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Who is Your Man?
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace, allowing you the chance to look around, and see others need for that comfort and peace!
Who is “this man”… for you?
As they settled down for dinner, all attention was on Jesus, the “honored” guest.
I say “honored” that way, because the Greek is clear, they were on guard, not sure about what he was going to say. They had heard cool things about His ministry, the miracles, the crowds. But they also heard about the concerns, that people had claimed he was a blasphemer, that there had been mobs that had tried to stone him, and that many of the pharisees stood against them, perhaps even the one who invited him this night!
and off in the back, was a man no one noticed.
How he had gotten there, it doesn’t say. The pain levels he was encountering were severe. Whether the swollen legs were cause by heart failure, or by blood clots, or diabetes, we don’t know. But they didn’t have water pills in those days, and his legs were many times larger than they should be.
Even still, he was there, this man that was overlooked, and not one noticed.
Except Jesus. He did, and despite the opposition, he performed a miracle, and healed this man!
Which brings us to
my sermon question for this day.
If we apply this passage to your life, who is “your” man? Who is the person in need that you are overlooking? Who is in need? Into whose life had God drawn you, so that you could help them?
The Parable and the Man
After Jesus heals the man, he sends him off. Then he talks to the pharisees and the experts in religion about what He had done and whether it was kosher to do it on the Sabbath. They had a paradox to work through, an ethical dilemma. Minister to someone in need, and break man’s interpretation of God’s law, or obey God’s law and leave the man in pain and in danger of dying?
They can’t answer.
So Jesus tells the parable, and gives them direction. We need to realize that Jesus wasn’t changing the subject, this is the same context, the same conversation.
So who is the more distinguished person Jesus advises everyone to leave the best seat for?
Looking at the text of the entire passage, I think it is the man who is hurting, the one whose body is broken. The reason I say this is the words from verse fourteen,
Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
The most distinguished people in God’s way of thinking, are those in need. Whether it is because they are physically broken, mentally broken, or spiritually broken by sin and its partners, guilt and shame, these are the people that have value in God’s mind.
For when you care
for them, you are caring for Jesus
I mentioned those broken by sin, by guilt and shame. I think we need to examine how we treat those people. I am not just talking about sinners like murderers and rapists, I am talking about those who have trouble with envy, or gossip, lust, or using God’s word in the wrong way, to curse or swear. We can add those who don’t use God’s name to praise or pray to Him as well, or who run to other gods, like drugs or sex or work, rather than depend on God to bring healing to their brokenness.
They are the people, these people that are broken and crushed by the weight of sin, that we need to be aware of, that we need to see, that we need to serve. They are the people that we need to invite to feast, and it was for such people that this place, this altar was put here.
Not for people who think they have a right to them
But for those who are broken, for those who are sinners
For you and I…
The Gospel – for Jesus, “this man” is for you
You see, you and I can have several roles in this story. Far too often, we are like the ones who try to get the best seats in the house. That needs to stop! We can be like Jesus, seeing those who need to see and hear and find healing. That should be our goal, and every single one of us needs to become accustom to seeing and inviting those God is preparing, those who God would see us help.
But before we are ready to imitate Jesus, we all need to see our role in this story as being the man with the swollen arms and legs, the man who is broken and needs healing.
The sinner who Jesus comes to and says, “Friend, we have a better place for you!”
We have to realize that is where we start, and as you come to communion this morning, hear Jesus’s voice calling to you, bringing you here, and remember that He is healing your brokenness.
For that is why He died on the cross, to take than sin from us. That is why we united to His death and resurrection in baptism. That is why the book of Hebrews echo’s Jesus invitation,
16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our
gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help
us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)
My friends, we need to think through what He’s done, to remember this death we proclaim every time we commune, to remember the forgiveness that is ours because His blood was shed for us.
As we look around this room, and around our community, looking for these broken people God values, may we never forget He looked around, saw us broken, and invited us to dine with Him. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day
81 I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82 My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83 I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84 How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)
165 You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?
I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.
God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.
Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.
Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.
Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.
It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.
In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”
St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.
This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.
“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.
That this time will pass, and we will see God.
This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (TEV)
Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.
Even more upsetting, the devil can take your best works and reduce them to such dishonorable and worthless things and render them so damnable before your conscience that your sins scare you less than your best good works. In fact, you wish you had committed grievous sins rather than done such good works. Thus, the devil causes you to deny these works, as if they were not done through God, so that you commit blasphemy.
That is why it is important to learn and practice all one’s life long, from childhood on, to think with God, to feel with God, to will with God, so that love will follow and will become the keynote of my life. When that occurs, love of neighbor will follow as a matter of course. For if the keynote of my life is love, then I, in my turn, will react to those whom God places on my path only with a Yes of acceptance, with trust, with approval, and with love.
In the movie Jerry MaGuire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character lashes out Tom Cruise’s character with the phrase, “show me the money!” Except it is not about money. It is a plea for Tom’s character Jerry to show how important the relationship is, that it isn’t just about the money that can be made from negotiating a deal.
Inside the Christian faith, our actions often speak louder than our words. They testify as to whether the words we say are true, or whether we are those who call out “Lord! Lord!” and yet don’t have a solid relationship with the Lord, in fact,t hey don’t have a relationship at all.
It is not about our works, it is not about the obedience, it is about the relationship. Works simply testify that the relationship exists. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, we think with God, we feel with God, and love follows as a matter of course! That love causes action, it creates the work, but the work is never apart from the presence of God.
We know we aren’t saved by works (the Lutheran phrase based on Ephesian 2:8-10) and there is nothing we do that merits salvation, it all depend on the grace of God which precedes anything (which is the way the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent put it in Session Vi chapter V)) Yet the faith that depends on God for salvation will result in praise and worship – the latter being what we do with out lives.
Luther’s concern in the green text above must be heard, if we are to understand his version of “Faith Alone.” He isn’t denying the believer can do good works, or encouraging them to not even bother with the idea. Our good works, done in communion with Jesus Christ, are to be encouraged, extolled, and the glory given to God, whose light we are simply reflecting by those works. An attitude that denied this, that caused us to view the our good works with disdain Luther considered influenced by Satan!
As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession puts it, these works are the result of the impulses the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. This doesn’t sound like we are denying that the Christian can do good works, does it?
And that is the point we need to clarify, that we need not be afraid of trying to do something the Holy Spirit is driving us towards. It my be simple, like holding the hand of someone struggling with old age and being feeble. It may be sitting and reading the catechism with a child, helping them to know God’s love. It could be something different, like heading to Africa or Asia on a mission trip. It could be… well, you fill in the blank. What is God calling you to do?
Then do it, and we can both rejoice in the faithfulness of God, who is close enough to you to put that idea on your heart, and give you the desire and ability to see it through! AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 124.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 212–213.
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 276.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, requests, and thanksgivings be offered to God for all people; 2 for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct. 3 This is good and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. ! Tim 2:1-4 GNT
13 For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, 14 and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. 15 For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16 Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 17 Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (TEV)
I usually stay quiet on politics.
It is not just because I am apathetic, and tired of the extremes ruling Social Media. ( I will admit to that being part of the issue!) I don’t buy into one side or the other being evil and demonic, both sides have positions on issues that I agree with, and positions I find based in sin and that degrade others. As scripture clearly teaches, “all have sinned…”
My view is based in the knowledge that there is something more at stake. Something much more crucial.
GIven that “something more” here is my view on politics. Look in a mirror. Say the words you would say about the one you view as a adversary about yourself. Do you like hearing someone say those things? Are those things in accord with Phil. 4:8? Are they respectful? Are they thankful to God for that person and the role? And the biggest question.
Does your view depend on God and His promises?
I can hear some of my friends from both sides already coming up with the justifications that would excuse them, pointing out the evils of “them.” Or trying to educate me on how the other side is stupid, or the next Hitler, or any of 1000’s of other excuses. Been there, did that, have the tshirts with the same kinds of slogans you now see on meme’s.
My concern is us, and whether our reactions will distract us from God, that will stp our attention from being focus on Jesus and His ability to redeem us, and those who we perceive standing against us. Will our worries and fears be set aside as we look to our Lord? Will our conduct testify to our faith in God, or will it stir up hatred and fear?
It isn’t impossible to honor and respect those we aren’t in agreement with, those we fear. Look at David, when King Saul was trying to kill him. Even as he had the promise that He was God’s choice, he didn’t raise a hand against him. He could have. Twice he could have taken Saul’s life, he could have raised up a civil war, and yet held off, trust in in God’s timing.
You see that is the key to dealing with politics. Not hiding our head in the sand. But lifting up hands to pray for those who are in authority before we interact or comment on some incident or position. Asking God for the strength to respect and care for the men and women serving in our government – all of them. Praying for the strength to be still and know that God is still God. That He will be with us, even if the road is uncomfortable, even if it were to lead to martyrdom because of our relationship with Him. Asking God to bless them all, even as He blesses us.
He is God – and this pastor wants you to be saved, and come to this knowledge, the Lord is with you!
Devotional Thought of the Day
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 Tim 1:15-16 GNT
Nietzsche once said he could not abide Saint Augustine—he seemed too plebeian and common. There is some justification for Nietzsche’s attitude, but it is precisely in these qualities that we discover Saint Augustine’s true Christian greatness. He could have been an aristocrat of the spirit, but for the sake of Christ and for the sake of his fellow men, in whom he saw Christ coming toward him, he left the ivory tower of the gifted intellectual in order to be wholly man among men, a servant of the servants of God. For the sake of Christ he emptied himself of his great learning. For the sake of Christ he became increasingly an ordinary person and the servant of all. In doing so he became truly a saint. For Christian holiness does not consist in being superhuman and in having an extraordinary talent or greatness that others do not have. Christian holiness is simply the obedience that puts us at God’s disposal wherever he calls us.
When I was a young pastor, God opened the door for me to attend a prestigious small group of pastors studying preaching. It was a little intimidating, as my churches was under 30 people and the other 24 guys averaged 1500 plus!. After the introductions, one of the pastors, an elderly black pastor from Georgia cornered me. Having only been in large congregations for his 40 plus years of ministry, he wanted to know how you trust God enough to live on the edge with a small church. It was an odd, and edifying conversation! Here was a highly successful mega church pastor with a television program wanting to know about a tiny church pastor’s faith?
Jack Hayford, another mega church pastor, used to brag about his “pastor”, a much younger man, new to ministry and pastoring a small church. He went to him to be prayed for, to be encouraged, to be counseled.
I think Augustine would appreciate them both, as would the Apostle Paul.
There is a challenge, as one gains specialized knowledge, in communicating with others. Different vocabulary, different ways of phrasing things, different frames of reference. It is all to easy to think everyone else is keeping up with your pace. In it usually not intentional condescension, but it can come across that way, or as frustration dealing with the difference.
The same problem exists in spiritual growth. Sometimes we forget that others haven’t experienced God’s love, his mercy and His faithful presence we have. We assume they have the same knowledge and experience we do, and struggle when they “don’t get it” or when others, more experienced than us, struggle to communicate to us how they endured.
TO help us in such times, we have the example of these two men, St. Paul and Augustine, and their approaches. I have quoted these words of Paul many times, often wanting to argue with Paul about who is the primary sinner. Remembering the past God has rescued me from, including the sins of the recent past (say an hour ago) keeps my focus on what is important. My knowledge, my wisdom is useless unless I experience the love and mercy of God which is too great to understand. Unless I know the peace that comes from His presence, all the technical theology I know benefits me (and others ) not a bit. But to consider His patience in dealing with me, bringing me back, healing my brokenness, that is what matters the most.
The same with Augustine. He isn’t a saint (in Pope Benedict’s opinion) because of his intelligence, or his increible writing. He;s a servant because he learned to empty himself and minister to others. His words had a purpose, not to show off his intellect, but to help the broken see that they dwelt in God’s presence, and how that all worked.
As church leaders at every level, that has to be an image we can imitate, the servant-leader, the intellect that has become the doulos (one of Paul’s favorite words to describe himself – the slave.), We need to remember the mission we have, the reason we are sent. That is the people we shepherd and teach and draw towards God.
Claiming we are a servant isn’t about false humility, it can’t be. That will show through. Remembering the work Christ has done in our lives, helps us keep the proper perspective in our life.
Lord Jesus, help us to desire to know and understand more of Your Kingdom, but to understand and experience it in a way we can share with others. Help us to be authentic in our service using our intellect, our knowledge and wisdom to benefit others. In Jesus name. AMEN!
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 274.
Devotional Thought of the Day
But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jere. 29:10-14 NLT
For God chose you as the first to be saved by the Spirit’s power to make you his holy people and by your faith in the truth. 14 God called you to this through the Good News we preached to you; he called you to possess your share of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ 2 Thes. 2:13-14 GNT
159 Your heart weakens and you reach out for something on earth to support you. Good, but take care that what you grasp to stop you from falling doesn’t become a dead weight that will drag you down, a chain that will enslave you.
The part of the reading from Jeremiah I’ve heard people tell me a thousand times. Sometimes they are claiming it as a personal prophecy, to give them hope in the midst of suffering. Other times they are counseling me, telling me that God has that special plan for my life, that there is something greater that what is presently being experienced.
As if God’s plan for my future 20 minutes ago, or 10 years ago didn’t include this moment, this crisis, the time of trial.
St. Josemaria reminds me that trying to reach out for support, for help is a good thing. But we risk it becoming an idol, and the support being that which drags us down even farther than we presently are. Experience tells me he is right, that sometime that which we lean on, and those we lean on can drag us down. Including those who very sincerely try to lift us up by quoting Jer. 23:11.
Looking at it in context, we begin to see the future and a hope that God has laid out. It is more wonderful than anything we could anticipate.
In context, God promises to give us His attention. When we pray, when we talk to Him, He is all ears! That is what it means to be the people of God, He cares for us and listens to us. Instead of turning to potential idols, we can turn to Him!
In context as well, this means that we can find Him when we need Him. If we look for Him, He will be there. Not in some hidden place, He will be with us. This reminds me of Elijah’s taunting of the priests of Ba’al, who accused of going on vacation, or taking a bathroom break. Our God never slumbers or sleeps.
In context, the biggest promise is God restoring us, and bringing us home from the place where we are being disciplined (and even there He watches over us (see Jer. 23:7) This plan, this future, this hope is fulfilled because we are the people of God who dwell in His presence.
Nothing else we could ever dream up comes close to this wonderful relationship, nothing could be as comforting, nothign will bring us as much joy. This is what Paul talks about as the secret of the ages in Colossians 1, the secret that is because Christ is in you, you have the promise of sharing in His glory, the very same promise from 2 Thessalonians above.
That is our future, that is our hope. Eternal life with God. A life that has begun with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and will bedome more real on the Day of Christ’s return.
One more final thought
“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.” 1 Cor. 2:9b
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 499-501). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.
Judges 8:27 (NLT2)
2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 4 He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan. 2 Kings 18:2-4 (NLT2)
It says, “I called upon the Lord” (118:5). You must learn to call. (You have heard that well.) Do not sit by yourself or lie on your bed hanging and wagging your head and devouring yourself with your thoughts by worrying. So do not strive and struggle to free yourself, and do not dwell on how badly it is going for you, how miserable you are, and how much you are suffering as a person. But get up, you lazy scoundrel, get down on your knees, lift your hands and your eyes to heaven, recite a psalm or the Lord’s Prayer, and place your trouble with tears before God. Complain and call upon God, as this verse teaches, as well as Psalm 142:2: “I pour out my trouble before God, I tell God my trouble.” Similarly, Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” Here you learn that praying, taking your troubles to God, and lifting your hands are the most pleasing offerings to God. God longs for you, wants you to bring your troubles, and does not want you to multiply your troubles by letting them weigh on you having you carry them around, torture yourself, and be the martyr. God wants you to be too weak to carry these troubles and overcome them by yourself so that you learn to
find your strength in God. Thus you will glorify God’s strength in you. In this way people become real Christians.
Last week I heard an interesting lecture, where the speaker proposed that the modern church has begun to worship… well worship. One of his point was the way we “market” our churches, as we will spend great energy extolling our traditional worship with excellent choirs, ancient hymns, or our amazing contemporary worship, blah blah, blah.
We may not even get around to telling them our main mission, revealing to them the love of God, drawing them into a relationship with Him where they will find hope and healing as they realize how present He is in their lives.
I am going to have to watch that video over, because I think he is right. Our worship wars of the 70’s-90’s have resulted in this, we treasure our worship style more than the One we worship. We have done what the people of God did with Gideon’s breastplate, and with the Bronze Serpent. We have made our work the focus, and we pin our hope for the church on organs or keyboards, on choirs or praise teams, and we’ve left God out of the picture.
In comparison, look at this passage from Luther, and the way he describes prayer. Look at the way he shows us to dialogue with God, raw, blunt, harsh, pouring out everything on our hearts. In a word, a dialogue that is as intimate as anything we’ve experienced.
God won’t blast us for sharing our doubts our anxieties, our troubles. Luther notes this is pleasing to God, this is what He desires. As odd as it sounds to us, it is the picture we see in scripture, that God would pick us up, that He will allow us ot be weak enough that we realize that we aren’t alone, that there is a relationship we need, with Him. Christianity isn’t about being strong, it is about being vulnerable, and allowing God to do what a God should do, care for His creation.
That knowledge of God’s care should cause us to remove the idols from our midst. It should reveal the emptiness of our idols, and cause us to hunger for a real God, who will help us with our real problems, This is what it means to be a real Christian, to be one of God’s people, to realize the relationship we have with God our provider. To realize His love, His tender mercy and how He provides for us.
Lord, help us to see you, and become more and more confident in Your presence. Help us pour out our hearts to You, knowing Your desire to dwell in our midst. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 210–211.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
So the LORD said to me, 5 “I, the LORD, the God of Israel, consider that the people who were taken away to Babylonia are like these good figs, and I will treat them with kindness. 6 I will watch over them and bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not pull them up. 7 I will give them the desire to know that I am the LORD. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:4-7 GNT
40 I want to obey your commands; give me new life, for you are righteous. Psalm 119:40 (TEV)
The parish of St Louis-St Blaise has been experiencing graces of charity which are drawn from Eucharistic adoration: links are forged or tightened, the parishioners are more attentive to each other, more supportive. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament overwhelms the heart of the parish and opens it gradually to the mission that we are trying to put in place.
In the title, it says “the Church”, and by that I do not mean any one congregation, or denomination. I don’t mean just the Lutherans, or the Romans Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Conservative or the Liberal/Progressive groups in the church.
I mean the One Church, the people set apart for God (Holy), Church that includes every time period, every culture, every demographic (catholic) and the Church that is on a mission from God (apostolic) whether she lies it or not.
What the Church needs is to have the desire the psalmist describes, a desire to treasure what God has called into being, what He has commanded. (Not just the do this/don’t do that – but every command God has uttered ) We need to hear the voice of God, and revel in the fact that He comes to us, and creates in us life.
We need the desire to know He is the Lord, to know that He is drawing us toward Him!
Please look at Jeremiah’s passage carefully, and see this. “Then they will be my people and I will be their God because they will return.” The words of God recognize His people, even when they are struggling in bondage, when they are in captivity, either to Babylon, or Egypt or sin! This is the God who hears the psalmists plea to give him (and us!) new life, and does so.
This is why parishes and congregations who dedicate time in the presence of God find themselves more attentive to each others’ needs, more supportive of those in their community that aren’t part of the church, yet! It is why churches that have dedicated times to adore Jesus, and/or spend time in prayer find themselves renewed and revived, responding to the needs of those around them.
it doesn’t come because we force it, it comes as a result of being drawn into intimacy with God. It is not a programmatic response, it is one from the depths of our souls, as the Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, and united to Him, we serve as He served.
This is our hope, this is who we are.
The people of God, who are being drawn back, who are returning to Him.
Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 208.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8 Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. 10 . 18 Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 (TEV)
13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God’s message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God’s message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe 1 Thes. 2:13 GNT
261 I forbid you to think any more about it. Instead, bless God, who has given life back to your soul.
Two things showed up on my computer this morning.
The first was a copy of the picture above, reminding me that eleven years ago, I was installed as the Senior Pastor here at Concordia. The other, in my devotional reading, was Jeremiah’s words above. Ironically, these were the words I had to preach on the first Sunday after I received the call to Concordia.
It has to make you wonder, when one of the strongest prophets of God whines like that! What had he gone through, what had broken him so badly that he had to accuse God of deceiving him, and forcing him to do something that was,,, more than challenging.
This is month is also my twenty-first anniversary of being a full-time pastor and it is closing on 27 years since I started as a chaplain preaching and counseling in the detention centers of Los Angeles County. In that time, I have felt like Jeremiah more than a few times. Some call it clergy burnout, and if the numbers are still true, over 1000 pastors and priest leave the ministry every month, many because they can’t handle the feeling Jeremiah describes.
So many different things can cause it, to many traumas, such as deaths, or serious illness in the people you are entrusted to care for, and walk beside. Sometimes it is conflict, or maybe a power struggle, or just helping a church go through some significant change. (The number of guys who leave a church after a successful building program is staggering!) SOmetimes it simply builds up over the years, and all of a sudden, you find yourself weary and unwilling to go on.
You just want to shut up, move to someplace no one would expect, and leave the pain and struggle to someone else. Some guys don’t remember Jeremiah, and feel guilty about getting upset at God. Others just bottle it up, and find solace in video games, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, or they just turn their vocation and calling into a “job” and punch the clock until they can retire.
Some of us are blessed, and have parishioners, friends and mentors that look out for us. (Hint, if you have a pastor, look out for him! Pray for him often!) Others feel like they are almost invisible, when it comes to their needs. Even so, the wear and tear has an impact.
The point Jeremiah ends up discovering and struggling with is the power of the message we are given to share. The message that must get out, even if it has to burn through us.
The message of God’s love, and His desire for us to let Him heal our broken hearts and tortured souls. The message that He will take us back, that He will rescue our people. When all else we are doing fails, when the brokenness is overwhelming, when despair seems to drive out life, He is there. In that moment we need to hear and treasure these words the most….
“and also with you…”
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 692-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 The LORD says, “The time is coming when people will no longer swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. 15 Instead, they will swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of a northern land and out of all the other countries where I had scattered them. I will bring them back to their own country, to the land that I gave their ancestors. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jer. 16:14-15 GNT
Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. Col. 4:2 GNT
How would our magnificent castles, houses, silk, satin, purple, golden jewelry, precious stones, all our pomp and glitter and show help us if we had to do without air for the length of one Lord’s Prayer?
These are the greatest gifts from God and also the ones that we deride most, and, because they are so common, we do not give thanks for them. We take them and use them each day so thoughtlessly, as if it had to be so and we were entitled to them; thus, we do not need to thank God for them even once. In the meantime, we tear off and care only to worry, quarrel, wrangle, strive, and storm after unnecessary money and goods, honor and luxury—in short, after something that cannot hold a candle to the blessings mentioned above. Worse, it hinders our joyful and serene use of the common gifts, such that we do not recognize them as such, nor do we thank God for them. Behind all of this is the devil, who does not want us to use and acknowledge all of God’s gifts to us and thus be happy.
When Luther explains the passage from the Lord’s Prayer about “give us our daily bread” he gets passionately pragmatic! We see that in the words above as he talks about our concerns that things that cannot hold a candle to the real gifts God has given us.
And yet, we let those things rob us of our peace, of our serenity, and our ability to use those things that God has given us!
I think it starts before that though.
In the passage of Jeremiah, he notes that there will be a point where Israel now longer looks back to God’s deliverance in the past, but rather, looks at their deliverance, the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. God’s presence, God’s work is no longer something He did for someone else, in a far distant time. It is something that presently affects them, that proves He is not some distant God, but a God who will allow us to be disciplined, and yet, restore us.
It is one thing to appreciate what God has done in the past, to those whose steps we walk in. We should appreciate these things and learn from them, for they reveal to us the character of God. It is another thing to realize He is here now. Delivering us from the bondage of sin, delivering us from guilt and shame, healing u of the brokenness that is all to common now, just as it was during the captivity. He is here! Providing for us all the things we need! Yes, life and daily food, Oxygen and gravity, To thank Him for giving us a new life, and walking with us through it, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
For all this, it is a simple thing to stand back in awe, and to Thank God.
We need to thank Him and that includes knowing we can ask Him to help us when we don’t understand, trusting Him to ensure all things work for good, for those called according to His purposes. Giving thanks for what He has and will do for us, now and until the day we join before His throne, there for eternity.
Lord, help us, when we are struggling, to remember and be thankful for the thousands of thing You have given and done for us, from the air we breathe to the food and drink, houses and homes, even the jobs that can stress us out. Lord, help us be most thank for your deliverance of us from our enemy, sin. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 206.