Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. Matthew 28:16-17 (TEV)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not the happy ending of a movie. It is the intervention of God against and above any human hope, as it proclaims as “Lord” the one who accepted the path of defeat so that the power of the Father may be revealed and glorified.
No one could have written the script. It is far too unbelievable.
When the disciples saw Jesus, their mentor, their friend, their hope nailed to the cross, they didn’t just give up hope, they didn’t abandon it, it was sucked out them.
It wasn’t just Jesus who died, they died with Him.
For without Jesus, what was there to their world? They had given up everything to follow him, and yet, he was dead. He was gone. And with Him all their hope.
They were so devasted that even after walking around with the risen Lord for over a month, some still doubted, they still waivered, they struggled with the idea of hope being restored. They doubted, they waivered they struggled to adjust to the fact that Hope was alive again.
So why are we suprised we struggle with finding hope, and when it comes alive in Christ. When it is resurrected with Him as we are (see Romans 6 and Colossians 2) it takes time to get used to be able to hope again.
I’ve had to struggle with this, as life has changed dramatically. As health, or age, or work or even the impact of sin has caused me to redefine who I am, or who ministers alongside me.
The reaction that all is lost, that it is broken beyond repair, that I can’t deal with the life that is dealt me is overwhelming.
Yet know there is life, a fill and abundant life in Christ. We’ve been drawn into it, we are revived, we have literally begun life anew.
So how do we live in it, how do we throw off the doubt, the struggle? How do we simply spend our lives walking at peace in His presence?
It starts with adoration and contemplation. Adoring the Lord who loves us, realizing and exploring the depth of His love. Contempation of the Resurrection, trying to get our minds to realize the power and glory of what was more than broken,
Trying to get our mind around the fact that we have risen with Him, that we are made anew, that we are cleansed and forgiven.
It takes a little time, it takes us getting our minds off our ourselves, and just dwelling with Christ. And that time of adjustment takes patience and persistence. It takes time becoming aware of His presence and allowing Him to transform us.
So breathe easy, be patient with yourself. He is here, and all power and authority have been given to Him. Look to Him, let the Holy Spirit transform you.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 42). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
In that day— this is the LORD’s declaration— you will call Me, “My husband,” and no longer call Me, “My Baal. (my master)” Hosea 2:16 HCSB
Faith needs intellect if it is to be understood and practiced. But it needs, above all, an intellect that will not only be productive but will also be able to understand what is proper to it. It needs an intellect that hears.
There is a big difference in the relationship between a husband and wife, and a master and his servant. Even in the days of Jesus, or in the days of Hosea, there was a huge difference.
And yet, for many today, the idea of a relationship with God is one where we are the slaves and God is the Master. While Jesus is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings, for the people of God there is a relationship that is more important,
Far more important.
Far more meaningful, far more amazing, far more, dare I say it?
Far more intimate. (not in a sexual way, but a spiritual/emotional manner)
Hosea talks of God as our spouse, noting the incredible change from our identifying His as Lord, to identifying Him as our spouse, our beloved. That is the nature of faith, of a relationship in which we learn to depend completely on God, on His presence, His mercy, His incredible deep love for us all. We need to learn that God desires to spend time with us, desires that we know the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love! That He wants us to experience it, even if we can’t explain it. (Modern forensic apologists and theologians take note!) This is the God who calls us His own, who makes us His own, no matter the cost, and shows the greatest love, in dying that we might live.
That’s not the love of a master, a lord, a Ba’al.
That’s the love of a husband, who adores His precious bride. (see Eph. 5!)
We know from scripture that even demons can see Jesus as Lord. (Mark 5. Matt 8, James 2:19) and that many will identify Him as Lord, whom he doesn’t know.
But He knows the ones He loves, and who love Him. He knows those who hear His voice and walks with Him. (this is why Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger talks about the need of the theologian to hear God to properly understand Theology.) We need to hear him, to hear of his love, to hear of His care, to know He is with us.
So rejoice in the love of God! Talk with Him, listen to Him, and rejoice in His presence!
And if you don’t know how to do that, let’s talk and listen and see what His word, His self-revelation to us says. AMEN
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 329). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV)
1 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for you, the living God. When can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 (TEV)
316 You tell me: “Yes, I want to!” Good. But do you “want to” as a miser wants his gold, as a mother wants her child, as a worldling wants honors, or as a poor sensualist wants his pleasure? No? Then you don’t “want to”!
I look at St Josemaria’s words this morning, and they hit me with a lot of conviction
As I look at a very busy week, as I anticipate the struggles and the hard work, I wonder how I am going to make it through it all, and do everything well. The temptation is to expedite things, and the really big temptation is to cut short my time with God.
After all, I will be studying scripture, I will be praying with others, do I really need my own time with God.
Abso-freaking-lutely. (pardon the Bostonese)
And I know I need it, and I want it. But the question is how much I want it. Do I want it like the deer wants water, like a mom protecting her child, like those that crave attention or pleasure want it?
I need to, I need to seek first God’s kingdom, I need to seek first those times in His presence, where I am so aware of Him that I naturally respond in worship and adoration.
I know in the midst of this, this is where I have to be, this is where I find healing and life and comfort and peace. It is where I know I am loved, and so loved that I am cleansed, and my sin cut away from me with even more precision than a heart surgeon, or a rabbi/mohel doing a circumcision.
For what draws me to God is not my own strength, if so, as much as I desire it, I might desire other things more. What draws me to God is the Holy Spirit, lovingly, caringly, bringing me back, back to the word that reveals God’s love, back to the sacraments which demonstrate it in my life, back into prayer where I release all my burdens to the Lord who loves me.
Yeah, it’s Monday, and I have a huge week of appointments, tasks, work, ministry, to see accomplished…
But I need to seek Him first, otherwise, the rest is in vain, and the week will be a giant pain in the ass. But with Him, at His side, the week, the very same actions, thoughts, words… will be glorious.
and so we cry out… Lord have mercy on us, and on our week!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 818-820). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6 NCV
Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.
A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God.
It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church. That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol. That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.
It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing.
The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above.
They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.
They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)
They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it! Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against. When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)
Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even. Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important. Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous. But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry.
St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit. To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God. It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway. The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!
I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution. THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself. Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him. I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.
FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.
For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…
Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print. quote from Melancthon
Ratzinger, Joseph. 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. Print.
Devotional thought for our days…
14 “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. 15 I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. 16 When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT)
15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect 1 Pet 3:115-16 NCV
66 My God, teach me how to love! My God, teach me how to pray!
Every once in a while, when doing bills, I put the wrong month in, and sometimes the wrong year.
It is hard for me to accept we are in 2017, and that we are almost at 2018. It seems that this should be in the future, way in the future.
Similarly, it sometimes feels like the promises of God aren’t here yet, like 2017 shouldn’t be, I can’t see it, I can’t picture it, even while I long for those days when my hopes, my expectations will be fulfilled. The expectations and hope that make up my faith, the answers I need to answer people with, as St Peter says, in a gentle way and with respect. Even to those who do not respect me, especially to those who do not respect me, or God.
That is the amazing thing that gives me hope!
We see it in the underlined part of the first reading, these people who hated GOd, who turned away from Him and worshipped gods they made of wood and metals and gems. Those who ignored what He would say, especially when He told them that He loved them.
These people of God wouldn’t call him master, they wouldn’t call Him by some official titles, but they were to use an endearment to call Him by, a name that revealed the love that they recognized was between them.
For God would win our affections back, God would restore us, and we would willingly give ourselves to Him, a response to His healing and caring for us.
FOr we would finally realize that He loves us!
We are Christ’s bride, not His slave, we are the Father’s beloved children not, the servants who run from His anger. We are the companions of the Holy Spirit. RElationships that are not bound by law, but love. A relationship that began because God was stubborn and patient, not willing to let us perish, but bringing about in us a change of mind…
A change that comes when we begin to see His love for us fully revealed at the cross.
May we realize this is now – this hope, this expectation is not just in the future, some far off date when we finally realize He loves us. That was revealed at the cross, and at our baptism, and every time we share in the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar.
This is our reason for hope, our assurance of everlasting life, with the God who doesn’t want us to call Him Lord and Master, but beloved…for
He loves us…
And so we pray, with St Josemaria, that God would teach us how to love, how to interact with Him!. Lord have mercy on us! (And be confident and know He has!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 452-454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:
9 O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. 10 As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. Psalm 48:9-10 (NLT)
You still do not love the Lord as a miser loves his riches, as a mother loves her child… You are still too concerned about yourself and about your petty affairs! And yet you have noticed that Jesus has already become indispensable in your life… Well, as soon as you correspond completely to his call, he will also be indispensable to you in each one of your actions. (1)
Yesterday’s Bible Study time at church was talking about the attitude of St. Paul towards the people of Israel. How, even though those people would have killed him outright, his love for God, and His knowledge of God’s promises, led him to desire their salvation, no matter the cost. He said he would even give up is salvation, if that were possible,
A tough act to follow, as many of us realized, and even grieved over during the Bible Study.
Paul’s comments, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ,” take on a far more challenging perspective. They drive home the idea of loving our neighbor – for love doesn’t count the cost. Even when our neighbor is our enemy, our adversary, or just a huge pain in the neck. Imitate Paul as he desires their salvation more than even his own, even as Paul imitated Jesus, as He died for those who caused His suffering and death. You and I. (All that debate about whether the Jews were responsible for His death, or the Romans is nonsense. He chose to die to save us from our sins, to restore us to the Father.)
Are you willing to give up all for those you love? Are you willing to love those who hate you?
Even more difficult, when we realize Paul’s challenge to us is not alone, John issues it with these words,
20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:20-21 (NLT)
So how do we do this? Is there some metaphysical knowledge that unlocks in us the ability to love our neighbor? Is it some ritual that we must undergo, that magically gives us the ability to sacrifice all for our neighbor?
No, just simply – if you love God with all you are, when you correspond to His call on your life, then this happens. Not because of our will or volition, it is deeper than that. It is the work of God in our lives, what He has ordained for us. it is a life of Holiness, it is a life, set apart to Him.
Again, not easy, a radical transformation in our lives.
So how do we do these things, things God has emphasized through His word, through the Apostles, the Prophets, in the Law of Moses, in the Gospel of Christ?
No – not think about where the solution, that won’t help. We aren’t capable of it.
Do what the psalmist asks us to do – meditate on the Lord, on His love, on His mercy, on His promises revealed in His word. On His unfailing love. As Paul will say, explore its depths, its height, its width, its breadth. Realize how God’s love consumes us, how it transforms us, How the Holy Spirit makes it a reality in our life.
It sounds too easy, but keep in the forefront of your thoughts during the day the incredible love and grace of God. Spend time just thinking about it.
Don’t limit yourself to worship and praise, to just studying the Bible in classes, or studying it as you read it.
Just read and be in awe, let the words run through your heart like a bubbling brook, occasionally like a waterfall, Like the Niagara Falls, or Iguazu Falls in South America. (Watch the movie “The Mission” to see this – and an incredible story of loving your enemy!)
Let the promises amaze you, the patience of God astonich you, the miracles and wonders of God leave you without the ability to read any further.
And delight that all of this has been done and revealed – to you… for you, for your neighbor, for that person…….
Then you will love, ot as a command, but because the gospel is alive in you, you won’t be able to resist,
It will be our lives… lived as our Lord lived.
We’ll stumble for sure, we struggle at times, but the correlation between realizing the love of God, and loving others is clear… and it is necessary…
So dwell in Him, rejoice in His presence. Know His love!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3299-3303). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29 For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 1 Corinthians 11:28-30 (NLT)
“These words, I have said, are not preached to wood or stone but to you and me; otherwise Christ might just as well have kept quiet and not instituted a sacrament. Ponder, then, and include yourself personally in the “you” so that he may not speak to you in vain.
In this sacrament he offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us, to which he most graciously invites us in other places, as when he says in Matt. 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you.
”Surely it is a sin and a shame that, when he tenderly and faithfully summons and exhorts us to our highest and greatest good, we act so distantly toward it, neglecting it so long that we grow quite cold and callous and lose all desire and love for it.”
It’s my twenty-fifth anniversary today. As I was thinking about that, and about my sermon this week, the quote from Luther’s Large Catechism above kept coming back to mind. Let me explain why.
Twenty-five years is a pretty decent period of time. We’ve faced unemployment, major health issues (2 years in I had a massive cardiac arrest due to a genetic problem). We’ve faced adjusting to having a child after seventeen years of just us. An incredibly brilliant son, but who has some challenges as well. We have survived, we have endured. Like our parents, who also have endured much. There is a challenge to this though, and that is frequent interaction with each other. Reminding each other of our love for each other. Being passionate and perhaps even more… compassionate towards each other.
It is all to easy to stop working, to just assume the other will be there. To become apathetic in our relationship, to just get by. But the problem is that when our hearts look for that which is needed. The support, the encouragement, the interaction. The rest that comes when a couple’s home is their place of rest, their place of being nurtured, their place of being able to drop everything.
Are Kay and I perfect at this? No. ( I am involved in this after all! 🙂 ) But we do well… and have endured by God’s grace.
So what has this to do with communion?
Well, it is a primary contact point – a refuge, a place of peace and restoration in our walk with God. It is a treasure, that too often we get apathetic about, not realizing what it is… God calling us to gather around His table, and feeding us in way that is incredible. The family of God getting together, celebrating the forgiveness of sins and mercy of God and His love for us all. Clearly seen when we realize that piece of bread – yes it is His body, that little cup of wine, His precious blood – give for you and I.
As Luther says – those words aren’t for rocks and stones – Jesus spoke these words for you and I!
There are two ways I see us growing, as the church at large, callous and cold to it.
The first is when we think that it is somehow less necessary than the sermon, and therefore we celebrate it far less often. Or we cut it out of our masses or worship services because of time or convenience. (even heard one church that wanted to cut it out because of the cost of bread and wine..!) What message are we saying when we do such a thing? Are we reducing our belief that it is effective, that it is not profitable for our spiritual renewal?
The other way is when we just look at the celebration mechanically, as a duty, not as a joyous celebration of love. When we realize that God wants us there, that His greatest desire is to fellowship with His people – and that is why we gather. That we look at it with anticipation, recognizing what God is doing in this precious time. The more we consider that, the more hungry we get for it, the more it takes on a meaning that is precious – the more we desire it.
In both cases – in determining that we don’t need to celebrate it often, and simply it being a duty and not a celebration – we lead people into apathy, we lead them away from realizing the grace and love revealed to them in Christ. Paul says such is the reason for our spiritual apathy, and even spiritual death. Luther concurs with scripture, calling such an attitude a sin. It’s something we need to think about today, as the church in America has fallen asleep… and in some places is beginning to revive, breaking its fast from the blessings of God, and growing in desire of them.
This is a precious time with God, some of the most valuable and nourishing time we have in our week. It is a treasure, a necessity, a blessing beyond our able to understand, but easily one we can appreciate.
it’s a homecoming, a feast, a celebration, a time that should inspire us to worship, a time where we can know God’s promises are true in Christ.
So come, blessed children of the Father, to a feast prepared for you……
[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.LARGE CATECHISM – Sacrament of the Altar
Devotion/Discussion Thought of the Day:
17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)
There is an old adage that says, “birds of a feather, flock together…”
It’s true, and its trite in many ways. Who we spend our lives with, the time we invest with them, changes us dramatically.
Negatively, we call it succumbing to peer pressure. Positively it is the encouragement that we call communion, fellowship, koinonia.
It’s true spiritually as well. We don’t become more like Christ through our actions, through our thoughts, even through our discipline. We are not made holy by our actions.
But we do become more holy, more sanctified, more set apart as Christ is, because we are gathered into His flock, we become like Him. We learn to love as He does, to sacrifice as He does.
Not because of our work, but because of God’s work in us, as He called nad baptised and cleansed us – the very promises that have been there since the beginning.
This is what Paul is talking about – we Christ is revealed to us, we are transformed – His work in us begins, we are given His heart.
Such is the blessing of His being our God.
You want to become holier? Be like Mary, not Martha – don’t try and make yourself perfect for God – sit there, adore Him, be still and know HIm…. and then… reflecting His glory where you are…where He has placed you.. you will find yourself thinking as He does… and more importantly – loving as He does.
Come and See: The Day!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God, the love and mercy and peace that is yours in Christ Jesus, be that which is most evident in your life, until the day
He returns in Glory for us! AMEN!
Come and See!
Yesterday afternoon, a man named Michael was standing right here, with his dad standing next to him. He was as anxious as any man I have ever stood beside as they prepared to enter marriage.
As the doors back there opened, as he looked upon his fiancé, dressed in white, there was the loudest gasp I have ever heard from a man, as he commented, in awe of how beautiful she was, at how her beauty exceeded every expectation he had, every dream of how this moment would be.
During the wedding, it was kind of cute – as he looked upon her with such adoration that she often looked away – almost embarrassed to see the look in his eyes! A couple of times during the vows I even had to remind her to look at him!
That kind of mindset, that nervous anticipation of the bride and groom, the moment before the doors open and they look at each other, that ½ second when time slows to a crawl prior to the doors opening – that is the mindset of advent.
We know He is coming, we know what has been promised. We have desired the day to finally come, the moment, the time that is drawing closer. Maybe we’ve even dreamed about it, as we hear the descriptions of what it will be like.
There is a sense of awe, and a sense of anxiety, a feeling of doubt as we wonder “how will I live up to His expectations?”
As we walk through this advent together, as we look to the day when Christ comes again, fulfilling the promises that were first fulfilled when He came 2000 years ago, it is my hope that we realize that our situation is not unlike the situation Mike’s lady found herself in, as we realize the love of God and the way that Christ sees us, the church, His bride.
For that is what that day is all about!
The day when we have come to see, as we come to adore our Lord.
What do we expect of the Messiah?
In my more self-righteous moments, I wonder how the people of Israel could overlook all of the prophecies about the Messiah. How could they have been so far off in what they expected Jesus to be like, how they expected Him to come. How could the experts have been so…wrong?
Those errors had incredibly serious implications, for example – if Herod’s advisors had known that Jesus didn’t come to establish some mere political kingdom, that he wasn’t going to overthrow Caesar and Herod, would he have bothered to slaughter all the innocent male children? Would the Pharisees have reacted to Jesus if they had spent more time in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel, rather than just seeing the promises of a new Moses, a new David?
What about our expectations today, as we look at the church around the world – does it still expect the kingdom of heaven to be established on the earth? I have mocked the television-evangelist types, when they promise wealth and health and happiness, yet there are times, I have to admit, when my expectations are just as self-centered. And that leads to trouble, for false expectations can create a let down of massive proportions. When our expectations are shattered, no matter their basis, how do we react? Are we like the young couple that sees their life in the harsh reality that occurs when the bills are piling up, the in-laws are becoming more critical, and the pressures of work and household are taking their toll? Do we spiritually “fall out of love” with God at times?
How do we balance off promises like “all things work for good for those who love God,” with the things we don’t understand, like economy, like disease, like death? How do we hear passages like Jeremiah, that promise a day coming… when we’ve been waiting so long, when we’ve heard that Jeremiah’s promise was about the coming of the Messiah? – the first coming? When those promises, supposedly fulfilled by the baby in the manger, now seem to be as naïvely received as the promises of how perfect a young couple thinks their marriage will be?
Has God let us down? Will the second coming also be…more of the same?
What is promised?
As we enter Advent, as we take a moment and light an extra candle, and then two and then three, and then four, and then, in the right moment, at the precise time, this fifth candle is lit, the one that really matters, the one that makes hope and peace and joy and faith possible, we need to learn that lesson – these candles only find their meaning in that candle.
So to do the promises of God, found in the Old Testament only make sense when we, the church, the bride of Christ, are looking at our groom, at our Lord.
Hear Jeremiah’s words again,
14 “The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.
In Sunday School, we are going to talk about who Israel and Judah are, and who they aren’t. For us, in this moment, I am going to tell you – what matters is that you are, one way or the other, included in that group.
God will do what He has promised, in His time, and it will be good.
What will done? What will God do?
He will raise up a righteous servant. One of David’s line. He will do what is just and what is right – throughout the land – that is what Jeremiah tells us.
Isn’t that why Christ came? To set everything right, to fix it all? TO make life perfect?
Was not the Messiah to bring healing and light to the nations? To bring glory to Israel?
Even as I look around at the broken world in which we live, I can in truth say, yes, I believe Christ came to do that, and has done it, and is doing it still.
Except that we don’t see the work all that clearly, in fact, only with a little more clarity than those awaiting the Messiah the first time. For in Jeremiah’s promise, we see that the righteousness – the perfection comes, not in us, but in Christ. It is His work that establishes what is just and right – it is His work.
At the cross, that work was done. At that time, we were saved, and indeed the people of God live in safety. We have been delivered my friends, from all that threatens us. Sin has no power over us, for God has given us the keys of the kingdom, the responsibility to nullify sin through the authority to forgive it, to dismiss it, to negate it.
Likewise its compatriots, Satan and death, though they seem to loom powerfully in this world, are but illusions and fraud. They cannot separate us from God, they cannot diminish His love for us. They cannot remove His guarantee that all will work for good, because He stands behind that.
That is what it means, for the city of God to be named, The Lord is our righteousness. Yhwh-tsidkenu. It is He that is perfect, righteous, holy.
And we, the church, are His bride. Joined to Him, one, even as a husband and wife become one…
He Has Come, He is Coming!
In many ways, life is like the wedding ceremony, with the life that will become true, only hinted at, even as we wait for the life that is to come, afterward.
We haven’t begun the life together yet… even though the joys of the moment are here. We still struggle to look our Lord in the eyes, to see His love there, to know that He sees us as His beautiful, clean, glorious bride.
Yet that too is part of advent, the reminder that life is yet to truly begin.
We are in the presence of the bridegroom, who has paid every price to bring us to this point. We see Him in His glory, and wonder whether we truly belong here.
There is the message of advent as well – we do, we’ve been called here, we’ve been called to live eternally as the bride of Christ, as the people of God.
Soon, the wedding will become the feast, and then the life…
May we live in this moment, looking to Jesus, the Lord who chose us to be His, who brings us into life and shares His life and His righteousness and holiness with us.
Come my friends. Come and see your Lord, the One who shares it all with you. Come and see your Lord, look into His eyes of love, do not look away.
I’d leave you with two promises, found in the writings of the Apostle Paul, to churches like us…
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NAB)
1:6 I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes.
Philippians 1:6 (NJB)
Your Lord awaits… it is time to celebrate, for you have been saved, your life with Him is lived safely and peacefully, for in His righteousness, you are guarded, your heart and mind always in His care. AMEN.
Devotional thought of the day:
As I wander through the updates of Facebook, I see two basic reactions to immorality.
The first encourages and defends it, asserting that no one has the right to interfere with another’s choices. It doesn’t matter what is immoral, whether it be greed, or lust, or envy. Dare you challenge someone on an immoral act, and you will find great opposition, even to the extent that you will be demonized for opposing that which they have every right (incurring free speech) to do. Result, immorality proposers.
The second is an attempt, rather than dealing with immorality on an individual basis, to legislate it, to prohibit and publicly protest it. We see this all the time, as Christians attempt to sincerely make a difference, or at least try to appear like they are making a difference. In trying to legislate the morality of a culture that is patently immoral, we easily become crusaders or compromisors, willing to give up on this issue, to make a stand on that issue, Eventually, we simply make token stands, like the one church leaders made last year – protesting the requirement for mandated coverage for abortion for those whose work is affiliated with religious ministry. ( Don’t we trust our own people enough that they won’t take advantage of such, but they will come to us for assistance in crisis? For that matter, do we doubt the moral fiber of those we shepherd to not get “into trouble” in the first place?)
So what do we do about morality and immorality? What will radically change the behavior of our country? What will help people not only be able to distinguish what it moral and beneficial to themselves and society, but see a desire to live morally, and to seek remedy and assistance when one fails, (as we all do)
There is an easy answer.
Simply put, when we find ourselves in the midst of a Holy, Righteous, Perfect God, who welcomes us, cleanses us, loves us, we find ourselves in awe, and that awe transforms to joy and that joy into adoration and love. And the more we fall in love with the God who loves us, and blesses us, and makes our life a masterpiece, that awe grows. And as that awe grows, the more the moral fabric of our lives changes.
Look at the stories of the “big-time” saints. St. Paul, St Augustine, St Francis, or the great revivals like the Great Awakening, or the Welsh Revival. In each life, in each revivial, the moral fabric changes, even without being addressed. Like Zacchaeus, an encounter with God leaves us wanting to change, and more than that – seeing the changes created inside us, impelling us, transforming us, renewing and re-creating us in all of His glory.
Some theologians will disagree with me, they will point to the natural law, and the “civil use” of the law. I’ll deal with that some other time – the answer is simple – found in Romans 2-8. But you cannot deny, someone madly in love with God, who is responding to God’s love for them being revealed – they will be transformed, and the more they dwell, the more they live in the presence of His love, the more they will be unable to tolerate sin, and immorality. Within themselves, they will rush to forgiveness, to the places it is promised. They will meditate on their Baptism (see Titus 3:2-8), they will feast on the Body brokem and the Blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, they will confess their sins and hear that they are cleansed of them and all unrighteousness. ANd they will see their brother, their neighbor, those those still fighting for freedom to sin, and they will fight to free them from sin, not simply restrict the ability to.
Adoration result in morality, not as a primary result, but simply as a side affect.
But if it is a moral society you really desire… desire instead the presence of the One who accounts us moral, and righteous, and beloved.