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I love it when a plan comes together! (a plan… not mine)


Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

O LORD, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever. 2 I know that your love will last for all time, that your faithfulness is as permanent as the sky.  Psalm 89:1-2  GNT

 

345         What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity.

The contemplation of God, of his person, creation, incarnation, and re-creation of the world, is a different kind of knowledge. It is a contemplation on the mysteries, namely, the mystery of God creating, the mystery of God incarnate, the mystery of the cross and empty tomb, the mystery of God’s presence in the church, and the mystery of Christ’s return to claim his lordship over creation. The contemplation of these mysteries moves us to live into these mysteries, participating in God’s life for the world.

This week has not gone as I planned, I had a number of things to accomplish to get ready for vacation, also plans to celebrate my 28th anniversary tomorrow.

Let’s just say those things I planned to get done were often interrupted, as hours were spent in crisis moments, and in a meeting, a very necessary meeting, that took out most of a day.  And then, of course, the implementation of a new phone system.  Yeah, my plan?  Long days and nights, and some of the things are off the checklist… but I am leaving for “home” in a little more than 48 hours…

Yet with the esteemed Colonel on the old A-team, I can look back and say, somehow, “I love it when a plan comes together!”  Even if I haven’t seen it come to its fulfillment.

More and more I realize that Escriva’s idea that those who serve as the church are like blinded donkeys, walking around, supplying the work that God uses to bless others is true.  We love it when a plan comes together, but we are equally sure that it cannot be our plan. At least if we want it to come together!  There must be a greater planner who is able to not just plan well, but execute and carry us to where the plan “comes together”

One in whom we can trust, one who we can depend on, not just for the plan, but for the result. And then we can go back to our trodding through life, content to let the Spirit lead, flexible enough to simply follow that Spirit when the need occurs, even when we think we are a round peg being placed into a square hole.

That is where Webber’s words this morning make so much sense to me.  That as we contemplate the very mysteries of God, as we try, not to understand as much as observe in awe, and accept we cannot have all the answers, but we can have Him, the need for all the answers, the need to see all of our agendas come to pass fades.  Simply put, knowing Him, living in His glorious peace is….. more than sufficient.

We learn to sing with the psalmist about God’s love, about His faithfulness.  Which feeds on itself.  For the more aware of this, the more we explore the breadth, width, depth, and height of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ, revealed at the cross, and at the table, the more we desire to simply know that….

And we are assured of the living water that our lives help distribute to fields will see them ready to harvest, as the world comes to know the love of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

The Art of Negotiating not needed here.


Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  When Jesus noticed the crowd around him, he ordered his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. 19  A teacher of the Law came to him. “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” 20  Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest.” 21  Another man, who was a disciple, said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” 22  “Follow me,” Jesus answered, “and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22 (TEV)

9         When they talked to him about committing himself personally, his reaction was to reason in the following manner: “If I did, I could do that…, I would have to do this other… “ The answer he got was: “Here, we don’t bargain with the Lord. The law of God, the invitation of the Lord, is something you either take or leave, just as it is. You need to make up your mind: go forward, fully decided and without holding back; otherwise, go away. Qui non est mecum…— whoever is not with Me, is against Me.”

Our culture seems in love with negotiating, or at least the idea that if we negotiate we can get a better bargain.  We negotiate for our homes, our cars, computers, vacations, our pay, never mind the fun of going to a swap meet or yard sale and negotiating to pay 3 dollars instead of 4 for something we don’t need or have room for in our garage.

We even try to negotiate with God.

This is not something new, people have been trying to negotiate with God for since the beginning.  Or at least they imagine they are negotiating.  They take his lack of a counteroffer as a kind of approval, or simply don’t listen to what God has already told them.

Why am I saying “them”, I am just as guilty of trying to make deals with God. Though we can couch this in pious prayers, offering God what we should already have given Him, what is His by right, if only he would bless us in this way or that, or remove this or that. I

I am not saying we shouldn’t pray, but prayer isn’t a negotiation.  Neither is salvation or sanctification. And to try and make a deal, or to set the conditions means that we need to go back and examine what the word faith means.

It means trust, it means to depend upon, rely upon.

We don’t bargain with God just out of respect or fear. We learn not to bargain with Him because we’ve learned to trust Him, to know that He has our best interest at heart.  That His love, His patience, His desire is to make all things work for good.  We can’t negotiate a better deal that He offers in the New Covenant.

That is what God being Lord is all about, it is what being in the Kingdom of God is all about, knowing the Lord who loves us, and calls us to be His special people.

Rejoice, the best is already yours.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 274-279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s time to come home… coming to our senses about sin and the family of God


dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:
17  Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. 18  I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.” ‘ 20  So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:17-20 (NAB)

985    You strayed from the way and did not return because you were ashamed. It would be more logical if you were ashamed not to return.

Why, Then, is the Law to Be Taught, and What is Its Legitimate Use?
I. That people might learn from the Law seriously to acknowledge both their manifold sins and the judgment of God against sins, namely that they are subject to divine wrath and the curse or eternal condemnation, unless they are set free through Christ, so that they thus turn themselves away from sins, fear the wrath of God, and seek the true physician who alone can heal our weaknesses. Ro 3:20; 4:15; 2 Co 3:6–9; Eze 18:30–31; Mt 9:12.
II. That the Law, written by the finger of God, might be for the reborn a sure norm and rule, showing which works God has prepared, in which He wants the reborn to walk and serve Him. Dt 12:32; Eze 20:19; Ro 13:8; Cl 2:20–23.

He came to his senses. We need to do the same. 

Growing up 40-45 years ago, there was a rule in our home, be back int he house before dark.  We lived on 3 hilly wooded acres in New Hampshire, and darkness fell fast, there was nothing like lingering twilight in the, once the sun went down, darkness descended, and it was a black darkness.  

More than once, I would leave too late to get home before darkness caught me.  Once i remember sitting in the small ancient cemetery (newest grave was 1810 or so) a half mile down the road, fearing what my arrival home would bring.  As a side note, I don’t recommend sitting in a dark cemetery with huge creaky oak trees blotting out the moonlight.

Car lights could be seen, and I feared each one would contain my parents, out searching for their young rebellious, disobedient son. After about an hour passed by, as the night was getting colder, desperation would force me to leave my refuge, and walk my huffy bicycle home. 

As I walked by my neighbors, looking in their windows, I wondered if they knew of my misadventure if my folks had checked with the Stobers and the Zahns.  Eventually, I tried to figure if I could sneak in, through the basement sliding glass door, or maybe through the studio or kitchen door.  But I made it home, and at first hugged, then scolded, then hugged again, I was finally safe, and the anxiety could fade away.

This is how we treat God, whether we’ve run far off, or whether we are hiding deep inside our own hearts as we sit in church on Sunday morning.  St Josemaria tells us our shame should have driven us home, desperately seeking refuge, rather than ensnared us and kept us anxious, cold, hungry and left…. outside, tormented, and scared what would happen when we finally arrived home. 

As a pastor, there is a need for me to teach people that the best place for them to be, when struggling with sin, is in the midst of God’s family.  There, mercy and peace is waiting.  Forgiveness and love will be manifest.  Chemnitz was correct, where the Law serves properly when it moves believers from remaining in sin to remember they are set free from sin by Jesus, and enables them to respond to that mercy and love.  That it shows them they can seek the healing of their hearts and souls, for this is why Jesus reaches out to them.

People need to know that church is a safe haven fro sinners, a place where they aren’t going to be condemned for being snared by sin, but where they will find peace, as others similarly wounded assist them, and help them depend on Jesus.  

This is the church, this is the Father’s home, where we find His compassion.

So come home, enter the warmth and light, and know love and peace…. it’s time.

And if you see me or anyone else hiding behind a tombstone, bring us home too.

For we all get caught in the darkness from time to time.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 2290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition 
Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness! A Sermon on Micah 6


church at communion 2Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness

Micah 6:1-8

 I.H.S. † 

 May you rejoice today, as you consider the promises of God, made to you and to all people, as He teaches us about His faithfulness!

All Rise… the court is in session:

In today’s sermon, we see an interesting civil court case, one that has some very interesting testimony and a wonderful surprise or two…

Like many civil trials, there is a complaint, and sort of a counter-complaint.

The adversaries are talking about who has kept their part of the deal, and what that means.

The trial is not what you would normally expect, for Man and God going to trial.  It is not one where man is on trial, to see whether a man is guilty or innocent.  Nor is it a trial as someone tries assert that the evidence given to mankind demands a verdict, that God exists.

It is more like a case for what they used to call an “alienation of affection,”

Man’s complaint

The trial opens with God inviting mankind to state their case against Him.  What promises did God make, where in the covenant did God fail? Our carefully planned out points of complaint are seen on the next slide. (Blank)

Yes, there they are….

Now you might be saying that there are plenty of things I can complain about.  The existence of heart diseases, cancer, poverty, hunger, and the lack of peace seem to come right to mind.

Remember, the case is about the alienation of affection.  Did God break his promises to Israel.  Did God break His promises to us.

And there is little evidence that He did, no, there is no evidence he did.

His surprising complaint

We then get to God’s complaint.

It’s then the case becomes clear, for He doesn’t shred us (or Israel) for our sin, for all the disrespect we show to authority, and pain we’ve caused to others lives.  He doesn’t go after us for adultery, or what we’ve taken from others, for our gossip or our jealousy and what it causes us to do.

Instead, hear God’s complaint….

“O my people, what have I done to you?  What have I done to make you tired of me!”

Really?  Of all the things that God could complain of, He complains that we’ve grown tired of Him?

Really?

That sounds… weak?  wimpy?  Like God is a lovestruck teenager, whose girlfriend was stolen by the class president/football team captain?

“What have I done to make you tired of me?”

Could God really be that in love with us?  Does He desire to call us “His” that much?
Epiphany reveals to us that he loves us that much.

Not just infatuation, but pure desire, pure love, and His work proves it.

And His case is.. What?

God will go on to make a case, that there is no reason for us to be alienated from Him, there is no reason to deny Him the affection he so longs for.

Remember the rescue from Egypt?

What about the time that prophet was paid to curse you and blessed you instead?  Do you remember that?

Do you remember me?…..

Do you do something to remember me?

God tells them what He’s done, as he says, in the midst of your rebellion, from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal’s caves, I did everything to teach you about my faithfulness.

God wanted to instill in Israel the idea that He’s not giving up on them.  He wanted them, just like He wants us, to count on Him, to count on Him in the way that a God is supposed to be counted on by His people, by His beloved children.

That’s a challenge for us, to know this love, which is why we have to remember, to see it again over and over.  TO think back daily on God proving that faithfulness as He cleansed us from all sin.   TO think about it as God calls us to remember the Body broken, the wine that was spilled so that we could be with Him, now and for eternity.

That’s why God doesn’t need all the sacrifices, that’s why we don’t have the blood of calves and rams and more oil than you can count.

That’s not what He’s after, He doesn’t want complete submission and surrender, and lives spent in trying to pay back the cost of all we’ve broken.

God wants our affection, our presence, our love.

And in Epiphany we celebrate Him revealed that to us, as Christ comes to love us.

Micah 6:8

Which brings us to that final verse, as God tells us what is good… and what He wants from us.

TO do what is right – or to put it another way, to live in this relationship where He is our God, and we are His people. To love His cHesed, to know that loving kindness/mercy/love, that loyalty, and faithfulness He has for us, and to walk with Him, realizing what it means to be His beloved.

Those things, we don’t tire of, those things will cause us to be in such awe, those things will draw us into His glory and love.

No, they have done those things – for we are in Epiphany, the season celebrating His presence among us, and our presence in Him.   AMEN!

 

 

Blinded by Theology: The Case of Perfect Knowledge without the right purpose


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:

27 “I have already told you,” he answered, “and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you, too, would like to be his disciples?”
28 They cursed him and said, “You are that fellow’s disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29We know that God spoke to Moses; as for that fellow, however, we do not even know where he comes from!”
30 The man answered, “What a strange thing that is! You do not know where he comes from, but he cured me of my blindness! 31We know that God does not listen to sinners; he does listen to people who respect him and do what he wants them to do. 32Since the beginning of the world nobody has ever heard of anyone giving sight to a person born blind. 33Unless this man came from God, he would not be able to do a thing.”   John 9:27-39 TEV

7  Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:7 (Phillips NT)

These are great mysteries and far above all human comprehension. But we know that these holy mysteries have been revealed to the church, in order that we might pray to God properly and consider reasons for this marvelous kindness, that God, by an eternal association, joined a human nature to Himself. Therefore He truly cares for us and loves us and sent this Son that He might be the Redeemer and soften His wrath against sin, as needs to be said repeatedly later.  ( from the section by Melancthon) 

As I grow older, I am coming to realize that the biggest handicap for a pastor may be his intellect and reason, and how it is educated rather than formed.  How area minds are taught to seek the deep mysteries, not to be in awe of God, but to be able to teach purely, to be able to note and correct each other.

While there is a need for such correction and for proper teaching, those resources of intellect and reason, the time invested in education are wasted in the purpose is wrong.

We see this in Melancthon’s words, highlighted in blue above.  Talking about the mysteries of the Trinity, and of Christology, he concludes that the reason for the revelation of the existence of these mysteries, and the depth of our knowledge of them is to one end.

These things are revealed that we could pray, that we could communicate with Lord of love who binds us to Himself eternally as He cleanses us and restores us.  Our pursuit must not be the mysteries that are beyond our comprehension, but the love of God which is clearly seen, and which transformed all that it draws and connects to Him.

This is why the blind man could easily see that Jesus was special, that the miracle he did drew him to be Christ’s disciple as well.  And the Pharisees and leaders of the synagogue, the men the mysteries of scripture were entrusted too, could not get past their own doubts. They remained blinded by their theology and didn’t see that they were in the presence of God.

These weren’t men that pursued knowledge for malicious purposes.   They didn’t study the scriptures daily with the intent of enslaving others to a religious system to take advantage of them.  Even Paul, before encountering Jesus, talked of being righteous according to the Law.  But that righteousness he would set aside, that justification of his own actions, so meticulously laid out, was worthless.

He needed to know God.  He needed God to walk with Him, to comfort and shepherd Him.  He needed the Holy Spirit’s presence to lift him up, to draw him to the reconciliation and transformation, not only being justified completely, but being sanctified.  TO know, as he wrote in Hebrews, that he could boldly walk into the Father’s holy, almighty presence.

That is the purpose of theology, the place it starts and ends.  Prayer, that moment we go to God, in desperate need, humbly asking Him to be here, and hearing a response of a God who our mind can’t fathom.  Yet in whose presence our hearts rejoice, and in front of whom our souls dance, free of sin, and sure that we are home with Him.

So next time you pick up that tome, or search that dataset, know what you are looking for, what you are searching for, that your people need to be taught.  The height, the depth, the width and breadth of God’s love for you, and for them.

That will be made clear in His glorious presence, and make this known as well;  THE LORD IS WITH YOU!

 

 

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Overwhelmed by Joy! A sermon on Isaiah 61-62


church at communion 2

Overwhelmed by Joy!

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

 Jesus Son & Savior

As we begin this year, may the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm you, leaving you noticeably at rest and full of joy!

Standing in the wings

Isaiah, the prophet gives an incredible description of the new beginning we have in Christ in today’s Old Testament.  It takes most of back a decade or two or five.

Back to when us guys were standing in churches, or chapels, and waiting for the doors to open. Back when you ladies were on the other side of those doors, in that moment of anticipation, in that moment of joy.

That’s what Isaiah starts the passage with, as he attempts to describe the joy he feels, as he catches a vision of the restoration of the people of God.  Hear it again,

10  I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.

All dressed up – and waiting, but what clothes!  Salvation and Righteousness!

And Isaiah saw this coming – and the joy was overwhelming!

As we start this new year, this is what we need to realize, that our lives have changed, and changing as much as a young couples lives change, as the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day….

We’ll get back to that in a moment…
The prayer – for the new beginning
We need to understand that Isaiah is one of the prophets whose writings are filled with lament.  With the words that people will hear, because they continually choose sin over God.  They are self-centered, and ignore those in need, which Isaiah mourns over, even as he warns them what they are heading for, if they continue.

In between the woes, and the promises of judgment, there brief views of hope.  He will talk about a virgin who would conceive, and the baby who would be the wonderful counselor, eternal Father, the prince of peace.  He would mention the one who pleased God by taking on himself all the wrath of God, thus giving life to those crushed by their own sin.

But overall, the book is challenging to read, Lots of what we might call hell fire and brimstone.  But then, sin is a serious issue, and it took a serious cross to cure and heal the damage done to sinners.

But you see God’s heart reflected in Isaiah’s prayer

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
Even as the prophet has his moments, okay, more than moments, years of struggling to get them to listen to God, he has a desire for them to come into the relationship they were meant to be in.

God’s desire infused the heart of Isaiah, and even as he weeps over their disobedience, he longs for the change that God has promised.

He has to pray, and will pray until they are right with God, so right they shine like the sun rising, and the proof of God’s delivering them lights up the darkness like bonfire.

This is what the prophet longs for, and what causes incredible joy, as he looks to the future, and gets a hint of what Jesus, the one born of a virgin, the suffering servant whose wounds would provide our healing, when Isaiah realizes the work of Christ!

Even as it was His hope, it is ours as well, and we are so much closer to realizing it fulfilled.

We like Isaiah are dressed, and waiting for the doors to open, to see the promise come into its fullness.

The clothes and the name.

When I mentioned the joy of Isaiah being such that he compared it to a groom standing here, or a bride back at the door, all dressed up in their clothing of salvation and the robe of righteousness, I didn’t explain the depth of those words.

The clothing is that of the greatest finery – the same words are used for the special robes of a priest on the highest of holy days.  As is the robe – we aren’t talking about a bath robe or choir robe, we are talking about the covering of a king… and the types of garments aren’t even the best thing!

The clothing of salvation – that is in Hebrew the being clothed with Yeshua – being clothed with Jesus!  The very thing Paul will talk about, as we are united to Jesus – as we put Him on,

Which explains how our robes are righteousness – the purity and innocence of one who does not know sin at all.

This is what Isaiah saw as our future, this moment of pure joy, pure bliss, as the people of God are made so righteous that the world is amazed, because we will share in the glory of God, as He holds out for all to see.

This moment as God makes you His, this special moment that Isaiah prayed and prayed and prayed for, that the people of Israel and all the nations would come to know…

The moment we were united to Christ, it is already here, it happened at the cross.

In the beginning of the sermon, I mentioned waiting here as a groom would, or there, as a bride would, that is what Isaiah saw – but for us, we’ve come to that point where the pastor announces our name for the first time, for we have be claimed by Christ at this font, and again at this altar.

We are his, and though we can’t quite believe it has happened, it has, and the rest of life is the walk down the aisle, dwelling with Him in holiness, until we go out into eternity.

The thought of this occurring caused Isaiah great joy, so much so He was overwhelmed,

How much more can this overwhelm us, who don’t see it far off, but know it true now.

How much more can it affect our very lives, this incredible gift of God.

May we sing His praises, now and forever!  AMEN

1

Has the Church become a pathetic loser?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first! NAB-RE Rev. 2:2-4

414    How pathetic: a “man of God” who has fallen away! But how much more pathetic: a “man of God” who is lukewarm and worldly!

A lot of conversations I’ve been in recently have been about the church in decline.

One talked about how we need to start lots of new churches because old churches can’t grow.  

With another friend we talked about how three churches, healthy two decades ago, may share in the services of one pastor, rather than simply have someone come in every Sunday to preach.

A third conversation was about one of the largest of mega-churches, and how it, and its worship, are but a shadow of what they once were.

We look at the extremes of the church, and it is no less grievous.  One side wants to embrace society’s ills, setting aside the scripture that tells us to shine the light in the darkness.  They do such by just agreeing to live there.  The other extreme also avoids shining light in the darkness, by shining light where there is the brightness of day.  Like in the passage from the Revelation, they do all the good things, they detest the false teaching, they suffer abuse and endure.

What you don’t often hear anymore, is how in love the church is with God!

How head over heals we are, how much we are in awe and wonder, and how we adore God. How amazed we are to find ourselves counted as His loved ones.

The result of loving our love for God?  Lukewarmness, busyness, being focused more on what is going on around us, than being aware of His glorious presence in our life.  A church that focuses itself on outreach, or on maintaining a level of purity.

We need to remember this – we need to rekindle that love!  But how does that happen?

We need to spend time, resting in God’s presence, meditating on His love, hearing His voice which calls out to us. We need to hear of His love for us, His desire for us to be in His presence.  As we meditate on such things our love for Him grows, depending on Him, having faith in Him becomes easier, as does sharing that love with others.

Pastor  – you want you church to come alive, for people to grow in faith (and in a pure faith?)  Then fall in love with God, rejoice in His love for you.

The rest will fall in place.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Isn’t God Listening?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44  NAB-RE

And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies.  (1)

2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death.  (2)

As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.

Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?

I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people.  But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary?  The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?

And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father?  Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep.  (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat.  They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)

I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair.  It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.

It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”.  If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing.  It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.

I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.

The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God.  It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word.  We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love.  There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden.  Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is.  It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God.  We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.

And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.

He will listen.

He does listen.

He is listening, right now!

And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed.  This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.

As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him.  That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.

And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now.  It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.

Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Jealousy, Desire, and the Holiness of God.


Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.    Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)

9  The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

This desire of Jesus has permeated his whole life up to this very hour when the desire of the bridegroom at last approaches the hour of its fulfillment, the hour in which the words and the waiting will be succeeded by the full reality of love. And in the background of this human waiting of Jesus that looks forward to this very hour in which he will make the supreme sacrifice and can become ultimately ours, there is present, too, the eternal desire of God, which also awaits this hour, because God longs to give himself. But what response does this longing on the part of God encounter? How much indifference! How much inner emptiness and disregard! And what about ourselves? Do we really approach this center of the universe with eagerness? Or do we not sometimes flatter ourselves that we are doing God and the Church a favor by spending an hour there with him.  (1)

These two words, jealousy and passion, make most men uncomfortable.  There is something about them that make us think the person who is jealous, who is passionate about something lacks control, lacks wisdom, lacks logic.

So to hear these words used about God?

It seems unreasonable. It almost seems blasphemous to describe God as a jealous God, one who in His rage would destroy those who would get between those whom he desires.  When you read the first passage above from Exodus, it seems strongly worded, but then look at others, Deut. 4:24, Deut 6:15, Nahum 1:2, and you get a picture of God that seems too intense, to desperate, to out of control.

Does God really desire a relationship with someone else so much that he would become angry and full of wrath when that relationship doesn’t come to be? Would God have a “melt down” to that extreme?

It doesn’t seem like the God we hear about today, the one that is represented in logical presentations, and case studies which detail the perfection of God.  In churches that focus on holiness, the concept of being holy as God is holy is more about precision behaviors meeting a standard, a standard usually set by someone other than God.

But holiness is about being separated out, being chosen, being drawn into a relationship where God desires, even jealously desires the one He loves. This holiness is seen in a relationship where God longs for the company of the beloved.  It is seen in the picture of the beloved in the Song of Solomon, or the prodigal’s father running to see his son returned.  It’s the God who was waiting for the cross, and the grave, for the joy set before Him.

This is Holiness.  God setting Himself up to dance and rejoice with the one He loves, as Isaiah pictures it so beautifully

That is why it seems so lame to trust in something other than God, to entrust ourselves and depend upon something we did or made.  The more we understand God’s desire, His jealousy, His passion for us, the more we desire to spend time with others sharing in that love, adoring the one who loves us.

My prayer for you today is the same that Paul prayed for the church when he said,

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension.  Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

May you indeed know that love so far beyond our comprehension.  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.) (pp. 115–116). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

The Theological K.I.S.S. Principal for Preachers/Pastors/Priests


A Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

8  No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
Micah 6:8 (TEV)

The simple faith of simple souls merits the respect, the reverence of the preacher, who has no right simply to pit his intellectual superiority against a faith which has remained simple and which, by its simple and intuitive comprehension of the Faith as a whole, can, in some cases, understand the essence of that Faith more profoundly than is possible for a reflective faith that is fragmented by division into systems and theories . (1)

Whether I agree with him completely or not, Pope Benedict XVI has to be counted as one of the most brilliant theologian-pastors in the last 100 years.   He wrote documents and letters that are stunning in how profound they are, and yet they are intimately pastoral, a look into the life of an introvert who pastored a billion people.

Seeing writings like that in blue above, perhaps it would be better phrased to call him a pastor-theologian, a man who kept his priorities straight, and recognizes it is the faith in Christ, our trust, and dependence on God, that matters more than our meager intellectual pontifications. That is why those of us who would count ourselves as theologians, as professionals in the world of religion, need to respect and honor the simple and deep faith of the simple soul.

It is that Jesus points us to in the Beatitudes, that Micah calls us to, to realize that God’s silliness is far greater than our wisdom, and to live our lives in recollection of this.

For, in the end, it is not the stimulating blogs, our journal articles we write, or the great tomes on doctrine, or our understanding of the great theologians and philosophers in the past that matters.

Rather, as the former pope, who before was responsible for all the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church wrote, the understanding of the essence of our faith.

The joy we take in hearing and responding to phrases like this:

“He is Risen!”

and

“The Lord is with you!”

and finally, knowing that God will hear and answer our cry,

“Lord have mercy!”

So keep it simple my brothers, reveal to them the height and breadth, the depth and width, of God’s love for them, seen in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 94–95). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

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