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This Is About More Than Self Esteem…

downs syndrome touchdownDevotional Thought of the Day:
22  In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23  And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24  while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25  This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27  All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:22-28 (NLT2)

The more fragile and vulnerable the persons are, the more we have to recognize their worth. Their dignity has to be aided, loved, defended and promoted. This is not negotiable

You see the videos start to come out this time of year, the football games where, i the last minutes, a young man is substituted in, and runs the entire field for a touchdown, cheered on by the players of BOTH teams.

Usually, the young man is affected by Down’s Syndrome, or perhaps is autistic. He usually just hangs out with the team, and wins their friendship by their determination to do whatever they can do.  And so the “reward” for being part of the team is the run for the touchdown,  The chance to be the star of the game and the center of attention for an accomplishment that only someone “normal” could make.

Yet oddly enough, it is that play that the teammates will remember all their lives, it is that moment that will impact them more than the trophies, more than the victories, it is that moment that defines them.

While it appears to be all about the young man who will score, it is about more than that.  While it appears to be something to boost one person’s self-esteem, it is far more than that.

It is about our collective soul, about the fact that we aren’t just a group of individuals, but that we are, one people.

And as such, we cannot deny the dignity of an individual without comprising the entire body of humanity, without the entire community of mankind.

And yet we do this, as trash-talking has moved off the court, and off the field, into our daily lives. We see it constantly as criticism, so widespread in our culture, is so rarely constructive, but meant to belittle, to tear down, even destroy those we see as so different from ourselves.

Yet, all we are doing is destroying ourselves.  When we fail to see the dignity in the baby in the womb, or the elderly person who only can devote their time to prayer.  When we can’t see the work of God in the creation of our adversaries, when we try to eliminate the people in our lives who are a pain in our ass, what we are doing is crushing ourselves. We don’t know how weak and vulnerable they are, though we all know we need to find God as our refuge….as our safe place.

The answer to this, in my opinion, is understanding the nature of our baptism.  For there, Paul tells, the Romans and Colossians, we are joined with Christ’s death, and raised with Him. We are united to Him, and we are promised that hear the Spirit replaces our heart with Christ’s, and our minds are renewed to be like Him.

But if this happens to one of us, it happens, they become part of the whole Body of Christ. And the great cloud of witnesses cheers us on, as we run the race set before us, which Christ has already won for us all.

So, before you open your mouth, before your fingers type that next message on social media, this about the blessing of your baptism, and the blessings the other person has received or hopefully will receive soon, and instead of tearing them down, hand them the ball… and run beside them in the race!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 329). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Glory of God and Human Worth

The Glory of God and Human Worth

Psalm 8

†  IN the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit †


May the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus Christ, causing us to reflect His glory into our broken world.

 A precious lesson to remember

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking since I realized that this summer will make it 30 years since I was a pastoral intern.    Some of that pondering has been in awe of what God has done, other moments have brought tears.  It has been especially rough as this year has seen some dear people pass away at each of the churches I’ve served at.  Nor does it help that in my devotions I’ve read Job recently, and presently am reading Ecclesiastes, where Solomon’s chorus seems to be,

All is meaning-less.

And there are days that I hear this!

Over the thirty years I’ve also learned to disregard that attitude, to know that even when I don’t see how everything will work out, that I am assured of God’s promises, and can rest secure knowing He is faithful.

That’s not where this sermon on Psalm 8 is going, well, not directly, but that is part of the background.  Thirty years ago, actually thirty-three years ago, a phrase was drummed into my mind.  It took 3 years to make sense, and a lifetime to implement.  It is a great guideline for theologians and preachers, and it helps those who listen to sermons and try to apply it to their lives.

These are those words,

You cannot fully understand any Biblical truth until you have reduced it to a corollary of the idea of Covenant.

or to put it in the way I came to understand it,
You can’t clearly understand any doctrine, in Christianity until you understand it in view of the relationship God calls us into with Himself, as described in the New Covenant.

Which includes the incredible glorious mystery we celebrate today, that God is One, and God is, simultaneously three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What we call the Trinity the merger of the words Tri and Unity.   Until we understand that in view of God’s relationship with us, His relationship that He calls us into, the result is meaningless.
Failure to Understand the Relationship

So how does this work?  Why can’t we understand the idea of the Trinity, the doctrine that God is Triune, if we don’t include our relationship with God in contemplating it?  Why is understanding the Covenant necessary to understanding this?

The answer is somewhat simple, we can’t understand the Trinity until we are actively involved with it.  To understand the Trinity, we must move and live in unison with God, in sympathy with God.  It is as if we are dancing with Him, moving as His partner.

And if we don’t understand this, it is as if we are standing in the corner of life, just observing His glory, yet not able to understand it.

We end up with a partial picture of Psalm 8,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

From a distance, this is how we see God, all the incredible beauty he creates, the skies, the mountains, a smile a joy filled laugh. It is glorious for sure, it is beyond the scope of our ability to describe, but we still don’t understand God, we still don’t know Him.  We think we know all about Him, but we do not know Him, and we cannot see the fullness of His glory, His majesty, His love.

It is as if we are a high school freshman, at his first dance, looking at an incredibly beautiful girl.  He can describe her dress, her beauty, but until he is dancing with her, looking in her eyes, he really doesn’t understand her beauty.

Neither can we understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until we are moving with God.  Our lives lived in Him, and He dwelling in us.  Until that point it is an academic exercise, one were we put ourselves in the place of judgment, as if we are the experts in judging His glory, because of our great understanding.  The understanding that is merely theological, that is merely from a distance.

Which means we read this psalm and say -God doesn’t think about us, He couldn’t care about us!  He has a universe to run!  Like desists we think that God is far off, that He isn’t involved, and that it is up to us to run our own lives.

That gives us freedom, to go after what we want, to do what seems good to us. It means we can justify our sin, thinking it doesn’t really matter to God, that He doesn’t really care, and that we should just enjoy life.

Ultimately, sin is nothing more than choosing to remain in the corner, distant from God, unengaged with Him.  We refuse to walk with God, preferring to stay at a great distance, able to describe Him, and creating explanations for what we do not understand.  Explanations that encourage sin, and encourage living life to what we think is the fullest.

That separation leaves us unfulfilled it doesn’t satisfy the hunger, it just makes it greater, and it enslaves us.  And once enslaved, with sin pulling us further and further away, our “expert” view of God becomes more blurred, and often more hostile.

Until we agree with Solomon, that all is simply meaningless.

Sure, God is three, and He is One, but what does that matter if my life is spent against the wall, alone with my speculation and philosophy and theology books?
Trinity understood through Covenant.

When we reduce the doctrine of the Trinity (not the Trinity itself) to a corollary of covenant, when we see this incredible mystery of Three in One from the point where we engage God, when we see it defining who we are, we begin to understand this,

This is my God, and I am His child!

It is like looking into the eyes of your beloved as you dance together.  You may not be able to describe what you see, heck, you may not be able to speak.  Eloquence evades you, but you know your beloved at a level that transcends truth.  This is when we begin to understand how much God does think of us, how much He truly cares.

It is when the Psalmist begins to understand the answer to his question,

what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

You made them only a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.  You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.

The answer is simply understanding the Trinity in view of our relationship with God.

For we see the Trinity involved with us from the beginning, as God makes us just a little lower than Himself, making us in His very image.  In our creeds, as we describe this glorious Trinity, we see God the Father, the Creator at work,

And then God crowns us with glory and honor.  This is the work of Jesus, the Son. of the Father, and our Lord.  It is His redeeming us, pulling us out of the corner, bringing us to dance with God.  This is Jesus, our righteousness, whom we are untied to in baptism, made one with, as He cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. His very birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension affect s our lives, from redeeming us to being our advocate, proclaiming us Holy and deserving of the crown and righteousness.

And then the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart, conforming us to the image of God’s son. We are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us the role of God’s trusted children, trusted enough that He puts all things under our authority, our responsibility, as we walk with Jesus.   This is what it means to be holy, to be sanctified, to walk with God,

And so we see God, in all of His glory, working in our lives.  Creating us.  Redeeming us, Sanctifying us.  Making us His people.  That is what the creeds describe the Trinity doing, simply engaged with us, thinking about us, caring about us so much that God invests Himself fully in our lives. His is what we confess; it is what we believe.  It is our Credo – why we depend on upon God.

It is a description of our faith in God who reveals Himself in this way to us,

This is why Paul can preach as the He describes in Colossians,

 

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too.  And this is the secret:  Christ lives in you.  This gives you assurance of sharing in His glory.  Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

This is how we are to understand God, not with high minded philosophy from afar, but moving in unison with God as our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and the Holy Spirit who will bring to completion our transformation into the children of God.  He thinks about us, He cares for us, HE LOVES US!.

As we come to know the Trinity this way they share with us the peace that surpasses all understanding and will share the glory of eternity.  For this is true!
We are His people; He is our God… AMEN!

There is no “them”, there is only “us”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good.  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers.  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse.  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.  (1)

26         It is sad to see what some people understand by almsgiving: a few pennies or some old clothes. They seem not to have read the Gospel. Don’t be over-cautious: help people to acquire sufficient faith and fortitude to be ready to deny themselves generously, in this life, what they need. And to those who lag behind, explain that it is neither very noble nor very graceful, even from an earthly point of view, to wait for the last moment, when they will be obliged to take nothing with them.

In yesterday’s Gospel reading, Jesus made it clear that whoever would be first must be the servant of all.  Note the period after the word “all”.  He didn’t say all ‘of our friends”, or “all Americans”, or “all – insert your ethnicity – ”  He said “all” and then the period makes it clear, He meant all.   In last week’s reading from James, it was made clear as well, there is no priority based on wealth, power, or prestige.  In God’s way of thinking, the president of a country (whether you like him or not) and a toddler are equal.  The richest of businessmen is no greater than a 97-year-old shut-in, or the homeless guy.

As part of that family descended from Adam we are a family.  One family.  As believers, and I love the way Vatican II puts this, the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of everyone, we have a share in.  It is from St. Paul we read these words originate – for He encourages us to share in the joy and sorrow of all – even those whom we count as our enemies and our adversaries. Our hearts need to break when we realize that people don’t know the love of God.  Our hearts need to rejoice, even soar with joy as someone is brought to life and will abide in the presence of Christ.

We need to, as St. Josemaria says, to help people learn to deny themselves generously, to help those around them, to truly help them.  Whether it is the family of refugees that we assist or the neighbor grieving,  it doesn’t matter whether they are long-time believers, or of another religion, or anti-religious.

They need what every human needs.  The love and mercy of God, shown through the people who know this mercy and love.  Who know it because in their brokenness this love is shown to them.

Simply put, there is no “them”, there is only “us”.

Realize this – that when Christ said we are to serve all – He meant all of “us”.  Go out and love with abandon.  Rejoice with those rejoicing, weep with those weeping, and serve one another.

Lord be merciful to us!

(1)   Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 340-346). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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