Devotional Thought for our days…and our future:
10 My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. 11 And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11 NCV
“Life’s” destination lies beyond this life because it depends on “Someone” with a capital letter. All this is rooted in the hearts of our people, even if they are unable to express it conceptually.
There are times in my life, where surviving the evils of this day is my only goal. Where i just try to hang on to God, and His presence long enough to help this person or that one. Where I deal with these problems, those challenges, this person’s sin, or worse my own.
I drag myself home, climb the stairs, and hopefully remember to thank God that He carried and dragged me through the day…..only to have another day come all too soon.
I do not think I am alone, not by any means.
We need to learn to live for something more, something that is glorious, something that is perfect. Something that is beyond us, this destination that Pope Francis speaks of, the place where we will find Him, our “Someone”. A place that is truly home, a place of incredible, unbelievable peace, a place of joy, a place where tears, sorrow, weariness are unknown.
Francis is correct about our not knowing how to express it conceptually. We don’t know how to talk about heaven, we don’t know what it will be like, and to talk about it, sooner or later, we might have to talk about death and dying. We really don’t want to talk about that. NOT. AT. ALL.
But heaven is our reality, dwelling with God, in His glory, in His peace, in wonder and awe that He wants us there, that is what Christianity is about. An eternal, everlasting relationship that we can’t even begin to conceive of (see 1 Cor. 2;9)
But we know we shall be with Him.
At the end of the day, that is what matters,
At the beginning of tomorrow, we need to realize He is still here…revealing to us His love and mercy, comforting us, healing us, and preparing us for life with Him.
A life that began when we were baptized into His death, into His resurrection.. and given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, keeping us til then.
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. Print.
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:
33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33
19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”
55 Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God. (1)
A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.
The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over. Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.
The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over. The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.
This doesn’t make sense! Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude? Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies? Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died? Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?
Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God. The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation. And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,
1 I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2 when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3 for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)
This is David’s heart as well. This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.
(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son. I will go where he is…)
I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.
Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?
I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine. That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years. Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.
What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.
For people to not know this peace? To not know this love? For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with? This needs ot become inconceivable.
Lord, have mercy on us! Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you. Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer. May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them. For we pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
30 And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? 31 For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. 32 And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 33 Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all. 1 Corinthians 15:30-34 (NLT)
Heaven, then, is none other than the certainty that God is great enough to have room even for us insignificant mortals. Nothing that we treasure or value will be destroyed. As we ponder all this, let us ask the Lord on this day to open our eyes ever more fully to it; to make us not only people of faith but also people of hope, who do not look to the past but rather build for today and tomorrow a world that is open to God. Let us ask him to make us who believe happy individuals who, amid the stress of daily living, catch a glimpse of the beauty of the world to come and who live, believe, and hope in this certainty. (1)
These days, from just after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve are called the season of Advent, the time where we wait for the second coming of Jesus, and eternity to be revealed.
It is a time of hope, of expectation.
Time we need, for many of us are experiencing a time of life that seems hard, and one without any form of hope.
Advent is not the answer to the hopelessness in and of itself. It simply seeks to remind us of the hope. It is a time where we go through, recognizing our need for hope, our need for something more, that this life is not all there is.
When we know there is something, we learn to wait for it, fully expectant in the promises of God. That hope gives us the ability to depend on God for the strength to endure.
For heaven is waiting, the place we can’t describe, yet what we know is enough. For we will be with the one who loves us! As Pope Benedict points out, this gives us a sense of happiness, a sense of joy, even amid the stress of daily living.
Which is why the Lord’s Supper is the ultimate moment in Advent. It is that piercing the curtain between our mortality and our immortality. The Body and Blood of Jesus, a feast that God our Father serves us, is the moment we find ourselves in His presence so clearly, so completely. From that moment, as with our baptism, the hope of heaven is more than a dream, it is real, the presence of God quite tangible.
Which is the point of Advent, amid the stress of life, as it seems we are in the midst of darkness, affected by disease, division, depression and even death; it is then these extra moments, assuring us of God’s promises, and His faithfulness, are so needed.
This is life, as we don’t just walk with God, we let Him carry us… and safe in His arms, expecting a new day, we find peace.
(1) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
What will it take to prove…
† In Jesus Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as His unsurpassable peace guards your hearts, and your mind, until He returns.
From Lazarus’s Perspective
We know his name – but we’ve never heard his thoughts, save one. Even as he stands at Abraham’s side, we hear him thought of as a servant – someone to dispatch with a message, not like an apostle, but like and errand boy.
While he is alive, suffering, unable to care for himself, the only thing we head from him is his desire to be fed by what falls from the rich’s man’s table. How he longed for a piece of bread, a morsel of lamb, even and onion.
And he was so weak; he couldn’t even brash away the dogs who would lick and nibble at his open wounds.
Some scraps, please? Please?
A man who knew only hunger and pain.
And then one day, a procession of angels came, sent by God, to bring him to Abraham’s side, to wait for the day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when God will dwell with His people, and we will see Him!
He was welcomed home, as we will be.
For like Lazarus, God knows our name!
The journey home
But what is this screaming in the distance?
As Lazarus is standing by Abraham’s side, he hears something you can’t usually hear in heaven, in fact, this may be the only time. Some un-named (and that is important) man is trying to get Abraham’s attention from across the gulf, from the place for those not welcome in God’s presence.
It’s a voice that sounds familiar, and maybe Lazarus even recognized it as the voice, that echoed through the gates, the laughed and enjoyed the fine banquets and parties.
But now the voice was one of anguish, one begging for help, begging for reliefs from the heat, crying for pity,
Because of his past, maybe we would think Lazarus was thinking Mr. No-Name was getting what he deserved. Or more likely, because of the very reasons he was escorted by angels, his heart was moved, and as Abraham was asked to send a messenger, maybe Lazarus was in tears, wanting to help.
Even so, the man’s torment would continue, his heart still not turned. And as he pleads for his brothers, Abraham’s words are haunting,
“‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
What will it take to convince us?
These words that Lazarus hears are scary when you think about them, and who is saying them. What kind of proof would convince someone about the consequences of their sin? If the words of scripture will not, if even the fact that Jesus not only raised people from death but rose from the dead himself – if that doesn’t cause people to think a little more, what will?
How do we reach people, and bring them to Jesus, If they aren’t persuaded by Jesus rising from the dead?
Or perhaps a better question – does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives?
Does it give us hope?
Does it help give us peace?
Does that hope, that peace transforms our lives in such a way we aren’t tied to stuff, but that we realize people have names, that we are to love them in the way that God does?
What difference does the resurrection of Jesus have for the way we look at life, and death?
What difference would it make if we realize that God, and all heaven, knew us by name because Jesus lived and died and rose again?
What will it take for us to realize God knows us and calls us by name?
Col. 1:28 –
The apostle Paul explains it this way.
27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
This is the message that changes us, knowing that God loves us, and indeed loves every human being changes everything. It means everything. It means that each one of us is God’s beloved.
Knowing that means that loving others is no longer a duty, no longer a sacrifice, but it is glorious and wonderful to see them come alive in Christ, to see their lives transform, for they begin to share in God’s glory as well.
They have a name; they mean something to us. This is why Paul would go on to say,
28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)
People need to hear of God’s love, while they are still alive. They need to see that love in a way that they can hear; that isn’t someone trying to persuade them, but rather share with them this glory, this love. They
But that happens best when we know His love when we realize He knows our name! It is then, as we hear Him calling us by name that we realize in awe that He has given us His peace, peace that goes beyond understanding, peace that we dwell in because Christ calls us His treasure, and keeps our hearts and minds there.
This is our life… where God calls us by name – so live it! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (TEV)
I knew what I was keeping down in my heart. And being very much displeased that these human things had such power over me, which in the due order and appointment of our natural condition must needs come to pass, with a new grief I grieved for my grief, and was thus worn by a double sorrow.
When I came across these words of Augustine this morning, they resonated deeply within me. He is right, I am so weakened by grief, that even this weakness causes me to grieve.
I’ve laid to many to rest recently; I am watching friends bury those they love, their dads, their husbands, their siblings, and even their children. Funerals with hundreds in attendance, a graveside with 7.
I grieve because I grieve, that my faith seems so weak in the face of death. As I attempt to move past this grief, I find myself unable to do so. Even as I see those I am ministering to, those who I try to point to the hope that is in Christ, hope I firmly hold onto because I know His love,the tears still flow, the heartache still pounds.
Why can’t I move from the trauma to the healing? Why can’t I move from the sorrow to the joy? Why can’t I move from the frustration that comes in realizing that life is all too short, to the confidence I should have, because I am a believer? After all, I am a pastor, I should have enough faith, I should realize the truth, I should be able to shut out this sorrow, this grief?
Or should I?
I think Paul the apostle would say no, that it is in the midst of the trauma we find the Spirit’s comfort, where we find the healing that God has promised there will be a day when death loses its sting. It is in the midst of the frustration that I stop trying to be strong, well aware that I cannot be. It is in the middle of the sorrow that I do find the peace, and yes the joy that comes from realizing that Jesus is here, sharing that grief, sharing that sorrow.
That death was defeated, not by avoiding it, rather it is dying that He destroyed death, and we now find life in Him.
I will admit this, in this last month and a half, when I have over and over been swamped with grief, and then have been grieved that I am not strong enough to get past it, in this time the most incredible worship I have experienced in my life has occurred. Simply because God has met us, and comforts. He is truly our refuge, our sanctuary, our hope and our life.
God has answered, His mercy is known… and we can rest….
Can I be thankful for the grief? Not for the reason, I grieve, but for that which has accompanied the grief, His strength supporting me in my weakness?
Yes, I can be thankful for that. AMEN!
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Devotional Thought for the Saturday between the cross and the resurrection.
23 In accordance with his own plan God had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed him by letting sinful men crucify him. 24 But God raised him from death, setting him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold him prisoner. Acts 2:23-24 (TEV)
14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. 1 Corinthians 6:14 (NLT)
Thus Christ the Lord became our פּוֹדֶה (redemption) and גֹּאֵל (redeemer). For He not only redeemed us but also freed us rightfully for Himself, so that the devil and hell were compelled in strict justice to let Him go, because they had killed the innocent Son of God. Therefore the Law burned its fingers, and death dirtied its pants. The devil, death, and sin overreached themselves. There they all became guilty and debtors to God, to this Son Jesus Christ, who now has the right over against His enemies. For why did you crucify the Son of God, O Law? Why did you kill Him who was innocent, O devil, death, and hell? (1)
I suppose some might find the italicized words above offensive, this idea that death filled its pants, that it couldn’t control its bowels or bladder.
But I find death offensive, brutally so. To be honest, after the last couple of weeks, and even over the last couple of years, I am pretty ticked off at death, at the damage and grief it causes, at the pain, as it separates what God has brought together as couples, as families, as communities. So when I read this quote by Martin Luther, I knew I had to use it, and soon.
I almost wish I knew German, to see if the translators “prettied up” this quote. SOmeohow I think Luther, who was no stranger to death or the anxiety it can cause, said something like this, “when seeing Christ’s resurrection, death crapped…” (not that I would actually use that phrase in public, though it is tempting!!!)
This horrible enemy that is death, whose presence can so hurt, will, in the end, be terminated. Then, St Paul tells us, there will be no more its horrible sting, it will have no impact. Like Satan and sin, it will be an object of ridicule, absolutely powerless.
What a joyous moment, the moment after death thinks it had gathered to itself God, as it wrapped its cold slimy hands around Jesus, as it thought it had at last one, that this God who kept raising people from its power, now was subject to itself.
And the Lamb of God, the sacrifice which redeemed us from sin, this incredible Redeemer begins to breathe, and life pours back into the body of the one who is the Resurrection, who is the Life, our Life. Death who thought to parade its victory around in Hades finds itself bound, and those who it held prisoner rejoicing as Jesus claims His own, the people He redeems because He was the sacrifice.
This scene is repeated, over and over, every time a saint enters into his Father’s glory, as sin and Satan and death are found powerless, (they can’t even control their bowels!)
For scripture tells us, the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. The Holy Spirit – the gift to all who believe, the gift God has given that brings us the gifts repentance, faith and hope, is ours.
We have been raised with Christ! Live in that peace my friends!
Praise be to God our Father, for by the cross of Christ joy has truly entered the world! AMEN
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 8: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 45-50. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 8, p. 162). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.” 20 “Are you going to build it again in three days?” they asked him. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple!” 21 But the temple Jesus was speaking about was his body. 22 So when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what Jesus had said. John 2:19-22 (TEV)
The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years. 2 She died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn and weep for her. Gen 23:1–2
179 Days of silence and of intense grace… Prayer face to face with God… I broke out into thanksgiving, on seeing those people, mature in years and experience, who opened out to the touch of grace. They responded like children, eagerly grasping the chance to convert their lives, even now, into something useful… which would make up for all the times they have gone astray and for all their lost opportunities. Recalling that scene, I put it to you: do not neglect your struggle in the interior life.
They aren’t the devotional readings you want to come up the day someone takes a long needle, places it in your carotid veins, and checks out your heart from the inside. There these readings the readings in red were, The procedure they told me, had less than 1% serious complications, but if you know me, that’s not good odds. I would prefer them in the region of .0000001% chance.
But here I was, waiting impatiently for the procedure to began. I had signed the paperwork saying who had the power to make decisions for me if I didn’t come out of the sedation, papers authorizing blood transfusions, and, of course, the paperwork saying I understood that such medical procedures are risky and that I wouldn’t sue if I died. (How could I? But that isn’t where your mind goes…)
For the first time in 10 major surgeries in my life, I was afraid going into the surgical suite/cath lab, I didn’t like that feeling at all. I have sat by many during such times, I have been there myself before, but the fear this time… I started to plan my own funeral- but who would I tell?
I was sure I was facing death, and yet… I survived.
So now what?
I’ve had people tell me before that such events change people. But then again, a motorcycle accident, a cardiac arrest, a surgery to replace two heart valves, all that didn’t change me that much, except to prepare me for ministry. Okay, to prepare me for a very unique and different ministry.
But what would come out of this very dark, very anxiety-laden time? Why didn’t God come and quiet my soul, like He had some many times? Why couldn’t I, a guy who teaches people how to minister to others in such times, find the peace I had led so many others too?
It’s funny, in that emptiness, in that moment where they “sealed” my body to the surgery table with some super form of saran wrap, ( My anxiety helped me wonder if they were pre-fitting me for a body-bag!) in that lack of peace, in those moments in that lack of anything, I was sure it didn’t matter. If I went home to God, the sins that concerned me would be covered. If I stayed, there was a final to take, sermons to grade, blogs to write. But those things didn’t exist at that moment when they put a drape over my head so the surgeon could do his job….
there was nothing…
and because there was nothing… there was the proof of God.
Again, I couldn’t point to any feeling, matter of fact they led me down other roads. My knowledge as a pastor failed me.
But that doesn’t mean God did. If God is God, then in those moments I sense nothing, in those moments where I can’t depend on logic, or emotion, He has to be there, beyond me. If we die, we are with Him, if we don’t, He will draw us closer to Him, strengthening us so we can bring others along on the journey.
I have often wondered why Jesus, who was, is, and will be God had to face His own… well, mortality, so often. Why God would go there so often, almost as if he was fixated on it.
Because it wasn’t just His death He faced. It was all our death. The death of sin.
He did that, so we could face the emptiness of death.. the barrenness of the moment of facing it.
So that in our baptism, our leaving this life will become meaningless.
For no matter what, whether our mind can process it or not, whether our emotions can cope with it… ultimately we are in His hands.
Nothing else matters…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 957-963). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
54 So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55 “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?“ 56 Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (TEV)
383 The scholastics do not teach the righteousness of faith. They interpret faith as merely a knowledge of history or of dogmas, not as the power that grasps the promise of grace and righteousness, quickening the heart amid the terrors of sin and death.
(disclaimer, I haven’t watched GoT yet…. but please keep reading)
Last night my Twitter and FB feeds went crazy, I mean really crazy. Like 1000 posts in five minutes crazy.
Everyone was talking about someone dying, reacting the way I remember us reacting when the Challenger exploded, or perhaps when the way people did when Kennedy was shot.
Turns out it was a character on a television show called Game of Thrones. ( I vaguely remember a similar incident when someone shot JR, but then again, I didn’t watch that show either!)
One of my much younger friends tried to explain it to me. She was kind of shocked that I hadn’t watched GoT yet and tried to convince me I MUST watch it. We “chatted” across FB for a while, and I went to sleep thinking I might be able to watch and episode or two… maybe in August?
But I thought about it, apparently this show, like a few others this last year, have made a point about people dying who are someone special to the show. Someone died in Gray’s Anatomy (McDreamy McSteamy, McBlasphemy?) , And I think there is some other show where they regularly kill off a character. I suppose if BlackList (the only show I regularly watch, and I am a season behind)
All this shock of death, even the death of a fictional character is, in my mind a good thing. We can learn from it, that death is fleeting, and that life needs to be taken in a proper perspective. That the relationships, we count on can be horribly marred by death, Whether that death is a friend in their 90’s or infant still in the womb. Whether it is the death of a dear friend whom we will miss for years or of someone across the world.
It can cause fear as well, I can testify to that. Because of a genetic heart condition, I’ve faced it for a long time though since 1998 the threat has lessened because of surgery. Even so, death has an incredible power over us who live. It threatens us, it hurts us, it damages our psyche as we try to cope with our lives being shorter and more tragic than we want to admit, that we want to face.
Yeah – a character can be killed off. Even more importantly, a friend can die, or you can. An accident, a cardiac arrest, food poisoning, cancer, war, civil unrest. No one is immune. No one. (as GoT so aptly proves!)
In the quote above in blue, a man named Phillip Melancthon talked about belief, about faith, in a way that can give us some comfort. Faith is what gives us peace in the midst of death and dying, It isn’t just knowing some facts and figures, it isn’t just about thinking about God, or trying to behave well. It is clinging to God in a way that brings hope, even in the midst of tears, and anger, and trying to make sense out of this life, and the terminal nature of it.
Faith clings to the God, who promises that death is not as brutal, that there is something more to life than ending in death.
It clings to the promises God has made, that He has revealed, that He sends the Holy Spirit to confirm to us and to comfort us and to be our guarantee of eternity. When we have faith, we count on God more and more, and He sustains us, comforts us, holds us close. And nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love.
So if GoT caused you to grieve, to be angry, to hold onto speculation that the character really isn’t dead, to go even into a small depression, maybe that’s a good thing. Take the time to think through your reaction, to realize the power of death, and the only way to break its very real hold on you, is to hold on to Jesus.
He’s promised to protect your heart and your mind… and surround you with the incomprehensible peace of God our Father.
You’ll be okay. He died to make sure of it!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 165). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
The more you suffer, the more you are tempted the more you need to pray; prayer now alone can strengthen you with help and consolation. Let not pain and fierce temptation paralyze you prayer. The devil does all he can to prevent you from praying at these times. But rather than give into weak human nature which absorbs the soul in its paid so that it sees nothing else for the time, turn your eyes to our Lord and speak to Him standing so near. He is with you, looking on you lovingly, listening for your words. He tells you to speak, that He is there to hear you, that He loves you and you have not a word to say to Him, no look to give Him. What ingratitude! Look at Him speak to Him without ceasing, The deeper your agony, the deeper you must bury yourself in the Heart of your Beloved, and cling to His side with ceaseless prayer! (1)
I have to admit, while I don’t spend the time i would like, perhaps as much time I really need in prayer, the words in blue resonate with me.
I know them true, and it is why I can desire to spend more time, more hours, more days in prayer.
You may ask why I put the first reading there, about ignoring salvation. Simply put, because salvation isn’t just about the event, where God cleanses us from sin, washing us clean as He promises in our baptism, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh and giving us His Spirit, (see Ezekiel 36:25). Salvation is rescuing us from and delivering us to something that is incredible.
As we are saved we become something. We become part of the people of God, daughters and sons of God, adopted and marked as His children, we enter into a entirely different relationship with God, one where He promises to never forsake us, never abandon us, never to stop working in our lives. We find life, a life lived in fellowship, in community, in communion with God.
And that is what we should never neglect, that is what we need to grow in, the awareness that the Lord is with you. (and yes, thank you – also with me). We need to learn to depend up this, not as a fact, but as reality. He is with us, ready to listen, ready to comfort, ready to heal, ready to reach out into this broken world.
Prayer then becomes the way of life, the very meaning of our salvation. Walking with God. Please re-read the second scripture passage and the italicized blue above, there is our hope. our peace, our comfort, our very ability to live.
In the past couple of weeks, many people I know have encountered death of their loved ones. I’ve talked to others, who have lost jobs, or are afraid of losing a relationship. Just knowing this is exhausting, tiring, painful, the feeling of emptiness and loneliness I observe is… crushing. For those directly involved, the devotional writer gets it right. The sorrow and grief consumes us. Nothing else can matter in that moment.
Until God breaks through, until He reminds us that He is here. There is a strong correlation between how quickly we hear His voice in those moments, and the time we spend walking with Him at other times. Even if we feel that there aren’t the other times. Yet if we neglect this, if we take Him for granted, it may take a longer time to find Him, when only His comfort is the answer. Don’t neglect Him, don’t
Then we can find rest and peace, dwelling in His love.
So pray my friends, realize God walks with you, and share with Him everything… and spend some time in stillness, and in quiet, and know He is God. AMEN!
(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer: Finian Reading for April 10th.