Thoughts for Monday on Holy Week:
7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)
To know God, this is eternal life; this is the purpose for which we are and were created. The destruction of our God-awareness was the master blow struck by Satan in the dark day of our transgression.
To give God back to us was the chief work of Christ in redemption. To impart Himself to us in personal experience is the first purpose of God in salvation. To bring acute God-awareness is the best help the Spirit brings in sanctification. All other steps in grace lead up to this.
When the loving Shepherd,Ere he left the earth,
Shed, to pay our ransom,
Blood of priceless worth,—
These his lambs so cherish’d,
Purchased for his own,
He would not abandon
In the world alone.
Ere he makes us partners
Of his realm on high,
Happy and immortal
With him in the sky,—
Love immense, stupendous,
Makes him here below
Partner of our exile
In this world of woe.
St Paul wrote that the leaders of the world would not have allowed Jesus to
be crucified if they knew the plan of God. The irony is that He had to face
death in order for that plan to be effective. His crucifixion was not just to
pay for our sin.
Tozer explains it well; it is not just to pay for our sins that Jesus died.
It was to impart Himself to us, and the Spirit’s best work is to help us be
acutely aware of the presence of God. This is what the church has to get
back to, to help people be aware of how God wants to be involved in our life,
to be intimately involved in every part of it. To be able to bring healing,
peace, comfort, and meaning to life as we work, empowered and guided by Him,
together in ministry.
This is where Holy Week is such a blessing, to spend more time at the place
where God grabs our attention. He draws us back to the cross, to the altar, to
the place where we let Him wash our feet and feed us the Lord’s Supper. It is
there we find the blessing that de Ligouri talks about, the fact that Jesus
never leaves us, that He is a partner in our exile.
Realizing this desire for not just a relationship with Jesus, but a deep
intimate one causes devotion to Him and dependence on Him. This isn’t about
being weak and broken and needing the healing that does come in Christ. It is
about what that leads to… what God has planned for us,
to know Him.
Lord, may this Holy Week give us the opportunity to gather around your
altar, to contemplate you sacrifice, and to know Your desire for us to be yours.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
 Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 210.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12 Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (TEV)
326 Invoke the Holy Spirit in your examination of conscience so that you may get to know God better, and yourself also. In this way, you will be converted each day.
71 The old man therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of his nature if he is not restrained and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he is finally destroyed. This is what it means to plunge into Baptism and daily come forth again.
The words sound familiar, they have been part of the liturgy for centuries, They were sung over and over in the 80’s and 90’s, as they were one of the beloved praise songs.
Yet I wonder if we’ve forgotten the words, forgotten the consuming desire to be holy. We’ve forgotten the fear and the wonder which comes from finding ourselves on Holy Ground.
We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not just so we can see miracles and manifestations that are supernatural, but because we need the Holy Spirit to make us Holy, to cut away the shame, the grief, the hatred, the anger to remove from our hearts the sin that so easily oppresses us and robs us of life.
This isn’t something that happens in the theological classroom, it happens in the midst of brokenness, as we realize that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are hopeless. It is the cry of a heart weary from injustice, from the weakness of our heart in regards to temptation.
It is both a cry of despair and a cry of that keenest faith. Despair because we realize what we’ve let fade away, and faith, because we know, to see our hope and joy restored.
The church needs this, each one of us who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ needs this, More than just a quick prayer at the beginning of our services, or after a sermon that tugs on our heart strings. Escriva and Luther tie this into the work of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our Baptism (also see Titus 3:2-8), a work that goes on every day of our lives.
That is critical to know and understand – this work of transformation isn’t a simple snap of a finger, although the promises are ours. This is why Paul tells us to strive, to work out our salvation, why Peter warns us to be on guard because the Devil is wandering about trying to find someone to devour.
Even as I write this blog, names and faces come to mind, people who need to see the Spirit working in their life, bringing them to the point where they are cleansed, where they are healed of their brokenness, where they are comforted because the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming their sin.
SO let us pray, asking God to renew our hearts, asking Him to cleanse us, asking Him to remind us of His presence.
And let us rejoice in our salvation!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1296-1297). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print. LARGE CATECHISM
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9 This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 10 may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need. 12 Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. 13 Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.’ Matthew 6:9-13 (TEV)
The word “Father” makes me sure of one thing: I do not come from myself; I am a child. I am tempted at first to protest against this reminder as the prodigal son did. I want to be “of age”, “emancipated”, my own master. But then I ask myself: What is the alternative for me—or for any person—if I no longer have a Father, if I have left my state as child definitively behind me? What have I gained thereby? Am I really free? No, I am really free only when there is a principle of freedom, when there is someone who loves and whose love is strong. Ultimately, then, I have no alternative but to turn back again, to say “Father”, and in that way to gain access to freedom by acknowledging the truth about myself. Then my glance falls on him who, his whole life long, identified himself as child, as Son, and who, precisely as child and Son, was consubstantial with God himself: Jesus Christ
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.
My work today in the office is to try to get 8 services planned and prepared for printing, all which will occur in the next week. Services for Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and two funerals as well.
It was a good reminder then to hear the words in green above, that remind me of why we do these things, what the ultimate purpose is, that trusting in God, and being in awe of His love and mercy, that we can turn to Him…. and pray. The result of a worship service is to teach people to communicate with God! What a radical idea!
Talk to your creator, talk to Him, not as a minion to a master, not as a lowly employee to the CEO of the company, not as a prisoner to a warden, but as a child, who knows they are loved, talked to their dad.
Yes it is a level of humility that we would not normally want to admit to, but it is not the kind of humility or perhaps better, humiliation, that those other relationships often create.
You see, I think we see the Father-child relationship the wrong way. Pope Benedict nails it, we want our independence, we want to be emancipated, freed from the burden of answering to someone else. But that isn’t the relationship that is pictured in the Lord’s prayer, in all of the times God shares his desire to care for us, to encourage us, to nurture us.
Benedict XVI’s words call us back to that point, to the point where we like Christ identify ourselves as the sons (and daughters) of God.
As you walk with the Father through this week, as we prepare to remember the last supper, the garden, the cross, consider the Father hearing these words from Jesus. Consider our Father hearing these words from Jesus, this incredible prayer he taught us, not just in words, but with His very life… For this is the prayer of a Son to the Father. It is His prayer, and as we go through this week… don’t just say it, hear it said, from Jesus to the Father….
… as Jesus clears the temple courtyard., so people who are not His people can pray and know they are heard
….. as Jesus washes the feet of sinners, because they argued about who was greatest and taught them the greatest serves
…. as He breaks the bread, and blesses the wine, and gives us a feast beyond anything we could imagine
…. as Jesus is whipped and beaten, that by the scars we would find healing,
…. as Jesus carries the beam he would be nailed to
….as Jesus dies, showing the world that all glory, honor and power is the Father’s.
So come to worship the King of Love, our Lord, and learn to depend on Him, and depending on Him, share your life in words, of praise, and of prayer.
as the sons of our Father!
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. 97–98). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the day:
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:27-28 (TEV)
16 Meditate on this frequently: I am a Catholic, a child of Christ’s Church. He brought me to birth in a home that is his, without my doing anything to deserve it. My God, how much I owe you.
The quote is not from Holy Week, but a week after.
It seemed appropriate to me for this day, as we enter a week my heart is not yet ready for. I’ve dealt with too much grief and brokenness. I’ve dealt with too much death, or more precisely, I’ve watched too many others deal with it.
I’ve got to get my head in the game; there are services to plan, sermons to write, people to visit and share the hope that seems distant. It is there, faint in the background, sustaining me, yet it is nearly intangible. As waves of grief and other stresses of life flood over us.
I so understand Thomas today, so devastated that what is true is unbelievable.
I need to see His hands, His side, I need to eat with Him, to hear His voice, to know His love is not ended, nor is His mercy, nor his hand which corrects and guides. I need to focus, and trust, and believe.
Although I would replace the capital c in Catholic, with the smaller c indicating the church is the entire church, I so am ministered to by the words of Fr. Escriva this morning. For it is Christ that brings me into His church, even as I am battered and bleeding by sin. The sin of a broken world, the sin of others which crushes me… and yes, most especially by my own sin. A sin which heightens the anxiety over death, A sin which crushes with grief and shame, a sin which can bind resentment to me in ways I cannot overcome.
And the Savior, the benevolent Lord lifts us up, pours our His mercy and grace on us, and heals our souls.
Faith is nothing more, and nothing less, than depending on Him to come to us in our brokenness…. and bring us into His home, into His kingdom, into His death on the cross so that we will live eternally with Him.
This is the message of “holy week”, the week was broken are drawn to the cross in awe and wonder, and see the love and glory of God.
I may not be ready for it, but oh, do I need it.
You do as well… so let’s walk together, crying out with other pilgrims, “Lord, have Mercy!” AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 294-296). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional /Discussion thought of the day…
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross. 9 For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. 10 And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, 11 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:1-11 (TEV)
“How often you will find yourself inundated, intoxicated with God’s grace—and what a sin if you do not respond!” (1)
The Carmen Christ – the great hymn of the faith that is found in the passage from Philippians above (verse 5-10) is one of the most memorable scriptures in the Bible. It was our epistle reading last week in Church, as we considering the Passion of Christ entering what we call “holy Week”. Truly indeed is our way to the cross such a blessing, such a thing to stand in awe of, and it makes such a difference.
Yet this great hymn, the majestic and glorious passage cannot be removed from the context in which it is written. We are called to have that same attitude towards others, that Christ has towards us. We are called to serve, to love, to show mercy, to work towards being of one mind.
All things that are counter to our culture. This kind of radical humility and mutual submission (see Eph 5:21-6:9) is often lost in our independent and driven culture. And while we are good at realizing often the narcissism and self-centeredness is simply another name for sin. Even to hear that – we rebel a little – but to hear the call to lives of deliberate simplicity, that we can use our resources to help others? What about our comfort, what about what we’ve earned (and therefore deserve?)
I love and hate that the new pope has taken such a thing seriously, that he is setting an example of it – within some incredible constraints – the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. I love it – because I know how much the Church ( Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist) need such encouragement, and such and example. I hate it, because it confronts me with my own wealth not being used well, my own self-centeredness, and such a confrontation leads to guilt or shame, or
Could we live in the shadow of the cross, not just gratefully soaking in the mercy and love, understanding the passion of Christ for his people, and see the model for our own lives, lived as He commissioned them? Could we imitate the suffering servant? The one who humbled himself and died….for us?
Not by our strength, not by our wisdom… but by being inundated, and yes intoxicated, with the very love of God! For then, there is no option but to respond!
May we seek His mercy and grace, and as we focus on His love, and as we do – may others see that He is present in our lives!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3551-3552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….
1 Thessalonians 5:13 (Phillips NT) 13 Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ.
With crystal clarity I see the formula, the secret of happiness, both earthly and eternal. It is not just a matter of accepting the Will of God but of embracing it, of identifying oneself with it – in a word, of loving the Divine Will with a positive act of our own will. This, I repeat, is the infallible secret of joy and peace. (1)
On this Monday of Holy Week – as the Crucifix looms on the horizon, as we look at the sin and injustice in this world, as we contemplate its score and the evil that is manifested in it, as we realize the pain embraced by Jesus Christ as all of that sin was laid upon Him, and God the Father let the wrath it deserved loose on him, I have another phrase for you – taken fron St. Paul’s advice to the church that was being persecuted in Thessalonika.
Or as some translations put it, REJOICE ALWAYS!
Even as we look at the Cross? At its brutality, and at the black sin which caused it?
Yeah – pretty much.
Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured that cross – for the joy set before Him, the joy of being reunited with His adopted brothers and sisters, the joy on the Father’s face, as the Father rejoices over the prodigals coming home! What joy there is to be found in that cross – where the passionate will of God was revealed to us all. That God was willing to give it all up – to endure such pain, to pour out such wrath….
That we would be His people, His children, His beloved!
Even in the midst of suffering, in the midst of trauma, even if in the midst of boredom, we can embrace God’s will, we can see the cross and intuitively know the depth of His love. When we do, there is a joy that comes about – for we realize that His promises are true, His presence is real, that we are not alone.
The secret is not avoiding things that are tough, not avoiding the trials – but making sure we know God’s love, in the midst of them.
And we will know peace, and comfort, and yeah – happiness.
This week – as we set our eyes on the cross – and the crucifixion of our Lord – may we see the joy that He saw, and realize we are with Him.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3547-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
“There is no other god…”
† In Jesus Name †
May we realize that, if there is only one God, then it is to Him we should listen, as He reveals His love and grace to us, and assures us, that He has us in the palm of His hand.
How I don’t want to be part of the crowd…
Holy Week… a time of betrayals…
The Crowds praising God, for bringing the Messiah into their midst… in a few days, the crowds would be crying out to crucify the very person they praised the Father for sending.
The brothers James and John, arguing about who is first in the Kingdom, even to the point their mom would ask Jesus if He could separate them – by placing one at his right hand – and the other at His left. This they asked of the one who would kneel and wash their feet….
The kiss of Judas, how that must of hurt the One who came to embrace the sins of the world.
The sinner of sinners, Peter. Who though he walked with Jesus over three years, though he trusted him enough to set a record for walking on water. Who was at the mountain of transfiguration, who did and saw so many things at Christ’s side… would betray Jesus three times – in Jesus’ hearing, even as Jesus told Peter he would.
Boy do I understand Peter’s grieving, his tears this year. For I find – that as much as I don’t want to be part of the crowd that can go from doing right to doing wrong in an instant, I too often find myself doing so, sometimes faster than I can realize it. My instinct is to find an excuse, a logical reason for sin, to explain the intent – even knowing that the result does not legitimize the sin. We do all sorts of strange things when we sin – we deny the sin, we attempt to bargain, we get angry – maybe to the point where we crucify ourselves, or sometimes, perhaps worse – we attempt to crucify those who point out our error.
If we are blessed, as I have been – we have brothers who have walked that way before, and are ready to share with us, the very grace of God. To remind us that we are forgiven, when we confess the sins we’ve committed. They remind us – that even in our weakest most broken points, that God is faithful, that He is with us. Our reading from Deuteronomy explained it this way, Yahweh will see his people righted, he will take pity on his servants. And 39 See now that I, I am he, and beside me there is no other god. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal and no one can rescue anyone from me.
There are those days… when I would wish to escape from God, that I need to hear such words. Then as I realize the love behind them, they bring peace to one who struggles, partially because, like many of you, at times I am my own biggest idol.
Idols – fact and failure.
An idol is something we depend on, something we rely on, instead of relying on God. It can be anything from a good luck charm, to a person we desperately “need” in our lives, to the old fashioned idols made of wood or stone.
And as I mentioned – sometimes we are so impressed with our knowledge or our maturity, that we can become our own idol. We think we have all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the power. We might even make ourselves an idol of ourselves because we are good Christians, just as Paul realized that he did last week – when we heard of all the things he counted as skubala as dung, because He realized He couldn’t rely on them.
Fact is, when we aren’t on guard – idols have a sneaky way of worming themselves into our lives, making us depend on them, more than we depend on God.
Then they fail – as God tells us they will. It doesn’t matter how much we work, how much we prepare, how much we tell ourselves we’ve got it down- our idols will fail – they will not provide us shelter, or comfort, or help.
There is only one God – the Lord who revealed himself to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon as we saw during Lent. The God who waits – knowing that our idols, our false gods will fail us….
Ready to pick us up – ready to reveal again, that He is the Lord, that He is with us.
Death than Life.
As the deacons and vicars sat in my office this week – they came to an immediate realization about very 39, the difficult phrases they make us wonder at first glance. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal! They both remarked – this is talking about Law and Gospel – about the cross and baptism.
It is one of those moments where I realize that working with them is a great joy! They nailed it. ( Hmmm that might not be just the right way to say it, with Good Friday around the corner. ) But this passage is about this week – about a death that leads to life – and about how we are joined to that death in our baptism.
A death that shows the passion, the very heart of God, that He has for us….
That our sin, that even our idolatry can and is cleansed from us. Not that we should be proud of it, but we shouldn’t nail ourselves to the cross over and over again.
We’ve been there – because we’ve been here – at the baptismal font, at the place of St. Paul said,
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:12-13 (TEV)
That is where our confidence needs to be, not in ourselves, not in the failures that we so grieve over, but in the God who will not let us escape His grasp.
For there – when we realize He will not let us go… we find the peace that so eludes us, when we realized we cried Hosanna – hoping that God would do what we thought was right, the peace that eludes us as well, when we realize we are crying out “Crucify Him”, and then grieve over our guilt.
He won’t let us go, and because of that – we can know He is God, and that He crucifies us in Christ – that we can be raised to a new life. A life in which He reigns, and in which we live in peace. AMEN?
Devotional thought of the day… as we prepare for Holy Week:
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT)
Over the years, I have had a number of people who ask me why I, a “protestan” pastor (which I do not consider myself to be – but that’s another conversation) wear a crucifix more often than I wear a cross. Its the same reason the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – the celebration of the depth of His love, is so much more than Palm Sunday…
My answer is simple – it is where my hope is founded, it is what makes a difference in my life, it is what sustains me, as I face the crap of this world, the sin and trauma that just can rip your heart apart, and the sin and trauma that is my own, which then crushes that heart, with the force a sledgehammer.
It is why the drama of Palm Sunday, when the masses are crying out Hallelujah – and Hosanna, and Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, is so ironic, and in a way painful. I can’t but hear under the praises, the same voices starting their other cry, the one that will call for this same man to be crucified, to be tortured and killed. There is great irony in that, in the second cry, as it is heard and acted upon, they will realize the glorious nature of God’s love.
It is why I would rather cling to an old rugged crucifix, than just an old rugger cross. For in baptism – I am joined to Christ there as Paul talks about in Romans 6 and Colossians, It is there at the cross – that a circuimcision of my heart takes place, as God separates my sin and all unrighteousness from me, as He signs adoption papers, as He declares me justified, as I receive the most incredible gift, as I enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
Why do I wear a crucifix more than I wear a cross?
Simple – I desperately need to remember He died for me… and as I share in His death, so too I share in His new life.
That He has had mercy on us,,,, despite the cross.
2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (NJB)
- THE PALM AND THE PASSION: HOMILY FOR THE PALM SUNDAY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD (frbonnie.wordpress.com)
- PALM SUNDAY and HOLY WEEK (wtmcclendon.wordpress.com)
- The cross isn’t a fashion statement, it’s a passion statement (quinersdiner.com)
Devotional Message of the week:
10 Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, 11 So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. 12 “So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. 13 No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— Monuments to me, to GOD, living and lasting evidence of GOD.” Isaiah 55:10-13 (MSG)
1 Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: 2 proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement—but do all with patience and with care to instruct. 3 The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; 4 and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths. 5 But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfil the service asked of you. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NJB)
In times of general confusion it may seem as though God is not listening to your pleading with him on behalf of his souls, and is turning a deaf ear to your calls. You even reach the point of thinking that all your apostolic labours have been in vain. Don’t worry! Carry on working with the same cheerfulness, the same energy, the same zeal. Allow me to insist: when you work for God, nothing is unfruitful. (1)
I am sitting at my office desk this morning, looking at the texts for another funeral, and wondering how they will be preached. After that, the Palm/Passion Sunday Sermon await, and then, planning the 4 services and sermons for the next week. I should be excited, I should be energized. I know that this is what I am called to, and most of the time, I enjoy it. I’ve even been told I am pretty good at it, by people I know would not hesitate to let me no otherwise.
Even more – I know well the first passage above, the promise that God’s word never returns void – that it is always doing its work, quickening, giving birth in the people listening, the trust, the faith that we have in God. It’s not about my skills, it’s not about the hours put in, trying to craft a sermon. (the best sermons/homilies are not written, they are crafted and forged within the life of the pastor/priest ) Pentecost is a great model of this – as Peter – yeah – the dude who denied his relationship with Jesus three times… spoke a sermon – and the Holy Spirit cut open the hearts of those listening – even as prophesied in Ezek 36:25ff.
God does the work – that is our promise! His word doesn’t return without accomplishing what He determined to accomplish with it…
So why don’t we see the results? Why don’t we see the tears of joy that come from those who have realized His love covers their sin, heals their broken lives, gives hope to those who had none? Why can I preach at a funeral or a wedding or a midweek service – where people are obviously touched for a moment… but then forget the message, more importantly, they forget God?
As I look at the workload this week… I wonder… what difference will it make in people’s lives, and when?
As I woke up this morning – and thought of all the stressed people I am ministering to in the next few weeks – their situations weighed me down…. a lot. When will they see relief – whether from repentance and absolution, from healing, or from the thing we all have promised to us, the comforting, encouraging presence of God. Will they receive that which the Lord would bless them? Will they recognize His presence in their lives? Will my words make a difference in their lives today, tomorrow and all of next week?
That is where the words of the second quote of scripture – St. Paul’s advice to Timothy, and the next point in St Josemaria Escriva’s “The Forge” come into play. ( I read a few of those with my daily devotions) The passage to Timothy popped into mind as I read the note in the Forge. And a little comfort entered my heart – if it is not my work, but God’s, then perhaps I don’t have to see the results. What I am called to do – encouraged to do is keep preaching about Jesus – preaching about our need for Him, because – hey the evidence is there – we don’t live the lives that reflect it. We need to be encouraged to love – to engage in relationships that go beyond just a “hello” or that are very serious – and ready to pray, when we ask, “how are you doing?” And I can, in sermons and through the sacrament, through Bible Studies and conversations in my office and on the golf course, and even on FB.
God will work in my people’s lives – I know that… because I know Him. I know His desires, I know His love, and that is what I need to focus on… far more than “my results”
And on the Friday before Holy Week, with funerals on the calendar, it is good to know the message I preach… is true for me as well…
“The LORD IS with you!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3452-3456). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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