Some thoughts from my retreat today:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. 11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” Mark 4:3-12 (NLT)
The 75%, the groups that were too hard and callous, or too shallow, or distracted and did not bear fruit. I worry about them
I don’t know why I do, what t always bothered me that they missed out on God’s love, that they didn’t bear fruit, because if they had bore fruit, that meant that they were dwelling with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit was hard at work in their lives. But these people didn’t bear fruit, and therefore…
Some would use this to claim that God was never interested in them, that He was okay with them rejecting Him. Some would even have the nerve to speak for God, and claim that He never planned to save them anyway. That they were, from the start, to be condemned to hell.
That is why they didn’t hear, they didn’t see, they didn’t learn, and why they were not forgiven.
I’ve just got back from a retreat, led by an old friend, actually, my high school youth pastor. The theme of the retreat was based around this passage, and considering the times in our lives when our “ground” was callous and hard paths, or we had to deal with rocks or weeds that choked our faith. It was a good exercise, (gonna take about a week to process it all) but from the time he read the passage above, I kept on thinking about the 75 percent.
Why would God let them go that way…..
Why couldn’t they know the joy and peace that comes from being forgiven, the incredible joy of being reunited with God?
It is a frustration I’ve known as a pastor, since the beginning. Some people we care so much about, that we invest time and energy in, and yet they are the ground too hard to plant, or they get excited at first and then die out, or they get choked by the cares and desires of the world.
And if you care, especially if you are a parent, pastor or priest or elder or Sunday School teacher, their lack of fruit can cause tears and massive heartache. A lot of it over the years…
As our retreat was nearing the end phase, as I just opened my Bible (rare that I actually had a physical one for the retreat – I usually just use my pc/tablet/phone ones) and I came across this…..
4 Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! GOD is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” 5 Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Isaiah 35:4-5 (MSG)
God hasn’t given up on the sinner, or the wayward, or the people who struggle with keeping their faith alive. He never had, He always planned their rescue, He always planned to continue reaching into their lives, He didn’t write them off.
He still wants them to come to repentance.
There is still time to invest, words that can be said with love, and yes, love of God to reveal to them. They can’t open their own eyes, but neither can we, they can’t make themselves hear, but the Holy Spirit can, these are simple miracles.
And they are right in God’s heart. And ours …
Keep praying for them, keep loving them.
God is with you in this, as I close with these words from St. Paul…
16 No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TEV)
So let us pray for these people, that we would have the desire not to write them off, but knowing God’s desire to renew them (to make them right-eous) that we would see this happen, and even be tools God uses to make it happen!
Devotional Thought for the day:
28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)
235 Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping—never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?
We don’t allow enough time for it in our church services.
Perhaps because the silent time of reflection is awkward.
Perhaps it is because of the shuffling of papers that occurs, or the sound of people shifting (squirming) in their seats, fifteen or so seconds into the silence.
Perhaps it is because we mistakenly think the things we have to say or sing are more important,
The time of reflection, when we consider that we’ve sinned against God, and against others. When we think back and take inventory of the time since we last confessed our sin since we are brought face to face with those moments where we failed to love, where we failed to care, where we made ourselves and our desires the most important thing in life.
It shouldn’t be just on Sunday morning that we do an examination our of lives or our consciences. But we need to do it before we commune, not out of a sense of duty, but because we need to realize why we commune, why we need Jesus to come to us, why we need to know He loves us.
Because we realize we are broken because we need to realize that it was our sin that Jesus responded to, laying down His life to erase it from our books with the grace found in the body broken and sacrificed, and love found as He offered His blood to cleanse us.
We need to do this, not to dwell in the guilt and shame, not to recount how horrible we are, but to realize how precious God’s forgiveness is, and how much He truly loves us, and how much we need to know He does love us.
That is why Paul warns us to examine ourselves. because as we do, we understand the blessing of God’s forgiveness. If we don’t if we neglect this, look at the warning, God will, and rather than pour out His grace, it will result in HIs judgment, and His punishment or worse, His wrath.
Not because we didn’t cover every sin (who has that big of a memory) but because we didn’t trust Him enough to deal with our failures, and we continued in life not dealing with our sin. Because we neglected the freedom God offered to us, and chose to stay in the dark.
So take your time, let God bring to your heart and mind the sins you need to know are forgiven. Ask Him to help you, so that you are convinced of this, you are clean, hole, healed,
Because He was broken, and His blood was shed, for you….
And knowing that, it is a time for a feast!…
How much time do you need, would you like, to examine your conscience in regards to the last week…?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 640-642). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.”
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.” Luke 3:7-14 HCSB
36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)
A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active, I’ve written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!
But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)
John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,
And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, “What should we do?” It’s the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them.
What should we do? You could add, “now?” to the end of the question.
The reason that this is THE question of repentance is that when repetnance comes to us, the only questions that remains is – what do we do…. because repentance is happening already!
Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused. We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.
And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas. Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow. But examples. Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.
Think of John’s advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized. There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power.
Do things that don’t serve your self-interest, don’t be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness. Do things that are loving. And when you find you aren’t…. pray, and confess and know that God is with you! He came to save you! He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.
The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same – in Christ, love those you encounter.
Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live! AMEN!
Devotional Thought for our Broken Days:
Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” Mark 2:8-11 HCSB
476 For each one of us, as for Lazarus, it was really a veni foras—come out—which got us moving. How sad it is to see those who are still dead and don’t know the power of God’s mercy! Renew your holy joy, for opposite the man who is decomposing without Christ, there is another who has risen with him.
A little background is necessary for this blog.
I grew up with a genetic disorder known as Marfan’s Syndrome. It’s one of those nasty connective tissue disorders that affects my eyes, my spine, and my heart. It was responsible for a cardiac arrest in my twenties, and the necessity of two of my heart valves being replaced 20 years ago. I also had to deal with severe asthma attacks and allergies that put me in the hospital often and caused me to miss as many as 60 days of school in third grade. Looking back, I was probably significantly on the Asperger’s spectrum, because my social skill wasn’t exactly…. normal. (If you know me, you know it still isn’t!)
In the process, for all of the above, my parents would have people pray for me. We even went to see Kathryn Kuhlman once, which required a really long bus trip. My folks did what they could as did the experts. If ripping off the roof of a house would have secured my healing – they would have done it. For me, the idea of physical healing isn’t just a passing idea, it is something desired for a long time. Regular back pain, poor eyesight, and the clicking of mechanical valves impact me greatly at times – both physically and psychologically, and more times than I want to admit, spiritually.
As I read that passage this morning, it hit me. God did answer a prayer for healing in my life, but not the physical healing we all wanted. Instead, what God gave me was what the paralytic was offered, the forgiveness of my sin.
All of it, and that is a lot.
From the things that would cause me not to sleep at night because of guilt and shame, to the little things in the eyes of the world, to the sin that I attempt to justify.
He came to die, that all my sin would be paid for, the debt I incurred by committing it erased. For that, I will ever be grateful.
I think the scribes had it right for once when they noted that forgiving sins was a far greater miraculous act, a act far more requiring the full power, authority and responsibility of God.
There are doctors and others who can perform physical miracles today, there are people who have the gift of doing so, and among those even some who don’t believe in God. But forgiving sin, that is a whole different matter.
And Jesus, fully God, fully man, can forgive our sin and does. He has that right, He has the ability, and he invested that ability in His people, with the responsibility given to those who shepherd them, who guide them into God’s presence, the men who reveal God’s presence in their lives.
This miracle is one that impacts us far beyond our mortal life. That is why it required more dunamis, more power/authority/responsibility/capability than other miracles. It was why the scribe doubted.
Would I love to be healed completely of the effect of Marphans? Yes
Would I like to be more socially skilled, and less awkward? Hmmm… tough one. 🙂 (there are days when the world not making sense is a good thing)
But were I to have all that, and not have the forgiveness of sins, all would be lost. So I will rejoice in my weakness, and rejoice in a Lord that loves me and shows me the mercy I so need, and so do not deserve. This is what raises us like Lazarus from the dead, this is the power of God’s mercy at work, this is the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in you and I!
Come know the joy of being forgiven, reconciled, redeemed,
( and we can still pray that God heals the rest!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1820-1824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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:
5 A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, John 5:5-9 (TEV)
211 Lazarus rose because he heard the voice of God and immediately wanted to get out of the situation he was in. If he hadn’t wanted to move, he would just have died again. A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.
1 It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse. However, in confession it is not necessary to enumerate all trespasses and sins,2 for this is impossible. Ps. 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”
XIII. THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS
1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith. 2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.
I often hear people saying they miss the way church used to be. They may indicate the music or the preaching. Mostly what they long to see are the full sanctuaries on Sunday morning, and church campuses that were busy every day and night of the week. In dact, for a couple decades we can see the phenomena of people moving from one church to another, looking for the one that is coming alive, that seems to have a new life about them.
We want revival, much like the man who was at the pool wanted to be made well, much like Lazarus, to his surprise, found himself alive at the command of Jesus. ( I love St Josemaria’s idea that he could have decided to stay there, as I think it is descriptive of many of us!)
But are we ready for it? Do we really desire it?
For what it will take is the sureness of our absolution. Revival and renewal, whether individual or parish wife, requires something. The realization that every one of our sins are forgiven! Revival, being brought to life in Christ means we know and depend on the promises that nothing, including that sin, can separate us from the love of God.
What an incredible thing these sacraments are, these sacred times are, when we realize that God is at work as He desires to be, awakening and strengthening our faith, our dependence on Him.
For that is what having a strong faith means, we depend on God more, not less. We realize His presence in our lives more, not less. We let Him guide our lives, much like a leaf caught up in a stream…drifts and goes where the current takes it.
This kind of reliance on God’s mercy and love, these things we call grace, is at the heart of every revival, every renewal in the history of the church. It is the hope that underlies the Lutheran Reformation, and the Catholic councils we know as Vatican I and Vatican II. This is Escriva’s “The Way” and what Luther preaches so clearly in his catechesis.
So Jesus says to His church today and to you and I,
“Do you want to be healed?”
“Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?”
“Do you want to be renewed, and revived”
It starts with trusting in God enough to pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Holy Father, Lord Jesus, and Blessed Holy Spirit, in your mercy, help us to say yes, letting you in to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness, helping us not to fear coming clean as much as we fear to remain trapped in our sin, which drives us apart from you. We pray this in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 922-926). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days:
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)
8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?”
“To find favor with you, my lord,” he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.” Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB
173 Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.
There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin. We want to get past it, but we cannot. It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.
Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him. Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection. Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.
Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit. Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost. But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.
We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!
That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off. This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him. Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us? It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.
He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.
He holds us close to His heart, so very close! As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.
It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.
But He is there, with us.
For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.
Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
1 People of Jerusalem, run through your streets! Look around! See for yourselves! Search the marketplaces! Can you find one person who does what is right and tries to be faithful to God? If you can, the LORD will forgive Jerusalem. Jeremiah 5:1 (TEV)
804 That friend of ours with no false humility used to say: “I haven’t needed to learn how to forgive, because the Lord has taught me how to love.”
Unrighteousness is a contagious disease.
It spreads like wildfire, often consuming those who are trying to fight it the hardest.
We find ourselves caught hating those who hate, gossiping about those who gossip, seeking to be unjust to those who presume are unjust. Not forgiving those who do something unforgivable.
We seriously need to send out search parties to find one righteous, just person. Just one!
At least God lowered the standard from the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! Then Abraham got him down to 10 righteous people. Now we have to find only One! If only there was some way to find that person, if only there was some way He could rise above the crowd, so that God could easily see Him!
The man has been found! He’s been lifted up on the cross! God forgave Jerusalem and all who look to Him for forgiveness!
God’s looked beyond our unrighteousness, beyond our betraying Him, beyond our brokeness and forgave us, not because He had to, but because He loves us. He proved what St. Josemaria states, that one who loves doesn’t have to learn to forgive, the love they are compels them to do so. Love will seek the course of reconciliation, it has to, and that means forgiving.
That is what the righteous and just do…
And that is contagious as well.
Lord, help us ot know we are loved, help us to be so overwhelmed by our experience the incredible height and breadth, depth and width of that love that we begin to love as well, and as we do, forgive as we’ve been forgiven! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3319-3320). 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.
A Devotional Thought for the day:
Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9
486 That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!
When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger, We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.
What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest. The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life. Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.
THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives? For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,
“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins! In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”
For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different. The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language. These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.
It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed. We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us. We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed.
Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once. Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day. We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has. Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.
This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.
So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)
See you soon!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers.