Thoughts encouraging our devotion to Jesus… as we are reminded He is devoted to us!
And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:8-9 NLT
Nor can godly minds be fortified against despair unless they think that through mercy on account of Christ and not on account of the law they with certainty have both righteousness and eternal life. This conviction consoles, uplifts, and saves godly minds.
It seems to me that having watched the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea, the descendants of Abraham should have been ready to see God defeat the giants. That they would be prepared to follow him, abiding in His presence.
My view is unrealistic, those people struggled just like we do today, and while they had the pillar of fire and the cloud with them, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
It is when we forget He has declared us righteous and given us the promise of everlasting life that our eyes look to what they see below.
Too often, we forget Jesus and His promise to never abandon us. That is when our anxiety runs rampant, when our fears overwhelm us when we fall, as Israel did.
This is nothing new; Solomon wrote, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
There is the key to surviving when we know we are up to the challenge. It sounds so easy, so elementary, to simply know that God has promised our righteousness and our eternal welcome into His presence. A presence we boldly enter because of Jesus and the cross. If He has made that sure, then the rest of life’s challenges become acceptable, tolerable, endurable.
One last thing – even thought those people in Numbers did not enter the Holy Land in this life, they were still God’s people. Christ would die for their sins as well as ours. While they didn’t see the promises in this life, He never left them, never stopped providing manna for them, and walked with them through it all Even in ths midst of their wounds… He was there… and at the cross, they truly became righteous, and entered into His rest.
He is here, and will be during our journey, until we are home…with Him. He will walk with us, through our troubled times, and He will bring us home. For we are the people He has declared righteous….and He is faithful to that promise.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV Justification, Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 People of Israel, every year you must set aside ten percent of your grain harvest. 23 Also set aside ten percent of your wine and olive oil, and the first-born of every cow, sheep, and goat. Take these to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped, and eat them there. This will teach you to always respect the LORD your God.
24 But suppose you can’t carry that ten percent of your harvest to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped. If you live too far away, or if the LORD gives you a big harvest, 25 then sell this part and take the money there instead. 26 When you and your family arrive, spend the money on food for a big celebration. Buy cattle, sheep, goats, wine, beer, and if there are any other kinds of food that you want, buy those too. 27 And since people of the Levi tribe won’t own any land for growing crops, remember to ask the Levites to celebrate with you.
28 Every third year, instead of using the ten percent of your harvest for a big celebration, bring it into town and put it in a community storehouse. 29 The Levites have no land of their own, so you must give them food from the storehouse. You must also give food to the poor who live in your town, including orphans, widows, and foreigners. If they have enough to eat, then the LORD your God will be pleased and make you successful in everything you do. Deut. 14:22-29
Fifth, your trust must not set a goal for God, not set a time and place, not specify the way or the means of his fulfilment, but it must entrust all of that to his will, wisdom, and omnipotence. Just wait cheerfully and undauntedly for the fulfilment without wanting to know how and where, how soon, how late, or by what means. His divine wisdom will find an immeasurably better way and method, time and place, than we can imagine.
714 Yours is a desire without desire, as long as you don’t put firmly aside the occasion of falling. Don’t fool yourself telling me you’re weak. You’re a coward, which is not the same thing.
Prayer is hard.
Every week, with 50-80 people, I pray for about 150… Some are just people we need to pray for – those in government, those serving people and responding to protect and heal. Others are grieving, or are ill, others are facing a struggle that cannot be discussed.
And we pray… I attempt to lead us in putting all these people, and their concerns, in the hands of God.
There is a balance between telling God what to do and having the faith that God not only will act but is acting at this moment. Part of me wants to say with Jesus, “not my will, but Yours.” and part of me wants to be the old lady that hassled the judge.
And to this I hear the words, “you aren’t weak, you are a coward..” and I wonder if it is true, at least when it comes ot prayer. Am I afraid to really let God have everything in my life? Am I willing to let Him answer my prayers in His time, in His wisdom, in His way? Luther advocates this, but how hard is it to do? And how the heck did he learn to wait “cheerfully and undauntedly” without even the slightest bit of knowledge or control?
That’s why I asked which comes first, true prayer or true worship?
I think it has to be worship!
And we can’t worship until we know why we worship! That is how the Old Testament passage relates. One of the major tithes the people had to gather, 10 percent of their harvest, and all the firstborn of their flock was to throw a party! What kind of party? A party to “respect” the Lord- to realize His presence, to realize how He provides and cares for you. To celebrate the fact you aren’t alone.
With that knowledge, prayer seems… easier, it seems more natural, it seems to be how we are to relate to God, for it is in response ot how He cares for us.
I only have thoughts about whether prayer is effective when I am not thinking about God, when I am not in awe of His presence, of His love, of His care. When I am focused on that, such as during a worship service, prayer flows, it works, it is…
So, if you are struggling, if you aren’t sure God is with you, get with some other sisters and brothers in Christ. Be reminded of God’s love and mercy, and His presence… and praise Him for that, together. Then pray about what stresses you, what causes you anguish, anxiety, stress, pain…
And leave it in the hands of the Lord who loves you.
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), 89.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I cry aloud to God; I cry aloud, and he hears me. 2 In times of trouble I pray to the Lord; all night long I lift my hands in prayer, but I cannot find comfort. 3 When I think of God, I sigh; when I meditate, I feel discouraged. 4 He keeps me awake all night; I am so worried that I cannot speak. 5 I think of days gone by and remember years of long ago. 6 I spend the night in deep thought; I meditate, and this is what I ask myself: 7 “Will the Lord always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? 8 Has he stopped loving us? Does his promise no longer stand? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has anger taken the place of his compassion?” 10 Then I said, “What hurts me most is this— that God is no longer powerful.” 11 I will remember your great deeds, LORD; I will recall the wonders you did in the past. 12 I will think about all that you have done; I will meditate on all your mighty acts. 13 Everything you do, O God, is holy. No god is as great as you.
Psalm 77:1-13 (TEV)
856 If you fix your sight on God and thus know how to keep calm in the face of worries; if you can forget petty things, grudges and envies, you will save a lot of energy, which you need if you are to work effectively in the service of men.
I love (and hate) the honesty of the Scripture, especially Psalms like this one, and most of Jeremiah.
To describe the feeling of knowing God is there, and that He hears you and then to go on and describe the despair and discouragement. When we look at the trials we go through and wonder whether God has rejected us, whether He has stopped loving us, whether anger takes the place of His compassion.
Most of us go through these phases spiritually ( see Dark Night of the Soul for a great example) when our faith is not so much dependence on God and trusting in Him as it is simply a set of doctrines. We even doubt the power of God or at least the application of His power in our life.
The challenge isn’t seeing His power at work, it is seeing Him For if we are trying to see Him at work in our lives, the challenges in our lives will dominate us. The challenges will overwhelm us and create a dissonance between what we think we need, and what we do need. It is from this place, this moment of brokenness, that we again remember He is our savior
But if we can keep our eyes on Him, as He draws us into His kingdom, then because we are looking to Him, we see the work He is doing, the work He has promised us in scripture to do. The kind of miracles that happen simply because we dwell in His presence, and He provides for us.
As we look to Him, we see this, and it is truly amazing.
That is why those moments at the altar, as I am receiving the Lord’s Supper are so incredible. Or as I serve it to His people and I see what is happening to them as they recognize the presence of Christ’s body and blood. (1 Cor 11:29) The same goes for the times of prayer, and the times when someone experiences the love of God in the scripture as something that is theirs. When they realize the resurrection isn’t just “history” but it completely impacts their day, lived in the presence of God.
And then, dwelling in His unexplainable peace, you will find it easier to love and serve those God is entrusting to you. It is this life that is holy, it is this life that is the result of His resurrection, and our being re-born in Him.
Lord Jesus, bless us with eyes that can see You, ears that can hear Your words of love, and hearts that desire you above all else, then walk with us Lord and show us whom we get to minister to…together. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3508-3510). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matt 11:2-3 TEV
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you. Ps. 9:9-10 TEV
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.
I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.
And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.
And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.
The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.
Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it. ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?
His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs. It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus. It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us. But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….
Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all. Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.
Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything. The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma. The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.
So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional THought of the Day:
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me? 44 For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. 45 How happy you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true!” Luke 1:41-45 (TEV)
2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” Matthew 11:2-6 (NLT)
32 And John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and stay on him. 33 I still did not know that he was the one, but God, who sent me to baptize with water, had said to me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and stay on a man; he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen it,” said John, “and I tell you that he is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, 36 when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said. John 1:32-36 (TEV)
106 You wrote, and I well understand: “Every day I spend my ‘little time’ in prayer. If it weren’t for that …!”
As I was reading the 3rd reading about John the Baptist this morning, (part of my daily routine) I thought of the other two readings.
John, before he was born, and while Jesus was even younger, recognizes the presence of God. (not to mention what happened to John’s mom must have been cool!) Incredible experience!
Move to the second reading, and now John is in prison, he is having one of “those” kind of days. Miserable, depressed, anxious and afraid, he needs to be encouraged, he needs to remember that what he devoted his life to, actually was worth it.
A bad day to say the least.
A day where even he, a prophet, doubted the very prophecy he was meant to give.
John, who had pointed to Christ, who knew him well, who proclaimed he was Israel’s hope, doubted and struggled with trusting God.
Just like we do!
There is a lot of hope in this realization, that John the Baptist could have one of those days, and apparently more than one. That he could be so caught up by his own situation that he needed to know God was at work, that God’s promises are true.
And God responded to his query, John wouldn’t die without knowing for sure Jesus was the Messiah, that John’s ministry was validated, it was good, it was needed. That Jesus was still there, doing what John knew he would do, even when he didn’t know.
And Jesus is here for you and I, His promise is that we are never alone. ( Read Psalm 139 sometime – David realized God couldn’t be outrun either)
Even when we struggle, even when we doubt, God is there…. and will respond to our cries, our cries of despair, our cries of doubt, even our cries of anger and frustration. He hears you and I and responds. As St. Josemaria notes, if it weren’t for those little times of prayer, where we listen, where we vent, …
This is the lesson of John the Baptist, the lesson that even the greatest stumble and struggle, and are ministered to by God. For He hears us…and loves us. AMEN
Does it help you to know the prophets and apostles struggled and doubted? That they ahd bad days as well?
How do you feel when you realize God was there, working behind the scenes? Can you accept that you won’t always be able to see Him at work?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 397-399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Doubting? Go Ahead!
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that any thoughts of doubt and hesitation is simply set aside, as Your Lord says, “Go in My Name” AMEN!
A Measure of Doubt/Hesitation
At first, I don’t think we understand it. It doesn’t make sense.
Here the apostles are, standing there in the presence of Jesus, the one who died in front of their eyes, and who was raised from the dead. They had seen him walking, eating, teaching, with the holes in his hands, and they have seen the gaping wound left by the spear.
And as he stood in front of them, some doubted. They wavered, they hesitated. They doubted.
It doesn’t really make all that much sense to us at first. How could they doubt, they were in the presence of God! They were overwhelmed, and couldn’t answer the question, “What does this mean?” because they could quite process the resurrection itself.
Jesus reaction is interesting. He doesn’t confront them as sinners, and He doesn’t comfort them in the place they are.
He simply tells them, Go back to what is their “normal life” and while you are living, make disciples of everyone and anyone.
For men who were doubting, men who were hesitating, it is an interesting directive. One that we need to hear today as well.
Unbelief or Doubt?
As we look at this, I think we need to be clear about what these disciples, these followers of Jesus were experiencing.
It wasn’t unbelief or disbelief. It was doubt, it was a word that means to hesitate in commitment or action, it was to waiver, or be paralyzed in the moment because you don’t know how to act.
To think of it in a positive way, it’s like that moment when you are told you are one, husband and wife, and the pastor gently prods you to kiss your wife for the first time.
“My wife?” Uhm – who is that… I mean – I am really married now? Ahh – there she is! And everyone laughs as the kiss is much too quick, or far too long!
Or it’s like that moment when you receive news that your life is changing… and you don’t even know how to begin processing it, yet you must act. You might even be ready to go through the motions, but what are you doing?
He is risen! He is risen indeed… and that means we have risen indeed.
So what? What happens next? What am I to do with this?
How does the resurrection of Jesus, and His ascension, change my life 2000 years after the fact?
The Answer? Go!
Jesus answers that question, “All authority in heaven and on earth is mine. Therefore, it is time to go…
Go and disciples of people from every walk of life, from every culture, from every demographic statistic there is, that can be used to divide people. Disciple, not just making converts, but a continuing process of revealing to people the promises of God that will be and are given in their baptism, and continuing to reveal to them not just the God’s laws which are commanded, but the blessings that are promised in commands as well.
Go and do this, and here is where we see the Trinity’s authority given to us, just as it was given to Jesus by the Father.
Next month, I get to act on President Stoterau’s behalf, installing the Rev. Mark Jennings as the pastor of Peace, Pico Rivera. My responsibility, my authority, is very limited, yet I will be acting on our District President’s behalf. When God says disciple them, baptize them, teach them to keep my covenant, we have all the authority found in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit to do so.
Which is amazing, if you think of it! God has transformed us to the extent that He entrusts us, just as He did the eleven disciples! Disciple people, walk with them as Jesus did with the eleven disciples, as much as the eleven disciples did with people like Stephen and Barnabas, Priscilla and Aquilla, Phoebe and Mark.
How does that affect our doubt, our hesitation, to know that we are backed by God on this ministry of reconciliation we have been given?
This incredible, glorious, majestic, merciful, loving Triune God has called us, and is transforming us, and sends us out to minister to believers and unbelievers alike! Revealing to them the work of God, done in their baptism, and the relationship God defines in the New Covenant, the same relationship that He promised in the Old.!
And as we make the sign of the cross, as we remember our baptisms, we remember how His plan and work, from before the foundation of the world, to the cross and to Pentecost has been to disciple us.
The Promise… I am! With you
If you are still doubting, if you are still hesitant, if you think you don’t have what it takes to disciple another person, to point them to the promises of baptism, to share and remind them of God’s gift of life, and the blessings of living in relationship with Him, hear these last words,
And be sure of this, I AM with YOU Always, even to the end of the age.
God in three persons, blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit! They have kept their promise and come and made a home with you.
You aren’t alone, you aren’t powerless, God, who gives you His name, is with you. When you are hesitant, even doubting, know that when God says “go”, He is also saying, “I am with you!”.
He loves you too much to stay away.
So let’s go… and disciple each other and our world. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the day:
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:27-28 (TEV)
16 Meditate on this frequently: I am a Catholic, a child of Christ’s Church. He brought me to birth in a home that is his, without my doing anything to deserve it. My God, how much I owe you.
The quote is not from Holy Week, but a week after.
It seemed appropriate to me for this day, as we enter a week my heart is not yet ready for. I’ve dealt with too much grief and brokenness. I’ve dealt with too much death, or more precisely, I’ve watched too many others deal with it.
I’ve got to get my head in the game; there are services to plan, sermons to write, people to visit and share the hope that seems distant. It is there, faint in the background, sustaining me, yet it is nearly intangible. As waves of grief and other stresses of life flood over us.
I so understand Thomas today, so devastated that what is true is unbelievable.
I need to see His hands, His side, I need to eat with Him, to hear His voice, to know His love is not ended, nor is His mercy, nor his hand which corrects and guides. I need to focus, and trust, and believe.
Although I would replace the capital c in Catholic, with the smaller c indicating the church is the entire church, I so am ministered to by the words of Fr. Escriva this morning. For it is Christ that brings me into His church, even as I am battered and bleeding by sin. The sin of a broken world, the sin of others which crushes me… and yes, most especially by my own sin. A sin which heightens the anxiety over death, A sin which crushes with grief and shame, a sin which can bind resentment to me in ways I cannot overcome.
And the Savior, the benevolent Lord lifts us up, pours our His mercy and grace on us, and heals our souls.
Faith is nothing more, and nothing less, than depending on Him to come to us in our brokenness…. and bring us into His home, into His kingdom, into His death on the cross so that we will live eternally with Him.
This is the message of “holy week”, the week was broken are drawn to the cross in awe and wonder, and see the love and glory of God.
I may not be ready for it, but oh, do I need it.
You do as well… so let’s walk together, crying out with other pilgrims, “Lord, have Mercy!” AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 294-296). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
For He Will: For He Has….
† Jesus! Son! Savior! †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!
What does this Mean?
As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.
Why are these cars here??
I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music. It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.
It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.
For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known. The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.
We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words. Both times unable to really understand what is going on…
The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed
His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father. In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could…. what is a man to think? The story Joseph was told? How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?
Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control. Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words. Speechless, he struggles through the night.
Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.
Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain. Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil. We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.
It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer? He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.
Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.
We are the one who betrayed us. I betrayed myself, you betrayed you. We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it. We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..
And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.
We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more
The Second Joseph
When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.
He hears the news from an angel,
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb. He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family. He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.
This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary. No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful. No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.
The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.
It gave him hope it restored what was broken.
If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message. For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.
For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.
Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed. Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.
God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross. A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.
This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension. It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God. It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.
Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NLT)
581 How humbly and simply the evangelists relate incidents that show up the weak and wavering faith of the Apostles! This is to keep you and me from giving up the hope of some day achieving the strong and unshakeable faith that those same Apostle s had later. (1)
The simplicity and pastoral care with which the Fr. Josemaria Escriva wrote his simple sentences astounds me. I may not agree with everything he writes, but there is so much which resonates with me. Simply put, he often puts the words to what I know and struggle to explain.
This is true today, as I struggle with how the church (myself included) struggles to reflect the love of Christ into a broken and dark world. We get so caught up in our own pain, the sense of betrayal we have felt, our own anxiety and paranoia that we fail to trust God, to have faith in His promises.
The task to have a world, a country, a community that glorifies God seems overwhelming, and even impossible. The world wants what it wants, its version of justice, its version of freedom, its version of love and hope, and we seem surprised that it is at odds with what we know from scripture.
And rather lament over the brokenness of the world, we lament over the loss of power and the loss of our dreams. As we do, or faith wavers, we doubt, we give way to our feelings.
To this loss, the words in blue above speak strongly. We aren’t alone when we struggle; the apostles struggled just as much as we do. They walked for 40 days with the Lord Jesus, after he rose from the dead, after being beaten, crucified and a spear strike into his heart and lungs. And in Matthew’s gospel, it tells us, their faith wavered, they doubted, they knew anxiety and fear. (What else did they need – they had Jesus, risen from the dead!)
That they did, that God continued to work through them, that they would go on to grow in their trust of God is amazing. 10 of 11 of the men there would die, brutally, because they took the task Jesus commissioned them for very seriously. They made disciples, they baptized people and taught them to treasure what God had given them in Christ Jesus.
But first they doubted, first their faith wavered, and Jesus even rebuked them a time or two… for not trusting Him, for not turning to God.
That is where humility comes in, of knowing we are children of God, people who are his, and are welcome to depend on Him. Even when we don’t understand the world any more than it understands us. It is at that point where we need to be humble, to be meek, to find our confidence, not in our strength, not in our ability to argue, not in our witty meme’s or comebacks. We need to be humble, to walk with God, to seek out the justice of the cross. To know the love of God, shown in Jesus bearing the wounds that would bring healing to all the broken people, all the broken relationships in the world. Including us.
As we find that healing in Christ Jesus, we can help others heal.
That requires trusting God… and being humble enough to admit our need, our dependence on Him.
Lord Have mercy on us!
1. Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1387-1389). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 It was then that some Babylonians took the opportunity to denounce the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May Your Majesty live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue, 11 and that anyone who does not bow down and worship it is to be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 There are some Jews whom you put in charge of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who are disobeying Your Majesty’s orders. They do not worship your god or bow down to the statue you set up.” 13 At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the three men to be brought before him. 14 He said to them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you refuse to worship my god and to bow down to the gold statue I have set up? 15 Now then, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, oboes, lyres, zithers, harps, and all the other instruments, bow down and worship the statue. If you do not, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Do you think there is any god who can save you?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17 If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18 But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-18 (TEV)
872 To help you keep your peace during those times of hard and unjust contradictions I used to say to you: “If they break our skulls, we shall not take it too seriously. We shall just have to put up with having them broken.” (1)
In my devotional this morning, the Old Testament reading was exactly what you see above.
My first reaction was, why stop it here?
Why not give us the rest of the story. (spoiler alert?) Why not just let us read on, to the glory, to the miracle of the 4th man? To the repentance of the community in its sins, not just to God, but to me!
I want the rest of the story! And I want it….. now!
I looked ahead – I don’t get the rest of the story tomorrow! What is up with that?
What is up with that is the words of faith that the three men said. They were sure of their trust in God enough to embrace the fact that the story might not end with a miracle, and somehow, they are okay with that. Somehow, knowing that God is at work is enough, being sure He will keep His promises is enough.
Many martyrs die without receiving what we would want, their release back into the world. Their freedom from those who would oppress, torture, and eventually kill them.
And they were able to endure, knowing something that their captors did not.
That God, by his very cHesed nature,the depth and height, the breadth and width of His love, is worthy of the trust that the three men showed. Even if He didn’t rescue them, even if they didn’t get the miracle they expected. They knew His love.
May we, as we think through the work of God accomplished in our Baptism, as we meditate on the Body and Blood of Christ, as we hear with absolute delight that our sins are forgiven, that all is made right, know God enough to trust Him, even if we don’t get the miracle we want……
For we have the one we need. The Cross. (see Romans 6:3-8)
He is our God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3565-3567). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.