Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
16 Once a man came to Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me concerning what is good?” answered Jesus. “There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.” 18 “What commandments?” he asked. Jesus answered, “Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; 19 respect your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. 23 Jesus then said to his disciples, “I assure you: it will be very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of heaven. 24 I repeat: it is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely amazed. “Who, then, can be saved?” they asked. 26 Jesus looked straight at them and answered, “This is impossible for human beings, but for God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:16-26 (TEV)
486 A heart which loves the things of the earth beyond measure is like one fastened by a chain—or by a “ fine thread”—which stops it flying to God.
If you are going to make a resolution this year, I urge you to look closely at the above passage from scripture, and the words of wisdom from St. Josemaria.
And before you vow to lose weight, kick caffeine or some other bad habit, or taking on something new like going back to school or learning something, I want to ask you something.
What is holding you back?
What has tied you down, and restrains you from living life.
Of course, that leads to another question, what does it mean to live life.
The young man in the gospel story was after that, for to live eternally is not just about life after, but it is the life that is given now, which is never taken from us, even if we physically die. Modern psychology might call it self-actualization, or they might point to obtaining some state of consciousness. We might joke about it as being at one with the force.
And most religions, including cults like Scientology, have some way to attain it, some way of freeing your mind and soul from that which separates you from eternity. Some may even see it similarly to Jesus, and realize that it is not about attaining something, but freeing your heart and soul from things which bind it, restrict it, and stop you from soaring like an eagle, free of all encumbrances.
For the rich young man, ( Paul the apostle perhaps?) it was wealth. There are a number of other things we could suggest, things that tie u down and restrict us from walking with God. These things may even be the negative things of our past, that we can’t seem to escape the impact of, or at least we think we cannot. We can’t tie ourselves to these things, but we too often do.
So how do we escape? How do we cut these things that bind us, that we “love” an yet hate? How do we stop loving these things that hold us back?
We can not.
That’ right, we cannot.
Our only hope, the only strategic option we have is simply this.
Realize you love God more. And the way to do that spends time dwelling in His love. Paul says it this way:
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)
If you want to see a change in your life in 2018, if you want to break free from all that holds you back, then experience His love.
Come join his people as we celebrate that love, as we share in His gospel, as we commune with Him in the sacrament He ordained to do this very thing. Spend time in His word, not just studying it, but looking at it to see how He loves his people. Rejoice as you encounter His faithfulness to them, knowing it will be the same to you.
This will change you, even though you may not see it yourself. Others will, and they will praise God as you get even more hungry and thirsty to spend time with Him.
The Lord is with you… you just need to know that. And I pray all that read this will! (Pray for me a well, because I need to!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1866-1868). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. NCV Phil. 1:6
We often use the word stable to refer to a person who is constant and consistent. We say, “You can count on her.” Or, in Christian terms, we may think of the writer of Hebrews, who admonishes new Christians to endure to the end (Heb. 4:11).
The monastic concept of stability translated into our spiritual life means “stay in your baptism” and “continue to live out of the death and resurrection of Jesus by continually dying to sin and rising to the new life of the Spirit staying in God’s divine embrace.” Obviously such a vow should not be taken lightly.
2 God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.
It is an odd word for me. You see, I have spent most of my adult life changing things. Changing jobs, locations, residences ( again next week!) I am not sure I have known stability, or for that matter, provided it for my family.
I have to admit, I love change, and love being involved causing change. Hopefully, the change is on the order of transformation, and not just the chaotic kind of change that causes stress. Well, let me be honest, I can find that kind of change exhilarating and even entertaining.
I love change, I am almost an addict of it. Routine is boring, and I don’t find much alive in getting into a rut.
So this morning, I am writing on… stability? As a positive thing? Really?
There is an area I desperately need stability in, and if that is stable, if that is anchored, all other change simply becomes… negligible. There is a stability that must invade my life, must always be depended upon.
Webber talks about it as staying in your baptism, what the monasteries and convents were actually trying to provide. Their strength was not found in their own personal stability, or in the stability that living in a disciplined community caused. Their stability was provided by the constant reference to the presence of the Lord.
That is where the stability comes from, the work and promises God did in our baptism, and continues to do until the work is finished with Christ’s return. It’s this knowledge of Christ’s work, the Holy Spirit’s work, that happens in our presence, which reveals we are in the presence of the God the Father. He is ours, St. Josemaria pleads with us to remember! We are His! And that creates a stability that goes beyond our problems, our challenges, our brokenness, our sin.
It is the divine embrace, God taking us into His arms, our being fused to Christ and His cross. Nothing is more intimate, more transforming and yet more stable than this.
Know this, hear it over and over;
The Lord is with you!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;5 the light shines in the darkness,and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:3-5
Money can buy many things, but not the spirit of selflessness and service. That can, perhaps, be borrowed for awhile from other countries, but when it is lacking for any length of time in the whole organism of a nation, its achievement stands on feet of clay, and its collapse is in the long run inevitable. (1)
It is amazing how many people make promises that would give us hope. A new product will change our lives, a new investment program will ensure comfort in our retirement, a politician will make our communities thrive again.
What these ads are telling us, whether we realize it is or not, is that we are impoverished. That we don’t have the ability to truly live life to its fullest, because we lack this essential ingredient.
This is true for individuals, for churches, communities and our country. These advertisers, selling everything from caffeine, bacon and beer to pecan-pumpkin flavored bleach and political candidates are telling us, “you don’t have a life”, or “your life, such as it is, sucks.”
What they don’t realize, is the only essential in our lives, is Christ… and that changes everything… for it creates life.
Pope Benedict in one of my readings this morning, noted that declining countries are those who are lacking people who are willing to work the people to serve in our nursing homes and hospitals, who will take on the hardest roles where personal sacrifice is called for daily. We import people to work in those areas, rather than raising up our children and the children in our communities to make a difference. They may be imported from other states, or other countries – but imported they are.
It is not hard to see a correlation between that and the death of churches in communities. For as the church dies, the amount of people who follow Christ – not just into heaven, but walk with Him, imitating Him, living as He did – for He himself brings life to us, and defines it as He lives in harmony with the Father and the Spirit, even as He calls us into that relationship.
This is our identity, this is our life, this is what it means to be His people, and for Him to be our God. To be the children of God who love as we are loved, who lay aside our lives for others, that they would be reconciled to God. That they too would be able to share in God’s glory, that they would know and be united to Jesus.
This is why scripture points out that true religion is caring for the widow and orphan! It points out that the sheep are welcomed into heaven because they served (even though they didn’t realize they were serving!) We see that in the Augsburg Confession as well, as it talks of obedience and good works as the effect of knowing God’s love. It all starts with His love, and the result of that is a love that brings us to serve each other.
So if we want to see our church or our country renewed, it starts with knowing Jesus, with knowing the love and mercy of God which transforms us into people who serve, and even suffer, as Christ did – for the joy set before us, knowing the love of God for HIs people, of whom we are a part.
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.
Witnessing Something Changes You
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ change you, as you witness and bear witness to His Love. Amen!
As people, we remember critical times in our lives. For some can remember where they were on December 7, 1941, or for some others, November 22, 1963. For my generation, it was where we were when the Challenger, blew up, and all of us are marked by the date 9-11. Others have dates that are more personal, our birthdays and anniversaries, for my parents, April Fool’s Day, 1965 was pretty important as well. It was the day where they picked up an infant from and adopted him.
We remember those days, because what we witness those days changed us. IN some cases, like the birth and wedding for the better. Other days, like 9-11 change us forever, bringing us anxiety and re-calling exactly where we were, a memory we share with others who witnessed the same event, even if they were halfway around the world.
I imagine Thomas had one of those experiences, on a day, like this, just a week after the resurrection. The day that changed everything in his life, that took him from mourning into great joy, and awe, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
We see that in the life of all the apostles in the first few chapters of Acts, as they go from men cowering in fear, to men who are willing to be jailed and beaten, to suffer and even die, because of what they witnessed,
Because when you witness something, good or bad, stunning or traumatic, it changes you….
And God promises to change us, because of what the apostles witnessed, and bore witness too. When that is revealed to us, it will change us, in the same way.
Change? I don’t need change
With all the anxiety regarding change, I think most of us don’t see the need for change. More precisely, we don’t want to see the need for change. We are willing to settle for life this way; we grow content in it.
Change might shake it up! We might lose the things we count on; we might be asked to make a sacrifice, or have some habit and sin removed from our lives. We might have to give up that resentment, or that pain that we hang on to, that gives us an identity. Change means giving up the sin that traps us, especially the sins that have such a hold on us that we try to justify, the sins that appease our insecurity, that help us avoid our anxiety, that put the blame on others. That gives us the illusion of safety, of security, and instead of choosing God’s comfort, we simply choose to be comfortable.
There is a big difference there, between being comfortable and being comforted. Being comfortable with life, often means we are comfortable in our sin.
After this week, I will take being comforted anytime, for the presence of God that brings us that comfort, that peace, a true refuge in time of troubles, that is what Thomas experienced, that is what Peter and the other apostles experienced.
A comfort that lets you get up and start moving again, sure that you are walking with God, who is in charge, who does love you.
I don’t see a change?
If we don’t see a need for change, that is a problem. It is likewise a problem when we see the change that God is making in your life. Sometimes it seems slow, ponderously slow. We wonder if God has made changes in our life if He is living up to His promises.
There are days it seems like nothing changes, we still live in the midst of trauma, many still live with their lives confused and challenged by finances or our relationships. We still might have days where we wonder where God is, and why things aren’t perfect.
Why don’t we have the faith of Peter and John, and the rest of the apostles? Why aren’t we like the giants of the faith? I mean how many of us would have the faith to continue to live our life of faith, when under great pressure?
Would you go back to the temple – to teach those who wanted to know more about God?
As a church, I’ve to see you do that, maybe not under the pressure of jail, but facing great discomfort, and caring for each other, and with those who came to mourn. We’ve gone back to the same pain, so many of us have felt, because others were there, needing the peace that we knew.
We’ve changed, we don’t hesitate, we run to that battle, even as the apostles ran to the temple. Because people need us, because people who go through this life without knowing God’s life, don’t even know what it means to be able to trust God, to depend upon His faithfulness. Everything gets set aside, to help other’s know Christ’s peace.
As I watched people caring for each other on Tuesday, I saw this. But so did a lot of our guests,
It is no less remarkable than the apostles escaping the jail and finding themselves in the courtyard of the Temple – sharing the blessing of Jesus to those who would hear, and be amazed.
So is the Holy Spirit!
So how does this happen, this transformation, this change that happens in believers? The very last verses tell us and gives us the hope of such a change continue to happen in our lives.
I say continue, because the change is occurring, or perhaps, we are becoming more comfortable with God in our midst that it is easier to see. Verse 30.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
God, the Father allows Jesus to die, He raises Jesus from the dead, and Jesus ascends to the Father, and to a place of honor and glory for one reason, so that we, the people who wrestle with God, (for that is what Israel means) will become repentant, that we would be changed, and made holy as He forgives us.
This work of God is something we talked about last week, on Thursday when Chris shared, and on Good Friday as Bernie and I shared, and on Easter Sunday. It sustained us on Tuesday, and others on Thursday, Friday and yesterday as some of us gathered with Mark and Susan.
This death and resurrection of Jesus, to pay for our sins, to call us back to God we know is true, we have witnessed its effect. But so has the Holy Spirit witnessed it, for it is this truth that the Holy Spirit joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptism, and we walk given it, each and every day.
As we become more aware of it, as we look to Jesus, as we are aware that, Alleluia! He is Risen!…. and therefore….
And what that means, what the Holy Spirit is confirming in us, is that The Lord is with you!
And that changes everything, even as it did when Thomas cried out, My Lord and My God!… AMEN!
The Transformations of Easter
The Change to Our Demographics
† IHS †
May the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so heal and transform our lives that we continually hear His desire that all come to the same healing and transformation. And may we dedicate our lives to this very work!
Whose conversion would leave you “out of your mind”?
Have you ever been so confused that you felt out of place? That life all of a sudden was so jumbled that you wondered if you were out of your mind? That life didn’t make all that much sense, that your world seemed to be turning upside-down, inside-out and backward,
You aren’t alone. I’ve had those days myself. Matter of fact, I’ve had more than my share of them!
So did the apostles. Imagine how you would feel if at the next combined service – with two hundred people to feed, we only had 5 filet-o-fishes from McDonald’s, and Jesus said, “No problem, let me pray and then hand out what you’ve got?”
Or the time Jesus was asleep in the middle of the storm, wakes up and tells the sea to be still. That one left them more afraid of Jesus than the storm.
Think about how things changed that night when Jesus, who they witnessed dying on the cross, just walked into the room and told them to stop being afraid, to stop being anxious. That confused them a bit, don’t you think?
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus transforms everything in our lives, and sometime, okay, most of the time, we aren’t even ready for it.
Like in the story from Acts today, when the Roman soldier and his family, the enemies of Israel are saved. The word for amazed in our translation is the word existemi – to be displaced, or more bluntly, to be out of your mind.
That’s what happens when God transforms your enemies into your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Yeah, your enemies. God wants to transform them and welcome them to our family.
Whether that is the ISIS leader, some politician you don’t like, your neighbors whose dog keep you up last night, there is someone whose salvation might confuse you a bit.
You see one of the transformations of Easter is God changing the demographics of His people, to include people of every group on earth.
the Challenge of Grace
As we walk through life, we are going to encounter those people who are described with words like enemies, adversaries. They may seriously threaten us, or they may simply irritate us.
For the most part, the Romans were counted among the former group in Peter’s day. And the animosity and fear were mutual. Jews were taught that non-Jews were not people because they weren’t allowed to be people of God. That isn’t what the Bible taught, but it was so often heard in synagogues that it became part of the religion.
This resulted in a culture of fear, and the oppressive Roman government didn’t help much, nor did the extremists like the zealots, who made every issue a critical one. Jewish men weren’t supposed to go into the homes of Gentiles, whether, Greek or Roman.
We may not feel this way about a nationality or race of people today, but most of us do have people we find hard to love or accept. Maybe it is because they are of a different economic class, or because they belong to a different political party. Maybe they are family, these people who you would struggle with, And maybe your own reaction to them causes you to grieve, to be filled with anxiety, to even give up hope for reconciliation and healing.
Maybe we have even been dealing with the brokenness of a relationship so long, we believe it beyond God’s ability to heal?
For the Jewish people, these relationships with Greeks and Romans, even with their Samaritan neighbors, had long since been shattered. Even though, God had promised Abraham that his descendant would bless all nations, even though David and Isaiah wrote about it, even though Solomon dedicated the Temple to both Jewish and non-Jewish people praying to God there….
The relationships were shattered; there was nothing there but animosity, fear, resentment, division and hatred. Simply put, they were shattered by sin.
As have our relationships…indeed all relationships… until the hope of Easter transformed our relationships.
Among the things we can “take away” from this passage, it is the hope that realizing how “out of their minds” the Jewish believers were, when they witnessed their natural enemies and adversaries being touched by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit who they counted on, who they were comforted by, who transformed their world, in a moment healed the broken relationship Cornelius’s family had with God, and therefore healed all the brokenness between them.
It is as radical as if we got a call from the leaders of Isis, to come share God’s love with them, and we ended up baptizing them and their families.
It is as radical as the guy who killed and captured pastors, coming to know Christ’s love, and becoming an incredible missionary,
It is as radical as God saving you, or I.
Making us the body of Christ, the people of God, the friends of Jesus.
As it happens, as God transforms this Roman military commander, and his family and household, there is confusion and joy and a myriad of emotions as they realized that God doesn’t have a list of types of people that are welcome before His throne.
There are people of every nation, every culture, every language, every economic class. People who grew up worshipping idols, people that grew up knowing of God, but needing to know Him. All types, all kinds, all ages,….
And those who, when God begins working in them, cause us to pause, to wonder, and then to be beside ourselves with joy!
That is why we don’t lose hope for those we struggle with; that is why we try to live at peace with them, care for them, love them. That is our hope for dealing with them and seeing reconciliation happen.
Because it can, and it has….
Because of a cross, a burial and a resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God.
Yes, because of that we can all know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
How Easter is Transforming Our World!
The Change to Our Community
† IHS †
May the Grace of God our Heavenly Father and our Risen Lord Jesus strengthen you, even as it transforms us.
Change versus Transformation:
I am about to tell you something is coming, and I want your reaction to the word I use.
What is coming, what will happen to us here at Concordia is “change”. You will not be able to resist it, you can’t stop it. Resistance is futile.
If you are like 90 percent of the population, hearing that might make you a little anxious, or you might wonder if there is anything that can be done to stop it.
Some of you might even begin to wonder what is changing. Some will automatically look and think of negative changes. Some of you might be thinking of things that could change for the positive. And what is ironic – you might be thinking of the same exact thing!
For the rest of Easter, we are going to be looking at the changes that happen to a church, matter of fact that are happening at our church.
But to alleviate the stress, the worry, the concern, how about if I use the word transformation instead? A transformation so complete, we might not even recognize ourselves, or our church, when God is through with us!
Today’s observed transformation
In our reading from the Book of Acts this morning, we see an incredible description of the change that will, no, the change that is happening to us.
It talks there of a church, the people that trusted in God that became united in both their heart and their mind. In every part of their existence. They were one in the way they felt, in the ways they thought. They desired the same thing; they reacted together to what was going on, and they identified themselves, all 8000 of them or more, as sharing the same life.
Luke tells us the uniqueness of this church; they were of one heart and mind to the extent of sharing everything they had with each other. I love the way the word pictures describe this; everything is held to be common, nothing special and set aside.
Therefore, if there were people in need, the rest of the people found a way to meet that need. No one lacked, because how can you let your people go without?
What a transformation we see happening to the people who trusted God! Who continually heard that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! (wait…)
I mean, what kind of people would liquidate their wealth, to help others, people they barely know?
The Change to our Norm
If we look at what God does to his people from the perspective of “before” the cross, the change seems frightening, and the description of the early church doesn’t make sense.
Give up what is precious? Trust people with what I treasure? Give up my security, to make sure others feel secure?
We talked about this when we talked about the Lord’s prayer, and the idea that we trust God to provide everything we need. It takes faith to live like this, an incredible amount of faith.
You can’t listen to the questions that would raise doubts about our fellow man. You can’t wonder if people need, or if they will abuse the blessing, or whether someone will be there for you, when you need the help, instead of being able to provide it.
You need to reach out and trust rather than be cynical, you have to have the wisdom to discern need, and the compassion to meet the need.
Our nature, even on the good days hears this and takes it as an obligation. That God requires us to change our hearts, to reach out with this kind of love, making the sacrifices as proof of our faith.
And if that is our belief, we shall surely fall short. We need to change…
Our old nature that was once in bondage to sin, Satan and feared death calls for us to protect ourselves, and what we’ve earned, what is ours by right. That leads to sin, as we struggle to get what isn’t ours, or we overlook our neighbors, and what they need.
The change is not so much in what is individually ours. Instead, we see what is God’s, and treasure that more than anything else.
The Beauty of the transformation…
Though the vision cast here in Acts is that what it looks like financially to be of one mind, I think we’ve seen here, at Concordia, what it means to be emotionally of one mind.
Paul talked of this too, when he told the church in Rome,
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)
We’ve become “of one mind” here. We share deeply in each other’s joys, the moments when someone is baptized, or when someone has good news. We’ve shared as well in each other’s sorrows and griefs, stood beside each other in moments of grief. We’ve cried with each other often; it seems as often as we laugh together over meals we have shared.
That is the transformation that God works in His church, in His people. That we respond to each other. To meet each other’s needs before thinking about ourselves.
It’s come about not by force, but rather by focusing on God’s love for us, the love seen in the cross, and reflected as we share in His body and blood. By sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It’s what happens when we look to Christ, and as Paul says in 2 Cor 3, the Holy Spirit changes us, transforms us into Christ’s image, as we reflect His glory.
This change that happens isn’t our work, just as it wasn’t the idea of the apostles. It happens when we realize the love of God, revealed in the death of Christ for your sins, in his burial, and in the fact He is risen from the grave.
He has given us life, now and for eternity, living in the glory of His love, with one heart, with one mind. AMEN.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. 10 “Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12 I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 18:9-14 (TEV)
440 Your character is so uneven! Your keyboard is out of order. You play very well on the high notes and on the low notes… but no sound comes from the ones in the middle, the ones used in ordinary life, the ones people normally hear. (1)
As I was driving to breakfast this morning, I notice the shopping center’s construction was well underway. They weren’t building new stores, or making major renovations to the facility. Just updating the frontal facades of all the stores. Trying to make it look less like the 1980’s-1990’s and more modern. The stores themselves won’t change, still a supermarket, a good mexican restaurant, a couple of banks, yogurt shop, coffee shop, etc. The substance will stay the same, only the packaging is changing, and probably at a significant cost to someone. Eventually it will cost the tax-payers and customers of those businesses.
At breakfast, I read an article about the restaurants that get a “make-over” by Gordon Ramsey, the chef and entrepreneur. Over 60 percent of them still fail, even as he invests money in them, making over the restaurant, the menu, the staffs. Even so, there are things he cannot address in one week, the heart and soul of the owners and employees. The substance still stays the same.
Then I read St Josemaria this morning, and the passage from Luke popped into my mind…..
You see, we all put up facades, even those of us who trust in Jesus, and the work He did when He saved us. We put them up, trying to make people think (or even worse – make ourselves think) that everything will be all right, that everything is fine, that all is well in our world. That business as usual is good and prosperous and everything will be all right.
The problem is that facades don’t change the substance, and they don’t really change the image we have of what lies behind it. What was there is still there. If it is poor business practices, it still will be. If it is lousy customer service, well then, that will still be the case. If it is sin, it is sin. Or if it is the missing strings that betray a weak faith in the basic areas of life, then those two will be missing. The pharisee will still be the pharisee, the hypocrite will still be the hypocrite.
Don’t bother changing the facade….it won’t change you! To cause true change, the building has to be leveled, Death must come, and re-birth has to happen. Faith is trusting God to kill us off, and to raise us to life in Christ. Faith is trusting that this is what the cross is all about, that are being unified to that cross in baptism is what this is all about. To know the new creation we have become, is because God has done this. To walk away, knowing that because of His love, God has declared us innocent, clean, His.
He removes not just the facade, He changes more the menu, He takes those who are pharisees and tax-collectors, cuts our their heart of stone… and replaces it with one of flesh. He puts in us His Holy Spirit, who transforms us…..He declares us justified, and holy, cleansed and set apart to walk with Him….
Lord, have mercy on us, poor sinners… and thank you for making us saints! AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1957-1959). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)
333 Think about this carefully: being transparent lies more in not hiding things rather than in wanting things to be seen. It is a matter of allowing the objects lying at the bottom of a glass to be perceived, and not trying to make the air visible. (1)
it has been one of those weeks. The kind I have had far too often recently, but this one is up there.
Six years ago, even though I read the verses above from Jeremiah many times before, I actually preached on it. I was at the time deciding to accept a call to the church I presently serve. Leaving behind friends and a church that was described by my predecessor as the nicest church he had ever encountered in 50 years of ministry. So why would I leave? And what did it mean that I would preach on this dark passage from Jeremiah?
Weeks like this one. Where I started the week praying for friend that was likewise moving from one parish to another, at the choice of his supervisors. Trying to grieve the change, while ministering to those he was coming to serve. Difficult. Very difficult. Another old friend this week revealed that he was also moving from one church to another – re-assigned by his supervisors. A challenging move for him as well, and then another friend last night, was told it was time to move in his ministry.
I am praying for one of the men I had a part in training for ministry, he has brain cancer and is fading fast. Another friend I found out this morning, who I also trained as a deacon, had a heart attack. Last night, out of the blue, I found myself discussing the death of one of the best friends in my life, who ministered at my side for far too long. There as well was another of my best friends, who lost his dad a month after I lost mine, and a few months later, his mom went to be with God as well.
Tomorrow, as our children wish us Happy Father’s Day, for the first time we can’t go to lunch with our dads, or talk to them on the phone. Some 15 of our friends lost dad’s or a granddad after ours passed.
This is not counting the trauma of those around us, which dwarfs our own. Dear friends with health problems. Families torn apart and going through death, others through divorce, family facing issues with those they love who are in bondage to drugs or alcohol. People dealing with financial crisis, people dealing with disabilities, including those of the mental health variety. Missionaries who are trying to deal with poverty that makes our headspin, or with violence and threats and potential martyrdom. Other people making decisions that will wreck their lives, decisions they know are wrong, but justify with justifications that…
It is enough to make you want to scream “stop”, or yell out in anger and frustration.
And if we admit it, if we are honest and transparent, the One we want to yell at …. is God.
Couldn’t He do something? “In only you had been here Lord,”the sisters of Lazarus has said. Whose fault is all of this suffering, all this pain? Why can’t life be simple and pleasant and without all this…. painful crap… (I wrote something else there.(shit).. but edited it)
It took preaching on Jeremiah’s hitting the breaking point, to be able to realize that it was ok to yell at God. That you can say that God tricked you, deceived you, to cry out like a 5 year old, “That’s not fair” or “This sucks…. That transparency with God, about our feelings, our frustrations our pain is a good thing, and I will dare say, it is necessary.
Because being that transparent with God is a matter of faith, it is necessary if we are to trust Him to bring us through the situation, if we are going to allow Him to walk us through the fire, through the storm, even through the valley of the shadow of death. It is necessary to grieve, because then acknowledging the pain, we can let Him, ask Him, count on Him, to bring healing, to bring peace, to flood our lives with His love, and comfort.
You can’t do that if you are hiding it, if you are bottling it up, letting it turn to resentment. Pouring it out on those who become you victims, because you won’t let the frustration and anger be turned on the One who has shoulders to bear it, shoulders that bore the stripes of whips, the very stripes that Isaiah prophesied would heal us, cleanse us… save us.
Have to admit, I don’t like writing this blog. Have to admit – I would love to just spend tomorrow walking along Lake Ossipee, with my son, and yeah – with my dad.
It needs to be written, for my own sake, but perhaps for yours as well. To give us the confidence to say,
Lord have mercy…. which can only be said… when we know we need it… even desperately need it.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1555-1557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devtional THought of the Day:
2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:2 (TEV)
2 May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.
This morning, I found out a good friend of mine is going to be experiencing a massive change this summer, as he returns to the U.S.A from the mission field. His children were born on the field, all they know is living in Asia. It will be a massive challenge to readjust to life here.. Another friend, a Catholic priest, will be also changing parishes, leaving behind people he loves, and taking on some challening responsibilities. Many I know are going through changes of life, as they get older, as they are married, as they leave school and enter the workforce. The change that happens as health crisis threaten.
Change – it is challenging, it is frieghtening, it is ocverwhelming, and based on a lot of experience, it often simply, sucks.
Maybe that is why Lent is such a challenge for us. Because of the changes that we will undergo as we consider our lives. I am not talking about giving up chocolate, or not eating meat on Friday, or of committing to do a good thing every day. These actions, taken with great sincerity, are simply symbolic of what we hope and fear to see coming out of a Lenten season, our of a life that is, to use a fancy church word penitnent. (More than just being sorry, but grieving over sin and the brokenness it causes.
Lent is a season of change. A season of transformation, a season of realizing our desperate, yes desperate need for the presence of God in our lives. For Him to come into our life, into our brokenness, into the deepest parts of our lives. The parts we would rather not face, the pasts we are scared to revisit, He comes there, and takes on the sin, the pain, the brokennes. He consumes it, there on the cross where it is with Him. This is a change as fierce, as daunting, as radical as anything we can undergo in life. For it is death for that part of us, the part we cannot cope with, the burdens we need to be freed from, for they crush the life out of us.
It could be said that this process of facing our brokennes is hard, is extreme, is a process of change that goes beyond our ability to bear. For we have to die to self, and trust that we will coem alive in Christ. It is a re-living of our baptism, for it happened there as well. Unting with the death of Christ………the strkness, the cruelty of the cross.
Yet, on the otherside, there is light and peace… and joy.
For there is God, there is Christ, there is the gift fo the Holy Spirit who walks us through this valley of the shadow of death, to celebrate Christ’s feast.
That is our journey of lent, our journey that changes us, as we walk with Jesus to the cross, and to the resurrection.
May you embrace the change this year, knowing God’s mercy, and allowing Him to clean out the places in your life where you fear to go.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 174-175). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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.