Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT2)
20 But you have learned nothing like that from Christ, if you have really heard his voice and understood the truth that he has taught you. No, what you learned was to fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living, which were rotted through and through with lust’s illusions, and, with yourselves mentally and spiritually re-made, to put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life which was made by God’s design for righteousness and the holiness which is no illusion. Ephesians 4:20 (Phillips NT)
592 Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?
It seems counter-intuitive, that God relies on us ot do the work that builds His Kingdom, but that we should not take pride in a “job well-done.” We struggle against sin, we try to serve our neighbor, we give of our time talent and treasure, shouldn’t we get a pat on the back? Can’t we take pride in an effort that took our all and more?
To that St. Josemaria’s words seem like a cold, harsh shower. A trash can? Can’t we be considered a little nicer than that? Yes, what God pours into us (and what He removes from us) makes all the difference in our lives.
We need to think this through, we need to meditate on what God is doing and has done to our life. Not only how he cleans us up (justification – Eph. 2:8-9) but how he then plants in us something beautiful, and sweet-smelling. Even the things we think we’ve buried so deep and hidden get cleaned out and replaced with things that alive, growing, beautiful.
You see, that is what is at the core of worship. The awe that comes in realizing what God has done, how He has cleansed us, how He has empowered us, how He sends us into the communities to reflect His beauty and glory into a world that has become content with brokenness.
What an amazing thing God has done, in the life of each the Holy Spirit has brought home!!! What He has done is no illusion, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)
821 Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.
We are no different than the children who put on superhero costumes for Halloween.
There is a part of us that wants to be the best, at something, anything.
Especially the idea that we are the best at what we do, whether it is a parent needing the hero for their kids, or being the superstar at work, the one everyone turns to, that everyone counts on, the person who is indispensable.
We want to be the heroes
We’ll even attempt to the difficult, the impossible if that will lift us up, not just for the praise, but for the acceptance. For heroes are always accepted, aren’t they? They always are welcome, aren’t they?
But this desire to be accepted, to be the hero, to be indispensable will fade, or we will fail. For we can never do enough, not for those whose favor we want, but to assure us own hearts that we will never be forgotten.
Compare this drive to the idea of humility, the idea of knowing who we are based on who God is, and what He does for us. I love that St. Josemaria says that humility is counting first on God’s blessings. Humility then is not a matter of self-abasement. It is not primarily an understanding of who we are, of recognizing our talents and limitations. That comes into play, but even then, that should drive us back to the first step.
Who God is: our Father, our Brother, our COmforter, our deliverer, our Lord, and Shepherd. WHat He does for us, creation, reconciliation, and as we are united to Jesus, the miracle of holiness happens to us. We are holy in Him, in no other way, yet so incredibly transformed by the Holy Spirit.
This happens as the Spirit enables us to trust, to depend, to have faith in God, who loves us.
You want to be the hero? Why? You have one, and that Hero has provided what you need, accepting you, making you His child, treasuring you!
Humility is found in depending on this. The Lord, your God, is with you…always!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2912-2916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
7 But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. 8 We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; 9 we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; 10 always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. 11 Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. 12 In us, then, death is at work; in you, life. 13 But as we have the same spirit of faith as is described in scripture—I believed and therefore I spoke—we, too, believe and therefore we, too, speak, 14 realising that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up with Jesus in our turn, and bring us to himself—and you as well. 15 You see, everything is for your benefit, so that as grace spreads, so, to the glory of God, thanksgiving may also overflow among more and more people. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NJB)
929 Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are.
As you look at paintings of saints, some are portrayed in very peaceful serene moments, a soft glow seems to be about them, even without the golden halos There are others that show them in the depth of darkness, fully engulfed in pain, fully engulfed in a battle against Satan and sin and despair.
I find great comfort in the latter type of paintings, for I know far more people engulfed in a similar battle, who benefit from knowing they aren’t the first to do battle with temptation, sin, doubt, resentment, guilt, and all the lies of Satan. For when we look at Francis or St John of the Cross or Luther or Walther or Mother Theresa battling that which oppressed them, we realize there must be hope, for we know how the story of these holy men and women ring true in the moment.
Paul is correct, in these lives lived in the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t just see the brokenness, we see the Holy Spirit comforting and sustaining them, as the victory of Christ’s death on the cross becomes more and more real.
For united to that death, we find life.
United to His suffering, we find peace.
Yesterday I had the responsibility of sharing God’s love with a family, a neighborhood of people who were devasted by the death of a young man. A man so devastated by the pains of life that it overwhelmed him and he thought peace could only be found in the arms of death.
The confidence to speak in that situation comes not from theology books, or the education I have received, but from the darkness, I’ve seen Christ deliver so many people through over the years, from the darkness I have needed to be rescued from as well. St Josemaria is so insightful in his words, I can convince people of God’s love, because i have been convinced as well.
One of the 80+-year-old ladies is responsible for our church mission statement. She said one morning in Sunday school that Concordia is the place where people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.
It is an absolutely beautiful, brilliant and true statement about our church. It may not be fancy or measurable, it does not meet the standards of the guru’s who teach church leadership. It doesn’t hold out a goal for some future time where we will have a perfect, thriving, idyllic large church.
Chruch isn’t some kind of utopia on earth. It is a place for the broken, for the different, for those struggling with life, with shame and guilt, with resentment and hatred. It is where we find healing and hope amid our brokenness, amid the tears and the pain to deep for tears.
This is what the saints knew… this is why the paintings can show them in despair, and in glory, for both are true, in Christ.
And we are called saints just as those whose faith in God we admire! For we, like those who walked before us, are those called out, drawn to Jesus, those made holy the Holy Spirit, whose healing is being accomplished, for it is God the Father’s will.
He has heard our cry for mercy, and has answered it. May we always be convinced of this, even as we convince others of it.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it. Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)
5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6 And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin. Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)
14 But far be it from me to have glory in anything, but only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which this world has come to an end on the cross for me, and I for it. Galatians 6:14 (BBE)
On the Cross this readiness is put to the proof, and precisely the darkness in which Mary stands engulfed reflects the fullness of the identity of her will with that of Jesus. Faith is a community formed by the Cross, and it is only on the Cross that it achieves its full perfection: the place where redemption seemed utterly beyond our reach is actually the place where it is consummated. We must, I think, relearn our devotion to the Cross. It seemed too passive to us, too pessimistic, too sentimental—but if we have not been devoted to the Cross of Jesus in our lifetime, how will we endure our own cross when the time comes for it to be laid upon us? (1)
It is the week after Holy Week, and many students are returning to school after a week of freedom. They dread it, for the switch from freedom to discipline, from play to work is never easy. I think they get this, in part, from the adults they observe who return to work every Monday weary, tired, robbed of hopelessness. It’s as if we, adults and students, expect a lifetime of suffering during the week.
In truth, most of us don’t have ti that bad. It may not be Disneyland, but then again we aren’t listening to “it’s a small world” 400 times!
To put it simply, we don’t know how to deal with discomfort; we don’t know how to embrace suffering. We don’t want to lose the things that are precious to us, from family to creature comforts, to the comfort of our sin. And so we avoid those things, find escapes from dealing with the reality of life.
Which is why we so hate Mondays, why they cause such dread.
We don’t want these crosses, because we haven’t taken the time to contemplate the glory of the cross. Even the idea of it being glorious is a thought we are troubled by. We might write it off as a necessary evil, or the price Christ had to pay to redeem us. Glory in it? That sounds absurd!
Yet the man who would become Pope Benedict has it right, he understood Paul the Apostle so well! We need to contemplate the cross, to meditate on it, and understand what it means that no only was Jesus crucified there, we were crucified with Him. Our real life begins there, with Him, in a place where redemption and healing seem absurd, but both begin.
The Test of Discipleship, so fearfully laid out in Matthew’s gospel no longer seems as daunting. For when we realize the glory of His cross, when we realize it’s impact on us, then we can trust God to get us through the little cross we struggle with, especially on Mondays.
Our cross? In light of His cross, in light of the glory revealed there, may we run to it, bearing it, trusting God to use these crosses to bring blessings, to create something good, evil when “they” meant evil, or when the cost of suffering seems too high.
Even on Monday.
Cry out on Monday that cry that speaks of both despair and faith, “LORD HAVE MERCY!!”
And rejoice as that mercy is made sure.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 110). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed: 38 Blessed is he who comes, the king in God’s name! All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places!39 Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” 40 But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.” Luke 19:37-40 (MSG)
For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught[what they need to know of Christ. (1)
With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example. (2)
Yesterday I was sent links to a number of articles about worship. They were from every aspect of Christian faith, and from different views, even within my own small corner of Christianity, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
It was funny because each article had a “to do” list, that if you followed these things, your church’s service would be right, and people would benefit, and be blessed. It was funny because the advice in the articles were often in complete disagreement!!
Dust off that organ! Ditch that old organ!
Get people to used to the patterns and use of hymnals! Get them out of rote use of hymnals!
Of course, they both stipulated the need for trained excellent musicians, that would leave the people in awe – whether organists or praise bands, even as they lamented the fact that people would listen to the musicians of the other style, and not sing!
I am not a expert in worship, I don’t have a PhD, or pastor some church of 2000. I do teach lay ministers, guys and ladies who help their pastors by serving, and I am about to teach a class on worship. It is the 7th or 9th time I’ve taught it. In it I do rely on experts, like Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop William Willimon of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Robert Webber, and of course the Lutheran Confession – especially the article quoted above from the Augsburg Confession. I also learn a lot from my minister of worship arts, Dr. Chris….. and this is what I have learned… and taught, based on experience.
If I boil it down, there are only two things that are needed to revitalize worship services,
Give them something to sing about.
Our job is to preach Christ, their hope of glory, to give a reason for why in the midst of this broken world, e have hope. To reveal to them the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for them – which is so clearly revealed in Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and in their being untied to all of that, and given the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The presence of God’s Spirit which brings comfort, peace, mercy, assures us of God’s love and promises…
Give them that to sing about…..as they said at Vatican II – dispense the mysteries of God! (and teach them what you are giving them! Vatican II and the Augsburg Confession both agree on that)
Let them sing
I have heard a million reasons why people don’t sing in church, why men won’t, why young people won’t, that older people won’t sing new songs. When I came to my present church, it was clearly stated to me, this church has never sung, does not sing, will never sing! The music choices pretty much guaranteed this, and propagated it. Songs that required extensive vocal talent, sung in keys that even a first tenor and first soprano found challenging. Words that couldn’t be savored, sometimes because you need a dictionary to define them.
We sing now, because we can. We don’t always do it well, but it is from the heart, it is a reaction to God’s love, poured out on them. From hearing it through every aspect of the service, from tasting it, touching it. The songs are simple enough, the instrumentalists facilitate it. The people pour out the emotion need to pour out, the praise, the glory, the trust, the thanks, the despair, the lament… it becomes their music the lyrics that resound from their heart, and we let them sing it. (yeah – even those who voices are challenged)
They sing the praises of the God they know is present, they put into prayer the trut they have, to put it all into His care.
it is at the point that we are no longer afraid to let them sing acapella for a verse, for even a song….or a chant.
And it is wonderful….. whether the powerful anthem, or the simple cry of this version Lord’s prayer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4lcfXcZ68I (this is how we do it – as our time of family prayer ends)
give them a reason to sing…..
let them sing…
give it a try… and see what happens….. as God is lifted up… and praised.
(1) The Augsberg Confession,
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:
23 “At that time I earnestly prayed, 24 ‘Sovereign LORD, I know that you have shown me only the beginning of the great and wonderful things you are going to do. There is no god in heaven or on earth who can do the mighty things that you have done! 25 Let me cross the Jordan River, LORD, and see the fertile land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon Mountains.’ Deuteronomy 3:23-25 (TEV)
783 It is good that your soul should be eaten up by that impatience. But don’t be in a hurry. God wants you to prepare yourself seriously, taking all the months or years necessary, and is counting on your decision to do so. With good reason did that king say: “Time and I against any two.” (1)
I tend to think of the future a lot, In my management courses, I was identified as a catalyst, the idea man, to some extent a visionary. (btw Never confuse such people with great managers/administrators! ) I love to consider the potential in people and try to help that come to fruition. This is especially true when it comes to deacons, vicars and young pastors, anyone involved in ministry.
This doesn’t always work out the way it should, sometimes because of a failure to buy into a vision they’ve developed, sometimes simply because it takes time, sometimes because the vision has to be defined more closely, or the original vision was only the first step.
As I read Moses words to God, I felt the desire in them, God can we see your glory now? Can we see Your people realize the fullness of Your plan for their lives? Can we see them mature? Can we just skip through the times in the wilderness, the times where we rebel, the times where we can’t see you, where we doubt? I want to see your glory revealed in their lives, and I want to see it soon! After all – this is what you called them for, isn’t it? When will we see the wonderful things we know You are capable of, as you do them through Your people?
As St. Josemaria talks – the impatience can be good, but not if it forces us to hurry. Preparation is necessary, sometimes it takes years for God to form them, (sometimes that is because He is using us to do it!) Sometimes it is because the relationship and the trust they need in God needs to develop to the point they can do what God has called and prepared them to do – the amazing works talked of in Ephesians 2:10 and 4;12-14. They’ll get there, maybe we will see them there, or maybe like Moses, or Paul, we can only guide them most of the way, then others ( Joshua, Timothy, Titus) will take them the rest of the way.
We don’t know, but God is their shepherd, we just help for a time, a time He has determined.
And we have to realize, the ultimate glory, the perfect promise land is not just them mature in their trust, in their love, in their devotion to God. The ultimate glory is when they are, with us revealed in Christ’s 2nd coming.
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
May we long to see them there, complete, whole, healed, and may our desire to see them in God’s glory spur on our ministry to them, in the time we have! For this is what we work for, according to Paul,
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
Lord Have Mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3251-3254). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional thought of the day:
1 Then Job answered the LORD. 2 Job I know, LORD, that you are all-powerful; that you can do everything you want. 3 You ask how I dare question your wisdom when I am so very ignorant. I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know. 4 You told me to listen while you spoke and to try to answer your questions. 5 In the past I knew only what others had told me, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6 So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6 (TEV)
272 If you are sensible and humble, you will have realised that one never stops learning… This happens in every field; even the wisest will always have something to learn, until the end of their lives; if they don’t, they cease to be wise. (1)
I am a pastor, that means to a certain point, I have been trained as a theologian. If you look at my libraries, you will see a few thousand volumes of books. The hardbacks I have read through, the digital ones, well – there are too many, but I source many of them each week in sermon preparation. Usually I skim maybe 20% of the 100-1500 hits I research, looking for various things to help prepare a message. I probably choose 10-20 to copy and paste and dwell through each week.
Been doing this for a while now, actually changed denominations once, have my favorite authors ( Luther, Escriva, Oden, Ratzinger, Willimon, Melancthon, Walther, Pieper, Augustine, Fracnis De Sales, Robert Webber ) It is somewhat an eclectic list, with guys from different times, different backgrounds. Which leads me to my point. I
We can’t put God in our Box.
We have to take Him as He reveals Himself, even if we don’t necessarily like His methods, His rules, His ways. We can’t say they are wrong simply because we don’t like them. Nor can we say with integrity that He didn’t really mean “that”. Yet to often we do, unaware that pride is causing us to shatter the first commandment.
Over the years, others have done fine jobs summarizing the faith. The three creeds that are held by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches ( The Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian) are good. I am particularly fond of others, the Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Catechisms for example. Pieper has done a masterpiece of theology, so has Thomas Oden never mind Luther and Augustine. But I can’t remember ever page, every question and answer of these theological giants. My expectation is neither can they! They couldn’t in a couple thousand pages describe everything about God, they couldn’t out-Bible the Bible. They wrote great things… yet, it is still the observation of men, not equal to scripture.
That is what Job realized at the end of the book that bears his name. (as did his friends…) It is what Josemaria Escriva talks about, in a section on humility (not, incidentally, on wisdom!)
A wise man once said that, “A man’s got to know his limitations…” Another, Socrates was considered to be the wisest man of his time. His response to being told this was something like this, “it is only because I realize how much I don’t know.” A good theologian talks where there is definite scriptural support – and struggles with that which contradicts his logix, because It is God’s word, God’s reasoning that trumps ours. Even when it doesn’t seem logical, or fair.
Yesterday’s blog was about walking humbly with God, about keeping our eyes on Him, about sometimes that humility is only found in the midst of great sorrow. Today’s is similar, our wisdom comes, not from what we know about God, but that we realize we are not omniscient, that His word trumps our logic. That there is a reason why He is God, that He is our Lord, our Savior, our Benefactor, and we are simply…. His kids.
So give up, for a day or two, putting God in your box…. let Him instead bring you into His glory….
Lord Have Mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1337-1340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:28-30 (TEV)
68 It is all too easy to say: “I’m useless; nothing turns out right for me—for us.” Apart from not being true, that pessimism masks a great deal of laziness. There are things you do well, and things you do badly. Fill yourself with joy and with hope on account of the former; and face up to the latter—without losing heart—to put things right; and they will work out.(1)
It creeps up on us slowly, like a tiger stalking its prey. We are doing okay, perhaps struggling a bit, and then, as things seem to fall apart, it strikes.
It’s our fault, the reason we aren’t successful, or happy, or even simply content. Sometimes even when we are achieving our goals, because we aren’t achieving them fast enough, or the results aren’t as awesome as the next guy.
We beat ourselves up, perhaps we listen to voices of our pas, the voices that were trying to spur us on, but tore us down.
We think we are failures, no good, useless, that nothing good will ever come from us. So we extend ourselves, we go after some other proof that we aren’t worthless. A better car, another degree, a nice house, We try to find success in our children, or perhaps in our ancestors. We find distractions, support groups, we listen to “positive thinking” speakers, and we surround ourselves with people who we think will lift us up…. and they don’t, for they are the same as us,
That is where faith, where confidence in God comes to play.
He’s promised all will work out for good – all things! All things! Even what we perceive to be our failures. Maybe especially in those times, as we get to our wits end, as we are bottoming out.
It is then that we have to remember He is with us, it is the only answer to the despair e feel. But as we find the joy that is found in knowing God, in understanding what His presence means, in realizing His promises are for us; we find the joy, the peace, the mercy to realize there is something more going on in life. That God is here, crafting everything into something that is a blessing beyond our wildest hope.
Filled with that joy, we leap into life, we take the opportunities that come, not to bring ourselves glory, but to see God glorified. To know that our lives are in His hands, and there is no better place to be.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 506-509). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Through You I Will Shine
† In Jesus Name †
As you dwell in the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize that His glory shines through you, doing far more for His Kingdom than you could ever imagine!
Who is this servant who brings God glory?
As we hear this call from Isaiah to pay attention, to hear his words, written to us from distant lands and who are far far away, we need to ask the question.
Hear part of it again, starting in verse 3,
“He said to me, “You are my servant Israel, and you will bring Me glory”
So here is the question – who is it that is saying this?
Who is God’s servant, who will bring God the Father glory? Who is it that God says to, “through you I will shine?”
The Sunday School answer is Jesus, some scholars would says the nation of Israel, others might indicate it is Paul, and missionaries and people who want to see the church grow may say it is…us.
Yet, who is this servant whom through God says “you will bring me glory”, or as I titled the sermon – “through you I will shine?”
I think we need to dig through more of the passage in order to find out.
What about this feeling of uselessness? Is that Jesus or Us?
If we are going to find this person or persons out, let’s look at the next sentence:
4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
That’s a proper response to realizing that God chose us from before our mother’s gave birth to us? That is the response to realizing God knew our name – even then?
4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
I think this would put many of us in contention for who this passage is about. We know God’s called us, we know He knows our name. Yet there are days where we wonder if our efforts to be faithful are working. When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, where we have spent ourselves, exhausted ourselves in our efforts to build His kingdom, or some days, our efforts just to endure.
So is this passage about us then?
If it is, then can we finish the verse?
Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”
The real struggle in life isn’t enduring those times, but in leaving things in God’s hands, in trusting Him to make the situation be what He promised, when He promised that all things work for good for those who love Him, whom He called according to His will. When we look around us and wonder, why aren’t things reflecting the love of God, why does not it look like we are blessed by God?
Here is the catch, while we may know these feelings at times, they are also true for Jesus. Think of the words he uttered in tears looking over Jerusalem,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Luke 13:34 (NLT)
Later He would say,
Luke 19:41-44 (NLT) 41 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.
Just in case we in our pride think Jesus only felt this way about Old Testament Israel, read the letters to the church in Revelation, for there we see God’s call to Christians like us, who struggle to realize they are His.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus knew these questions as well, for He was tempted in every point, just as we are. Yet He was able to commit Himself into the Father’s hands
So is He the servant through whom God will shine? Or are we?
The final “qualification”
If we go down to verse 6, there is another point to consider; that will help us determine whether this servant is us, or Jesus, or someone else.
6 He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Surely this points to our Lord, it is the very concept we sing of in the Nunc Dimitis, those words of Simeon when he saw the infant Jesus. For his ministry was seen to be just to the Jews, to restore them, that they would be readily identified as the people of God. His ministry went beyond that, reaching out even to us, 2000 years later, in a far distant land, the land that Isaiah calls to listen, and pay attention!
I do not think it is only about Jesus though. In our Bible Study, we’ll see Paul used the same language about Paul’s call into ministry, and about others. I would include, ABOUT US! The people of Concordia, the people that God gathers here in the this place.
Even with this last qualification, there is a strong point to be made – that we are part of this….
The realization of the Gospel
To make my point, I will refer back to last Sunday’s sermon on Romans 6. In the call and response we re-learned I said something – based on Paul’s understanding of our being united to Christ in Baptism….let’s see how good your memory is….
The call was, Alleluia! His is Risen! To my saying that, the new response is…
( “therefore WE are risen indeed! Alleluia )
It is critical to understand the gospel, to learn to place it all in the Lord’s hands, to trust in God for the reward, that we are that united to Christ’s death and resurrection. We need to realize that we find life in Him, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us that God has called by name, those whom He recognizes as His people. (even if we do not yet)
So this passage is about Jesus – but because it is about Jesus, it is about us as well! We can learn to leave everything in His hands, and trust in Him that it will be made right. We can see that He has called us, knowing us and forming us in our mother’s wombs, and that our words can bring people to know that they are righteous in the sight of God, for that is His judgment for those who know Him.
Our strength isn’t spent for nothing and no purpose, our work isn’t useless.
The answer to that attitude is found not in trying different things, or working the old things harder. Instead, its found in realizing that we are in Christ.
Even to the phrase that our ministry is not just found here, among the people we love. Rather God uses us, our words, our work, to reach people throughout the world, and will continue to do so. For what Paul said in our epistle reading this morning, to the church in Corinth. Look there in your bulletin, for the verses are highlighted,
2 I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
And let’s start at verse 7 for the second one..
Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
For there, in partnership, in communion with Christ, we find who we’ve been called to be, the children of God. For there in Christ we know that God will shine through us! That we will reflect His glory, and dwell in Him.
Knowing that, we find a peace that passes all understanding, which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! AMEN?