to the quote from Luther, the lesson we need to know, if we are to communicate and communicate God’s love to our families, our neighborhoods, our communities. Those words in green sound challenging – to imitate Christ – to love and give of ourselves the way He loves and gives Himself to us. Again – how we communicate this is critical! People (and pastors) need to know how Jesus loves them, and gives Himself to them before they can do the same! Luther notes it rightly, giving ourselves completely looks different with every person, and even day to day.
That’s a lot of sacrifice–but if we are to minister to people – whether 5000, 100, or 2, we have to know them, and that comes from being there for them.. Then we know their struggles, their pains, and where they are with God.
So if you want someone to know Jesus, if you want to see them live in the peace that only Christ can instill in them, love them and dedicate yourself them.
And then, bring them to Jesus- from where they are at… and know He loves you both!
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 87.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 422–423.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 28.
Whatever my lot, God Has Taught me To Say…
Thoughts which bring me to Jesus, and His cross..
God spoke to him in a vision at night and called, “Jacob, Jacob!”
“Yes, here I am,” he answered.
“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go to Egypt; I will make your descendants a great nation there. 4I will go with you to Egypt, and I will bring your descendants back to this land. Joseph will be with you when you die.” Genesis 26:1-4 GNT
Moreover it is a common plague that no one is satisfied with his own lot, so that the heathen say: How does it happen that there is always better fruit in another field, and that the neighbor’s cow gives more milk than our own? How does it come that no one is content with his own state and thinks that of another is better than his own? If God allowed one to change his lot with all his will, even then he would be like every one else, would become more tired and at last stay with his own. Hence one ought not to think of changing his lot, but of changing his spirit of discontent. Cast aside and change that restless spirit, then the lot of one will be like that of another and all will be prized alike.
To overcome such unrest, discontent and disgust in one’s self, faith is helpful and necessary—a faith which is of the firm conviction that God governs all alike, places each one in the lot that is the most suitable for him. This faith brings rest, contentment and peace; it banishes the tired spirit
The prodigal son takes his part of the inheritance, glad that it is his, and travels as far as he can from his father’s house. Up to the point where the prodigal enters into himself and remembers where he came from, the story is that of Prometheus and the vulture. The prodigal has not stolen anything, but he thinks that to “find himself,” he must segregate whatever can be classified as “his” and exploit it for his own self-affirmation.
During a recent hospitalization, I was awake late at night and thought through my life.
Let’s just say, that even though I do what I wanted to do as a child, there is much in my life that is… disappointing. Part of that is because of the physical limitations of a genetic disorder, which caused my heart, spinal and visual issues. How many things can I not do, that I loved. How many others I would have do, if only…
It is easy to get an attitude like the prodigal – to want to take what you’ve got and head for somewhere else. To find something where life is easier, or at least less stressful, less painful. Not that those dreams have the chance to become reality, but the dreams still exist. It’s not fair to face so many challenges, to walk with others facing even more challenges. Luther hits this hard, talking of the sin of wanting to change his lot, only to find that equally unsatisfying.
At the end of the Ten Commandments, there are the commandments about coveting, of wanting something that isn’t ours. The lists includes homes, family, associates, every part of our lives. Taken in view of the Commandments beginning, “I am the Lord, your God who has delivered you.” the reason that wanting to be different than who we are comes clear. He has given us our families, our vocations, the people in our lives, and yes, our bodies. To want to toss all that aside, so that we think we can find affirmation in another scenario, means we don’t trust in God’s plan and providence, and we doubt His love.
I imagine this was Jacob’s attitude, as his sons explained to him the necessity of the move, and the impossible miracle they said was true. Ninety years of hard work, of tears of loss of the wife he truly loved, and her son. Now, in his old age – a move? A new country? To give up everything? How could God ask him of this, after everything else he’s been through?
God doesn’t forget him, this man who was brave enough to wrestle with God and not let go. Or perhaps not brave, just simply at the end of his rope, and unable to conceive of life going on, and enduring more trauma. Hearing God’s voice makes a difference. Don’t be afraid—I will be with you. That makes every bit of a difference.
You and I need to hear that voice, the promise that while life is not “ideal”, that God is here, that life is in His hands, that even broken bodies, and wounded hearts have meaning and purpose… that He will hold us, even in the midst our angst, our pain, our frustration and anger. He is there, for that is His promise to us in baptism, and one we experience as we are given the Body and Blood of Jesus Gathered by God into His presence with others. It is there we fin the Spirit’s comfort, the healing of Jesus, the love of the Father. It is there we are taught to say, with confidence, that it is well, with our souls, and find a peace-filled contentment with our life, lived in His presence..
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 416–417.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 25.
Why “HE IS RISEN” is not “He rose”
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and the Cross
Isaac had come into the wilderness of “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me” and was staying in the southern part of Canaan.
After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me”. Gen. 24:62, 25:11 GNT
Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, two blind men started following him. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” they shouted. 28 When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. 29 Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”— 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone!” 31 But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew 9:27-31 GNT
If I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless.
If, for example, someone came asking us to intercede for them before some powerful man who was angry with him but did not know us, we would immediately respond that we were unable to intercede on his behalf because we do not have a relationship with the man in question. If, therefore, a person is too ashamed to intercede for another on whom he has no claim, how could anyone possibly assume the role of intercessor before God on behalf of the laity if he does not know himself to be in the intimacy of his grace because of the merits of his life? And how can anyone possibly ask for the forgiveness of another when he does not know if he is himself reconciled?
IT is in this perfect self-realization by contact of our own anguished freedom with the life-giving Freedom of Him Who is Holy and Unknown that man begins the conquest of death in his own soul. This finding of our true self, this awakening, this coming to life in the luminous darkness of the infinite God, can be nothing but a communion with God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Our victory over death is not our own work, but His. The triumph of our own freedom, which must truly be our triumph if it is to save us from death, is nevertheless also and primarily His. And consequently, in all these meditations we will be talking of contemplation as a sharing in the death and Resurrection of Christ.
We need to cling to God and pray: Merciful God, thou hast permitted me to become a Christian, help me to continue to be one and to increase daily in faith
In the great Easter acclimation, the church shares its hope as they yell, “He IS Risen, Indeed!” The tense of the verb is not mistaken – whether it is 33 AD. 700 AD, 1500 AD, or 2022 – Jesus is Risen!
Yes, the action originated nearly 2000 years ago, but it is still present tense. The impact of the resurrection is right now, wherever you are reading this. Peterson’s point about culture not defining us is based on the fact that Christ, the Christ who is Risen defines us. We are His!
St. Gregory shows the important of this relationship extends beyond the individual.It is from knowing the Lord is present that He is Risen means we are Risen. If we do not realize Chirst’s presence, how can we introduce people to Jesus? How can we promise them the healing of Jesus, unless we have experienced the power that raised Christ from the dead in our own lives. We need to live in that experience every moment of our lives.
Merton sees the same thing, in the selection I read from his work – our meditation, our contemplation has to be wrapped up in the death and resurrection of Jesus – for this is where we find His victory that is the triumph resulting in our freedom. Everything is based there, everything exists in that resurrection. That is this moment as well.
This presence of life is why Luther’s echo of the Apostle Paul – we have to cling to Jesus, even as we count on HIs clinging to us. This is the reason Hagar could name a well “the Lord who sees me”, and the well’s name stuck, a testimony to God’s presence in the life of one forgotten. It is the reason the formerly blind men went and told everyone. Christ was with them…
He is Risen. Therefore We are risen.
We need to know this, everything else in life depends on it.
We being all the people in the world.
so if you know… let those around you know as well. He IS Risen!
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 21.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 44.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 10–11.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 399.