Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:22-25 (TEV)
324 The dust thrown up by your fall blinds and disorients you, and you have thoughts which rob you of your peace. Have you sought relief in tears by the side of Our Lord, and in confident conversation with a brother? (1)
If a pastor or priest or even lay ministers are honest, they will admit (but not often) that they have what some call a “crisis of faith” occaisonally. We aren’t perfect, and its my opinion that our people must know this. Simply put, if we are hoenst about this, then they will be as well, and we will be able to minister to them in spirit and in truth.
A crisis of faith isn’t that we don’t believe in God, but that we simply struggle to believe in God.
It may be that the trauma in our own lives is too much, or that the trauma we help others go through has taken its toll as well. It could be our sin, or temptation, which finds a spot in our weakened state and steps on through. Despising our own weakness, we try to overcome it on our own, rather than deal with it at the foot of the cross. Or it can simply be that we have fallen into a rote faith – we go through the motions, numbed by time to the words, and the God whom they reveal.
Either way, it is as our spiriutal life has become paralyzed.
There is a need in such times for each of us to have what they now call a “spiritual director”, or what I prefer to call a “father-confessor”. Someone who is able to speak for God to us, someone who will shepherd us and guide us, and help us until the fog clears. Someone who can share God’s love because they’ve known it during their own crisis, their own brokeness. (which is why I think we have to let people know we go through such times ourselves) They are the ones that can find us, and have our permission to find us, in our caves, when we choose to isolate ourselves.
We need those times, when we can hear the still small voice of God comforting us. Even so, we can’t, especially in those times, avoid gathering with others, sincere in our brokenness, yet needing the encouragement that comes from realizing we are not alone. We need to hear of God’s faithfulness, and to celebrate it together. This too is essential, a major part of our Christian life. For when we realize that God doesn’t give up on any of us, we begin to realize that His promise of being faithful includes us. The illusion is then pierced, and we realize the crisis of faith isn’t a crisis of trust, or us being abandoned by God.
It’s simply that we are tired and overwhelmed and… well yes broken.
We say at my church that we are a place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.
The cure for such times, is not to avoid the people of God, fearing they will not understand, it is to come and be embraced by them, to join them at the altar and receive the grace of God as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ (yes – during a crisis of faith – communion, the eucharist is a blessing.. a very needed blessing!) For we all have had, and maybe even having a a crisis of faith, and the church, the people of God provides a great sanctuary during such times. Let’s lift each other up, as God calls us together, a people He will care for, a people He will comfort.
And that starts with us, those who lead in church… those who are broken, so that you may have faith, for if God can heal us… He can (and will ) bring healing to your crisis.
For the Lord will have mercy!
I know – received it over and over. You can too.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1529-1531). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Mission Briefing #4
“Increase our Faith”
† In Jesus Name †
Luke’s gospel was written with this blessing in mind, that you would have faith in that which you have been taught, that the Lord is with you. May this sermon increase this faith.
Temptations and forgiveness and miracles and serving and…….
If we look at the gospel lesson today, it seems that Christ is asking a lot of us. We are to deal with temptation, be careful not to tempt others, carefully rebuke others, forgive them, forgive them again, and well, again. We are have enough faith to do miracles, and serve others diligently without complaint or asking for reward or thinking about our own needs and aches.
It’s enough of a list, that it doesn’t surprise me that the disciples, right in the middle of the list, cry out – Lord! Show us how to increase our faith!
Some of us have had one of those weeks, where we want to slow down God’s work in our lives enough to say, “Lord, I need more faith! Show me how to find it, show me how to increase it”
If only we would have the patience to wait for an answer, if only we had enough faith to wait, then maybe our lives wouldn’t be so dry, maybe we wouldn’t be so weary…
Or maybe, we need to be that weak? At that point, would our faith, our trust, and our dependence on Jesus increase?
Can we face those things… which cause us to need faith?
I for one, know how much stronger I need to my faith to be. I know I need to trust in God a lot more than I do, to have confidence that it is His strength, His power that will not only save me from the sin that crushes me – my own, those whose sin against me, and those who sin I weep over. I must also have confidence that the Holy Spirit will be there on days like Thursday and Friday, where I had to try to be there for 7 different families, or worse, where I couldn’t be there… and had to trust in God as I put them into God’s hands. That’s the kind of faith we need to see grow.
You see, faith is a very active, very dynamic verb. To increase in faith means we find ourselves in situations where we know our only Hope is in the one who gives us hope, whose faithfulness, whose trust worthiness is so great – that we trust in Him.
Where temptation, and lovingly correcting others, where forgiving and serving drain us, where we think we can do no more… and the call to serve is great…and we hear Jesus say, Take up your cross, and follow me…
Lord, please, please, increase my faith! Please increase my faith….please, please increase my faith!
Then look to the cross, and know you prayers are answered.
He’s did His duty… for the joy set before Him.
You see, Jesus isn’t asking us to do something that He wouldn’t do Himself. He forgives us, not 7 times a day and more, knowing full well we will mess up again, and though we are repentant and sorry, sometimes more than less, He will be faithful and forgive.
He dealt with temptation – as much as we can imagine from Satan, and then the temptation of not wanting to endure the cross. He has dealt with lovingly rebuking people and forgiving them. He has demonstrated His faith in His Father’s promises that were recorded in scripture. He has served, without thought to His own reward, but for the joy set before Him….
He is the one we trust – for we know how He reacted when He had to trust, He proved faithful and He will ensure we will be…for He died to pay for when we aren’t.
You see that’s the point about increasing our faith – it happens when we realize that He is here. That He is always faithful to us, even as He promised. That the promises that He made to at your baptism – those aren’t broken because we slipped up, because we did something stupid, because we forgot He is here.
The promises He makes here – at this altar – that’s the reason we sing the Agnus Dei – because we know here that He will grant us peace – that He will shower us with His love! That we can leave every burden we have, when we come and kneel here.
You want to trust in Him more? Come, know the depth of His love, come experience His mercy, His forgiveness, even His rebuke, come let His miracles wash over you and come… let Jesus serve you.. let Jesus take those burdens, let Jesus nourish you with His precious Body and Blood.
And then, united with His love – cleansed and few and holding as Timothy did – to His promises – let His love shape you, let it be your pattern of living.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28 We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. 29 That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. Colossians 1:27-29 (MSG)
The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. (Dante) For Langdon, the meaning of these words had never felt so clear: In dangerous times, there is no sin greater than inaction. (1)
Throughout Dan’s Brown’s latest novel, the above italicized words are repeated, over and over. ( I happen to like this one – even though it’s attack on the church was much more… veiled)
There is something to be said for those who are inactive in the face of a crisis, in the face of a moral crisis. To passively live as if there was not some looming disaster that would come is simply wrong.
Most of us would look at this and think of things like war, abortion, racism and other forms of discrimination, political corruption, slavery.
In view of the book though – and the crisis there and the so-called “solution”, I kept coming back to the cause of all sin – including inaction. Idolatry, especially that of Narcissism. It is encoded in us, as surely as if it was part of our DNA. Spiritual leaders, self help authors and counselors of many types make money – many of them with great sincerity.
But the answer isn’t found in growth, or development in the way we set our minds to it and grow. The way is through dependence, through recognition of our weakness, through something that radically changes us, radically transforms us.
In church language, the concept is what Peter talked of at Pentecost. “Repent (literally – to have a changed mind) and be Baptized (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following to see how the Holy Spirit works there ) In both cases, the work is beyond us, it is beyond our ability, and it is the work of God. We have to, however, trust Him. We have to die to ourselves – as the Spirit unites us to Christ’s death on the cross, so that we can be born again, that we can come to life. It is their (not in purgatorio ) that we are purged of our sin. We trust God to do this – to cleanse us, to give us life. This is basic Christianity…. and once alive – we dwell – even now, in the presence of God.
Back to Dan Brown and Dante’s quote about inaction.
The world’s population is growing – for sure. I don’t think to the extend of Brown’s theories, but it is growing none the less. Even so, there is a crisis more severe than that of Brown’s thoughts – it is the crisis of faith – that much of the world is unaware of God’s heart toward them, His desire for a relationship with them, and the extent of God’s work to see that happen.
We who know this – do have an obligation – that of loving our neighbor – to share with them that which we know. Know legalitically, nor condemning their symptomatic demonstration of sin in a way that gives them no hope. Rather, our job is to share why we, who also sin – have more than “just” hope. We have Him
Let us not dwell in the sin on inaction – but with Paul, let us share God’s love, with the power and strength God gives us. AMEN.
(1)Brown, Dan (2013-05-14). Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon) (p. 464). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.