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:
20 The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts Rev. 9:20-21 HCSB
10 I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I caused the stench of your camp to fill your nostrils, yet you did not return to Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. Amos 4:10) HCSB
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.
7 The source and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge (since God neither creates nor works evil, nor does he help it along and promote it), but rather the wicked and perverse will of the devil and of men, as it is written, “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation” (Hos. 13:9). Likewise, “Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4).
8 God’s eternal election, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and whatever pertains to
Every year at this time I end up reading the minor prophets and the BOok of Revelation. It is not a pleasant time in my devotions, as I am forced to face passages like those above.
Passages that deal with the stubbornness of man, and our ability to ignore God’s call to repentance, and to the healing repentance offers. It is all too easy to see myself among the sinners, the idolators, to see friends, people I dearly love, condemned by such words.
Our rebellion is clear, our inability to give up the sins that we fall into, time after time., to powerful. Reformed and Arminian Theologians will argue about predestination, in an attempt to hide from the sorrow that one observes in our lives. Even the Lutheran Theologians who come up with the answer that is described, their words about predestination and foreknowledge don’t help the one who is struggling, questioning their salvation in light of their sin.
For scripture declares that some will never repent of their idolatry and sin.
And there are days when we wonder with the apostles, “Is it I, Lord?”
AM I the one who won’t beat sin and temptation? Do I know people like these the prophets and Revelation describe? And if I do, given that they won’t respond to the gospel ( or I won’t) what good is the ministry, what good is evangelism?
Why engage in a task that has no promise of being fulfilled, given the weight of our sin?
And what can I do, if, like Elijah, I see no hope for the brokenness of this day, and how those broken will have to stand before You, Lord?
I thank God for the words of St Josemaria this morning, the very first quote I came to among his writings, and the heartfelt prayer he wrote,
Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.
There are times when dealing with these quotes from the prophets and Revelation, I could give up, I could write it all off, and leave their salvation and mine in the hands of God. It belongs there, right?
But He calls each of us to take the news of His love and mercy, of the forgiveness of our sins, of our restoration and healing that He will provide into this world. It is not all of us that Revelation describes, and the prophets always return to God saving Israel, to His saving a remnant, to the light of the world reaching out to every nation, every tribe, every language.
The answer to the prophetic trauma is to remember the end of the story, not just the cross and God’s wrath, but the Resurrection and God’s joy. To know that God will save sinners like me, that I can trust and depend on Him for that, and to help me grow more aware of His holiness, His setting Himself apart for us – to be His children, His people, His beloved.
If people will change, and many many will be changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit. We need to know His mercy and the promise. We have ot let the Spirit internalize it, even as the Spirit transforms our minds, and replaces our hearts. For this scripture reveals as well, as His promise becomes reality.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 617). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Pres
Devotional Thought for the Day:
14 And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him. 15 Look on our Lord’s patience as the opportunity he is giving you to be saved, just as our dear friend Paul wrote to you, using the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)
206 I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous. Think how God is waiting for them!
In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gives the following direction to the Twelve Apostles as they embark on their first teaching journey,
14 And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15 I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town! Matthew 10:13-15 (TEV)
I’ve heard this used a lot over the course of my ministry, in a way that is simply, sinful. The pastor who is burnt out on ministry, and can’t seem to get his people to appreciate his vision. The leader who, though sincere, is causing division in the church. The family member, who has given up on a parent, or a child, or a cousin, because they are too stubborn, too obstinate, too argumentative to see their need for Christ. Or the horrible sinners, proven by their lifestyle, or political choices, (or in their favorite sports team) who will not heed our call to repentance of the speck in their eye, while they see the petrified forest in ours.
We are tired of the pain, the anxiety, the stress, so we write off someone we care called to love, rather than embrace the call to minister to them patiently. We use the passage from Matthew to justify our cutting off the person or people that cause us such trauma. (often without thinking about the trauma we cause them!)
In shaking the dust off our feet, we feel vindicated, somehow more righteous or holy, and we think that God is on our side.
And we couldn’t be more wrong.
We, who have benefitted from the Lord’s patience, need to imitate that patience. We who have come to know His love, need to love that sacrificially/ Sacrificing our pride, our self-righteousness, even the sleep we may give up, as we spend the night in prayer for these people we are called to love, and that God would sustain and heal our hearts in the process.
For being patient with them, is about realizing this isn’t a win or lose based on getting them to church tomorrow, but spending eternity with them in the presence of God. That is why St Josemaria urges us to be patient, giving those we are sent to minister to enough time to realize the love being revealed to them. Wait for them with open arms, continually pray for them, knowing that our mission is different than the apostles, in that it wasn’t preceding Jesus to the cross.
Be patient, God is. Be loving, for He loves you! Be willing to sacrifice, and even suffer, for that too will prove to them the love of God who doesn’t give up on them, or on you and I.
Be patient, with the unbeliever, and the believer.
And keep on putting them in the hands of God…. for this will help, as you contemplate on how much God loves us all.
Lord, give us the heart to see people healed of their sin, to be freed from their brokenness, and the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give us, You patience, to wait and see them come to the Lord! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!
A Matter of Perspective
There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.
I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.
And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.
If we are talking about the gospel it does. It bothers me tremendously.
The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does. Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.
His love for us..
A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.
This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.
And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure. We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.
As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.
What they saw… something to reject
As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment. It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene. They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back
And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should. It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.
They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant. They were looking for logic and reason. They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.
That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”
As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening. As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.
But humanity does that all the time. We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.
Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans. ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)
Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin, or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal! When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.
And we find ourselves there too often.
What we see – the basis of our hope
Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data. They did, they just didn’t understand it.
This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.
The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.
it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.
There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though. The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.
Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything. Paul talked about it this way,
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)
Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.
And we need to! We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord! We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.
You, me, him, her, each person here. Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.
This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love. Let’s pray
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)
959 We cannot give way in matters of faith. But don’t forget that in order to speak the truth there is no need to ill-treat anyone.
One thing that history has shown us is the need to be theologically astute, as well as to know the history of theology. There are no new heresies under the sun, and they come back with greater frequency than the seasons. As St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, the role of ministry is to stop us from being tricked, by people who sound like they have the truth.
But it is not enough to simply be orthodox, to have the right explanation theologically, or apologetically.
There are a lot of theologians out there, brilliant men and women who can correctly and clearly explain why they know about God, and even why a contrary view is not dangerous. And there is a myriad who are quite vocal and prolific in their writing, yet still have gaps in their knowledge.
But even for those who have a mastery over theology, it is not enough, and those learning need to learn this as well, less their zeal for orthodoxy become a barrier to the ministry they desire.
Theological orthodoxy is not enough. It never has been.
We have to speak the truth, but it is not enough just to speak it. We have to speak it, loving the person to who we are engaged in conversation. Desiring not to win the argument, or that we were able to zing them. Rather we need to desire that they can glorify God more because they have gained a greater insight into the dimensions of His love for them, that they have experienced His love and mercy.
Too often I have seen the damage the theologian ( or a theologian-in-training like myself) has done because their words were not delivered in love. Words which had unintended consequences, and to use a military phrase, severe collateral damage. The damage that leaves people thinking the church, and therefore God, is heartless and doesn’t care about them, just creating clones, or getting people inside without caring enough to confront their brokenness.
And for us who claim to have some level of wisdom, how heartbreaking it is to realize that we have driven someone away from the love of God.
We can change this tendency we have, we must change it! But it is not simply through our will and determination. FOr we will find ourselves doing the same thing, to different people. Or we will find ourselves responding defensively to others.
It is through learning to adore Christ, as we ourselves are changed by His love, that this change occurs. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, revealing to us and helping us explore the depths of God’s love. That love changes us, enables us to love, and therefore to speak the truth in love. A maturity that is nourished in sacramental times, and in times of prayer and meditation.
So let us encourage each other to know the love of God, which is the reason we have hope and peace in this midst of this broken world, fr we know He will answer when we
Lord, Have Mercy!!!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3383-3385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We Must Go to Others
† In Jesus Name †
May the gifts of the love, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so accompany you in your life that you are aware of those who lack it, and may that lack inspire you to reach out to them with your greatest treasure!
As I tried to come up with a sermon title this week, knowing I was preaching on the gospel I tried to come up with something special, something that would inspire and catch on, a phrase you can’t get out of your mind, encouraging you to walk with Jesus, just as the apostles did,
I couldn’t come up with something, so I figured a great title is found in Jesus’s words,
“We must go on to other towns” or in these days, we can make it simple, “we must go to others.”
The problem using that as the title is that it sounds different than it really means. It sounds like work and obligation that is demanded of us by God. To use Lutheran-speak, it sounds like the law, and therefore it points out where we fall short, where we fail God and deserve to be punished.
But that isn’t at all what Jesus is telling the apostles when he says “We must go to others, and I will preach to them too, for that is why we came.”
We need to hear Jesus, and more than that, we need to understand Him. This isn’t about us being good children of God or good members of the church.
It’s about finding out for ourselves what Paul told the people in Athens, Repeat them with me.
‘In him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28 (NAB)
What did “they” do?
Let’s go back a few verses, as Jesus and the apostles go to Simon Peter’s house. There, Jesus finds Peter’s mum sick, so sick that with a very important guest at her house, she is lying down, burning up with a fever. I mean, think about it, how sick would our ladies here be, if they didn’t get up and be hospitable?
So Jesus heals her, helps her up, and the word spreads.
Next thing you know, there is a crowd at the door and it looks busier that St Jude’s Hospital ER during flu season. People with every kind of illness and disease, people even possessed by demons, all being brought to Jesus.
Mark’s gospel tells you that the entire town turned out to watch these miracles….
But how did they know all this was happening?
Someone, more excited than someone winning the Superbowl had to have told them.
That’s what happens when we begin to realize the depth of God’s grace, the depth of His mercy. When we find out in Him we can live, really live. When we see our souls begin to be healed, we see others who need it, and then rejoicing even more that there is no limit. When the demons that torment us lose their grip. And we are freed from them and the guilt and shame that they try to plague us with disappears.
As we get used to that freedom, we never want to leave His side… so how will people know God’s love? How will they have the blessing of God’s love, the blessing of His mercy and forgiveness revealed to them?
Remember those words
In him we live and move and have our being!
Jesus doesn’t say, “I must” or “you must”
For that is why he came, to give us the knowledge that in Him is everything we are, our life, our breath, what we do, everything we are.
That is what the cross is all about, and all those church words, redemption, justification, reconciliation, renewal, revitalization, all those words picture that in Christ we have died to sin and all that isn’t of God, and our lives, our very being is found in Him. It is why he was born of a virgin, suffered and died, rose from the ascended and sent the Holy Spirit.
So that He could transform us so that He could give us life.
You see that as He doesn’t just say, “I must go to others,” and He doesn’t say “you must go to others.” What does He say, “we must go to others”
We must, Jesus and all those who are with Him must go to others. All those whom He has joined to Himself. We Must Go, We being Jesus and you all and me.
And then He is the one who reveals Himself to them, as He draws them here. And we don’t have to go all that far.
Why He Came
Maybe some of us are called to go to the next country, to go with Bernie to the Sudan, or with Christina to Turkey, but when Jesus says “we must go to others” it could be to our neighbor, who could be from the Sudan, or Guyana or Indonesia or France, or Germany or Switzerland or even someplace really strange – like Boston or Wisconsin.
We live in a transient age when people from every country on the planet save one or two have come to our neighborhoods! We must go, with Jesus, to them, so that He can show them His love. They even come to us sometimes, as they did yesterday. As I pulled up, 16 people were in the parking lot, playing a game called Pokemon go, a few hours later, I went to the bathroom and there were another dozen people. Both times, as we waited for the game to set, they asked me how I heard about the game being live on our campus. I said… uhm, I am the pastor here… and they asked questions about the church and about the school. People as young as a five-year-old, as old as all of us. came here to play a game on their phones,
At least that is why they think they came…
We, you, me and Jesus need to go to them and let Jesus reveal Himself, and the news of His love.
We, you and me and Jesus, need to go to others and let them know about the love and mercy and healing of their hearts and souls. Whether that means going across the parking lot, or across the street, state, country or world. We, Jesus, you and I must go..
Because this is why He came…
And as He goes to others, we simply go with Him, for in Him we live and move and have our being!
Devotional Thought for our days…
20 “If a truly good person starts doing evil and I put him in a dangerous situation, he will die if you do not warn him. He will die because of his sins—I will not remember the good he did—and I will hold you responsible for his death. Ezekiel 3:20 GNT
13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. John 15:13 (GNT)
993 In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.
I read an article the other day, that made the argument that a pastor cannot be friends with his congregation. That he has to stay aloof, separated so that he can call them to repentance when needed, and that they will hear him when he does.
One of my questions in the conversation that followed was, “shouldn’t your friend also care enough, love you enough to call you to repentance” I had several questions about the concept, but this question is one I think we need to address today.
Should a friend help a person see the error of their way?
Or should we simply ignore the path they were on, letting them move on to perdition?
This job isn’t just a pastors. It belongs to anyone that cares about anyone else. A parent, a teacher, a co-worker, a son or daughter, a friend.
There are a couple of challenges to this.
The first is taking sin seriously enough. St Josemaria helps here, helping us realize that sin can only be reconciled at the cost of life, the life of Jesus. His brutal death, the shedding of His blood. We get that about murder, or grand theft, or adultery. I am not sure we realize that about that little white lie, or lust, or envy or gossip, And what about not treasuring the restful time we call the Sabbath when we gather with other believers and weep and laugh and rejoice together? Do we see this as sin?
The second is more akin to comfort. We are afraid to broach the subject, we are afraid our desire to care for our friend will be misunderstood as condemning them (We are trying to stop that!) We are afraid of that awkward moment when they have to look in the mirror when they have to see their sin and error.
But their salvation, is that not worth the discomfort we might experience in calling them back?
These are hard questions, and yet, evangelism is not a matter of “Law”, but one of Gospel, one of Love. One of Joy. We want people to experience this because we know the difference being forgiven makes. We know the difference being clean creates in our lives, and knowing the hope of eternal life.
Our friends need this to know about this love of God that can take a sinner and make them a friend, that revive a broken soul, that can restore to its strength. We can’t-do this because we have to, because it is a duty because it is what good Christians do. We do this because we love them, and we love the God who is merciful. For then, our thoughts aren’t about preserving our life or being comfortable. It is about knowing them.
SO that we all can have the same heart and mind – that of Jesus.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
18 All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him. 19 God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace. 20 So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is as if God is calling to you through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God. 21 Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NCV
15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect. 1 Peter 3:15b-16
870 Matters can rarely be resolved by aggressive polemics which humiliate people. And things are certainly never cleared up when among those arguing the case there is a fanatic.
In my high school freshman or sophomore yearbook, there is a note from an acquaintance with I used to argue with a lot. We were both interested in history and debate. She was a disciple of Engels and Marx, me, not so much. Her note was full of admiration, a salute to our ability to debate and still respect each other. (despite frustrating the hell out of each other – because we couldn’t understand the position of the other! )
As I read the words from St. Josemaria this morning, my heart brought back the memory of those words. And of many presentations, I have seen about “apologetics”. Usually, these include th idea that we are on a “crusade”, that we have to defeat our enemy, crushing their logic, unveiling their inconsistencies, doing battle and claiming the victory in Jesus name.
There was no call for respecting them as those Jesus died for, whom God created. No sense of love, or peace that would envelop the conversation, and rarely, any hope that was explained and explored. I encountered this as well when teaching world religions once, where several of my seminary level students wanted to know how to crush people who depended on false Gods. They chose the path of the fanatic and the aggressive polemics that leaves people broken and crushed.
Compare that to the verses above, the idea of being ready to explain the reason (this is where we get the word apologetic from btw) for the hope we have! Peter goes on to say, but do so with gentleness and respect. Look at how many times Paul mentions peace that God makes with us. Look at the idea that God is calling to those whom He would reconcile to Himself, to those He would give His peace to, through us. Reading that, does it seem that the tactic best suited to doing so is walking with them, exploring this hope we have, this incredible idea that God wants to live with us in peace. Helping them see that Jesus would walk with them, in all the ways described in the beautiful words of Psalm 23.
Some might say this doesn’t allow us to properly deal with their sin, but I don’t agree. Sin is brokenness, and whether we will admit that everything we do is sin ( and Christians play this game too!) we do recognize the brokenness it causes in our lives. Sin is not just our deliberate rebellion in this action or that, but those sins are the symptoms of the brokenness of sin, something every religion deals with, mostly through threats and punishment, of being cut off and sent away.
Christianity meets that brokenness offering hope, offering peace with God, because of the cross and the empty grave. A completely novel way not just to scare people away from future sin, but to bring comfort to the shame, the guilt, and despair that we all live with because of our pasts.
This is the apologia, the hope, the peace, knowing the love of God who comes to us.It’s not something we have to defend or hit people over the head with. It is something offered with great love, with mercy consistent to God.
It is what we depend upon, what we hope for… it is Jesus….with us.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3559-3560). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for your day!
6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?”
I answered, “I will go! Send me!”
9 So he told me to go and give the people this message: “No matter how much you listen, you will not understand. No matter how much you look, you will not know what is happening.” 10Then he said to me, “Make the minds of these people dull, their ears deaf, and their eyes blind, so that they cannot see or hear or understand. If they did, they might turn to me and be healed.”
11 I asked, “How long will it be like this, Lord?” Isaiah 6:6-8 TEV
673 Once you used to “enjoy” yourself a lot. But now that you bear Christ within you, your whole life has been filled with a sincere and infectious joy. That is why you attract other people. Get to know Him better, so that you can reach all people.
He should have asked what the message would be…
He should have wondered what the people’s response to the message would be.
But it didn’t matter, he still had committed himself to go, he still was willing to bear the stress and the cost of bearing a message to a people that didn’t want to hear it.
Was it done without thinking? Was it done without counting the cost? Was it stupidity or naivete? Or was it something else?
As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness the power of forgiveness, or reconciliation. Sometimes it is between a husband and wife, as one forgives the other. Sometimes it is the joy of a parent, who has forgiven all their prodigal has done, now that they’ve finally come home.
The greatest moment is when a person, fully aware of their sin, as they look up at me through their tears as I tell them (on God’s behalf and by His command) that they are forgiven. As their shame and guilt, which one had them convinced that there was no hope, is brushed aside by the Holy Spirit’s embrace, as they come alive with joy!
Looking in their eyes at that moment is hard to explain. It is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, like watching a soul being born. It is seeing joy erupt like a volcano, a joy that was too long blocked, under way too much pressure, and now exploding with light and power beyond expectation. You see it in Isiah – who hears the people’s initial reaction, and doesn’t say, “no, I am not going,” he simply asks “how long will they not list.” Still his heart is set on going and his own forgiveness, his own being welcomed by God will sustain him.
Like the old camp song explained, you want to shout it from the mountain top, for I want my world to know, the Lord of Love, has come to me, I want, to pass, it on!”
And that is why Isaiah says, “I’ll go!
The love we’ve encountered, the power of forgiveness, it is hard to explain, but it is impossible to keep to ourselves.
The hope for the church today in America will not be found in it being conservative enough, or inclusive enough. It won’t be found in having perfect theology, or the perfect worship service. It’s not going to be found running this program, or emulating that church, or using this liturgy or that one.
It is found when a sinner, crushed beyond recognition is picked up, cleansed, made whole. When the unrighteous person finds they are not just allowed, but accepted and truly welcomed into the presence of God and His people. It is going to happen when we hear our Lord’s voice, when the Spirit reveals to us the power of God at work in us, when we realize what it means to be loved.
This is the impact of the cross, and the resurrection, it is the result of realizing we are free, we are forgiven.
Lord, help us to reveal your message to people, to be patient with them, and do this by helping us see what it means to be forgiven, to have you walk beside us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2816-2819). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
277 Rather than commit a fault against charity, give in, offer no resistance, whenever you have the chance. Show the humility of the grass, which yields without needing to know whose foot is stepping on it.
As I read St Josemaria’s words this morning, my mind drifted towards the passage from Matthew above. Well, more like the passage smacked me.
We often think of that passage in regards to the needs that are mentioned, which are mostly physical. Hunger, thirst, loneliness, health issues. But what about the spiritual issues? What about that rude person, who desperately needs mercy? What about that antagonistic person, who is that way because of being in bondage to sin?
Could we really be reaching out and serving Jesus by serving those who are twisted in their brokenness? Whose are offensive, who are so against us that we would even classify them as enemies? Who won’t listen but love to argue, and even try to bait us into the arguments? Or those who are, through no cause of their own, so frustrating we want to give up, to run away from them.
This isn’t easy! I am preaching on Jeremiah this week, who laments trying to reach out to such people. He gets so frustrated he accused God of deceiving him, basically saying – it shouldn’t be this hard to share YOUR message.
Which is perhaps why Matthew 25 came to mind. We can’t pick which people we help, which types of brokenness we will care for, disregarding the rest. We are sent to minister to the needs of those around us, physical, spiritual, psychological, no matter the cost…
We simply serve, we simply offer that glass of cold water, the listening ear, the prayer, and patience they need. And on occasion, we even get to see God draw the to Himself and unite them to Jesus.
What a wonder that is, what an incredible thing God has sent us to do!
So next time you see someone roaring like a lion, hurt and bleeding and ready to pounce on you for trying to help, ask God for the wisdom, strength, and patience to be able to do so, knowing you are serving someone Jesus died for… and trust God to provide what you need!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1356-1358). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.