Devotional Thought of the Day:
(Jesus said) “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (CSBBible)
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who will I send? Who will go for us? I said: Here I am. Send me. 9 And he replied: Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. 10 Make the minds of these people dull; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed. Isaiah 6:8-10 (CSBBible)
I do not deny that, over the years, people have come to me and have told me with real sorrow: “Father, I don’t know what’s come over me, but I find I am tired and cold. My piety used to be so solid and straightforward, but now it feels like play acting …” Well, for those who are going through such a phase, and for all of you, I answer: “Play acting? Wonderful! The Lord is playing with us as a father does with his children.” (a few paragraphs on…)
“But, Father,” you ask me, “can one put on an act for God? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?” Don’t worry: for you the moment has arrived to play out a human comedy before a divine spectator. Persevere, for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are contemplating your act; do it all for love of God, to please him, although you find it hard. How beautiful it is to be God’s jester! How beautiful to act out such a role for Love, with a spirit of sacrifice, not seeking any personal satisfaction, but just to please our Father God, who is playing with us! Turn to our Lord with confidence and say to him: “I don’t feel like doing this at all, but I will offer it up for you.” And then put your heart into the job you are doing, even though you think you are just play acting. Blessed play acting! I assure you it isn’t hypocrisy, because hypocrites need a public for their pantomimes, whereas the spectators of our play, let me repeat, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
Since i was a little child, Jesus’s words above in red bothered me. I thought it was somewhat hypocritical, and even a lie to pretend what was going on wasn’t going on.
If you are fasting or suffering, why should you hide it?
I get the part of offering it up to God, but to pretend things are different than they are? Isn’t that being a hypocrite?
I have not only heard peopel ask how to deal with the “dry spells” of their faith, I have had them myself, and I am not talking about my childhood, or my time studying to be a pastor. I feel like giving up somedays, and other wonder why Isaiah didn’t! I mean – he walked into the gig – knowing he would have little or no effect! He did it anyway!
I had to read St. Josemaria’s words a few times over to get into the idea of “acting” differently than I am. To persevere in my acts of faith, of searching for the Lord’s pleasure and presence – knowing that I would not always get the satisfaction, at least cognitively.
And not getting the satisfaction cognitively….doesn’t mean it is not there!
And it certainly means that we are not hypocrites, we are not doing this for praise, we aren’t showing off our holiness, we are trying to love God, the God who loves us. We are trying to reach out to the One who came and reached out on a cross to show us His love. It isn’t acting – it is trying to do what we have done, where we have known HIs grace. He knows our hearts better than we, He is the one who empowers our faith as well as our will, and the very desire to keep moving, there is something that pleases Him.
Simply put, if you are worried about being a hypocrite, the odds are you are not. Continue to trust in Him, continue to do what you know will reveal His presence, and HIs grace… for even if you can’t feel it…
THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” John 6:68-69 HCSB
4 I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. 5 In times of trouble he will shelter me; he will keep me safe in his Temple and make me secure on a high rock. 6 So I will triumph over my enemies around me. With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple; I will sing, I will praise the LORD. 7 Hear me, LORD, when I call to you! Be merciful and answer me! 8 When you said, “Come worship me,” I answered, “I will come, LORD.” Psalm 27:4-8 (TEV)
The pure in heart shall see God. The seeing of Him will be the sign that we are like Him, for only by being like Him can we see Him as He is. But when shall we be fit to look at Him in the face, God only knows. That is the heart of my hopes by day and by night. To behold the face of Jesus seems to me to be the one this to be desired.
Whenever we speak to God, whenever we open ourselves to God, we ourselves are renewed. Conversely, whenever the world closes itself to God, whenever it turns away from him, it is like a planet broken loose from its field of gravity and forever wandering aimlessly through nothingness. When a person loses God, he can no longer be genuinely himself because he has lost the fundamental norm of his existence. When we cut ourselves loose from our proper norm, there remains only excess or reversion. Some theologians suggest, as a precaution, that theology be so worded that it will still be functional “etsi deus non daretur”: even if there really is no God. But if God does not exist, we will have lost more than just an ornamental bauble on the periphery of our existence. If God does not exist, nothing will be as it is now; everything will proceed from emptiness and will revert to emptiness.
Part of my daily time I spend in prayer, talking to God, trying to listen, meditating on his word includes the two Bible readings above. There is a pattern, an order for morning prayer I use that includes them both.
And every Monday these words hit me in the face, and I feel like a hypocrite. I know God’s words are the words of life, I know how wonderful it is to be in His presence, I know how special it is to be in God’s presence.
Yet Mondays seem so empty of all of that, so distant. Even in this holy week, it’s MONDAY!
So there is a part of me that feels convicted, even judged and condemned as a hypocrite when I say these words. It’s not that I don’t want to feel this way, I want to, but it seems like I can’t. I feel like the theologians who imagine theology to be able to functionally exist if God doesn’t exist.
Monday’s seem empty, which is ironic because the day before was so full of His presence I would think my joy would never fade or fail.
So as I start my time dedicated to being in His presence, it starts out as a struggle, (it doesn’t help that the first reading was also in my readings today,) Or the McDonald reading, or that from Pope Benedict. Each reminded me that this is how I should be. Each reminds me that my reality is not what I want it to be.
Each reminds me of how hungry I am for life to change.
I guess over the years, I’ve realized that these feelings could so easily betray me, these feelings that I am the worst hypocrite, these feelings that I am just going through the motions. The dissatisfaction with my own faith and practice could cause even more of a spiral into guilt-ridden apathy until my cold heart no longer cares. It’s easy enough to stagger down that road. Will I ever be fit to see Him face to face? That is my question on Mondays, when my heart lies, and tells me, no.
I need to read these words of scripture and ask God for help to make them mine. I need to find that desire, and the only way to do it is to depend on Him to renew me, something that happens when I enter His presence as I am broken, tired, empty. For then I do see God as McDonald desires. I do become who I am, as Pope Benedict points out. Because God is the one who renews, who revives. It is His love that draws me into His presence, that makes me aware of it
It seems counter-intuitive to need God to provide the desire, the strength to desire to be in His presence. But it is the reality I’ve come to learn to live with. I have to dive into my pattern, for there, Mondays lose their emptiness, the meaningless.. or perhaps, they have no meaning, because meaning is all wrapped up in being in God’s presence, and the day doesn’t matter.
He is the Lord of Life. I need to know that on Mondays… and He makes sure I do…
So let’s pray together, that on Monday’s we would encounter our Lord, and know we can confidently cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!’
He will, that is what He does.
Daily office Meditation for 3/26 (quoted from George McDonald) Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 2
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 and if you are confident that you are a guide for the blind and a light for those in darkness,o 20 that you are a trainer of the foolish and teacher of the simple,p because in the law you have the formulation of knowledge and truth— 21 then you who teach another, are you failing to teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?q 22 You who forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast of the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 rFor, as it is written, “Because of you the name of God is reviled among the Gentiles.” Romans 2:19-24 NABRE
To those, therefore, who believe in divine love, He gives assurance that the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood is not a hopeless one. He cautions them at the same time that this charity is not something to be reserved for important matters, but must be pursued chiefly in the ordinary circumstances of life……The Lord left behind a pledge of this hope and strength for life’s journey in that sacrament of faith where natural elements refined by man are gloriously changed into His Body and Blood, providing a meal of brotherly solidarity and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. (1)
The words from Romans above hit home hard.
Do we who preach learn the lessons we preach with such clarity?
Or is our preaching nothing more than a pious role, acting without the faith, but with the knowledge we have bene given? Is our message nothing more than a false mask, an act which we think they can’t see through?
Does the world, does our community hate God, not because of who God is, or what He has called into existence, but because of our hypocrisy?
By the way, this isn’t just for those who preach as part of their pastoral vocation, but those who preach with their lives through other vocations, as husbands and wives, employers and employees, and our “vocation” in social media.
You see Paul’s words from Romans this morning aren’t just applicable to the Jewish leaders of his day, but to us, to all who claim to call out “Lord! Lord!” while turning aside our brothers and sisters who are as broken, and are as made in the image of God.
So this day, do we need to be confronted as Paul did to those to whom he wrote? Do we need to have the law drive us back to the cross, back to the altar, back to the place where we can cry, “Lord” but add to it, “have mercy on me a sinner!”
We need his grace; we need His love, his mercy, his peace so that we can live by faith. A faith that betrays the hypocrisy. We can hear the law and the gospel we preach. We can have the hope of being transformed from a bunch of hypocrites into a community, a fellowship that is charitable and loving. Not just in the big things, but in the daily struggles we daily have.
That is the effect of the law – the Law we need to hear, as it drive us to the cross, to the place where our brokenness finds compasssion and healing. Vatican II sees this in the Eucharist, in that moment where Christ’s broken body transfigures ours, and His righteousness, His love, His life is found in us!
This is what each sacrament is, whether the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, Confession nd Absolution, and even prayer. It is that moment when our hypocritical nature is overwhelmed by the incarnation, where love washes away all that is not love.
As we live in those moments, then our God is found attractive, not reviled, and as we see Him lifted up in our praises – people are drawn to Him, through our lives.
No longer hypocrites, but those broken, who find healing in Christ while helping others heal.
(1) Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
It’s Time to Come Home
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, the incredible love, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you confidence and desire to let Him joyfully carry you home!
You are the One:
When you compare the epistle and the gospel lessons this morning, there is a conclusion you can draw that is pretty simple.
Paul didn’t see himself as one of the 99.
He saw himself as the one, the one who wasn’t just lost, but in the process of being destroyed.
He saw himself as the one who was as notorious a sinner as any, yet he realized the incredible patience of God, who searched for him, and found him.
The challenge isn’t thinking we are the ones who get to celebrate Paul’s return, but the fact that we, like Paul, needed to be rescued. For we like Paul, find ourselves broken, lost and in need of a savior.
And when we trust Jesus, and He joyfully carries us home… then there is a party like none we’ve ever seen.
To get there – there are a few challenges
It’s not “them.”
The first challenge is realizing who we are. There are two groups mentioned in the gospel. The first group who work and sincerely dedicate their entire lives to following God’s law – to living as He commanded. The second group is our group – the group that is notorious sinners.
Now I need to let you know what a notorious sinner is. It’s not as bad as it sounds…
It’s actually kind of worse.
One of the ways the word is defined in Greek is one who falls off the path, one who can’t stay on it. We understand that the path is narrow, but I don’t think we realize it is a bridge like this one, with ditches that are about 1000 feet deep to each side.
Sort of like this path in China that they call the glass path.
Here’s another view.
Sin is simply deviating from the path. It doesn’t matter whether it is using God’s name in the wrong way, murder, adultery or gossip. It is sin, and you and I fall into it, far too often.
Even as the Pharisees stand there, judging the tax collectors and notorious sinners, they are sinning, denying the very grace of God, the grace they were entrusted with, the grace that should have inspired them to help others come to hear Jesus.
Jesus realizes this, and there is a gentle jab at the Pharisees when he says the shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness – for he identifies that all are in the wilderness,
The wilderness – the place of nothingness, the place without any blessing from God.
The ones who determined they are holy enough, that they are truly dedicated to God, find themselves outside… while the sheep who lay dying, is brought home…
And brought home Scripture says – joyfully.
Guess it pays off to admit we need His mercy, that we need God to find us. Doesn’t that sound strange? That those who depend on their strength are left behind, while those needy are brought to safety and celebration?
There is joy in your transformation
This is the second challenge. We need to recognize the joy that Jesus has bringing us home and the fact that the work brings more joy to God than the 99 who are righteous. Of course, we know that none are righteous, but even so, the picture of Jesus is one with a grin on his face!
Dad, I’ve brought another one home!
Now imagine him saying it on the cross – it’s finished – Tom’s home, Al’s home, you’ve been brought home.
Remember, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that it was this very joy of getting us into the kingdom of God, bringing us to where we should be, that Jesus endured the cross.
What an amazing thing!
To think that what brings God the greatest joy – and all of heaven with Him is when we trust Him enough to cleanse us, heal us, and bring us into the presence of the Father.
That is what brings God joy, for us to become His children, for us to become His people, for us to realize, and trust the fact that He is our God, our heavenly father.
I don’t know if we understand that all too well. That when we realize God’s grace, when we have an aha moment when His grace transforms our lives and that is seen, the joy it brings Him and all heaven is greater than our awe, and our joy!
It is so great – that Jesus’s parable mentions a great feast – a great party full of joy, inviting everyone to rejoice with Him. The same for the lady who finds the reward for her work, that was for a moment – thought lost. They both throw a feast – as they recover something quite precious to them.
I often wondered- for the man who owned the sheep – what did they feast on? What was the main course?
I mean, it would be a little odd to throw a feast like that and serve lamb chops!
I bring the sermon to a close with this; the man gave his life to bring us home, to carry us with him in His death and resurrection,
and so for this feast- celebrating our homecoming, celebrating our repentant, transformed life, is a feast where the host serves the very best – where He gives His all to us.
His broken body, the blood poured out so that we could be brought home… and this feast is on of great joy, as it celebrates this,
Alleluia! He is Risen indeed
He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia
We are risen alleluia indeed!
And He has brought us home….
Take Up Your Cross:
What Does that Look Like?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ flood your lives, enabling you to “really” love others!
Take up the Cross…but what does that look like?
The words of Jesus we know well, we’ve heard them before, but how often do we think through what they mean?
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.
Turn from our self-centered, self-serving, self-focused needs. That is a real challenge, especially in a culture that jokes about what it feels to be true. You know that saying, “It’s all about me”
That’s tough, and God’s law does convict us when we act like life is “all about me.’
But it’s the second and third actions that are required, that make it more challenging.
Taking up a cross? Which one – the one above the altar – hey no problem. The one Vicar Chai carried in this morning? It’s kind of heavy – but most people can carry it. No, it is something far more than that.
Take up the cross, and follow me, Jesus says!
Are you willing? More importantly, are you able?
In order to answer that question, we have to know what does this mean: “take up your cross, and follow Jesus”.
You have to know what it looks like.
That is what the section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes, so let’s look there.
What it looks like
Though the description of taking up your cross and following Jesus flows through the entire twelfth chapter, I want to start with verse 11 this morning, for it is the key
11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 2 Rejoice in our confident hope.
Now, most of the people here are not even remotely lazy, most work hard. We commit to serving the Lord enthusiastically. We are confident in the hope we have; that God will be faithful to His promises. So this bearing the cross thing seems possible, and since we are good people, we can do this!
But those encouraging words are to spur us on to do that which is more challenging….
It goes on,
Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge.
These actions and attitudes are not easy, they are indeed, what it looks like to take up your cross, and follow Jesus. They sum as well, this idea of love, which started the reading.
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
No hypocrisy allowed, no “but they did, said, thought,” just really love them….
So how do we “really” love
This is difficult, is it not? I mean we are supposed to really love our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, those annoying phone solicitors and even our pastor? Really love them? Not sure we can do that all the time, Are we sure we can bear that cross. Are we sure we want to bear that cross.
But bear it we must, if we follow Christ, if we are with Christ, if we are in Christ.
For that is what bearing our cross is, it is walking in Christ. To give up our lives, if that is what it takes, for that is what love led Him to do.
Peter said it well,
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)
This doing good, this bearing one’s cross, this setting aside what benefits us, what makes us happy is what happens when we are being transformed by God. Remember – that is where the chapter started,
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
So What happens when we slip and throw a whine party?
These words cause a bit of anxiety. Because I know that we are not always following Christ. I know we struggle to bear our cross, tossing it aside at times.
So what can we do, when we find ourselves justifying why we shouldn’t love this person, or that one? When we want to justify tossing the cross aside, because we don’t want to love them, to really love them? Or we are afraid to, for the pain we might go through.
Jeremiah knew that feeling. In the Old Testament reading we find it, and God’s response to Jeremiah’s whining,
Jer 15:19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them.
When we struggle like Jonah loving Nineveh, or Jeremiah loving the rebellious children of Israel, it is simply that, a struggle. It is the same struggle Jesus had when he looked at the cross, and realize the shame that carrying it might bring, and that is where we find our answer, on how to love others.
Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)
The struggle for us is not that we can’t love them, it is that we’ve taken our eyes off what Paul told us to do, to 1”Rejoice in our confident hope.”
This was Peter’s answer as well, that we should always be ready to have an answer for the reason we have hope.
You want to follow Jesus? Take up the cross of walking in His love, keeping your eyes on Him. The cross where He has joined you to Himself, and realize that there, you can see their need for His love, for His mercy, even as you needed it yourself.
This is what it all boils down to, our baptism, our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, our hearing that our sins are forgiven, it is all about God coming to us, uniting us to His cross, bringing us with Him…
Knowing His cross, we cling to that hope, we find the will of God, and a desire to see it come to be, that all would know His love, that all would be ministered to, no matter the sacrifice.
For that is what happens, when we allow God to transform us into people who dwell in is peace, the peace that goes beyond comprehension or explanation. The very peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN?
We Speak for Christ
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
† In His Name †
As we speak for God, may we speak through the knowledge of the grace, the mercy and love which reconciled us to God, as we bring others the message of reconciliation!
We Speak for Christ, but what are we saying?
The sermon title you see before you, “we speak for Christ” is one which is an incredible burden, but it is something we need to keep in our mind, not just during the sermon, and the worship service, but every moment of the day.
You see if we claim to others that we speak for God as we talk about His will, as we talk about grace, as we invite them to church, then we need to realize that often, they will judge God by what they hear from our voices at other times as well.
I was talking to a lady this week, she was talking about why she and her husband were considering leaving the big church they were going to, and thinking about looking for a smaller church. In the process, she told me about the church that they went to before the mega-church. I asked her about why they decided to check out the big church in the first place, and she told me of the event that soured her husband on their original church some ten to fifteen years ago.
She related how they had gone there one morning, in her husband’s older truck. As they parked the truck in the parking lot in front of the church, a man came out, and asked them to move the truck and park it somewhere else. The man was concerned with what kind of image would be given, if beat up cars were in plain view in the parking lot.
The man moved the truck, to a different church and its parking lot where he and his wife have been going to that church ever since. She did promise that upon their return from vacation, they might return to the church here. You see, this church was where their children were baptized and confirmed.
It is a challenge for us to do what we are told in Colossians 4:6, 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)
It is even harder sometimes, for our words to be Christ’s as we respond to those who’ve sinned against us. It is hard for us to forgive those whose words may not have been as gracious to us, for in that same way we are tempted not to be gracious.
How we see them, determines how we speak to them
I’ve joked once or twice about not putting Christian bumper stickers on my car, because I don’t want my driving patterns to reflect badly on God. There is some truth in that, and the same thing when not thinking about representing God, we step on our tongues and insert our foot in our mouths. There is one thought – maybe we just never claim to talk for God? Then people wouldn’t blame God for our failings – right?
But then, we are ignoring the multitude of scriptures that talk about the people of God, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, being God’s voice to call people out of darkness and sin, to share in His peace. We need a better solution than just being quiet about our faith, our of fear of misrepresenting God.
It is found in the first verse of our epistle reading, St. Paul writes,
“16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!
Most of our problem, controlling our tongue is because we look at people as un-redeemed, or not worth our time, or for that matter, God’s time. Maybe we are snobs, and think others are below us, or that they are just different, or maybe, even as we look around this room, we think – “thank God I’m not like that sinner…”
How we interact with people is based often in how we “see” them, how we perceive their value to us, to society. It isn’t just the generations represented in this room – it’s been a problem even back to the time of Christ…
For some, including Paul who wrote this letter, saw Jesus as illegitimate, as an outcast, as an wandering religious kook – who, because of a lack of education, couldn’t possibly understand the deepest part of the Jewish faith… to the extent Paul really persecuted the people whose trust was in Christ. Paul would realize Jesus was more than homeless religious fanatic… that he was the Son of God, and what it mean – that Jesus would die on the cross.
The difference comes into play when we stop looking at them based on human standards of value, but understand how Christ sees every man, woman and child that has ever existed, and when we consider their value to Him.
How does Christ see them?
In verse 17, we are told that anyone who belongs to Christ isn’t just waiting to become something else – they have become something new already. It’s passages like this – and the discussion between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus that we get the concept of being born again, the washing of rebirth that we commonly call baptism.
Which Is how we are to see each other – as people whose value is not measured according to value on earth, but rather value to God. Who thought enough of us, who valued us enough, that He reconciled the world to himself – He brought us back – He reconciled us, He cleanse us, the ways scripture describes this incredible work we given “church words” like justified and sanctified, ransomed and redeemed, and the one in this passage – reconciled.
As in reconciling a checkbook, or a set of accounts, where not only is everything accurate, but it is the way it should be – every negative entry accounted for and every error corrected. Where there is nothing left to devalue what is, by God’s account – priceless and precious. Where after everything is accounted for – and everything is checked – it all balances….
And this miracle – the way that every sin has been paid for – Paul describes in verse 21:
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
That is Christianity simply put – God loved the people He created, to the extent He has taken care of our sin. He values us, our company, our presence, He values us enough to let Jesus bear all of our debt on the cross. All of it.
That is how, then we are to relate to each other, with the same value as God has for us…. We are to each other as people God cared enough that Jesus would die for them.
The offer on the table…which we take to them
That then leads us back to the original concept – that people base their perception of God on how we treat them, of the things we say, and don’t say…
That we are His ambassadors, given the task of reconciling all people to God. That we have the responsibility to plead with those who don’t know Jesus, who don’t know the love of the father, to come back, just like the prodigal does, when he remembers how his father treated all of his people.
To see it through – we need to look at others, as those God would die for, for indeed He did. We need, for our own deeper understanding of God’s love for us, to realize it extends to all – that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all would be reconciled – that’s why Christ came to reconcile us all – so that all children of God could always come home.
That Is the glorious message we have been tasked with, the message we, as Christ’s ambassadors are tasked to deliver… and no other message then this… that all would come back to God…
That they would all know His love…
The peace of God that is beyond all understanding, the peace in which we are kept, for we dwell, reconciled in and by Christ Jesus. AMEN!
The Sacrament of Confession & Absolution/Reconciliation: Finding the Freedom from Masks the Suffocate Us…
Discussion thought of the day:
In our Bible Study last night – we talked of a description of some religious leaders in Israel’s history who “whitewashed” that which was being built, before it was completed. They made it look pretty and nice and completed. The problem, they whitewashed everything without checking to make sure the job was done write. In our Bible Study this morning, ( a different group) we were in Hebrews 6, where it talks about the difference between believers and others, one produced a crop that was a blessing, the other produced thistles and thorns (my paraphrase – roses) that might have nice flowers and an incredible smell, but were not just inedible, but would actually injure a person.
At the end of devotions today, I came across this quote: You asked me to suggest a way for winning through in your daily struggles, and I replied: When you lay your soul open, say first of all what you wouldn’t like to be known. In this way the devil will always end up defeated. Lay your soul wide open, clearly and simply, so that the rays of God’s Love may reach and illuminate the last corner of it! (1)
It is one of the mysteries of life why we hide that which needs healing, and why that which is broken we cover. Having a five year old – it seems that this isn’t something we learn, but something that is part of our DNA. We don’t like going to doctors or dentists or auto-repair shops or having our houses or workplaces inspected, never mind having a review done. And in hiding the the broken in us that needs healing,, we must hide our hearts, our souls, we must cover them, and put on a mask that has a bright smile. That mask can, and does suffocate us, the false front we have to put up will slowly cause us to fade out, to expire.
The answer is simple – in Ezekiel – God will tear down the walls, or as St. Josemarie describes it – “laying open your soul”. St Peter talks of this as the Holy Spirit cutting their hearts open. For surely the strength to be honest and to deal with sin comes not from our internal instinct. We would continue to hide, to continue to pretend we are okay, covering up our brokenness with false smiles and quick, “I’m fine”.
The answer seems painful, it may cause anxiety the first dozen plus times, yet.. the freedom of letting those things be dealt with by God is amazing, it is wondrous, it breaks bondage and washes away anxiety and drives away the darkness, leaves us knowing God’s peace. To hear the words, yes, God forgives you your sin, you are cleansed, you are healed – to know that what was broken – God has put back together. If it seems to good to be true – remember this is God’s desire, as St Peter tells us:
3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
and as St John tells us, it is His promise
” If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9 if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.” 1 John 1:8-9 (NJB)
and one more promise for good measure, from St. James:
5:16 So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect. James 5:16 (TEV)
So open your lives, find a pastor ( I know where one is waiting in Cerritos) or a priest- and hear for yourself – regarding those sins you don’t even want to admit to your self – that they are forgiven.
Lord have mercy, and show us that we can open up out hearts – that the mercy will cause us great joy!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 644-647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion thought of the day:
“If you obey every law except one, you are still guilty of breaking them all.” James 2:10 (CEV)
“what little love for God you have, when you give in without a fight because it’s not a grave sin” Jose marie Escriva.
We have a tendency in the church, to favor (or perhaps more accurately disfavor) one sin more than another. That is, it seems every decade has the sin that is more evil than any other, and of course that sin, and those who commit that sin are rarely found in the “real” churches. As a child I remember the whispers about the lady in town who had a child without being married, Then the sin was divorce that was unforgivable, now, for many Christians – it’s the homosexuals, or the liberals (whatever that means – I thought the church was supposed to be working at liberating people… o well!
But will we dare look in the mirror, and call our sin… well sin? Will pastors preach against sin that is prevalent in their people’s lives? Or will we stay safe, preaching against the HHA mandate, or the gun control laws, or… or…or. will we be complacent, hiding our sin, from God, yet letting it consume us, for even the small
It is time to change all that…
Let’s address our sins, let’s stop saying that we are better than those people who are active this or that…Let’s try something new, if we want our world to change.
Let’s confess our sins to God – let’s stop being complacent about our sin… Let’s hit it head on… and see God at work…let’s fight sin – at the place where it cannot win… before the throne of God, for there… we are cleansed… of our sin… our real sin…
this old hymn says it well….
So before we go out – and condemn others, or somehow feel more holy, let us indeed cast aside our brokenness.. and see the healing God has called us to.