Devotional Thoughts for our Day:
11 No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:11 (NLT2)
On the day of the Innocents12 [Martin Luther said], “If God were to withhold our necessities from us for a year, what a cry there would be throughout the world! But now that he lavishes them upon us we’re all ungrateful, and there is no one who gives thanks.”
COVID has shown us, very clearly, what we’ve taken for granted. Simple things that were part of our lives, that we have had to not engage in, or at least we were supposed to to avoid.
Among those things are hugs (and strong firm handshakes for those who are afraid of hugs)
There is something about them that go far beyond the physical contact. It can bring comfort, peace, the assurance that we are not alone. It can be the hug given to those who grieve, the hug given joy in celebration of a victory, the hiug given to someone you haven’t seen for a while. Even the holding the hand of someone who has been broken by life….as you silently pray for them.
We’ve lost this necessity for a year, and its loss is visible.
Yet as social distancing becomes less a thing, as people return to churches, as life begins anew, hugs and handshakes and contact will come back into play.
But will we continue to appreciate them?
During this last year, God has been faithful, and we’ve been able to put our trust in Him. He has sustained us trhough things we could not have imagined. He has been our hope thourgh this all, for everything else was stripped away, or simply was a shadow of what it was in the past.
And so we trust in Him….in His unfailing love.
And as we receive His body to eat, His blood to drink, in awe consider the closeness and contact He desires with you!..
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 131.
A devotional thought for the Day:
42 They spent their time learning the apostles’ teaching, sharing, breaking bread, n and praying together. Acts 2:42 NCV
Chapter 7 Baptism into union with Jesus is the sign of our new spiritual identity with the Triune God and with each other in the church. In baptism Christians embrace the new life that is the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
Chapter 8 The spiritual life is a living into our baptism—dying to all that is sin and death, rising through the new birth into the new life modeled by Jesus, the one who images humanity completely united to God’s original purposes for creation. The spiritual life contemplates the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ and participates in the purposes of God for humanity.
Chapter 9 The spiritual life is disciplined by the rule of steadfastness, fidelity, and obedience; it attends to prayer, study, and work; it meets God in daily life, in material things, and in people.
Chapter 10 The spiritual life is nourished by the church, which is the continued presence of the incarnate Jesus in and to the world. The spiritual life is nurtured by worship that sings, prays, preaches, and enacts the divine embrace in its daily prayer, weekly celebration, and yearly attention to God’s saving embrace in the services of the Christian Year. (1)
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.
A friend put up a meme the other day, that testified to the power of a good hug, one of those so powerful that you can feel the other person’s heart beat, and the ability it has to calm you down and assure you that everything will be all right. I experienced those kinds of hugs on vacation, as some of my friends from junior high got together 38 years after we had last seen each other. It was remarkable and refreshing. (thanks, Ana, Dina, Christos, Danny, Glenn, and Brian!)
It is the kind of life the church had in its infancy, one we call koinonia or living in communion with each other. We become a community that is incredibly close, and there for each other. It is hard to explain, the level of such a relationship, where even years melt away as…. I can think of no other word… the intimacy of the communion is restored. ( Not physical intimacy as in sexual intimacy, but a connection of souls)
Webber would note that such an embrace is possible because of God, of His drawing us into His story, of Him invading ours, not just to purge us of our sin, but to embrace us, to heal us, to bring us into the depth of His peace. The outline of his chapters above shows how this happens in baptism and the spiritual life that is created as we learn to walk with God. This is what Pope Francis was talking about when he mentions our service and ministry of tenderness that begins with a personal (intimate) encounter with God. If not a part of our lives we will (and still do when we forget to return there) burnt out, we will be overwhelmed. But with God’s embrace, and with those around us who likewise are locked in His embrace, we are safe… and can find the rest we need, even as we hurt.
Webber went on from the start of the Divine Embrace to note that this spiritual life, this divine embrace is nourished in the gathering of people known as the church. It is there we find the presence of the incarnate Christ in the world (this is why some call the church our mother and say salvation is not found apart from her! ) As we pray and worship, as we continue in the apostles teaching of the Word of God (Jesus) as revealed in the word of God (scripture) as we take and eat the body of Christ, and take and drink His blood, poured out to remove all of our sin and restore our relationship with God, this divine embrace, this intimate relationship with God is restored, and it envelops all of us.
This early description of the church in Acts talks of this – look at what they did! It doesn’t say they held endless meetings or held strategy meetings for growth. It says that they did the things which reminded us and strengthened our awareness of God’s embrace.
Maybe it is the time we got back to being the church, rather than doing church. Our people need it, we need it. and oddly enough God treasures it far more than we can realize. For He sent Jesus to minister to us, even to the point of offering His life as a sacrifice, that we could be held in God’s hands…
Time management in the church? Where is our time of understanding God’s word, praying together, sharing our lives and meals together, and sharing in the Eucharist? It may seem too simple, but the joy we will find being those God called together will be far more contagious than anything we can plan.
The Lord is with you! It is time to manage our time so that we spend most of it Celebrating that Divine Embrace!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.