Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went and filled the leather bag with water and gave some to the boy. God was with the boy as he grew up; he lived in the wilderness of Paran and became a skilful hunter. His mother found an Egyptian wife for him. Genesis 21:19-21
It is essential that these two kinds of discourse not be confused or that one gets substituted for the other. Perhaps this can be clarified by pressing the love analogy further. Imagine the lover and the beloved at a critical moment in which the primary language is to be spoken. “Do you love me?” asks the lover. And the beloved answers, “Well, that is an interesting question. What is love after all?” And so launches into a discussion about the essence of love. After patient waiting, the lover finally gets another chance. “Yes, that’s all interesting, but do you love me?” Then the beloved takes another diversionary tack and says, “Well, yes, of course. You see, I love everybody!” (A universalist!) The lover protests, “That’s not what I mean! You haven’t answered the question! Do you love me?” So it goes. In spite of all the helpful things it does, secondary discourse makes the would-be lover look ridiculous when substituted for primary discourse.
Our task is that we develop a self-identity as Christians and do these things not incidentally to our lives, but centrally. By encouraging one another, by praying together, by studying Scripture together, we develop a sense that these things are in fact the very center of our lives. And we recognize they are not the center of the world’s life, however much cultural talk there is about Christianity.
There are the bad guys in scripture, and then there are those we assume are bad guys, sinner worse than the rest of us, and those bound for hell—well at least in our humble opinion.
The first I ever noted was Cain, who God talked to, and protected, not allowing any to condemn him. Ishmael, the son of Hagar, is another. It is just a brief comment. God was with him.
God was with him.
He wasn’t the chosen one, but God was with him.
I think this is what Forde is getting to as he tries to keep sharing the gospel in tension with teaching systematic theology. We can talk all day long about the presence of God, using intricate words like incarnational and sacramental, throwing around Hebrew, Greek and Latin terminology, and discussing the covenants. We can make hypothesis about why Elohim was used and not Yahweh. We can look at the history of his offspring in the Old Testament, and the sins they committed and the wars they started. Based on all of that, we might think that Ishmael was completely cut off, outside the family of God, even as he was cast away from the family of Abraham.
Defined by theology, Ishmael was an outcast.
But looking at the scripture through the lens of the gospel, God was with him.
It is something to think through, because many of us don’t fit the systems of the church today. We are not in with the cool crowd; we don’t have the right sponsors; we don’t have the connections, or the look or the charisma. We feel like outcasts.
This passage gives hope to the outcasts, for if God was even with him, then surely God can be with us.
The passage is that primary language of the gospel, “I am with you” that we so need to hear. I will care for you (which was the promise God made Abraham about Ishmael) God kept the promise, even to the one everyone overlooked.
He will keep those promises to you as well.
The Lord is with you!
Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 3.
Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 18.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT
Each time we consent to a new light on our weakness and powerlessness, we are in a deeper place with Christ.… Christ in his passion is the greatest teacher of who God is. Sheer humility. Total selflessness. Absolute service. Unconditional love. The essential meaning of the Incarnation is that this love is totally available.
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter
Second, those who find that they are prompted to partake of it merely because of the order of the church or from habit, who, if wholly free to choose, would not come to it with good will and longing, also must not partake of the sacrament. As St. Augustine says, the sacrament seeks a hungry, thirsty, and desirous soul which yearns for it. But those who go only because of command or out of habit feel no desire or longing for it, but rather horror or dread, so that they would rather be away from it than near it. A person with a yearning heart does not wait for a command, nor is he moved by precept or habit. Such a man is driven by his need and his desire. He has his mind fixed only on the sacrament, which he desires.
Last week I was at a pastors’ conference with 200 plus peers of mine. Most of us were tired, emotionally drained, approaching or in burn-out. It’s the nature of ministry. Those who do it well, risk their health, including their mental health.
The planners of the conference had decided the theme would be SoulCare, providing it for our people, ensuring our families get it, and forcing ourselves to admit we need it, and then act on it. But the planners (I was one,) knew our pastors needed to get such needs out in the open – but also realized there would be reluctance and resistance against such baring of our souls.
There is a need to address this – as Keating explains. It is only as we see ourselves wounded and broken, do we really see Christ’s active care for us! The love that is there, to comfort us, to pick us up, to heal the wounds and cleanse us from sin… IT IS HERE–FOR HE IS HERE!
Brother Lawrence realize the same thing as Tozer quotes him. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are going to sin, and if sin and dwell among sinners, we will become wounded, and broken. That is why God planned from before the foundation of the world to be here with us…to rescue us, to deliver us.. to nourish us.
That brings us to Luther – and his words about the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar. We shouldn’t fell like we have to go because it is the rules. Never! We need to go because we need that intimate moment with God, as we eat the Body and bring the Blood of Christ Jesus. We need to desire this moment for where it brings us, deeper into a relationship with Him. This time of truly experiencing the God we come to know in the sacrament, the One who loves us.
The Lord’s Supper is where the spiritually broken learn to find hope and healing, as the Spirit ensures the promises that accompany it are communicated to us. It is where we find ourselves, weak and powerless, coming to realize we are welcome in the presence of God, that He shares every aspect of Himself with us., transforming us into His image. ( 2 Cor 3:16)
We need Him – as do our people.
So let us be encouraged to gather around the altar, and know our Lord ever more deeply, as He provides for us, as promised. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 277.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 171.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Here on Mount Zion the LORD Almighty will prepare a banquet for all the nations of the world—a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine. 7 Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow that has been hanging over all the nations. 8† The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The LORD himself has spoken.
9 When it happens, everyone will say, “He is our God! We have put our trust in him, and he has rescued us. He is the LORD! We have put our trust in him, and now we are happy and joyful because he has saved us.” Isaiah 25:6-9 GNT
Though we cannot fix anything, the presence of Jesus lightens the burden of the Poor and gives them strength. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to approach the Poor with the gentleness, mercy and delicacy of Jesus Himself. We need humility to listen, lest we go to them with ‘solutions’, having no idea what pains and wounds are in each heart. Our every word or gesture can bring light and joy into a heart, or they can increase the darkness and pain. That’s why we need Jesus!
We do fail, and I never stop placing all my failures into His Sacred Heart and plunging them into His precious wounds where He alone can redeem and make all things new.
At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things.
There is a part of every person that longs to be a superhero, a crusader to fix that which is wrong, and make it right. Sometimes that aspecto of our personality is dimmer and even blotted out by failure. Other times, the crusade we choose is too large, and we learn we can’t fix the world.
Other times, we try to lead the horse to water, and make it drink, but it will not do so, and that frustrates us. We do everything right, we assume, but it doesn’t work. Sometimes that is because the horse is stubborn, other times it is because the horse isn’t thirsty, but rather it is hungry, or it needs rest. An example, often as a hospice chaplain, I watched doctors try to find cures for people that were terminally ill. They never gave up trying to cure them. However, if they were able to help the person cope with the pain, often the person would die in great peace, and sometimes, their bodies would do what the doctor couldn’t. With all the good intent and sincerity, their hope
It is as the nun wrote above, we need the humility to go and listen, to go with an attitude of gentleness and mercy, and with great delicacy. For there are often far to often, wounds and pains which we cannot see, that need to be addressed before we can address the problems we see.
So how do we overcome this crusading mentality? How do we find the patience and the humility to allow the brokeness, that poison that destroys souls to be drawn out?
I think is starts with remembering the end game. To recall the promises Isaiah wrote down, inspired by God. We need to remember that not only does he dry away the tears and provides, but He is the one who delivers us. Depending on that leads us, eventually, to realize that Has this day, and the person we hope to help, in His glorious loving hands.
Often our best option is simply to do as Luther advised, to share with those we are responsible for (great question there) the love of God revealed in the basic creeds, to reveal His presence, to reveal His care, His mercy and His delicate patience in bringing s to wholeness, and to health. In the process we help them discover it, not forcing it, but asking the questions that will lead them deeper into a relationship.
As this happens, we find out how to address their poverty, whatever that poverty truly is, as we see God already doing this. We simply learn to walk with them, addressing where we can, but primarily serving to remind them of the presence of God.
If you want to change the world, this is how it is done, by being there as God changes their world, and yours.
Lord Jesus, give us the patience to see that the issue we want to help with isn’t always the issue that they are ready to see You bring healing to in their lives. Help us to realize as well, that all “fixes” are actually your responsibility, and our role is to remind them of Your presence, Your love, and that You are at work in their lives. AMEN
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 183). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
With These Words…
1 Thes. 4:13-16
† I. H. S. †
May the word of God, which reveals to you the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so comfort you that you can remember His plan for you, to spend eternity in His glory!
What good did their words do?
In the aftermath of last Sunday’s shooting in a church in Texas, a very odd discussion broke out on social media.
The discussion concerned this question, “was about whether God was listening to the prayers of the people in the church that was shot up.”
It started by a reaction to all the politicians and others who said things like, “our hearts and prayers are with the people of Texas.” To which many people asked, well what good did their prayer do them in the first place.
And then the war of words ensued…
Rather than face the actual issue, death, tragic, traumatic death, Christians and non-Christians alike were attacking and counter-attacking each other about whether the words of the people’s prayers that day protected them from a madman’s rampage.
We need words to make a difference in times like these, but it is not the words of those praying that will make the difference, it is the words of the of the Lord they pray to, the words of the promise He has made us, and the words, like in the epistle today, that reveal His promise to us.
When the apostle Paul talks of grief, he notes the following,
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.
I’ve heard over the years sincere people telling others not to grieve, usually, with something like, don’t grieve, you will see them again! I even once heard some explaining patiently that grieving is evidence of a severe lack of faith.
That is so much rubbish! That is not what Paul is saying here, he is simply saying the grief is different for those who know God. For them, it is a different kind of grief than the grief of those who don’t have hope.
Literally, it is those without something to hold on to, something to that sustains us and keeps us afloat. Those without God don’t have promises to hold onto, they don’t have the promises we are given in our baptism, the promises we remember if and when we make the sign of the cross.
Here is how that promise is described in scripture,
4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (NLT)
Look at the promises here,
God washed away our sin,
We are born again and given a new life through the Holy Spirit
That Spirit is poured out on us in our baptism,
We are declared righteous and holy,
and we are, as we confessed in our creed, given confidence, we believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting!
Our grief is real, it may be felt more powerfully, it may last longer, and yet, we have something to hold onto, the hope we have in God.
This isn’t a theological epistle,
Which is the point of this letter from Paul, and the description of Jesus second advent, His second coming. This letter of Thessalonians isn’t about an end times calendar of events. it is not a theological calendar.
It’s to remind us that before we see Jesus return if we are around at the time, those who died, those who are his will have risen from the dead. They will see Him, We won’t meet Him before they have joined Him. That is why in the liturgy we see the Sanctus with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven. It’s not just about doctrine, is about knowing God’s plan, and being encouraged by it.
Encouraged you say? But we are grieving!
But God’s encouragement is not just a friendly pat on the back, like a coach sending you back into play after an injury. Nor is that the kind of encouragement that scripture talks about His people giving each other.
Godly, Biblical encouragement is the kind of thing where we weep and laugh together, where we share each other’s pain, just as Christ shares our pain. The word is the verb form of the word to describe the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the One who comes alongside. lifts us up and carries you.
That’s what the word paraclete means – to call alongside to comfort, to encourage, to lift up and help carry.
And that is what God does. every day for us.
Through His word, through the sacraments, through each other, He makes Himself known, and the presence of the Holy Spirit comforts us.
As does the hope, no, the knowledge that eternity is ours, with God, Dwelling in and sharing in His glory, with all those who trust in Him.
It is for this reason Jesus came, to ensure our sin would never stop us from that eternity, to provide the Holy Spirit to minister to us, and carry us, to ensure us of all the promises of God, so that even now, we can live life in expectation of eternity, and thereby dwell in peace.
God’s peace, which passes all understanding – the peace in which Jesus keeps us, our hearts and minds! AMEN!
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day: (why do I write discussion – in the hope someday this is discussed, of course)
“If all those people became so enthusiastic and were ready to acclaim you over a piece of bread, even though the multiplication was a very great miracle, shouldn’t we be doing much more for all the many gifts you have granted us, and especially for giving us your very self unreservedly in the Eucharist?” (1)
In view of these days, when we are arguing and doing battle over what the government can, can’t, should or shouldn’t do for those it governs, this quote by St. Josemarie seems incredibly important. For indeed we get excited about what is physically/financially provided for us, and because of the similarities of those running, the only real argument I can see is about whether people are given to, or have taken from them, money and that which it can buy.
It is never miraculous, the government cannot turn 5 loaves and 2 fishes into enough to feed 12,000 people. And we applaud or crucify those who promise to do something about it, based on its perceived short term affect on us. Yet we waste more time contemplating politics than the ministry of Jesus in our midst. We get more excited about a juicy bit of gossip that we can copy and paste to bash “the other guy” than we do about the word of God which reveals to us that we aren’t alone, that we are loved, that this world isn’t a random and without a purpose.
We aren’t alone.
We are loved…
A little bit of bread, a small sip of wine, a gift that changes everything, that fulfills a promise, that indeed reminds us of the greatest gift, and is a gift that is worth more than any thing,.
Celebrate it, think about what is given you there, as you Take and Eat the Body Broken for you, and you take and drink, the blood outpoured for the forgiveness of sin. All sin.
And may you live, as those God would call to His feast…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1228-1231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.