Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 but the LORD himself takes care of Israel. 10 Israel, the LORD discovered you in a barren desert filled with howling winds. God became your fortress, protecting you as though you were his own eyes. Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (CEV)
Consequently, in our efforts to work out the theological and anthropological basis of prayer, it is not a question of proving the validity of Christian prayer by the standards of some neutral reasonableness. It is a case of uncovering the inner logic of faith itself, with its own distinct reasonableness.
Yet the mass was not instituted for its own worthiness, but to make us worthy and to remind us of the passion of Christ. Where that is not done, we make of the mass a physical and unfruitful act, though even this is of some good.
I have often heard people criticize the church by saying the Christianity is a relationship, and not a religion. I have to disagree, or at least qualify it.
If by religion you mean something man can study as an observer, measuring its logic, finding ways to make it more productive through analysis and basically controlling it, I agree. I think this is clearly the point Pope Benedict XVI made, when writing back when he was a Cardinal
If by religion you mean doing things for their own value, and not because they interact with God, then, yes, religion is nearly worthless. Luther makes this point clear with his comments about the worship service, what he calls the mass or gathering.
But neither would define “religion” that way, as if it could be simply studied by anthropologists and statisticians. They would, despite their differences, define religion, true religion, as the relationship God arranges for us, and draws us into, a life with Him.
Prayer then, isn’t something to be dissected, in order to prove the validity of it as a practice. It is something we engage in, a discussion with the One to whom logic and reality are a creation, and more than we can understand. It is beyond the ability to study, this form of divine communication. One can’t measure the peace it brings, or the comfort given by God, as we dialogue with Him.
In the same way, a mass or worship service is worthless when we expect it to be special on its own, we we simply become spectators, listeners, those who can critique and make value judgments on it, as if the congregation was an Olympic medal judge, and the pastor and other leaders were competitors. ( which means i have to be careful asking my wife to “grade” my sermons! I should know better!)
Prayer and worship matter because of the interaction, the conversation where God makes us worthy to interact with Him, the interaction when we hear Him respond as we pray and meditate on His word. As we realize His care, His nurture, His was of guiding and protecting us, even in the hardest times.
These times are precious, because He draws us out of our life and into His, even as He invades our life, to create in it something wonderful, something that is so awe-inspiring that He is glorified. This is the religion He formed, the practices He has given us to make sure we know that He is active in our lives.
Without His active presence, spiritual disciplines and gathering together around the Him and the blessings He bestows in the sacrament is nothing. Yet, the ironic thing is, He is active even when we are not aware.
Religion, the Christian Religion, is not empty and worthless, we just need to open our eyes… and see the One who has drawn us into it.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 18.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 8.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.
Judges 8:27 (NLT2)
2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 4 He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan. 2 Kings 18:2-4 (NLT2)
It says, “I called upon the Lord” (118:5). You must learn to call. (You have heard that well.) Do not sit by yourself or lie on your bed hanging and wagging your head and devouring yourself with your thoughts by worrying. So do not strive and struggle to free yourself, and do not dwell on how badly it is going for you, how miserable you are, and how much you are suffering as a person. But get up, you lazy scoundrel, get down on your knees, lift your hands and your eyes to heaven, recite a psalm or the Lord’s Prayer, and place your trouble with tears before God. Complain and call upon God, as this verse teaches, as well as Psalm 142:2: “I pour out my trouble before God, I tell God my trouble.” Similarly, Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” Here you learn that praying, taking your troubles to God, and lifting your hands are the most pleasing offerings to God. God longs for you, wants you to bring your troubles, and does not want you to multiply your troubles by letting them weigh on you having you carry them around, torture yourself, and be the martyr. God wants you to be too weak to carry these troubles and overcome them by yourself so that you learn to
find your strength in God. Thus you will glorify God’s strength in you. In this way people become real Christians.
Last week I heard an interesting lecture, where the speaker proposed that the modern church has begun to worship… well worship. One of his point was the way we “market” our churches, as we will spend great energy extolling our traditional worship with excellent choirs, ancient hymns, or our amazing contemporary worship, blah blah, blah.
We may not even get around to telling them our main mission, revealing to them the love of God, drawing them into a relationship with Him where they will find hope and healing as they realize how present He is in their lives.
I am going to have to watch that video over, because I think he is right. Our worship wars of the 70’s-90’s have resulted in this, we treasure our worship style more than the One we worship. We have done what the people of God did with Gideon’s breastplate, and with the Bronze Serpent. We have made our work the focus, and we pin our hope for the church on organs or keyboards, on choirs or praise teams, and we’ve left God out of the picture.
In comparison, look at this passage from Luther, and the way he describes prayer. Look at the way he shows us to dialogue with God, raw, blunt, harsh, pouring out everything on our hearts. In a word, a dialogue that is as intimate as anything we’ve experienced.
God won’t blast us for sharing our doubts our anxieties, our troubles. Luther notes this is pleasing to God, this is what He desires. As odd as it sounds to us, it is the picture we see in scripture, that God would pick us up, that He will allow us ot be weak enough that we realize that we aren’t alone, that there is a relationship we need, with Him. Christianity isn’t about being strong, it is about being vulnerable, and allowing God to do what a God should do, care for His creation.
That knowledge of God’s care should cause us to remove the idols from our midst. It should reveal the emptiness of our idols, and cause us to hunger for a real God, who will help us with our real problems, This is what it means to be a real Christian, to be one of God’s people, to realize the relationship we have with God our provider. To realize His love, His tender mercy and how He provides for us.
Lord, help us to see you, and become more and more confident in Your presence. Help us pour out our hearts to You, knowing Your desire to dwell in our midst. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 210–211.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
27 God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 28 He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29 This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. 30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ
Christ is not just a Head all pierced and wounded; he is the Ruler of the whole world. His dominion does not mean that the earth will be trampled under foot, but that that splendor will be restored to it that speaks of God’s beauty and power. Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.
Adoration places us in a ‘Paschal situation’. It is an encounter with the infinite love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and which is made present under the consecrated species. God reveals Himself without condition. He leaves man helpless in the face of the marvel of His manifestation: an all-powerful God Who makes Himself so small, so poor, under the appearance of bread.
You stand there or kneel there, and for a moment, all else falls away.
From the world’s view, it is a piece of stale bread and some really cheap wine. It is a moment the world would pass by, and pass by quickly.
It doesn’t make sense, but then so little of Christianity makes sense. At least from the world’s perspective. The King who serves, the Healer who is hurt, the Sinless one, bearing all sin…
As Benedict XVI noted, the humble end up being glorified, this little piece of wheat (?) and wine end up bieng a feast more meaningful than anything, That cup of water poured over one’s head, something that cleans away every sin, every bit of injustice.
This fact, that in the world’s logic Christianity, is not logical, is an incredible blessing. Here is why,
What has the world’s logic actually accomplished? When has its wisdom brought about peace? When could it heal a broken heart or a tortured soul?
When has it made a difference, in view of death?
And yet, giving someone who trusts in Christ, the bread and wine, the BOdy and BLood of Christ can overwhelm them with peace. Hearing a pastor lead mourners through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer can bring peace in the midst of tears at a funeral. Hearing that your sin is forgiven, yes, THAT sin is forgiven, and that told by a man God put in place to tell you that, in that very moment.
Those things make a difference, no matter how the logic can’t explain it.
God is with you.. and that, someday, is the only thing that sustains us.
And oh, how
Lord Jesus, help us realize that it is okay for Your logic to be beyond us. Help us to accept that Your ways are not ours,
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 52). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 6–7). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought for our days…and our future:
10 My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. 11 And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11 NCV
“Life’s” destination lies beyond this life because it depends on “Someone” with a capital letter. All this is rooted in the hearts of our people, even if they are unable to express it conceptually.
There are times in my life, where surviving the evils of this day is my only goal. Where i just try to hang on to God, and His presence long enough to help this person or that one. Where I deal with these problems, those challenges, this person’s sin, or worse my own.
I drag myself home, climb the stairs, and hopefully remember to thank God that He carried and dragged me through the day…..only to have another day come all too soon.
I do not think I am alone, not by any means.
We need to learn to live for something more, something that is glorious, something that is perfect. Something that is beyond us, this destination that Pope Francis speaks of, the place where we will find Him, our “Someone”. A place that is truly home, a place of incredible, unbelievable peace, a place of joy, a place where tears, sorrow, weariness are unknown.
Francis is correct about our not knowing how to express it conceptually. We don’t know how to talk about heaven, we don’t know what it will be like, and to talk about it, sooner or later, we might have to talk about death and dying. We really don’t want to talk about that. NOT. AT. ALL.
But heaven is our reality, dwelling with God, in His glory, in His peace, in wonder and awe that He wants us there, that is what Christianity is about. An eternal, everlasting relationship that we can’t even begin to conceive of (see 1 Cor. 2;9)
But we know we shall be with Him.
At the end of the day, that is what matters,
At the beginning of tomorrow, we need to realize He is still here…revealing to us His love and mercy, comforting us, healing us, and preparing us for life with Him.
A life that began when we were baptized into His death, into His resurrection.. and given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, keeping us til then.
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16 Under his control, all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]
In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” But how often do we look at what those words mean?
One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind. Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)
Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred. To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation. We are to walk (together) with God.
Catholic, the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history. When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time. We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other. We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.
Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther. Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field) Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.
Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them. As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them. This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.
We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.
No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood. This is our identiy as the people of God.
Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.
But remember – God goes with you through it all!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.
devotional/discussion thought of the day:
22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (NLT)
7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 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 2:7-10 (NJB)
It was one of the cries of the men who tried to reform, to re-focus the Catholic Church. Faith Alone, Sola Fide in Latin. It is still the point of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and a few of the protestant denominations. Even as I pray that the Church would be visibly one, hole, catholic, and apostolic; I struggle to see that this issue would be ever resolved.
There is a twist to this issue now, one that might be distinctly American, or perhaps it simply originated here. It cuts across all of the church, and it may be more destructive than anything the Great Schism or Reformation/Counter Reformation has spawned.
It is the addition of the little pronoun “my” to either “saved by faith”, or “saved by faith alone”. To add that skirts the border of heresy, and it bows to the idol of narcissus. It puts the glory and the credit for salvation, not in the God in whom we trust, but in the “me”. As if in some way, faith originated in me, by my own reason, by my own intellectual/spiritual/holy prowess.
Perhaps this is why we take every attack on Christianity so personally, as if ISIS, or the atheists, or whomever, is attacking us directly. Perhaps it is why we avoid martyrdom and suffering, instead finding our shields up, our notions of self defense well exercised. It is why we can justify missing church, despite what scripture says, because after all, this religion, this belief, this faith is mine. Such a personal faith focuses on our knowledge, or our work, on what we have gained or achieved. It can then grow into Gnosticism, or Agnosticism, for as long as faith is “my faith”, as long as it focuses one me, it will lead to emptiness, and more searching out for that arcane bit of knowledge that will justify me. At least it will justify me in my own sight.
Which is what really matters today, at least in the our own view.
Self-righteousness, self-justification, as if in “my faith” it is also “my judgement” that needs to be appeased.
I mentioned that this idea borders on heresy, but I didn’t say which side of the border. It is across the border, I believe, from both historic Catholic and Protestant perspectives. Because it ignites that faith is more than a doctrinal statement, more than a set of core beliefs. It is more than knowledge.
For you can’t have faith without having faith “in” someone/something. It is a verb, not a noun, and it requires an object. Going back to the Latin, we see the root of the word “confidence” (that is with faith) My confidence doesn’t save me, it is that we have confidence in the love and mercy of Christ which saves us. Not the confidence, but the love and mercy is what saves us. We see this in the Creeds, the “I believe IN”, I have faith IN”. Faith is simply the reception, the trust, the dependence upon the God who is revealed to us, revealed to be working in/on/upon and through us. That faith, trust, dependence radically changes us, not just how we think bu how we live. For that transformation is the promise.
That is why faith can never be “my” faith, it must focus on the object, the Lord whom we trust in to do what He promised, to do what He has done. To have faith in God means we abide in Him, we find refuge in Him, we recognize His work in making us His children, His people.
He has had mercy, He loves. Trust Him, have faith in Him, and know He saves you!
Filled with Joy!
† In Jesus Name! †
May you be so filled with fresh joy from seeing and hearing the love of Christ at work in your life, that you humbly welcome His molding you into His image!
The fear of the unknown
It is that sense you have, the night before you take on a new job.
Or maybe as you sleep for the first night in a new place and have to struggle to remember where the bathroom is, and where the light switches are. You hear strange groans and creaks and noises, and your heart it trying to decide to dive under the covers or find a weapon, or both!
Or maybe it is that call from the doctor’s office, you know the one where the doctor himself calls you and asks that you come in, right now…
I don’t know what the official phobia is called, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear that most of us will ever face. It doesn’t matter what the unknown is, a matter of fact; that is why it is so scary! We just don’t know!
As we look at the lesson in Isaiah today, we see that problem, the unknown future, the kind of future God prophecies about, but are we willing to hear, to see what He has in mind?
The message of God’s love
At the beginning of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, the future is compared to a sealed book. The future is explained in a message from God that reveals all that is needed to know. A message that would calm the fears, that would bring the heart peace, and give assurance that all will be good to those souls who are stressed and anxious.
But those who the message are given too, perhaps scared of the unknown, don’t bother to read the message. They say, “we can’t read it because it is sealed”, even though it was given to them to read.
It’s like getting that certified letter from the IRS, or from the Superior Court. You stand there looking at it, unable to open it, as if not reading it somehow makes things less terrifying! Every morning you see it on the table, and you don’t want to even touch it!
And the message from God goes unheard, unread, unseen.
Others will claim that they are unable to read it, that the words are beyond their comprehension, so they too leave the message unead, unseen, unheard. It’s like those people who haven’t read the book of Revelation, for they fear what they will read will scare them.
The future becomes even more concering, it terrifies us even more.
We tried to fill the gap
Which is where our hypocrisy comes in, according to this passage from Isaiah. You see, rather than face our fears, rather than dealing with God directly. The world does this by creating other gods. Gods who will give them what they want, who will allow them to chase after what is worthless.
Unwilling to hear what God says, we make up our own rules, our own traditions, and then judge others by whether they follows what we say. We will say that we are God’s, we will say and sing the right things, but do we really understand the heart of God? Do our hearts beat in time with His? Is what He desires what we desire more than anything else?
Or is our worship, and the things we do that “prove our righteousness” simply empty, going through motions without realizing that they don’t please God? The prophets called Israel out on this over and over, telling them their sacrifices meant nothing, that their gatherings were worthless. The Pharisees were accused of this as well, as they tithed everything, even down to the seeds for their gardens. But they overlooked mercy, and helping those in need.
Our attempts to fill in the gaps, to prove we are good are worthless, and when we think about it, they don’t rid us of the fear of dealing with a God who seems to perfect, so righteous, that we don’t, we can’t stand being in His presence.
If only we saw His words, if only we could read them!
We’ll even go farther, we will tell God, our creator, that He doesn’t know what he is doing. That His laws don’t make sense, that we understand and know better. That his idea of life, or right and wrong, is wrong. We are like Isaiah’s jars – telling the potter who made them that he is intellectually challenged.
Or as Chris will soon hear from some student, that he just doesn’t understand, because the sophomore knows what he is talking about! And compared to God, we often act like sophmores, a term from the greek meaning “wise fools”!
We didn’t have to, He knows what He is doing
The idea that Isaiah is trying to get across is that we don’t have to play God, we don’t have to step in and fill in the gap when we don’t see God doing what He wants to! He is far smarter, and if we try to take control, our lives will be full of sorrow.
Yet even then, God will not abandon us! He has promised to amaze us with amazing things!
For what God had planned for us causes us to disguard our own wisdom, to drop the plans, to come out from the darkness, to be able to see and hear His words,
or we are in the days of verse 18,
In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19 The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel..
Foe we, like Israel of old, like the believers who followed Jesus and struggled, have been told what the future holds, a future that has hope, that has peace, that has glory beyond our imagination.
Paul revealed that when he wrote,
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
It is seeing this plan come together, as we beging to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection, that this was the plan, this was the gospel even back in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Paul and Peter is amazing.
To realize that as He hangs from the cross and says Father, forgive them, Jesus is thinking of Dustin, Chris, Tom, Jim, Chuck, and Al and all of Concordia,
To know that when He said said, take and eat, this is my body, given for you, He was revealing our future. And when He said this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, He was making our eternity possible.
This is why we can see, it is what we heard, even though we were once dead to the words of God.
So hear, see and rejoice in God’s presence
It is as we see this, we lay aside our wisdom, our plans, our self defensiveness and know the presence and love of God.
We, those who are humbled by the love of God, are filled, as Isaiah promises, with the fresh joy of the Lord, and we, who were poor, rejoice in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God of Israel!
And our hearts and minds, finally enjoying His peace, relax and praise Him. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of a New Day
4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Matthew 27:4 (NLT)
805 Listen, where you are … mightn’t there be one … or two, who could understand us well? (1)
Some point to the man and claim he was the most evil man that has ever lived.
Some say his sin was one that could never be forgiven, that he was so sold out to the demons that possessed him, that there was no hope.
He would hear the words from those who were supposed to be his shepherds, those who were spiritually responsible for him, who were to call him to repentance, to nurture him back to spiritual health.
Their words, without mercy, without hope, left him no other option.
He went out and hung himself.
And until reading this today, I never wondered if anyone ever cried for him, if anyone did anything but respond with “he got what he deserved.” Or, “Good riddance.”
Judas Iscariot, another man, another sinner, another man who cried out, looking for mercy, confessing his sin, and the answer of the ages has not told him there was mercy.
The mercy Peter would know, and Paul would encounter, after killing a servant of God. David knew it though he too thought he had lost any chance of knowing it. So did Jacob/Israel, and even the people of Nineveh.
But not Judas.
When he turned to the shepherds of Israel, looking for absolution, looking for mercy, looking for some peace to alleviate the pain of guilt and shame he found none. It’s no our business, Your sin, your problem. You don’t belong to our denomination, you certainly are guilty, live with it. You are a sinner. (even though they were his PARTNERS in the sin!)
Hours later, the answer Judas needed wold be provided, as the sun darkened at noon, and that which separated people from the glory of God was torn apart. The Answer that every prophet, ever priest, every king, had pointed to, the love and mercy of God.
I know pastors today, me included, may have seemed as heartless at times. Or we dismissed the pain you felt Churches too have failed to call people to dare to draw near to Jesus, to see Him on the cross. Forgive us, call us to hear the sweet words of forgiveness as well.
For no one, no matter their ethnicity, their political party, their age, should ever go without hearing that God has forgiven their sins. Indeed, that He commanded the church to forgive them. Look around you, they are there… even those you would never expect to repent. For know this, God doesn’t want any of them to perish. God doesn’t rejoice in the death of any wicked person. Even Judas, ever us.
We cry out, “Lord have mercy!”
We find peace in hearing His voice, “I have!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 1856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:
66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)
465 “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute? (1)
Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”. I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation. Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”
After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response. How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind. Or we left Him at church on Sunday. We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.
If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin. Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.
Do we want to hear the words that give us life? Do we want a life of continual prayer? Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?
I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out. I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time. And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God. We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently. The out for most of us pastors? We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.
We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym. We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time? By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.
If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not. They are for me as well. They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.
God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you. That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.
We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.
I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 So I gave orders for the city gates to be shut at the beginning of every Sabbath, as soon as evening began to fall, and not to be opened again until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my men at the gates to make sure that nothing was brought into the city on the Sabbath. 20 Once or twice merchants who sold all kinds of goods spent Friday night outside the city walls. 21 I warned them, “It’s no use waiting out there for morning to come. If you try this again, I’ll use force on you.” From then on they did not come back on the Sabbath. 22 I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to go and guard the gates to make sure that the Sabbath was kept holy. Remember me, O God, for this also, and spare me because of your great love.Nehemiah 13:19-22 (TEV)
Every single day, do what you can to know God better, to get acquainted with him, to fall more in love with him each moment, and to think of nothing but of his Love and his glory. You will carry out this plan, my child, if you never, for any reason whatever, give up your times of prayer, your presence of God, with the aspirations and spiritual communions that set you on fire, your unhurried Holy Mass, and your work, finished off well for him. (1)
Through the darkness of sin, Your love reached out to me! The cost of it all, You bore there on that tree! For nothing could stop You declaring us Clean! Conquered sin, Rose again, now eternail You reign, and so we praise you! (2)
Yesterday I wrote about the church Militant, that Christian soldiers aren’t marching off to war with sinners, but to liberate those who are oppressed and in bondage to sin. That are so caught in darkness, that they sturggle to hold on to it, for that is all they know. We mistake that struggle, far too often, as an attack on us. It is so like the classic lifeguard interaction with a drowning person. The drowning person strikes out in desperation, and if the lifeguard isn’t careful, the drowning person will take them both under. It takes skill and patience and wisdom to save someone who is drowning. To know when and where to move, but also to know that these hits are not an attack – but even more a sign of their desperation.
As the lifeguard is sent to save the drowning preson, so too we are sent by Christ to bring His love, His mercy, His peace to those who need to be freed from sin. To those whose darkness needs to be shattered.by the light of Christ. They to thrash and strike out – and far too often, we respond, not with the patience and care to save them, but as if they are spoiling for a fight – and we are ready. We take their struggle to survive – which they cannot on their own – as an attack on Jesus, or the church or us.
In the meantime, they are dying… the people we’ve been sent to bring salvation to, the people we’ve been sent to reflect Christ’s glory and love to…..
You might be wondering what this all has to do with the reading from scripture, from the book of Nehemiah. And with St. Josemaria’s words.
Call it a lesson in Life-guarding, a lesson in how to deal with those who we think are attacking us, but are really floundering in life. For if we “go to battle” them, what will happen is that we will founder as well. We will take our eyes off of salvation if we go to battle.
When what we need to see instead, is these people the way the God does – the way oen who would save them and bring them life abundant does, the way the One who died because He loved them does.
That my friends, can only happen, the more time we speand rejoicing in His presence, the more time we realize we live in Him, and He is us. The more we are transformed into His image (see 2 Cor. 3:16) Then we see His heart – the depth of His love for us – and we will begin to realize that “us” is more than just ourselves – and our friends at church – but us is all people – all ethnicities, all languages, and.. eventually – even those that are out there – itting away at those who would try to bring them back to life, back to standing on solid ground, back into the presence of God.
Where they belong.
Where we would stand against that which would keep people from God, that which would rob them of their time, resting in His presence. That’s one of the roles of the Levites – the servant priests of God. To try to guard the precious time people have with God. That they can know Him more and more – that they can just enjoy His presence, His love, that they can celebrate His mercy, His healing. The more we, those who minister, those who serve and shepherd, see what happens as our people do this, the more we treasure its impact on them, and the more we realize how this opens their hearts up to seek and save the lost – by brining Christ’s love to them.
How can we love those struggling in darkness, thrashing about, even appearing to attack us? By realizing how much God loves and desires to cleanse us all, and make us His children. That’s how we learn to love sinners, trapped in darkness… by learning how Jesus loves us… even there and then as well.
Lord, Have mercy on us, and teach us to show that mercy to all….
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2667-2671). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Lyrics by Rev. Mike Rayson and Dt Parker…