Devotional Thought of the Day:
61 Knowing that his followers were complaining about this, Jesus said, “Does this teaching bother you? 62 Then will it also bother you to see the Son of Man going back to the place where he came from? 63 It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. John 6:61-63 NCV
Luther, too, employed this “core” as unquestioningly in his catechism as the Council of Trent did in the Roman catechism. That is to say: every statement about the Faith is ordered to the four basic elements: the Creed, the Our Father, the Decalogue, and the sacraments. The whole foundation of Christian life is thereby included—the synthesis of the Church’s teaching as it is based on Scripture and Tradition. Christians find here what they are to believe (the Symbolum or Creed), what they are to hope (the Our Father), what they are to do (the Decalogue or Ten Commandments), and the ambience in which all this is to be accomplished (the sacraments). Today, this fundamental structure has been abandoned in many areas of catechesis with results that are plainly evident in the loss of the sensus fidei among the younger generations, which are often unable to take a comprehensive view of their religion.
Although all nations see the horrible confusion, vices, and grievous calamities of the human race and feel the burden of sin, yet only the church of God teaches both where sin comes from and what it is and hears the Word of God concerning divine wrath and present and eternal punishments. And though human wisdom teaches us how to guide morals [and] disapproves and punishes actions against common reason, yet it does not recognize what is inherent in the consideration of sin, namely guilt before God or the wrath of God. Alexander saw that he had acted shamefully when he killed Clitus and he mourned as a result, because he made a judgment contrary to nature, but he did not mourn because he had offended God or because he was guilty before God. But the church points out the wrath of God and teaches that sin is a far greater evil than human reason thinks. Nor does the church reprove only external actions which are in conflict with the law of God or reason, as philosophy does; but it reproves the root and the fruit, the inner darkness of the mind, the doubts concerning the will of God, the turning away of the human will from God and the stubbornness of the heart against the law of God. It also reproves ignoring and despising the Son of God. These are grievous and atrocious evils, the enormity of which cannot be told. Therefore Christ says, “The Holy Spirit will reprove the world of sin, because they do not believe in Me, and of righteousness because I go to the Father, and of judgment, because the prince of this world is already judged” [John 16:8–11].
It is now the third generation since the decline of the church in America began.
I have heard many theories about each of the generations as those in the church grieve over their absence. We mourned the boomers who came and went, sometimes coming back. Their kids, my generation, some either came and stayed, but others fell aside and rarely come back, even for Christmas and Easter. It is any wonder why we think the millennials won’t come?
Our situation could be described in the words in blue above, the desperate times, the confusion, the carelessness towards vice and greed. Those words are nearly 500 years old, but so reflective of our days today.
Except the church has forgotten about how to teach and preach about sin. Part of the church would ignore sinful acts, thoughts, deeds. The same part would love to condemn and even crucify some specific sins that abhor them. But our focus (and I do mean our) is on “sins” rather than sin. It is the symptoms that concern us, rather than the cause. It is act, the thought, the deed that we either want to justify or condemn.
And because we are so two faced in the church, those outside the church only hear our rants about sins and sinners, and never about the issue, sin.
One of the reasons for teaching the basics of the faith with the outline of Commandments, Creed, Prayer, Sacraments was that it causes us to deal with sin, not just sins. It causes us to face the evil that we live with, that we are held hostage by, that we love and we hate. To deal not just with sins, the individual thoughts, words and actions that are contrary to scripture, but we must deal with the root cause.
Sin. That which divides us from God. divides us from each other, and shatters us personally.
That’s what needs to be dealt with, that’s the evil that has to be overcome in this world.
Our evil. Your’s and mine.
That’s what Jesus did.
That’s what we all need to hear – no matter the generation, no matter the age. That’s what we’ve taught for generations… what we need to teach again.
To give them the hope we all need.
Church – get that straight.. give them hope to deal with their brokenness – help them realize God still loves them, will cleanse them, heal them, declare them to be His own.
They will come for that.. they always have.
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.
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 I will thank you, O Lord, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 10 Your constant love reaches the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies! Psalm 57:9-10 GNT
52 “How terrible for you, you experts on the law. You have taken away the key to learning about God. You yourselves would not learn, and you stopped others from learning, too.” Luke 11:52 NCV
Baptism has also shifted away from identity with Jesus in his death and resurrection and turned into “my personal testimony to others that I have given my life over to Jesus.” The spiritual life in this case is not a passionate embrace of God signified by a baptism into his death and resurrection but a passionate embrace of my personal decision to follow Jesus signified by my conversion. In the outworking of this experiential spirituality, baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus is replaced by confidence in my personal decision. And baptism no longer has any meaning. (1)
In Martin Luther’s small catechism, there is one phrase that constantly appears.
What does this mean?
It appears so often, that it has become part of Lutheran’s vocabulary, a phrase that is reduced to a thought.
Even so, as we excel at defining the concept, it seems we’ve lost our ability to make the connection. We have become the experts in the law Jesus is talking about in Luke’s gospel, able to become experts on the Greek and Hebrew, experts on the nuances of the history/ grammar, but we’ve lost the key to it all, and in our pride, refused to learn. The impact on our churches is enormous, and though the details can hold some people’s attention and fascination, it does only that, and it neglects their heart, their soul.
This is demonstrated in the quote from Dr. Webber, where he summarizes a shift that took centuries, showing our teaching on baptism moving from something that had great personal meaning to a teaching that highly defines baptism, yet robs it of its connection to the person we are instructing.
But it is not just those who have lost sacramental insight that rob scripture and religious teaching of what Webber caused the Divine Embrace ( I often use “intimate relationship” while others use sacramental or incarnational). I have seen this occur in my own denomination, as teaching on ministry becomes more and more about proper order and understanding regarding the ordained clergy than what the role of the ordained is. We are nothing more than conduits, the pipe of the pipeline that carries grace. We are necessary only when our role is that of dispensing grace through Word and Sacrament. But our teaching has elevated the understanding of the ordained to a higher priority than preparing and placing them where people need them.
That’s where “what does it mean (to me)” is such a necessary question. Or where we ask “so what” when someone explains the “what” of theology. We give them what the caused the psalmist to rejoice, the revelation of God’s love, of God’s faithfulness, of a God comes to us, and shares with us His glory, His love, HIs peace. A God who nurtures and cares for you and I – not just some group which we may be on the fringe of, but He desires and cares for us specifically.
He embraces us.
This is what evangelism is about, what sharing the hope we have in these dark times means. It is the gospel we preach, it is why we should teach scripture. To answer the question that they should have – “what does this mean…. to me?”
May God bless us, as we reach out with His love… and may they hear it. AMEN!
(1) Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Jesus said, “Two people owed money to the same banker. One owed five hundred coins n and the other owed fifty. 42 They had no money to pay what they owed, but the banker told both of them they did not have to pay him. Which person will love the banker more?”
43 Simon, the Pharisee, answered, “I think it would be the one who owed him the most money.”
Jesus said to Simon, “You are right.” 44 Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. 47 I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The people sitting at the table began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.” Luke 7:41-50 NCV
42 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for you, the living God; when can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 GNT
Let me illustrate this shift toward a spirituality disconnected from God’s story by comparing historic spirituality to this new intellectual embrace of forensic justification.
Historic spirituality looks like this: God became one of us in the incarnation. When the Word became incarnate in Jesus by the Spirit, God lifted all humanity into himself and, by his death and resurrection, reconciled all to himself (Rom. 5:12–21). Spirituality is therefore a gift of God’s grace. God has taken the initiative to unite with us so that we may be united with him. Baptism is the spiritual rite of conscious and intentional union with Jesus (Rom. 6:1–14) and reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The spiritual life is the freedom to live in the baptismal pattern of his death and resurrection, dying to sin and rising to the new life in the Spirit. In this ancient model of spirituality, Jesus is our spirituality because we are in union with God through our union with Jesus by the Spirit. His entire life from conception to resurrection is on behalf of humanity. He reverses our belonging to Adam (Rom. 5:12–21). He overcame sin for us (Col. 2:13–15). He destroyed the power of death (1 Cor. 15:35–58). He begins the new order of creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He does all this in the power of the Spirit. Christ now dwells in us by the Spirit and we in him.
Spirituality rooted in justification without the connection to the incarnation and Christology looks like this: We are justified by Christ who has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. Christ is our righteousness. God looks at us through the righteousness of Christ and imputes or declares us righteous in Christ. (This is called the forensic or judicial view of establishing our relation to God.) Now that God has made us spiritual through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to God in thanksgiving by living the sanctified life. The new emphasis in spirituality within Protestantism, in general, is this justification/ sanctification model.
Sixteen years ago, I left the non-denominational brotherhood of churches I was trained and ordained by and became a Lutheran pastor. The Brotherhood had a broad diversity of theology, not just among church members, but in its Bible College and seminaries. There was nothing that tied the group’s theology together, which made for some interesting conversations over the years! but this isn’t about them, it is about Lutheran theology, and how it ((and most conservative theology today) screws up Justification.
One of the tenets of Lutheran Theology is that the Doctrine of Justification is the central doctrine of theology. The first couple of times I heard that I hesitated, and still do on occasion. Then a wise professor explained it to me this way. Picture a bike wheel, you have the hub, the spokes, and the actual tire. The hub is Justification, but it isn’t the only, nor the most important of doctrines, and if you remove any of them, the wheel will fail, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.
That makes sense, but I think today, as Webber points out, we have got the hub but forgotten the tire. We’ve forgotten the reason we are justified int he first place, to be in a relationship with God, to walk with Him, to know His love, to stop the fighting, internally and externally, and simply take refuge in God our Fortress, in God our peace.
This is the error of Simon the Simon, a leader in the Jewish religion. He had his hub set, the spokes tightened, the rim in place, but he forgot the tire. He didn’t recognize that God was there, not just to pronounce forgiveness, which is amazing. He was there to eat and drink with Simon, to share bread, to laugh, to cry, to be with him.
This is our God, whose come to us. God who wants to share our lives, even as we share in His, and dwell in His glory and peace. Christ’s death on the cross, enables God to declare us clean, righteous, holy, and that enables us to walk with Him (Or maybe to ride?) We need to keep this in mind, we need the entire wheel, hub, spokes, rim, and tire. Missing a part, or getting it out of line, is serious, but the goal is and always will be, to sit down, and eat and drink, to fellowship with Him.
May you enjoy that feast this weekend and always! AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)
83 Faced by all those men without faith, without hope; by minds desperately near the borders of anguish, seeking for a meaning in their life, you found your purpose: Him! This discovery will permanently inject a new happiness into your existence, it will transform you, and present you with an immense daily hoard of beautiful things of which you were unaware, and which show you the joyful expanse of that broad path that leads you to God.
There are times where the actions of people affect us. Times where evil or unjust actions cause us to struggle, to even despair and sink into depression. Some of us are more susceptible to this than others, as we do not understand how in the world they justify their actions.
This kind of trauma can paralyze us, make us ask unanswerable questions, we can even begin to doubt God, for how can he allow this level of brokenness, this sin to dominate and evil to flourish. As we ask these questions, out hearts and souls receive hit after hit, even as we try to determine if this is the time to fight, or flee.
I hate to say it is “natural” to enter such struggles but after 50 years, I find that I don’t have the strength to avoid such, nor the power to overcome the tendency to be so affected. Simply put, you can’t care for people, you can’t try to love them without opening yourself up to such burdens, to such struggles.
So how do you cope?
St. Josemaria and St. Paul agree. The answer is to look to Jesus, to find our purpose is Him. They agree that our relationship with Jesus is so precious that we can look to Him and discover the greatest joy. This is the same joy that Jesus saw as he walked to, and was nailed to the cross.
Looking to Him, finding our life our breath and very being located in Him, allows us to see that our trust in Him is true. He will sustain us from the beginning to the end, it will reveal to us the incredible vastness of the love of God, and we will experience it more as we see ourselves as part of His story.
That’s what I need to know, that is why we need to go to the cross when we are feeling this way. Our hearts and souls and minds need to understand what happened when God baptized us when God drew us to Jesus and united us to His death and resurrection, When God declared us righteous, cleansing us of sin, and declared we are His children. We need to allow His presence to dominate our awareness, to let, for then His peace settles over us. Assured He is our fortress, we can then begin to respond in love, and in prayer for those who actions or words drew us deep into despair.
This is what we need, to focus in on Jesus, and be forewarned, it isn’t easy. Satan will buffet us all the way. This is where the communion of saints is so precious, for their testimonies in scripture and in the millennia since demonstrates God’s faithfulness. This is where the sacraments and the word of God come into play, ministering to our hearts, souls, and minds, bringing the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Here is our hope and joy are restored, renewed, here in this sanctuary we call the presence of God, for know this my friends, “the Lord is with you!”
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 571-576). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (TEV)
49 Zain Keep in mind your promise to your servant on which I have built my hope. 50 It is my comfort in distress, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:49-50 (NJB)
579 There was a young priest who used to address Jesus with the words of the Apostles: Edissere nobis parabolam, explain the parable to us. He would add: Master, put into our souls the clarity of your teaching, so that it may never be absent from our lives and our works. And so that we can give it to others. You too should say this to Our Lord.
Maybe a year ago, a missionary friend of mine and I were talking about the balance of ministry. He had recently gone through a rough patch, and he realized that he had been so busy that he neglected what he was saved to be. He as neglecting his time with God.
It is far too easy, in this day when time demands all we have, and far more. Especially for those in ministry, whether in a congregation, on the mission field, or in preparing those who will minister in the classrooms of our colleges and seminaries. It is tempting to reduce our time with God to the study of His word for teaching others. After all, it is similar, it is similar motions, it is dealing with the same material.
Yet Jesus did the same things – and still went away to pray to the Father. He didn’t just count the sermon on the mount and preparing for it as His time with the Father. And he praised Mary for sitting at his feet, rather than serving those in her vocation as hostess.
There is a time for both. There is a need for both, but especially for our regular, deeply intimate time with God. A time where we ask Him to show us how to pray, a time where we ask Him to explain to us His teachings, where the Holy Spirit takes us to school in prayer, so that He permeates our very lives, and from that life, we can give it to others.
We need this time with Him. It is what underlies the basis of a sacramental approach to God. Otherwise, we could just replace the church with a classroom, we could make do even with the latest book or podcast, getting knowledge from others. I believe some churches have done this, diminishing prayer and worship, times of meditation and absolution for a longer exegetical sermon that may or may not mention Jesus, and may or may not bring comfort to broken hearts.
The gathering, the church service, the mass is a time of prayer, it is a time waiting on Jesus, listening to Him, seeing His love revealed and given to us, not just taught to us. Our times of prayer, of spending time contemplating and meditating on His word is similar. This is why the early Lutheran priests talked about prayer as a sacrament, it is why the ancient church fathers talked about how we pray is how we believe, and why the dedication of Solomon’s temple talked all about “when people pray”.
Spend time with God, talk, listen, ask for insight, ask to understand, that what you experience may be an integral part of your life, a delight, and that it may flow from you to others.
I pray that you see revealed and experience the peace of God which passes all understanding, and that found in the presence of Christ, you know He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2156-2159). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion Thought fo the Day:
2 But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. 3 All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
1 John 3:2-3 (MSG)
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV)
413 Each person in his own situation should lead a pure life, courageously lived. We have to learn to say No for the sake of that great Love, Love with a capital letter.
We hear the word used in church, or maybe we read it in scripture, We bypass it quickly, either not thinking about it or dismissing it as a foreign concept.
Pressed on the issue, we will probably define purity in a way that appeases our nature. We will dismiss it as impossible, we will justify our impurity by indicating such purity doesn’t save us, that the law of Moses which defined purity isn’t binding on us any longer. We will hide our desire for impurity behind theology, behind reason, behind whatever we think will cover it up. And we will accuse those who encourage/demand purity it of being pietistic and hypocritical. ( This is not to say that some who encourage and demand purity are pietistic and hypocritical, but we apply the mocking labels far too liberally!)
So let’s talk about it. is there a sense of purity that is neither hypocritical, but that we should strive to be? Is it possible to be concerned with our own state without submitting to a legalistic system of demands?
Of course! It is possible!
The problem is that our idea of purity is too narrow, it is focused on behaviors, what we do or do not do, and maybe what we say or don’t say, rather than on who we are.
Purity in Greek is related to the idea of holiness, of being set apart to a relationship with God. It is about who we are in God’s sight, in His eyes. It means living a life that is devoted to Him, that we strive to please the Lord who loves us, who is compassionate toward us, that is merciful.
Which means we strive to live life as He would desire. That when we fail and think, say or do things that are not pure, we immediately we turn to Him and let Him cleanse us once again. For God purifies us, He refines us. Purity is about being grieved by our sin enough that we desire that he care for us, about hearing His voice comforting us with the words of forgiveness, and encouraging us not to sin anymore.
Is this easy? No, it is much harder to seek forgiveness than it is to enjoy for a moment the sin. But it is needed.
This is what life really is, living in His presence, not anxious or afraid, but full of joy. It is about dwelling in peace, assured that our purity isn’t fake – because He is the one who is our model, and who makes us pure and holy.
Let’s not waste His work, let’s not run or hide from it,, but rejoice as His glistening purity becomes ours, as we dwell in Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1597-1598). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)
241 If the outlook in your interior life, in your soul, is darkened, allow yourself to be led along by the hand, as a blind man would do. In time the Lord will reward this humble surrendering of your own judgment by giving you clarity of mind. (1)
I took a class a year ago on the text of St John of the Cross’s spiritual classic called Dark Night of the Soul. It was a hard read, not because of the language, but because it opened parts of my life where I need to let the Holy Spirit bring comfort and peace, cleansing them and helping us find God. Yes, even there we can find Him.
As the Apostle Peter says, He is the Guardian of our souls.
In these days where everything seems broken, we need to understand that role that Jesus has in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether the brokenness that clouds our Mondays is global, national, in our community or our church, or simply in the depth of our heart and soul, He is there.
Despite our sin, despite the injustice that oppresses us. He is there.
It doesn’t matter if it is 2:30 AM, and we can’t sleep, or Monday morning when caffeine doesn’t seem to help us overcome our…. Mondayness.
He is there, guarding us, protecting us, providing for us, caring for us and bringing us the healing our souls so desperately cry out for, whether we allow them to do so audibly, or bury it and let it cry through our bodies.
He is there. He is caring for you, for me.
St Josemaria explains this using the idea of our being blinded – and there are times where surely I am spiritually. The spiritual equivalent to the wasteland of a Monday, where nothing makes sense, nothing motivates, nothing is hoped for or planned for in our lives. Where we might be in that wasteland, and so deprived of hope that we don’t care it is Monday. The key then is to allow Him to shepherd us, to guide our steps.
This is faith, the trust, the dependence on God. It requires knowing those promises He has made us, that nothing can separate us from Him, that He will complete the work He began in us, that He will never leave us, never forsake us.
Here He is, guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls. He is guiding us, and as we feel the warmth of His glorious mercy and love, we find peace….and hope.
Even on a dark, cloudy, Monday….
Lord, have mercy upon us, and reveal Your care and work as our guardian!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1021-1023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:20-25 (NLT)
997 Absence, isolation: trials for your perseverance. Holy Mass, prayer, sacraments, sacrifices, communion of the saints: weapons to conquer in the trial.
Growing up, there was a sense that church was an obligation. In fact, there were days called “holy days of obligation.” To miss going to church on these days was considered a sin.
But I never asked why it was a sin, I was just told it was, and I responded as everyone does when forced to do a task, I rebelled. Didn’t go, and even if I did, I wasn’t really there, I wasn’t really particpating. So even if I was there, I really wasn’t.
The one thing I never asked was why we were obligated, and if I had, I am hoping the answer would have been what we see above in Hebrews 10. There God makes clear that we are welcome there, and there we find encouragement to endure until Christ returns.
We need to be with each other, we need to be celebrating God’s presence together, we need to share as those who receive His mercy. (this is why I am so in favor of having the Lord’s Supper weekly, if not offered more frequently!)
For there together, we find God keeping His promises – reconciling that which was torn apart, healing that which is broken.Bringing together that which was isolated and fitting into the place it fits in His body. We were created to experience life in community, as part of something that endures, that is sustained, that grows healthy and strong.
As we realize that this is not an obligation of force, but one of need, our hearts change.We begin to treasure what church brings, we see it as a time that is holy, set apart as a time for us to find rest, and refuge, forgiveness, and the awareness of God’s presence in our lives. A presence confirmed as others tell us His peace is with us, that He is with us.
As we realize this church goes from being more than an inspiring message, or uplifting music. The gathering of people we realize is something sacred, the place they occupy becomes holy, it becomes a moment where heaven is revealed.
It is what we desperately need, it is what those around us need……and so the more we go, the more we realized we needed to….
For this is why we were made…. to live in peace with God and each other. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2315-2316). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34 (NLT)
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69 (NLT)
906 Et regni eius non erit finis—“His kingdom will have no end.” Doesn’t it fill you with joy to work for a kingdom like that?
A little over a year ago, I was at a funeral where one of my early mentors preached. He made a point very clear that we no longer preach about eternity. He asked me if I, no longer in that denomination, ever mentioned eternity in my sermons, and I indicated I did, and while I do, the conversation took a back burner for a while.
I do mention it in sermons, for it is the 2nd great promise of our baptism,, the first being the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is why the removal of our sin is so critical, for those who are counted as sinners, those who are bound by them, have an eternity that is not what I would call life. (hell does exist, but how it is clearly described is an existence that is not what we think of as life.)
But I think we put off eternity, we have defined it as a reality we cannot know until we die. It is “after-life” in many people’s thoughts. Not life right now, eternity and heaven are not visible we think. I believe this is, in part due to passages that describe the final judgment, and what theologians call the “not yet”.of the “now and not yet.”
We need to understand that there is a “now” to eternity. That even as we struggle to see it, the love we know now is no different than the love we shall know then. We will just be more aware of it, we will see it more clearly.
How different would our lives be if we could begin to realize the truth of Paul’s words to the church in Colossae,
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT)
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)
Eternity has begun. It is hard to see at times, and yes, Satan and the world would love to obstruct our vision of Jesus, to diminish our ability to sense His presence and be comforted and consoled by it. As we realize that, our duty becomes reminding each other, teaching and preaching about our eternal life. Meditating on it, partaking in the sacraments, and celebrating those who enter this life by being united to Jesus in the sacrament baptism.
This is who we are…those living in Christ eternally… this is our hope, our trust, and dependence on God and His promises, including the love that will see us to the day when we see Him face to face.
Until then, as St. Paul says, sets your sight on the realities of heaven… for that is where you real life is, hidden in Christ. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
13 So brace up your minds, and, as men who know what they are doing, rest the full weight of your hopes on the grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ reveals himself. Live as obedient children before God. Don’t let your character be moulded by the desires of your ignorant days, but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’.
1 Peter 1:13 (Phillips NT)
887 That discouragement produced by your repeated lack of generosity, by your relapses, by your falls—perhaps only apparent—often makes you feel as if you had broken something of exceptional value: your sanctification. Don’t be worried: bring to your supernatural life the wise way simple children have of resolving such a conflict. They have broken—nearly always through frailty—an object that is dear to their father. They’re sorry, perhaps they shed tears, but they go to seek consolation from the owner of what has been damaged through their awkwardness; and their father forgets the value—great though it may be—of the broken object and, filled with tenderness, he not only pardons, but consoles and encourages the little one. Learn.
Like most pastors, I struggle with this thing called holiness.
On the one hand, Scripture clearly lays it out as a requirement for our lives, and as a measuring stick for me personally, and for my vocation, my life as pastor. If my goal is a pastor is to present you perfect and holy to God (see Col. 1:28)) then it is the standard to judge my work, my vocation, my life.
I’ve looked at how pastors treat holiness, looking for examples and encouragement, but I find too little. I see most pastors and priest taking one of two attitudes about it, and neither seems to help. I will go so far as saying both are contrary to scripture.
The first attitude is one of regimentation, of physical and mental obedience that doesn’t affect the heart. This quickly develops into legalism, that is less concerned about you than about your life being lived visibly according to the set standards. Everything becomes measured, notated and analyzed like a geometry test. It is not discipleship as much as a form of cloning. And it burns people out, for no one can live up to the standard, including those who see themselves as being responsible for measuring people against it.
The second attitude is just as dangerous, even though it seems the exact opposite. TO deny the need for holiness, to say it is a unachievable goal, and that Jesus broke us free from answering completely to the law. ( For Lutherans, this would be those who deny that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a third use of the law) As the legalists do this is not about the person, it is about the behavior. They might say since holiness is impossible, just rely on grace to forgive you. Not directly, but that is the result of their theory.
So I either push them too hard or don’t care what they do.
So where am I to shepherd them too? How are they to be holy even as the Father is holy if they aren’t taught what holiness is, and how it develops in a person?
Even harder is my own application of holiness if I am not holy, how in the world can I expect to lead them into holiness, into a deeper, more committed, more fulfilling relationship where the peace and comfort that comes from knowing God loves them is their primary desire?
I think it comes from understanding what holiness is, what it looks like.
St. Josemaria gives a picture of it, with his description of a child breaking a treasured item. This is going to God, the owner, the author, and perfector of our holiness, and asking for comfort, for consolation – this is holiness. At the very purest level, this seeing God’s help in restoring what is marred, what is broken, what is shattered, this is the kind of holiness we need to see.
The holiness of a child, seeking comfort, seeking peace, because we know what we have done, this destruction of what God treasured, is an act of faith, and an act of trust.
God will look past it; He promised He could because it was taken care of by Jesus on the cross. Knowing this, we can run to Him; we can tell those running to Him the words of comfort, “Your sins are forgiven!”
This is the faith that runs to God, knowing He is with us. Knowing and depending on a love that will allow nothing to separate us from Him. Providing for the people of God this encouragement, this blessing, this life.
Not just dismissing their sin, as if it didn’t cost the blood of Christ, nor scourging them and beating them up for their not living like the Lord who shed His blood for them.
It is in His death, which we are united to in baptism, that we find the grace St Peter talks of, the grace that gives us our hope, the hope that sustains us, and actually sanctifies us, for when we walk in His presence, when we run to Him for forgiveness and comfort, there He is working, making us Holy.
May we all run to our Father, and cry out for His help!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2049-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.