Devotional Thought of the Day:
But there will be a Sabbath of complete resta for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the LORD: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It is to be a year of complete rest for the land. 6 Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired worker or alien who resides with you. 7 All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Leviticus 25:4-7 CSB
Then our Lord rose from the dead and we have what we call the period of the preparation.… They had stopped their activity at the specific command of the Lord. He said, “Tarry! You are about to receive that which has been promised.…” Sometimes you are going farther when you are not going anywhere; you are moving faster when you are not moving at all. HTB024–025 O, my heart, be still before Him!
And here the Church has introduced the custom that the faithful should give one another the kiss of peace, to remind them that their hearts should be united in charity. Before giving the kiss of peace, the priest kisses the altar, to show that he cannot give the peace unless he has first received it from Jesus Christ, who is represented by the altar.
In these days of COVID, we no longer shake hands or hug each other during the passing of the peace. ( I am not one for giving others a kiss – but other acts suffice!) It was a very meaningful time in my church. One which I struggle with in every service…
Given all that, I was struck by the instructions given to my brothers who are Catholic priests, to first kiss the altar. The reason makes sense; we can only pass on the peace we are given, we cannot create that peace within our own lives, never mind between us and those we’ve squabbled with during the week.
So the priest pauses, and kisses the altar… on behalf of all of us. I like the imagery, and the slight pause, the realization that God is here… and from Him come all the blessings that create a life of peace!
It resonates with Tozer’s words, about a period of preparation, a moment to remember the role of God. Even as we look upon the Body and Blood of Jesus, we realize the peace that comes, as we realize our need for it, we are doing what Tozer says, progressing in our faith; while letting our heart before Him find stillness and find peace.
When we take a moment, or a day, or a year to realize that when we rest before God (the idea of a sabbatical – not to write a book or do a different job) we find ourselves resting in Christ, and we find ourselves at peace.
The side effect of that peace is being able to share it with others, It is not the primary result, but it is there. The same is true for being able to minister to people. All of these activities, all of these things we are gifted and called to do are side effects of our time with Jesus. We need to realize that, and we need to spend that time, paused, adoring the Lord.
Even it is just taking a moment, and kissing the altar.
Heavenly Father, help us to always realize Your presence, to acknowledge it, to embrace You. Help us to take the time to know we dwell in Your presence, in Your peace. And then, secure in Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, show us how to live. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 54.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Matthew 5:6 The Message
Twelfth, you see, that is what happens when one tries to make people pious and lead them to the right by means of commandments and laws. It only makes them worse. Thanks to such tactics, they do unwillingly and drearily whatever they do. This becomes a hindrance to God’s grace and sacrament. God neither wants to nor will he grant this grace to those who were forced, pressed, and driven to the sacrament by commandment and law, but only to hearts that long and pine and thirst for it, to hearts that come voluntarily……
(a little further Luther writes) Therefore, these words of his must be understood to refer to the labor and the burden of the conscience, which is nothing else than a bad conscience oppressed by sins committed, by daily transgressions, and by a leaning toward sin. The Lord does not drive all such people from him, as do those who teach that we must come to the sacrament with purity and worthiness. Nor does he issue a command or compel anyone to go to the sacrament, but rather he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help. The sublime sacrament must be regarded by us not as a poison, but as a medicine for the soul.10 Christ himself declares in Matthew 9 [:12], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament.
1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity
In some denominations, including mine, there is a concern about who should commune, and who should not. Arguments abound in regards to what it means to have a close communion policy, Argmenets and division have blossomed over this idea, of who we can allow to commune.
There is something important in this, there is a Biblical basis for denying someone the Lord’s Supper, and it is found in several places – notable 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks of the consequences of approaching the Lord’s Supper without examining yourself first.
But that examination isn’t about whether we are good enough, or getting at least a B- on doctrine test, or having our membership in the right facility. (Remember – we confess that there is only one, holy catholic and apostolic church!) Yet we always seem to make it about such self-centered things.
One of my weight loss groups talks about the idea of eating when you are at the appropriate hunger level. Not to eat just because of stress, or pattern, (aka tradition) or because it seems like time too. Eat too soon, gain weight. Eat too late, and find that you overeat – and gain weight.
I think it is the same with God – we need to learn to hunger for Him and feed on Him regularly. For some, that does mean daily reception, for others weekly. But it is based on need – not on qualification. It is for those whose souls are tormented by sin and brokenness, who realize their need for Jesus because there is no other hope.
That is why I do not understand why there are people that say there is no emergency need for the Lord’s Supper. As long as there are sinners who need to know God’s grace, who are oppressed and haunted by their pasts, there is a need for this blessing for which Jesus gave thanks, even as He offered it. Luther makes this case clear. It is worth repeating the words, “he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help.” Yearn does not indicate they would like to have it, it means they desire it, they hunger for God, they hunger for the work He does, as He draws us into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
This is where we find hope, there is where we meet God in a very unique and powerful way, and it is where we know we are welcome.
Look at the Catholic Catechism – and see the beauty we need in this! The incredible unity that is found in the Lord’s Supper, as united in Christ, we find ourselves in the presence of God the Father! (see Colossian 3:1-3)
Caught in sin? Struggling with the burden of guilt and shame? Need to know God’s love and forgiveness?
Come… and find peace at the altar of grace.
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), 176–177.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 342–343.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)
Therefore, when I suffer, I do not suffer alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer with me, for Christ says, “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye” [Zech. 2:8]. Thus others bear my burden, and their strength is my strength. The faith of the church comes to the aid of my fearfulness; the chastity of others endures the temptation of my flesh; the fastings of others are my gain; the prayer of another pleads for me. In brief, such care do the members show one another that the more honorable members cover, serve, and honor the less respected members, as is so beautifully set forth in 1 Corinthians 12 [:22–26]
When I was 8 years old, a family friend who was a priest asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and specifically why.
I’ve been doing that now for over twenty years,
Well, sort of.
I told him I wanted to be a priest, and I am a pastor. Most people would say that is close enough, others might argue differently. But I specifically said, even though I didn’t understand why, that what I wanted to do was commune them, to give them Jesus,
And this evening, on the night of the feast where we would normally celebrate the first Lord’s Supper, it cannot be done for most of “my” people.
I know that some of them will cry because they cannot be here. I know it will wipe me out. I know other pastors who are struggling with this, too, as some simply will go without, and others will try to be innovative. I cannot and will not blame or crucify any of them. Simply put, a pastor is put into the life of people to reveal to them Jesus in their life by explaining the word of God and providing for them the sacraments they need.
Yes, I said, need!
People who are dealing with brokenness, sin, health issues, doubts, anxieties, and fears all need to know God is with them, loves them, will sustain them.
And just as our people need them, pastors have ot find a way to care for their people.
Even in these unmet needs, we find another kind of communion, a sharing in the suffering. For when one hurts, we all hurt. When one weeps, all do. And there will be a day when we all laugh, and dance and sing, and shout amen.
Until that time, when joy runs amuck, we share, we have a communion based in suffering, but a communion where Jesus still gives us Himself, His body broken and His blood shed, for us. This is the hardest communion, it is the sharing in the dark night of the soul, Yet, it is a journey we never take alone. Jesus is with us, even as He endured his dark night alone, He assures us we will never be alone in these times.
As we share in it, may we know the promise of life, the promise of everything being made new…
And may e know He is with us…
( P.S., please pray for all pastors and priests – this weekend may be one the hardest in our ministries, as we try to do…what we really cannot.)
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), 161–162.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
In the sacrament Christ is received. However, this would not happen if Christ were not, at the same time, prepared and distributed through the Word. For the Word brings Christ to the people and acquaints their hearts with him. The sacrament in itself does not transmit this knowledge.
And even if there is some preaching, the mass may be of Christ but the sermon on Theodoric of Bern or some other story. God punishes us in this way because we do not pray for our daily bread. The venerable sacrament finally becomes not only a vain and empty custom but also an object of contempt. After all, what does it profit us if Christ is present and has prepared bread for us, if this bread is not given to us and we do not delight in it? That is just as if a delicious meal were prepared and no one was there to pass the bread, bring the food, or pour the drink, and all were expected to have their hunger appeased by the odor or the sight of the meal.
You might think that this post is going to laud the preaching of the word over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I mean, after all, Luther’s words could be interpreted that way. Luther makes it sound like the sacrament is completely dependent on the word, that without it, it, it is vain and worthless. It would be of no profit to our bodies and even less to our souls.
Theologically, that may sound right, but I do not agree with that interpretation.
I think it is that we can’t separate what God put together, the gift of hearing the word and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. We need both, and we need them together. They need to understand the experience they have, as they take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
As I said in the title, pastors and priests (Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other sacramental groups) are more than spiritual Pez dispensers. Our role is to reveal to you Christ, to ensure you understand the grace that you are being given in the sacraments, to make sure you understand that grace is Christ’s presence in your life, and how that transforms who you are, it results in a change to your very identity.
That is why we see this Communion Feast so important, and the words that prepare us for it critical. This time, not just about our sins being forgiven, but the time we know we dwell in Christ, and He dwells in us.
We need this, and we need to remember, to understand, to savor this moment. So to preach on something else, to not focus on Christ crucified for us, to make sure you understand this and treasure it, and to give you the time to think and work through it, this is our calling.
For your benefit.
So let both people and their clergy, work together, and rejoice together, as God provides for us. Amen!
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), 57–58.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. Heb 10:25
544 The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.
There is a challenge today that the church needs to embrace.
One that describes us as the author of Hebrews does, in the third person plural. “Our,” “We”, “You” (the plural kind not singular.) these are words we need to restore to practice in the church.
Our faith is not an individualistic faith, it is always a corporate sharing of pain and sorrow, a sharing of joy and wonder at the grace of God.
That is why St Josemaria pictures it as an infusion of life as the Blood that is shared covers our sins as it brings life to us as a community, as a body, as the Body of Christ. For when a person is weak in their faith, the faith of the community lifts them up, comforting them and reminding them of the presence of God.
Without that infusion, life takes its toll, draining us of energy and the ability to depend on God. Without hearing others say the Lord is with you, without knowing that they are praying for you, we battle with the idea that the battle is ours, that we are alone. We need that input, we need the comfort and the encouragement we receive through the church, broken as she may appear.
“We” are the church, the people of God whom He ministers to through His word and the Sacraments. We need to be her…together.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Day
My friends, be careful that none of you have a heart so evil and unbelieving that you will turn away from the living God. 13 Instead, in order that none of you be deceived by sin and become stubborn, you must help one another every day, as long as the word “Today” in the scripture applies to us. 14 For we are all partners with Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at the beginning. Hebrews 3:12-14 GNT
Never will we be able to show a student the horizon of greatness if we use our leadership as a stepping-stone for our personal ambitions or for our petty interests. If we let our kids see in us this counter-witness, we make them afraid to dream and grow.
But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.” If we are able by our love to give meaning to another person, to just one other person, our life will have been infinitely worthwhile. And it will always be so: that men live by their encounter with the love that gives meaning to their lives—it is true of every relationship; no reform, no revolution, can make this gift superfluous. It is likewise true that in all relationships it would be redemptive if, in a world marred by hostility and alienation, one individual would leave the collective and be a brother. These redemptive encounters, which are recorded in no history book, form the true inner history of the Church, which today, more than ever before, we forget in our concern about the history of institutions.
I am not the handyman my dad was. Simply put, I might be able to hammer a nail in, or, on a good day put together something from IKEA. But I can’t use a jigsaw, or tables saw with any skill, and repairing thgs? Well, lucky for me I have a church with guys who have that talent.
I learned early on to rely on others, including my dad or my Father-in-law. It wasn’t the easiest of lessons, but common sense soon overcame a very humbled sense of pride, and I can now allow those with the gift to get involved before I attempt to screw things up beyond repair.
It is a lesson we need to learn spiritually as well.
We need to be involved with others, and as Hebrews says, it can stop us from making a mess out of our lives. THe more we are engaged with others, helping them, crying with them, laughing with them, the less impact sin and evil have in our life. True fellowship has that effect on us, as we are gathered together by God in His name. (remember Jesus said “wherever 2 or 3…)
This is what Pope Francis was talking about in regards to leadership. We need to reflect on how leadership can corrupt us, as we consider more how our decisions impact us, rather than how they impact those around us, and those who will follow us. Our encounters with God change us, and our encounters with those for whom Christ shed his blood are part of those encounters.
Imagine if we saw every encounter as a redemptive encounter? If we knew God would bring healing to our brokenness, if He would pour out mercy on us both? How we would look forward to such times!. How we would greet each other with more eagerness! How being in groups would be less anxiety producing! How great these times would be, and how willing we would be to help, to accept assistance, to laugh and cry together.
to share our brokenness, our struggles with sin and temptation…
and how our lives, our homes, our churches would experience this new life. A life God gives us as He draws us into Himself.
Here is our hope and healing, here is our help.
Lord, help us to look at every encounter, every meeting we have as an encounter with You. Lord help us then see these same encounters as times of redemption and healing, as You bring us together. In Jesus name we pray! AMEN!
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), 292.
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 290.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
40 But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41 not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42 And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.” Acts 10:40-43 GNT
Worship is not only submission, but also translates into the mystery of ‘communion’ and ‘union’.
A conversation I had this week touched on the idea of liturgical worship and its connection to evangelism. I thought it interesting that it wasn’t considered as a natural progression.
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be, given all the years of worship wars that have dominated churches, especially those who have a formal liturgy. Who defines worship and liturgy as what happens in a formal, even antiseptic manner as God blesses His people in a gathering and they respond back with canned prayers and hymns barely sung.
That isn’t worship – although it should be, too often we go about it so mechanically that it isn’t worship. It is simply a machine, a time where we keep everything highly organized and controlled. ( I am not sure if this is to stop our freedom, or to place God in a box!)
In the passage from Acts above, we see Peter describing a complete form of worship, the time where Jesus gathers His people around them and blessed them, and shares a meal with them. Here is our model for the mass, for the gathering on Sunday morning where we come to be taught and fed by God.
Worship includes that time of letting God provide for us, care for us. IN order to do that, we get at the heart of what submission is – not to bow in fear of getting beaten up or abused if we do not but submitting and letting someone else care for us. Think of Peter at the last supper, struggling to submit to Jesus washing his feet. Worship is realizing that we need God’s word, we need to hear of His promises and love, worship is letting Him feed us at the altar. This is the beginning of worship and it includes the prayers where we lay our entire lives before God, trusting Him to cleanse us, to heal our hearts, our minds and souls of the brokenness that is caused by our sin, and to allow Him to do whatever He finds pleasing with our lives.
It is that last part that is also communion, that is also the sweetest of unions. And yet it continues past the benediction, past the exit from the church, past the coffee and doughnuts.
That communion, that sweetest of unions occurs even as we reveal that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who judges His people as being righteous, as being Holy, as being worthy of being the children of God.
For that is what we learn, and re-learn in our church services, it is why our confession says “the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to give people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.”
And that is what our world needs to know… all about Jesus.
That is what our families, our friends, co-workers, and neighborhood needs to know… they need to know the love of Jesus…
The Jesus who died for us, and with whom we are risen to a new life, a life lived in communion. A life lived, being fed and feeding others.
Lord Jesus, help us to grow in our dependence on You, submitting ourselves to Your love and care. Thank You for inviting us to commune with You, to be united to You, and the Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 101). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (TEV)
651 You sometimes allow the bad side of your character to come out, and it has shown itself, on more than one occasion, in an absurd harshness. At other times, you do not bother to prepare your heart and your head so that they may be a worthy dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity… And you invariably end up by remaining rather distant from Jesus, whom you know so little. If you go on like this, you will never have interior life.
For the Fathers of the Church, the Eucharist is considered as the medicine of eternity. It is a remedy. Jesus continues to touch the sick with His Eucharistic Body. St Thomas Aquinas understands the Eucharist as the bread of the soul: as bread sustains the body, the Eucharist sustains the soul. As bread repairs the body, the Eucharist repairs the soul. As bread increases the life of the body, the Eucharist increases the life of the soul. As bread gives joy to the body, the Eucharist gives joy to the life of the soul, sometimes even to the life of the body, as it is given to us to see.
In refusing to go and draw from the Eucharist the source of healing, many of our contemporaries are tempted to seek out pseudo-healings in false spiritualities.
“He was insistent that the church, and the teachings of the church, not be the subject of evangelization but that Jesus
We stand there, kneel there, wait there…
So many come who are so burdened, so broken. Even though they confessed their sins not long ago, you can see the weight of their sin, and even the sins of their community, their world, weighing down on them.
And Jesus comes to them again, giving them the nourishment and grace that they need. They are not there to prove their holiness, their piety, they are there because they need to experience the love of God.
If, as Girzone notes, the church’s evangelization is in the message revealing Jesus, if our role as God’s people is to reveal His glorious love and mercy to the world, then the altar is a time where this happens.
It is why the fathers of the church, from Clement to Augustine to Francis and even Martin Luther put such a value on the sacraments. The means of grace where God reveals and pours out His love on us. Where we find ourselves in the presence of God. This moment, when the veil between heaven and earth is transparent, where the soul and heart realize what the mind assents to when it responds to “the peace of the Lord is with you!” and thunders back “AMEN!”
So how do we prepare for this? How do we not take such a great salvation for granted? How do we recognize that Jesus giving us His precious body, His blood which covers our sin?
It is not by perfecting our lives, for we cannot do that.
It is not by pretending to be holy, or deserving.
It is by realizing we need this medicine, that our souls need to be revived, that our hearts need to know God’s promise is not in vain, that He has forgiven us, that this sacrifice of Christ ~2000 years ago was done, to make you and me the children of God.
We prepare for this great gift, this means of grace, by realizing our need and expecting God to deliver what He said He would give us. We prepare for it by realizing our hunger and our need and rejoicing in the gifts of God, given to the people of God.
So come, and join us, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and give thanks and praise to the Lord who serves us, in love. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2732-2736). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 8). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Girzone, Joseph. (2011) The Homeless Bishop, Orbis Books , Maryknoll, NY
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18† And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, 19 blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram! 20 May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised!” And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered. Genesis 14:18-20 TEV
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 25 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. 26 Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life.
Matthew 16:24-26 (TEV)
Gregory the Great: “In comparison with eternal life, earthly life might just as validly be called death as life. For what else is the daily wear-and-tear and deterioration of life but a long drawn-out dying?” … The question about death is, therefore, imperiously raised by life itself. It presents itself inescapably to anyone who is really concerned about life. But if one is not concerned merely exteriorly with caring for and preserving this life but seeks to fill it with meaning and so to give it its true greatness and potential, such a one will not ignore the question about the sense or senselessness of death.
285 Although you don’t amount to much, God has made use of you, and He continues to make use of you to perform fruitful work again and again for his glory. Don’t put on airs. Think what would an instrument of iron or steel say about itself, when a craftsman uses it to set golden jewelry with precious stones?
One of my favorite treatises on philosophy and apologetics is Douglas Adam’s much acclaimed five-book trilogy known as the Hitchhiker’s Guide ot the Galaxy. With the exception of an odd comment in the prologue, one might think it an Agnostic’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress, or Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress.
Journeying through the universe, the characters are searching for meaning, (except the Vogons who simply love to write modern poetry and contemplate the dried snot that escapes them.) It is a hilarious, cynical and sarcastic look at the world, and manmade religions. But it gets to the question – why are we here? What meaning does our life have?
Or a better question, do I have significance in this world? even in my small lonely corner of it?
Can we really stop caring about preserving this life, can we stop trying to delay this long drawn out process of dying, long enough to fill our lives with meaning?
Abraham found significance in life, after having rescued Lot and his family from captivity, as the King/Prince of Peace comes and gives him a meal of bread and wine. It was significant enough for Abraham to give a tenth of his earnings, recognizing this man as having come from God, to provide for and minister to Abraham. (for that is what the tenth is!)
That time with God, eating at His table, with the bread and wine, Body and Blood of Christ is the place where we find significance, it is the place where we are ministered to, because God values us. It starts there, and then, as we dwell in His presence, God uses us, even as the jeweler uses tools of iron or steel ( or aluminum today) to work with the gold and gems.
Our significance comes, not from what God uses us to make, the works he’s planned for us to do, but from the relationship, we have with God. THat He will then use us, our gifts and abilities to do things are indeed wonderful, but it doesn’t matter what is made… it matters the fellowship we have with Him in the process. We are guided by His hand, His eyes not only see what we are doing but imagine the end result we can’t see.
That is an amazing thing…
And as we go about our day, it is what we need to recall, what we need to remember, this presence of God, this walking with Him, because we are loved by Him… we are significant.
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. 353). San Francisco: Ignatius Press
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1378-1381). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Faith in Action…
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin. And when they come to support you, that you will let them.
I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death. They avoid death, if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely. (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)
The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.
In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.
Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….
For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.
Who Was it?
We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.
The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled. Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.
And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.
They didn’t believe.
For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.
They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled. They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts
And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.
Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.
We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him. Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.
For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time. We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.
We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses. We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.
And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!
Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)
It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.
It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.
I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.
You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body. And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.
We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.
So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.
You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall. It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…
Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments
We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.
As James wrote in His epistle,
19 My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)
So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God. Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus. AMEN!