Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. Matt 19:20-22 TEV
5 That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6 I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)
One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.
he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.
We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.
We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized. How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.
The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith. he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well. The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.
They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.
Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him! Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.
Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above. Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God. It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.
This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated. Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.
It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.
Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.
It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.
The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.
Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us. AMEN!
Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23 Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24 Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25 not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. 26 If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice 27 and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! Hebrews 10:22-26 (MSG)
940 “Where charity and love are found, there is God” we sing in the liturgical hymn. Here is what a certain soul noted down: “Fraternal love is a great and marvellous treasure. It is not simply a consolation—which it certainly often has to be—but it really brings home the certainty of having God close to us, and shows itself in the charity our neighbours have for us and in the charity which we have for them.”
Yesterday, our church was blessed to have a great pastor come and preach, just months before he retires from a prominent role in the church. I really wanted my people to hear him preach, to hear him talk of God’s love. But I also wanted him to hear them respond to him, to minister to him, as they have for nearly 10 years, to me.
You see, I need them, I need the church,
Not to pay my salary as a pastor, (though that gives me the freedom to teach and care more) I need them to encourage me, to lift me up, to help me survive in this crazy broken world. I need them to remind me that my sins are forgiven. I need to hear them fire back with great confidence “And also with you” which is what I wanted my district president to hear.
He’s going to need it as life dramatically changes. Just as we need to hear it now.
St. Josemaria has it right, this bond between brothers and sisters in Christ is not just a consolation, it is far more than just the comfort we bring, it brings home the certainty that God is with us. The love, the charity, the mercy we find ourselves dwelling in, sharing with each other, is beyond our own ability. It is because of the love of God. It is His work, it is His love that empowers and enables us to love each other.
The challenge is that we get so distracted by life or by work, even by the business of church that we forget to look around, to pray for that person, to give that one a good solid hug, to look in that person’s eyes and make sure they hear us when we say, “The peace of God is with you!”
I need to be a part of the church because I need to know God’s presence, that He is at work, to be reminded of this when sorrow hits, to be encouraged to re-focus when I am distracted to be encouraged. I also need to be able to make that difference in other people’s life. I know that I am not the only one that needs the church, that needs to know God is present, not just as a doctrinal statement of omnipresence, but as a reality seen in a life in the community, in a life with others God has gathered together.
I need the Church, simply because through the Church we find revealed to us the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us. I find the comfort that God offers when I cry to Him, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”.
I pray you find that need in your life answered as well.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3321-3325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me?b 47 Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.” John 8:46-47 NAB-RE
Faith is a vital, deliberate trust in God’s grace, so certain that it would die a thousand times for it. And such confidence and knowledge of divine grace makes us joyous, mettlesome, and merry toward God and all creatures. This the Holy Spirit works by faith, and therefore without any coercion a man is willing and desirous to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything for the love of God and to his glory, who has been so gracious to him. It is therefore as impossible to separate works from faith as it is to separate heat and light from fire.” (1)
. But devotion to the Cross had a very different origin. Christians used to turn toward the east when they prayed as a sign of their hope that Christ, the true sun, would rise upon history—as a sign, then, of their belief in the future coming of the Lord. In the beginning, the Cross was closely linked to this eastward orientation of prayer. It was represented as the standard carried before the King on his arrival—with the appearance of the Cross the head of the procession had reached the throng of praying people. For the early Christians, the Cross was primarily a sign of hope—not so much a turning back to the past as a turning forward to the coming of the Lord. (2)
As a pastor, I am used to people struggling with “Faith.”
Most often, this is because they define faith as a known, for example, “the Christian Fatih” or the subdivisions such as “the Catholic Faith” or the “Orthodox Faith”.or the myriad and diversity of “Protestant Faith.” This definition reduces faith to a list of doctrines, a list of teachings, and reduces the Bible to a textbook to be learned, studied and interpreted. This definition confuses us then when we talk about “sharing” our faith, leading us to believe such is a matter of indoctrination, of our doctrinal positions overwhelming yours in some cosmic spiritual battle.
Faith doesn’t know doctrine, it is, as the Lutheran Confessions say, It is a vital, deliberate trust (or dependence) in God’s grace. It is listening to God and rejoicing not just in the rules, but realizing that God encodes in the law these incredible promises, incredible blessings. Such is what He commanded, what He commissioned and guaranteed with the cross and by the sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
That’s why the issue of works being aa result of faith is not surprising, and not all that complicated. The vital trust results in it! If you trust God, if you hear Him declare you are His, that nothing can separate you from His love, then you simply live.
That is why Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote about the cross the way he did – it not only talked of the blessing of the cross in the past, but the sign of Christ’s return. ( the old Celtic crosses always included the sunrise behind the cross for the reason as well!) For faith is not just hope about the sins being covered by Calvary’s cross, it is the hope or eternal life, of eternal joy, of the day when every tear is wiped away.
The cross is a symbol of the hope of the future, of what God has promised to open up for us, the very thing we trust Him to achiece> Eternity, lived in the full glory of God, this is our hope, this is the end goal for the scriptures, the end of the means of grace poured out for us in baptism, the Lord’s supper and the mercy of being cleansed of every sin.
Eternity is when our faith is fulfilled, when our dependence on God is proven, when hope is seen to be reality.
This we can share – at whatever cost it takes – this we can rejoice in, this we can know, even when we can’t explain every bit of theology.
This is our faith, our vital dependence on God.
This is what happens when we hear Him testify,
“I love you so much; Christ died on the cross so we could be re-united..”
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print. FOrmula of Concord SD IV
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.
Can I Faithfully and Firmly Believe This?
† IHS †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, sustain your trust in their love, and reveal to you more and more, Their Presence in your life!
A moment ago, if you were paying attention as we began the Athanasian Creed, you might have had a moment of concern as we began, as I said,
Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the Christian faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.
But the nature of reciting a creed gave you only a few seconds to say this, and before you could process it, we were moving on to the next phrase.
A little way down, perhaps some of you gasped as we read,
Therefore, whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.
If you had a moment to think at that point, you might have jotted down a question for me during Bible Study, and if you did, that is awesome – I will try and answer it then. But really? How can we believe in these words we barely can comprehend as we are reading them off of the page.
And then, my last words,
This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.
Which brings me to a question. Can I faithfully and firmly believe something I just read, even though I don’t understand it completely? Pastor, someone is thinking, if this is that important, shouldn’t we do it, maybe once a month or so? At least more than once a year?
What do you think Chris? Do it monthly?
Back to the more important question….and the one that follows…
Can I faithfully and firmly believe this ancient mind-twisting, theological statement? And if can’t understand it, does that mean I am not saved?
We will answer that in a few moments.
The Isaiah Moment –
In many ways, saying the Athanasian Creed is like the situation Isaiah finds himself in, as we hear it described in the Old Testament reading this morning.
He’s overwhelmed, and confused. Everything he thought he knew of, he is unsure of, all he knows is that God is a lot bigger, than he ever contemplated before. His eyes can’t keep up with all he sees, and you will notice that the one thing he doesn’t describe in any depth, is what God looks like.
Isaiah sees Him, but all He tells us is that God is sitting on the throne, and God is wearing a robe that would take Carol, Linda, Barbara, and Cyndee a lot longer to sew than 18 stoles!
As Isaiah is overwhelmed, he forgets everything he knows about God, and is intently aware of how he doesn’t belong in God’s presence. He’s a sinner, a man who can’t filter his thoughts, and he is surrounded by people just like him.
All he can think of, is I don’t get it, and no maybes, (CLICK) I don’t belong here in God’s presence.
That is where his thoughts are going, as he realizes the glory of God, as He encounters it.
As he finds himself dropping to his knees, in awe, unable even to plead for mercy…
That is what happens to us when we sit down, and start to consider what we do know about God, when we try to summarize it, whether in 12 verses of the Apostles Creed, or the fifty of the Athanasian Creed, or in a sermon, or in a book.
It is not easy to get our minds wrapped around all the scripture teaches about God. Heck I could teach for forty-five hours just on the titles we have for God, and on His name, and on the one line from this creed,
But the whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal, so that in all things, as has been stated above, the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is to be worshiped!
The Grace of God
And in those four underlined words, we find our hope. We find out that like Isaiah, we belong in God’s presence. Not because we are good enough, or qualified enough, or know and understand enough, but because of the reason we worship Him.
There was one more line that should give us pause…
And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.
He has judged us already, as Christ bore the iniquities of us all. Because Jesus bore the stripes on His back, and the nail scars in His hands. That judgment comes when the Holy Spirit is poured out on us, as we are declared His people, as we are promised eternal life. Because He loves us, because that love and mercy sent Jesus to die for us, and rise again. Because His death and resurrection brings us into a relationship with Him, a covenant with Him, where God judges us and says, you are righteous, you have done good.
In awe and confusion and fear, we find ourselves in the presence of God.
We hear the angels and archangels, the seraphim and elders, singing the words Holy, Holy, Holy…. And then we are touched, our lips and heart cleansed as God comes near.
And we join in the praises….
For God has judged our trust in His work, our need for Him to do that work, our need to cling to Him, and it is enough.
Enough so that God not only welcomes us into His presence, but sends us out to bring His message to a world that needs it, but needs the work of the Spirit to help them hear it.
There is s a lot of truth in this creed, this statement about the God who we trust, who we know, in who are beliefs are found, revealed to us in Christ. The creed puts what we know is true, and what we know isn’t true.
Yeah, it’s long and complicated, it helps us know that things like Gnosticism and Subordinationism, that donatism and other things are wrong. What it does best? It reveals to us the God who reveals Himself is bigger than our thoughts, is bigger than our theories that try to explain what God keeps as a mystery.
I wrote yesterday that the mysteries of God aren’t there primarily to be solved and explained. These mysteries are here to leave us in awe, to bring us to the point where we are silent, where we know He is God.
Like Isaiah, before the throne, like us as we bend a knee, and take and eat, and take and drink, the body and blood of Christ.
This is our God, trust in His promises, revel in what He reveals, and know that He is your God, and we are His people, who dwell in His peace, and Christ guards our hearts and minds in that place, and no one can change that.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
4 Teach me your ways, O LORD; make them known to me. 5 Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you. 6 Remember, O LORD, your kindness and constant love which you have shown from long ago. 7 Forgive the sins and errors of my youth. In your constant love and goodness, remember me, LORD! Psalm 25:4-7 (TEV)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6 Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. 7 Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the LORD and refuse to do wrong. 8 If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains. Proverbs 3:5-8 (TEV)
Deliver me from self-trustfulness, In the frequent days in which I must do battle with my self as foe, arm me with a constant trust in Thee. (1)
Heresy is not so much a new doctrine, but an Orthodox doctrine that is overemphasized. (2)
A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.
When I read the quote in blue above, from the biography of a man who personally impacted how I preach, it stunned me for its simplicity, and its truth.
I could give example after example of when man’s reason and pride joined together to subtly and slowly twist doctrine, or the reaction to that heresy which caused a quicker reaction that threw them off the cliff in the other direction.
One example is in the discussion of how faith and works are related. If one overemphasizes the doctrine of justification, he may end up teaching that works and piety are not needed in the Christian life. A reaction to that would be an overemphasis on the doctrine of sanctification, where certain works/gifts/charisms once seen as a reaction to grace now become legislated and those who don’t practice or show those works are taught to question their salvation. The two sides meet, they harden their position, defending what they see as a true doctrinal position, to the extent that only that doctrine matters.
When I read the quote on the plane, 30 such issues came to mind. (examples include the Sacraments, the Commandments – especially the Sabbath, Religion versus Relationship, the Work of the Holy Spirit, Worship Wars, Evangelism/Mission versus Orthodoxy) Several that friends of mine are dealing with, or have dealt with in recent years. I tucked it away in the back of my mind. This morning my regular devotions (from which the other four quotes come) brought up the problem again, and the answer to it.
Hence the blog this morning.
The issue is one of sin, specifically the sin of pride and the exaltation of man’s ability to reason.
We know the danger of man’s reason apart from God, but do we realize that we still fall prey to the pride which exalts our reason, our understanding? That makes us believe that we know all we need, even more than those around us? Do we realize we are still but the children of God, that we don’t know it all, and even more importantly, we can’t apply all that we do know?
It is, as the quote in green above states, the battle of self idolatry. Proverbs reiterates the same thing, our need not to be able to understand, but to trust God, to lean on Him, to continually refer back, not just to man’s wisdom, but to scripture, to prayer. Psalms reiterates this theme of trust, of walking with God.
The challenge is that doctrines are beautiful, there is something overwhelming about those “aha” moments when something life-changing is realized. But that one doctrine cannot become the defining doctrine of our life. Even the study of all doctrine cannot be, for doctrine itself doesn’t save us, Christ does. Doctrine may instruct us in how our souls are healed in how reconciliation occurs, of how the means of grace deliver that precious grace. The wisdom of God being revealed is a wonderful thing.
But it isn’t our God.
Imagine studying about marriage, You’ve read every sociological book, every psychological book, every book describing the intimacy that a husband and wife share, physical, spiritual, emotional. You look at your own marriage certificate, memorizing it so well, that you could reproduce it from memory…even the crinkle in the seal. You invest every moment of your time in such learning about marriage that many consider you an expert.
But you’ve done so, at the expense of time with your spouse…..
How well can you really know what the union of two souls are?
Same thing with God.
The key to avoiding heresy is not managing to juggle and keep in balance all the doctrines that are taught in scripture.
The key is abiding in Christ. Of walking with God, of realizing that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Of knowing the dimensions of His love for you and all His people. To receive His mercy, His forgiveness and the healing of our souls. It is then you can hear His voice, it is then you know His love and mercy and grace. It is then you treasure its words, for what it reveals about God and His people. It is then that doctrines aren’t just a matter of knowledge, a matter of the mind. But then that they are a description of our life as thise who trust God.
It is then, that these words, in bold colors above, resonate with us, because they are our prayers.
God’s peace to you… and know that you are kept, your heart and mind, in that peace. by Christ. AMEN.
(1) From Celtic Daily Prayer, Aidan Readings for 10/25, credited as from Hebridean Altars
(2) Ortiz, Juan Carlos (2011-08-09). From the Jungles to the Cathedrals: The Captivating Story of Juan Carlos Ortiz (Biography: Great Leaders of Our Times) (Kindle Locations 1717-1718). Vida. Kindle Edition.
(3) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 924-925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? 8 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. 9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 (NLT)
212 Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.
Last night in our Bible Study, we talked a great deal about the verses that are listed above. It was a pretty stimulating conversation, and it had me thinking last night, and this morning while I worked out, and into writing this blog today. Recent conversations about the church here in the USA as compared to what we consider the mission field, also entered the thoughts. So to the talks about the rise of both denominationalism and congregationalism that I’ve given in the course I am teaching presently.
The conversation last night wasn’t about the church in Corinth and the issues where Paul had to correct their errant thoughts. Instead the conversation ended up focusing on the sacrificial attitude of those churches, and that of Paul himself. Because they gave, not of their abundance, but rather before they thought of their own needs. To help another congregation, another “church”. But why? The Corinthians had everything in abundance, they had more money, more “names” (look at the discussion about all the ministers that had worked there!) The churches that gave? They had little.
But they still gave, that others could minister to the church in Corinth.
Because of the gospel, because of the love of God was the answer, after a couple of moments of thought. Because they saw a brother in need, and knew the power of the gospel and the change it would make in the life of the Corinthians. That the church in Corinth needed Paul more than they did, and they saw that need and met it. Even though it meant they would do without. Paul would go on his journeys, knowing that he could be beaten and tortured and eventually would be killed.
For the sake of the church. That people would know the joy of God’s presence, the exhilaration that comes from knowing you are loved.
Corinth needed that, they needed to know God in the way the other churches did. Those churches who didn’t see the church as their congregation, but considered the church as those who make up the entire family of God. That is why they could sacrifice for people they didn’t know, That is why they would respond to meet Paul’s needs, knowing the effect of Paul’s ministry there. Knowing how Paul taught them, as he wrote to the church in Ephesus,
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
Let’s face it – denominationalism and congregationalism are “isms”, (no matter how they are justified by other titles, like brotherhood, association, the label – “non-denom” or my own group’s “synod”) Although often started with a major issue, rather than resolve it, we just get comfortable in our “group” and shut out others. When we get comfortable there, when we use our separation to justify our in-action, our hoarding of our own gifts and talents and abilities, Please don’t get me wrong – there are times where, because of the gospel, because of those who would pervert the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ – there is a separation. But to allow that separation to become the status quo, to isolate ourselves into smaller and smaller groups, behind this leader or that, is wrong.
Last night, we primarily talked about this, not in view of denominatalism, but in terms of congregational autonomy. We aren’t separate from our sister churches in the area, we need to work together, even if it begins with only us. To work with those we are in fellowship with, to work with those who will work beside us, to test doors to see if they are open. To pray for the doors that are slammed in our face, grieving over them.
TO see the church, not as just our congregation, but as His one, holy, catholic (universal/united) apostolic (misisonal) Church.
And to plan or prioritize and work with the spread of Christ’s saving us from sin, and making us holy as the core of what we do.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (TEV)
7 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. 8 Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ 9 and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. Philippians 3:7-9 (MSG)
“You wrote to me: “To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries—even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions—and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself— “to get acquainted!”” (1)
For the last year or so, I have been toying with the idea of going back to school, to get a doctoral degree. I’ve thought about which degree to get, for there are a number of fields that interest me – from worship, to sociology, to counseling, to homiletics and other pragmatic areas of ministry. Yesterday I went back to where it all started, 30 years ago this fall, as I entered a “non-denom” Bible College – in a very accidental “God-thing” type moment.
Combine with that preparing to preach this weekend – “Trinity Sunday” we call it, a day to meditate upon how God has revealed Himself to us, as three distinct, yet …..One. One of the greatest, most complicated theological doctrines there is, and yet, still so far out of ability to comprehend. ( Read the Athanasian Creed – an incredibly beautiful explanation of God, yet each phrase, raises more questions, leaves us more in awe. And for a theologian, albeit an amateur one, (as all pastors are – as serving others takes precedence…always… over such deep thoguhts) I love to just sit back and plumb the depths of the minds who wrote far more comprehensively than I can think.
But then I come to St. Paul – a man who was a first rate theologian in his day, prior to His conversion, who wrote the quotes above. It doesn’t matter how much I know, I’ve got to realize I am loved, I have to understand why Paul so desired to be embraced by Christ, why everything else took a back seat to knowing, not the details.
Which is where Theophilus – the person Luke writes his gospel for comes in. The name in Greek is Loved by God/Lover of God. But it is that relationship that matters, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed that we are the beloved, that we never walk alone, that we have been cleansed and healed and are loved. It is starting from there, realizing the miracles our being justified and sanctified are only to deliver us, the children of the Father, the ones Jesus calls His friends, the ones who are the Home of the Holy Spirit. We must be Theophilus, before we ever become Theologians..
I would never say to not study theology, but first, come to know God, as St Josemaria says – get acquainted with Him in prayer. Talk to Him – about everything and anything. Listen to Him, hear Him tell you of His love, of His mercy, of His grace. That is what matters, in a way, it is ALL that matters….. for knowledge even all the data we can generate about Trinity – without that love… is nothing….empty…worthless.
I pray for you (and ask you to pray for me, as the apostle Paul did for the people of Ephesus…
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 365-368). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day:
So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? 8 I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” Luke 18:7-8 (MSG)
We are three days into celebrating the fact that the tomb is empty, that the Lord Jesus Christ is Risen, and that because of that – we can know the Lord is with you!
We love Easter, the celebration, the enthusiasm, the overwhelming joy of coming face to face with God’s love, shown on the cross – where we find ourselves drawn into Christ’s death, and the miraculously, our spirits, freed from sin, soar incredibly without the weight of injustice, and sin and guilt and shame. But soon we crash down into this false reality of life, for reality is that peace, we forget the life we have in Christ. ( thank God we are reminded by Paul “ 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!” Colossians 3:2-4 (TEV) For we are assured that is our reality.
Back to today’s question! In the passage at the very top, we are asked will Jesus find faith on the earth when He returns. If He returned on Easter, as our churches are full, as people are singing and hearing and responding about His being risen from the dead, that day, the answer seems obvious. Yet what about 3 days from now – just a week after Good Friday? What about in August, when the heat is getting to us, and our patience is thin. What about after the next major trauma – whether global in scope or personal? We Christ find faith then?
The first comes from the book Evangelical Catholic that inspired this post – and it deals with faith from the perspective of doctrine, the Biblical teachings that are handed down to us through our churches. The author, George Wiegel. He makes a very solid point about the impediment of our own adaptation of the faith.
Deep Catholic reform in the United States is impeded by bishops, priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, intellectuals, and laity who are in a diminished state of communion with the Church— existentially if not canonically— because they deny to be true what the Catholic Church “believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God,” as the profession of faith for those being received into full communion with the Church puts it. How many Catholics in the United States— again, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women in religious life, intellectuals, and laity— can say, without mental reservation, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”? To the degree that the answer to that question is negative, or ambiguous, then to precisely that degree is the deep reform of the Church envisioned by Vatican II being imperiled. (1)
Though I would need to adapt this a little, the idea that people who deny what is believed (faith placed in) and taught and proclaim that is revealed by God, is the key here. We don’t get to redefine what the “faith” is. It simply is what God has revealed it to be. And the more we deviate with that, the more we slowly at first depart from the faith. The more mental reservations we have, the more we say I believe what God has revealed in scripture, except XXX, the more we make ourselves the judge and jury over God, and the less we walk the life of faith, and to be honest, the more doubts we entertain.
I am not saying we shouldn’t challenge what we believe – exactly opposite. But what we test what we believe against is not what is logical, when can always be easily perceived. What is the standard is scripture. What is standard is how God reveals His love, His mercy, His presence to us, even as He fulfills His promise of bringing healing and life to our sin-bruised, battered and broken lives. The more we deviate from the God who is self-revealed in scripture, the more we struggle with placing our logic above God’s, the less we see His work in our lives.
Which brings us to the second point about faith,
Faith isn’t just a noun, it isn’t just getting to know what the scriptures reveal. It is getting to know, to intimately know, the God who reveals Himself through those writings. That is why I titled the above – will Jesus find us trusting Him. Faith is after all – the description of what we trust in God for, the expectation that He will be who He reveals Himself to be – for us, to us, with us. That is also the context of the first reading – where the judge grants the widow’s request because she places her life in his hands. (and even though an evil judge with be faithful and just, how much more will God be?) So the context of the quote about finding faith is nothing less than will Jesus find us trusting in Him, living based in trusting Him to fulfill His promises, and giving to Him everything that burdens us, that causes anxiety, the things we don’t have an answer for yet?
Will we trust Jesus? Will we realize what that cross and empty grave mean, and will we live life with Him, trusting completely in His promises?
That is what causes renewal in us, renewal in our parishes, renewal in our denominations and in the church universal (i.e. small c catholic)
BTW – He is the only one completely trustworthy.
Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 52). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.