Devotional Thought for our broken days:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 7 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. 18 I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound h in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. 19 Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:15-20 HCSB
228 Be filled with faith and rest assured! The Lord tells us this through the prophet Jeremiah: orabitis me, et ego exaudiam vos—whenever you call upon me, whenever you pray!, I will listen to you.
Over many years, I’ve heard people claim the verses in italics as their own guarantee of what they pray for, what they thought they really needed.
I’ve also known people who have been promised that God will do what they ask, whose faith has been crushed because they do not see their prayer answered, The extreme case of that would be my friend Jean, whose daughter was told by her pastor that if she had enough faith, she would be healed of her cancer, without any medical care.
As I read it this morning, in my morning devotions, I realized something. This well-known passage is connected to another well-known passage, the passage about reconciling those who have sinned against us. It is followed by another passage, where Peter asks how many times he has to forgive Andrew, and is told not 7, but 7 times 70.
So this passage about prayer has a specific context, the impossible task of reconciliation and restoration, the return of the prodigal son, the erring brother, the one we’ve been tempted to give up on seeing in God’s presence.
What a comfort this is, for no one is beyond God’s reach, and no one that lives is beyond being called back, even those who have hurt us deeply. (For if we didn’t love them, how could their betrayal us?)
What peace this brings, knowing that God loves and cares for them, and wants to heal and restore them to us. This is the amazing thing about finding ourselves bath in God’s grace, this glorious love, and peace, that He draws us into at the cross.
He is with us, He is listening,! So let us give Him those who we struggle with, forgiving, counting on Him to draw them back and reconcile us into one body, His. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 980-983). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…
Then Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Matthew 4:1 HCSB
15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:15-19 HCSB
216 With God’s grace, you have to tackle and carry out the impossible… because anybody can do what is possible.
I sit here, just finishing my devotional time up, having done the reading, having prayed, and now I try to put what I’ve read into some kind of concrete summation. After that Iw ill try and write a sermon, but to be honest, it is going to be a struggle.
Even writing this is, as I try to think, what will people hear tomorrow, what might they read in this, that will help them know God’s love, know God’s mercy, know His comfort.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year, a day when we look at Christ’s second coming, not from the point of judgment, but from the point of the promises given to us in Baptism being fully seen, fully revealed, fully experienced. it supposed to be a joyous celebration, yet my heart will struggle, caught up in what it should be, versus where we are, in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.
It seems impossible, and I understand how Moses felt, trying to find reasons to no go back to Egypt, to the place of suffering. How will they believe?
And yet, it is the very thing I need to preach, the lesson in my gospel reading this morning, the promise that this valley is not unending, the promise backed up in the very confession of Peter, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
There is a lot to unpack in that confession, from Jesus unique role as the Son of God, to what it means to be the Messiah, the One anointed by God to save God’s people. All of God’s people, those the Spirit calls and gathers.
Because of His work, the gates of Hell have been shattered, that the bondage of sin has been cut, that we, in the midst of the shadow of death, can have hope.
God is with us, the promise is complete, even though we don’t see it fully…yet.
That is why we are reminded by Josemaria that we can tackle and carry out the impossible, a reminder I need today, and tomorrow. For it is in knowing God’s grace in the middle of the impossibility, that we realize He is working through us, with us, and it is His word that will make a difference.
That’s what I have to count on tomorrow, and every day until we see the reality of Christ the King is clearly visible. For He is coming, and His Spirit is here, comforting us, reminding us that He is with us, that we aren’t alone.
And because of that, the impossible is not. For we walk with Him. And somehow, others will know this, because our words and lives will testify to His presence.
Lord, have mercy on us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 940-942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4 For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. Hebrews 12:1-4 (TEV)
50 Feel the responsibility of your mission: the whole of Heaven is looking down on you.
Most of the time, when I read this passage, I get hooked on the idea of leaving my sin which has such a grip on me, and so many others I care about. To be free of that insidious evil that tries to sink its talons into us, what an incredible thought! To be rid of those things that get in the way of the life we live, whether it be resentments, or hurts or anxieties, what an incredible invaluable blessing!
A blessing that comes as we look to Jesus, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, as the Holy Spirit transforms us! What an incredible thing! It is amazing, awe-inspiring s we focus our adoration on the Lord who loves us. us!
Yet this passage isn’t primarily about this blessing, but in what this blessing allows us to do, to run the race, to complete the mission, as Paul will say in Colossians, to present every man perfect IN Christ, who is the goal of our mission as well.
That is the same mission as those who went before us and trusted in God. All of the great men and women of faith, who struggled with God and were used by God, who came to trust Him with their lives. And in the process, even when being martyred, killed for their testimony, they were able to embrace the hate and pain, knowing that in some cases, their dependence on God would bring the ones torturing them to know God’s peace.
The author here encourages us not to give up, reminding us of how much Christ endured for us, and how much those people of faith endured. Don’t give up – keep focused on Jesus love for you – plunge its depths, ascend its height, explore its unending breadth and width, walk with Him through life…
Even on Mondays, even when it is not torture, but the boring return to our monotonous weekly grind beginning again.
He is with us, remember that, the day will be different. Full of joy and peace, no matter what our bosses or the world throw at us.
God is with us! Let’s get back to work in His harvest, with Him!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 406-408). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
What Are You Jealous About?
As you see the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus revealed in your life, may it cause great joy, such joy that you are completely content with all God has provided!!
Jealousy, the hidden beast
I can’t remember whose party it was, or the names of the guilty or innocent, but today’s parable of the vineyard brought it back to my memory.
There were two boys, about the same age, maybe somewhere between 3 and 5. One came from a richer family and had all the stuff. The other one, from a much poorer family. They were at the same gathering and were opening up gifts. Maybe it was Christmas, I don’t remember.
I just remember the richer kid taking the presents of the poorer kid because he wasn’t satisfied with his own. So the poorer child, using his imagination, began to play with the boxes the gifts came in, turning them into magical toys with his imagination. The rich kid came along again and took the boxes to play with. So, the poor kid used the wrapping paper out of the trash bag. Again, the rich kid, seeing the poor kid having more fun, tried to take the wrapping paper away.
Jealousy is an ugly thing. We recognize it with other terms, those like envy, and coveting.
We see it in the parable of the vineyard, where a merciful landowner decides to bless those who hadn’t found a day’s worth of work with a day’s pay. Even though the people who worked all day got the amount they negotiated for, the amount they worked hard all day expecting to get, they cried out, “it’s not fair!”
Like the rich kid never satisfied as long as the poor kid had fun, they couldn’t find satisfaction with the blessings of another person.
And they aren’t the only ones!
Could we be jealous of a baptism? They why lesser providence?
Last week, we got to witness David Herrera III’s baptism.
Can you imagine someone grumbling about that? Someone saying, hey, why is that child getting baptized, we should save that act, those moments in the service for someone who deserves those blessings! Can we imagine someone saying, no let’s never baptized anyone else, no one who isn’t baptized deserves to be!
Why in the world would anyone be jealous of God blessing another person? Of Him calling another person to be one of His very own people?
Can jealousy be that consuming? Can envy be so evil as to even demand that someone not is blessed by God? The Jewish people would be that way, ignoring all the promises of how us Gentiles would be saved by God.
That is what jealousy does, and if we shouldn’t be jealous of something as incredible as salvation, should we be envious of the little things God blesses us with in life?
What is it in us that makes us want to be blessed more than our neighbor? What is it that thinks they challenges aren’t as tough, that somehow, we would be more content with their lives, rather than the lives God has gifted us with?
**Can’t we find contentment with our salvation, and then realize that with that comes not only more than we deserve, but more than we desire?
You see that is the ultimate question, can we be content with our salvation, and simply trust God’s sense of what is just and right for the rest?
The deal is enough
As you look at the discontentment of these people that think they deserved what they earned, we need to see the work of the Lord, of the Landowner.
The first thing we see is that he went out to seek out these people. We hear the word hire and then the word sent, but the words have a bit more than that to them.
The word for hire comes from the word engage, to embrace these people. When he sends them out to work – he doesn’t send out hirelings, the word there is apostello – he sends them out with responsibility, with a mission.
We begin to see that more clearly, as all day long he recruits and engages these workers, giving them hope and a reason for the day, even when there wasn’t a hope when all around them seemed worthless when they seemed worthless.
The Landowner’s/Lord’s mission was not about hiring these people, it was about providing for them.
It was about benevolence, about grace, about caring for people.
That’s why the Landowner went into town, it is why the Lord comes to earth, and why He will never abandon us but always, always be with us.
When Pastor Mark, and deacons Bob and Mike and I study passages like this together, one of the questions we ask is, where in this passage is Christ crucified? Where does the relationship get restored between God and man.
Sometimes it is easy to see in a passage, sometimes it takes some time to think through.
In this passage, the cross is seen in this phrase,: 1 “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out. The cross is seen in his engaging, in his embrace of the people he hires, whether they are those that believe and work hard from the beginning or those that spend the last moments of the day called by Him. It is in His relentless pursuit of hiring people, of calling them to receive the wage of His day, the wage they didn’t really have a right to, unless He called them.
This is the deepest lesson of grace, the greatest of entitlements that God determines we all should receive. That we would know His love, that we could share with Him eternity.
One last thought, for years I thought the good kid was the poor one, the one who found joy no matter what. I think, as I look at this passage, the child was wrong as well. What he had, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, he needed to share with his cousin. For what he had was joy, and that was what his cousin wanted more than anything.
May we share our joy, the joy that comes from knowing the peace of God because we are found engaged, embraced by Jesus. And no one can steal that joy away. For He keeps, He guards, our hearts, and souls, for they are His, bought with the price of His blood.
Devotional Thought for our days:
25 The LORD is good to everyone who trusts in him,
26 So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us-
27 And it is best to learn this patience in our youth. Lamentations 3:25-27 GNT
942 Pray that your holy ingenuity may achieve what your intelligence cannot attain, so that you may give more service of a better kind to everyone.
Surrender don’t come natural to me, I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what you give that I need. And I’ve beat my head against so many walls Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees
And the Salvation Army band is playing this hymn and Your grace rings out so deep it makes my resistance seem so thin!
So hold me Jesus, Cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory won’t you be my Prince of Peace!
I hate waiting for an answer, for the solution to develop to the problems that exist, for the resolution that will end the conflict with the peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding.
I want to solve the problems, fix the brokenness, see the relationships healed, and everyone gathering together at the altar to praise God, and I want such solutions now. Why can’t I use my intelligence, which is supposed ot be a gift from God to solve these situations? Why must they require patience?
These situations don’t require patience, at least that is not the real issue.
Faith is. Trusting God is
Patience is just a part of what faith, what depending on God is all about. If I trust in Him, I must trust in His timing, I must trust in His plan, including the timing of it.
Satan would love to get us, saying we aren’t patient enough, and God wouldn’t really be patient with our impatience. He distracts us from God’s goodness, with a calendar or the second hand of a watch.
But again, patience isn’t the answer – it is simply a by-product of knowing and trusting in God. Of knowing His goodness, of knowing His intent to care for us, to even hold us when we are broken. That is faith, trusting in Him to do as He promised, even when we can’t see it yet. To let faith overwhelm doubt and impatience.
To realize the presence of God. To relax and know He is God, to be sure He is here… your Prince of Peace who holds you! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3828-3829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
from Hold Me Jesus – by Rich Mullins
Devotional Thought for our days:
7 But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. 8 We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; 9 we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; 10 always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. 11 Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. 12 In us, then, death is at work; in you, life. 13 But as we have the same spirit of faith as is described in scripture—I believed and therefore I spoke—we, too, believe and therefore we, too, speak, 14 realising that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up with Jesus in our turn, and bring us to himself—and you as well. 15 You see, everything is for your benefit, so that as grace spreads, so, to the glory of God, thanksgiving may also overflow among more and more people. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NJB)
929 Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are.
As you look at paintings of saints, some are portrayed in very peaceful serene moments, a soft glow seems to be about them, even without the golden halos There are others that show them in the depth of darkness, fully engulfed in pain, fully engulfed in a battle against Satan and sin and despair.
I find great comfort in the latter type of paintings, for I know far more people engulfed in a similar battle, who benefit from knowing they aren’t the first to do battle with temptation, sin, doubt, resentment, guilt, and all the lies of Satan. For when we look at Francis or St John of the Cross or Luther or Walther or Mother Theresa battling that which oppressed them, we realize there must be hope, for we know how the story of these holy men and women ring true in the moment.
Paul is correct, in these lives lived in the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t just see the brokenness, we see the Holy Spirit comforting and sustaining them, as the victory of Christ’s death on the cross becomes more and more real.
For united to that death, we find life.
United to His suffering, we find peace.
Yesterday I had the responsibility of sharing God’s love with a family, a neighborhood of people who were devasted by the death of a young man. A man so devastated by the pains of life that it overwhelmed him and he thought peace could only be found in the arms of death.
The confidence to speak in that situation comes not from theology books, or the education I have received, but from the darkness, I’ve seen Christ deliver so many people through over the years, from the darkness I have needed to be rescued from as well. St Josemaria is so insightful in his words, I can convince people of God’s love, because i have been convinced as well.
One of the 80+-year-old ladies is responsible for our church mission statement. She said one morning in Sunday school that Concordia is the place where people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.
It is an absolutely beautiful, brilliant and true statement about our church. It may not be fancy or measurable, it does not meet the standards of the guru’s who teach church leadership. It doesn’t hold out a goal for some future time where we will have a perfect, thriving, idyllic large church.
Chruch isn’t some kind of utopia on earth. It is a place for the broken, for the different, for those struggling with life, with shame and guilt, with resentment and hatred. It is where we find healing and hope amid our brokenness, amid the tears and the pain to deep for tears.
This is what the saints knew… this is why the paintings can show them in despair, and in glory, for both are true, in Christ.
And we are called saints just as those whose faith in God we admire! For we, like those who walked before us, are those called out, drawn to Jesus, those made holy the Holy Spirit, whose healing is being accomplished, for it is God the Father’s will.
He has heard our cry for mercy, and has answered it. May we always be convinced of this, even as we convince others of it.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
DEvotional Thought for our Days:
7 So that I would not become too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me, a painful physical problem n was given to me. This problem was a messenger from Satan, sent to beat me and keep me from being too proud. 8 I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. 10 For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10
In a letter to Leonie, Therese writes,
I find perfection very easy to practise, because I have realised that all we have to do is take Jesus by the heart. Consider a child who has just upset his mother by losing his temper or disobeying her. If he goes and hides in a corner with a sullen look on his face and cries because he is afraid of being punished, his mother will certainly not pardon his fault. But if he comes to her and holds out his arms to her and smiles at her and says, “Give me a hug, I’ll never do it again,” how can his mother resist taking him fondly and pressing him to her heart, forgetting his childish wickedness? Yet she knows perfectly well that her dear child will do it again as soon as the occasion arises, but that makes no difference; if he takes her by the heart again, he will never be punished.
Tugwell informs us that “Therese had herself been tormented by scruples for more than a year” but later on came to a different conclusion about herself: Even if she committed every possible sin, she would still have exactly the same confidence in God. She no longer needed the assurance of her own virtue.
11 Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active. Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works.
When I came across the words of St Therese, (quoted by a Baptist) I was a little in shock.
The words resonate with me, I could have perhaps said them myself, for the value running to God when we see, and when we are tempted is beyond explanation. To know the comfort of God, the mercy, and peace that flows over us as we are in God’s arms,
Knowing that love of God is so powerful, so overwhelming that we dropped the carefully constructed facade of virtue that we create. His love makes us so confident we can drop the attitude of piety that we careful craft, and admit that we are simply poor, broken sinners. Sinners who have no confidence in our own strength, but instead learn to completely depend on Jesus. We can depend on God like the child running to his mother, rather than being punished in the corner.
This is when holiness, when sainthood is seen by others. When it is not contrived, when it is not planned, when it is no longer an act, but the natural life lived in the presence of Christ. It’s the life of faith that the reformers saw, one that doesn’t argue about faith and works, one doesn’t even contemplate how to do good works, but simply does them, constantly active. It doesn’t wait for the exegetical, historical and systematic explanation of loving God and therefore loving those around them, but faith does that, while searching the scriptures for God, find the promises delivered to them in and through Jesus.
That is true holiness, one that isn’t holier than thou but realizes that hope for its brokenness is found in the God we adore, and in finding in His heart, our life.
Dwell in peace… knowing the blessed life that is found in Christ! Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Futpietyeries.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
A Devotional Thought for our Days:
The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5(Phillips NT)
824 Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much!
It seems in the last week another religious crusade has erupted. On one side there are those who are signing a creed that defines proper marriage and marital relationships. On the other side a creed that defends people who don’t seem to fit within those relationships. Both have proponents that say unless you support their new creed, you really aren’t a Christian. And that is definitely true if you do support the opponents Creed.
Thousands have proudly affixed their names to one or the other creeds. They call them declarations, but when you define your understanding of the Christian faith by them when you say this is what you believe or what you condemn, they are creeds or confessions. ( Ironically, a lot of those signing these documents come from church brotherhoods or denominations that were against having formal creeds!)
Which is why I will sign neither.
Simply put, I want a creed and confession that gives me hope. I want one that promises reconciliation, one that isn’t condescending or treats those with other beliefs like their enemy. I want one that talks of God’s work in our lives.
Paul says it clearly, our weapons are spiritual, they pull down Satan’s strongholds, revealing to people the true knowledge of God. It doesn’t tear them down but rather reveals God in such a way that people’s thoughts are about Him.
That’s what the historic creeds and confessions do, they bring people to Jesus, and leave them in awe, knowing they are loved, that their sin is forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is renewing and reconciling them, transforming them into the image of God.
St. Josemaria states it so well if we think our job is defending God’s truth that has been deposited with us (as if He left the building ). Apologists are to give the reason we have hope, not wield a rushing and condemning offense. Our job is to love, knowing the mercy of God, and treasuring is so much we want everyone to have it revealed to them.
Yes, we need to show them the need for it, but we need to do so with love, not with anger, or with statements made without the chance for conversation and revealing God’s grace. That is why there is a call to remember our own brokenness, and how Jesus addressed that with mercy, and do likewise. From out of our brokenness, we approach others differently than if we were the self-appointed morality police. From out of our brokenness, we realize the blessed truth found in creeds and confessions that talk of God’s love and redemption, of His works through one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Love them, pray for them, ask God to bless them, and do battle for them, with the intent of saving their souls. This is spiritual warfare, this is the hope our creeds give us!
That the Lord is with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts for our days:
10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10-11 TEV
A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great. And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking through the history, and how it affects the Church today. Not just my congregation, or my denomination, but the entire family of God’s children. And what it means to reform.
For example, in my news feed, this morning was a great story of Pope Francis and liturgical reform. If I dare say, it is very Lutheran. At the same time, there are those who are trying, with intent or ignorance, to divide the church further. Not in the hope of reform, but in the desire to keep what they know pure. And in the process, lose what Luther found the greatest comfort in, the love and mercy of God.
Ninety percent of the time I hear Luther’s classic hymn quoted in green above, it is done with the power and energy of a military anthem. Full crescendo Organs, loud brass, even clashing cymbals, as if it is a call to battle, something to unite the forces of good behind as we go to war.
Given that it is derived in part from Psalm 46, I am not sure that interpretation is valid. It is not a mighty anthem, but a recognition that we are not that strong, that we need a refuge, that we cannot have confidence if we are dealing with Satan or the World. I see Luther, inspired by the Psalm, writing this to a soft broken melody of one who knows despair, who is confused and hurt, and who is beginning to realize his hope is found in the one who was nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus who is portrayed on the crucifix he sol tightly grasps. I see this as the resolution of a man who has searched for hope, finding it with his last gasp… the music of reeds and deep strings.. as the words are whispered out…. from broken, contrite spirits that are finding refuge… and rest.
We have to have the confidence to hide in CChrist we must depend on Jesus’ mercy and his patience and to seek and find refuge in Christ, who we are united to in our baptism.
So stop fighting the world, stop striving against the powers of evil, (or those you just think are evil.) Have the courage, the confidence to trust in God. He is dependable, He is the one who has the victory, and in Him…
we are safe. we can rest.
TO do so takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength, to stay firmly planted in Jesus, despite every temptation to fight or flee. It, in fact, takes far more to endure, to wait on Him. Yet the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For the Spirit works through the church to remind us of this fact.
the Lord Almighty is with you, and God is your refuge. AMEN!
Martin Luther – A Mighty Fortress is our God
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print
Devotional thought for our Day:
3 He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise me.” 4 I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.” Yet I can trust the LORD to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do. 5 Before I was born, the LORD appointed me; he made me his servant to bring back his people, to bring back the scattered people of Israel. IS. 49:3-5 TEV
795 To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love.
Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of my installation as Concordia’s pastor. We’ve had some hard times here, as we closed our elementary school. And harder times, as we’ve lost many to people who were a part of our identity, those people who you can’t imagine our church without their smiles, their laughter, and their antics.
We’ve had our times of great joy as well, as children are born and baptized, as others have realized how incredible the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist is, as prodigals have come home.
But there have been days where I have been tired, where I understand the words from Isaiah above. It is the challenge that many in ministry face when we know we are exactly where God wants us, and yet, we don’t see (in that moment) the fruit of our work. When we’ve used up all “us” and don’t see anything beneficial.
I’ve been there a time or two in the last 9 years, I’ll confess it, I’ve been tired. And as I read these words this morning, as I looked at the bulletin that someone saved from my first “official” moment here…. I felt the tiredness again. And when you are tired, your eyes close, your vision isn’t as sharp, and fail to see the beauty around you. For the moment.
My mind focused on the words of the frustrated prophet, they resonated deeply, and I failed to see the words around the passage.
Words that talked about God’s call on our lives, that our vocation, our service to Him is something from birth (see Eph. 2:10 as well) (v.1 & 5 & 7)
Words that promise He is the source of our strength (v.2 & 5)
Words that remind us our task is greater than it appears, (v.6 ) for we have the world to reach with this gospel. (Gee more work?)
But what strikes me after catching the entire context, is that miraculously, this passage isn’t describing just Isaiah’s feelings, or yours and mine. This passage is about Jesus. About his work, not just in the world, but in our lives.
There could be the temptation to give up on us, for the suffering He endured for our sake was great, and seeing the results in our lives, takes an eternal perspective. There is the hatred and dismission, not only that the world has for him, but sometimes seen in our lives, as we fight against His word and promises, as we dismiss our time with Him to do something “more productive)
And yet God continues on, loving us, even when it isn’t easy. And yet, in loving us, we find God full of joy, as He shares with those He calls His glory and the glorious acts that call and reconcile the world to Him.
I wouldn’t say the last 9 years were easy. Our church’s mission statement and motto bear that truth plainly. Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal. But as we see God dealing with that brokenness, as we see Him working in the lives of those we love… there is a special joy and an incredible peace that can’t be explained – only experienced.
For God has called and is calling us together.
To Him be all the honor and praise. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3290-3291). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.