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4th Week of Adven: He Will Lead – Micah 5 –

He Will Do All the Good Things He Promised!
He Will Lead
Micah 5:2-5a

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May God’s mercy sustain you throughout your life, as you realize that He is the Prince of Peace!  Your Prince of Peace!

Looking for Leadership

It doesn’t take a prophet to predict that the next year will be full of conflict, full of verbal abuse, full of people trying to manipulate most of the people of the United States, and often using fear and greed to do so.

As a relatively cynical man, I dread election years. I fear them because I fear that the result will be division, conflict, fear, and in my case apathy, occasionally mixed with sarcasm.

You all know that sarcasm is a major temptation of mine, right?

Apathy is even a worse temptation.

But I do fear the relationships that will be damaged, as people’s fear will dominate the reason they vote, fears that find some basis in self-centeredness.  What this means is that we won’t have discussions with each other.  We will attack each other’s candidates, and more than an argument will occur.  A great division will occur because our fears cause us to invest in our candidates as much with our hearts as our minds, we will see someone supporting an opponent as a threat.  They in turn, will get defensive.  We will not comprehend how someone in their right mind could support candidate Q, because we see them as a threat.  We will forget that we are family, neighbors, a community.

The reaction may take years to heal.

That is why I dread such years, and why I become so apathetic.

For it is hard to see good come from such times.

Why Do We Want to Trust in Princes

I wonder why we struggle to understand the wisdom of God when it comes to leadership, whether that is in national leadership, or local leadership.  Hear God’s wisdom again,

3  Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. Psalm 146:3 (ESV)

We might even quote that about the opposition, see- they’ve put their trust in those people, how could they!  While we do the same – hoping that our candidate will save us.  Without thinking, we begin to believe, to have hope, in the work of men.

How about these two

8  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT)


22  Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they? Isaiah 2:22 (NLT)

and this cry for mercy,

11  Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless. Psalm 60:11 (NLT)

Finally, there is this one… which is terrifying,

5  This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD. Jeremiah 17:5 (NLT)

That might be the nicer of the translations, others use the word condemned.

Like I said, this isn’t just about politics.  It can be that this job will save us, or that if we can only make it to retirement, then everything will be okay. Or meeting the right star, or seeing out children or grandchildren succeed, as the world measures success.  We create many idols, convinced that life will be alright, if only they…

It is clear, there is no one we should put our trust in, no one we must depend on, except for God.  No one else we should count on or hope in, even those who claim to be good Christians.

Otherwise, we have created an idol.

And those idols will be out in force.

And they can lead us into lives that are cursed.

The Good He Has promised

Advent reminds us of the failure of idols in the past, and that we need some One more solid to place our hope, our expectations in.

We need a God, not an idol.  We need a leader who restores us, who heals us, who makes us whole. Hear Micah’s prophecy again,

4  And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. 5  And he will be the source of peace

If we want a leader, we have but to look at the cross.   We see there a leader whose life isn’t centered in himself, or an agenda that promotes his party’s preferences.  We see a leader who wants the best for us, a leader who brings us into a place of peace, a leader who is willing to die to comfort us and heal us in our brokenness.  We see a leader that gathers his people, who helps them grow by refining them, we need a leader who will keep the Good He has promised. 

This is Jesus, our Lord.  Immanuel, the proof that God is with us.

And yes He leads us. The world will say they cannot see Him, but neither have I seen a president, premier, or king personally.  They are somewhere out there, whereas God is here, His Spirit within every believer in this place.  So I see him when I look into Chris’s eyes, or Esther’s, or Manny’s, or Cyndee’s.

Even more I see God when we see the body and blood of Christ, which He gives us, shed for the forgiveness of our sin. When I see His people kneel at the altar, ready for Christ to come to them. We hear Him as we hear our sins being forgiven, for it is by His authority and it is His desire to show mercy and bring us to the Father.  We hear it when He claims His people, when He claims us as His own.

This is a leader who will bring us into peace, both then, and now.  For that is His called, to guard our hearts and minds in the peace of God our father, a peace we dwell in, right now, because of Jesus, the Lord who leads us and helps us see all the good God has promised, He has delivered.

AMEN?

 

 

Are You Ready for….What are we getting ready for?

Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:
37  “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38  In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39  People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Matthew 24:37-39 (NLT)

50 Just as God’s name is holy in itself and yet we pray that it may be holy among us, so also his kingdom comes of itself without our prayer and yet we pray that it may come to us. That is, we ask that it may prevail among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those among whom his name is hallowed and his kingdom flourishes.
51 What is the kingdom of God? Answer: Simply what we learned in the Creed, namely, that God sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. To this end he also gave his Holy Spirit to teach us this through his holy Word and to enlighten and strengthen us in faith by his power.

This word of promise and joy thus turns into a question for us, making visible the challenge and meaning of Advent. Only when all flesh beholds God is his coming complete; the new heavens and the new earth can come about only when available to all. This word constantly intends to open the heart of Christianity, indeed our own heart. Adveniat Kingdom tuum [thy Kingdom come]—this plea of Advent, put on our lips by the Lord himself, is prayed by us correctly only if we allow it to transform us; if we let it open us up to all of God’s children, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

As many of us prepare for Christmas, for the parties, as we gather gifts, even as we get ready for the abundance of church services over the next week, we may hear the following question.

Are you ready?

We get nervous, for most of the time we are not ready, otherwise the concerned friend wouldn’t wouldn’t recognize the fear and anxiety that has gripped our very lives.

The problem is we are getting ready for the wrong thing.  We are, like one Ebenezer Scrooge, trying to deal with Christmas past and Christmas present, and not looking not to Christmas future, but the Advent of Christ in our future. We are like the people in Noah’s day, not always doing things outside of “normal” life, but not questioning what normal life should be. 

How many of us have given any thought to Christ’s return since Thanksgiving?  How many of us have seriously considered whether our lives are being focused on that time, of the Christ-mass – the gathering of Christ that will happen on that day.

We can’t run around to prepare for it.  We can’t check out all the stores; we can’t do anything special to prepare for His coming.  Matter of fact, if we are trying to do something special, we’re are even less prepared.  For being ready for Christ’s second coming isn’t a special event, it is life itself.  Life abiding in the presence of God.  Life being comforted and lifted up by the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Life as Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, described so well in the green quote above.  A desire for God’s kingdom, His reign to come to all, a prayer of desire and desperation, a prayer born in brokenness.  Our individual brokenness, our communal brokenness. 

Luther agrees of course, as he notes that the reason Christ came was to bring us to the Father.  And the Holy Spirit is given to reveal this to us, and support us in the life that is until we see God face to glorious Face. 

When we consider the normal life in view of Jesus’ return, in view of death for those who are not here, we end up depending on God in a far different way.  Our life is transformed by the His love, as we look forward with expectation, as we look forward with joy, as we trust in Him, and we are filled with life.

This is why we ask are we ready.  Not to stress us more, but to cause us to be still, and know He is God, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, our life.

May your normal life find you not just ready, but desiring His return, and the homecoming that follows.  AMEN  †

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 426–427). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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. 399). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

Was She a Victim or a Hero, a Sinner or Saint; and her Overlooked Encounter with God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

7  The angel of the LORD met Hagar at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur 8  and said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress.” 9  He said, “Go back to her and be her slave.” 10  Then he said, “I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them. 11  You are going to have a son, and you will name him Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your cry of distress. 12  But your son will live like a wild donkey; he will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him. He will live apart from all his relatives.” 13  Hagar asked herself, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So she called the LORD, who had spoken to her, “A God Who Sees.” 14  That is why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” 15  Hagar bore Abram a son, and he named him Ishmael. 16  Abram was eighty-six years old at the time. Genesis 16:7-16 (TEV)

Her story struck me far different this morning that it ever had before.  Usually, she is just an aside, we acknowledge she is there and quickly pass her by.

She slept with another man’s wife, (even if at the wife’s direction).  She didn’t have a good attitude to either afterward, and they didn’t have a good attitude toward her either.  She tried to escape her situation and that is where the story gets interesting. 

God chased after her.

Even as I type that, I think, this is increible.

God chased after her. 

He chased after her, blessed her, made her promises and restored her.

Despite all the drama in her life.  Despite all the pain. 

As she so perfectly puts it –  He is the God who sees.  God saw her, in the midst of her brokenness, in the midst of her trauma, in the midst of running away, trying to escape the drama.  He saw her, and blessed her, and gave her the strength to go back, to return to the midst of the brokenness, 

And we have this encounter, with the one who was not favored with the one who would struggle, with the one whose descendants would constantly battle God’s people, until one of the descendants of Issac would be born, and die, and become the ultimately blessing to all peoples.  

Including Hagar’s descendants.

I asked in the title if she was a victim, or a hero, a sinner or a saint.  I also wonder what the relationship between Sarah and her was like upon her return.  The questions are interesting and I honestly don’t know.

But what is important. what I do know about Hagar is this.  She was the lady whom God saw, and she lived. 

May we as well, in our mixed up, broken lives, know the love of God who sees even those of us whom others overlook.  For we too are a part of Christ’s story… for He saw us, and died, and rose again, for us.  May we too, encounter Hagar’s along the road, and watch God minister to them, through us.

God’s peace my friend.

AMEN!

Isaiah 29 Filled with Joy! (audio and slides)

Are We Afraid of Sanctification? A Cry for the Spirit to Breath Life into the Church

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image1  The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones. 2  He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. 3  Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” O Sovereign LORD,I replied, “you alone know the answer to that. 4  Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD! 5  This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! 6  I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” 7  So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. 8  Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. 9  Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” 10  So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. 11  Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12  Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13  When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. 14  I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!’” Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NLT)

683      When a person really lives charity, there is no time left for self-seeking. There is no room left for pride. We will not find occasion for anything but service!

Imagine you are there, in the presence of the LORD, given the right to not just call him Lord, but to call Him by name.   You are the son of Man, in this vision, the one He takes to the valley of the fry bones.

As the muscles form, as the skin begins to cover their bodies, as the effects of sin are reversed, you look in amazement at the miracle and begin to praise God for the miracle.  You write liturgies to celebrate it, songs to teach people about it, you go off and establish ways to tell people – God has justified His people. 

Yet they are there, still sitting in their pews… err… standing in the valley.  

Without breath, without life, but righteous none the less. 

What happens when the church forgets that God not only justifies us, but breathes life into us, sanctifying us? 

What happens if justification is the end of our theology, not just the core of it?  

Will our churches be like the bones covered with muscles and skins, present, undecayed, righteous and yet…. not alive?

We need to remember the third article of the Creed, the work of the Spirit, who is to be called upon, to breath life into these bodies, to breath life into these souls, for He is the Lord and Giver of Life.  Sanctification is not some minor doctrine, slinking about in the shadows of its big brother Justification.  

Sanctification, the Spirit making us alive and Holy is part and parcel with Justification in the larger concept of Salvation.  Which brings to mind Hebrews 2 – how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? 

Sanctification, the Holy Spirit working is us, giving us life, repentance, revealing to us the height and depth, the breadth and width of the Father’s love, revealed in Christ.  As He sets us aside and breathes life into us, that we would become God’s army, His family,  As we begin to walk with God, as our lives begin to be described as St Josemaria mentions – lives lived in charity, where love prevails.  Because we know His love, because we experience it, because our faith is alive…. there is the church – serving, ministering, loving… and as it does… growing and alive.

This is the church, this is the people of God, living in the presence of God.  This is the baptized, sacrificed life….

LORD, you have given us your Holy Spirit in baptism, may that Spirit breath life into your people!  May we never again be so focused on one part of salvation, that we neglect all of it.  May your church be holy, set apart, brought to life and nourished by the Holy Spirit.  AMEN1

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2514-2516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In Defense of Worship:

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

18  And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19  addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, 20  giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Ephesians 5:18-20 (NAB)

16  Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts. 17  Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17 (TEV)

3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.  (1)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1)


Recently, there has been an attack on worship, articles that have challenged it having a prominent role.  Some have demeaned it, and denigrated the role of those entrusted to lead and facilitate our praise of God.

Some of the criticisms need to be heard, there are times worship leaders of all styles act like entertainers, deserving to be heard. But I believe most of the criticisms are based in a irrational fear of the emotions we have, which need to be admitted before God.  More on that after some basic thoughts

There is a real need for worship, an the role of a worship leader/cantor/praise team/choir and the church (while worshipping and praising God)  is at its very core, as much of a means of grace and as sacramental as a sermon, as the readings.  Here is why I say that;

There are two “kinds” of lyrics, though in some songs you might have both.

1.  Horizontal Lyrics teach
Here the role of the music is to teach, encourage, catechize and reveal the glory and grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The very same goal as a sermon, as the people hearing and singing the words realize their absolute need for Jesus Christ, and they share with each other their sorrows, and their joy when Christ is revealed to them.
This is the word of God, being proclaimed in words accompanied by music, but it is the word of God. Look at how it fits into the passage in Colossians, it is part of the teaching and instruction, the mutual building up of the people of God. Melancthon does exclude worship in his words in the Augsburg Confession – the role of the worship service is to gie to people, to teach them, what they know of Christ.

2.  Vertical Lyrics Pray…
Worship that is vertical, that is directed to God is either prayer or praise,  “Lord, come do what you promised”, “Lord you have rescued me!”, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”.  This is second commandment work, the proper use of the Name of God, which He has given to us to talk to Him, to sing to Him.  Again, the Lutheran Confession talk of such prayer as a sacrament, as being sacramental, even if only because of that we pray more!   We need to seek God more, we need to be found like Isaiah, and the 70 elders, we desperately need to experience the fact that we live in the presence of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That is a scary thought, for to be in the presence of God means that all of our fears, all of our anxieties, all of our emotions, are laid bare.  They are known.  We can’t hide our hearts or our souls from God.  We can’t hide our jealousies, our lusts, our anger, our desire to be in control.  Music, singing these biblical lyrics, have a way of doing that, of sneaking in through our (arts/emotion) right brain, while distracting us by occupying our left brain (knowledge, logic) and ministering to our complete brokenness.

We don’t like that, it scares us.  And any kind of worship can do this, from 4 or 5 guys singing the doxology on a retreat, to a choir putting voice to O Sacred Head, or A Mighty Fortress, to a praise team simply singing Amazing Grace- My Chains are Gone, or a classical guitarist plucking out the Lord’s Prayer.   The music opens our souls, letting out that which poisons them, as the Love of God inherent in the words of scripture rush in and cleanse us.

The music moves us…. and sometimes that is scary, but it is a incredible blessing as well.

This is why as we prepare for worship, it needs to be done in prayer, meditating on the word.  This is why the instrumentalists and singers need to practice so well, that they can lose themselves in the worship, even as they lead others in it.  Any style can be done poorly, to loud, to erratic, to performance driven.  When leading the prayers and praises of God’s people is done poorly, it robs them of their voice, it robs them as well of that which can facilitate their prayers, focus their praises, distract them from being in the presence of God…..

But worship leading, done right?  It is as beneficial as a well crafted and delivered sermon.  For it is the gospel proclaimed, and because it is prayer, it is sacramental.

And to quote our confessions, if we realize it is such, maybe we will engage in it all the more!

(And remember to pray for those who serve you, the people of God, in this ministry, just as you pray for your pastors)

Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy!)
Alleluia (Praise God!)

Amen

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  AC XXIV

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. AAC XIII

Where Do You Run to? Where Do You Find Hope?

Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

16  This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backwards. He is our faith father. Romans 4:16 (MSG)

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.   (1)

We live in a world full of stress, full of anxiety, full of brokenness.

There is a blessing from this, well sort of, in a round about way.

The blessing is that it is often quite easy to realize when we have set up false idols, when we have set God aside

You see, the more stress we deal with, the more anxiety snares us, the more we deal with brokenness, the more false gods, and the idols we create are revealed.

it may be that are false gods are the the demons of distraction.  The distraction helps us escape or even ignore the problems, they create the illusion of refuge.  For some, this is drugs or alcohol; for others, it seems less dangerous – television or computers or listening to music or even books.  We run to them and hide in them, they become our refuge, our place away from the world and its trauma.  With the exception of the drugs, these things can be nice hobbies, but when we find ourselves spending to much time with them, and that is only the times when we are stressed, there may be an issue

It maybe that our idols, are false gods are a poor imitation of Christianity, the kind of thing where we control God, and we put our hope in cliche’s, not in the actual promises of God.

It maybe our false idols are our political and economic system, or in nationalism/patriotism.  That everything will be okay because we are Americans, or Canadians, or (insert country name here) and God is always going to take our side. This is often more subtle, but it also overlooks the sins of a nation that allows for abortion, that in many ways would redefine life and family, and which would rather see vengence than reconciliation or mercy. This while insisting we are always in the right, well, except for our politicians.

Simply put, idols today aren’t crafted of wood or stone or precious emeralds or ivory.  But they are idols none the less.   We turn to them and try to find hope, or relief from them.

There are other idols, especially the one that is a simple plaint capital letter:  I.  We try to fix life ourselves, we ponder what can be done, we rely first and primarily on ourselves, as our culture teaches us.  We go to the altar of self for refuge, for sanctuary, and we reveal that we only trust in ourselves, and we even know that is probably going to fail.

Luther is right on when he describes what “makes” a god or idol in our lives.  It is where we go to in those times where we should trust in God’s promises, that He is in charge, that He will work it out, and it will turn into a blessing. We fail to hear what Mary did at the annunciation, that we are filled with grace, that the Lord is with us.

That He who is our God becomes OUR God when we trust Him, when we embrace and hold on to Him for dear life, because His promises will make us whole. When we realize that it is, and has been all along to be our God, for us to be His people, His children, the one He pledges to take care of and love.  When the idols of our life fade away, as we realize the promises God has made to us in our baptism.  When God becomes our refuge our strength, to whom we turn when life is broken and stressed.

When He is our first option, our first action is to turn to Him, not any other idol, not any other false god.

It’s tough – but it is also why God starts in the first commandment, not with us, but with Him.  You see it starts with this….

“I, the LORD (actually His Name – YWHW) am your God, who brought you out of slavery……”

There is our hope at work, His action…. trust Him my friends, and know you can pray for the Spirit to help you when you are too weak too…

 

(1)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

Seriously, Does God Take Mondays Off?

Devotional Thought of the Day:Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

“I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age”  Mt 28:20, MSG

341         You told me that God sometimes fills you with light for a while and sometimes does not. I reminded you, firmly, that the Lord is always infinitely good. That is why those bright days are enough to help you carry on; but the times when you see no light are good for you too, and make you more faithful.

Deep faith is seen is us, when we can’t hear or see God, yet still we instinctively recognize His presence and trust him  ( I don’t remember who he was quoting  CS Lewis maybe, but I remember the Bible Study where Doug Dickey taught me this )

My son yesterday bought a computer game called Minecraft, which is a bit much for a 7 year old, even one as precocious as my son.  He waited for it to download (he gave me the money to buy it with my credit card, ) and took the computer over.  Even as I knew he would, he immediate found himself in a situation he didn’t know how to get out of easily.  After a wile helped him with it, and then, when he got in a similar one, I had to let him struggle and insisted he did, rather than just start it over.

This morning the lesson was repeated, this time with a yo-yo, which he said didn’t work.  (He got it as a prize at school, and despite flashing lights, was somewhat cheap)  Again, showed him it could work, gave a little advice, and then let him struggle with it.  He understood this lesson this morning, and achieved his goal of bouncing the you-yo ten times.  He made the connection to last night – and said – this is why you didn’t let me restart?  Why I had to keep going and work it out?  Yes, son, and what would happen if I fixed everything the first time you got stuck?  With a smile he replied, “I wouldn’t learn to do things myself”

Smart kid!   (takes after his mom)

So now I am at work, and got 6 million things to do, all the while trying to recover from 2 days of grief, grief that I couldn’t get past, as this was the first Father’s Day without my dad.  I know enough to know that grief can’t just be shaken off, or ignored, Scars open, scabs rip off – and sometimes the healing in complete, and sometimes we find it hasn’t really begun.  We have to trust God through it all, and let the time pass…..

The lesson to my son now comes and slams home on me.  The quote in blue above slammed it home to, as I am not as quick to pick up on things as my son is.  There are days everything seems to click, where God’s presence is so clear, that I feel like I could figuratively reach out and hug him.  There are other days, where from my perspective, I can’t see His light as clearly, where life obscures the glory He has invited us to share in forever.   Where life seems to be a “Spiritual Monday”, and while we go through Monday, maybe God took it off like some pastors do?

I mean it – where is God on Monday?  And why can we have a spiritual version of Monday on a Thursday, or a Saturday, or even a Sunday?

St. Josemaria and Dr. Doug were right though, that faith is seen and grows, when we learn to recognize God’s presence, even when we think it isn’t there.  When we rely on His promises rather than our perception,  When we reach out in faith, and receive the blessings of mercy and peace, and love.  When we call out “Lord have mercy on Us” and we find our eyes opened, or maybe just our hearts, assured and calmed by His presence.

You see, what I know is this, as my son struggled with a computer game, as he got frustrated by “spaghetti string” on his yo-yo, his dad was there, watching, knowing there was a way to fix what was going on in both situations.  Yet if he had really gotten stuck beyond his ability, I would be there, rescuing him, fixing things, restoring things.  Even more so has God promised to do that, even more does He perceive where we are at, and care for us.

He is there, even when we can’t see Him.  His presence, His protection, His comfort, His peace, His glory……

So rest, cling to the One who promised to be our God, who promised that we would be His people… and your heart will know what your mind can’t always process.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1584-1587). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Bearing Christ for the World

Bearing Christ for the World

Luke 1:30-46

 

In Jesus Name

 

As we contemplate the praises that a young pregnant girl offers, because she trusts in God’s promises, not just for her, but for the people of God, can we as well be blessed because we trust in Him, as we bring Christ into the world as well.

How much confirmation means

The bottom line – you are blessed because you trust God at His word..

But the things she trusts in God for, we should as well

Some think she was sent to her cousin in disgrace, a young teenage girl – pregnant prior to her marriage.  The timing is off for that – for she left a few short days after Gabriel brought her the message of God’s intentions for her- which makes Elizabeth’s words all the more… incredible.

I would think she hadn’t told anyone but in a hurry takes the opportunity and leaves town – but caring for her aunt gave her a chance to get away, to contemplate the incredible message, to try and figure out what to tell her fiancé, her family, her friends.

Remember – back then – such a disgrace was often punished by throwing her out of the house – and throwing stones at her.

She gets to her cousins house, probably deep in thought, a bit anxious, and though not doubting God, the implications of being chosen by Him for a purpose still dominating her thoughts, her emotions.  And in the midst of this – without any prompting, her cousin Elizabeth proclaims,

[Mary]  “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.

Put together with the words of Gabriel  – these form the beginning of the prayer anyone who grew up catholic knows quite well,  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thine womb – Jesus!

These words of Elizabeth, so powerful, so confirming, fueled by the power and joy of the Holy Spirit, confirm that which was already known… but oh what peace it is, to have confirmed that which God has already made clear is His will in one’s life.  No longer can it simply be discounted as a dream of a young girl – but a reality.

But let’s not overlook the rest of Elizabeth’s words, indeed we cannot – for they form the foundation – not only for the reason Mary is called blest, but for the sermon as well!

44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”


You are blessed because you believe the Lord would do what He said…

That my friends, is not only Mary’s blessing – but yours as well.

Let’s see why

He hasn’t forgotten me!

Mary responds to Elizabeth’s words, with words of her own, words of praise, words that adoringly reveal the glory of God she is witnessing.  These are not the kind of words you would expect from a teenage girl – unless that teenage girl was filled with the Spirit of God.  Hear again the first section.

 

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.

47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,

and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Have you ever felt that God was so busy, He forgot about you for the moment?  That your prayers went to voicemail?  Have you ever felt that you weren’t important to God?  Growing up, I was often the odd man out, and while I didn’t mind persay, I you sometimes wondered if God knew who I was, any more than those whose lives flashed past mine. I get what Mary is saying here.

The word that “took notice” is translated from is an incredibly powerful word.  It’s look and deep perception and discernment combined.  This kind of look pierces all of our outside illusions and comes right to the core of our being.  God the father took notice of Mary, even as He takes notice of us – each one of us, and places within us His love, His peace.  And as she realizes this depth of God’s concern for her, as she realizes how He will work in her life – the joy and worship just flows from her soul….it will know no limitations in this moment, and yes – we do count her blessed – for she trusted in His love.

Bringing this home, there is not one of us, that isn’t so blessed.  There is not one of us, that goes without God “taking notice of us”.  To realize that He does love us, that He is interested in us, that He is immanent, transcendent, incarnate in our lives as well as Mary’s – that is an intimacy with God that goes beyond anything we can imagine.

The question is – do we realize it – do we hear the voices that confirm it, just as Mary heard Elizabeth’s cry of joy?

He has done something wonderful for me!

Mary moves on from the realization that God takes notice of us, as her praises slightly transistion,

 

49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me!

Pastor’s pet peeve moment – why doesn’t that sentence end with a exclamation point?  What were the translators thinking – imagine how they would have felt – if on Christmas day, when their children and spouse opened their presents, if the reaction was, o what a great present..  no, they want to hear their children exult with glee – excitement – and yeah – hugs and thanks.

Yet they used a period her.  Yup – God is mighty and holy and He did some great, well good sorta, well nice things for me  – PERIOD.

Can’t you see the women dancing in each other’s arms, the mother of the prophet, and the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. Can’t you hear their laughter – their joy, their excitement?  Or do you think this scene occurs with the high dignity of English tea time?

Sure – Mary is not thinking about the cross yet, or the resurrection – while she knows her Son will be the promised one, that the baby- just barely forming in her womb – is the Lord who will change everything – who will turn the world upside down.

Would we, who have been joined to Christ incarnate, whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – as much the temple of God as the young lady whose body bore the son of God, rejoice as well as we bear God for the world!

While I would admit there is a difference – that being physical – in both Mary and our lives, the presence of God is indeed what makes us blessed, it is why we rejoice!  It is something beyond wonder, beyond amazement, that God would look upon us and choose us, that He would bless us, that He would abide with us.
He does something for those like me!

I find it extraordinary as well – that Mary’s magnificat doesn’t end there – with God doing wonderful, great things for her.  Her song takes a final transition, as she realizes this wonderful thing is not just about her…but a blessing for the entire world. Let me call your attention to verses, 50, 53, 54, and 55

50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.

 

53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.

54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.

55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

It is amazing to me, that Mary takes this incredible news in her life – and realizes that it isn’t just about her – that all those who desperately need to know God’s mercy, that its about those who are hungry for something more in life, that He fills, that those in need of help He has helped – as He pours out His loving mercy to them, even as He promised…

That it is finally about the descendant of Abraham – the one long promised coming, the Lord who would bless every nation, who would  create from a bunch of sinners like us, a people for God – a people for God to Love.

The early church fathers, the pastors and bishops of the first few centuries – often talked of Mary as a image, a symbol of the church.  That the qualities that make her unique in some ways, are the very qualities one finds in the bride of Christ, the church,  Often this is talked about, as she answers Gabriel’s message with the “let it be done according to Thy Word.”

As well, I think the incredible quality of hers, to see the effect of God’s presence in her life, as it affects others, is also a major characteristic of the church. For that is our call as believers – as those who bear God’s name, who are the temple of the Holy Spirit – a place people can find forgiveness, and healing and peace, even as Jesus brings those things into our life.

For we as well bear Christ, we bring Him into the world, and in doing so, share with others the intimacy, the love, and peace He has given us, for we are blessed for we believe God would do, did do, what He said He would, in Christ.  AMEN?

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