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Is Teaching People That They Must Go to Church Right?

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

devotional thought of the day

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

 The cheerfulness you should have is not the kind we might call physiological—like that of a healthy animal. Rather, it is the supernatural happiness that comes from the abandonment of everything, including yourself, into the loving arms of our Father God.  (1)

“Going to confession isn’t like heading off to be tortured or punished, nor is it like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, Pope Francis said in a morning Mass homily.“It’s an encounter with Jesus” who is patiently waiting “and takes us as we are,” offering penitents his tender mercy and forgiveness, he said April 29.. ”  (2)

I see it far too frequently, the idea that going to church, or Bible study, or as Pope Francis was talking about, Confession and Absolution is somehow a Christian’s “duty”.   To look at these blessed events as duty is a spiritual error, to teach it as such is simply wrong.   To teach people they must, they have to do these things – is of the gravest error, for it changes their perception, and indeed robs them of the joy David expressed in the pslams, when contemplating going to the temple, when David rejoiced even at the thought of it.

You see all these events, they are not duties, we are not obligated to, in the normal sense of the word.  If we use obligated, it is in the same sense that we are obligated to find treatment for a serious wound, or a broken leg.

We look around – and see our needed of healing, our need of having the things we have screwed up royally fixed,  the relationships mended, and in Christ – there is our only hope.  Our only hope, the only way we can be delivered from the mess we are in, is by Christ – so what hope is there, if we turn our back on that hope?

We are little children, devastated that we have broken that which should be cherished, and we should find the joy that comes from watching our Father patiently make it like new (or replace it) because of His love for us. Such is the ability to abandon all our fear, all our anxiety, all our grief and shame, for our Father is hear, and all is abandoned as He brings us comfort and peace.

It is that encounter- with the presence of Christ. in the worship service/mass, to realize He is patient with us, not willing destruction – but complete transformation, complete rebirth, complete renewal.

Such is the nature of spending time doing what some call “Christian Duty”  or Spiritual Disciplines.  Reading the Bible, Prayer, Worship, Gathering with other believers, and yes confessing our sins and hearing Christ speaking words of forgiveness and restoration.  To speak of them as duties or disciplines reduces them in people’s minds to being about us, our work, our efforts, our accomplishments, our excercises.

Rather than encounter with Christ, a glorious, freeing, encounter with the One who loves us, who calls us His beloved, His friends… the children of God.

So next time you think about doing these things – realize Who you will meet – and in joy – rush to Him, abandoning all that would restrict your joy together.


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1539-1541). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


A Heavy Responsibility…for the church, for love

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 8 If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deathsEzekiel 33:8 (NLT)

 You have a duty to reach those around you, to shake them out of their drowsiness, to open wide new horizons for their selfish, comfortable lives, to “complicate” their lives in a holy way, to make them forget about themselves and show understanding for the problems of others. If you do not, you are not a good brother to your brothers in the human race, who need that gaudium cum pace, that joy and that peace, which maybe they do not know or have forgotten. (1)

I dealt with verse 8 above in yesterday’s sermon, but almost as an aside.  There were other things to explore, as we looked at our nature to call God out, because we don’t think the way He works is… well.. fair.  That the Lord, in showing mercy to sinners, to being merciful to wicked people, isn’t “just” or “righteous”.  We explored what it means that God doesn’t rejoice when sinners die, when they “get what’s coming for them”, but rather, He rejoices when that prodigal, that lost sheep comes home.  Powerful stuff, and we desperately need to understand God’s heart, and even more, to see it duplicated in our own lives.

That is where verse 8 comes in, and the quote from Fr. Escriva, which talks of the same thing, with a clarification that helps us comprehend our “duty” and why we would bear the guilt of others who would die, because we didn’t share the life transforming message of God’s love with them.

We need to tell them – we have an obligation to, but an obligation that is not from blind obedience, it is the obligation that is implicit in our being called to love our neighbor.

Let me give a favorite example.  Let’s say outside you favorite restaurant sits a billionaire, and he is signing 1 million dollar checks, and giving them to anyone there.   You get yours, you go to your bank – it’s legit.  Do you just go home happy your have a million dollars?  Or do you call a person or twenty or one hundred?  Do you do so out of a law driven sense of “duty”, are you obliged to?  Or are you calling people as fast as you can, demanding that they drive over as fast as possible, so they too can be blessed, because you know them, because you have a relationship with them?  If you do not call someone, why would that be?  Is it because you don’t have a relationship with them?  Or that you are so ticked off – you decide they don’t need it?

Same thing applies here – because our salvation, our being delivered by the mercy of Jesus into the Father’s presence, is priceless – even compared to a million dollars.  (we probably need to realize, to really comprehend  that as well!)

And if you are a “good brother to your brothers and sisters in the human race”, you are compelled, because of your love for them, and because of the priceless gift that is theirs, to help them see it, to bring to them the gospel and therefore the Holy Spirit who will transform them, even as He grants them repentance.  it is duty because of your love for them. It is the breaking of your heart as you see someone who lives, hounded by guilt and shame, or enslaved and tormented by their desires, that drives you to share with them the very thing that steals their hearts from that which oppresses them.  That brings them into the presence of God, and causes them to know His joy and peace!  It is phrased so delicately in the quote from Fr. Escriva – that they may not know, or have forgotten.

Calling them to repentance, calling them to be abandoned to that which has broken them… yes…that is our mission – because we love them… and can’t abide their not knowing Who we know…

God help us to do His will… and celebrate the prodigals homecoming and healing… even as we celebrate God welcoming us home.




(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3183-3187). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Forging of Holiness, and thinking through what we read…

Discussion/Devotional point of the day…

“Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and the correspondence of man. As one of the early Christian writers says, referring to union with God, “Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big.”12 So I say to you, if you want to become a thorough-going Christian—and I know you are willing, even though you often find it difficult to conquer yourself or to keep climbing upward with this poor body of ours—then you will have to be very attentive to the minutest of details, for the holiness that our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of small realities.”  Escriva, Josemaria

There is a reaction in us, at times -to immediately react to what we read.  So it was this morning, as I read this quote – I love the beginning – and the idea that holiness is forged in us, as Escriva uses something in his life, the forge, to replace the illustration of the potter’s wheel.
The  I have to start and think – for surely the forge includes the interplay of God’s grace in our lives – it is that grace that constantly hammers away our impurity, but what about this correspondence of man?  How much do we have to do with becoming holy, becoming the tools of God – set apart for His usage. Surely it will happen in communion, in unity with God, yet, do we have a role?

The apostle Paul talks of a race – of striving to grasp that which took hold of him.  The author of Hebrews talks of laying aside every burden, and every sin which would hold us, even as Christ starts and completes the race in us.

But what is this correspondence of grace?  Perhaps it is found in not in our maturity leading to independence, that somehow our maturity results in our needing God less, but precisely the opposite, by becoming more dependent, to desire His presence, to yearn for the times we spend with Him.  That communion with God, confidence of His make us His craftsmanship – leads us to be that new creation, to be the ones who do walk in the works (vocation) that God has prepared for us to walk in… to walk in that love…even as we exult in His presence, as we remember what He accomplished in our baptism, as we rejoice in the Feast that He invites and welcomes us to, to feast upon His Body and Blood and know we have life.  To rejoice as we hear – “your sins – your sins – they are forgiven.  To be so filled with joy as we read of His incredible love and mercy, the gifts of peace and comfort that are ours and are found in scripture, to rejoice at the times of fellowship we have in prayer…

These may seem little to us, the details… and perhaps we see them now as only duties..but continue in them – they will soon be revealed to be something more, the very charisma of God…as they bring us more and more aware of His presence in our lives… of the peace in which we truly dwell, that results in a manner of Holiness which is somewhat foreign to us at first – and truly foreign and needed in this world…

Lord, Have mercy… my friends, know He has!

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