Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!
100 years…. A lesson
Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.
Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.
One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.
They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.
That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!
And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.
In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.
When do we pray for God to take our life?
In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.
Hear his words again,
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)
There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊
We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.
The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.
Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.
And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!
“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”
And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.
He was relying all on his own power and reason….
And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.
The second error he made is found in these words,
“for I am no better than my fathers.”
While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.
He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.
He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.
Just as God will do so here, in this place…
But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.
We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.
How did God consecrate Elijah’s life
We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.
It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)
He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…
Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….
And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)
The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.
But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.
He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.
And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.
This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.
This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way,
27 To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)
This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…
To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;
Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.
The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.
This is most certainly true.
So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)
We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.
Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.
On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.
I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.
Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.
Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.
It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.
They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,
I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.
I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.
The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.
I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.
The love and compassion of Jesus.
For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.
To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.
There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.
SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.
He’s made me, and you, His own.
and that means more than anything else, than everything else.
It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.
May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.
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), 133.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.
We Could Not Die Eternally
So He died…
† In Jesus Name †
May the Death of Jesus prove to you the love of God!
- Do we “get it.”
You have come here or are watching online because it is Good Friday. Hopefully, that means you know a little about Jesus and why we have a wooden thing hanging over a thing that looks like a table.
Your knowledge has to go deeper than that… and it has to go deeper than he died to pay for your sins.
That is important, but it is the first step on a journey. Perhaps it is better to picture it as having the door opened and being invited into a home built just for you.
What the cross opens up for you is amazing.
A.W. Tozer explained it well,
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.
This is what the cross opens up to us, a life that is acutely aware of the presence of God, and that awareness leaves us in awe, but not in terror.
We know we are welcome.
- Sin Exists
This is not to say our sin is meaningless. It would take the death of Jesus to atone for it.
Our sin is severe; it is not just waived away as if it was meaningless. The hurt and pain it causes are real. Very real. We can’t just dismiss it, saying that it is dealt with.
We must realize what it could have cost us.
We could be heading to hell, the place we deserve, because we chose to separate ourselves from God. We may think it a little sin, or we may know it is a humongous sin.
It’s real, it is no joke, and it is what the death on the cross saves us from, as Jesus took on the burden of all our sin….
Jesus once told the apostles and Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In saying that He was saying what comes at the cross, nothing can keep the sinner from being saved, from being rescued, for Christ has broken the power of sin and death.
But what happens next… what does this mean…
How do you make sense of His brutal death?
Especially when he could have stopped it, with the snap of a finger?
- This is love – we couldn’t
This is what it is all about! This ministry that we have here focuses on the cross, not as the most important thing, but as the entrance into that.
Just as baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are pipelines of grace, so is the cross a point of grace, the light that shines in the darkness – drawing us to Jesus.
This is the point of God’s love.
He couldn’t let us die eternally; that was not His plan.
We couldn’t die eternally…. So He died…
This is what grace is… this is what love is…
This is God’s desire to spend eternity with you.
Trust Him; he laid it all on the line… so you would know you are loved.
 A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT2)
This is the way our Church wants us to be today: men and women freeof compromises, unprejudiced, free of ambitions, and free from ideologies, in other words, men and women of the gospel and only the gospel.
It was not an easy task which the Church faced.… To carry on the work of a man who was known to have died … to persuade others that this man had risen again from the dead and that He was the Son of God and Saviour: this mission was, in the nature of it, doomed to failure from the start. Who would credit such a fantastic story?…
Have you ever needed to have your mind and heart jump-started?
Tozer’s words (in purple) did that for me this morning, and then Pope Francis’s words resonated with them. We have to be gospel-centered people. We have to carry on the work of redeeming the world, the work that Jesus is sending us, just as the Father sent Him.
Imagine being the women sent to proclaim the good news to the disciples! I am pretty sure they didn’t need to be told to remember – I think the angel’s words would have burnt into the heart, soul, and mind.
“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead – just as He said would happen!
How do you explain that to those who saw Him tortured and dying on the cross? Who heard nails driven through his wrists, who saw the spear pierce His side, as the water drain from His taxed lungs, and the heart emptied of the blood that was left…
How do you find the words to make them believe this?
How do we truly believe it, not just as a historical event, but as something that has more impact on our lives than anything else?
Over the next 5 days, I have to preach 4 sermons, all geared to helping people know, to help them dwell upon their union with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. To know they were drawn to Him at the cross, united to Him there through their baptism. To know He came to them at the celebration of the Eucharist. To understand the intimate fellowship that God wants with His people.
How do we lay everything else aside? How do we communicate this to people who live compromised lives? People who are struggling with realizing their own prejudice? (or being accused of it!) How do we open the eyes who are driven to ambition to gain…what exactly?
To be honest, I cannot compete with all of that, and the greatest preacher doesn’t have any greater chance than you and I. I have to tell them about Jesus. We just have to do it, with lots of prayer, before, during, and after Jesus is talked about. Not praying because it will make us successful, but because it will remind us to depend on the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit that will cut open their hearts and open the opportunity for healing.
Let’s remember what the angel told the ladies – and let us go tell all who would follow Him that Jesus is alive! He has risen, just as He said!
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), 114.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 Our Lord, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3 Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4 Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. Habakkuk 1:2–4 (CEV)
12 God’s people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Put this in writing. From now on, the Lord will bless everyone who has faith in him when they die.” The Spirit answered, “Yes, they will rest from their hard work, and they will be rewarded for what they have done.” Revelation 14:12-13 CEV
Again, Paul presents this in a most comforting manner when he points out that before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.” From this Paul draws the certain and indubitable conclusion that neither “tribulation nor anguish, neither death nor life, etc. can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39).
The quote from the Prophet Habbabuk precedes prophecies that are extremely harsh toward sinners, toward those who do evil. But the prayer doesn’t recognize God’s work, it begs for His help because of violence being done, and a lack of any form of justice.
It would seem we are in those days again, where cruelty dominates more than mercy. Where neither side are innocent, but both are willing to sacrifice others. Where people are willing to be brutal, and narcissism is applauded and even envied.
I’ve heard to many people refer to this as the last days, that Biden or Trump is the anti-Christ, (and some think they work together!) I’ve heard people scared of the day, and spend their time warning people that they have to fear having their life and salvation stolen from them by some demonic deceit.
To believe that is to say that God has changed, that the God is less faithful to you and I than he was to the Old Testament prophets and those who depended on God. It also denies the prophecy of Revelation for the rest of those who trust in God, who live in Christ.
The early Lutherans understood this as well. That is why they were assured that God would use their suffering, even their deaths for good. They were facing death often, or imprisonment – and they were able to stay the course, because those who went before them God sustained – and they determined God would sustain them as well!
And that is why it doesn’t matter to a disciple if this is the last days. We look to Jesus, we see what He has promised for us, as He promised to every believer throughout time. He will keep those promises. And He guarantees nothing – no plan of Satan, no scam of mankind, nothing can separate us from God and his deliverance.
That isn’t my word, that is God’s promise. Whether these troubled times are the end of time, or whether we are just another group who struggle and are sustained by God, He is here, with you. And He has promised to guard your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN! (Phil. 4:7)
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 624.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
It’s better to go to a funeral than to attend a feast; funerals remind us that we all must die. Ecc. 7:2 CEV
Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day.
I guess God likes a sense of irony.
Tomorrow I go under the knife.
Just cataract surgery, but still, it is surgery.
Read through the Bible in a year, and the reading I come to the day before surgery deals with death! So did the book report I had to deal ith last night, chapter after chapter of dying to self that as awesome, but also passages that told us to desire death
Not what I want to think about, at least that is my first reaction.
But why not?
We need to think about death for a number of reasons, that are practical, and spiritual.
1. So we learn to value the life we have.
To often we take life for granted, we don’t think about making the most of it, we just let it slide by. Especially in these days of isolation. We can see God at work in every day of our lives, working in relationships good and bad
2. So we leave things somewhat in order, as a blessing to others.
It can be things as simple as your favorite songs for your funeral. Or where money is stashed and other issues of that note. (Of course, now I have to think of all this stuff) Wills, testaments, advanced directives, all that messy stuff. But it is even messier if you don’t do it.
3. Not taking even for granted, or the gifts that assure us of our eternity.
Living life fearing deaeth is no fun… I spent nearly half my life living in fear of dying. THat’s what happens when you have Marfans and you think about it. Working as a hospice chaplain, and seeing many people pass away has led to the point where I am not as afraid of dying.
But what I am talking about is being excited about seeing God face to face. NOt just the benefits of less back pain, and less trauma, and no more dang surgeries. But see God, who loves us so much, and being welcomed into His presence, and sharing in the glory and love of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. That is more than exciting, that should leave us in awe,
Kempis’s thought is that we should think about heaven, so that we behave better in this life. Not quite fear driven, but somewhere between fear and reward driven behavior modification. That might work, but works better is to live life, thinking about the glory and love of God. Of letting the thought of that love, that care fill your life. That will change you far deeper than mere intellect. It will change your soul, and you will desire to see others find that place of rest, that place of pace.
So making me think of death… it’s not that bad. Actually, it is a huge blessing.
Now, thinking of them slicing my eye open, to replace the lens… ugh!
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 46.
Devotional thought fo the Day:
I don’t know what will happen to me in Jerusalem, but I must obey God’s Spirit and go there. 23 In every city I visit, I am told by the Holy Spirit that I will be put in jail and will be in trouble in Jerusalem. †24 But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the good news about God’s great kindness. Acts 20:22-24 CEV
Thinking of the love of God as something nice is forgetting that the love of God is the love of God. The awesomeness of God makes the love of God equally awesome. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great Jewish theologian of the twentieth century, said, “God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake.” If you do not like that (one of my students responded to that quotation, “I prefer a God I can handle”; indeed!), then you do not like the love of God, for the love of God is also an earthquake, not an uncle’s love, but a Father’s.
“To die is a good thing. How can anyone with faith, at the same time, be afraid to die? But as long as the Lord wants to keep you here on earth, it would be cowardice for you to want to die. You must live, live and suffer, and work for Love: that is your task” (1037).
I wish I had Paul’s attitude.
I think I am far more like Jonah, who faced a difficult task and chose ot be cast overboard rather than do what God had called him to do.
The is a temptation to run and hid, even if that means embracing death for the wrong reason. For while we know, we are bound to heaven, even though we know God desires us there; eventually, it is not a place to escape the pain and suffering life brings.
We can’t be cowards, abandon our lot in life, and run away. No matter how tempting it may seem.
We have been called to share in the ministry of reconciling people to God. Every single one of us has a role in this. That means we have to be so sure of God’s presence, that we can enter their darkness, that we can break through the gates of hell and endure it, in order to be there and witness God’s love shattering their darkness.
God isn’t the kindly uncle, He is the Father who expects us to take on the family work, to embrace the suffering and pain it will require. To trust Him enough to hand over to Him the things we cannot understand or handle, freeing us to love those we minister too. We need to trust Him enough to let the Holy Spirit comfort us in our distress, as is promised.
That is the key, depending on His promises.
To know that even if we are heading toward imprisonment, or martyrdom, or simply the struggle of our lives, He is with us.
He will see us through. He will be with us through it all…
Lord Jesus, help us to know You, to experience Your love so deeply, that our trust in You overrides our ignorance, our doubt, our fears. Help us embrace the life You have created in us, and called us to live. AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 201.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge. Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. I will give up Egypt to set you free; I will give up Ethiopia and Seba. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)
Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when “it is enough.
In the class I am taking, there is the usual insistence on pastors and those in ministry taking time to rest, to take a sabbath, a vacation from all the stresses that we encounter. They point o Jesus going away, sometimes with the disciples, sometimes alone. He went off to pray to the Father, and one to converse with Moses and Elijah.
It hit me, as I was reading the words of Spurgeon in blue above, that we can want those times of rest for the wrong reason. We want them, much as we might long for death, as an escape from life. An escape from the problems.
We need to change that, we need to re-orient and want these times as a sabbath, a time of rest in God, a chance to be nurtured and to see the healing. We need to remember what God is communicating through Isaiah this morning, that God saves us.
We may not be comfortable in the fire, or in the storm, or in the midst of the troubles that we are caught up in at the moment. We may weep, and cry, and struggle, and yes, even want it all to end. It is in those moments, we have to see the cross, we have to see the love, we have to cry out, “Lord have mercy,” and find our rest, in Him.
We need to learn ot run to Jesus, not just escape, but to glorify Him, as we realize His love for us all. The love that will sustain us, even in these times.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25 (NLT2)
Thus Psalm 23 [:4] says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me.” If this gain through death has only a small affect on us, it is proof that our faith in Christ is still feeble and does not prize highly enough the reward and gain of a blessed death, nor does it yet believe that death is a blessing. Obviously, we are hindered because the old man and the wisdom of the flesh are still too much alive in us. We should, therefore, try to attain to the knowledge and the love of this blessing of death. It is a great thing that death, which to others is the greatest of evils, is made the greatest gain for us. If it was not this that Christ obtained for us, what then did he do that was worth such a cost, yes, actually the cost of his life? It is indeed a divine work that he wrought, and it is not surprising that he made the evil of death into the greatest blessing.
For the believer death is thus already dead and behind its cloak and mask it holds no terrors. Like a slain serpent, death still has its former terrifying appearance, but now this is only a mask, for it is now a dead and harmless evil
There is an old saying that I resonate with, I fear not death, I just dear dying.”
There is some truth to that for me, partially because of health issues over the years, and the knowledge that my heart was a ticking time bomb. (I say was – because in 1998 I had two heart valves replaced.)
Even so, today, in the midst of a pandemic, we live with fear and anxiety caused by the fact that death threatens us, and threatens those we love. It threatens in a way that we’ve not seen often in the generations alive today.
This is why my devotional reading this morning seems so important to understand.
We have to understand that death will ultimately be a blessing – for it brings us closer to seeing God face to face, and for the believer to an incredible welcome home. . TO see God face to face, to hear His welcome, to hear the celebration thrown for us, to know we are finally where we belong.
To realize with Luther what Paul means when he writes that death has lost its sting, that the grace is no victory for death, no loss, but an incredible gain for us. (see 1 Cor. 15) To understand what Jesus means when he says those who believe will never die.
It is hard to process these days, to take what is a theological truth, an absolute promise of God, and let it affect our heart, our soul.
Even once we realize it there, it is hard to keep that understanding, to not go back, and to fear death again. Every time we have to mourn and grieve, every time our heart is scarred by loss, we revert back to the days before we understood the promises of God, the promises found when we are united to Jesus.
I know this, even as I know what Paul talks about when he talks about ensuring death, for itis better, for him. To realize that death is better n the long run is sobering. To realize that could even lead one to desire death because it means being complete with Jesus,. To realize we do not have to meditate and pray to realize we are in His presence. Instead to look up, and see His face…
To set death completely aside, along with the suffering and brokenness caused by sin, and the fear of death. What a blessing.
Yet it is counting on that blessing that gives us the strength and desire to stay, and minister to those who are in bondage, trying to free them, so that they too can join us in Christ. To see God’s incredible work, as He brings someone to faith, and then strengthens that faith, as burdens slide away, as relationships are healed, as we gain a glance of eternity at the altar together.
To get to that point – to come to the conclusion that it is better to live, we have to realize how incredible eternity is, we have to face the battle of fears, the anxieties, assured of the promises of God are true, that we will be with Him forever. Then we can willingly address the issue, and see the blessing of staying here.. until He calls us home.
Knowing this, we begin to really live…
Walk with Him, through the valley, and learn not to fear it, or any evil.
And become a guide, someone who can help others, helping them to deal with the fears, the anxieties and indeed, the time of death.
Lord, help us walk closer and closer with You, strengthen our faith, be with us, now and at the time when we finally come home. But help us to be there for those who are anxious and fear death, and help us to show them how it will be a blessing. 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), 149–150.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 I will not die; instead, I will live and proclaim what the LORD has done. 18 He has punished me severely, but he has not let me die.
Psalm 118:17-18 (TEV)
It is in the wounds of Jesus where we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart.
To better evangelize the adorer must first be evangelized. He must let the merciful love of Christ heal him, liberate him, enlighten him, raise him. To the question ‘What does Jesus do in the Blessed Sacrament? ‘the Cure of Ars replied, ‘He waits for us’. There, Jesus veils His majesty so that we might dare to go speak with Him, as one friend to another. He tempers the ardour of His Heart for us to experience its sweet tenderness. On the Cross, Jesus turns hate into love and death into life. Similarly, in the Eucharist, Jesus performs the same wonder in us: He changes evil into good, darkness into light, fear into confidence. Pauline-Marie Jaricot, an untiring Apostle of charity, living in Lyon in the nineteenth century, sums up this personal transformation that takes place in the heart of adorers who allow the Spirit to change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh:
I have heard verse 17 proclaimed with great power many times. It is a wonderful verse, and it should be proclaimed.
I think it is even more powerfully proclaimed when it is proclaimed from a point of recovery, a time when one is healing, but is so weak it is barely heard. It is the most powerful when said in the context of verse 18, as the realization dawns that I can get through this.
And I can speak of what the Lord has done! Not I can, but I will, I have to, for I didn’t think I would make it.
Several times in my life I have been there physically. After a cardiac arrest that killed me 5 times. Another time when I had two heart valves replaced, and again once when undergoing a procedure I didn’t think I would survive. ( Not a major one comparatively) But I know the feeling of waking up from anesthesia, and realizing, I am alive. It is shocking, for it is unexpected.
Spiritually, this happens when God has to circumcise our hearts, cutting away the sin which clings to our heart. This is easily seen as the punishment the Psalmist describes, as God has to subdue us, as He has to cleanse us of the sins we too often cling to, that we too often run to. As we refuse to see the damage that sin does, and how it leaves us broken, shattered, unable to relate to others, or find any comfort or peace.
But as the Holy Spirit has to “wound” us, we find another set of wounds, the wounds of Jesus. It is in those wounds that we find our how much we are loved, it is there we find security and peace, even as God removes the sin, and our healing begins anew.
That is why communion is so incredible, so needed in this broken world of ours. Go read the words in green again.
No, i meant it, I didn’t want to retype it all!
Go re-read it!
We need to find Jesus waiting for us, ready to begin again our healing. Ready to see us transformed, the power that raised Him from the dead at work in us.
Therefore we live, and will not die, and can tell what God has done….
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), 266.
Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 202.