The Hidden Cost of Worship!
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus… and to His cross.dd
75 We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks to you! We proclaim how great you are and tell of the wonderful things you have done! Psalm 75:1 GNT
They who do not feel their sin, and are not dismayed, nor see their infirmities, profit not a whit by it, nor do they delight in it. Though they hear the gospel, it has no effect upon them, except that they learn the words, and speak of what they have heard. They do not treasure them in their hearts, and receive neither comfort nor joy from them.
It were well, if the gospel could be preached only where faint-hearted and conscience-stricken ones are found. But this cannot be, and for this reason it bears so little fruit. The fault is not in the gospel, but in the hearers. They hear it, but they do not feel their own affliction and misery, nor have they ever tried to feel it.
The Last Supper must be understood and proclaimed also as such. Just as in baptism we meet our death and the promise of new life, so also here we encounter the death of the old and the hope of the new. “When you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). It is death-dealing to pretentious god-seekers to be reduced to eating a bit of bread and drinking a sip of wine for salvation. But just so it is also life-giving in the promise. It is the breakthrough of the new in the midst of our time.
THE sincerity of all prayer, whether liturgical or private, depends on the fundamental acknowledgment of our actual spiritual state. We have to have some realization of what we are supposed to be, of what we are not, and of what we are. The first step towards a liberty that is a free gift of God’s grace is the free acknowledgment of our own need for His grace.
As I was reading Psalm 75 this morning, I thought about why we praise God.
It is not because He is all powerful, or all knowledge. It cannot be based in fear anymore than it can be through some idea of manipulating God into saving us.
So where does worship come from? From realizing that God is at work in our lives.
And that is where the horrible, ugly, truth comes into play.
We need Him to work in our lives.
We need Him to do so because we are broken and crushed by the world and by our own sin.
Luther’s words drive this point home- noting how we have to feel our sin, we have to recognize our brokenness. Not so we can be belittled or terrorized by it – the sin does that on its own. But we need to face it, so we can say that we are forgiven it. This hurts most of the time – for the same reason pulling stitches and dressings off of wounds hurts. Merton agrees with this – explaining that we have to understand where we are, in order to understand grace. Forde nails the point home, when talking about the mystery of the Eucharist, and how such a simple piece of bread and sip of win is so transforming–because it is the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. The promises in it are amazing, if we only take the time to think through it.
It is there, at the altar, and at the baptismal font, that the great miracles in our lives happen. THey may also be the most overlooked, for they are sublime. As we come to understand them, the true glory of God, His love, is made known to us. ANd worship should well up inside of us,
Letting God deal with our darkness is needed for worship to really soar. So let Him in… and know the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 142.
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 178.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 162.
The Strongest People in Times of Crisis
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2)
What made saints, saints? What makes the cynical, skeptical world turn its head at a Mother Teresa? What made the hard-nosed Roman Empire convert to the religion of a crucified Jewish carpenter? The world did not say: “See how they explain one another!” but “See how they love one another!” The most effective argument for Christianity is Christians who are saints, lovers. The saints are the Spirit’s salesmen. You cannot argue with a saint. He would just kiss you, as Jesus did to Judas and as He did to the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevski’s parable in The Brothers Karamazov. How do you fight love? You don’t. You lose. That is, you win.
Unity does not come about by polemics nor by academic argument but by the radiance of Easter joy; this is what leads to the core of the Christian profession, namely: Jesus is risen. This leads, too, to the core of our humanity, which yearns for this joy with its every fiber. So it is this Easter joy which is fundamental to all ecumenical and missionary activity; this is where Christians should vie with each other; this is what they should show forth to the world.
I encountered the reading from Kreeft first this morning and knew it would be part of these thoughts. It hits the basic thought I have about ministry and evangelism – it is not about appealing to logic and reason – it is about loving people.
Kreeft mentions Jesus allowing Judas to embrace him, and one can think of the deacon Stephen, loving the people who were torturing and stoning him. The stories of such saints are easy to find, even if they are hard to understand how people can love so completely!
Loving like this is hard, it requires sacrifice, It requires humility, it requires all the things that 1 Corinthians 13 discusses.
But then I came across Pope Benedict’s (aka Joseph Ratzinger) words, and the idea of how we can love others appears – we love them because we are united in Jesus. The death and resurrection of Christ, the purest love ever seen in history, unites us in a way that nothing else can. At the cross, we all have died to sin and been raised, without that sins eternal stain. All that was there to not love about another person has been done away with, all that remains of it is a shadow.
In the resurrection, we not only see the power of love, we are enveloped by it, transformed by it, we are united to it, united to the God who is love.
And therefore, unity is possible.
Therefore, there is hope.
You want to know how to remain strong in this time, know God loves you, then ask Him to help you love others.
It makes all the difference.
Lord, help us revel in Your love, help us soak it in, to the extent that loving others is a natural inclination. † Amen!
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 131.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 133.