His Presence Blesses Us as
He Makes His home among us
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the joy and peace God gives you, as Jesus comes and makes His home, right here, with you!
Home for the Holidays
Maybe it is a certain smell, or perhaps an ornament you take out of the box, or it’s a Christmas Carol being sung in a certain way, but most of us have something that takes us back “Home” for the holidays. You know, that place that exists in time, that defines what your heart knows as being home, as life is perfect.
For me, it is sitting at the piano that now sits in my aunt’s basement, much as it sat in my grandfather’s basement. It was there, playing Adeste Fideles and the First Noel that was a moment I define as being “home”. There are things that remind us of those precious days. And for those who are blessed, you can find more than one example of them. Maybe it is this year that you will find the scene of home that will etch itself in your memory as being “home for the holidays” The time where being with friends and family when peace reigned and was so real
In our gospel reading this morning, we see an incredible statement about being home.
So Jesus became human, and made his home among us.
God became man and found a place to live. Here, among us.
Not just with the apostles back in the day, but here, with you and me. He in our lives, where He still lives and reigns today.
In these incredible deep and complex words that start John’s sharing of the good news of Jesus, these words are the ones we most need to hear, the words that are the most mind-blowing, the hardest to make sense of,
Jesus became man, and made His home among us.
There is a lot in the passage, from the teaching about the Trinity to the description of the world rejecting Him. Theologically, we could spend weeks going over the first five verses. And the “who is God?” questions would still not find answers to satisfy everyone.
The next few verses, talking about some not recognizing and rejecting him, while others would be born again, not a physical birth but something more incredible, being born as children of God.
Theologians have talked and argued and wrote about such things since the first century. Words longer my arm have been used by experts to determine exactly how God did what He didn’t describe.
These verses are all important – please understand me, we have to struggle with them, we need to work them, but tonight, we need to realize this.
God came and made His home among us.
Other translations use the word dwelt with us, and that isn’t a horrid translation, but it doesn’t quite give the passage the full incredible joy that should overflow as we hear this.
First, because the word isn’t just dwelt, it is to tabernacle, to set up a residence with us. For someone in the first century, this was setting up the permanent tent residences in which you would live. It is setting up a home.
There is another sense to this, the idea that the verb is aorist tense. It doesn’t have a definite time period, and in this case, not a specific end. It’s not just about the day Jesus was born, or end the day He was crucified and died.
What this means is that we can say this. Even as He came and made His home among the apostles, He is still coming and making His home among us.
And like the apostles, we behold His glory, we get caught up in His love, we find healing for our hearts and souls in His mercy, we find hope for our tomorrows, for He is present, and promises to never leave or forsake us.
He is here. He has made His home in our lives.
This is the place He calls home.
As we come to the altar, may you realize the glory you behold and the peace of God that will make you realize that you are home with God! AMEN!
Devotional Thought for Our Day:
42 And whoever gives j just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple —I assure you: He will never lose his reward!” Matt 10:42 HCSB
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand questions of a pilgrim.
Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Most of us will never baptize 30 people in a day, never mind 3000. Most of us will never write a book that will revive and change the church at large. We aren’t Calvin or Luther or Pope Ratzinger. We aren’t the great minds of the church, nor the servants whose love and sacrifice is honored by millions
Yet our ministry is just as powerful, if not more so, even when it is as simple as praying with someone who is struggling or offering a cup of water to someone who is tired and weary.
Pope Francis explains it well if a bit technically. Mission, the work God sends us to do, doesn’t come about because of our doctrinal knowledge. It doesn’t come about because we have all the questions answered, and know it all. We will still have thousands of questions, many of them which will go unanswered in this life. For doctrinal statements are not really statements of faith.
Nor does faith come about just because we have security in this life and for the next. It is not because we are assured of heaven that we spring up to serve others, to care for them, to reveal to them the God who loves them. We can’t even anticipate what heaven is, it is unfathomable.
But faith, the kind of faith that leads to being “mission-minded” comes from encountering Jesus. An encounter that is irreplaceable, an encounter that leaves us in awe, and in peace that is inexpressible. For in our encounter, Jesus takes away our burdens, our sins, our resentment, It’s all gone. Even the anxieties of today and eternity, and the academic explanations of religion, they slide into the background, for there is only Him.
And it is wonderful, it is beyond explanation.
And from there, we find something else happening. We see our hearts aware of those in need around us, the very people God has sent us to minister too, even when that ministry is a simple cup of water…given because the Lord is with you!
I pray that we all experience Jesus’ presence, revealed by His word, know in His sacraments, and therebt dwel and minister to others in His peace. AMEN!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
26 Then Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who plants seed in the ground. 27 Night and day, whether the person is asleep or awake, the seed still grows, but the person does not know how it grows. 28 By itself the earth produces grain. First the plant grows, then the head, and then all the grain in the head. 29 When the grain is ready, the farmer cuts it, because this is the harvest time.” Mark 4:26-29 NCV
182 What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and mortify yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society.
Perhaps a better way for us to grasp the meaning of theosis and deification is to use the word relationship. However, the word relationship may not be strong enough to express the Eastern grasp of participation in Jesus and through him a participation in the very communal life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that theosis and deification imply. In Eastern thought, the goal of the Christian is to so commune with God that he or she is made more and more in the image of Christlikeness, fulfilling God’s purposes for humanity in God’s creation.
Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, former missionaries noticed trends in the church and wondered why the church in America was static and beginning to decline, while on the mission field it began to grow.
Such studies developed into the field of church growth, which my alma mater required all ministry students to major in, as well as their field (preaching, youth ministry, worship ministry, Christian Ed) An entire industry has been created, with experts and consultants that will come and analyze your church and provide nice neat programmed solutions that may result in growth in numbers, in budget, etc.
Another industry has grown up that counters the church growth movement. Usually, it calls for more precision in doctrine, a more historic approach, looking back to the glory days of the church when everyone came and the pews and coffers were filled.
The battles between these groups have led to denominations being devoured in conflict, which drives more people away, burns out more pastors.
But what if the answer is found, not in treating the symptom of decline, but what causes the decline? What if our studies and the raging wars around what to do with the data, are part of the problem.
What if the issue isn’t “church growth” but simply being aware of the presence of God in our lives? Whether it was Roland Allen or Donald McGavran, or C Peter Wagner or John Wimber , whether it is Paul Boland’s theories on revitalizing the church, Webber’s Ancient-Future thoughts, there is a focus on prayer, on communion with God. The call to prayer, the call to awareness of the relationship, the theosis, the intimate contact between a God who comes to us. It’s there, in all of their works, the essential component, yet so forgotten in most implementations. Overlooked because there is no way to measure the results, no way to quantify in a timely matter the success of such things. Overlooked because it cannot be measured against a creedal or confessional statement. Maybe it is overlooked because we ourselves aren’t actively living a life walking with God?
Let’s admit that Jesus is right – we don’t know how the kingdom of God grows, so why are we focusing our energy on that? What would happen instead if we spent the time and effort walking with God, exploring the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love? What effect would that have on our worship? Our preaching? Our teaching? Our lives lived, with the Holy Spirit, in our communities?
What effect does the glory of God have on us, who should have experienced it? We see it in the eyes of those given the first Bible in their language, the crowds that rejoice in mass baptisms, the barely trained evangelists and pastors in the third world who cry fro training because their churches are growing faster than they can manage.
Without programs, often without full Bibles, sometimes not being even able to read. Yet full of the awareness of God’s love, something happens. They make Him known. People come to know God, and know He loves them, they are so joyous over walking with Him, they share this with those who are blind, but will see, with those lost, but are found. Without the studies, without the consultants, without the experts in growth, these churches are growing – simply because they know Jesus!
God chooses to commune with us! God is here, not distant! He loves us! We have been found by divinity, and He wants us to enter HIs glory! Here it is, givet this to your people, help them to see
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
1 When I came to you, my friends, to preach God’s secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2 For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 3 So when I came to you, I was weak and trembled all over with fear, 4 and my teaching and message were not delivered with skillful words of human wisdom, but with convincing proof of the power of God’s Spirit. 5 Your faith, then, does not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (TEV)
3. Return to God: And Thou, O my God, my Saviour, Thou shalt be from henceforth the sole object of my thoughts: I will no more apply my mind to such as are displeasing to Thee. My memory shall entertain itself all the days of my life with the greatness of thy clemency, so mercifully exercised on me: Thou shalt be the delight of my heart and the sweetness of my whole being. (1)
Twenty years ago, I preached at a small church in the middle of the desert. Two years later, I would become their pastor. And on their letter head was the mission/purpose statement. “Teaching Christ-Centered Living”.
I’ve since come to the conclusion that those phrases, maybe long overlooked, are the key to the church’s misison in that community. That is why they are planted, these phrase, this is a vision God has given those who sacrificed and set down the cornerstone. At my present church, it is the oft repeated phrase, “The Lord is with You!” (and the response to me – “and also with you!” ) You want to revitalize a chruch – you want to see it come to life and share God’s love – discover the reason it was put there in the first place!
So back to Christ-centered living.
We aren’t talking about being religious by rote, or being scholars in Greek and Hebrew Exegesis. We can memorize all the red letters in our Bibles, and still fail to live life centered, focused on Jesus.
SO what does it mean to be centered on Christ in our lives? What does it mean to forget everything bu Christ and His cross?
It means to realize that clemency that deSales speaks of, it means to deligh in the presence of God in our lives, to rejoice in the incarnate, tangible God who speaks and listens. It is to depend on this, and so know a peace that comes from God being our fortress, our sanctuary, our peace.
It means the hope that comes from realizing His comfort, and sharing in His glory, for His glory is the cHesed, the agape, the love, the charity, the compassion of God that draws us to Himself.
To live in awe of that love is Christ-centric living.
And it is our role, as God’s people to use our time, gathered together as the Church, or with a friend over lunch – to teach them what they need to know about Jesus.
My friend, the Lord is with you!
See His love, see His work in your life….. and cry out, “Lord, Have MERCY” or “Hosanna (Save us) ” or “kumbayyah (Be here Lord)” or simply, “thank you!”
(1) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. 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.
Devotional Thought of the day:
10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” 11 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT)
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)
54 You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such. (1)
With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is! Of Sabaoth Lord! (2)
And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever! (3)
In a recent blog, I used the phrase, “basking in God’s love”, which apparently upset someone. Enough that I was accused, behind my back, of advocating mysticism. Now while I will freely admit to being on the mystical side of Christianity, that is not the same as mysticism.
Rather, it is the approach of being in reverent awe, and meditating on, with heart, mind, and soul, the very love of God. The devotion, the loyalty and faithfulness of God to a wretch like me, and a wretch like you. it is coming upon the absolute love of God (see the Hebrew word cHesed, and the Greek words agape and elios) for His children, and as it is revealed, being stunned and pondering its depths, while enjoying the peace that love brings to us.
It is that sacramental moment, that point of communion with God, where we find out what David advocated, being still, not fighting, knowing that God is God, our refuge, our place of peace, In Him we find that moment where all is abandoned as Josemaria, and our woes, and see them, along with our sin, sliding away (see Hebrews 12:2).
It is that incarnational moment, when we truly understand with everything we are that Jesus the Christ is here, that the Lord Sabaoth is with you. It is a moment of utter submission, of allowing God to be responsible, to be our benevolent Master, the Lord of Life, to reign over us.
And it is in that truth we need to bask, we need to be still, we need to enjoy those moments. To realize how precious are these foretastes of the feast to come, as we encounter them at the baptismal font, as we hear our sins absolved, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ.
That moment where the presence of God is not just a academic theological expression but palpable, a moment where we realize our faith is found in Him. Not in a leap of our own logic, not in a decision in a case made to prove to us He was a historic figure. It is a moment that is a mystery, something we can explain the dymamics of, save to save He dwells in us, that this love is the basis and foundation, something that is far more than our words and blogs can explain. It is sacramental; it is incarnational, a mystery of our faith.
Yes, these moments we need to bask in, not for the sake of the moment, but for the communion of God and man that occurs. As the church, we need to provide them for those who we care for, those we shepherd, for there they will find Christ, and being amazed by His glory, the Holy Spirit will transform them into His image.It has the assurance that our cry for HIs mercy is heard, and answered, when the world looks on stunned at the peace we know.
Call this being a mystic? That’s fine; God isn’t small enough for us not to be mystified, taken aback, and to become hungry to explore the dimensions of His love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus.
But it is a far cry from mysticism.
So bask in this love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, know His presence, and peace, and as you rest in Him, may you realize you are being transformed by the Spirit’s renewing of your mind. This is my prayer for you. and for me.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Sabbaoth Lord – often translated as the Lord God Almighty, it is a reference to Christ being the Lord (commander) of all of Heaven’s armies and strength.
(3) A Mighty Fortress is our God, quote from TLH at http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/tlh262.htm
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29 But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30 It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! Matthew 6:28-30 (TEV)
13 You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. 15 When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there— 16 you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. 17 O God, how difficult I find your thoughts; how many of them there are! 18 If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you! Psalm 139:13-18 (TEV)
54 You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such. (1)
This is a hard blog to write, but perhaps it will make a difference.
Sunday, I was watching a new television show I’ve waited a while to see. It was pretty good, if a bit over the top at times.
But there was a scene that resonated to much with me. Like a crystal goblet resonating with a soprano’s high tone, it shook me a little to much. I’m still not sure if it shattered me, but it did come pretty close. It kept me awake most of Sunday night, and haunted me a bit since. it brought back memories from some of my darker days, days when I wasn’t sure who I was, or whether I fit in this world. Even more,it made me wonder how I adapted and changed to survive. Is the adapted me, really me?
I’ve only been shaken that much a time or two in my life. My Cardiac Arrest didn’t shake me like this. My heart valve replacement surgery did, but only for an hour. This… struck deeper to home. I know the other times, but even thinking of them… yeah – can’t go there.
The only consolation is that I remembered before that point in my life, I always wanted to be a pastor, (well back then, a priest ) I wanted to teach people about God, I wanted to give them the the Eucharist, the sacrament where Jesus gives us His Body, His Blood.
This morning, stiff and sore from working out, I got to my office. Getting out of the car slowly, I spotted the rose pictured with this blog. I took a picture of it, tweeted it, thinking of the Psalm I quoted above. I thought of just quoting the 14th and 15th verse, and thinking of people who need to realize this. Then I saw the end of verse 18, and found myself. Or the me I need to know.
It resounded when I thought of the quote from St Matthew’s gospel, and then it slammed home when I read St. Josemaria’s words. Resounded enough to make me forget the other stuff, until I started righting this. And yet, like that rose, being right there, where I could focus on it while stretching after getting out the car, it took on a different tone.
God is here.
He made that rose, He listens to my cries. He cares for me, and each of us, far more than that incredibly beautiful rose.
it doesn’t matter whether I am an extrovert or an introvert. Whether I am understood by the world or not. Whether my thoughts, outside of those sharing Christ, are understood,
What matters is I am His people. All who trust in Him are, and He is calling out to all of you who aren’t, yet.
And knowing this, giving our Heavenly and PRESENT father, that brings the peace and joy we need, even when we are shaken, broken, and shattered….
We are His people, He is our God!
It is more than enough. It defines us better than anything else we could ever know.
God, ever present, ever loving, is here with us.
Be at peace, drop all the other stuff aside, and know He is here!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17 (NLT)
2 Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever. Psalm 125:2 (NLT)
470 Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day. (1)
Last night, as we studied the passage we are preaching on this week I began thinking of the question that is the title of this post. I meet with several guys and we work together on the Bible passage for this week, which was talking about the struggles in this life are nothing compared to the glory that is awaiting us. It also talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit being the foretaste of that glory. This morning, my devotional readings included all three passages above, further fueling the thoughts and the need to meditate on this – and share it here.
We have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, therefore the places we stand and sit, as plain and simple as they are, are holy ground. But do we realize it? Do we realize that God surrounds us, His people – now and forever, Do we realize that as God makes His home in us, as we come to know the measure of His love, may we begin to really live?
Will we rest in Christ, and find the peace our souls depend upon, even as our bodies depend on food? Will we struggle with the concept of an incarnate God in our lives? Will we learn to depend upon His presence the way we depend on oxygen in the air we breathe?
A way to ask that is the title – do we expect to treat God in heaven the way we do now?
Will we forget about His presence, will we do what we want, will we go days without thinking of Him, talking to Him, hearing His voice as we meditate on His word? Will we keep Him at a distance, fighting with others for the furthest row from His presence? Or will will be in awe of the glory He shares with us? Will we run to Him, will we rejoice as He welcomed us, His children, into His presence?
Will our relationship change, and if so, why isn’t it changing already?
Look again at the above readings, what will change about the relationship, except perhaps that what we know, will also be what we see?
I pray that we would enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Love of God, that we are in awe at the thought of eternity with Him!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me. Revelation 3:20 (TEV)
“Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is to think often of God, by day, by night, in your business,and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone…” brother lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God – quote from Celtic Daily Prayer..
Some of us, when we read this passage, visualize a painting of Jesus, standing outside the door, robed in glory, ever hair perfectly in place. The entire walled garden radiating a sense of peace, the originates with Him.
We hear evangelists like Billy Graham, pleading with thousands to just open that door, to let Jesus in, for then their life will be idyllic, clean, and at peace.
Some of us nod our head even, thinking of that, picturing people we would like to see open that door, and let Jesus come in….
Except, that passage is not directed to unbelievers at all. We don’t think of the context, we might know it is in the book of the Revelaiton of Jesus Christ, (no “revelationS”) but we don’t realize that it was part of a letter to a church. TO people just like us, to people who claim to believe, are part of a church, and yet somehow….. are missing out on communing with God – not just daily, but all the time.
This passage isn’t talking about daily quiet times, or a prayer life that is at meals, and before bed. It’s not advocating going on some retreat either, spending time in silence and meditation.
And the time Jesus would spend with us isn’t just the perfect times, when everything is in place. It is the times where our lives are in storms, where we’ve been bruised and battered by sin, the times where we are grieving, and anxious because of the presence of death. And the simple times, as we hug our kids and grandkids, as we watch the superbowl with friends, even as we hum a song that is in our mind, as we go about cleaning our homes, or shoveling snow. He is even in our “nothingness”, those times we have when we are just vegetating, thinking of nothing, just.. there.
The church in Laodecia had forgotten this. They thought they had everything in its right place in life. Work had its place – and it was good, family its place, and they were fine, church had its place, and when it was convenient, they would make it part of their life.
But God is there, patiently waiting, pleading even, wanting to share life with them, with me, with you.
Not just to teach us, and to guide us, not just to clean up our sins, but to laugh with us, to feast with us, to share life – even the nothingness of life with us.
When we remember Jesus is here… it changes everything, The storms, though raging and violent, seem less threatening. Death loses its sting and the grief becomes a ache that is matched by knowing His comfort and finding rest.
And life is as it should be, shared with God… as we go with Him, watching Him redeeming the time.. and those we love (and will come to love)
So walk with God, throughout your days… and know He hears you when you cry, “Lord have mercy”. For He is there…
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day”
1 Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. 2 Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. 3 Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. 4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, 5 “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” 6 He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” John 12:1-8 (MSG)
“Evangelical Catholicism embraces this rediscovery of beauty as a primary category for understanding God and his ways and applies it to the Church’s liturgy. Its approach to church architecture, church decoration, liturgical music, liturgical vesture, and all the other tangibles of the Church’s liturgical life proceeds from the question, “Is this beautiful in such a way that it helps disclose the living God in Word and Sacrament?” In that respect, Evangelical Catholicism’s approach to liturgy is not somewhere “between” the approaches favored by liturgical traditionalists and liturgical progressives, but ahead of the curve of the now-tiresome Liturgy Wars.” (1)
As I continue my journey through the book Evangelcial Catholic – I came to the above quote regarding the Liturgy. Comes at an auspicious time, as I am about to start a Adult Bible Study on the Liturgy.
( I am started reading the book for two reasons – the first being a friend recommended it to help me understand where the Catholic Church is heading and secondly, because the Lutheran Churches were once know as the Evangelical Catholic Church )
As I think about the movement of the Liturgy (my study is called “The Dance of the Liturgy”) this concept of beauty is important – if not critical. It does what I’ve long contended – that in the battles of the owrship wars, the focus in not in the right place – and both extremes make the same error in what they point out is the problem. Let me illustrate. Let’s take church A – the are traditional (hymns, pipe organs, chausables, the pastor rapidly goes through the motions in a near monotone) but the organ is played too loud, the people can’t sing and they do not know what is behind the symbolism of the liturgy, the music, the sanctuary. Church B is contetemporary/progressive – (band which is made up of low level skilled musicians that don’t quite sync together, casually dressed pastor/priest) but again the music is too loud – there is no flow or theme to the service. Church C is like Church A – except people KNOW why they are doing what they are doing and why, the organ is used to facilitate worship, and the pastor reads, preaches and prays in a way that is more akin to a dialgoe and story), and Church D – the praise band – moved to the side – practiced and whether simple or complex play as one and focus is such that facilitates the singing of the people, the service is designed to instill the truth that God comes to them, brings them to life and guides their life in response.
Churches A & B are always held up as the examples of why the other form of worship isn’t “good and right and beneficial”. They distract people from why they are there, they give rise to complaints and dissatisfaction. They become the basis of the worship wars – the argument that is equivelant to saying the sanctuary is 1/4 full or 3/4 empty. And they completely take the discussion away from the purpose of the sanctuary – why it was dedicated. To be a place where
In C & D, I contend – there would be little discussion or nature of worship wars. The churches are focused on creating an atmosphere that is such that God is easily revealed through word and sacrament. It’s a complete package – the skills of all of those who facilitate worship. Where the musician and the pastor are not the focus – but everything blends in together in such a way that it is seamless – that God is the focus, His presence revealed, His love and mercy known and received.
Where the worship, the sermon, and the ‘execution” of them, the actual decor and atmosphere – whether simple or ornate, whether 20 people or 5000 – is “beautiful” because what it is supposed to be, the people of God gathered into His presence, receiving His gifts through (not of) word and sacrament, is what it is.
May all our churches become more and more beautiful, as we abound in His love.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 71-72). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI) (justifiedandsinner.com)