Devotional Thought of the Day:
Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT
The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.
But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.
To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”
In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.
And I know I am not alone.
We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.
you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.
That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.
It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.
And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.
They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.
This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.
Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. Amen.
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. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT
The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in
First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.
This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.
Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.
And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.
There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.
Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?
It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.
You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.
Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.
That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.
The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.
It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.
Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.
That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.
Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matt 11:2-3 TEV
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you. Ps. 9:9-10 TEV
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.
I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.
And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.
And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.
The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.
Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it. ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?
His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs. It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus. It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us. But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….
Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all. Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.
Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything. The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma. The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.
So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 18:37-38 (NLT2)
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I wish I could have seen the body language and tone of voice of Pilate when he asked, “What is Truth?”
Was it from exasperation? Did his non-verbals betray a sad sense of fatalism or sarcasm? Did he really want to know the truth, but feel that his search was so in vain?
He was face to face with God’s revelation of the truth, and couldn’t see it. He heard it, but he didn’t realize it.
Approximately 1500 years later, Luther was struggling with the truth as well. He found the truth, and the mercy it promised so much like chasing after the wind. What he had been taught obscured it, to the extent that he knew deep despair and depression.
The hammering of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg wasn’t a call to arms, it wasn’t the equivalent of the first shot of the American Revolution, it wasn’t a cry for the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was a plea to examine what was believed, and compare it to scripture, in the hope of finding out the truth of God’s love.
My denomination celebrates this day, and I am not sure I do. I don’t regret the work of Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz and their brothers, but I do regret the necessity. And I, even more, regret that we’ve lost the focus, that the events surrounding Luther’s search for and finding grace are lost in the triumphalism, in the “we’ve shown them.”
You see, in my mind, the reformation should still be about redirecting us to the mercy of Christ, and to the fact we need it. It should be about the hope we who are broken find in the healer. It must be about Jesus.
That is why the first thesis read.
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
To remember the beginning of the reformation means we remember the call to a life of repentance.
And that means we have to admit where we are wrong and be willing to be questioned regarding our presuppositions, about our theology and practice. We have to accept the invitations to discuss where we have obscured Jesus, and be willing to repent.
That is reformation, that is putting Christ first, and seeing Him at work, redeeming and reforming His people.
Luther, M. (1996). Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of indulgences: October 31, 1517 (electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: y God sent z His •One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation e for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 1 John 4:9-11 HCSB
197 Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.
A few decades ago, a preacher stood up and had a dream, a very valid dream where racism didn’t exist, where quotas and systems didn’t have a place, because diversity was natural, and celebrated. A great dream.
My dream is somewhat different, somewhat more specific. Yet with the same thought, a reconciliation so pure that we don’t remember the damage. It has been a growing desire, this dream of mine, you might even call it a prayer. (though my mind would consider winning the lottery more likely….I would rather this dream come true over winning the lottery.)
it takes place in a small quiet sanctuary, without the reporters, without the news commentators, and without FB and Twitter going crazy. Only three people would know the meeting ever took place. A pastor/priest, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford. And of course, the only One who could make this happen.
As they gather together, the love of God would cause the positioning to drop away, the perceptions and the individual realities would be swept away, and the sin, whatever sin there is, would be covered. Not covered up, but covered by the blood of Christ.
Healing would happen, as they are absolved by the Authority who can wash away sin. And with the sin, the anger, the hurt, the resentment begins to find healing
Because God loves them both, He ministers through the pastor/priests words to them both. And the love of God transforms them both. So much so that they both realize all the sin in the room is so washed away, it doesn’t even come to mind anymore.
All there is is love. The love of God poured out on them, reflected from them to each other.
The world doesn’t have to know about it, just the two, and the priest/pastor sworn to secrecy.
Yet, the love that can unify those broken has its effect, and the world, ignorant of the scene, begins to change, as the most powerful thing in the world takes a hold of people, and reconciles them, even as it will draw others to reconcile.
This is my dream, and more it is my prayer. That the ministry of reconciliation become the dominant ministry once again, as we realize that love is not a human emotion, but the power of God at work in us.
Lord, this day, help us to see the power of your love at work in us, as we find ourselves being reconciled to those we were once divided from… AMEN!
The question of the day.
If you knew reconciliation and healing was possible for the most broken relationship you have, what would stop you from seeking it?
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1031-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
8 Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. 9 I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are in the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:8-9 HCSB
919 By calling you to be an apostle, our Lord has reminded you, so that you will never forget it, that you are a child of God.
Today is the 9th anniversary of my son moving from his crib to his bed. Or at least the “on this day” photo app told me it is! The picture shows him lying peacefully in bed, his three friends lying beside him.
What before had been a bundle of nerves, worried about falling the 4 inches to the mat covered floor. We reminded him we were just down the hall, that we could hear him, that he would safe, that all would be well.
That even if he fell, we would be there, to comfort him, to pick him back up, to put in back in place. We were there. As we had been, just a few feet down the hall.
That is the kind of reminder we need form God. That He will always be there, that He will help us and comfort us when fall, helping us back up into place. That He will provide the type of intimate, loving care that a parent provides for their scared and hurting child.
Even when the child is a grown up, one sent by God to reveal him to the world, or to our neighbor. For we are all sent, even as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so He sends us.
All of us.
And He will be there to pick us up, to comfort and care for us.
And eventually, we grow to be dependent upon Him, to long for His presence, knowing that the righteousness and injustice we see cause us anxiety and stress us out. We need Him, just like our children need us. TO calm our fears, to being our ansiety burdened hearts to know peace. To assure us that He is still God, our Father.
We need Him,, and we need to learn He is there.. and as He sends us out into the world, to reveal Him to others, we will find His presence more and more.
Lord, help us to see ourselves as your kids, the kids whom you love, and care for, whom you protect and bandage up and heal. Lord, help us to long for your presence, even as a child longs for his parents. Thank you! Amen†
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2136-2137). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)
304 Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.
48 By the blessing of God, the priests in our churches pay attention to the ministry of the Word, they teach the Gospel of the blessing of Christ, and they show that the forgiveness of sins comes freely for Christ’s sake. This teaching really consoles consciences.
.When I come across the phrase, for Christ’s sake, it makes me wonder how we hear it
The phrase is heard in our liturgies, and is used in so many theology texts. “we are forgiven for Christ’s sake,”.
Certainly, without Jesus’ intervention, we wouldn’t be able to be forgiven. And I can’t see the Father wasting the Son’s life, He honors the sacrifice, and Christ’s merit is applied to our lives, as sin is separated from the sinner, and we are found to be righteous without it.
Yet, when I hear we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, there is a part of me that hears it negatively, as if there is no worth God finds in us. As if the cross and all the suffering was simply God resigning Himself to save us, to deal with His frustration. As if His attitude was, “you screwed up again, I suppose I have to save you, okay. I’ll do it, but only because of Jesus.”
That interpretation doesn’t coincide with how God is revealed in the Old Testament or the New. Saving us is not something He reluctantly does, even as He is frustrated beyond frustration.
This is why we need to spend some time in solitude each day, why we need to be concerned about what St. Josemaria calls our interior life. The place where we know God is with us, where we can hear HIs voice and know we are safe. We need to know He’s found us, and we can relax, and listen
We need to hear God’s voice, we need to grow to where we can join the place the psalmist is at when he speaks of God’s thoughts about him. ,
To understand that God thinks about us leads us to realize how much He does care about us and sent Jesus to save us. To think that is not just a passing thought, but that God has thought about us since He created us. His thoughts are beyond our ability to count, yeah that makes sense. Clarifying that you were on God’s mind more times that you can count is, well I just have words for that concept.
He loves us that much…
Yes, it is because of Christ’s coming that we can know this, that we can be counted holy, yet that just isn’t our goal, it is the Father’s desire.
What an amazing thought.
What an amazing God!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 789-791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print
Our Lenten Journey:
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph
Finding Hope on the Walk
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the hope you need, as we endure this journey, depending on His faithfulness!
The Steps of the journey
Imagine being on the side of the road, leading up to Jerusalem. Jesus, the one some are claiming to be the Messiah starts the long climb up to Jerusalem on a small donkey. As it meanders up the pathway, the crowd is growing in size and in energy,
Expectations are building, even though the man is a mystery,
He does miracles, incredible miracles. He teaches like no one else, and those who’ve met him, are more aware of God’s love, of God’s presence in His life.
He’s coming! Everything is going to change!
It is no different today, as we journey through life, as we walk, guided by the Holy Spirit, and await Jesus coming into our lives.
The Prophet Zechariah told them what to be looking for when Jesus came, He told them what to expect, from how Jesus would arrive, to what He would do.
Understanding this prophecy, this promise gives us real hope,
First – He is coming
As we hear the words rejoice, as we hear that Jesus, our Lord is coming to us, he comes to us in a way that is a paradox.
He’s righteous and victorious, even before the cross there is no demon, no power that can withstand Him. Think about that for a moment, the prophet is using words that are present tense, righteous, victorious, and this is known before he goes into Jerusalem.
Before He goes to the cross, he is already described as victorious.
But then he doesn’t enter as the conquering hero, and that is where we see the paradox.
Maybe that is why he goes to the Jerusalem without the armies, without the majestic horse and the flashing sword. He comes not to conquer, but to provide for His people.
And so he comes, riding on a small donkey, simple and humbly, to be with His people. Just as He promised to back again, and we await Him….
Second – He’s here… working
The second thing we see God doing in this passage is very interesting. Hear it again
I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.
I want you to notice something very important, He’s not removing the ability of our enemies to do battle, but rather, he is removing our ability to do battle.
The coming of the Messiah doesn’t equip us to do warfare, it enables us to live knowing that our God is victorious. He is bringing peace into our lives, even as He prepared to the cross, so much more now should we be living in peace?
Yet you and struggle and fight, sometimes we try and fight the evil in the world, sometimes we fight the evil in each other, and sometimes, we fight the evil within ourselves. We know we should not sin, that we shouldn’t be so easy to give into temptation, and yet we do. Yet we don’t always turn this over to God, we might even swear we will do everything in our power to be good, rather than depend on Him, and on the work on the cross.
God has to remove our ability to fight, for as long as we do, we will not know His peace. For as long as we fight, we won’t depend on Jesus, we won’t depend on His work at the cross.
We have to let Jesus take over, it isn’t easy at times. Who am I kidding, it isn’t easy at all.
Yet Jesus took care of our need to prove ourselves right. Because of the cross, because of Jesus death paying for our sin, for our unrighteousness, we are now counted righteous. He strips from us not only the way to do battle but the desire to, for we begin to realize that God is taking care of us, that Jesus has made things right. That is His role, as He is our king,
Third Step, He frees us.
He describes that here, in verse 11:
11 Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12 Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!
Even as the prophet is speaking and writing for God, the plan is set, it is by the blood of Christ that all who were imprisoned by sin are freed from it. Even as Christ rides up the mountain to Jerusalem, the plan which was set in place from before the creation of the world is as good as done.
This was the promise to Abraham, this is the promise made to Moses,
He frees us from all that imprisons us, all that causes us to fight, to struggle. Our anxieties, our fears, our sin, our brokenness. He brings us to a place of safety, a place of security, a sanctuary where we dwell with Him. A place where we learn to trust Him more and more, as we begin to experience and see His love for us.
For we are safe with our King leading us, with our King, Jesus, providing for us.
This is what we hope for, understanding it better than the people in the prophets day, or even the disciples in Jesus day. But we still need to understand it better, this love of God, revealed to us in the cross of Christ. This is the hope we have, given to us as Christ died on the cross, yet sometimes hard to see,,,
That is why as I close, I pray for you as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus,
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph
Love Found on the Walk
† I.H.S. †
May you find the gifts from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, the gifts of incredible love and peace, as you realize you spend every day in His presence.
Time for some honesty.
How many of you find the Bible confusing at times?
Good, it looks like I am in good company. It might sound off to hear a pastor confess that the Bible can seem confusing at times, but it can, and today is one of those times.
God promises through the writing of Jeremiah that there is a day coming when a New Covenant and a new deal will be put in place. And my heart rejoices in that promise! But then I look at the description of how people acted towards God, and the promise of how they will look in the new testament, and I struggle.
Because I see people looking more like their Old Testament ancestors than like the prophecy of the New Covenant.
So I am confused, Didn’t the Old Testament fade away at the cross, and wasn’t the New Testament confirmed with the Resurrection of Jesus?
And if it was, what doesn’t it say if we don’t act like the prophecy? What does it say about the prophecy of God? What does it say about us?
Do we still need to be taught?
In the second paragraph of today’s Old Testament reading, there are some descriptions of the people in the new covenant.
We are supposed to have had God’s instructions, the entire description of the Covenant, placed deep within them, and they will be written on your heart.
We are supposed to not need someone to teach us, and we shouldn’t have to teach our families or our neighbors. And yet, that seems to be the bulk of what I do, either preparing to teach and preach or actually doing the teaching and preaching.
Too often we are like the people in the Old Covenant, the ones that God had to take by the hand and lead them out of Egypt, yet like little kids, they tried to escape from God and go to whatever false god promised us what we want..…
So what has happened? Why aren’t we living the way God promised we would? Why do we still have people who get caught up in their sin, who betray God, who hate their enemies rather than loving and praying for them? Why don’t we live in obedience to God?
Was scripture wrong, or is it not about us?
have to admit, this is and was a confusing passage, one that I struggled to write the sermon on, one I struggled to find the words that explained it well.
Do we know God?
But I am going to explain it this way, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are different because in one the people were dragged into it, they were drug out of Egypt, and they didn’t know God, barely beyond knowing that God was the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Not only did they not know about God, but they also didn’t know Him. So he had to grab them by the hand and lead them, and be constantly aware that they would wander off, that they would be unfaithful, because they didn’t know Him, even at their best, they only knew about Him.
Luther put it this way,
Although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
This is where it all boils down, in Christ we not only know about God, we know Him. We have something to expect from Him, love and the blessings of peace and forgiveness. In Christ God’s love isn’t just written on stone tablets, it is placed in our heart, ready to resonate with the message of the gospel.
That love, that mercy, that peace was unknown in the Old Testament, it was hidden. They knew God wants to be their God, but they didn’t get what that meant. They didn’t make the link between the covenant, and the requirement on God to do whatever it would take to fulfill the covenant, what is called cHesed.
We translate it love, or loving-kindness, and sometimes mercy, but it is a term form covenant. That is what is written on our hearts! This covenant of cHesed, this covenant of love and mercy. This word means you are bound to the other person to the extent that if they cannot fulfill their obligation, you will do it for them.
Not begrudgingly, but out of love, because you care. That is how God bound you to Himself. As He united you with Jesus death and resurrection! God cares for you so much, all that you have done, all that you cannot fix, He took care of at the cross.
And that is what we see up here, at the cross, the love and mercy of God doing for us, what we cannot do for ourselves.
That’s the God we know in the New Covenant, a God who is so dedicated to us, so willing to care for us, that He will take care of our sin, as He always has promised us. A God who helps us realize that He is our God and we are His people, and what that means, that He bears all of our burdens.
Which is something you cannot really teach, it is something like in our benediction for the yea.r
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)
For that is the covenant of Jesus, the relationship and religion formed when we were united to the lamb of God, who was slain that we would be rescued, who was slain to grant us peace, to help us to know Him, and to know His love. AMEN!.
The devotional thought of the day:
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,
” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 1 Corinthians 12:14-21 (NLT)
666 You insist on doing your own thing, and so your work is barren. Obey: be docile. Each cog in a machine must be put in its place. If not, the machine stops, or the parts get damaged. It will surely not produce anything, or if it does, then very little. In the same way, a man or a woman outside his or her proper field of action, will be more of a hindrance than an instrument of apostolate.
A long time ago, as I was working at a major university and preparing to leave for my first pastoral position, the president of the university gave me some advice on leadership in ministry.
He told me that among the people I want on my leadership team would be those who opposed me. That the best ideas and advice would come from them, and often, they would stop me from shooting myself in the foot.
This runs a bit contrary to what most management and consultant types will tell you. They will say you want all the people pushing on the same side of the box, sharing the same vision, people who have all bought into the plans.
And while this can be helpful in management or in ministry, you also need that person who will question you, who will keep you humble, who will be there, faithful to the church, faithful enough to say when you’ve messed up.
Of course, you may find this a challenge, having people around who oppose you is never easy. Loving them and caring for them may be difficult, but they are part of the Body of Christ, they are a necessary cog in the machine, and if you would see it, they are a blessing from God.
We can’t just do our own thing, we can’t always get our own way, often we don’t have the knowledge or the wisdom that together are needed to make things work. If we try to be, getting rid of the people that don’t conform to our system, we are the one who is hindering the apostolate, the mission of the church.
So next time someone gets on your nerves, the next time they question your idea, take a breath, thank God for their presence in your life, and consider what they say.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2450-2454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.