Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. 1 Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Respect your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise added: 3 “so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land.” 4 Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction. Ephesians 5:21, 6:1-4 (TEV)
19 Be grateful to your parents for bringing you into this world, thus enabling you to become a child of God. And be all the more grateful if it was they who placed in your soul the first seeds of faith and piety, of your Christian way, or of your vocation. (1)
Later this week, my mom and I will take a day and just get away. It will be one year since my dad passed, and the grief and loss that we feel may indeed well up inside of us. So I have been thinking of family a lot recently. This morning I came across St Josemaria’s quote you just read in my devotions, All over the news o that the brokenness of some famous athletes’ families recently aired out in front of the world, and an odd comment on facebook recently, sparked off this blog.
The comment this morning that struck me as odd, was the reference to the Virgin Mary as simply a “vessel”, nothing more, nothing less. It struck me as pragmatic and lifeless, and against the very idea of family as taught in the scripture. For no mother is simply a vessel, a holding place for life for 9 months.
God designed us to be part of families, and while many are dysfunctional… no wait, all are dysfunctional because of sin, that doesn’t mean we should devalue them. Yet that is what we allow. Mother’s are reduced to vessels, and holding tanks. Father’s are thought unnecessary, and of little value. Children are tossed aside, before and after they are born. Siblings are made to think that rivalry is the norm, rather than a loving family.
This isn’t new – you can’t read scripture without seeing the brokenness of families, and directions about how things really should be. Directions that are critical to be really heard, and by that I mean the scriptural meaning of hear – to absorb and let affect and transform you. This is not just something that we can take as what theologians call adiaphora, it is not optional. Nor is it it simply environmental or biological. As an adopted child, I have met my birth mother, and much of who I am, I see in her. As well, I see a lot of my adopted parents as well.
It is the relationship of family, even if we struggle with it.
The reason this is critical is simple. The family is an image of our relationship with God. He is our loving Father, our merciful Brother. We are all siblings, whether we note the relationship, or not.
Frequently, we take the image of family that we know, our broken, confused, dysfunctional families, and those we see, and project them onto our relationship with God. It becomes a fight for who is wiser, or who is in control, who is the authority, who has the rights. And we treat God like we treat our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters.
If instead of projecting on God’s family what we know from dysfunctional experiences, we let it work the other way?
We would honor our parents, praying for them, hearing them.
We would sacrifice for our family, the way Jesus did for us, knowing that in love, no sacrifice is too great for those who are in His family.
We would value the people God has given us, parents, children, siblings in our families, and in our church families.
We would seek those who are part of this family, yet don’t know it… yet.
We would love.
Lord Have mercy as we worship and love you, as we embrace our families in love.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 304-306). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Peter 2:11-17 (MSG) 11 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 12 Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. 13 Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; 14 they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. 15 It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 16 Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 17 Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
Titus 3:1-2 (MSG) 1 Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2 No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous.
Yesterday, because of our government’s way of doing business, the government is starting to shut down. Lots of political debating is going on, lots of blame games, lots of finger pointing. I sort of expect that, it is the way the world works, when it is based in competition.
What I do not get, is the role I see many followers of Jesus taking in this battle. Not that I think we shouldn’t be advocates for that which si righteous. Or that we can’t, during such times, find ourselves on opposite points of view, because of that which lies close to our hearts. (For example – one side is very concerned about the unborn – a nobel cause.. and the other is very concerned about the poor and elderly – also a nobel cause )
But what bothers me is the rancor, the hatred and mockery that spills out of us at such times. That we become diabolical in the truest sense of the word – throwing mud and accusations in the worst possible construction towards those we oppose. ( see my sermon on Spiritual Warfare for more understanding of diabolical) We literally and literarily try to destroy our opponents. We call them names – make accusations, assume their insincerity and basically make this a war of good and evil- and assume we stand for good.
Which is simply bullshit. (Pardon my americanese)
Look at the passages above – where Paul and Peter urge us to respect and work with those who are leaders – knowing our behavior reflects on who it is we claim to trust (have faith in.) There is no option there for belittling, slandering and gossipping about those in authority. Can we oppose them respectfully? Can we pray for them, encourage them, lift them up?
Can we imitate Christ, and Peter and Paul, and those who followed in their steps – knowing something that is more important than who is to blame?
For example – who took all the blame on Himself?
You see – our political statments reveal ultimately who we have faith in, who we trust. Our publicly displayed rancor and anger reveals a hurt of being betrayed. It is not only a statement that we feel our government broke trust with us, but a statement that we have lost sight of our God in whom we trust, a God who promised all things – even those things we mean for evil – will work out for good.
We are to trust in God above all things – above all people, above all government.
It’s about Jesus, remember?
I’ll leave you with the thoughts of the Pslams.
Psalm 2:1-12 (NLT) 1 Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2 The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. 3 “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” 4 But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. 6 For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.” 7 The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. 8 Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. 9 You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.’” 10 Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11 Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!
- What you need to know about Spiritual Warfare… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Gung Ho! Serving All Together
1 Cor 12:12-31
† In Jesus Name †
May you know, intimately and deepy, the gifts of God, the mercy and love and peace that works within you as you love those whose lives you have a share in!
The USMC – and Gung Ho!
My father served in our military, in the exclusive branch known as the United States Marine Corps. He was a corpsman, which is basically a doctor’s assistant in the field of battle – but trained to do what he could to save men’s lives until they could be taken to the doctors, many miles behind the field of battle.
Growing up – and hearing the stories, not of battle – but of the spirit and teamwork of the USMC often, I heard two phrases that are the mottos, the slogans of the USMC. Neither is English, but they are phrases they have taken from the places they have served. They express things that take many words in English – and even then are vague. The first is in Latin, Semper Fi – it means always faithful, always dedicated, always willing to sacrifice, that others may be safe, and protected. The other my dad had no knowledge of the origin of. But it turns out to be from China, from the Marines who served hear before World War II. I would imagine it is very badly mispronounced – but it at the heart of this attitude of the Corps.
In Americanese – it is said this way – Gung Ho…
I don’t know if the USMC got the word right, or even the concept. But the concept they attached to this word is critical to them. From the way my father described it – it means to strive together – to work with everything everyone has, to achieve their goal. Each person using their skills where they are at – but also helping each other to do their best as well. It is the idea at the heart of the USMC – and it is the reason they are the most successful of the four parts of our military. It is not about who is strong, or who is weak – it is about the unit, the entire team.
It is a phrase I think – with our “meaning” ascribed to it, that would be most appropriate for a Christian community.
Our Independent Spirit
Not God’s plan! It is impossible/sin
That is a challenge in America today- where everyone is encouraged to do what is best – not for the community but for themselves. Independence is perceived as a virtue – and to lose that dependence and depend on others is seen as a weakness.
It is perhaps our greatest weakness, as those with more abilities are encouraged not to help – but to push on, ignoring those around them with different abilities. God’s call to love your neighbors – the people you interact with regularly, as you love yourself is pretty much ignored – in order that you might be successful – or achieve wealth or popularity or material things.
Perhaps that challenge is here in this society as well? The idea that one should focus on climbing the ladder of success – no matter who you have to step on to achieve that next step?
That is not the way God describes His people, His community functioning. As Paul says, that is like the foot hating that he isn’t a hand, or the ear not happy and leaving the body unless it can do the work of the ear! Surely God has chosen were each of us fit – yet no one is more important than the rest. Some of the most important – are the parts – like the heart and brain, that are never seen- but provide the very life for the rest of the body!
Indeed – such self-centeredness – what sociologists term narcissism, is the basic description of sin. To chose to love myself more than others, to choose to see myself as valuable, more valuable than the others… that is sin.
An example – I have the most visible role in my church – or perhaps I should say the most audible. I am the one up front all the time – it is my job to speak. But there are others, like Wanda and Kay, that keep everything moving in our church – especially Wanda! She is like the heart which beats – sending God’s love in every direction. Then there are the brains, Al and Jim and Bob, Manny and Tom and my other leaders – who help decide how best to meet the needs of all. However, each has their role – but what would happen if one decided to take all of the roles?
Such is sin, pure and simple.
And it is one – it should function as one, it should live as one.
We are the Body of Christ – joined to Him means joined together! Gung Ho – each with His different talents/abilities/charisms – charisms being the term for the special gifts – that define each part of the body.
To be united to him means that every barrier is broken down, that we understand every person is part – and not that parts aren’t important, but that they are at their most important, as they interact within the community.
When Christ reconciles us to God our Father, it is not just an individual thing, He reconciles humanity to Himself, all born of water and spirit. In reconciling us to Himself – we find ourselves reconciled to each other. We truly become one body – united in Christ. United in His love, which Paul will discuss in the next chapter- united in His, perfection.
That is the power of the cross – the place Paul described this way:
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; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14 (TEV)
Think this through – if God nailed sin – all of the debts owed because of it it, to the cross. If there Christ wiped the slate clean, and cancelled our debts…. Then what is left to divide us from each other?
That person that irritated you, even if it was intentional (as you are certain it was) – that sin is gone – the damage it did healed. That thing you did, that has been haunting you for years, that too is forgiven. All of those debts, all of those problems, all of that junk – was nailed to the cross with Christ….
Done away with….
You are free…you are a new creation, a part of the body of Jesus Christ.
As are those around you who have been freed, brought into His new life, cleansed, and loved….
We are free….together!
That is how the body of Christ, His people, can be one – with nothing dividing us. Each part moving on its own, yet in sympathy – like a great symphony – each person playing their part. No one focusing on which part is best – because all parts are necessary. We are the body, We are His body.
We can learn to love, to even love sacrificially, because we are part of the whole, and for one to love another… that is the blessing of our life in Christ.
It is no wonder that God calls us His masterpiece, His worksmanship, as He makes us all into one body, one life.
Living together, living in His mercy and love – knowing that we are forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness… that is the “secret” the mystery of all ages, which we get to reveal to others….
For knowing we are one with Christ, part of each other, His holy people, His body, realizing that means we live in a peace that goes beyond all understanding, as Christ protects and guards His body… in peace.
“I don’t want you ever to lose your supernatural outlook. Even though you see your own meannesses, your evil inclinations—the clay of which you are made—in all their raw shamefulness, God is counting on you.” (1)
There are times, when I am about to start a sermon, or a Bible Study, or say the words of institution and serve the people of God the Feast He has prepared for them, that I have a moment of panic.
What am I doing up here? Why do I think I have the role to “play” at being a pastor.
I know myself, well, not really. I think I do. As described in the quote above, I see my own issues, my own frailty, and there is a tendency to focus on those things. And when I do, it makes no sense that God would call me, use me, work through me…. work in me. How could something so sacred work in something so… human, fallible, broken. It is a challenge that I often feel – and I am not alone. A pastor with over 30 years experience and I were talking about this very thing – and he noted he even once consulter a psychiatrist about the nerves and issues he goes through, as he is about to preach….
Such thoughts I know as well – go through the mind of people who aren’t pastors, who know God is nudging them to do something – whether it is something grand like heading to the mission field, or something even more scary – like inviting their neighbor to church. Or reaching out to that busybody or grouch at work, or challenging the dysfunction in their family, as they desire to bring God’s healing and peace to where it has been never known before. And in the back of their minds, just as in pastors…there lingers doubt – not of God’s will or God’s faithfulness, but of our suitability to be used by God for something holy.
To you (and to I) the words of St Paul bring…a reduction of anxiety, and a quite assurance that God can.. and will provide all we need to see His will accomplished.
15 Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I myself am the greatest of them; 16 and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the leading example of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who were later to trust in him for eternal life. 17 To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NJB)
If God can take a murderer like Paul, or a murdering alduterer like King David, and transform them, equip and empower them to do what God accomplished through them… then indeed He can do what He is calling us to let Him accomplish through our lives. He is counting on you – not to do things by your own intellect or power, but simply to follow His lead..to allow His love to work through you…
For then like Paul, you will see that all honor and glory is His, even as He invites us to dwell with Him in it.
One last thought blessings.. for this day:
20 I pray that the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant, 21 may prepare you to do his will in every kind of good action; effecting in us all whatever is acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen! Hebrews 13:20-21 (NJB)
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1934-1935). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.