Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed* and he himself* will be saved on the day the Lord* returns.
6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.* 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread* of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread* of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:5-8 NLT
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:11-12 NLT
I would like to see a church become so godly, so Spirit-filled that it would have a spiritual influence on all of the churches in the entire area. Paul told some of his people, “ye were ensamples to all that believe” and “in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thessalonians 1:7–8).
“This ought especially to be taught, that confession’s not made to man but to Christ. Likewise it isn’t man who absolves but Christ. But few understand this. Today I replied to the Bohemians,134 who insist that God alone remits sins and are offended by my little book on the keys. Wherefore one should teach that men make confession to Christ, and Christ absolves through the mouth of the minister, for the minister’s mouth is the mouth of Christ and the minister’s ear is the ear of Christ. It’s to the Word and the command that one should pay attention, not to the person. Christ sits there, Christ listens, Christ answers, not a man.”
The fundamental theological principle of the spiritual journey is the Divine Indwelling. The Trinity is present within us as the source of our being on every level.
Too many “experts” have given up on the church.
Some find the answer for Chirstianity in starting new groups of believers, some suggest having present small churches die, so that their legacy is not one of faith handed down, but property and financial treasures. Doing such is meaningless at best. For the new ministries planted because there are money start off on, they soon to will age, and not having the example of fortitude that leads us to survive during the lean times.
The key to a nation finding itself in revival is not the redistribution of funds. The key to revival is the spread of revival from a city to the country. The key to a city is found in a church experiencing revival.
And a church experiences revival when its people know God has forgiven them, and dwells in their midst.
When a person knows the purest joy as God lifts their sins away, and they no longer have anything to fear, nothing to feel guilt or shame over, no resentment hidden deep within scars caused by others.
There, revival is found. and the church grows without thinking about it, for the presence of the Lord is undeniable. No one needs to say “share” this.. or “invite a neighbor,” The joy they know, forgiven and free, the presence of God that comforts, empowers and compels them to live in the truth that is thiers, is tangible.
That is why private and public confession is so important. People need to hear they are forgiven.
We have to know this – both in general, and in specific to the sins which have haunted us for years, and decades.
Knowing we are forgiven, knowing the presence of God in our lives also develops the eternal perspective we need, developing in us a desire to see God come.
When this happens, the church explodes… then the community, then the nation….
Sp of you are dealing with resentment, with guilt or shame, go talk to your pastor or priest… and find out God has forgiven you!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 394.
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 182.
36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 3:36-38 NLT
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude 6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. Psalm 32:5-6 (NLT2)
That person sitting across from you in your study or lying in a hospital bed is just another wayward child of God the Father, each in their own way yearning to return to the Father’s house. Baptismal therapy is nothing more and nothing less than a return to baptism and the ongoing application of the gifts bestowed once in that sacred bath by which sins are forgiven and life restored.
The heart of the Easter mystery is our personal discovery of intimacy with God which scripture calls “innocence.” It is the innocence arising from easy and continual exchange of the most delightful kind with God.…
This morning I received official notice that my Ph.D. dissertation was fully accepted – the writing can “officially” begin. But it is something that has been forming in me for the last 28 -30 years. The readings this morning echo that concept. The nature of the ministry is bringing people into the glory of God. They are restored to dwell in that place!
Ministry is the work of reconciliation – the workers are sent out to gather people in the harvest – bringing them into eternal life. Doing that work only happens in the way the Psalmist experiences. When I know my sin is forgiven when I stop trying to hide my guilt. The response is simple. I want others to experience
the freedom, the peace, the life that comes in knowing Christ Jesus!
Senkbeil describes this revelation as the forgiven sinner sees the person as another prodigal – another wandered who is lost, trying to find their way in the world. The ministry then reminds the person what God has done in them as He cleansed them in baptism. If the person hasn’t been baptized, sharing the news of God’s mercy and compassion on those in bondage to sin. Yes, we desire; we hope and pray that they experience the intimacy with God that Keating talks about as he describes the sinner’s innocence.
This is what drives ministry – at its basic and best, it is the desire for others to experience the love of God that is unexplainable. A love that is beyond measure that leaves us experiencing innocence, righteousness, justice, and holiness, all because God loves us, and He is here.
This is ministry, as we have freely received – we freely give… This leaves you – and those around you with a question to ask. Do you need to hear that God loves you – and is merciful to you…. Or do your need to be the one that helps others find a deep, intimate, healing relationship with Jesus?
(I can help you either way!)
Heavenly Father, send forth Your Spirit on all believers, that they may realize how deeply You love them. As they experience the innocence that comes with salvation, help them share Your love with those around them. We pray this in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior and Lord! AMEN!
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. 9 I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. Micah 7:8–9 (CEV)
11 Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives. Revelation 12:11 (CEV)
It is comparatively easy for most of us to do something difficult for a day or two, but it is less likely that we will be faithful to our resolution for a month or two. And very few indeed will sacrifice comfort and ease for years on end—unless they are deeply in love, real love.
It is the herd of elephants that are in the room.
It is the sin in our lives, the sin that so easily ensnares us, breaks us down, isolates us from people.
We know that God is our light, but yet sin still has a grip on us. We are afraid to admit it, afraid to tell our pastor/priest, afraid to tell them, even though we know they are there to help us realize we are forgiven.
We would rather bury it, deny it, act as if it wasn’t there. Pastors make this easier, when we talk about “their” sin, rather than yours (never mind ours) And in this false comfort, we will glide along, oblivious to the crap we surround ourselves with, and praying, not for forgiveness, but that it never comes to light.
In the midst of this, we have Micah’s words that will encourage us to face the discipline of God. Words that encourage us to endure His anger, the pain our betrayal caused. To do so, knowing it is temporary, to endure knowing that the One who is angry WILL COME TO OUR DEFENSE!
He will make things right! He will declare us righteous. His anger will pass, (it was at the cross) and He is making us new.
The Blood has been spilled, poured out for us to take and drink, as we eat His Body. We have His word, His promises that tell us how the Spirit is the guarantee of His dealing with our sin, and restoring us.
This is our hope… if you are struggling with sin, even you are feeling God’s discipline, know He is dealing with it. Know He loves you, and the proof is that discipline that precedes the healing.
And dwell in His peace.
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 105.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. 8 You should make them sure of your love for them. 2 Corinthians 2:7–8 (CEV)
Try this, therefore, and practice it well. Just examine yourself, look around a little, cling to the Scriptures. If even then you feel nothing, you have all the more need to lament both to God and to your brother. Take others’ advice and seek their prayers, and never give up until the stone is removed from your heart.
84 Then your need will become apparent, and you will perceive that you have sunk twice as low as any other poor sinner and are much in need of the sacrament to combat your misery. This misery, unfortunately, you do not see, though God grants his grace that you may become more sensitive to it and more hungry for the sacrament.
During my lifetime I have seen two reactions to people who have been caught in sin.
The first to ignore it, often quote Jesus’ comment about those who are without sin can cast the first stone. So we ignore the sin, justifying it our mind somehow.
The second way people (and especially pastors) deal with it is to condemn it, banishing the person from the presence of those who are holy, less the sinner infects the rest of the people in the church. They justify this based on the idea of ex-communication in Matthew 18.
IN the Bible passage today, we see a third option. Translated here as forgive and comfort, we need to understand these things. Forgiveness here is the word for grace, to give them a gift they do not deserve. They do not deserve it, because of the sin. However, that is grace, we receive what we do not deserve, what could not even be asked with any sense of expectation, except for the promise of God.
And then the challenging part, the comfort. The word is one of the names of the Holy Spirit, being a paraclete. What Paul is asking us to do is to go alongside the brother or sister who is held captive by sin, and support them. To lift them up, to support them, to help them know that God is still their God. They are still part of the church, the family of God that finds healing and hope in Jesus while helping others heal as well.
Is this easy, no. Will the people you are trying to reach snap your head off at times, or resist the assistance, yes. Ministering in this way requires patience, and a willingness to wait until the opportunity is there. Not easy.
Yet, in the end, when the sinner realizes their need, there is no better feeling than when they are at the altar with you, and together you receive the Body and Blood of Christ, together. That is why Luther tells us when our hearts are hardened when sin has blinded us to our need for it, it is when we need it the most! That is when we need the comfort of God, as He reveals to us out need.
This is how we are to deal with sin and make it known that it is how we deal with sin.
Heavenly Father, help us to reach out to those who are broken, and when they reach out to us, let us gather in Your presence and bring us healing and comfort, and the desire to reach out with that to others. We pray this in Jesus name… amen!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 456.
(if you would like to hear the message and the service, please go to bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
Your Encounter with Jesus
Revealed to All!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that because Jesus has risen, you have risen indeed!
Getting called to the front of the class
There are two types of people in the world.
The first type is the kind that is scared to get called up to the front of the class because it means they are in trouble again. Or called on in the midst of the sermon… which I can’t do today.
The second type is the kind that is scared of being called up in front of the class period. They don’t like to be in the spotlight, and they are usually more upset when you call on them to praise them, than if they are in trouble.
Either way – most people don’t like being the center of attention. And yet in today’s epistle lesson, every believer is going to find themselves in the center of attention. You will be in the spotlight!
Isn’t this about Jesus?
You may be saying, wait – this Is Easter, it is supposed to be about Jesus being the center of attention! It is about the fact that Alleluia! He is Risen! (He Is Risen Indeed – and therefore We are risen Indeed!)
Did you hear that last part?
Now hear how Paul describes this,
4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory!
This idea that because Jesus has risen, so have we leads to that thought. We won’t be sitting in the nosebleed section of heaven, nor will we be in the kitchen, or outback mowing the lawn.
We will be there, sharing In His glory. The term in Greek means to be in the focus of the lights. Yes this is all about Him, and yet the reason it is, is because He is bringing us home!
The Struggle with not seeing ourselves the way God does!
Whether we are type 1 or type 2, the idea of being in the spotlight with Jesus might seem more than a little crazy, it might seem downright insane.
For the first type, the type always getting themselves in trouble, there is a more than a little fear that maybe God will figure out the mistake that was made, that let us into heaven in the first place. Peter didn’t have a bookkeeper like Sandie, so there was an error that wasn’t caught, and that’s why we are there!
We know we are sinners, it is just a matter of time before we are caught. We think right now that we don’t belong, we are not good enough.
And the type two person may not see themselves as evil and rotten, but they don’t see themselves as anything spectacular, noting essential.
Sin robs us of the truth.
Even the sin we know has been forgiven, seems to leave a shadow hanging over us, convincing us that we might get into heaven, only because of technicality – Jesus had to forgive us, so we get the seats furthest out…
I wonder if that is why Lutherans like the seats in the back of the room?
You will share in His glory!
Seriously, we have to get used to this idea – that God did save us, that Christ didn’t die so that we could be stashed in some back corner of heaven.
He saved us to spend eternity with us.
(And that is a lot longer than a pandemic’s stay at home order)
God’s desire is not that we become some kind of audience in heaven, nor His fanbase.
We died with Jesus in Baptism so that we could rise to live with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forever.
That is what faith is, waiting to see Him, to see our real life revealed in Christ Jesus in heaven.
Jesus didn’t die just to save us from our sins, he died for this life to be created, for us to live with Him. I love how Psalm 68 describes it
18 You have climbed the heights of heavens, having taken captivity captive, you have taken men as tribute, even rebels that Yahweh God might have a dwelling-place with them. Psalm 68:18
Jesus, having died, burst through the gates of hell, and taken His ransom.
A ransom of people to call His own.
He broke down the walls of hell to rescue you and me,,, to bring us to the Father. That is why Hebrews say this,
19 So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. 20 21 22 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23 Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word.
Hebrews 10:19-23 (MSG)
A promise that you will share in His glory, for He is risen Indeed Alleluia… and therefore… you are risen indeed ALLELUIA!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT2)
But the Old Testament speaks of God’s wrath as well as God’s love. So does the New. What is the wrath of God then? Is it real or not?
It is real, but it is not part of God Himself. God is not half love and half wrath, or 99 percent love and 1 percent wrath. God is love. Wrath is how His love appears to us when we sin or rebel or run away from Him. The very light that is meant to help us appears to us as our enemy when we seek the darkness. The mother’s embrace can appear as the worst imaginable torture to the angry child who wants only to fight. Thus some of the saints say the very fires of Hell are made of the love of God but experienced as wrath by the spiritually insane.
Over the years, I’ve encountered two primary attitudes toward the idea of God’s wrath.
Neither is accurate.
The first is to ignore or deny that God can and will pour out His wrath on those who choose to dwell in sin. This usually goes along with the fact that we disagree with what sin is, as we defend those we love engaged in it, or we rejoice in that form of sin ourselves. Because of this, we simply can fathom how God could be so mad at the sin as to condemn us for it.
The second used to be more prevalent in the church, and that is to see wrath as purely an action that is driven by God’s righteous anger. Those lousy people (and sometimes including us) deserve to get punished, and God gets painted as a sadist who enjoys watching them suffer. In reality, the sadist (or masochist if we think we deserve the wrath) is us. We see a lot of this in those people who have wanted to portray this virus (and the ones before it like AIDS) as a form of God’s almighty anger, and a foretaste of the wrath to come at the judgment.
Both are wrong, and in my opinion, so change the image of God that they are heretical.
Ezekiel tells us several times that God does not take joy in the death of the wicked. he also divinely shares that repentance by those who are evil will see them forgiven, not punished, restored, not condemned. Let me say it again, God doesn’t take joy in the wicked. Never has, never will.
Similarly, the Apostle Peter tells us that God is patient with us because He doesn’t want any of us to perish. The apocryphal picture of Peter at the gate of heaven allowing some and barring others is misleading – Peter and the church being given the keys is about freeing people from bondage – allowing them to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 16) even as the church rocks the gates of hell to free people from its embrace.
Are there good people that will reject God that Ezekiel mentions? Yes
Are there people who will choose the bondage of sin, despite the availability of grace and forgiveness, surely.
And this is where God’s wrath comes in, not from a sense of anger, but the sense of love. While we may see it as punitive, the goal for God is restorative. It is not contrary to His nature of love, but love requires it. Kreeft makes this point clear above in the words shared purple – a point that C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book (the Great Divorce) to demonstrate. Simply put, those who end up suffering in Hell would choose their idol and their sin, they would embrace its cost, rather than enjoy the presence of God.
Only once has it pleased God to pour out His wrath, and that was on Jesus.
It was God’s good plan this translation says, others say it gave God pleasure, it pleased Him, to pour out that wrath on Jesus.
No one else.
And the satisfaction of restoring people to God is all worth it. The satisfaction for restoring you to God was why Jesus endured the cross – that is the glory was Hebrews 12 describes.
All other times God disciplines and pours out His wrath is the hardest act of love, the ay to embracing an angry child, for, in that embrace, Jesus takes into Himself our sin, and pays the price.
With that understanding of God’s wrath, we no longer have to deny it, we no longer have to project it on others. We now longer have to judge and condemn, we can simply urge people to let God love them and to rejoice as He does, and they change, relaxing and knowing His peace.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 128.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3 Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4 All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people. 5 We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 6 There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us. Eph. 4:2-6 CEV
It becomes genuinely possible for people to share in a common expression once this interiorization has taken place under the guidance of the common prayers of the Church and the experience of the Body of Christ which they contain. Then people are no longer merely juxtaposed in role-playing but actually touch one another at the level of being. Only in this way can “community” come about.
He means that in human relations it is not peevish, harsh, or implacable; that it covers up some of the mistakes of its friends; and that it puts the best construction even on the more offensive actions of others, as the common proverb says, “Know, but do not hate, the manners of a friend.”
We call God “our Father” because we believe in His fatherly love and care.
We want His name hallowed and loved and praised, because we love Him and want others to do the same.
We want His kingdom to come because His kingdom is the kingdom of love.
We want His will to be done, even in preference to our own—we will the abolition of our own will when it is out of alignment with His—because we know His will is pure love. Ours is not.
This morning, I led the invocation and benediction at our city’s Martin Luther King. Jr. Day remembrance in our community. As I listened to the young people sing, read, and recite, and my friend Bill preach, my heart wanted to see the dream come true.
A day when the color of their skin and my son’s skin didn’t matter at all. A day when Dr. King saw coming to fruition as we found our way onto a mountain top. As we obeyed God more than we obeyed our hearts.
As I left, I wonder how many left determined to do what would make that dream happen?
It will, of course, when we reach that mountain top that Dr. King spoke of, when we enter into the presence of God, when those who see Him face to face understand true peace that comes from a love we can not wrap our heads around…yet.
It is not a coincidence that my readings today approach this subject of unity.
Nor is it a coincidence that the quotes above, from those readings, all focus on God as the hope for such a life. It is, after all, how He designed for us to live! It is God’s dream, even more than Pastor King’s.
It is why the Father sent the Son to reconcile us to Himself, and therefore to each other as well. For the sin that so marrs our unity, the self-centeredness that stops us from loving our neighbor can only be dealt with in Christ. That is where God’s will becomes a reality, as we are joined to Christ’s selfless act of sacrifice, as He, in His mercy pays for our sin. It is there, united in His heart, that our hearts find each other, and learn to value and love each other. There we find the power and desire to forgive, to cover our neighbor’s, and our enemies’ faults and brokenness.
It is there, with our souls resonating in a way stronger than this broken life can manage, that unity occurs.
Unity in Christ then becomes something to cherish, to rejoice in, to work to maintain, looking again to Jesus, who is the author and perfector of our faith. Reconciled to Him, we find our lives reconciled to each other.
Therefore patience and love, mercy and understanding become something that is our norm, and not just the virtues of saints.
You want to see these kids’ dreams, based on a speech decades ago come true?
Realize the love of God, realize His mercy and sacrifice, His patience,
And then, in Him, you can share it with your community, and the world.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 70.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 141.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 46.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins. Mark 11:25 (CEV)
12 God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13 Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14 Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. Colossians 3:12-14 (CEV)
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
In the second place, this petition mortifies us through other people who antagonize us, assail us, disquiet us, and oppose our will in every way, who mock not only our worldly actions but also our good spiritual works, such as our prayers, our fasting, our acts of kindness, who, in brief, are never at peace with us. O what a priceless blessing this is! We should really pay such assailants all our goods, for they are the ones who fulfil this petition in us. They are the ones through whom God breaks our will so that his will may be done. This is why Christ says in Matthew 5 [:25], “Make friends quickly with your accuser.” That is, we must surrender our will and accept our adversary’s will as good, for in that way our will is broken. In the breaking of our will God’s will is done; for he wants to see our will hindered and broken.
The Letter of St. James notes that we should demonstrate our faith in our works. That is not always easy! Especially when it comes to demonstrating our trust in God when it comes to the adversaries, enemies, and jackasses we have to deal with in everyday life.
The Catholics have it right when they say sin originates in letting our trust in God die in our hearts. It is then, as we turn our back on the Holy Spirit that we take power into our own hands, and do what God says not to do.
Like seek revenge, or curse those who oppose us, or simply forget they were created by God, and treat them without the love and respect the children of God should receive.
We have to trust, when people oppose us, that God is doing what He has promised to do, that all things, even the opposition, will work for good. As Luther notes, God may be using them to break our will, so that His will may be done. Whether they realize this or not, we should be thankful to God.
That is why we can forgive them, realizing that their actions are actually blessings. That they show God’s love for us, although in ways that are pretty frustrating, and yes, humbling. We must realize that God is behind it. We must realize that His love is manifested in what these people are doing, saying, thinking. God’s will is being done, not theirs, and definitely not ours.
This is why St. Paul’s advice to “Put up with each other” and “forgive anyone who does you wrong” is preceded by words reminding us of the FACT that God loves us, and chose us to be His own That must come first, the relationship, the love that matters more than anything else. The love of Christ, that poured our in water and blood, the love that unites us all, cleansing us of ALL sin. Binding us together. Demonstrating how faithful God is to us, and how He, in His love, empowers our ability to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, even while persecuted…
Lord, we have faith in You, help us to have faith!
Lord, Have mercy on me, a sinner!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 100.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 44–45.
The Relationships of
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…
I can’t imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels. His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,
How it must have eaten him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.
Still, he had to look down and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…
Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.
Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.
Our Relationships of Christmas Past
For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family. Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.
Others are missing for a different reason.
Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same. We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous. Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father (not even thinking of Joseph), we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades….
Or can I?
I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle. If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,
I could easily share in the words of Judah,
33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.
As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah prayed, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”
It is hard to hear God answer no…
So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”
But our Brother can…
It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.
But that isn’t why God says, “no.”
He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief and anxiety. The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.
This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent. We stand before the King, who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us? It is at this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…
We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to listen to it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.
“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command, I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me. 6 You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.
Psalm 13:5-6 (CEV)
O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.
548 If you feel the Communion of the Saints—if you live it—you’ll gladly be a man of penance. And you will realize that penance is gaudium etsi laboriosum—“joy in spite of hardship,” and you will feel yourself “allied” to all the penitent souls that have been, that are, and that ever will be.
I grew up among a generation that was told not to focus on experiences, not to trust our feelings. to only focus on a logical, rational presentation of Christianity.
I’ve also seen the other extreme in my youth, where people chased after religious experiences, who wanted to feel the positive vibes that come when experiencing the supernatural, I think those excesses of the late 60’s and 70’s led to the pendulum swing of the 80’s and into the new millenium.
Both sides treat the other side with suspicion, both sides blame the other for the death or at least the hospice status of the church. ANd both try to convince me and others that their focus is the best and only hope, relying not on God for the growth of the church, but on man’s wisdom, and man’s ability to create the right… environment… that will bring about revival.
While I think both are wrong, and grow weary of both, I do think think that a sign of revival is an experience, Not one of great passion, not one of great signs and wonders.
Instead a humbling experience, one that touches the depth of our brokenness, and leaves us tired, exhausted, and in awe of what we’ve encountered… the grace of God.
That is what Spurgeon is talking about with the term loving kindness. cHesed in Hebrew, it is that experience of the merciful love of God that comes to us in our brokenness, in the depth our our sin, when we are with hope, and dries our tears and whispers to us that we are forgiven, that we are being healed, and restored.
That is what Escriva is talking about with the joy in the midst of hardship, the experience that causes us, in the future when we sin again, to pray for repentance and restoration with confidence,
It is the quiet celebration of the Psalmist, who though he believed there was no hope, found that hope in the middle of despair.
We aren’t talking about seeing a miracle that leaves everyone applauding like a Superbowl victory, (Well heaven parties like that) but one that leaves us like the feeling, having worked all night, to see the break of dawn…knowing that peace and rest is near… yet struggling to believe it.
We have to experience this healing, we can’t just “know” it happened once. We need to struggle with it, to ask, ‘could God have really loved me this much, and then be assured, by scripture and by the sacraments, yes, He does.
THis experience is contagious, it sweeps communities and nations, it changes individuals and countries, it changes the church, which welcomes sinners home with confidence, expecting to see the miracle again that reminds us of our miracle…. as we share in something that leaves us… awe doesn’t seem strong enough a word.
This experience can’t be manipulated, it is not subject to our feelings or our knowledge. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us, even dragging us to the foot of the cross, helping us see we belong there, nailed to the cross, sharing in Christ’s death, and wondering why we are even allowed near Him. And then coming to the realization that because we died with Him, we rise from the dead with Him.
That’s not head knowledge, that is life…and that life has to be lived….
Heavenly Father, help us to see the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, drawing us to the cross, uniting us to His death and resurrection. Help us to see this, not as observers, but from actually experiencing the reality of the SPirit’s work. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.