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The Blessing We All To Often Overlook… The Forgiveness of our Sin

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Devotional Thoughts for the Day:

Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:20-21 GNT

because they have sinned against you and then when they turn to you and come to this Temple, humbly praying to you for forgiveness, 25 listen to them in heaven. Forgive the sins of your people 2 Chron 6:24-25 GNT

O LORD, listen to them in heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, the people of Israel, and teach them to do what is right. 2 Chron. 6:27 GNT

…listen to their prayers. If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, 30 hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven and forgive them. You alone know the thoughts of the human heart. Deal with each of us as we deserve, 31 so that your people may honor you and obey you, 2 Chron 6:29-31a

If there in that land they repent and pray to you, confessing how sinful and wicked they have been, hear their prayers, O LORD. 38 If in that land they truly and sincerely repent and pray to you as they face toward this land which you gave to our ancestors, this city which you have chosen, and this Temple which I have built for you, 39 then listen to their prayers. In your home in heaven hear them and be merciful to them and forgive all the sins of your people. 37b-39 GNT

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 GNT

So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect James 5:16 GNT

Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.

Nevertheless I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can do for him except one who has struggled often and long with the devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession had not sustained me. For there are many doubtful matters which a man cannot resolve or find the answer to by himself, and so he takes his brother aside and tells him his trouble. What harm is there if he humbles himself a little before his neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks for a word of comfort from him, accepts it, and believes it, as if he were hearing it from God himself, as we read in Matt. 18 [:19], “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them.”

A lot of reading accompany this morning’s thoughts. Most of them from one chapter of 2 Chronicles 6. I broke the reading into segments for a reason, to highlight a concept over and over, to help us understand what a priority it holds in scripture, at the very dedication of the Temple, and the place it should hold in our lives.

I have yet to see a Christian church, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran that doesn’t talk about confession at some point in the life of its people. But far too often, once mentioned, it disappears, and with it, the incredible gift of forgiveness, of being forgiven.

At the dedicaiton of the temple, time after time this pattern is seen, we pray, God hears, and forgives.

Not just once at conversion, not just as a rote practice and prayer as part of a worship service. But to confess in a way where we don’t just hear we are forgiven, we depend on it and base our lives on it..

But what if we struggle to believe? What if we hear these words and just can’t get our minds to accept that God forgave this sin that haunts me, that I cannot escape the feelings of guilt and shame about? That no matter how many times I pray in a church service, or on my own, or at the altar, I wonder if I am forgiven of it?

That is where what is called “private confession” or in other churches , “the ministry of reconciliation” comes into play. Confessing those sins to another believer, a pastor or priest who has been tasked by GOd and the church with comforting you, with providing to you the words of forgiveness, on the behalf of God himself. This is what James 5 speaks of, and promises (you can also check out JOhn 20 and Matthew 16 for other places where the church is given authority to forgive sins on God’s behalf)

Over the years as people have spoken of their sin, the most remarkable catharis takes place, as they see God break the hold that sin has on them. As they hear and experience that God has forgivenes them of the darkest sins, as God heals them and makes them whole, as He reminds them that they are His holy people. James doesn’t used “healed” for lack of a better word, it is truly what happens.

It is an incredible blessing, it is a most amazing thing to observe, this transformation that occurs.

Please my friends, don’t let the darkness of sin consume you, rather confess your sins, and find the Prodigal’s Father embracing you, and restoring your life with Him.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 53, p. 117). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, p. 98). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

What Deep Faith Looks Like:

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT

Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.

Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.

I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.

That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”

This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.

The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.

Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.

That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.

You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.

Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.

To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.

This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.

It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.

And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..

This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.

Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Truth Seen in Lent

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

“Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 GNT

But Peter answered, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!”
At once, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned around and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, “Before the rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 62 Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:60-62 GNT.

Even as the adorer enters into the ‘ascending’ reparation made by the Lamb of God to the Father, he opens himself to the ‘descending’ reparation by which the Lamb of God restores likeness to the image of God in souls disfigured by sin. Christ presents Himself in the Most Holy Eucharist as the spotless Victim come to repair sinners, restoring wholeness and beauty to souls. At the same time He is the Priest who offers perfect reparation to the Father by restoring all things to Him ‘whether in heaven or on earth, making peace by the Blood of His cross’ (Col. 1:20).

The apostle Paul one said that he was the chief of sinners, and that was good news, because it showed us that if God could save even him, we are a piece of cake.

Peter is the same kind of confidence builder. After all, the first of the apostles is a man who is as broken as any of us. He puts his foot in his mouth, he is rash, he thinks of himself. He is a great symbol of humanity.

And in today’s gospel reading, he gives us a great example to understand who we are in Christ. There we see his sincerity, he wants to stand by Jesus, even to the point of death. He will vow, he will promise, and I don’t think it is from pride alone. He is devoted to Jesus. He’s left everything to follow him, and even as the storm clouds gather this night before the cross, Peter has bought in fully with his heart.

In the early morning, just a few hours later, he would fail. He would sin as grievously as any person could in life. He would directly deny God. Not once, but three times.

His sincerity went out the window, as his courage failed him. Broken, he weeps even as Jesus looks upon him, with compassion.

Just as you and I do…

We sin, we deny God, our sincerity fails, it is simply not enough to overcome the temptations our desires, our lust, our anger, our idolatry place before us.

We fail as Peter did…and Jesus still looks upon us with compassion, desiring that we would run to Him for refuge, wanting us to come and be cleansed. ANd if we take the time to consider our brokenness and the depth of our sin, we like Peter would weep bitterly.

That is why Jesus promises that when Peter fails when Peter falls into sin, his faith, his dependence on Jesus will not fail. The very thing Peter couldn’t do, Jesus did.

That is why the Eucharist is so needed in our lives. It reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice that provides not only the payment for our sin but the repair of our lives. In the Lord’s Supper, this Communion with Jesus, we find the Spirit at work, restoring us, transforming us even as the New Covenant promises, for that is why His body was broken, and His blood shed.

for us.

To renew, restore, repair us into the image of Christ, and then bring us into the relationship we were meant to have with the entire Trinity.

It is never easy to admit we sin, that despite our best attempts not to, despite our most sincere desires to overcome it, we will sin. Perhaps less and less as we mature, but the unthinkable will happen.

And when it does, hearing this exchange between Peter and Jesus will hopefully come to mind, and we ill realize Christ’s compassion and the fact that we can depend upon Him.

Look to him, remember his compassion, and let the Spirit comfort and transform you.

This is the lesson of lent…. I pray we all learn it well!

AMEN!


Kirby, D. M. D. (2012). A Mystagogical Catechesis of Eucharistic Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 35). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Thoughts about Our Need of the Lord’s Supper..and preparing for it.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (TEV)

651         You sometimes allow the bad side of your character to come out, and it has shown itself, on more than one occasion, in an absurd harshness. At other times, you do not bother to prepare your heart and your head so that they may be a worthy dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity… And you invariably end up by remaining rather distant from Jesus, whom you know so little. If you go on like this, you will never have interior life.

For the Fathers of the Church, the Eucharist is considered as the medicine of eternity. It is a remedy. Jesus continues to touch the sick with His Eucharistic Body. St Thomas Aquinas understands the Eucharist as the bread of the soul: as bread sustains the body, the Eucharist sustains the soul. As bread repairs the body, the Eucharist repairs the soul. As bread increases the life of the body, the Eucharist increases the life of the soul. As bread gives joy to the body, the Eucharist gives joy to the life of the soul, sometimes even to the life of the body, as it is given to us to see.
In refusing to go and draw from the Eucharist the source of healing, many of our contemporaries are tempted to seek out pseudo-healings in false spiritualities.

“He was insistent that the church, and the teachings of the church, not be the subject of evangelization but that Jesus be the sole focus of evangelization. Jesus is the Message that should be taught, and not the church, which is the vehicle for the message.”

We stand there, kneel there, wait there…

So many come who are so burdened, so broken. Even though they confessed their sins not long ago, you can see the weight of their sin, and even the sins of their community, their world, weighing down on them.

And Jesus comes to them again, giving them the nourishment and grace that they need. They are not there to prove their holiness, their piety, they are there because they need to experience the love of God.

If, as Girzone notes, the church’s evangelization is in the message revealing Jesus, if our role as God’s people is to reveal His glorious love and mercy to the world, then the altar is a time where this happens.

It is why the fathers of the church, from Clement to Augustine to Francis and even Martin Luther put such a value on the sacraments. The means of grace where God reveals and pours out His love on us. Where we find ourselves in the presence of God. This moment, when the veil between heaven and earth is transparent, where the soul and heart realize what the mind assents to when it responds to “the peace of the Lord is with you!” and thunders back “AMEN!”

So how do we prepare for this? How do we not take such a great salvation for granted? How do we recognize that Jesus giving us His precious body, His blood which covers our sin?

It is not by perfecting our lives, for we cannot do that.

It is not by pretending to be holy, or deserving.

It is by realizing we need this medicine, that our souls need to be revived, that our hearts need to know God’s promise is not in vain, that He has forgiven us, that this sacrifice of Christ ~2000 years ago was done, to make you and me the children of God.

We prepare for this great gift, this means of grace, by realizing our need and expecting God to deliver what He said He would give us. We prepare for it by realizing our hunger and our need and rejoicing in the gifts of God, given to the people of God.

So come, and join us, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and give thanks and praise to the Lord who serves us, in love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2732-2736). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 8). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Girzone, Joseph. (2011) The Homeless Bishop, Orbis Books , Maryknoll, NY

Is Life Broken? Then you need to read this… (it won’t be easy)

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

24 “But how terrible for you who are rich now; you have had your easy life! 25 “How terrible for you who are full now; you will go hungry! “How terrible for you who laugh now; you will mourn and weep! Luke 6:24-25

“The LORD did not love you and choose you because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation on earth. Deut 7:7 GNT

3† He made you go hungry, and then he gave you manna to eat, food that you and your ancestors had never eaten before. He did this to teach you that you must not depend on bread alone to sustain you, but on everything that the LORD says. 4 During these forty years your clothes have not worn out, nor have your feet swollen up. 5† Remember that the LORD your God corrects and punishes you just as parents discipline their children. Deut. 8:3-5 GNT

What the world needs is God’s love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him. The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church’s life, but also of her mission: “an authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church.” (234) We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1 Jn 1:3).

The third quote from scripture, the one from Luke 6, is a painful one. It shakes up most of our world, and our ideal that those who “have it made” actually have a much better life. It may seem so at the time, yet, there is a day coming where there will be great emptiness, great longing, great need.

This is confusing, yet it will set the tone for the other two readings from the Old Testament. It helps us understand why the wimpiest nation was the one God loves, why there were times where the brokenness would cause them many tears and great pain. They would even long to return to the slavery they once hated.

But they were loved and cared for, and God would heal them, and ensure that even their clothes didn’t wear out.

God stayed with them, in the midst of their rebellion, in the midst of their sin, and called to them to return, to repent, to allow Him to cleanse them, to heal their brokenness.

It is all a parent can do at times… allowing their children to hit rock bottom, but being there all the time, waiting for the moment they cry out.

It sucks to be the parent (God) and we wonder why He would let us get so lost, so in bondage to sin, so broken. So needy. So Empty.

He is there, ready to heal, ready to fill us with love and hope and peace.

He does this through His word, and with that word, through the sacraments. Which is why the quote from Pope Benedict XVI is so powerful. In that moment, when we realize we can’t understand it all, when we bow before Him at the altar, when we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, as we are again brought back to the cross, we are made complete.

It is not something we can diagram, this transformation that God is working in us, but it is there. In this moment that is as close to heaven as we can imagine, as the love of God is revealed through this bread and wine, this precious Body and Blood of Jesus our Lord.

And as we experience the dimensions of this love, it is so incredible, we don’t have to be forced to share it, we simply do. A church which has an inkling of the grace distributed in the Lord’s Supper is simply a church that must share that grace with others who are broken. An individual to whom this blessing, that they are given the Body to eat, and the Blood of Christ to drink, is given a hope that must be shared as well, for the love of God received by them compels them to share…

If you are a church goer, consider this blessing given to you…

If you are a pastor who wants his church to grow, help people see this blessing you serve them with…

Look to Christ, be amazed by the depth of His love, the wonderful mercy poured out on you, and realize, despite you apparent insignificance, that God would change the world through you.

Not becuse you are mighty, or dynamic, but because He is with you.


Benedict XVI. (2007). Sacramentum Caritatis. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

We Can’t Avoid it (or each other) Any Longer…

MV5BMTE0NTI1MDAyNDZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg5ODg5OTgx._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1386,1000_AL_Devotional Thought of the Day:

10 But Moses said, “No, LORD, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”
11 The LORD said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the LORD. 12 Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”
13 But Moses answered, “No, Lord, please send someone else.”  Ex 4:10–13  TEV

22 “You don’t know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 “You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them.”  Mt 20:22–23  TEV

We cannot proclaim Christ’s promises to ourselves; we cannot store them away safely on a computer disk or in a safety deposit box for later reference. We need the word to come from outside of us so that it may reign over us. Someone must wash us, someone must feed us, someone must speak an inescapable and unconditional word of absolution, and in doing so these someones become Christ for us. The worldly spirituality of Luther with its emphasis on vocation and service to the neighbor is also a thoroughly churchly spirituality. We are called to venture forth on our individual paths of discipleship as members of a redeemed people, the very body of Christ.

There is no way for the Christian to avoid the brokenness in life.

We may try to hide it.  We may try to justify it in our hearts and minds, yet our soul will still feel the brokenness.

We may try to run from it, and to be honest, this week, there have been times I wish I could have.

We encounter brokenness in each day, in each relationship, and even if we could isolate ourselves from the world, lock ourselves up in some monastery, we would still be crushed by our own brokenness.

So too often we from this aspect of brokenness to that one.  From this shattered place to that, never having found the rest we need, never dreaming that there could be a way to see all of life healed, never seeing life restored.

Moses ran from where he encountered the greatest point of brokennes in his life. Everything he was. up to that point, disappeared in a moment of rage. And so he ran, rather than face his brokenness.  God sends him back, not to deal with his own, but to help others deal with theirs. To deliver them from slavery, not the physical kind primarily, but the spiritual kind.

Moses goes back to help people realize that God isn’t distant, but that He is here.  That God loves them, that He wants a relationship with them where He can love and care for them. (That is why Christ came as well!)  And Moses, broken, afraid, more than willing to let someone else bear the burden, Moses would let someone else address the sin and shame.

God wouldn’t let him, but God also didn’t let him wander back alone.  He never does.

We are meant to see people healed and find hope in the community.  For even as Moses ministers to Pharoah and Israel, Aaron will minister to Moses, serving him as his mouthpiece, being his right hand, and Aaron does what Moses cannot do for himself.  They were Christ for each other, as we need to be.

That can get pretty messy, as we, sent by Christ in his stead ( and yet paradoxically with Him) encounter their brokenness.  As we share the grace they need, speaking absolution, binding their wounds, helping them have hope.  Them helping us by serving us as Christ would. This interchange can get extraordinarily painful, as we sacrifice our own comfort, our own illusion of peace in order to encounter the brokenness.  And even then, God provides real peace – that passes our understanding, meeting us in the midst of soul-wrenching pain that brokenness causes.

It takes confidence in God to reveal your own brokenness, to confess is and let yourself It takes confidence to go, and embrace those who are broken, to reach out and give them the proof of God’s healing them, the hope of the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears.  When brokenness and the spiritual death it threatens is swallowed up in the greatest of victories.

This is what we hold onto, this hope of the new day coming. The day the church holds onto each other until, as we minister to each other, and remind each other of the love of Christ.

Lord, help us neither hide our brokenness or run from it, or the brokenness of those around us.  But let us begin to minister to each other, to be Your hands, Your feet, Your mouthpieces, even as You minister to us through others. AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxx). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

The Church Needs to Stop Betraying Sinners… now!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13 When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. 14 In just the same way yourq Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost.  Matthew 18:12-14

312         You should not want to make the world into a cloister, because this would be a disorder. But don’t convert the Church into some earthly faction either, because that would be tantamount to treason.

One of the great challenges facing the church today is sin, not its existence, but how we are to deal with it, and the damage it causes.

St Josemaria points out the two different dangers in our response to sin.

The first is when the church tries to isolate itself from the world, for instance, when we create all our own options so our people don’t have to mix with the world.  Our own schools, our own fraternal clubs, our own coffee shops, and even stores and social media.  When we try to create a community that isolates our people from the world, creating a victual cloister.   You see this as well in the attitude that the church is here to minister to its own, and those like them.

The second seems like the opposite, when the church, trying to “reach” people and bring them into the church, allow sin to convert them. We then bring into question what God really meant by sin, and was it only in that context, or since God will forgive all sin, why do we bother with telling people to stop, and just focus on healing the symptoms, trying to teach them to live a symptom free life, without getting at the cause itself, sin.

These two approaches aren’t really that different.  They both shy away from dealing with sin.  They try to avoid the appearance of sin, not by avoiding it or finding ways to absolve it, but rather just bury it, or hide from it, or try to justify it, because if it isn’t sin, we don’t have to confront it.

And in both cases, we betray the sinner, by denying them the grace they need, by blocking them from the healing and the restoration they need.

Dealing with sin and the brokenness it causes is brutal. Whether it is our own sin, the sin we have committed; or the sin people commit against us, or the sin we witness and are entrusted to help bring reconciliation to God to those who commit the sin.

And we have too often, afraid of being contaminated, or being labeled as accessories, as Jesus was mocked and berated for hanging out with sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes of his day.

It is time for the church to start going out after the sinners, to bring them to the place where they can find healing, and hope, and be restored.  It won’t be easy, we will have ot deal with both anger, and even being sickened by the sin and the damage it has caused.

The church must commit to helping people heal from this brokenness.  We can’t leave people out in the darkness anymore.  We have to do this cautiously as Jude warns, and aware of our own inability to deal with sin, depending on the mercy of Jesus.  That is the key to dealing with sin, to be so aware of Jesus presence, of His intimate role in our lives, in the place He dwells in our heart, soul, and mind.

This is our vocation, the true role of the church in this world, to go after the one, the broken.   Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, strengthen our relationship with You, through Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws us close to you.  Give us the courage to honestly address sin, our own, and the sin of the world, turning to You to be healed, to be absolved, to be made complete.  We ask this in Jesus name, depending on Your love, revealed to us at the cross.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1484-1486). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith in Action: Makes Sure! A Sermon on Hebrews 3 (with video of the service!)

Faith in Action…
Makes Sure

Hebrews 3:12-29

I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin.  And when they come to support you, that you will let them.

Be Careful

I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death.  They avoid death,  if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely.  (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)

The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.

In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include  a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.

Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….

For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.

Who Was it?

We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.

The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled.  Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.

And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.

They didn’t believe.

For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.

They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled.  They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts

And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.

Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.

We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him.  Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.

For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time.  We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.

We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses.  We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.

And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!

Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)

It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.

It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.

I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.

You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body.  And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.

We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.

So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.

You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall.  It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…

Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments

We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.

As James wrote in His epistle,

19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)

So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God.  Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

Your Life Has a Different Meaning…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.     2 Peter 3:8-14  HSCB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.

Patience is one of those things we don’t like to talk about.  Simply put, it is something that is beyond us.  Our culture thrives on impatience.  Cell Phones (remember having to wait to get home to call someone?), DVR’s (so we can fast forward past the stuff we don’t like), microwaves and now insta-pots all serve our desire not to wait.  We might try to justify it as “not wasting time” but in reality, it is our god of impatience that we continually try to find ways to serve.

Into this comes a passage about God’s patience, and the fact that He is patient with us, His people.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, to be destroyed on the day to come.

Be sure, all will be destroyed, this He has promised.

Judgment will happen, this too is promised.  Some to be judged as lacking trust in God’s mercy, and therefore, trusting in themselves they stand condemned. And some, trusting in Christ’ intercession, in His death which erases our sin, and in His resurrection, which brings us to life, they will be judged righteous and welcomed into heaven.

So if God is patient with His church, and yet, will fulfill His word, we find the meaning of life as we imitate His.  We, the church, need to be both patient and yet focused on drawing people to Jesus.  For the day is coming.

It is hard to see the truth of the second coming without wanting to badger people, to not just draw them into Christianity, but to drive them into it, like a rancher driving his cattle.  It takes the patience of a shepherd, who uses his voice and staff guides his flock and leads it into the presence of God.  Or a parent guiding a child to learn to walk, and then ensures where they walk is safe.

This work requires love and thereby provides the new meaning in our lives.

To love those caught in sin, those in bondage to grief and shame, who are caught in selfishness and greed.  This is the meaning of our lives, to love God, to love those whose lives are broken, and help them find the healing that is in Jesus, even while we heal ourselves.

God is with you.. never forget it, and help others know it.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Broken’s Feast

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the day:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.  1 Kings 19:3-5

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician.”

880    Don’t let your defects and imperfections nor even your more serious falls, take you away from God. A weak child, if he is wise, tries to keep near his Father.

There he was. seemingly victorious, and yet, he was devastated. He longed to die and saw no hope in continuing to live. He wasn’t suicidal, but he was so broken he couldn’t go on anymore. He was overwhelmed by sin, his own and that which he observed.

Even though I am a simple pastor, I’ve seen that frustration in lay people and pastors, as despair and frustration just tire us out so much we cannot even see the progress we have made. If I am honest, I’ve felt that way more than once.

Instinct in those times drives us toward isolation, but there is no solace there.  In fact, isolation only leaves us more time to contemplate our despair, to feel more overwhelmed, more alone, more… abandoned…not just broken, but shattered.

And Hungry…

Elijah wakes up to a meal prepared for him, a meal prepared by one sent by God to encourage him, to lift him up, to restore his vitality so he can journey a little farther down the road.  Eventually the journey, through storm and fire, through his spiritual and mental fatigue will bring him to the place where he will hear God. Where Elijah will be ready to hear God.

For me, in those moments of brokenness, my one lifeline is being cared for and fed by God.  It is as Bonaventure notes, it is in these times we need to receive it more frequently.  It is the feast set out for those who are broken and weary. Not just bread from angels, but the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.  The feast where He gives us His own body and blood.

It is our feast.

The feast for the Broken

A time when I can realize God is restoring what is broken, where He heals that which has been ravaged by sin.  A time just like Elijah, yet shared with friends and the family of God.  A time of great peace, and healing, and rest.

As I still have moments where brokenness is profound, where I still want to run away, where I wonder if my life will ever bee less broken and make a difference, I have learned something.  To wait it out, to look forward to the next time we gather together and are provided bread from heaven.

The nourishment we need for the journey, the blessed feast for those of us broken and shattered.

This feast, whether we call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, it is the feast for the broken, the turning point where we find such grace and peace that the journey itself changes.  He will provide it, and the Spirit will draw us to it.

This is the hope we need, this is what will satisfy our hunger.

 

De Liguori, A. (1887). The Holy Eucharist. (E. Grimm, Ed.) (pp. 224–225). New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2025-2027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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