Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus, and His cross.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. Your name will now be Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with people, and you have won.”29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But the man said, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 So Jacob named that place Peniel, saying, “I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved.”…
3 Jacob himself went out in front of them and bowed down flat on the ground seven times as he was walking toward his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and put his arms around him and hugged him. Then Esau kissed him, and they both cried. 5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” Genesis 32:28-30, 33:3-5, NCV
For the minds of these people have become stubborn. They do not hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might really understand what they see with their eyes and hear with their ears. They might really understand in their minds and come back to me and be healed.’ Matt 13:15, quoting Is. 6:9-10 NCV (emphasis mine)
The culture of individualism, consumerism, and quick fixes continues to creep into the work of the counselor whenever performance and quick results are the primary motivations. Often we get so extremely busy and preoccupied by our compulsion to quickly remedy “problems” that in reality require an unhurried transformation not only of the head but of the heart, that we grasp for the next best treatment available or hold onto tried and tested modes of intervention. Yet at the end of our therapeutic work we somehow get the sense that something is amiss and unfinished, that somehow all these theories and techniques have fallen short of responding to the soul ache that comes from a deeper, more primal place.
It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.
2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.
I do a bit of counseling now and then, sometimes in groups, and sometimes with individuals. Almost always, it is because of conflicts and strife, even if that is because of an internal conflict.
Having that occur more often as the holidays come near – I saw something in this morning’s devotion that I’ve overlooked before. Jacob/Israel’s dramatic change in dealing with his older brother Esau. Jacob left his homeland, fearing for his life, as he scammed his borther out of everything – his birthright, his blessing as older (and therefore chief of the tribe) son. His fear was obvious, as he sought to buy forgiveness, sending gifts on a head.
But his encounter with Jesus changed all that…he was drawn back to God, even fighting him–as stubborn as ever–refusing to submit. But that fight and blessing changed him, even as he “triumphed,” and was saved. For it was only by engaging God that this could happen, it was only then that reconciliation, true reconciliation was possible for Jacob/Israel.
That is what Jesus points to, in quoting Isaiah’s ordination warning. Only by engaging God can sin be dealt with, and the person healed. Just as the Lutheran Confessions talk of the sacraments being the place where we are healed as our trust/dependence on God is strengthened and made our foundation of life.
That is the primal place where Nolasco notes the soul’s ache originates. The healing necessary to pursue healing with others can only be seen when God’s peace is known, when He is depended upon for a deeper healing. It is there the transformation takes place – even if the transformation takes 20 years. (some of us wrestle with God longer than others!) That of course means that pastoral counselors and shepherds, and regular counselors as well as we need to be patient, and let God draw us to himself. It means trusting in the promisess given to us through His word, and through the sacraments He instituted and blesses us through.
It is not a quick fix, even though the road starts with a dramatic change of heart. That change was being caused by God for a lot longer period of time than we can see, for it was planned for from before the cross, from even before time.
But God will make it happen – He will complete the work He began in us, showing us miracles of reconciliation, miracles of healing, even as we wrestle with Him through it.
So hang on, and let the Spirit cut open your heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and Acts 2:36-37) and bring healing…and then, rejoice for you well in a peace beyond comprehension… even though you may not always see/feel/know it.
Rolf Nolasco Jr., The Contemplative Counselor: A Way of Being (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011), 7.
Augsburg Confession – XIII The USE of the Sacraments; (emphasis mine) Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 35.
The Relationships of Christmas Present
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, so that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A quick review of the past
Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.
We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.
So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…
In this moment!
Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.
Not our sin this time… “theirs!”
You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this. But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.
If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”
If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!
If only… we could love more than we hurt…
if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.
My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…
But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.
The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present
There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.
That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.
It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.
It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.
and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,
It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…
And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Romans 12:16-18 (NLT2)
20 You clash with the character of one person or another…. It has to be that way—you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone. Besides, without those clashes which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges—imperfections and defects of your character—and acquire the order, the smoothness, and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection? If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.
I have never liked conflict.
Like many people, I would go to great lengths to avoid it, and I fear its approaching.
I think this is, in part, because we don’t know how to understand it, and we either fight for victory, or we settle for compromise. As a result we are not aware of the sweetness of harmony, the true peace of living in concord, and the hope that comes from finding the true peace that happens when we reconcile.
As a result, we dwell in a time where conflict is played out strategically, in back rooms and parking lot conversations, via text messages and other social media we gather our side, and are ready to go to war, or run away from our opponents.
And all suffers.
Living in peace with everyone is not about being liked, it is not about being popular, it is about working for true reconciliation, true unity that is not at the cost of diversity, or does it force conformity to anything else but Jesus. ANd since the Spirit is in charge of that transformation, the very clashes we, can lead to reconciliation.
Real peace is found there, not in the apparent absence of conflict.
It is a hard lesson, and to be honest, one I have refused to learn, even as I prayed for such a peace to grow in my life. Yet I have begun to see it, I have watched God at work bringing together those who trusted Him enough to be honest, and desire to see Him honored more than to be proven they are right. I have seen it in those who journy together. I have seen it at the communion rail, and in the passing of the peace.
So trust God, be willing to pay the price for true peace, knowing God will help, He will be there, and the person you are in conflict may come to realize, as you do, that you are on the same journey, being drawn by God into His presence.
Heavenly Father, help us to trust and depend on you more than we fear and avoid conflict. In those situations, help us to honor you, and seek the peace that is found in reconciliation, not settling for compromise or avoidance. Give us the patience to see this happen, in Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 209-213). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
“So may all your enemies die like that, O LORD, but may your friends shine like the rising sun! Judges 5:31 GNT
12 It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will keep quiet. Ps. 11:12 GNT
12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Eph. 6:12 GNT
As Martin Marty summarizes in his biography of Luther, “The benefit of faith was that it united the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. ‘They become one flesh,’ as Paul puts it. What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ, including the soul’s sins, death, and damnation. Faith negotiates the exchange.”
An absolute and rigid justice becomes a circulus vitiosus, a cycle of retaliations from which there is no escape. In his dealings with us, God has broken through this circle. We are unjust before God; we have turned away from him in pursuit of our own glorification and so we have become subject to death. But God waives the merited punishment and puts something new in its place: healing; our conversion to a renewed Yes to the truth about ourselves. So that this transformation may take place, he goes before us and takes upon himself the pain of our transformation. The Cross of Christ is the real elucidation of these words: not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but “transform evil by the power of love.…” In the Cross of Christ, and only there, these words open themselves to us and become revelation. In the company of the Cross, they become a new possibility even for our own lives.
If I looked at social media as a barometer of conflict and stress, I would be (and admit I get) very depressed, and I would lose hope.
The division and unrest I see is growing, and unless you agree with someone’s political and social views you are considered their “enemy”. There is no middle ground, and if someone tries to occupy such a place, they are insane, or accused of hiding their true agenda. The polarization is causing more stress, and everyone wants a form of rigid justice prosecuting their enemies.
A justice system that is ruled by our logic, and our rules. And we want the justice as swift and complete as it was on Sisera in the Book of the Judges. God’s enemies are ours, of course, and like the fools that Proverbs describes we do not hesitate to pass on something to judge someone on, and truly find them worth
In doing so, we play God, or better, we create God in our image, refusing to acknowledge who He revealed Himself to be. We make the error St. Paul warns against in Ephesians 6 – we think we are to fight human beings and cast them down. We don’t see them as broken and needing our care, and we really don’t want to admit we are broken and need theirs!
So how do we reconcile? How do we bring people who are so angry, so hurt, so broken by others to the point where they can find the peace that comes with such a miracle as my enemy becoming a beloved friend?
it doesn’t start with our efforts to heal the other person. It starts when we realized what Pope Benedict and Martin Luther discuss. The fact that we are drawn into Christ, and in the depth of the relationship, as we are being reconciled to God, as our brokenness is exchanged for Jesus’ completeness, we find that relationship with others healed as well. It is in this transformation that I find myself able to heal, able to forgive, able to love and even sacrificially love another.
That’s our hope in this life, (and that’s but the briefest glimpse of the future!) That drawn into Christ we find life itself transformed. That with given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25ff) and the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5-10) we find all out relationships being healed.
Our enemy is no longer seen to be that person, for we see them in Christ as our sibling.
Lord, help us to look for your healing in our own lives and praise you for that same healing being offered and available to everyone, especially to those we struggle to like/love. AMEN!
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. 69–70). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 78–79). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the day:
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.
John 20:19 (NLT2)
7 Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:7 (MSG)
Whatever be the facts about this method of deterrence, men should be convinced that the arms race in which an already considerable number of countries are engaged is not a safe way to preserve a steady peace, nor is the so-called balance resulting from this race a sure and authentic peace. Rather than being eliminated thereby, the causes of war are in danger of being gradually aggravated. While extravagant sums are being spent for the furnishing of ever new weapons, an adequate remedy cannot be provided for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world. Disagreements between nations are not really and radically healed; on the contrary, they spread the infection to other parts of the earth. New approaches based on reformed attitudes must be taken to remove this trap and to emancipate the world from its crushing anxiety through the restoration of genuine peace.
This post isn’t about global politics, nor is it about gun control, or any other political issue.
It’s about you and me.
It’s about how we deal with each other, and those around us.
It is about finding peace and rest in a world that doesn’t know peace, and to be honest, doesn’t know conflict. In a world where the absence of major conflict is “assured” by the doctrines like “mutually assured destruction”, we still find smaller conflicts, fueled by the same people that won’t fight each other, because our weapons stores say we are at peace. And as the above, 50-year-old section points out, the disagreements are really and radically healed and the crushing anxiety still exists.
This same picture takes place in our own lives, as we become more an more insular, trying ot achieve peace. We avoid confrontations, we flee from disagreements, lest they become fights, we see people not getting married because splitting up is somehow less damaging than getting a legal divorce. We even see this in the church, as churches shrink without any consideration, or as denominations fight over property in court, rather than working with each other, confessing our own sins and unfaithfulness. (and both sides are always sinners in such)
The problem is that we are looking for the illusion of peace, more than peace itself. We don’t see mercy, that incredible act and attitude of love, as essential to real peace.
We don’t see a need for Jesus, and the peace He gives, as He loved us enough to die for us, to remove that sin which ensnares and divides us. He can really and radically heal the divisions among mankind. The peace He brings removes the crushing anxiety that we dwell oppressed by.
It settles us down, knowing that God would love us so much, that He would be so merciful, that He not only died for us, but that He rose, and came back to us, and will come back for us.
It is only understanding this, that we are loved, that we are cleansed of sin and injustice (same word as unrighteousness)
Jesus is our peace, He is our rest, He is the cure for our brokenness. Simply because His love creates the healing in us, that frees us, and enables us and creates the desire in us to love others more than we care for our own selves.
So we pray, Lord, open us to Your love, help us to see the changes your mercy creates in us, and help us not to avoid or flee those you send s too, no matter how uncomfortable, Lord help us to love them as You do. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God. ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)
695 In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.
As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.
The amount of trauma and conflict (more of the former than the latter) I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.
So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him. Can? I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.
At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words! Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.
I need to… I really do.
Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing. For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.
WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.
Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others. Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.
including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.
What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken? What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little? How incredible is that? How amazing?
Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.
As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!
What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14 And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)
480 Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.
13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living
I am tired.
I am tired because of the fighting going around us. In this world as nation is against nation. As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun! And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.
The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues. Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable.
I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life.
I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others. That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them.
But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works. No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.
It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness. That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything. That unity is found in Christ’s love,
It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us.
Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.
Can we all get along? Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him. This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong.
Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one. Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26 I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27 Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. Isaiah 1:25-27 (TEV)
The LORD says that his people reject him.7 Because of this the LORD Almighty says, “I will refine my people like metal and put them to the test. My people have done evil— what else can I do with them? Jeremiah 9:5-7 (TEV)
485 Well, so what? Unless your motive is hidden pride (you think you’re perfect), I don’t understand how you can give up that work for souls just because God’s fire which first attracted you, besides giving the light and warmth that aroused your enthusiasm, should also at times produce the smoke that results from the weakness of the instrument!
I don’t like confrontations, and even less do I like politics, of either the secular or church variety. They raise too much heat, they cause too much stress, they cause a reaction that is to fight or to flee, neither of which is good, right or beneficial.
Yet, as a pastor who is a sinner as much as the flock, he guides towards Jesus, I have realized two things about both confrontations and the politics that lead to them.
1. Heat caused by conflict is inevitable in the church.
2. Despite my dislike for it, despite how uncomfortable it makes people, there is always a blessing for those who neither fight nor flee, but depend upon God to resolve the conflict and reconcile those who struggle with each other.
Conflict can dull our enthusiasm for the church, and for the apostolate, the mission God has sent us all on, to bring the message of reconciliation to the people He would call His own. But the very idea that reconciliation is needed means there is heat somewhere, and that the mission will be uncomfortable.
One of the reasons it is uncomfortable is that part of what the heat will remove, our pride. This is the refining, the heat applied in such a way it gets rid of the imputiries, Even the pride that is buried deep within us, hidden even from our own conscious view.
If we can remember that even the person we are in conflict with can and will be used by God if we remember even if they are 90 percent wrong, there is ten percent of their statement that is a message from God, sent to purify us.
And it will, and the more pride that is hidden within us, the more the heat will rise. ANd we have to let it, w have to be patient, for to throw cold water on it will cause more of an explosion. We have to let it work itself out. It will, For God will perfect us, in His time, and this heat is part of the process!
That’s uncomfortable, but it is okay. You and I can survive the heat, we can stay in the kitchen. For I am confident that God will use this for good. He will refine us in it, the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort, even as we are transformed, purified. (and I still won’t like it!)
For what else can God do? He loves us, He can’t leave us broken, impure, spoilt. This heat can be part of our salvation, part of our sanctification.
So even as we struggle, even as we hate the challenges, the heat, we can stay, trusting God. He will work during the time when the heat is up, when we have to cry out,, Lord have mercy! And we can learn to cry it out confidently, and be patient for the resolution, for the reconciliation.
For He is with us! AMEN!
Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit to all who are enduring times where the heat is rising when life is challenging because of conflicts, even those that we try and ignore, or hide. Lord during these times, help us depend on You, trusting You to keep your promises to us. Humble us when needed Lord, keep us pliable and patient, comfort us and sustain us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)
777 Yesterday I saw a picture which I liked immensely, a picture of Jesus lying dead. An angel was kissing his left hand with an inexpressible devotion. Another, at the Saviour’s feet, was holding a nail torn out of the Cross. In the foreground with his back to us there was a tubby little angel weeping as he gazed at Christ. I prayed to God that they would let me have the picture. It is beautiful. It breathes devotion. I was saddened to hear that they had shown it to a prospective buyer who had refused to take it, saying, “It’s a corpse!” To me, You will always be Life. (1)
Alas and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I? At the cross at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.
It’s been nearly twenty years since “the discussion.” One of my church members was quite irate. And to be honest, I struggled to understand her complaint, and why i couldn’t get through to her why the cross, more specifically, a picture of the Jesus on the cross was not blasphemous, but rather a source of great hope, a source of great peace and comfort.
St. Josemaria’s words that I came across in my devotion this morning reminded me of that day. The picture was simple, a picture of a Tau Cross ( the Greek Letter T being Tau) with Jesus body on it. The passage I was preaching on was the one above in red (and the chapter before which says “we preach Christ crucified“) and all the songs were ones like the one in green above. The Wondrous Cross, The Old Rugged Cross, At the Cross, there was a theme working, I wanted them to work through the idea that Christ died for all on that cross, and that He died for you… and for me.
Apparently not. For the dear lady thought I was being blasphemous, picturing Jesus as if he was still there, for we know He has risen I have in twenty years of ministry only twice seen someone more angry at me, and this just moments before church was to start, moments before we were to worship God, indeed for sending Jesus to die for us, and for the Holy Spirit uniting us to that cross.
The next twenty-four hours were hard, I questioned myself, both my theology and my ability to communicate it. In either case, the answer was perhaps found in my returning to work at a university, to giving up on ministry. An old retired pastor changed that thought process, he was wondrous in his support in those days to follow.
I still preach about Christ crucified, and if I ever stop, then I should leave the ministry. For as St. Josemaria describes it, where others see a corpse, I see life. It is beautiful, it speaks of Christ’s devotion to save us, a love so encompassing that He could embrace that cross for the joy set before Him. A love for sinners such as I.
In preaching about the cross, it has to include us, for owe were united to that death of Jesus there, as He hung there, as He paid for our sin, as He died to justify us,, cleanse us, and plant a seed of life in us. It is there that the Holy Spirit brings us in our baptism, so that having died with Him, we rise with Him.
Not as an analogy, but being raised to a glorious,, holy life, being reborn, recreated as the children of God. Being brought to repentance, transformation, being able to have faith in God and His promise. This is where our burdens are rolled away, our shame, our grief, our resentment, and pain. It is taken there, nailed there.
This is all there at the cross……this is given us as He died there. This is His cross, and it is ours, again the apostle Paul describes the power, of the cross, in our lives.
5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6 And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)
.So think on the cross, picture Jesus there, know the power of His love, HIs devotion for you, and then love and devote yourself to Him, for that relationship is what He desired, and what He saved you for in the first place.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2787-2792). Scepter Publishers.
(2) Issac Whats, At The Cross – words in Public Domain
Devotional Thought of the day:
1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)
That is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Mankind awaited the coming of the Savior for centuries. The prophets had announced his coming in a thousand ways. Even in the farthest corners of the earth, where a great part of God’s revelation to men was perhaps lost through sin or ignorance, the longing for God, the desire to be redeemed, had been kept alive.
When the fullness of time comes, no philosophical genius, no Plato or Socrates appears to fulfill the mission of redemption. Nor does a powerful conqueror, another Alexander, take over the earth. Instead a child is born in Bethlehem. He it is who is to redeem the world. But before he speaks he loves with deeds. It is no magic formula he , because he knows that the salvation he offers must pass through human hearts. What does he first do? He laughs and cries and sleeps defenseless, as a baby, though he is God incarnate. And he does this so that we may fall in love with him, so that we may learn to take him in our arms.
We realize once again that this is what Christianity is all about. If a Christian does not love with deeds, he has failed as a Christian, besides failing as a person. You cannot think of others as if they were digits, or rungs on a ladder on which you can rise, or a multitude to be harangued or humiliated, praised or despised, according to circumstances. Be mindful of what others are—and first of all those who are at your side: children of God, with all the dignity that marvelous title entails. (1)
I have been struggling a lot this week. Serious, soul wrenching struggle.
I originally thought the struggle was with other men, other men who, like me are called to shepherd the people of God. I thought my struggle was with them because of actions and words that I have seen that divide the church more. In one scenario, men are in opposition, not directly, but from bunkers of anonymity. Both claim this is necessary because of a “fear of reprisal”. They actually both use that phrase, but I am not sure who they are afraid of, each other or some mythical third party?
Part of my angst, my struggle is found in wondering if this is Christ-like, or more specifically, if the adversaries think it is Christlike. Even though I resonate with one side more than the other, I am repelled by the actions and secrecy of both sects. To be honest, there are days I want to utter a Shakespearean curse, “the pox on both your houses”.
Until I realize my angst is with neither group, my struggle is not in their ethical challenge. My struggle is with my trust in God, the God whom Joseph had faith, telling his brother that what they meant evil, God used for good. Or the promises of Paul that all things work for good for those who love God, and nothing can separate us from His love.
As I enter the arena of the discussion between these two sects, it must be with an attitude that Paul describes in the red above. Imitating Christ by being on one mind striving for that in love. it is too easy to harangue and argue, to be dismissive and even paranoid. It takes great faith to work for the reconciliation that Christ wants to see in the life of HIs people. If we see that we are reconciled to Him, then er can realize, and only then can we realize, we are brothers and sisters, the family that God loves,
Lord have mercy upon us, and may we love and pray for each other,
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1227-1239). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.