Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT2)
775 Lord, if it is your will, turn my poor flesh into a crucifix.
22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift.
There are some that would say I am not quite normal, and I think they might be on to something!
But beyond that, there is a certain part of Christianity that doesn’t make sense, that does seem crazy, that is beyond our ability to reason out.
This idea that perfection comes not from discipline and self-correction and an unbending will, but through facing our brokenness, and being compelled to let Jesus deal with it, to let him have it as He hangs on the cross. To let Him draw us into the suffering and death on the cross, , that we can know the peace and healing that only comes from seeing the body, broken for us, and the blood, poured out that we would be cleansed by it.
What was once a torture for Luther, (and Staupitz whom he confessed to!) hours in the confessional trying to get free of his sin which shattered his life, confessing his lies, and lust, his envy, and anger. He couldn’t find relief for it, and he mistook the sacrament of confession for a chance to atone for his sin, to be beaten up for the things he thought and said and did that were wrong.
Then he realized that this was a sacrament, a moment where God would come, and bring us through Christ’s death on the cross, through His death, so that we could be renewed, that we could be re-born. Confession and absolution as a blessing rather than a curse, Death with the promise of being made anew, without the brokenness, without the guilt and shame, but a new life dwelling in peace.
It may seem illogical, it may seem counter-intuitive, it is definitely scary at first, but allowing our sin to be nailed to the cross, as crazy as it seems, is a source of hope, a source of healing. Not because of our action, but because of His presence and promise., because of His love and mercy, because this is where we find hope for healing and for eternity.
If it sounds crazy, blame the craziness on me, yet still, know this. God is with you, and you can give Him everything, the good, the bad, the horrid, and at the cross, it will be taken care of, and you will know peace! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 459–460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I lift my eyes to You, the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor. Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB
Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.
For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth. It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.
I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place.
When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place.
Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap. What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom. What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.
We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules. We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening.
While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God. So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!) We were made to live in community.
But that community starts in the presence of God, Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace. (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.) As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.
Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.
Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes. As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears.
For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace.
Which is what we need, more than anything.
Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. 30 The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 CEV
853 Use this prescription for your life: “I don’t remember that I exist. I don’t think of my own affairs, because there is no time left.” Work and service!
Don’t stop reading this post after the next paragraph. Keep going, it will be worth it.
The word submission has taken on a very negative tone in the last few decades. Especially the idea of submitting to God, to allowing Jesus to be the Lord of your life. I could give twenty or thirty examples of why, including the fact that some people abuse the idea of submitting to God, in order to get people to submit to them. Men have done this to get women to submit, parents have done this to get children to submit, some in government, and even in church leadership want their people to submit.
But they don’t understand what submission is, they don’t get the paradox. And they don’t understand that submission isn’t about wielding authority and controlling others, it is about freeing them from things that shouldn’t bind them, that shouldn’t oppress them, that shouldn’t such life and joy from them.
Instead, this paradox of submission is about freeing them to live life, to know God’s love, to experience peace.
You see this in Jesus words above in red, quoted from Matthew’s gospel. Submitting to God means giving Him all the things that wear you down, that stress you out, that cause anxiety. The things that burden us, that tire us out. The stuff that leaves us exhausted, because they are out of our control. Jesus would have us submit our lives, where we get so fixated on our life that we don’t ever really live it.
Worry’s about family, friends finances, health or eve facing death.
Guilt and shame from past sins we struggle with daily.
Resentment and anger from those sins that have been committed against us,
All this stuff Jesus asks us to give to Him, to submit to His care. He would free us from these concerns of life. Which is why St Josemaria talks the way he does, saying I don’t remember that I exist, I am not concerned with my own affairs, I am free to just live, to do and to serve others.
Biblical submission is not about recognizing someone’s authority over you, it is not about becoming their robot. It is about realizing God’s care for you, HIs love, and allowing Him to do what He has promised. It is about trusting Him, depending upon Him, knowing that He cares.
And living in the freedom of not worrying about, not hyper-focusing upon those things we cannot change.
But instead to live in peace… unexplainable, glorious, restful peace.
Even on Monday!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3021-3023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 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 11:27-32 (TEV)
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” says the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke, 6:37). “No,” says the holy apostle, “judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (2 Cor. 4:5). Oh, how displeasing are rash judgments to God! The judgments of the children of men are rash, because they are not the judges of one another, and therefore usurp to themselves the office of our Lord. They are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention of the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us. They are not only rash, but also impertinent, because everyone has enough to do to judge himself, without taking upon him to judge his neighbour.
As I read the words in blue this morning, I knew I had to write about them.
I didn’t want to, because the moment I read them, I start judging all the people around me who are not just judging others but condemning them. The spirits of division, of bitterness, of hatred aren’t just seeping into their lives, we are drowning in the flood of them.
We aren’t foolish enough to claim we are more righteous than the world, but we are more than willing to bash people, Trump, Clinton, the Kardashians, people of other religions, heck some even bash the New England Patriots and their loyal fans. And the bashing is always judgmental, always condemning, always done in a way that raises anxiety
It is a sickness, one which depresses and isolates. Personally, I long for the days when I was an introvert and could shut out the world. Even as I write this, I see it for what it really is, a form of judgment, a temptation to isolate myself from the evil, without recognizing that I can’t escape from it, for in trying to do so…. I embody what I am trying to flee.
It was the last line from St. Francis de Sales that helped me this morning, the line about everyone having enough to do to judge themselves.
You might think it odd I found this to be good news, the purest of gospel. For judging myself does bring the gospel into my life, erasing the need to judge others. For there, when I realize my frailty, when I recognize my sin, my instinct is to cry out for grace, to find sanctuary from the evil that not only threatens me externally but seems to well up internally.
In examining myself, I find the need to find a safe place, a place where judgment is cast aside, where burdens are lifted, where hope is revived and finds stimulation. Where I find a love beyond measure, seen in a grace where God forgives my desire to judge others, and the times where I do so. Examining myself drives me to absolution, and to the altar where God reminds me of His love by giving me His body and blood to eat and drink, where I get to fellowship with Him!
There, I find not just the peace I need eternally, but I find others receiving it as well. I find it offered to those I struggle with, those I want to judge, those I want to condemn. And even if they aren’t there as my parish communes, they might be on their own, and they are to be welcomed at all places.
Not only am I reminded of God’s grace forgiving me, drawing me to Him, into Christ, but I also am reminded that forgiveness is for all….
And for the moment, peace invades my darkness, shattering it, revealing a wholeness, completeness, that will be mine when we are found before Hi throne.
This is life in Christ, this is why I try to remain devout, depending on Him. For there I find the answer to my cry,, not for judgment, but for mercy.
For all of us.
Judge not… except yourself, so you may run to Him and find peace.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” John 10:1-5 TEV
782 How can you dare use that spark of the divine intelligence—your mind—in any way other than in giving glory to your Lord?
The boys didn’t need to climb over the 10-foot fence or risk getting caught on the barbed wire that topped it. The old delivery gate chain was so loose, you could just push the gate open and walk through. The old dirt road, rumored once to have tracks on it was long abandoned, deliveries were taken a different way into the amusement park for decades.
But it was a right of passage in the neighborhood, and the guy that ran the park’s roller rink would wink at us, as he handed us skates and told us to make sure everyone had a good time. Even he let the boys in for free, though he would ask them to sweep the rink occasionally. He knew we snuck in, and he knew that many of us didn’t have the 2 bucks to get in, then pay for skating and skate rental. So he turned a blind eye to our entrance, and made us “work” the rink, doing odd jobs around the place.
The first five or six times someone snuck in, you could see it in their hesitation, in their movement to the other side of the skating rink when the park’s security walked through. But eventually the excitement and fear would diminish, the guilt would fade, and the sin just became a normal part of life.
As adults, as believers in Christ, sin has a similar effect on us. It may seem exciting at even unsettling at first. But over time we realize we haven’t gotten caught, and others turn a blind eye to our actions.
Even as the friends hung out, even as they pretended they were the tough guys, we saw those who came into the park the right way, paying the price, and riding the cannonball rollercoaster, and went through the haunted house. They had a different joy, they belonged there. Their fun was legitimate, they came with their families, or their girls, they had money and ride tickets.
We had some fun, and we had our gang. We had the rink. But we knew we didn’t have it all.
In the gospel reading above, we were the guys who snuck in, who didn’t belong. We could have been brought in by the front, but we liked our way better. Many of us still do that, as we expect that our peace and comfort can be achieved through ways scripture calls sin. As we hide them, rather than letting the price be paid, the illusion holds up, and others might even encourage it. What is your choice to find your joy and peace? Greed? Desire for fame? Lust and illicit sex? Gossip? All these sins do is try to create the illusion of pleasure, or peace, contentment and joy. If we pause long enough to consider it… we know they do not. We don’t belong and we are lieing to ourselves if we think we do.
Sin is still sin? Of course. And if you take a moment to think it over, you know it.
As I hear St Josemaria talk, I think about the things we could do with our time, our money, our intelligence and talents, the blessings God has given us, to bring God glory. TO know the joy of seeing God rejoice as we do what He had planned for us. As we hear Him saying “well done.”
Then I realize that we aren’t just robbing God of His glory. For Jesus died to bring us into that glory, to share that love. What we’ve done, is chosen not to live in it, and to live in the shadows, moving toward the darkness.
It’s not too late… it never is.
Cry out to Him, ask for forgiveness, ask to see His mercy, ask for Jesus to reconcile you to the Father, and find that He paid your way in, and you are counted as an honored guest. Indeed, that has been His desire from the beginning. No more sneaking in.. not more justifying our existence, no more hiding from security. It wasn’t necessary int he first place.
true peace, true comfort, true belonging.
with others, of every tribe and language and nation. All who belong, none who have to come over the fence…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1807-1808). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.
John 8:36 (TEV)
423 Under the pressure and impact of a materialistic, pleasure-loving, faithless world, how can we demand and justify the freedom of not thinking as they do, and of not acting as they do? A son of God has no need to ask for that freedom, because Christ won it for us once and for all. But he does need to defend it and practise it whatever the circumstance he finds himself in. Only thus will they understand that our freedom is not bound up in our surroundings. (1)
This morning on the way to work, I heard a man complaining about the necessity to pay that his children could pray in school. He prattled on about how unfair it was that this wasn’t truly a free country, that it cost to have his kids raised by those who would teach them to pray. ( By the way, I know “Prattled” isn’t used much, but it fits the sounds he was making)
I think in this country we have made freedom an idol. Certainly we consider free speech a right, as well as the vague term “freedom of religion” or as some would have it, “freedom from religion.” We get upset when those “rights: are taken away, or limited. We get even more upset when others use those “rights” in a way that threatens, disagrees or demeans us. I’ve even heard the verse in red above used in discussions about the freedom of religion as if the Americanism – that Jesus gave us freedom, and anyone who would take it away should be damned. (Or at least, mocked and embarrassed behind their back on Facebook) The idol of freedom or even the freedom of religion does nothing long range for mankind. It is an illusion, and it is not Christian freedom.
Our freedom is part of the peace that God gives us. It is, as St. Josemaria says, freedom of not thinking as they do, or acting as they do. It is not a freedom the world can give. It is not a freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights or the Magna Carta. It is the freedom Peter and Paul knew, as they were prisoners in Rome. It is the freedom and peace that Stephen knew, as men laid their coats down at Saul’s feet, and picked up stones to crush him. It is freedom martyrs longed to share with their tormenters.
It is a freedom that, like the peace we are given, is divine.
Hear the rest of Jesus statement, the context of the discussion on Freedom:
34 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever. 36 If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are trying to kill me, because you will not accept my teaching. 38 I talk about what my Father has shown me, but you do what your father has told you.”
John 8:34-38 (TEV)
Here is our freedom. The freedom from guilt and shame that breaks us down as we realize the consequences of our sin. The freedom to see the relationships shattered by sin. The freedom from resentment, the anger and hurt we store in our memories, as if we can protect ourselves from further injury, further hurt.
It is a freedom that is part of our faith, part of the trust and dependence we have in God. Dependence on His fulfilling promises like that in Romans 8 that everything will work out for our good, that nothing can separate us from Him. Promises like Genesis 50, that what others plan for evil, God will use those things for good. The promise that is revealed as we look to Jesus, the author of our faith, and the one who makes it perfect.
This is freedom, true freedom.
Let us treasure the Lord, who frees us, more than the illusion of freedoms that would leave us oppressed and bound to sin and unrighteousness.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1893-1897). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day:
26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 (TEV)
437 If one of my fellow men had died to save me from death … God died. And I remain indifferent.
On Friday, I “shared” a picture on FB. It was a picture of men, paratroopers in a World War II airplane. The right side was the original picture, the left was a picture of men who had served then, but today. It was an amazing morph, the men in their youth, young, excited, ready to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane. That side of the picture was black and white. Contrasting that picture was the older men, pictured in color, their weary bodies not overloaded with combat uniforms and packs, but ties and blazers, their grey hair covered by berets.
More than other picture I have shared or posted, this picture has been liked and shared by more people than any other picture. Maybe it is because people are realizing that memorial day is about more than barbecues and beaches, that it is ore than the unofficial kick-off to summer.
We remember that some men have given their lives to free others who were mistreated, who were oppressed. Surely that wasn’t the aim of some of them. Some were more about revenge, or gaining fame. But many simply fought, bled and died, because that is what they were called to do.
And some lived, and suffer for years for what they’ve seen, or what they’ve had to do. Those who sufferi from Post Traumatic Stress, (those who’s sleep is at best is uneasy because of the memories, the pains, the guilts and shame.
We need to remember these men, for no matter their motivation, they have served, and all have been wounded in their souls…. war creates victims without any rationale. Maybe that is why the picture was shared so many times. Gratitude on our part, and a desire for those who served to find peace., to be able to face that which they’ve tried to bury, so that they can know peace.
This morning the blue verse above was in my readings. I was struck by it, because of the timing, because of the context of Memorial Day Weekend. St. Josemaria is correct We stand in awe of those who have died or embraced suffering for us. If we know some wh’ve served, we might worry about the demons they didn’t leave on the battlefield, the pains and hurts. We put flowers and flags at their grave sites. We have parades and concerts and flies flags in their honor.
Bow much more should we remember the death of God? The suffering, the sacrifice that was embraced with full knowledge and pure and holy intent A sacrifice that not only liberates those who are the victims, but liberates those who were the oppressors, A sacrifice that brings peace that that a war’s end cannot imagine.
A sacrifice that can even bring healing to those who were broken by war…Like my dad, who didn’t die, but one could say that a part of him. Who struggled to receive the Lord’s Supper, often crying as he faced the love of God, who would give His life, deliberately to assure my dad of God’s love for him, to assure dad of a place in heaven. I just know the mixture of pain and relief and joy of being loved all was there, as my dad knelt at the rail, and remember Christ’s sacrifice as he shared Christ’s Body and Blood For a second there was God’s peace, overwhelming everything else. A peace that now he knows.
We need to remember Christ’s love, first and foremost. We need to celebrate it, and the freedom and peace it brings. We need to see it as powerful, as overwhelming as awe-inspiring as those who understand the depths of pain that it relieves.
Pray for those who are serving, those who have served. That they would know the Prince of Peace, AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1074-1075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day :
4 I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. Psalm 27:4 (TEV)
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
857 Someone we know well told us sincerely, in confidence, that he had never been bored, for he had never been on his own, without our Friend. It was late in the evening, and there was a great silence… You felt very intently the presence of God… And, in the knowledge of that reality, what peace! (1)
Each morning that I find myself in my office, I start the day with the morning liturgy from “Celtic Daily Prayer”. Each morning I do so, after remembering my baptism while making the sign of the cross, the very next thing is Psalm 27:4. I read the words and often ask myself a question.
Do I really want only that – to live in His house all my life, for all eternity?
Let me confess, I struggle with that, as I imagine you do.
And if I struggle with living with Him here, in this time and place; I also struggle with seeing that which Solomon mentioned, that God has planted eternity in my heart. For often my heart and mind are not centered there. Some things I desire may be good and beneficial, like seeing people given the gift of faith, and the promises that come from Baptism and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. I desire the church to grow, to find reconciliation where it is so needed. But anxiety over making that happen.
Is my first desire God’s presence, to be where He abides?
There are times it is, and I can think back over the years and long for those times again. The quiet sanctuaries of my youth, the incredible retreats I’ve been on, the baptisms, the putting into people’s hands the body and blood of Christ. The holding someone’s hand while they passed away, just silently praying. Praying again with my son, when he fit in the niche of my arm, praying that God would bless him, and through him many people. They are my treasured times, they are the best moments of my life.
Yes I do desire this, and I cannot but help look forward to eternity, because of promises like this:
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
The times are precious, when I can sit and meditate on this, when I contemplate my baptism, or the Eucharist, or receiving the incredible news that my sins are absolved.
It is then I realize the peace the Josemaria’s friend new, the silence, the presence of God. That which we do desire the most, if we take a moment to realize it.
Be still, my friends, and know there is a God, and you are His…..
It is worth every micro-second. For there eternity, the eternity planted in our hearts is revealed.
For eternity is yours already. He is with you…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3511-3515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Shadows Cast on the Manger
† IHS †
May you know the awe of the shepherds as you realize your salvation is near!
On us a light has shined…
I am trying to imagine what it must have been like, during the dark hours when the angels appeared. When Isaiah’s prophecy we heard tonight, a moment that would change the world, and change us.
Isaiah tells us the in our greatest darkness a light has shined, and for the shepherds, there at the stable, the glory was unbelievable, a moment that would never be forgotten. The time was now, Christ was here.
As they rush to Bethlehem, as they look into the stable, were the shadows cast over the Baby there in the manger? As the stars shone done upon the very glory of God, was there enough starlight to see the glory they had been told about?
As I stand here, as you will come up to this place, and stand before this altar, what shadows will be cast, and will they obscure the glory of God with us? For each of us this night cast a shadow, but will we find ourselves free of them, as Christ is revealed? Till we realize the only shadow that would remain, and that now… it too has gone.
The shadows cast…until we kneel in adoration
The shadows I am talking about, symbolize those things in our lives that can turn these days into something less than a joyous party. Maybe it is that we are missing someone. Maybe it is the stress over relationships that are broken, anxieties over health, or finances, or just our own sin. Or maybe, it’s that I am so busy trying to get all the ministry done, that I forget to be amazed at the love of God, that is revealed to us!
Shadows darken the room, they threaten cause us fear, they would cause us to not see the babe in the manger, or understand that this great light that has come, has come to be an end to the shadows, and end to the darkness.
The challenge is seeing past the shadows, seeing the brilliant glory of this child, this baby laying in a manger. It looks so peaceful and serene, the shadows so ominous, so threatening.
We need to see Jesus more clearly, we need to understand that He is here for us.
We need to understand this scene is about God coming into our world, into our darkness, invading it. That this babe we sing about in Mary’s lap, and artist would eventually render like this. (slide of crucified Jesus.)
I am not sure she ever held him like that, but the picture is clear… there is one shadow over him, that would not be taken away. The shadow of the cross.
But that shadow is glorious – for it leads to the resurrection and reveals a glory of God that is only hinted about here. The salvation promised by the angels, the salvation that God had planned for, even before Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, and creation fell.
The One shadow remains…
Often we see the pictures of the manger with Mary and Joseph, with an Angel above the roof juncture of the barn, of the shepherds, and the kings moving to bow before Christ, to worship Him, to adore Him.
They are falling to their knees, and the shadows they cast are no longer long, the shadows no longer cover His face. They know the moment is special, just as when we kneel here, before His altar, before His Throne, but struggle with what it means that Jesus the Christ is here… with us…
Until we remember that the Babe in the manger is the Lord who gives us His body and blood, broken and shed for our sakes. Broken and shed because as we realize that love, His glory shines, not just from heaven, but into our lives, into our hearts.
For there, as we dwell in His presence, the shadows cease.. the cross becomes not a shadow, but a glorious message of love – a love that overcomes the darkness….
For unto us a child is born…unto us He is given,
and unto a light – His glory is shining…
So come and kneel, not because of the porcelain baby, but because here, you will know the depth of His love, as your shadows are loosened and left behind, as you are fill with His mercy and peace, as we are reminded why Christmas is here.. to prove to us that the Lord is with you – and that He loves you!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 (MSG)
16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 (MSG)
22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23 (TEV)
The priest mentioned the sacrament of confession. That was new to me. The confessional in our parish church had been transformed into a storage room for buckets and brooms. I had always thought that confession had been abolished in the sixties. That evening, I asked the Carmelite sister about it. “On the contrary,” she said. “Confession has not been abolished at all. It’s one of the most beautiful sacraments there is!” “So… um… how does it work?” I asked. “Do you just tell the priest all your sins, and that’s it?” “It isn’t just about listing your sins,” she answered. “Confession is first and foremost an encounter with Christ. He loves you more than you know, and when you truly meet him, you start to discover what in your life stands in the way of that love. So you entrust all those obstacles to his mercy, and he takes them away.” “If that’s the case, I would love to go to confession,” I said. After all, I did like Jesus. I also knew that there were many things in my life that still needed to change to be able to deepen my friendship with him. “Just go see the priest, and ask him to help you. He will guide you through it. Don’t worry about a thing.” That evening, I made my first confession. The priest was friendly and listened to me with his eyes closed, as if praying. I do not recall what he said to me afterward, but I do remember vividly the moment he stretched out his hand and told me my sins had been forgiven. It was as if a ton of bricks just had been zapped to another dimension. I felt like I was walking on air— I was so light, so relieved, so incredibly happy. That night, I hardly slept. I felt overwhelmed by God’s love for me. My doubts had vanished. I didn’t just believe in God on an intellectual level— I sensed that I had just met him personally. (1)
As I was reading this book, I came across the above passage, and though a little long, it talks so well of something so needed. There are too many of us dealing with the repurcussions of sin, the guilt and shame from doing what we know we shouldn’t. The confusion we get when the games we play to avoid that shame come crashing down, and even the stress caused by the way we react to others sinning against us.
Roman Catholics call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we use a more common term, Private Confession and Absolution. Basically, whether very formal at the altar, or in my office, someone comes in, and shares about the guilt they feel, or some area where they know they’ve done wrong. As this happens, it is awkward, both for the person coming to me and for me. We talk, the person and I and God, and then a time as precious as we get occurs.
But I love Fr. Roderick’s description of what Lutherans call Private Confession above (see the 5th section of Luther’s Small Catechism) …and what Catholics call The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or commonly Confessin) that I had to share it. For even with our differences in our practice and application of this, the effect is the same. As God and the person and the pastor/priest are talking through the sins that afflct them, there is some holy and sacred and freeing that happens. As a pastor I see the burdens lifted, when I get to pronounce them free of the chains by wihich sin oppresses them. There is a great sense of joy and freedom. It’s hard to describe, either from the point of view of the person confessing, or as the pastor (and I think priests feel the same way) who speaks forgiveness as God has commanded us to speak. Even though I don’t get to serve people this way as often as they need. need,
Let’s face it, we all have a past, and we all still live in the present. We deal with sin daily, our own, the sins of those close to us, the sins of generations passed, as the divisions they cause impact our lives still. Too often, rather than obeying God and giving these heavy, heavy burdens to Him, we bury them and stew over them. The anxiety, confusion and grief burdens us more, divides us from others more, and can crush us…
If you are in that situaiton, I beg you, on God’s behalf, let God reconcile you to Himself. (2 Cor. 5:20) Come to one of us, those who know God’s forgiveness. With the Catholic Church and with some Lutheran churches- they often post times the priest/pastor sets aside for this. Others of us have an open policy – just call, drop in and let us know you need the peace and rest this sacrament brings. You will not be imposing… matter of fact, you will make our day. Don’t worry about us being shocked – St Paul has a good point when he says if God can save us, you guys are a peace of cake!
Dump that guilt and shame, be rid of that burden of grief, trust God as His word! And realize the depth of Christ’s love for you, that He would restore you and show you His love.
Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 658-674). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.