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Lord, You Really Want Me to do this? Don’t you have a better option?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

17 When the seventy-two n came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”
18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20  NCV

 

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

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.

For priests, pastors and all those who minister to others, there is a fine balance between humility and confidence.  And if we are honest, it is when we are struggling with the latter that we don’t act all that humble.  I imagine there may be one or two of us that think they are God’s gift to the church. (In a way they are0  But many of us still wonder why God has put us here, why God has entrusted to us this incredible, sacred, beautiful, demanding ministry.

I love Pope Francis’s words about our ministry. He nails it when talking about the awe that hits you when you pray over someone, or see their body loose every bit of tension and anxiety as they realize God’s forgiveness, as they realize He is present.   I still can recall the eyes of people after I have baptized them, or their children.  (Two incredible “devout” atheist/agnostic types come to mind as I baptized their children – eyes bright and full of tears… and God isn’t done with them either!) But his also occurs when we pray with someone over breakfast, or see people having an “aha” at work, as they realize another dimension of God’s love because we said something.

It is in those moments that our lives do feel like a work of art, as God weaves our lives with others, and creates something wonderful. If it iis awe-inspiring to consider sinners in the hands of an angry God, how much more incredible is it to see God work through the hands of a repentant sinner who trusts in Him?

Still, my heart cries out… why?  Why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Nothing of course.

Which is where the first gospel reading helps us maintain some manner of balance.  As wonderful it is that God can use us, the even more wonderful thing is that we already are certain He’s got us, we are HIs, our names are written in the Heaven,

That is even more amazing.  As broken, as sinful, as able as I am to screw up something, God has claimed us as His.

SO tomorrow, as you go to preach, or lead worship, to distribute communion or work with the children’s ministry, or just tell the person next to you – God is with you, indeed, you are being used by God, you carry His presence within you, and it is blessing others.   Remember though, that is simply proof of a greater mystery, a greater blessing.  You are one of God’s people, He is your God, and He loves you!  (me too!)

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Are We Too Solemn, too Reverent in our Worship?

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day

15All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant with all their heart. They took delight in worshipping the LORD, and he accepted them and gave them peace on every side.  2 Chronicles 15:15

In the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we detect the enthusiasm of the new converts, for whom being Christians was an unexpected gift, a blessing, great riches bestowed on them by God. It is good for us to realize this—for us who, as Christians, live for the most part with wrinkled brows and such an anxious awareness of the problems it entails that we feel almost guilty when we are happy about being Christians—that might be a form of triumphalism! Fundamentally, the joy of this epistle derives from the fact that the Apostle has dared to look directly at the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and his eternal love.…  (1)

There is a part of me that misses the old days when I would enter church and its silence would lend itself to the awe I felt being in the presence of God.  Reverence wasn’t just an attitude one took on to appear pious, it was something you were assimilated into, it consumed you. It was a very solemn reverence, one that facilitated dropping all your defenses, dropping you guard, and collapsing in the arms of God, in His sanctuary.

Those were precious times, and I still need them on occasion.

But then I need days like yesterday when as our mass ( our worship service ended) some people spontaneously began to clap.  Not sure who, not sure why, but it was appropriate to applaud God at that moment.  TO thank Him fo the work He does in us, work wrought with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For in His resurrection, in that moment of glory, we find ourselves taken up into Him.

His death we share in, even as He takes from us our sin, our shame, and our pain.

When I was younger, my dear devoted teachers would be angry? hurt? shocked? by the idea of people applauding and rejoicing in the presence of God.  But what else can you do, when you, as Pope benedict XVI describes, “dare to look directly into the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and His eternal love”

That love is so overwhelming, so precious, so deep, we must respond, we have no option.  Even when overwhelmed (see Jeremiah 20 – he tried to keep silent! )  This is what Christianity is about – to know we are loved beyond measure, to know we are loved by God, Father, Son, and Spirit.  He has accepted us as His own, given us peace beyond explanation, and therefore we delight in worshipping Him.

We are His… and even on Monday, that is incredible news.

(1)  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.

Potential Talent, the Cost of Discipleship and the Piano Man…

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.    Romans 12:3 (MSG)

684    So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”

It seems like a silly “dream”, yet it was the only option I ever thought of as an option to being a pastor.  It was to use my musical talents in the way Billy Joel sang about in the song “Piano Man”. “And the manager gives me a smile, because he knows that it’s me they are coming to see, to forget about life for a while.”

Of course my classical piano teacher would have been aghast to hear me talk of using my potential for that lowly pursuit.  He wanted me to play Rachmaninov and talked about how my finger spread would make it possible to do what so few could do.

I could look back and wonder if I wasted that talent, to be honest I couldn’t play either piece anymore without a month or four of serious practice and stretching out my fingers.  I can pick up a guitar, or sit at a keyboard and do simple back-up to other musicians, but be the primary instrumentalist?  Not so much…

SO did I waste my talent, and the odd gift that is found in the hands of someone with Marphan’s Syndrome?  Did I not take full advantage of them?

Not that I haven’t’ wondered this on occasion, as I’ve sat down and just messed around on the piano, playing whatever my fingers want me to play. Or when I have had the chance to back up my friend Chris, or when a famous CHirstian musician came to do a couple of solos and asked if he could play with our church liturgy band.

What if… and what would have happened if…

St Josemaria has it right, I think.  The little talent I have had, well, had it grown, what good would it have served, as compared to how it has served?  It’s been used to help people worship, and to be honest, hearing 80 or 100 voices sing His praises, drowning out my voice is a blessing beyond anything I could experience

There is something amazing about hearing people who know and are responding to God’s presence, something that occasionally makes the musicians stop playing, as just find themselves lifted up by hearts resonating with the love of God, as they drop their pain and their burdens, as their souls find healing, deep healing, as tears still flow, but from joy and relief, not from pain and grief.  To see people, as St. Paul wrote, understanding themselves in view of their relationship with God, as they realize the love that is beyond measure that is seen in the cross, and in their resurrection, their being born again.

These are moments I have never experienced at a live concert, as enjoyable as they are.

Talented wasted?  Not in the least.

I can’t think of a better use… than when the musicians can’t play, and the pastor can’t speak, because His presence is so incredibly present and overwhelming.

May we all have the blessing of knowing God’s presence… to the extent that every

we are is dropped aside in awe.. and gratitude.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1591-1593). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We See What God is Doing Now? Express YOUR awe anew! Thoughts approaching the New Year,

Devotional THought to End the Year:

1  Praise the LORD! Sing a new song to the LORD; praise him in the assembly of his faithful people! 2  Be glad, Israel, because of your Creator; rejoice, people of Zion, because of your king! 3  Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him. 4  The LORD takes pleasure in his people; he honors the humble with victory. 5  Let God’s people rejoice in their triumph and sing joyfully all night long.  Psalm 149:1-5 (TEV)

950  We should indeed respect things that are old, and be grateful for them. Learn from them by all means, and bear in mind those past experiences, too. But let us not exaggerate; everything has its own time and place. Do we now dress in doublet and hose or wear powdered wigs on our heads?  (1)

As a minister, as a servant of Christ and His church, I have had the chance to stand in awe, as I’ve observed God work. Last year, as I was in China, and saw people hungry for the gospel, as I saw pastors and church leaders hungry for training.  As I visited missionaries and saw in them a hunger to be minister to, a hunger so met, that a simple worship service was fileld with tears, with incredible joy, with incredible love.  I’ve seen it here at my church, as those who needed God’s comfort and peace in times that trusting in God and knowing HIs presence shuold have been challenged, were comforted and able to pray with a quiet confidence.  As people approach the altar, leaving burdens dropped, and receiving in exchange, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and treasuring that joyous moment.

He is amazing, this God of ours, and we should stand in awe of His presence.  A presence we should melt in, not from fear, but in awe of His love that I can only use terms like passionate, and intimate, not because of it being erotic, but because of its power and completeness.

A love that is the stuff of song, a love that creates in the musician, the artist, the poet, the wood and metal worker, the blogger, a new work as we find ways to express that awe.

Others have done this in the past, as they have used their heart and minds and hands to create masterpieces in every form, visible, audidble, tactile, They give us examples of what can be done, they can help keep us focused on Jesus.

Without such awe, Luther would have never realized what a place of rest God’s presence is, and written of Him as our Mighty Fortress.  Augustine wouldn’t have penned tomes, exploring the fullness of theology.  St Francis and Mother Theresa wouldn’t have found His beauty among lepers, Pascal wouldn’t have written of the fire that burns.  And people like Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, Matt West and Mark Hall and Chris Gillette wouldn’t be writing music now.  To express the joy that is found in knowing God’s presence here, in that awe inspiring us to worship Him.

You see, God didn’t stop inspiting people after the sixteenth century, He didn’t stop working in people’s lives after the death of the apostles, Or after the publication of any hymnal. When we cling to these things, and demand that they are the only way to properly worship God, it can be admission that we don’t see Him working today, that nothing He is doing leaves us in awe, and we create an idol out of past. We stand in awe, not of God, but of their experience, their awe.  We end up like the sons of Sceva, trying to rid people of what oppresses them by incanting God because of someone else’s relationship.

Do you see what God is doing now?  In your life?  In the life of your family, the church, and in your community, which He longs to bring into Christ, through your love demonstrating His?

God;s presence recognized now means that people will need to express their awe, people will need to use their words, their instruments, their talents within their culture, within their time, to do so.  Learning from those who’ve gone before, listening to ensure they do not stray, yes.  But the people of God need to praise God for what He is doing in their lives, Lives that are claimed at the cross, year lives we lived in 2013, and soon in 2014.  The Lord is with us!  Rejoice! Be in absolute awe!  With all you are, respond in joyous praise!

Words and music as published in The Chorale Bo...

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3851-3854). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Familiarity Breeds ….. Awe!

As always – feel free to comment/discuss:

There is an old saying – which cam to mind while discussing yesterday’s devotion on the Trinity.  A good friend of mine indicated that he feared reducing his faith to that of the country/gospel songs where Jesus is described as a friend/pal – almost as if he will raise a mug of Coors or Bud with us.  ( blech) .  I get that, there is a point where we can make God our ole bud and then take him for granted.  (as we sometimes do with our best friends)

It’s what the old phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” so aptly describes.   THe idea that the longer we spend with someone, or with something, the more we take it for granted.

We have to admit – most of us take God for granted, and treat Him contemptuously from time to time.  🙁

I wonder though, is our taking Him for granted just based in our being too close? That we only take Him for granted when we think of Him as friend as a familiar part of our lives?  Or do we take Him for granted when we think we related to Him as the Creator, and we are just a speck of the Creation?  I would suggest its both.

So let’s look again at a familiar passage..

15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14 And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
John 15:11-17 (TEV) 

It is in realizing that Jesus, Lord of Lords, King of Kings shares with us what the Father entrusted Him with, that we are no co-heirs of Christ, adopted children of God.  That level of familiarity, that yes, does include the entire Trinity, that is amazing!  A common sinner like me (and yes you as well) welcome into the presence of God, not as a servant/slave, as one indebted (yet we owed a great debt) but as family, is too me something I desire not to take for granted, not to treat contemptuously, and yes, it hurts and sickens me when I realize that I have.  How it should crush us, for a moment, as we realize that we have forgotten the Holy Spirit, who abides with us, the incredible gift of our baptism.

We are His people,….I am His own.  He has called us by name – His name….

He became common – that He could be with us… that we would share in His glory, as we abide in Him, and He abides in us…

May this familiarity continue to breed such awe..that my life responds in worship and praise!

 

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