Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 They came to Bethsaida, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24 The man looked up and said, “Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.” 25 Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25 (TEV)
212 Let us marvel at the lovable paradox of our Christian condition: it is our own wretchedness which leads us to seek refuge in God, to become “like unto God”. With him we can do all things. (1)
15 years ago this month, I was a young pastor, at my first church a little over a year. I was starting to crumble when a query about a church conference turned into an opportunity that changed my ministry career. I was offered the chance to replace a pastor that had dropped out of an exclusive preaching program at what was called the Fuqua School of Christian Communication. The Basic course was supposed to have 25 students, and one backed out. It was held at the Crystal Cathedral, in conjunction with other seminaries who made it part of their DMin program.
It required me to be videotaped during a short sermon, 15 minutes or so.
Most of the other pastors were from churches of 350-1500. Some were on television, some pastored famous churches. I was pastoring a church in the desert, one many have given up on. We would work 5 to 1 with some of the most famous preachers and christian communicators in the USA. My mentor was Juan Carlos Ortiz. If you’ve never heard him, in English or Spanish, you should. He is one of the most dynamic, deep preachers you will ever hear. He had the first megachurch in his home country of Argentina, came to the USA and started a church for people speaking Spanish at the Crystal Cathedral.
As I watched him shred the first four pastors in my group, I became more and more fearful. I was very stiff, monotoned and tried to stuff 45 minutes into 15. I could anticipate every comment he would make, and already feeling overwhelmed by my “peers”, I was wondering if his advice would be similar to what I had heard before. That I wasn’t cut our (some said I didn’t have the gift ) to be a preacher.
That’s not what Juan Carlos did. After shredding (very politely constructively and with the skill and elan of a world class fencer ) the more renowned and skilled preachers, he focused only on a 75-second portion of my message.
There, I told the story of the picture above, although thirty-five plus years in the past. Instead of my son and I, I was the son, my dad beside me, on the same road along the shore of Lake Ossipee in Salem New Hampshire. Then and still, this is the relationship we are to have with God, walking hand in hand down the road together. Sharing the problems of life, our doubts, our joys, our anxieties. We would ask questions about this life that puzzle us, Asking for help in making life right. (confession) And sometimes, it is simply walking in silence.
It is this communion that is what the life of a Christian is to be. It is how Jesus ministered to the blind man as well, taking him by the hand, and walking with Him. It is as St Josemarie talked of, where our problems, our anxieties, our fears, our sins are the very thing that drives us to God in the first place. There. everything becomes right.
What Juan Carlos told me was to tell this story, the same way. To get people to know the God who walks with them, as a father walking with his son. If I did that, everything else would fall into place.
Today I took that walk with my son…. today, I thought back on that lesson… today, perhaps you need to get back on that road you used to walk with your Father in heaven.
It’s time – let’s all go for that walk….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 926-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
My Name will Be There!
1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43
In Jesus Name
May You realize the presence of God, in those places where He has placed His Holy Name, and in those places where you go, knowing He has given you His name!
What the church Is Dedicated to…
As I looked at the Old Testament reading, one of my favorites, I began to think of all the churches I’ve been at. From St. Francis in Lawrence Massachusetts, to St Joes in Salem, to the Crystal Cathedral, the church I went to when I moved to California, to churches I’ve pastored, to St Mary’s in Rome, and Mei Lin Christian Church in China, to little tiny chapels along the way, and monstrous auditoriums, there is something special about each of them.
It is how Solomon described the temple he had built at God’s direction. I love this part of the prayer Solomon spoke at the dedication:
“Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there!
His Name will be here…
For all peoples – for those who know Him, and those who do not…
Solomon’s prayer shows us how God would be there, where He put His name for both groups, as they gather and pray to Him.
In the very same way He shows us, that He will be there, where He has put His name for us, whether we know we are part of His family, or not.
The We know we are forgiven and healed
As I look at Solomon’s request, as I hear him plead with God for those who are part of God’s family, it seems interesting that what Solomon wants God to communicate to them is boiled down to one incredible word,
Hear Solomon’s words again.
30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.
Of all the things Solomon could have said, what he did ask for, what God will agree to in chapter 9, is this idea of forgiveness. That whenever people came before God – the purpose was always about the forgiveness.
Which means, that is what they were asking for?!?
That’s how much they had come to value the relationship they had come to know with God – that which was on their mind most was… God, please let me know you still love me they cried, as we should. God please don’t abandon me, please don’t give up…please forgive me…
God puts His name there, so that we can run to Him, and know that He won’t reject us, that He will still be our God, and He will take care of the sin. That we don’t need to hide our sin, or make believe we don’t know it is sin,, or try to excuse it with excuses that didn’t work when we were kids….
But we come to our Lord, to the place where He put His name, and as He has always done, He will forgive us, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
That’s what we, His children, more than anyone else needs to realize. That when we come to Him, humbly and earnestly and ask Him for help – like every father in this room would run to help our kids, He will be there, more than just our knight in shining armor, our superhero,
He will be our God. He won’t turn us away, when we come….looking for grace and mercy….
We know that…we need to trust in Him for that, and give up doing those things we know we shouldn’t. We need to lean on Him to think, to say and yes to do the things that He’s told us are best for us,
And pray for forgiveness…and help when we struggle.
Knowing He’s always been faithful to this promise… is an incredible blessing.
That those outside the family – would know God is there for them as well
Solomon’s prayer just doesn’t leave off with those who are already part of God’s family, the people of Israel who are in a relationship with Him, God’s kin you might say. Hear again Solomon’s prayer for them,
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.
Solomon asks God to respond to those who aren’t even believers in Him! And He doesn’t change. What is even more amazing is that what they ask – Solomon prays God will act on, And here is God’s response, from the next chapter,
2 the LORD appeared to him again, as he had in Gibeon. 3 The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer. I consecrate this Temple which you have built as the place where I shall be worshiped forever. I will watch over it and protect it for all time. 1 Kings 9:2-3 (TEV)
Even in the days of Israel’s greatest glory, and before, this has been God’s plan – that all people on Earth would come to intimately know Him, and live reverently with Him.
That is why He had Solomon put the temple there, so that all people could gather and know Him, not just any one ethnicity, not just any one language group. A place where all would be welcome to pray to Him, to cry out to Him, and to be confident of His care, His love, and His hearing every one of our prayers.
This is why it is here…
Many people have many different reasons for building a temple or church. But God has a reason above all that. We aren’t here because we put our name in this place. We are here – whether person that has been part of God’s family, or the person who has never stepped foot in a church til this morning, who isn’t sure who God even is, because God has put His name here, it is here, like other places where He has done so, that we come to pray, believer and unbeliever alike, because He calls us here to do so… with the promise that He will listen.
If Solomon could see that in regards to this temple… how much more should we see it now… after the cross, after the splendor of Pentecost.
It is why we are here.
There is one more thing that we need to realize, that I think we forget. It is not just the building where God puts His name… it is on the people gathered in that place. Sometimes we forget that. But when someone is baptized – the Bible talks about God adopting them, about His giving them a new name, about them becoming God’s people. That’s why we make the sign of the cross – to remember we bear His name, on our minds, and on our hearts.
The temple of Solomon no longer stands, but the people of God, the ones upon whom He has given His name – the church is alive, here in Cerritos, and in Yucca Valley, and in Rome and in China…all over the world God has sent those who bear His name. We are loved, and we realize that more and more, not just listening to sermons, but in talking with God, in praying to Him.
As we who trust in His love and mercy realize He hasn’t given up on us yet, he still love and forgives. As those who come here, hearing from us about God’s love – come into His presence with us, and the Holy Spirit hears their prayers, and God acts. Indeed communicates with us, those who come to know and adore Him when He tells us of His love through His word, through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Hearing His voice, hearing Him tell of His commitment to us, we know something extraordinary.
We know, we find that we are at peace…resting assured of His love…knowing we are not alone, we are not going to be abandoned, but we will be loved until that day, when He gathers us home to be with Him.