Devotional Thought of the Day
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:15-17 (NLT2)
6. We also believe, teach, and confess that, although the genuinely believing and truly regenerated persons retain much weakness and many shortcomings down to their graves, they still have no reason to doubt either the righteousness which is reckoned to them through faith or the salvation of their souls, but they must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, on the basis of the promises and the Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God.
Men expect redemption from themselves, and they seem quite prepared to provide it. Thus there is linked to the primacy of the future the primacy of practice, the primacy of human activity above all other activities. Theology, too, shows itself more and more open to this concept—orthopraxis replaces orthodoxy. “Eschatopraxis” seems more important than eschatology. If in earlier days it was left to popular enlightenment to tell the lower class that artificial fertilizer was more effective than prayer, now, after a suitable interval, we can read similar commentaries in the kind of “religious” literature that strives to reflect the contemporary Zeitgeist; we can even find voiced there the argument that under certain circumstances prayer itself will have to be “refunctioned”: it can hardly be considered any longer an appeal for divine assistance; on the contrary, it must be regarded as a period of quiet composure in preparation for the practice of human self-help.
Benedict XVI’s words about orthopraxy replacing orthodoxy (right practice replacing right praise) seem eerily prophetic. Written in 1971, these words I believe talk of the church today. For the focus on doing things correctly, doing things in a way that seems holy to man dominate both traditional and contemporary Christianity, It can be seen in both conservative and liberal voices.
As he notes, even prayer becomes the preparation for doing things correctly,
As I look at this, I think I see a tie into the quote from the Lutheran Confessions in green. I think that we struggle with the fact that while we believe, the weakness and shortcoming we have (which is simply a fancy way of saying we still sin). We don’t know how to deal with our own frailty, our own brokenness. We are impatient with the healing we are experiencing in Christ, and so we seek to fast track our own sanctification.
If only we can do everything right, if only our performance reveals how much faith we have, then maybe others will see us as holy, and then, based on our testimony, we can believe we are holy. So we look for the masters, the life coaches, the pastors who will show us the way to worship, how to live, how to raise our kids, and be a bastion or moral and religious perfection.
And instead of being an imitator of Christ, we try to become a clone of those who we follow. Driven by the fear of being revealed to be something less than faithful, we take on the mannerisms, while leaving a soul behind that is empty, broken, and struggling with the sin that so easily ensnares us.
Prior to the passage from Romans above, we see Paul going from the joys of rising with Christ in baptism, to the absolute low of discovering he still can’t get things right. Orthopraxis is impossible, He can’t do what is right, he can’t help but do what is wrong. In this moment of shame and self-pity, he finds in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That despite his struggle with sin, God sees Paul as righteous, holy, a son of God.
This discovery changes things, it changes our fear of our sin being discovered into a cry for help, Daddy! Daddy! HELP! We realize that our hope is not found in our attempts to be holy, but in hearing His voice tell us we are His children. In hearing His promise to complete everything in the day of Jesus. We find our transformation not by our work in ministry, not in our perfection of word and sacrament, but from being there, broken, and finding healing.
Nothing I can do will bring you the level of holiness you will be satisfied with, in this age. For satisfaction means you want to judge if you have made it, or rely on the judgment of others. That desire for satisfaction will drain you, ripping out from you the core of your heart and soul.
But allowing God to minister to us, allowing His grace, His mercy and love to pour into us, living life being drawn to Him, sometimes in tears, this is our hope. Not starting with prayer, but a life lived in Him, allowing Him to recreate us.
This is our hope of wholeness, of holiness. Letting God be God, as we realize we are His.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 474). 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.) (pp. 242–243). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:31-34 (MSG)
797 You know that your way is not clear, and that by not following Jesus closely you remain with that clouded vision. Then, what are you waiting for to make up your mind?
Until a year ago, I was an avid tea drinker, and I would make ice tea by the gallon and drink it over the day. Earl Grey white was my favorite, and I would take my fancy tea maker and steep the tea, then drain it off and add ice.
in Peterson’s translation, he uses the same illustration for life, that we should steep out life in God,. We should let our lives be infused with His view of reality (that we are forgiven and adopted in Christ Jesus) We should soak our lives in the work of God, redeeming and sanctifying us, and depending on Him to provide all we need.
We need to do this, to soak in the love and mercy of God, to let it change and flavor our very lives. Tea is no longer simply water, no longer simply a bunch of dried and cured leaves, it is a new liquid. The same for us, infused with the Holy Spirit, we are a new creation. We are one with Him.
The challenge is letting other things in the process. the things that cause anxieties, heartaches, the resentment stored up, the sin hidden and harbored, These cloud our life, and seem to affect our relationship with Jesus, they blind us to His reality, to what He provides in our lives.
The challenge is, cleaning out all the other stuff, of learning to give all our attention to God, seeking Him and His reality, His kingdom. We need to depend on God to bring us to that point in life, to that point in our ministry.
My special tea-maker had a drain that filtered out all the leaves and the junk left over from the seeping. The micro-filter screens eliminated all but the liquid, allowing for the purest cup of tea. We need to let God do that with us, filtering out the sin and desires, the anxieties and resentments. We have ot let Him do it so that all that is left is the relationship we have with God, in Christ.
Then our vision and our mission will be clear, and it will motivate and empower us more than any beverage ever could! For we will not only know with our minds God is with us, we will experience it and be refreshed by it!
Lord help us this day realize how much You infuse our lives. Help us to trust You and let You filter out of our lives everything that pollutes, everything that clouds our vision of You! We thank You and Praise You! Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1837-1839). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Philippians 1:20-24b (NLT)
We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the Gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine.
Though our faith, our dependence on God based on His promises begins with the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus our Messiah, there are other things we have to depend on Him for, as noted in the epistle in red above.
I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ…
That sounds awesome,
It also sounds impossible.
This week I am all too familiar with my failings, with my brokenness. my own failures, my own struggles with sins that plague me.
So how can God use something so shattered? How can God work through something that has to be so,,, needing healing?
I can trust that He will clean me enough from my own sin and unrighteousnes=, enough that I can be smuggled into the Father’s presence as I dwell in Christ.
But can God work through me?
There are days I am not sure. (especially Saturdays as I struggle to write sermons)
Pope Benedict XVI talks about needing ot go through the cross to the Resurrection, We have to dwell there with Him, as He takes the pain, as He agonizes under the weight of our sin, As He removes it from us, and bares His own soul to takes on the pain our cleansing and healing requires.
It is there, with Him on the cross, that we find the same path that He took, that leads through death to the Resurrection.
It is there, on the cross, that we find hope. It is there. where we find the power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. It is there we find the absolution we need to realize that to live is Christ, and eventually, to die is gain. For if I have died with Christ in all my brokenness, if I have trusted Him to make it all right, If He shows me compassion and consoles me, then there is hope.
This is the power, the reason for private confession, it teaches me the doctrine that God is here, that the Lord is with us, that He is with me. That He just doesn’t forgive my sin our of some kind of duty, some kind of ill-advised promise, but that the promise exists for the same reason the forgiveness does because He loves us. This is remarkable, it leaves me in tears of awe.. it leaves me with hope, for I know why I can depend on Him
Even the Hope that my life is now His to use, His to work through, and the responsibility to make it something good lies on Him. Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis explains it this way,
To place our sight on our own death and resurrection causes our lives to change its center from “what we could do” to “what the Lord has done for us” and “will do with us.”
And so He has done for us and will do with us, many things, for He is our God, and we are His people.
Lord, when we feel broken, when we feel the weight of our sin, remind us that You are here. COmfort us with the gospel, that Jesus has lifted that sin away from us, and died to release us from its weight. Help us to live in view of His cross, where we were united with Him. Help us to rejoice, and then to depend on you as we find that our life is You. Bless people O Lord, and may we see how you use us to do so, as they give you the honor and praise AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 312). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 145). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. 15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” 16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:14-18 (NLT)
When we feel the presence of God in our daily lives, we can only say “God is here”and the first thing to do is to fall on our knees.
In the closing prayer of the [former Christmas Vigil] Mass, the faithful ask God for the grace, through the celebration of his Son’s birth, to “draw new breath”. Why and in what sense they wish to “draw new breath” is not explained, and so we are at liberty to understand this expression in the human and simple meaning of the words. This feast ought to let us draw “a breath of fresh air”. Admittedly, given the way we have burdened this feast with busyness nowadays, it much sooner renders us breathless and suffocates us in the end with deadlines
I wonder how clearly we hear the words we sing?
Are we ready to be thrust into the presence of God, to be in awe, and even tremble as we gaze upon as beauty, are we ready to be overwhelmed by the sight of His glory, and humbled by the purity of His love?
Are we ready to be so overtaken in that moment that our knees weaken and our bodies collapse?
How can we prepare for that moment? Can we be better prepared than Herod, the shepherds, and the angels were the first time Jesus came? Only two elderly people were well prepared for that, ready to behold the glory of Christ incarnate. Two old people who spent their days in prayer, and yet, they were still in awe of God with us.
There are ways to build our expectation, and to get a glimpse of what we are about to encounter. We find that “preview” in the Eucharist, the Feast of Christ, where we commune with His Body and His Blood. That moment we realize how much He is present in our lives, preparing us, cleansing us, setting us apart for this incredible eternity He planned for us.
Church should remind us of this, giving us that “new breath,” that fresh air that we need! It does when the love of God, in all its height and depth, width and breadth is revealed to us in Jesus.
O Come to us, Emmanuel! And until you come in all your glory, fulfill your promise to come to us through your word, to draw us into yourself in the sacraments, and sustain and prepare us as you never leave us alone! AMEN!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
His Presence Blesses Us, as
He Makes us Holy!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your dependence on Him, as God fulfills His promise to make you Holy!
How many of you…
A serious question to start with this morning.
How many of you are always, and I mean always, joyful?
How about this one?
How many of you never stop praying? Every moment, of every day?
And how many of you can you say you are thankful for everything God is doing in your life and has done in the last six months?
Has anyone been able to answer all of those questions positively?
I couldn’t, either.
Which is why the apostle Paul urges us to do so if it was common to do, he wouldn’t be urging his readers then, or us now, to do so.
But rather than hear him urging us to do so, because he knows we will benefit from it, what we usually hear just causes us guilt, and maybe some shame.
Why can’t I do what God wants me to do, our mind says, why can’t I be the person who knows joy every moment, the person who is always thankful, the person who always trusts God and gives to him all that worries us in prayer?
And so what is good advice turns into something we feel we can’t live up to…
And what about this? (Stifling the Spirit)
Then there is the challenge that Paul presents in verse 19, where it talks of not stifling or quenching the Holy Spirit.
The word there in Greek means to suck dry, to dampen, to take all the punch out of it.
It explains it a little clearer in the next verses, as we see the challenge to not dismiss those who claim to speak for God but to test them.
To see if they speak what is Godly and scriptural, what is good.
Does it teach what scripture says, to first love God and then love our neighbor?
Does it work within the guidelines God sets up in the Decalogue, the ten commandments, or in Philippians where Paul instructs us to Philippians 4,
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)
If it fits within those guidelines – this is good, hold on to it, hold onto it!
Don’t let go.
If it pulls you away from God if it causes you to put yourself before showing love and mercy to others, if it is contrary to any of God’s commands, then drop it.
For it is bad, it is evil.
That is the simple test – if it helps you know God and shows love to your neighbor – hang on to it. If it doesn’t completely stay away from it.
And if you do that – living joyfully, giving all your burdens and anxieties to God, and being thankful in all things becomes something that you can begin to do, for nothing is impeding the work of the Holy Spirit!
Here is where it happens!
If we struggle to do the things we should do as God’s people, then we need help.
The Holy Spirit provides that help and more, as the Apostle Paul also states in this passage.
“Now may the God of peace make you holy, in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!”
You see, it is God who saves us, who makes us, and keeps us blameless
This is the blessing that comes to those who trust in God and are baptized, as we are united to Jesus at His death for us on the cross, and with His resurrection.
Not just forgiving our sins once, and leaving it up to us, but giving us the promise that in Him, every sin is forgiven.
That as James writes, we can confess our sin and know He is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
It is that ongoing ministry of God, His keeping us blameless through His words, through remembering the promises of our baptism, to the promises here as we commune with Him at the altar, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
You see, being holy, isn’t about being perfect.
We can try.
We must try!
But holy at its root, means to be set apart.
If Dr. Larry in his chemistry lab doesn’t set apart certain pieces of equipment to deal with this chemical and not others, explosive things might happen!
For example, his students could accidentally make nitro-glycerin.
(By the way, that is why Pastor Parker was never allowed to take chemistry!)
Certain things need to be set apart for everyone’s good.
That setting something apart is what is at the meaning of the word “holy.”
and the other word which translates from the same Greek word, “sanctification.”
God makes us holy, in every way, as the Spirit brings us to life in Jesus, and then keeps us holy, giving us the desire for that relationship.
When we do sin, the Spirit reminds us and urges us to run to God and ask for forgiveness, depending on His promises.
This is how God makes us holy, His special people.
As He does so, we are thankful to Him for all He does, assured that He loves us
We learn to continually pray, giving to Him all that concerns us in prayer, all that worries us, all that grieves us.
And we live in joy, knowing the love and mercy and peace of our God.
For He has promised, and God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful! AMEN!
One more time, hear the blessing and promise the Apostle Peter gave us today,
23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.
Devotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
18 All the people witnessed m the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it n they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”
20 Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.” 21 And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 HCSB
213 When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, he will cure you.
Reading the reaction of the people God led to Mount Sinai, at first I am confused. Why do they want to distance themselves from the God who had saved them from the Egyptians, the God they had cried out to save them?
Then I wonder if I am any different. Or if the Church today is any different.
We are in awe of those who seem visibly in tune, intimate even, with God. They are among those we sort of see as our heroes. That is, until they invite us along on their journey. The moment we hear them say that all they have done is possible for us as well, we treat them much as Israel treated God.
“We stand over here and watch as you approach God. We’ll stand close enough to know some sort of safety, but far enough away that we aren’t overwhelmed by His grace. We can be afraid of Him, but we don’t want to be close enough to fear Him, to be overwhelmed by His glory so much that we rever Him, that we adore Him.
Look at Moses words again, Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin!”
We might read this and think the reason we will not sin is that of fearing punishment, of fearing His wrath, because we fear both the consequences now and for the future. That isn’t the reason we won’t sin. It is because of our fellowship with Him, and the trust that grows that impels us to call out to Him when the darkness of sin begins to cast its shadow over. We might not like the phrase “intimacy with God”, but it is that very intimacy that gives us hope, that draws us deeper into a relationship with Him, and as we grow in our love for Him, as we trust and adore Him and revere Him, then we are changed, sanctified, set apart to Him.
To use St Josemaria’s words, we are cured.
He has heard us.
He is here.
As He was for those in the desert, those He rescued to make for HImself a people. The people He would love, and care for, those through whom His place to reconcile the world would come true.
So let us hear the advice the Apostle Paul gave in his letter to Hebrew Christians,
16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 928-932). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for Our Day:
42 And whoever gives j just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple —I assure you: He will never lose his reward!” Matt 10:42 HCSB
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand questions of a pilgrim.
Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Most of us will never baptize 30 people in a day, never mind 3000. Most of us will never write a book that will revive and change the church at large. We aren’t Calvin or Luther or Pope Ratzinger. We aren’t the great minds of the church, nor the servants whose love and sacrifice is honored by millions
Yet our ministry is just as powerful, if not more so, even when it is as simple as praying with someone who is struggling or offering a cup of water to someone who is tired and weary.
Pope Francis explains it well if a bit technically. Mission, the work God sends us to do, doesn’t come about because of our doctrinal knowledge. It doesn’t come about because we have all the questions answered, and know it all. We will still have thousands of questions, many of them which will go unanswered in this life. For doctrinal statements are not really statements of faith.
Nor does faith come about just because we have security in this life and for the next. It is not because we are assured of heaven that we spring up to serve others, to care for them, to reveal to them the God who loves them. We can’t even anticipate what heaven is, it is unfathomable.
But faith, the kind of faith that leads to being “mission-minded” comes from encountering Jesus. An encounter that is irreplaceable, an encounter that leaves us in awe, and in peace that is inexpressible. For in our encounter, Jesus takes away our burdens, our sins, our resentment, It’s all gone. Even the anxieties of today and eternity, and the academic explanations of religion, they slide into the background, for there is only Him.
And it is wonderful, it is beyond explanation.
And from there, we find something else happening. We see our hearts aware of those in need around us, the very people God has sent us to minister too, even when that ministry is a simple cup of water…given because the Lord is with you!
I pray that we all experience Jesus’ presence, revealed by His word, know in His sacraments, and therebt dwel and minister to others in His peace. AMEN!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought for our Days
Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. 4 Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. 5 So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. 6 These things make God angry. n 7 In your past, evil life you also did these things.
8 But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. 9 Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. Colossians 3:3-10 NCV
3 My Father—talk to him like that, confidently—who art in heaven, look upon me with compassionate Love, and make me respond to thy love. Melt and enkindle my heart of bronze, burn and purify my unmortified flesh, fill my mind with supernatural light, make my tongue proclaim the Love and Glory of Christ.
“Hallowed be thy name.”
What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
5 How is this done?
Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!
Paul’s words are difficult in verse 5, these words we hear as commands, as Law.
Put all evil things out of your life…
This sounds easy – that is until Paul defines it, then defines it more.
How are you doing with that? I pray you are doing better at it than I am.
It is a battle. A battle not between Good and Evil with Evil being those opposed to us, it is a battle inside each of us, to turn away from the evil we, to embrace good. But even this battle is a paradox, for we cannot do this by our own strength or will-power.
When we believe we are the masters of our spiritual development, when we believe we can put all these things out of our life by ourselves, we’ve fallen back into the trap of the evil one. Yet that is what we hear often when we read this passage, it is what our pride focuses upon.
What does it miss… the embrace of Christ as He died, that embrace that continues through His death to the resurrection. The beginning of life in Christ, and the being MADE NEW AND ARE BECOMING LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE YOU.
This is what St. Josemaria is talking about, as he points out a part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is God who makes us new, it is God who changes us, it is God who separated us from evil and our sin, and is our hope for staying disconnected from it. (that is not to say He is responsible if we return to it!) Therefore it is our prayer, our begging God to do what we cannot, even as we realize that He has not only promised this, it is His desire.
It is our need.
And it is how we let go of the evil that has bound us, as we adore our Lord for what He has done and is doing. We don’t actually create the separation, we don’t broaden it even, we just leave it behind as the light of the glory of God. His love revealed and realized draws us away from the life we had before.
We can pray for this, that God would do His work. Not that He wouldn’t do it if we don’t pray, but that as we pray we would realize God is at work, already doing this to us. This is what Luther was getting at in the small catechism. We pray this to know what God promised to do, and so we can realize it is being done.
It is being done, let us continue to pray we see Him doing it!
 From the Small Catechism: edition from Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 242-246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
DEvotional Thought for our Days:
7 So that I would not become too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me, a painful physical problem n was given to me. This problem was a messenger from Satan, sent to beat me and keep me from being too proud. 8 I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. 10 For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10
In a letter to Leonie, Therese writes,
I find perfection very easy to practise, because I have realised that all we have to do is take Jesus by the heart. Consider a child who has just upset his mother by losing his temper or disobeying her. If he goes and hides in a corner with a sullen look on his face and cries because he is afraid of being punished, his mother will certainly not pardon his fault. But if he comes to her and holds out his arms to her and smiles at her and says, “Give me a hug, I’ll never do it again,” how can his mother resist taking him fondly and pressing him to her heart, forgetting his childish wickedness? Yet she knows perfectly well that her dear child will do it again as soon as the occasion arises, but that makes no difference; if he takes her by the heart again, he will never be punished.
Tugwell informs us that “Therese had herself been tormented by scruples for more than a year” but later on came to a different conclusion about herself: Even if she committed every possible sin, she would still have exactly the same confidence in God. She no longer needed the assurance of her own virtue.
11 Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active. Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works.
When I came across the words of St Therese, (quoted by a Baptist) I was a little in shock.
The words resonate with me, I could have perhaps said them myself, for the value running to God when we see, and when we are tempted is beyond explanation. To know the comfort of God, the mercy, and peace that flows over us as we are in God’s arms,
Knowing that love of God is so powerful, so overwhelming that we dropped the carefully constructed facade of virtue that we create. His love makes us so confident we can drop the attitude of piety that we careful craft, and admit that we are simply poor, broken sinners. Sinners who have no confidence in our own strength, but instead learn to completely depend on Jesus. We can depend on God like the child running to his mother, rather than being punished in the corner.
This is when holiness, when sainthood is seen by others. When it is not contrived, when it is not planned, when it is no longer an act, but the natural life lived in the presence of Christ. It’s the life of faith that the reformers saw, one that doesn’t argue about faith and works, one doesn’t even contemplate how to do good works, but simply does them, constantly active. It doesn’t wait for the exegetical, historical and systematic explanation of loving God and therefore loving those around them, but faith does that, while searching the scriptures for God, find the promises delivered to them in and through Jesus.
That is true holiness, one that isn’t holier than thou but realizes that hope for its brokenness is found in the God we adore, and in finding in His heart, our life.
Dwell in peace… knowing the blessed life that is found in Christ! Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Futpietyeries.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 When Jesus left the people and went into the house, his followers asked him about this story. 18 Jesus said, “Do you still not understand? Surely you know that nothing that enters someone from the outside can make that person unclean. 19 It does not go into the mind, but into the stomach. Then it goes out of the body.” (When Jesus said this, he meant that no longer was any food unclean for people to eat.)
20 And Jesus said, “The things that come out of people are the things that make them unclean. 21 All these evil things begin inside people, in the mind: evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, 22 greed, evil actions, lying, doing sinful things, jealousy, speaking evil of others, pride, and foolish living. 23 All these evil things come from inside and make people unclean.” Mark 7:17-23 NCV
He that examines and prepares himself in this way, he truly uses this Sacrament worthily, not unto judgment,44 but unto salvation. And though all these things are still weak, infirm, and sluggish, yet one should not for that reason abstain from the holy Supper. Rather on the contrary, this very reason will rouse and impel us the more to partake of it more frequently, especially since we know that the Son of God gradually kindles, increases, and strengthens repentance and faith in us more and more through this means. For this medicine has been prepared and provided for the sick who acknowledge their infirmity and seek counsel and help.
Since I entered Bible College 35 years ago, I have seen many programs that are guaranteed to change the behavior of people, Some are determined to change the practices of giving to the church, some are geared to change the behavior of sinners. Some are not that blunt, they seek to make the exercise of faith more visible, as people give, pray, attend, volunteer/serve more, worship more “properly”, seeking the joy and peace that was promised to them, if they do.
They fail because o the basic method of formation, applying a force of some kind to the person, hoping to move them into the behavior that is desired. They use the four main forms of educational discipline; the promise of reward, the consequence of punishment, the withholding of reward, the freedom from punishment. Or to put it more religiously, the blessings and curses God warned us about.
These methodologies would work if all we needed was to modify behavior.
Jesus tells us clearly, that isn’t enough. Sin and Faith/Dependence on God is not a matter of changing the externals, it requires a change of our heart (see Exodus 36:35) and the mind (see Acts 2:38 and Romans 12:2) It is not something we can change in ourselves, it goes beyond our ability. Just as a man cannot perform open heart surgery on himself, so we can’t perform such a spiritual/psychological operation Change the behavior but not the heart and you end up with another sin putting them in bondage. It’s like the addict who simply changes drug addiction for work addiction or an addiction to sexual perversion. The matter is deeper.
So how do we deal with it? Martin Chemnitz puts forth that it would be trusting God, depending on God to deliver what He promises through His word and sacrament. Chemnitz calls the weak, the infirm, the sluggish to the altar, he urges them to head there more frequently, for Christ comes to those who are sick, not to those who are well. it is the place for those who acknowledge their need, a need caused by our sin, our brokenness. It is there we find the medicine that comforts those haunted by grief and shame, who long for something different.
This isn’t the religion of the good and proper, those dressed perfectly for the church, those best and brightest. It is the religion, the way of life, that delivers hope to the hopeless, healing to the broken, life to those dead, and dying. It is the blessing for the poor in Spirit.
This is the relationship that we humbly, and with great amazement are drawn into, cleanses and brings us to life in baptism! That is where that heart that poured forth sin is cut out, replaced with the heart of Christ, which begins to transform us, even as we take and eat, and take and drink the blood of Jesus.
The change to our hearts and minds happens, and then behavior changes, prompted by the Holy Spirit, guided by those who help us explore the Father’s love.
All the while stunned by the fact we are surrounded by His peace… Amen!
Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.