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The Priceless Blessing We Cannot Afford to Neglect…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional thought of the Day:

23  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1) 

The intercessor is a worshipper who has understood the deepest feelings of God and clings to them, despite contrary appearances.

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit, and through the Son.
He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

I am sitting in my office, as I do most Saturdays.  My primary task is finalizing my sermon, the two Bible studies I teach tomorrow.  As I do, there is another task I do… on that can be heartbreaking at times.

It is receiving the prayers that people drop into mention, that text or message me or email me about.  They want to make sure they are included in the bulletin for our people to pray about, or if more confidential, that I will include them in my private prayers. 

This morning has been no different, in fact, one could say “business” has been a bit brisker than normal.  A military person going to Korea, another beloved friend diagnosed with cancer, a friend dealing with diabetes and other health concerns, people with family problems, people looking for a new home, people with family struggles.  There are a lot of people we pray for, an act often called intercession, or petitioning God on their behalf.  Or more simply – we ask God to bless them and care for them in their situation.  That includes praying for healing, for strengthening their trust and dependence on Him, which will give them hope.  Mostly that they would see God acting in their lives. 

This is prayer, this is, in a very real way, communing with God.  Or as the Lutheran confessions (in green) call it, a sacramental time.  Pope Franci echoes this sentiment when he calls it the mystery that is unfolded and revealed, a time of intimate communion, a time where we understand the deepest feelings of God and cling to them.

As I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon, this hits home strong.  Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, he sends the crowds away, and he heads in to the hills to be alone, to pray.  Specifically, the word for prayer is the word for petition.  He has to talk wiht the Father about the people he encountered, He has to bring them into the relaitonship He has with the Father because they matter to both of them!

Add to this the action of the Holy Spirit, seen in the passage from Romans. This incredible thought that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well, praying when we are too overwhelmed when we cannot find the words when we can’t find the words or thoughts to pray.  It is then that the Spirit is definitely interceding with and for us, with words that are inaudible, because the Spirit’s groans,, the Spirit’s pleading is beyond expression. 

That is how much the Spirit cares, how much the Spirit is in touch with our needs, with the needs of those we love, and those they love.

Prayer isn’t some empty time of waiting for an appeal to be heard and decided.  It isn’t a time to do out of a sense of obligation, either to God or to those who ask.

It is the time we have been given to walk with God, to see His heart, to realize His love for them is even deeper than ours.  THat He cares more for those we intercede for than He does for flowers and birds, and if he cares for them and makes them beautiful bow much more for us is He active, then we can relax, we can be at peace.

Such is this priceless gift of prayer, our time with God. And like the other sacramental times, we need to slow it down hear his voice. To let Him comfort our tears, to let Him still our anxious hearts, to help us realize He is with us….even when we don’t know what to pray.

He is with us…

If that is all prayer did,, was make us aware of that, it would be worth it.

Yet to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocating for us, pleading for us, praying with us….. how that helps us… how incredible, how much more does it help us understand the heart of our incredible God who loves us!

Be at peace, the Lord is with you!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

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.

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.

Where is Jesus Taking You Today? For Whose Benefit?

Devotional Thought of the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him
3  and Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and told him to say to the Israelites, Jacob’s descendants: 4  “You saw what I, the LORD, did to the Egyptians and how I carried you as an eagle carries her young on her wings, and brought you here to me. 5  Now, if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own people. The whole earth is mine, but you will be my chosen people, 6  a people dedicated to me alone, and you will serve me as priests.” 7  So Moses went down and called the leaders of the people together and told them everything that the LORD had commanded him. 8  Then all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has said,” and Moses reported this to the LORD. Exodus 19:3-8 (TEV)

 21  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (TEV) 

 

377  The Lord wants a definite apostolate from you, such as catching those one hundred and fifty-three big fish—not others—taken on the right-hand side of the boat. And you ask me: How is it I know myself to be a fisher of men, can live in contact with many companions, and be able to distinguish to whom I should direct my specific apostolate, but still catch nobody? Is it Love that is lacking? Do I lack interior life? Listen to the answer from Peter’s lips, on the occasion of that other miraculous draught:—”Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” In the name of Jesus Christ, begin again. And being strengthened, rid yourself of that indolence!  (1)

From the very beginning, God has determined that those whom he has saved, those He has delivered are special to them.  They have a special role in the world, acting as priests, serving Him, interceding for others.  This is done in various ways, as the Spirit determines, as the Spirit distributes the charisms, the gifts described in such places as 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12.   Many of those gifts are simple, others more visible, all are miraculous.  Not because of what we see, but because God has rescued us, placed us in specific roles, specific vocations, all to bear witness to His love.  That is as much the miracle – the way the Holy Spirit coordinates all of this, gifts, people, places, 

We are all to share a hope that we have come to know, as we realize what God has done for us. We all have to be ready to explain the reason we have hope – which for most of us strikes fear into our very core.

I don’t think it is because of our fear of persecution, whether that being tortured or being thought not relevant.  I think it is because we are afraid to reveal how dependent we are on God, to reveal how precious this intimate relationship is to us.

But that is exactly what they need to know!  That is exactly where they need to be, exploring how high, how wide, how deep is the love of God is for them, for their family, for all who have wandered, or run far off from God.  They need to know God desires that they not be lost, not be wandering, but that they come home…..This is our vocation, our mission, our apostolate…..

He has sent us all out to let them know this, to call them home, to bring them hope…..

So where is Jesus taking you to this day?  Where is He sending you, even as the Father sent Him?  Where is your mission field this week, who will you encounter?  Have you prayed for them yet?  Have you prayed that you would hear God’s guidance?  Have you considered your baptism, the Body and Blood of Christ which you received yesterday, the gospel that was shared with you?  These are all the things, these means of grace, that will guide you, the very thing that will help you know He is with you….

As you walk with God, as you go to the places He sends you, you will realize something I quoted from Pope Francis yesterday,,

 

“Our mission, then— the mission that frightens us and makes us offer excuses like the ones we hear from the lips of the reluctant prophets in the scriptures— is to evangelize, to shepherd the faithful people of God. And that mission establishes us in our vocation. In calling us to that mission, Jesus gives us solidity in the depths of our hearts: he establishes us as pastors and makes that our identity. In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly activity, we are collaborating with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own.”  (2)

Lord have mercy on us all, as we share His mercy with those He has sent us too!

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1720-1728). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)   Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

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