Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 Then some little children were brought to Him (Jesus), so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples frowned on the parents’ action but Jesus said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!” Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way. Matthew 19:13 (Phillips NT)
870 Don’t try to be older. A child, always a child, even when you are dying of old age. When a child stumbles and falls, nobody is surprised, and his father promptly picks him up. When the person who stumbles and falls is older, the immediate reaction is one of laughter. Sometimes, after this first impulse, the laughter gives way to pity. But older people have to get up by themselves. Your sad experience is that each day is full of stumbles and falls. What would become of you if you were not continually more of a child? Don’t try to be older. Be a child, and when you stumble, may your Father God pick you up by the hand.
Of all the spiritual writers I have read, and there have been a lot, from every little corner of Christianity, St Josemaria Escriva has had the most profound impact, because of the practical way he sees our faith, our dependence on God. I would recommend his book “The Way,” to anyone seeking a faith that is more than Sunday morning, or 5 minutes reading a devotion the size of a postcard. It is no different today, my 52nd birthday, as his words hit home, and hit home hard.
There is a part of me that wants to know more, be wiser, have words of wisdom and maturity that are profound. To be able to preach words that inspire those who are down, which call people to repentance in a way that they run like mad into the waiting arms of God, trusting in His mercy. I want to help people explore the height and depth, the width and breadth of God’s love for them.
This has been my dream since I was an awkwardly tall 8-year-old with untied sneakers, telling a family friend, Fr. Alex, that I wanted to be a priest, I wanted to tell people about Jesus and give them His body in communion.
At 52, I am still awkward, my sneakers are still often untied, and though my falls aren’t physical, they are still there. I understand Paul’s words in Romans 7 all too; clearly, I am not the mature, wise, holy person I know I should be. In fact, like most pastors and priests, there are days I wonder why I am here. Can’t God do better? Can’t He make me the kind of shepherd these people need? Can’t Jesus find someone who does better with temptation, and able to deal wisely with the evil that is so oppressive?
St. Josemaria snaps me out of this spiritual downward spiral with his words this morning (odd they show up on my birthday, isn’t it?) The best thing I can do is not astound people with wisdom, it is to let them see God pick me up. To let them see the joy in my eyes when He does. To be the child that runs and desires to be in His presence, even if the foolish disciples try to bar my way, I am going to see Him, I am going to hear His blessing.
Hopefully, along the way, I will drag some of my friends with me, and maybe even an enemy or 2….000?
If I pretend to be something other than a child, as I’ve tried, I will still fall. But I will try, as an adult, to excuse the fall, to justify it, to make it out to be less painful. I will force myself to try and get up on my own, only to fall again, and perhaps even harder, or take others with me. But as a child, as one who is confident of God’s presence, who knows His love and mercy, then I know He will pick me up, that He will run to my side, that He will care for me.
Not that I want to fall, I want to make Him proud. But as a child, when I do, I can cry out for help, and He will come.
And if I can teach my people that, and they confidently cry out (knowing His love and mercy) when they fall as well… I’ve done my job as a brother in Christ, and as their pastor. For they have learned about His love… and have experienced it.
A simple cry, “Lord Have mercy on me, a sinner….Papa, help!”
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2005-2010). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Romans 8: 12-17
Greetings brothers and sisters in the name of the Father who created you, the Son who redeemed you and the Holy Spirit who continues to sanctify you.
Have you ever heard a child when they get into trouble or are told they are not allowed to do something say this?
“I can’t wait until I become an adult so no one can tell me what to do and I can do whatever I want!”
Perhaps if you can remember that far back, maybe you even said it yourself. Maybe you are still saying it!
I chuckle and laugh a little bit when I hear that said and I wonder , when is that going to happen?
The reality is that at no matter what time of life you are in from infancy to retirement and beyond there are obligations, responsibilities and duties that you must perform in order to live in relative complacency in society.
Choose not to make your car payment and what happens? Your car go bye-bye!
Don’t pay your electric bill and you will live in the dark!
Homework, jobs, bills, parenting, blah, blah, blah.
Life is full of obligations, responsibility, requirements and duties unless you want to live in a cave and even then you still have to have food, water, clothing and shelter. I guess clothing could be optional…
That childhood statement of doing whatever you want as an adult is the immaturity of childhood and is not based in the reality of wisdom and the maturity of adulthood.
In order to live in the world of man and get along in modern society and be a productive member and citizen of it, you are obligated and required to do certain things.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be a kid again with none of the obligations and requirements of adulthood? Sometimes….
Well don’t worry because Paul has good news for you in our Epistle from Romans today.
“Therefore dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.”
Maybe the kids were kinda right.
When I grow up I can do whatever I want!
You see you do not have to be obligated and required to do what your sinful nature urges you to do!
So why do we? Why do we give in and look to the sinful nature?
We pride ourselves on being independent and the whole idea of no one is going to tell me what to do idea but when we give in to the sinful nature, isn’t sin doing just that? Isn’t it telling us what to do? That doesn’t sound too independent to me. In fact it starts to sound like a slave/master relationship. If only the children could see us now being told what to do!
Paul warns in verse 13, “ For if you live by its dictates, you will die.”
If this is the path you depend on to go down, you will be trapped and caught up in these sinful obligations and you will die eternally.
“But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
Your obligations and responsibilities are not to this sinful world. You re not required to and are under no obligation to do what your sinful nature nature tries to entice and invite and plead for you to do.
That sinful nature was put to death, though no thanks to you! God killed it and you!
And His method of killing was to drown it. “You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves but instead you received God’s spirit when He adopted you as His own children.”
God killed you in the waters of your baptism as you were called to faith by the sacrifice of Christ crucified. The Spirit brought you to the font of salvation and you and your sinful nature was drowned.
Chapter six, verse 3 says, “ Don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
It doesn’t stop there, Paul goes on to say that if we share death with Christ than we also share in His life. As He was raised from the dead so we are also through the glory of the Father.
And now through Christ live a new life in which we have been adopted as His own children. We through Christ can put these sinful and evil deeds to death.
There was an obligation and responsibility that had to be paid and it demanded blood. The requirement was death. Our sin caused this and it was what we deserved but the Lamb of God took that obligation in our stead. He took the wrath of the Father so that we would and could be made His children, heirs of Heaven.
You don’t have to do anything for what has been freely given to you through His grace.
Sin can no longer tell you what to do. Thanks be to God!
You who are baptized and called in the name of the Triune God share something so incredibly special, you are His. You are His most precious children and our Heavenly Father takes great joy in that newly restored relationship.
So much so, that He says my kids, call me Abba!
This is not a proper title like Father or parental unit but a name that resonates deeper and with great love and intimacy.
He wants your relationship to be so close and familiar that you can call Him, Abba or daddy or papa or as I call my dad, Pop or whatever your custom is for calling your father with affection as a child and maybe even now.
You see He is obligated to you and through your baptism you are obligated to Him, not out of fear and requirement and some kind of duty but out of love and faith and trust given to you by the Holy Spirit in Christ. It is not about fear but confidence in Him knowing that since He has called you to Him and made you His children that you are now heirs to eternal glory just like Jesus. Verse 17 says that just like Jesus and together with Him we are heirs of God’s glory.
It also means that if we are to share in His glory, we must also share in His suffering.
After all through our baptism didn’t we share in His death and in resurrection?
Think about it. What kind of suffering did Jesus endure for the world and by the world? I am not just talking about His physical suffering and death but what about when He came to us in the Incarnation? God descending and living as one of us?
To leave cozy, comfortable Heaven and be born in a feeding trough and then deal with us on a daily basis? No thank you! That had to be suffering right there, have you met us?
But He willingly and joyfully suffered for us, even on a cross.
If we are united with Christ then we are obligated and even required together as the body of Christ in the suffering that this world can throw at us.
Christ came to suffer and die for all, so if you are connected and in union with Him then you will suffer. It may mean death. But, not all suffering in the name of Christ results in death. It can be much more subtle. It does and will most certainly mean persecution and sacrifice.
It is a stigma in the world to call yourself Christian and I don’t mean with just strangers either, but even some friends and maybe even family.
The world doesn’t want to hear the Gospel message of Christ died for all. It is obligated to its sinful nature. It will be and it is suggested that for confessing the name of Christ that you are ignorant or superstitious. You will be made fun of and prejudiced against. You will b called weak.
I am weak and in my weakness God is made stronger!
And if they can get away with it, the world will maybe even try to kill you. We see it happening all over the world and even here. Christians are dying around the world for their confession of faith.
But you see like Jesus who came and suffered and died and then rose again we will do the same. We share in His suffering but again as redeemed children called through baptism we are obligated to suffer with Him. As we suffer with Christ we also like Jesus, through the Father are obligated to share in glory.
As Jesus suffered here what did He do? Did He fight back? Did He assemble a spec ops team of Israeli commandos to take these people out? No, what Jesus did was love them. He did this through depending on His Father in Heaven.
We are called to do the same. That is our obligation
This happens through your baptism. You are obligated to do the same and you can through the Holy Spirit.
You can rest and depend knowing your Father is with you always calling you his children, His heirs.
When suffering comes we can bear it faithfully because we are baptized, we are called now and obligated through the Holy Spirit to be children of God living forever in that relationship of Trinity love.
Fear not little flock.
We got our daddy backin’ us up!
I remember as a kid we would always argue saying that my dad is stronger than your dad. I depended on Him confident that no matter what, my dad was stronger than any other dad in the neighborhood. Maybe it was true and maybe it wasn’t but I believed it was!
Well our Abba, Father is the strongest. He is our Almighty Heavenly Father.
Your faith depends on it. He is so strong that He gives up His only Son without pause so that we can be made sons and daughters, His kids of the kingdom.
He is obligated and responsible for us because He is always faithful.
So go and live in your baptisms knowing that your Father is with you and that all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
We thank you and love you Abba, Father!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
As a young minister, the greatest challenge for me was when I didn’t have the answers. To be honest, there would be times where i would put my mind, and my computer into high gear, trying to come up with answers, any answers. It seems wrong, inconceivable even that we wouldn’t have all answers, that we couldn’t provide the answers to the people they need them.
That we wouldn’t be able to provide them what they need, that we can’t give them the answers that would solve their solution seems horrendous The answers that would bring an end to their pain, to their tears, why can’t we provide those answers, why can’t we know… and help them know… all that they need to know to bring them to peace.
And we feel we fail…them, ourselves…God – when we don’t have the answers, when we have to admit we see but a sliver of God’s will.
St Paul’s words here in 1 Corinthians 13 challenge that assumption of failure, that we aren’t strong enough or mature enough or faithful enough because we do not understand. We do know only in part, even as I child does. Or as one Bible commentary explained – the picture is that of looking at a reflection in a fogged cover series of mirrors – nine of them. The image is there, but the detail is not quite discernible.
Yet in our childlike view, there is an incredible blessing – we have to turn to someOne for the answers, someOne who is there, who is patient, who is willing to endure and love us, even while we struggle with our limitations. A Father who we can trust, whom we can depend upon, who will continue to work alongside us. That is the challenge, to realize the immensity of God’s love for us. To realize His presence, not just as an academic theological position, to to interact with Him, to relax in His presence. as a child does, assured by the love of his/her Father.Even after the peace comes from throwing a royal tantrum, as we struggle to realize, and get frustrated that we cannot realize, the power of living in God’s presence.
Not knowing, not being able to grasp what is going on in life around you, there is only one option – to depend on the one who welcomes you, and has all the answers. To walk with God, rather than trying to play a god. To trust in His logic, in His will, not ours. To rest assured… knowing His love…knowing His promises
Not an easy task…
But it is one, that will give us more rest.. more peace, even in the midst of storms. Not because we know about God, but because we know Him…