Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 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. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)
83 Faced by all those men without faith, without hope; by minds desperately near the borders of anguish, seeking for a meaning in their life, you found your purpose: Him! This discovery will permanently inject a new happiness into your existence, it will transform you, and present you with an immense daily hoard of beautiful things of which you were unaware, and which show you the joyful expanse of that broad path that leads you to God.
There are times where the actions of people affect us. Times where evil or unjust actions cause us to struggle, to even despair and sink into depression. Some of us are more susceptible to this than others, as we do not understand how in the world they justify their actions.
This kind of trauma can paralyze us, make us ask unanswerable questions, we can even begin to doubt God, for how can he allow this level of brokenness, this sin to dominate and evil to flourish. As we ask these questions, out hearts and souls receive hit after hit, even as we try to determine if this is the time to fight, or flee.
I hate to say it is “natural” to enter such struggles but after 50 years, I find that I don’t have the strength to avoid such, nor the power to overcome the tendency to be so affected. Simply put, you can’t care for people, you can’t try to love them without opening yourself up to such burdens, to such struggles.
So how do you cope?
St. Josemaria and St. Paul agree. The answer is to look to Jesus, to find our purpose is Him. They agree that our relationship with Jesus is so precious that we can look to Him and discover the greatest joy. This is the same joy that Jesus saw as he walked to, and was nailed to the cross.
Looking to Him, finding our life our breath and very being located in Him, allows us to see that our trust in Him is true. He will sustain us from the beginning to the end, it will reveal to us the incredible vastness of the love of God, and we will experience it more as we see ourselves as part of His story.
That’s what I need to know, that is why we need to go to the cross when we are feeling this way. Our hearts and souls and minds need to understand what happened when God baptized us when God drew us to Jesus and united us to His death and resurrection, When God declared us righteous, cleansing us of sin, and declared we are His children. We need to allow His presence to dominate our awareness, to let, for then His peace settles over us. Assured He is our fortress, we can then begin to respond in love, and in prayer for those who actions or words drew us deep into despair.
This is what we need, to focus in on Jesus, and be forewarned, it isn’t easy. Satan will buffet us all the way. This is where the communion of saints is so precious, for their testimonies in scripture and in the millennia since demonstrates God’s faithfulness. This is where the sacraments and the word of God come into play, ministering to our hearts, souls, and minds, bringing the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Here is our hope and joy are restored, renewed, here in this sanctuary we call the presence of God, for know this my friends, “the Lord is with you!”
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 571-576). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion of the Day..
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)
At the same time, Evangelical Catholicism recognizes that, in offering everyone the possibility of friendship with the Lord Jesus, it is offering the postmodern world something postmodernity badly needs: an encounter with the divine mercy. As the God of the Bible came into the ancient world as One who liberates humanity from the whims and fancies of the Olympian gods or the terrors of fearsome Moloch, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and friendship with him liberate postmodern humanity from its burden of guilt, born of a tacit (if often intuitive and inarticulate) understanding of the awfulness that humanity visited upon itself throughout the twentieth century. By whom can that burden of guilt be expiated? To whom can that wickedness be confessed, and from whom can forgiveness be received? In offering friendship with Jesus Christ, Evangelical Catholicism offers postmodern humanity a path to a more humane future, absolved of the guilt of the recent past. 12 And where is this friendship with Jesus to be found? According to the evangelical Catholic proposal, this friendship is found in the Church, in the Word of God recognized as such by the Church in the Bible, in the sacraments celebrated by the Church, in the works of charity and service, and in the fellowship of those who have been “born of water and the Spirit” [John 3.5]. Despite the sinfulness of its members and their failure to live fully the meaning of friendship with the Lord Jesus, the Church is always the privileged place of encounter with the living God, who continually forms his people into the community in which the full truth about humanity is grasped.
In the last few days, I have had to deal with an increasing number of people who have struggled to have hope, to find hope. There have been a large variety of reasons, with a multitude of causes. Some are young with everything going right, some are more my age – and partially wonder about what is right still, still others, older and wondering if their life has any meaning, and if it ever did. The weight they bear – each again different, seems crushing. So crushing is the weight upon them, so much so that I struggle with just watching their struggle. As I returned to my office, to complete my sermon, I have to write this – as much as for those around those who are struggling, as those who are.
You see – when someone is severely anxious, severely stressed, when they can’t find the answers – they don’t need to know about Jesus – they need, desperately need to know Him.
All of the sound bite apologetics sound nice, and they may even give assent to them After all – we’ve heard them before – we’ve seen them posted on FB, they’ve made the rounds. They may have read the books where the quotes we all love come from. and actually know the context of the quotes!
Whether they do or don’t, they need to know the God who is there with them – they need to connect to Who they feel disconnected to, or from whom they disconnected themselves. They need a tangible and real connection to divine mercy, to the love of God that keeps them, literally guards them. They need to know the reason we have hope – and that is far more than knowing about Christ – it is about knowing Him deep enough sure enough, that we don’t just hope in Him the way we hope the tax bill won’t be enormous – but we expect Him, we trust Him to keep everything He has promised. That our trust in Him, based in knowing even the beginning of the depth, height, breadth and width of His love, because we know HIm, brings comfort to our hearts.
Simple because we know – He is with us! He is our Shepherd, our caring and providing and merciful Master.
I love how the quote from Weigel’s book identifies the source of that hope – is to be found in the Body of Christ – in the community He established, where He reveals His presence through His word, where He pours out that DIvine mercy in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and yes Confession and Absolution. (and I would include prayer – as the Apology of the Augsburg confession most assuredly tells us is sacramental)
You see, in word and sacrament ministry, we don’t just learn about Christ, we don’t just take notes on how God is promising to work, but we see HIm at work, we experience His grace, the miracle of the reconciliation that comes as God bring us to faith, as we begin to truly see what it is like to live – as we encounter His life, His mercy…
That Encounter – one which lasts all our lives, overwhelms any modern or post-modern theory. It crushes the idea that we are alone, that there is no meaning to life – no constant to hold on to, to base our lives upon.
That is what is needed…. and that is what we bring to the picture – and what we desperately need to be reminded of, even as we do….
Lord, show us the mercy you have and have had on us!
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 59). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Church’s Answer to Post-modern thought…. Word and Sacrament (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Speaking of Evangelical Catholicism (nationalreview.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“By yourself, if you don’t count on grace, you can do nothing worthwhile, for you would be cutting the link which connects you with God. With grace, on the other hand, you can do all things” (1)
Peter, James and John were on a short side trip with Jesus when the man came, looking for help. Desperate he was, to find some comfort, some rest, some refuge for his tormented son.
The apostles tried, but to no avail, what they had done before wasn’t working, for some reason they couldn’t help, they couldn’t find the power, the “dunamis” to cast out those oppressive spirits.
Mondays can be like that, as we come back to “reality”, to the grind of another week. Maybe the weekend was not a restful one, maybe it wasn’t what we expected, or maybe it was too much – and we need to recover from it! Either way, back on the job on Mondays is always difficult, even oppressive. I wouldn’t go so far as saying demonic… (well there have been some Mondays… )
But where do we find the strength for them. In the same place that Jesus instructed his men to find their strength.
“his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Mark 9:28-29 (ESV)
We were reminded on Sunday about this rtuth – that we must depend on Jesus, that we must entrust ourselves into God’s hands, to recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Yet on Mondays, so often we forget this, so often we fail to remember this. We let the situations get the best of us, we look at everything with a darkened, pessimistic view, we approach life, if not paranoid, then at least a little hesitant – wondering which trauma, which challenge, which confrontation will next pop up to bash us like a storm.
Yesterday in Sunday School I used a long quote from another pastor. Not my usual thing – but this one – despite it’s somewhat archaic language rings so true. Even though it will extend this devotion out – it is good for us to read:
” ( God’s ) Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us. “(2)
In closing consider this – you look at Catholic Saints like St Josemarie Escriva, you look at protestant preachers like Spurgeon, or hymn writers like Wimber or Newton or Wesley and Luther – the one common thread they have – is that we have to trust – we have to depend on God’s presence in our life. Not just to get into heaven, but to enjoy the life eternal that starts when God makes us his…
Cry out Lord have mercy my friends, and know He has, He is, and He will…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.