Devotional Thought for the Day:
23 How I wish that someone would remember my words and record them in a book! 24 Or with a chisel carve my words in stone and write them so that they would last forever. 25 But I know there is someone in heaven who will come at last to my defense. 26 Even after my skin is eaten by disease, while still in this body I will see God. 27 I will see him with my own eyes, and he will not be a stranger. Job 19:23-27 (TEV)
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)
57 Get to know the Holy Spirit, the Great Unknown, the one who has to sanctify you. Don’t forget that you are a temple of God. The Paraclete is in the center of your soul: listen to him, and follow his inspirations with docility.
On Monday, at sometime between 7:30 and 8:30, I read the first scripture passage above, from the book of Job. It is a favorite passage, one I love to just think about, especially when life is “job-like” ANd it was in the rotation of readings that were assigned for me that day, by the software that helps me read through the Bible in a year.
The problem is, I don’t remember reading it. Not at all.
And so yesterday, that bothered me a lot. how could i miss such an important passage? How ow could I not have seen it?
What is sadly ironic is that I really needed to see it, not just read it. It is one of those seasons of trauma, those times where I wondered if Job and I could trade places for a couple of hours.
My mind on Tuesday kept beating me up. HOw could I have missed what God had obviously put right in front of me, for that time, for that moment? How could I just go through the motions, reading but not seeing, hearing but not absorbing the word of God?
Am I getting to the point where I am just “going through the motions when it comes to the daily readings of scripture?
Will that start to seep into other parts of my spiritual life, other parts of what I do? That is perhaps the greatest point of fear I have, that how I lead worship, that how I preach, how I administer the sacraments simply fades into a mechanical application of what I have done before.
The feelings move into high gear, alternating between anxiety and guilt, between how have I gotten myself into this place and will I ever get back to “normal” spiritual mode? Then I realize I have not wasted one day, but two…
By God’s grace as well, in this morning’s reading I came to St Josemaria’s words in purple above. My heart focused on the phrase about the Holy Spirit being the one who has to sanctify us. As that resonated and comforted me, the words of the apostle Paul flashed into my head. I realized that while I missed the words Monday, and struggled on Tuesday with the absence of seeing the words, the Holy Spirit didn’t let me forget them.
As I went back and read them again, without the distractions and lack of attention that plagued me Monday, or the guilt and anxiety of Tuesday, I finally saw what I needed to see. Because of the tension, it hits home even more strongly, even being chiseled into my crushed and broken heart and soul.
I will see God, and He will not be a stranger.
No matter how dark my day, no matter how much I’ve bottomed out, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting, sanctifying, even interpreting our prayers, and making everything work out for good…. even the days when I can barely go through the motions.
God is faithful, the Holy Spirit is here… and if I can cling to that promise…I can survive the days when I don’t soar like a spiritual giant, but crawl like a cockroach.
He is here, He is not a stranger..
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 299-301). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!
Luke 9:57-62, 1 Kings 19:19-21
† I. H. S. †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you walk “in His steps”
Are you listening? Are you understanding?
you ever asked someone if they were listening, and 30 seconds after they
replied yes, they ask you “what are you talking about?”
I think that happened to Jesus, far more than it happens to us.
It does today, as one man offers to follow Jesus, and two others responded to His invitation to follow him, but they then realized they had a problem. They all had a big “but!” Uhm – that’s but with only one T.
As we look at the call to follow, as we begin to really
hear Jesus, I pray we come to understand what it means to follow Him, or as the
apostle Peter wrote,
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT2)
The Big BUTS
So the first guy tells Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go! Jesus tells him, “okay, here is the challenge, we have no support, no place to stay, no place to sleep.” Oddly we don’t’ hear from the guy again.
Following Jesus isn’t easy or comfortable.
The second and third guys clearly describe their “buts”.
One wants to go home and take care of his dying Father. The second wants to go home and make significant arrangements for his family’s care, cutting off their need for his involvement in their life.
How many of us would have similar issues to deal with? I mean, before Jesus asks us to go with Him to China, or Jordan, or Papua, New Guinea? And how many of us have relationship issues that would make leaving with Jesus complicated?
Those “buts” aren’t easy to deal with, and to turn down an invitation to go with Jesus is heartbreaking, or it should be. I mean if you knew Jesus was going to be at the ordination I am officiating at this afternoon, would you drop everything and come with me? What about if you could meet him on Pastor Bernie’s next trip to the Sudan, but you had to leave today?
What if it required moving to Turkey and working alongside Christina for the rest of your life? Never ever returning to the U.S.A. but you knew for sure you would encounter Jesus every day?
Could you show Jesus your “but”?
This isn’t theoretical for the people in the gospel! They had BIG BUTS, major life concerns, as they truly desire to travel with Jesus.
It’s what some would call a First commandment issue, a problem with prioritizing who is our God, who is most important in our life. Who is most involved in it. For if we can’t listen to God and respond obediently to Him, are we really in a relationship where we realize He is the God who rescues us, and we are the people He listens to, cares and provides for, and loves?
The problem is simple to fix, we just have to get off our “but” and follow Jesus. Follow Him, not travel with Him. If the people had listened to what Jesus said, they would have understood the difference.
What’s the difference? Glad you asked!
The Elisha Example!
In the Old Testament passage, we see Elisha also responding to a call to follow, as Elijah makes him his successor. That’s why he threw his cloak over him, that is what you symbolically did back in those days.
But Elisha goes back to his people. He takes care of business, and isn’t rejected by Elijah, the way it seems Jesus rejected those who had big “buts”.
But look at what Elisha did carefully, and you will see he was already following Elijah as he goes back. He takes his old stuff, the plow, the oxen and uses those things to minister to people.
What the invitation really is
You see, the word for follow doesn’t mean travel with, it means begin to imitate Him. To become like, to gain the attitudes and heart and desire of the person you “follow”. There is a word to walk with, but this is far more, it is another word like disciple, or apprentice.
It is to know Jesus is on the journey with us, shaping us, forming us, sending us out to where He would have us minister. Like the man he delivered from the clutches of demons, often the place is where we call home, sharing the news of God’s mercy with those we love and care about, with those whose lives are broken, and spiritually dead.
Following Jesus is not just physical, it is more, it is transformative, it is incarnational, it is beholding His glory and knowing He dwells among us.
This is what His invitation to believers is about, it is life lived in His presence, hearing His voice, learning to care for and love people as He does. That is what it means to walk in His steps, to live life the way He does, and we do that by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, help us see the “buts” not as challenges to following You, but as places where You bring us to minister and care for other, with you at our side.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The wisdom I proclaim is God’s secret wisdom, which is hidden from human beings, but which he had already chosen for our glory even before the world was made. 8† None of the rulers of this world knew this wisdom. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9† However, as the scripture says,
“What no one ever saw or heard,
what no one ever thought could happen,
is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”
10 But it was to us that God made known his secret by means of his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 GNT
27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God! Col. 1:27 GNT
Imagine you were nine again, and you saw your parents and a couple of other adults whispering, and as you walked closer, they all stopped talking. Or they walked away from each other. Then your brother and sister looked at you with a strange smile.
You would know something was up. It might be a good thing, it could also be something, well not that positive.
Now think about work, and something similar happens. People are gathered around, talking quietly, occasionally glancing at you, only to snap their head around if you made eye contact with them.
You might become slightly paranoid! I would definitely more than just a little anxious.
And yet there was one secret, that secret definitely concerns you and I. The secret of redemption, and reconciliation with God. The secret that God has prepared for us, planned since before He created the world, that Jesus would come, live, be tortured to death, and rise again, so the secret could be fulfilled.
And because of that life eternal will be more than we can ever imagine. The amount of love and serenity we will experience will be glorious.
And yet it was a secret. It was hidden from the world, and yet hidden in plain sight. The promise Paul quotes is there in the Old Testament, the promise that there would be a light for the nations, and the glory of Israel, overlooked. The patience and love of God was not contemplated, and even in Jesus day, there were preachers who maintained that religion was for this life only, that there was noting more.
They missed it, allowing Jesus to become incarnate, to dwell among us long enough for us to kill Him. And He did this because the Father and He loved us so much!
There is the secret, the reason something more stunning that we’ve ever laid our eyes upon, more amazing than anything we have ever heard, and more increible than anything we have ever thought and dreamed awaits us. To be so clean we can enter God the Father’s presence, and not only will we see God face to face, we will be welcomed home into the glory He has planned to share with us.
Lord, help us believe Your promise. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21† For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. ! Cor. 1:21 GNT
54 Conform? It is a word found only in the vocabulary of those (“You might as well conform,” they say) who have no will to fight—the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly—because they know they are defeated before they start.
In the last couple of months I have had to consider the unusual way I have done things in life, and especially in ministry. If I look at my MBTI score, I should not be a pastor If I hear the words of my internship supervisor (and T’s words often ring in my head), I shouldn’t have been a pastor. I didn’t graduate with my intended minor in Bible and Preaching, I went back years later and got a degree in business. I became a non-denom pastor, and then moved into a more organized and formal denomination, confusing those I left behind and those I joined! Both my roles as a circuit counselor and as a Regional Vice- President (the first working with 8 churches, the second over 80 and being on the district Board of Directors) I backed into, as the one elected ended up moving shortly thereafter.
So I don’t fit in, and sometimes, I confess, I feel proud that I don’t. There is a little fun being the non-formist, and more than a little freedom.
More often though I wish I did. I wish I understood the logic of the majority more, and those in power. When I don’t, i can begin to feel left out of the discussion, and alone, even in the midst of 500 people, I can feel alone. Sometimes very alone. Eerily so, as if I am not in the same moment of time, slightly out of phaze with everyone.
Yet there, it is easier to see God at work, I believe. Because the focus is not on our appearance, iIt is easier to see the brokenness around us, and the need for healing that only comes through the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus.
If we don’t focus on conforming to the world, and even to those in the church, there is a freedom to minister to others, a freedom to worship God based on His revelation of His love. You don’t try to become a clone of this preacher, or that theologian. This makes spiritual development a challenge, a time where you have to depend on God more. It gets us out of MEME Theology and the cute quips of populist theology. Which means it applies to this life, this context, these people we interact with in a way conformity,
Conformity doesn’t guaranty knowledge of a God who did the unthinkable, who came to us, Who loves us, who provides and cares for us, healing us of our brokenness. The God who comes to us simply, who uses simple things, a cross, a tomb, water, bread, wine, and a few people who don’t fit in. He confounds the world, and its rules that it demands us to conform to, just as His gifts require unity, and yet an incredible diversity. Our identity is our, yet found only in our relationship to Jesus.
Lord, help us to desire to conform only to Christ Jesus, and help us be patient, with, others and ourselves, as the Holy Spirit causes and makes this transformation a reality. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 286-288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth. 3 The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. 5 Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. 6 O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD. 7 Give the LORD no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth. Isaiah 62:1-7 (NLT2)
Let the orator expound on this topic, and one will see that faith is something omnipotent and that its power is inexpressible and infinite. It attributes glory to God, for whom nothing greater can be done. Moreover, to attribute glory to God is to consider God truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and almighty. In sum, it is to know God as the author and giver of all good. Faith does this, not reason. Faith fulfills the deity and, I might say, is the creator of divinity, not in the substance of God, but in us.3 For without faith God is for us diminished in glory, wisdom, righteousness, truthfulness, mercy, etc. That is, God has no majesty and divinity where there is no faith. Nor does God ask anything more from us than to attribute glory and divinity to God, that is, not to have God as an idol, but as one who has regard for us, listens, has mercy, helps, etc.
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I thought about the description of God’s people. It is truly a glorious description, and yet, it seems so far from our reality.
For me seriously far.
To be honest, dealing with the brokenness is the world and in my world, somedays it does seem like we should be called desolate and forsaken. I am not sure God would say he delights in us, for how could he delight in churches that are more interested in fighting and arguing with the world and each other than in reflecting the glory of Christ to the world? How could He love a church that tolerates sin, and can even approve of sins that serve their purposes.
How can Isaiah be talking about us.?
Yet this is the reason God can’t keep still, this is the reason He can’t be quiet. This is His work, and it is why we praise Him and glorify Him. It is knowing that God is the source and provided of the healing that makes us good that leads us to worship. And that knowledge is not reasoned out, it can not be logically stated.
Logically, i could never state the vision Isaiah casts includes me, and I would think I am not the only one who struggles with this. Too many of us know our sin, or in some cases, have had it constantly pointed out in sermons, blogs, memes and people who condescendingly point them out to us. If not, our own guilt and shame crushes us, for we know who we are.
Or we think we do.
But faith takes hold of this simple truth that Luther points out, we have a God who has regard for us, who listens to us, reveals an impossible amount of mercy and love and heals us.
He cannot keep silent or still, Isaiah reminds us, He will heal us and hold us up, the people He loves, the example of the skill and care He puts into His creation. His beautiful, holy bride. God delights in us, and only faith can experience and understand this! Because the Holy Spirit reveals it to us, and gives us the ability to depend on GOd’s promise that it is true.
This is US, the people of God who Isaiah describes!
Lord, though we believe, help us when we struggle to believe. Help us to depend on Your promise, the description of our identity because of the work you do in us. Help us to realize that these promises are true now, as we dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
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. 162). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God. Job 2:9-10 GNT
Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and most sacred function of every priest. As for me, from the very first years of my priesthood, the celebration of the Eucharist has been not only my most sacred duty, but above all my soul’s deepest need.
For a while our dear God looks on and lets us lie between a rock and a hard place, and from our experience we learn that the weak, suffering word is stronger than the devil and hell’s gates. The devil and his followers can storm the fortress all they want. They will find something there that will make them break into a sweat and still not win the day; it is a rock, as Christ calls it, that cannot be overcome. Thus, let us suffer what we will; we will experience that God will stand by us to guard and protect us against the enemy and all his followers.
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
As I finished reading my daily readings this morning, I pondered aloud if there was something up. I mean the reading in Luther in green and starting the book of Job (In my read through the Bible in a year) could be considered ominous.
As in… what’s coming that I have to be prepared for it by all this?
I mention this aloud, somewhat as a joke, and one of my co-workers said something to the extent of, “it worked out okay in the end, so as long as it works out alright…”
While I know that it all does indeed work out in the end, and that GOd has promised it all works out for good, it is hard in the midst of trauma to focus on the end result. Indeed, it is more than challenging, and while we talk about patience, persistence and prayer, we also must admit that there is a drain mentally, physically and spiritually to the repetitive trauma that life and ministry throw at us.
So how do we learn what Job advocated for, this idea that we should not complain, but welcome the suffering of life, simply, because like the blessings, it comes from God!
Even as I looked at what I just typed, it strikes me as wrong, as unjust, and to be honest, impossible. I might be able to teach this as a theory, but an honest reaction is that this is not how I think, normally.
The key word is normally.
What i need is what Luther wrote about at the end of that citation. That Christ is the rock that cannot be overcome. We can endure suffering and struggles, aware of God’s presence, that He stands by us and guards us, even in the valley of the shadow of death that David describes.
In the midst of the suffering I need to experience His love, and there it seems even more sweet, more rich, more real, more comforting. In the midst of the struggle, when I take a breath (Psalm 46) and slow down, I can realize He is my God, He is my fortress, Luther is absolutely correct, aware of God”s presence we can echo Job’s welcome – suffering simply then becomes a tool by where we realize even more the blessing of being God’s people,
Which is where the other two quotes come in, and the role of the sacraments. You see, as much as it is a privilege, and my sacred duty to distribute the body broken and blood shed for the people of God, I need to receive it, I need to realize the blessing that it is, the presence of God there in my hands, even as it is given away and shared. Francis is right, as we administer the sacraments our hands should tremble, as should the hands of those who receive it.
For there, at the altar, over the font, at the bedside, there is the inescapable presence of God, there specifically for the people I am ministering to, and there for me. It is at that point I can release all the stress, and the pain. I can find hope for reconciliation, I see God’s mercy helping me realize my sins are taken away. It is there peace overwhelms us, and we realize God has answered our prayers, and come to us.
So even before it all works out in the end, we find what we need, what makes the difference, even if on a Monday we begin a journey like Job’s.
God is with us.
He is our sanctuary, our place where even Satan’s hordes and suffering cannot separate us from God.
Lord, as we struggle in life, help us not look past you. Help us to realize we dwell in your presence, that Your Spirit is there to comfort us, and enable and empower us to endure, and minister to others, revealing to them Your healing and grace. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 145). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. 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. 159). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 207). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
A Chance to Relive our Deliverance
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to go all through your community and tell them everything God has done for you!
A Map of our Journey
Today’s message is a little different than most of those I deliver. I am going to take you on your life’s journey, seen through the eyes of the man who had been possessed not by just a demon, but whose life had been a plaything for thousands of them.
For most of us, such a journey is difficult, because, well I could joke and say it is because we are at Concordia, but because, as one philosopher once said, “life is suffering” Or so it can seem! Especially when Jesus seems like he’s moved on from us.
So let the journey begin.
The journey begins… alone and in darkness
Before we knew Christ, and even some days now, our lives seem like that of the man who found Jesus on the side of the lake. We may not live among the gravestones, or actually be the property of a horde of demons, but our lives may have been as dark.
Sin can dominate and rule us as certainly as demons, and they aren’t afraid to haunt us with temptations that seek to ensnare us
Like the man, in those dark days, we barely know anything except the emptiness. We may feel quite distant from people, and though we love them, there is a grave disconnect, as if we aren’t sure they understand us, or “get” us.
We might even hear their words of love and care as them trying to control us, to force us to change from who we are, for the brokenness we experience seems to be who we are.
When we are in bondage to sin, like when the man was haunted and owned by demons, there is this sense of walking around in the fog, disconnected from the world.
Even God seems a bit hard to communicate with.
Did you ever notice Jesus doesn’t talk directly to him at first? He addresses that which haunts him?
Joined on the Journey
On this broken journey, that is what happens next, we all of a sudden find ourselves standing in brilliant daylight, freed from what has hounded us, what has caused us to be disconnected,
We are no longer alone, as the light sines from our partner in our journey, the one that makes it come alive. The brokenness seems, for the moment to be mending, and people notice as well, something is different in your life.
Some may even be overwhelmed by the change, like the community where the man who the demons were forced to free were overwhelmed. They didn’t know what to make of it, and were so afraid, they couldn’t adjust to the glory of God that was transforming this broken man’s life and making him whole and healthy.
No wonder all the man wanted to do was to sit at Jesus feet, to hear Him speak of the Father’s love, to dwell in the sweetness of the moment, to just enjoy the peace and freedom that is here.
I think that is why little kids love to come to this rail and just sit here… I know that is why here, at the altar, or even over on the side, hiding behind the pulpit is the place where I feel the most at home in the entire world.
It is so radically different from dwelling in darkness, hounded by sin and despair.
To just sit here and know, the Lord is with you, and that because Jesus has risen, so we are risen indeed! ALLELUIA
He wants us to go where? WHY?
is then we hear the words of Jesus, as He leaves where He found us, and began
our healing, and showed His love, and the life that His gives us, freed,
forgiven, and healed/
We want to stay here, we never want to go without Him, and He says to us, as he did to the man, “No, go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you!”
Uhm, Lord, if I walk away, what happens if the demons return? What If I can’t handle it, and I fall into temptation and sin reaches out and gets me?
I can imagine these things went through his mind. Why? Because they can go through my mind, when I forget the most important truth in my life, that the Lord Is with me.
Then there is the fear, if I was this man, I would phrase It this way. “Lord, send me to anywhere, but please not back to the people that know me and my weakness so well. Not back to the people that rejected me, and who I have hurt. I could come up with 1000 reasons, but the bottom line is that I would rather be here, in them moments to come.
I even wonder if Jesus wasn’t accepted by his family, why I would ever expect my family and my community to listen to me.
Even so, having delivered us from what oppressed us, and as He is healing us, He sends us out, to those who will recognize the change God has made in our lives, to those whom we know need what God has given us. And as we share what God has done in us, we realize the depth of His love even more, and we realize what it means that because He died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we have risen indeed, and were are given new life and the companionship of the Holy Spirit who resides in us.
The more we experience this love, the more we seek to share what God has done, and that is something we can share…. Reliving again and again what He has done, as we share these blessings… and are in awe of His love.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize the incredible done in our lives, help us to live our lives, among those whom You have sent us, sharing all the mind-blowing things You have done for us. Help us to praise Your name while sharing it with those around us who need to escape their darkness. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 O LORD, our God, you answered your people; you showed them that you are a God who forgives, even though you punished them for their sins. 9 Praise the LORD our God, and worship at his sacred hill! The LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:8-9 (TEV)
The temptation, for a seminarian or priest, to reduce Christ to an abstract idea is most destructive of the spiritual life. It leads to the loss of his own identity and prevents him from accomplishing his first and most important mission of leading the faithful in his care to a knowledge, love and service of Christ as He is alive for us in the Church.
The tempation that is descibed in Burke’s words above is quite real. Those who minister to others can spend so much time styudying Jesus, studying His word, that we can forget to interact with Him. That leads to our treating Him (and God the Father and Holy Spirit) like an abstact idea, something to study and observe from afar, something to comment on, much as an editorialist comments about the events and people of his day.
The result is our preaching becomes filled with illustrations and quotes, refering to what others tell us about Jesus. Their observations are far sharper, and sometimes we resonate with them, but don’t understand them. We resort to meme’s written by those whom we are told are “great thinkers.” Catachesis and discipleship become more about instruction than helping people see Jesus revealed to them, evangelism and apologetics become more about debate than sharing a journey,
And as Jesus becomes someone to be studied, what disappears is what Paul desired for people, what he described in this way to the believers in Ephesus,
I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18† so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Eph. 3:16-19
So how do we prevent this from happeneing? How do we realize Jesus is a person to talk to, and not just talk about? It is to see what He promised, that He is here, disciplining us when needed, but always ready to forgive, to show His mercy, to pour out His gifts of love upon us.
In our present journey thorugh Ezra Nehemiah, there is an incredible prayer, describing the journey of the people Israel. It mentions the times of blessing, and the times where God disciplined them, it is honest about their failure. But it isn’t a lecture, it is a prayer. We would do well to do the same, to consider how God’s been faithful to us, telling Him how we are greatful, and remembering in our rebellion and sin, how He was faithful to us.
I often do this while contemplating the incredible mystery in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, How Jesus comes again to us, and provides a feast celebrating our being forgiven and restored, of God’s revelation of His love for us, shown in the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.
He showed us, and we experience that love when we partake, eating and drinking His body and blood. He shows us, as prayer becomes more than a duty, but a deep conversation, as we hear His voice. Worship comes alive as we realize we participate in its dance, again celebrating the fact that He is here, with us.
And that changes everything in our lives. including our study of scripture as we desire to know more aobut the Lord who loves us, who interats with us.
Lord bless us with the conviction that You are with us, and as You are healing us, help us to know who you are drawing to Your side, and help us reveal to them Your incredible love, mercy and presence in their lives. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 144). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
30 So we say that the Gentiles, who were not trying to put themselves right with God, were put right with him through faith; 31 while God’s people, who were seeking a law that would put them right with God, did not find it. 32 And why not? Because they did not depend on faith but on what they did. And so they stumbled over the “stumbling stone” 33† that the scripture speaks of:
“Look, I place in Zion a stone
that will make people stumble,
a rock that will make them fall.
But whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.”
Romans 8:30-33 GNT
25 Don’t argue. Arguments usually bring no light because the light is smothered by emotion.
I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intellegence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith
There is a tendency in American Christianity to try and logically argue people into Christianity. To set up clever quips, ostensibly to humble them and help them realize their need, their brokenness, and that their only hope is found in Jesus.
But if we are arguing based on logic, it is often not that logical. For emotions rule such arguments, and the LOGOS (Jesus) and the light and healing He would offer gets eclipsed by our egos, and by our pride. What comes across is our dependence on our knowledge, on our ability, on our own righteousness before God based on “obeying” a part of the law.
If we are to let the light shine in their lives, if Jesus is going to be revealed, in some ways we have to let them stumble and struggle with their own failures, and be there to show them that they can depend on Jesus.
We have to realize that what we do to put ourselves right with God is futile, we are too broken, sin has too great a hold on us. And to do that, far to often we needed to realize our brokenness, we needed to stumble…
and be caught.
It is then, when we realize it is not by our strength or reason that we are saved that we are ready for the Holy Sprit to work. When we realize we can’t meet the simple standard of Loving God and loving our neighbor that God can come to us in our brokenness and begin healing us, completing us, making us holy because he has made us righteous because of Christ’s death.
It takes a lot of that love to be there when they fall, It takes patience to help them realize that God is there, working in their lives. To watch them struggle, well that never gets easier, but the glorious moment when the Spirit brings them to life, is a miracle you won’t forget.
It is a miracle when someone comes to depend on Jesus, a miracle beyond anything else we will ever witness.
God with them, as He is with us.
Lord, give us the patience to walk alongside people, as You guide their journey to You. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 219-220). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.