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The Truly Important Ministry….is Unseen but by a few.


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional thought for your day:

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2  When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3  But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)

718         If only they could see the good things I do!… But don’t you realise that you are carrying them around like trinkets in a basket for people to see how fine they are? Furthermore, you must not forget the second part of Jesus’ command: “that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Nearly a year ago, I did the memorial service for an incredible lady.

The bulletin of that service still resides on the little refrigerator in my office, a reminder of our very simple, very special relationship.

Every Tuesday at 9 am, I would travel about 500 yards from my office, enter the house she had a bedroom in, and talk a moment, then pray for her.  No more than 15 minutes, more likely ten or so. On occasion, I would bring her the leftover flowers from church on Sunday,

And every time I left, even when she was too tired to talk, I felt lifted up.  She ministered to me far more than I ministered to her.

I knew she had a couple of incredible jobs in her life.  The executive assistant to a seminary president, the producer of a mega church pastor’s television ministry.  She didn’t talk about those things.  Rather it was the joy of hearing from this friend or that pastor.  It was about reading the sermons of those she knew.  It was always about someone else,

Given the honor of officiating at her service, I realized that day how much of an honor it was.  Men who served the church for decades and trained thousands of preachers were there.  They told me of the things my friend did, and how she ministered to them for decades.  How she helped and raised money for seminarians and worked for equity among the staff. How she interacted with world famous preachers ( I still love the story of her moving a bicycle rack to protect a parking spot for Billy Graham – and how he helped her move it back where it belonged when he got there! )

Yet I knew none of this as I visited her, as I prayed for her, as we looked at Roses and carnations and lilies and marveled at the hand of God that created the beauty we observed.   I simply knew a lady whose bright eyes ministered to me as I prayed for her, a  lady who lived so simply, so beautifully that I looked forward to visiting her each week.

I think she got the passages above and the incredible things she did in life weren’t paraded around, for her reward was to hear Jesus welcome her home.  Looking back on a life full of incredible service to God wasn’t her style, it wasn’t what she counted as important. Rather it was finding God’s peace, as a neighborhood pastor stopped by, and she could fill his life with God’s peace, even as she rejoiced in a small time of prayer.

I miss my friend – but thank God for what she taught me about ministry and walking with God, watching Him at work.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2995-2999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does Your Missional Vision for Tomorrow Interfere With Your Ministry Today?


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
41  Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42  Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35  And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36  I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37  “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38  And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39   40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)

617         You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task.  (1)

Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)

Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.

I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work.  For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason.  Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.

I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field.  Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)

So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future.  SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.

But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.

See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water.  See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..

And God has appointed you and I to be there for them.  This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Question is Not Relationship or Religion. A Plea for Communion with Christ.


Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day
21  For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. 22  Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25  For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 (TEV)
The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.[i]

The relationship of spirituality to God’s story has a long history in Christian thought. This relationship has been affirmed, challenged, distorted, lost, and regained in various epochs of history. Today spirituality is separated from God’s story. In his crucial work, Spirituality and Theology, Philip Sheldrake points out that “contemporary spiritual writing is open to the accusation that it amounts to little more than uncritical devotion quite detached from the major themes of Christian faith.”2 In order to understand this separation, I will comment briefly in this chapter on (1) how God’s story was affirmed in the ancient Christian church and (2) how the story was lost through Platonic dualism and in late medieval mysticism. In chapter 3 I will address how ancient spirituality was regained with some moderation by the Reformers and how Christian spirituality was lost again in the modern shifts toward intellectual and experiential spiritualities together. We will look at these points in Western history where the stone skims the water and through this history gain a perspective on the crisis of spirituality in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (treated in chapters 4 and 5).[ii]

Gandhi has been credited with saying that he loved Christ and His teachings, and if he found a real Christian he would become one. The modern version is those he say they love Christ but hate the religion his followers created. They want a relationship with God, but like too many theologians, they want it on their own terms.  As if man is equal to God as if man gets to judge God, and force God to modify the covenant he created for our benefit.

The religious respond to this, not with understanding, but often with contempt.   Or with the condescension of thinking that we have to logically work to correct their sinful narcissism.

Both Robert Webber and Pope Benedict this morning warn us about this, noting that far too often we have done the same as those we question.  Our theology and philosophy is used to put God into a box, to prove His existence, and to prove our perception of His plan.  The Pope warns of this with the quote, “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.”   As if man could do this!  Webber mentions the same concept as he promises to track the history of the divorce of spirituality (the divine embrace) from God’s story.

We’ve been so eager to know about God, we chased after that without knowing Him.

And those who are critical of us, they pick up on this ironic tragedy.

What they see is either a scholastic approach to religion devoid of the relationship or an experience of God devoid of living with Him as our Lord, our Master.  In both cases we set aside scripture, or have it subtly twisted in our minds, and we get to judge whether it is binding or not, whether it is “clear and logical” or not.

So what is the solution?  How do we ensure our humility, and stop playing as if we have to “prove” God’s logic, while at the same time submitting to its wisdom?

I would suggest it is communion, what Webber calls “spirituality” or the “divine embrace”.  It is what Pope Benedict calls approaching God with an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.  It is Moses at the burning bush, hearing God and taking his shoes off, or Peter getting out of the boat.  It is David, realizing he was the man in the parable, and grieving over his own sin, it is the man formerly possession by demons, sent home to tell what God did for Him, or the blind man testifying to the religious leaders.

In that moment, when we realize we are in God’s presence and realizing that He is cleansing us, healing us, declaring we are His holy and just people.  When both experience and knowledge are subject to God, and when our pride is overwhelmed by His love. When we stop trying to be observers and judges, and settle for being with our Father, and hearing Him.

This is the moment we need, the awareness of being in His presence, and of His work in our life.  It is found as water is poured over us, as we are given His Body and Blood, and know His peace, for it is found in His promise, that He is with us, and will never abandon us.

We are welcome in His presence, we are welcome to hear Him testify of His love for us, and count on His faithfulness.  AMEN!
[i] 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.

2 Sheldrake, Spirituality and Theology, vii. Sheldrake is one of a few contemporary authors who understand spirituality as an ancient applied theology. I fully recommend this book and Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method, rev. ed. (1991; repr., Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998).

[ii] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

The Blessing of Knowing You’ve Screwed up!


DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day”
6  If, then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. 7  But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:6-10 (TEV)

187      If your mistakes make you more humble, if they make you reach out more urgently for God’s helping hand, then they are a road to sanctity: Felix culpa!—O happy fault!, the Church sings.  (1)

Every once in a while, I get to help people reconcile with other people. During some of the conversations along the way, one of the two parties might indicate that the fault belongs only to one side of the fight.Usually, this is with one side taking all the blame, but on occasion, it will be laid all a the feet of their opposition.

Normally, the only time one side of the argument is completely right is when one side is God.

But even with God, people will play the game most call hypocrisy, where they indicate it isn’t really a fault that is theirs.  I’ve seen people (and my own thoughts/actions) trying to avoid recognizing the fault/sin/brokenness.  We can pretend to be in denial, we can try justify ourselves, we might even go on the offensive and get distracted by other people’s sins.

Bout ours still lie there, eating at us, causing damage to relationships. eroding the value we place on those relationships, even our relationship with God.

For if we hide in the sin, if we bury it and refuse to acknowledge it, we turn our back on God and those we love.  This is what the Apostle John is writing about – that if we refuse to confess our sins, if we refuse to trust in God, then we set ourselves apart from Him, and we ignore his love and mercy and care.

This is where St Josemaria’s words come into play.  The humility it takes to know the brokenness that sin causes is easily taken care of by God.

Humility, acknowledging the reality, not hiding from it, nor running from the responsibility, not pretending anymore, but just going yes, I screwed up, and realizing in that moment that God has already planned to take care of it.

What a glorious revelation!  One we couldn’t know unless if was for the fault, and for honestly, humbly, coming to the realization that we are sinners, and that God isn’t going to get rid of us because of it.

He will deal with it, He’s planned to!

Let’s stop hiding, let’s confess our sins, and rejoice!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 853-855). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness! A Sermon on Micah 6


church at communion 2Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness

Micah 6:1-8

 I.H.S. † 

 May you rejoice today, as you consider the promises of God, made to you and to all people, as He teaches us about His faithfulness!

All Rise… the court is in session:

In today’s sermon, we see an interesting civil court case, one that has some very interesting testimony and a wonderful surprise or two…

Like many civil trials, there is a complaint, and sort of a counter-complaint.

The adversaries are talking about who has kept their part of the deal, and what that means.

The trial is not what you would normally expect, for Man and God going to trial.  It is not one where man is on trial, to see whether a man is guilty or innocent.  Nor is it a trial as someone tries assert that the evidence given to mankind demands a verdict, that God exists.

It is more like a case for what they used to call an “alienation of affection,”

Man’s complaint

The trial opens with God inviting mankind to state their case against Him.  What promises did God make, where in the covenant did God fail? Our carefully planned out points of complaint are seen on the next slide. (Blank)

Yes, there they are….

Now you might be saying that there are plenty of things I can complain about.  The existence of heart diseases, cancer, poverty, hunger, and the lack of peace seem to come right to mind.

Remember, the case is about the alienation of affection.  Did God break his promises to Israel.  Did God break His promises to us.

And there is little evidence that He did, no, there is no evidence he did.

His surprising complaint

We then get to God’s complaint.

It’s then the case becomes clear, for He doesn’t shred us (or Israel) for our sin, for all the disrespect we show to authority, and pain we’ve caused to others lives.  He doesn’t go after us for adultery, or what we’ve taken from others, for our gossip or our jealousy and what it causes us to do.

Instead, hear God’s complaint….

“O my people, what have I done to you?  What have I done to make you tired of me!”

Really?  Of all the things that God could complain of, He complains that we’ve grown tired of Him?

Really?

That sounds… weak?  wimpy?  Like God is a lovestruck teenager, whose girlfriend was stolen by the class president/football team captain?

“What have I done to make you tired of me?”

Could God really be that in love with us?  Does He desire to call us “His” that much?
Epiphany reveals to us that he loves us that much.

Not just infatuation, but pure desire, pure love, and His work proves it.

And His case is.. What?

God will go on to make a case, that there is no reason for us to be alienated from Him, there is no reason to deny Him the affection he so longs for.

Remember the rescue from Egypt?

What about the time that prophet was paid to curse you and blessed you instead?  Do you remember that?

Do you remember me?…..

Do you do something to remember me?

God tells them what He’s done, as he says, in the midst of your rebellion, from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal’s caves, I did everything to teach you about my faithfulness.

God wanted to instill in Israel the idea that He’s not giving up on them.  He wanted them, just like He wants us, to count on Him, to count on Him in the way that a God is supposed to be counted on by His people, by His beloved children.

That’s a challenge for us, to know this love, which is why we have to remember, to see it again over and over.  TO think back daily on God proving that faithfulness as He cleansed us from all sin.   TO think about it as God calls us to remember the Body broken, the wine that was spilled so that we could be with Him, now and for eternity.

That’s why God doesn’t need all the sacrifices, that’s why we don’t have the blood of calves and rams and more oil than you can count.

That’s not what He’s after, He doesn’t want complete submission and surrender, and lives spent in trying to pay back the cost of all we’ve broken.

God wants our affection, our presence, our love.

And in Epiphany we celebrate Him revealed that to us, as Christ comes to love us.

Micah 6:8

Which brings us to that final verse, as God tells us what is good… and what He wants from us.

TO do what is right – or to put it another way, to live in this relationship where He is our God, and we are His people. To love His cHesed, to know that loving kindness/mercy/love, that loyalty, and faithfulness He has for us, and to walk with Him, realizing what it means to be His beloved.

Those things, we don’t tire of, those things will cause us to be in such awe, those things will draw us into His glory and love.

No, they have done those things – for we are in Epiphany, the season celebrating His presence among us, and our presence in Him.   AMEN!

 

 

Do you ever feel like you can’t win….?


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

31 Jesus continued, “Now to what can I compare the people of this day? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market place. One group shouts to the other, ‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn’t dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn’t cry!’ 33John the Baptist came, and he fasted and drank no wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 34The Son of Man came, and he ate and drank, and you said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ 35God’s wisdom, however, is shown to be true by all who accept it.”  Luke 7:31-35  TEV

607    Humility is one of the good ways to achieve interior peace. He has said so: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (1)

There is a scene in the movie Forest Gump that I relate all too well, it seems it almost pictures life.  

He is walking down the lane, and everything seems fine, until life, or in his case, the neighborhood gang of bullies comes around the corner. And the race is on, except life is riding bicycles, or tossing rocks from the back of a speeding truck.  I am on foot, hobbled by leg braces, and it seems like I will never get to the point where the braces fall off, and I can use everything I have to lose that which would bruise me, that which seeks to hurt.

It seems like in today’s gospel, Jesus knew that feeling.  These stubborn sinners, the people that killed prophets that would call them back to God, that wouldn’t listen to John the Baptist, and then, because Jesus wasn’t like John, they found an excuse to not listen to Him as well.

So then, what do we do when we fell this way, do we turn and fight, or is our fight to flee, to run so hard we break everything that would inhibit us?

Where is the wisdom of God, that we simply need to accept?

It is found, not in the different behaviors of John the Baptist and Jesus, but in the common message that both preached.  John preaching it prophetically, pointing to Jesus, and Jesus preaching it indicatively, signaling to all that God is present, that thw Kingdom of God is here.  That God has made us His own.

That is the lesson of both, as they would accept the roles that the Father gave them.  John to decrease, Jesus to increase through the cross and resurrection.  They accepted their roles, they knew the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they lived.

Humility, that gift of being able to know we can’t outrun the pressures of life, but that we can depend on God, we can cry out to Him, we know He is there…

As we do that, we find a place of rest for our souls, we find His gentle care, we find our fortress, our shelter, our home, in Jesus.

In humility, we can cry out, Lord, have mercy, and know for sure, He has.

AMEN!

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1443-1445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Theological K.I.S.S. Principal for Preachers/Pastors/Priests


A Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

8  No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
Micah 6:8 (TEV)

The simple faith of simple souls merits the respect, the reverence of the preacher, who has no right simply to pit his intellectual superiority against a faith which has remained simple and which, by its simple and intuitive comprehension of the Faith as a whole, can, in some cases, understand the essence of that Faith more profoundly than is possible for a reflective faith that is fragmented by division into systems and theories . (1)

Whether I agree with him completely or not, Pope Benedict XVI has to be counted as one of the most brilliant theologian-pastors in the last 100 years.   He wrote documents and letters that are stunning in how profound they are, and yet they are intimately pastoral, a look into the life of an introvert who pastored a billion people.

Seeing writings like that in blue above, perhaps it would be better phrased to call him a pastor-theologian, a man who kept his priorities straight, and recognizes it is the faith in Christ, our trust, and dependence on God, that matters more than our meager intellectual pontifications. That is why those of us who would count ourselves as theologians, as professionals in the world of religion, need to respect and honor the simple and deep faith of the simple soul.

It is that Jesus points us to in the Beatitudes, that Micah calls us to, to realize that God’s silliness is far greater than our wisdom, and to live our lives in recollection of this.

For, in the end, it is not the stimulating blogs, our journal articles we write, or the great tomes on doctrine, or our understanding of the great theologians and philosophers in the past that matters.

Rather, as the former pope, who before was responsible for all the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church wrote, the understanding of the essence of our faith.

The joy we take in hearing and responding to phrases like this:

“He is Risen!”

and

“The Lord is with you!”

and finally, knowing that God will hear and answer our cry,

“Lord have mercy!”

So keep it simple my brothers, reveal to them the height and breadth, the depth and width, of God’s love for them, seen in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

(1)  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. 94–95). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

“I Thought I Should…” The Battle of Our Reason Versus Obedience


Devotional Thought of the Day:

11 Samuel asked him, “What have you done?” Saul explained: “When I saw that the army was deserting me and you did not come on the appointed day, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 I said to myself, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not yet sought the LORD’s blessing.’ So I thought I should sacrifice the burnt offering.” 13 Samuel replied to Saul: “You have acted foolishly! Had you kept the command the LORD your God gave you, the LORD would now establish your kingship in Israel forever; 14 but now your kingship shall not endure. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart* to appoint as ruler over his people because you did not observe what the LORD commanded you.”1 Sam 13:11–14 NAB-RE

 Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off an end of Saul’s robe.b 7 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to lay a hand on him, for he is the LORD’s anointed.”c 8 With these words David restrained his men and would not permit them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. 9 David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked back, David bowed, his face to the ground in homage, 10 and asked Saul: “Why do you listen to those who say, ‘David is trying to harm you’? 11 You see for yourself today that the LORD just now delivered you into my hand in the cave. I was told to kill you, but I took pity on you instead. I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my master, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 12 Look here, my father. See the end of your robe which I hold. I cut off an end of your robe and did not kill you. Now see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion. I have done you no wrong, though you are hunting me down to take my life. 1 Sam24:6–12 NAB-RE

Thus she came to understand Chesterton when he described men and women who, signed with Christ’s Cross, cheerfully walk through darkness. Finding this hidden life means releasing the sources of this world’s energy, linking the world to the power that can save it, giving it the resources for which it seeks in vain within itself. It means digging for and uncovering the wellspring of joy which can save and transform things and people and which has the power to undo and make good past suffering. (1)

The line from King Saul typifies the battle that so many “first-world” Christians have to face today.  “I thought I should…”  Saul was trying to be ready to fight the enemies of God, things weren’t going well.  He knew things would change with the sacrifice that was to be offered by the prophet-priest, but he wasn’t there.  Saul was King,  didn’t that give him the right to take any role in his kingdom?

And so, in thinking, in following and obeying his own mind, rather than the command of God, he lost everything he was trying to protect.

We do that, we enslave ourselves to our logic, to our reasoning.  We listen to what we think, rather than what God reveals.  We will dismiss what God reveals in scripture, we will dismiss what He commands us to do, and we will find a way to see disobedience and dishonoring God as logical.

We will set our logic, our reasoning in the place of God, make it an idol, and worship it by obeying what it teaches.

Well, maybe it won’t be our reasoning, as in yours and mine.  No problem, we can all find brilliant theologians and philosophers whose brilliance is proven by the fact they agree with us.   We can find a way to avoid hardship, to avoid self-sacrifice or suffering.  We can justify our own pleasure, and we can do it with the resonance of righteousness.

Well at least self-righteousness.

Even as we contend that scripture isn’t as reliable as it should be.  Or that it is outdated or outmoded.

Compare Saul’s obedience to his reasoning to David’s obedience ot God.  There is a price on David’s obedience, the price of discomfort, the price of being hunted, the price of even being an outcast and an exile.  He had the power to change that, one quick action would have given him the kingdom.  But he chose to disobey the wisdom and reasoning that would call him to disobey God.

He embraced the darkness, the hardship, the pain. And he worshiped and obeyed God.  God brought him through it, and through other challenges.  Sometimes David would see it right away, sometimes he too would forget and need to be called to repentance.  The key is to find the humility to remember that God is God. To live in the grace of a life forgiven, a life where we hear the Spirit, and the Spirit draws us into obedience, into a life of awe, not matter how dark.

Like the lady in Pope Benedict’s story, David cheerfully embraced the darkness, knowing that God had promised and God had commanded. It was a willingness to obey even though life may have looked freer, and more joyful, had he simply killed off those trying to kill him. He loved instead, and at great personal cost, and cost to those who were loyal to him.

I am not sure what your wisdom and reasoning calls you to dismiss  from God’s word.  Maybe it is sexual issues, maybe it is a call to servanthood, to give up your “rights”, in order that someone else may benefit.  Maybe it is simply accepting that His word is His word.

I know this, it is a temptation for all of us, a chance to say, “I thought”, and in that thought, contradict what God has commissioned.  A temptation that can only be overcome by looking to Jesus, and letting His love cleanse us from it.

Together then, let us cry out to God to have mercy on us.

 

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 26). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Theological Hymn the Entire Church Needs Today.


Devotional Thought of the Day:

22
 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. 23  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. 24  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. 25  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. 26  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Romans 8:22-28 (MSG)

But I pressed towards Thee, and was thrust from Thee, that I might taste of death: for thou resistest the proud. But what prouder, than for me with a strange madness to maintain myself to be that by nature which Thou art? For whereas I was subject to change (so much being manifest to me, my very desire to become wise, being the wish, of worse to become better), yet chose I rather to imagine Thee subject to change, and myself not to be that which Thou art.  (1)

139 Nothing less than Christ’s power is needed for our conflict with the devil. We know that for Christ’s sake we have a gracious God and his promise. And therefore, we pray that the Holy Spirit may govern and defend us, so that we may not be deceived and err, nor be driven to do anything against God’s will.  (2)

The congregation gathered around, absolutely devasted by the events they had endured.  They humbly gathered, downcast, not know what to do or say.  Heartbroken, unaware of how they will continue on, a simple, profound, wondrous hymn breaks out among them…

A hymn maligned, denigrated, and used as an example of poor hymnody, poor theology, poor worship by countless experts.  I will contend that if we learn this hymn if we sing it as it was meant to be sung, there are few that express the theological depth it does.

It doesn’t matter to those singing it, for it is a lament that expresses the only hope they have… the gentle words pleading for that which is promised.  A prayer expressed in words so significant that they must resonate in the church today.

“Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, O Lord, Kumbaya;”

O Lord, be with us…” 

These words express the same sentiment that Augustine reveals he needed.  The attitude that is found in brokenness, the attitude of facing death, and dying to self.  St. Paul’s  words echo this, comparing this life’s brokenness to labor pains, as we await the recreation, the rebirth of all things.  It speaks of those moments when our hearts are too broken to know what to pray, and the Holy Spirit must be our intercessor, the translator of the groans too deep for words.

This song speaks of the eschatological hope we have in Christ, which St Peter begs us to be ready to do.

This song is an expression of the Theology of the Cross, the simple hope found in our brokenness and the healing promised and delivered in word and sacrament.

This song speaks of the incarnation, as we count on Christ’s presence in our lives

This song speaks of vocation, as it asks God to be there in every situation we encounter.

This song talks of the Omnipresence of God, who incarnates Himself into our lives, who draws us into Himself.

It speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our comforter-paraclete, who teaches us of God’s love.

Amazingly, this song speaks of the sacraments, as we know He has come to us as we are united to Him in the waters of baptism, as we hear His words, you are forgiven, as we are fed with His body and Blood.

It does all this in a humble way, not with glorious melodies, not with perfect 4 part harmony, not with a worship that seeks to impress both  God and those who are spectators. Rather, it is sung by voices barely able to create an audible noise.  It resonates with the depth of the hearts aid open.  It can capture the heart of all, growing in fervor, moving us from darkness to the glory found in His presence.

It is sung with hearts who realize their only hope, the only way to find peace, to receive mercy, is to encounter Almighty God in all His glory and plead for mercy, to cry the Kyrie Eleison, to plead, O Lord, be with us…

This must become again the cry of a church, in a broken world, for it points us to what is necessary, what we need to desire more than all, the presence of God.  Here, now, in our lives. 

May we be able to cry such words in faith, together, knowing that He who has promised is faithful….

Amen!

(1)   Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 126). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

A Prayer for the Right Attitude on a Monday!


Devotional Thought of the Day:

11 iI will set my tabernacle in your midst, and will not loathe you. 12 Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people.   Lev 26:10–12 NABRE

40 *They will confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors in their treachery against me and in their continued hostility toward me, 41 so that I, too, had to be hostile to them and bring them into their enemies’ land. Then, when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac; and also my covenant with Abraham I will remember. Lev 26:40–42

 

273         Dear Jesus: if I have to be an apostle, you will need to make me very humble. Everything the sun touches is bathed in light. Lord, fill me with your clarity, make me share in your divinity so that I may identify my will with your adorable Will and become the instrument you wish me to be. Give me the madness of the humiliation you underwent, which led you to be born poor, to work in obscurity, to the shame of dying sewn with nails to a piece of wood, to your self-effacement in the Blessed Sacrament. May I know myself: may I know myself and know you. I will then never lose sight of my nothingness.  (1)

It’s Monday, and that means lots of posts and tweets about how Monday is a pain in the buttocks.  We grieve over Mondays, we hate them, we struggle with them.

Part of the struggle is that we think we have to deal with Monday’s alone, we somehow decide to be hostile to God.   You may say, I am a believer, I went to church for 90 minutes yesterday and didn’t even complain when the pastor kept boring me to death!

But being hostile to God isn’t just about going to church, or saying you are a believer.  Being hostile to God includes going off on a Monday without Him.  Trying to struggle through the return to work, without considering He is as with you today, as He was when you were receiving His body and His Blood at the altar.  We are hostile to God when we deny Him the opportunity to comfort us, the opportunity to walk with us,  the opportunity to be in a relationship with us that is more than 90 minutes of visitation a week.

What if your Monday stress is simply a call to humility?  To remember that you are His children, that He is your God?  To remember His role in your life, and welcome it with you?

That is what St. Josemaria’s prayer is all about; as we find the humility to share in His divinity, in His glory.  In setting aside our will, our pleasure, instead revelling in His presence, content in His peace.

That is the key to dealing with the frustration of a Monday.  That is how dealing with the stress, or the weight of the workload, or the bad attitudes of those around us.  To realize we are nothing, like Christ, who emptied Himself.  Because from that place, nothing is impossible, and in every situation we can find joy.

For we are with Him, and He reveals to us His love.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1341-1347). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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