How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. 20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. 21 Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack. Psalm 31:19-21 (NLT2)
Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists.
So then, effective and faithful pastoral ministry in each succeeding era must remain intimately connected with its essential core—the divinely given presence of Christ Jesus and the truth of his word by which alone we live.
Now more than at any other time in generations, the believer is in a position to go on the offensive. The world is lost on a wide sea, and Christians alone know the way to the desired haven. While things were going well, the world scorned them with their Bible and hymns, but now the world needs them desperately, and it needs that despised Bible, too.
When one studies Theology, there is a division of the church. The first section is called the Church Triumphant; it is all those who have gone to be with the Lord at death. The second is the Church Militant, the people of the church still alive and engaged in the spiritual battles that make up everyday life.
The problem is the word militant; it brings up pictures of a great Christian army dressed for battle against the heathen, against the cults, against atheists and agnostics. We see this as if the salvation of the church depended on making others submit to the church. We are to go on the offensive – and passages like Matthew 16 and Ephesians 6 are used to cheer on those preparing for WAR!
Too often, the church has become offensive rather than going on the offensive. We have forgotten our mission is the same as our Lord’s – to see the sinner find the rest that Tozer calls a haven. That is why he talks of the church on the offensive. Those who seem to despise the church are the ones who need us the most. Hose who scorn us and think us ridiculous are the ones we are placed in the midst, for God knows their needs.
That need is described in Psalm 31, as God is praised for providing shelter, the haven. It is finding the unfailing love, the intimate care which God is revealed, even as we are drawn into His presence. Senkbeil refers to this intimate presence as the essential core of ministry. Without it, our lives are not being lived; what instead happens is akin to the life of the shadows.
The church militant is aggressive, but not in the attack against unbelievers. It pursues its connection with the Father. As the words about contemplative prayer describe, it is the transformation initiated and guided by God. It is the time in His presence where we are changed. Paul talks about pressing for this in Philippians.
Simply put, the more we are aware of His presence, the more we see Him working through us, reaching the very people that God will gather. The mroe time we spend basking in and in awe of His florious love, the more we are changed, the more we love Him, and
You want to win the world for Christ – seek how He is revealing Himself to you through the Gospel and the Sacraments. Rejoice as He provides for you, and then lovingly invite others into these intimate moments where God is…. with us.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers. Entry for January 1st
Devotional Thought of the Day!
40 They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free. 41 As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus. 42 And every day in the Temple and in people’s homes they continued to teach and preach the Good News about Jesus the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42 (TEV)
7 “He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word. 8 He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of our people. Isaiah 53:7-8 (TEV)
2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted. Matthew 5:11-12 (TEV)
123 Do you see? With Him you have been able. Why are you surprised? Be convinced: there is nothing to be surprised about. If you trust in God—really trust!—things work out easily. And, what is more, you always go further than you imagined you could.
Right before Easter, a bunch of FB Memes appeared, asking the “What Would Jesus Do” question, and reminding people of Jesus’ clearing the Temple. As if to justify Christianity on the offensive, a militant form of beat them into submission, a warrior version of Protestantism that confronts and boldly takes on the world and those who oppose the faith. Maybe we don’t want to go to physical war with them, but we want to win the battles of words, the debates.
Sunday, as the first reading ended in church with the quote above from Acts 5, I thought about the fact that the apostles were doing what Jesus did. They didn’t fight back, they didn’t revile their persecutors, they rejoiced!
Even as Jesus embraced the cross for the joy that was waiting, the apostles rejoiced that because they bore the name of Christ, they were whipped and beaten and brought before authorities – because there, they could share about the love of God, proven at the cross. They knew, because they heard the words on the sermon on the mount, the blessing that such persecution was, not because they loved pain, but because of the gospel.
It is not as if our suffering merits someone else’s salvation, or even ours. But if we are truly persecuted for our faith, it shows our connection to the one whom we bear witness to.
How many of us are willing to endure persecution, or allow others to do that in this day and age?
How many of us are willing to serve others by sharing about Christ, if that means persecution, pain, suffering, even death? And yet, even as we go through it, rejoice?
Will we embrace suffering and persecution, knowing that it too testifies of our trust in God? Or will we fight, complain, slander and disrespect?
Will we do what Jesus’ did? Will we do what the disciples did, with the attitude they had – one of joy?
In order to do so, our trust has to be in God, we have to know He reigns, that we are His people, and that everything – even that which is meant for evil (like the cross) will work for good. That is asking us to trust Him in a way most of us are uncomfortable in trying. We would rather fight, we would rather plan strategic countermeasures, But simple rest in Him, trust Him while others role over us? Heck even our own people may think us wimps and join in the persecution, mocking us.
That takes a level of trust only possible if we abide in the presence of God, or more precisely, if the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Because of our baptism, we know that promise is true… He dwells in us, He is transforming us,
Transforming us into the image of Christ, St Paul teachings in 2 Corinthians 3, into the image of the Lord who loved enough to endure punishment, to bring those who persecuted Him into the family of God.
May we learn to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us, and realize that even under persecution we bear witness to the Love of God.
Lord have mercy on us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 706-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. 7 It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8 But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9 By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10 We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! Romans 5:6-10 (TEV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Matthew 5:43-45 (TEV)
Yesterday a young blogger (pastor?) named Matt Walsh wrote a blog entitled “Jesus didn’t care about being nice or tolerant, and neither should you.” http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/07/jesus-didnt-care-about-being-nice-or-tolerant-and-neither-should-you/comment-page-2/#comment-160712) I responded at the request of a friend, but I thought I would address the basic concept here as well.
In the blog he wanted to spurn Christians on to regain their fighting spirit, To be aggressive about their faith, to challenge and do battle with those who would attack the church. To not tolerate sin or attacks on the church, to wipe the idea that Christians should be loving and therefore somehow tolerant. One of his points was that Jesus wasn’t tolerant, that He cleared the temple after all. Therefore righteous indignation has its place in those who follow Christ.
I have to admit – his passion is exemplary, and the reach of one blog post of his might be 100 times mine in a month.
But he’s wrong. Critically wrong.
God doesn’t want us to humble these people into submission with the truth. He wants us to reveal them the truth, He doesn’t need warriors to battle them, but people willing to die to themselves, who will do so to see these people freed to live in Christ. They aren’t the ones manning the gates of hell, but the ones Christ’s Church are there to rescue. We must understand this. We must hear His calling for us to love them, to pray for them. We have to realize that we were once in their shoes, broken, mad at God, fighting against Him, our of ignorance and blinded by sin.
The clearing of the temple wasn’t against those who attacked Christianity from the outside, but from those who stopped those on the outside from being able to know God, to find time to pray. The place where he cleared was the place for the Gentiles to pray, so that they would know God. ( see 1 Kings 8:41-43) The goal was to help these people, drowning in the darkness, in despair, these people that are broken, even as we are broken.
For God, over and over, has indicated that He is not willing that any perish in their sins, but that all are transformed in Christ.
That’s why Jesus died on the cross – even Caiaphas recognized this in John 11. That is why Paul would pour out his life, and call us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus. That every apostle didn’t combat their opposition, but prayerd and often died, tat they would know Christ.
Do we have to deal with ugly stuff, if we walk in Jesus footsteps? Yeah – we have to deal with those who don’t even know that sin is sin. (and instead of people getting in their way by selling things to sacrifice – we have to sometimes deal with those who – from inside the church, defend sin.) But we have to remember that their ignorance doesn’t make them our enemy – that our apostolate, our being sent as Jesus was sent ( see John 20:21) is to bring to them healing for the brokenness, sight to their blindness, to proaclim them free from the bondage of sin, and the fear of death.
By pointing them to the one who loved them enough to die for them. Which may mean we lose our life, our identity in this life.
That’s following Christ.
The Zeal for God’s house that sees as the light to those who don’t know God, and the glorious place for those of us to do.
Lord have mercy on us, and help us to love them, as you did.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
12 For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12 (NJB)
18 So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Matthew 16:18-19 (NJB)
1 For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the past humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so the future will glorify the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, the territory of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death light has blazed forth. Isaiah 9:1-2 (NJB)
Onward Christian Soldiers, marching off to war…. with the cross of Jesus, going on before…
This morning, there are people crying for the church to wake up, to take up the challenges thrown before it this weekend, to reclaim lost territory as the forces posed against the church have attacked Christianity by once again trying to distort one of it mosts sacred symbols, marriage. I’ve read concepts that this is the worst attack yet, that the evil people need to be stopped that we have to draw the line here, and reclaim what is ours by right, or else all will be lost. They urge the church to become the church militant… I can hear pipe organs warming up to lead the great anthems that will lead us into this great crusade to come..
And the words of that great philosopher Inigo Montoya come to mind. “Church ;’Militant’ You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
When I see people talking about the church with military like speech, it is not a church locked in a life or death struggle with the Satan and his minions in the world. It is not a struggle to keep what is ours, our culture, our rights, our dominant place in society, defining the norms and behaviors in our society. That’s never been the proper battle arena in the church. And those who “fight us”, aren’t fighting us, anymore than a blind man with two teaspoons could fight a Navy Seal unit. They can’t – they are locked in darkness, and they have absolutely no clue about who God is.
Luther says it well,
For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost. The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
We are talking about people we believe cannot know about God’s love yet, so why do we take offense at their attacking a god they perceive as un-loving? Worse – why do we defend that God, rather than giving them an explanation for the God we know – the God that invaded our darkness, that showed us love? When we fall into this battle they want, we end up doing exactly what we aren’t supposed to be doing. We are making them believe that it is a code of behaviors that matters, that we don’t care about their eternal soul as much as we care that they meet our behavorial standards.
And so the church militant is confused with a type of group that wages war on sinners, rather than does what its supposed to do – delivering them from oppression. Bringing them healing and restoration from the damage caused by sin – their sin, the sin of the world, and yes our sin as well. Delivering them into the presence of God, where that healing begins. Delivering them their, by living alongside them, for God dwells with us.
That’s the mission of the Church Militant, even as it was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, who John tells us – came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. May as we live in the midst of this oppressed, broken, sinful world, reflect that glory, a reflection that continues to invade darkness, and see God set at liberty all that are oppressed.