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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.

Time Management and the Church


St Francis Catholic Church

This was the church of my parochial school… a place where relationships were formed… with our students and with God

A devotional thought for the Day:

42 They spent their time learning the apostles’ teaching, sharing, breaking bread, n and praying together.  Acts 2:42 NCV

Chapter 7 Baptism into union with Jesus is the sign of our new spiritual identity with the Triune God and with each other in the church. In baptism Christians embrace the new life that is the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
Chapter 8 The spiritual life is a living into our baptism—dying to all that is sin and death, rising through the new birth into the new life modeled by Jesus, the one who images humanity completely united to God’s original purposes for creation. The spiritual life contemplates the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ and participates in the purposes of God for humanity.
Chapter 9 The spiritual life is disciplined by the rule of steadfastness, fidelity, and obedience; it attends to prayer, study, and work; it meets God in daily life, in material things, and in people.
Chapter 10 The spiritual life is nourished by the church, which is the continued presence of the incarnate Jesus in and to the world. The spiritual life is nurtured by worship that sings, prays, preaches, and enacts the divine embrace in its daily prayer, weekly celebration, and yearly attention to God’s saving embrace in the services of the Christian Year. (1) 

Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.

A friend put up a meme the other day, that testified to the power of a good hug, one of those so powerful that you can feel the other person’s heart beat, and the ability it has to calm you down and assure you that everything will be all right. I experienced those kinds of hugs on vacation, as some of my friends from junior high got together 38 years after we had last seen each other. It was remarkable and refreshing.  (thanks, Ana, Dina, Christos, Danny, Glenn, and Brian!)

It is the kind of life the church had in its infancy, one we call koinonia or living in communion with each other.  We become a community that is incredibly close, and there for each other.  It is hard to explain, the level of such a relationship, where even years melt away as…. I can think of no other word… the intimacy of the communion is restored. ( Not physical intimacy as in sexual intimacy, but a connection of souls)

Webber would note that such an embrace is possible because of God, of His drawing us into His story, of Him invading ours, not just to purge us of our sin, but to embrace us, to heal us, to bring us into the depth of His peace. The outline of his chapters above shows how this happens in baptism and the spiritual life that is created as we learn to walk with God. This is what Pope Francis was talking about when he mentions our service and ministry of tenderness that begins with a personal (intimate) encounter with God.   If not a part of our lives we will (and still do when we forget to return there) burnt out, we will be overwhelmed.  But with God’s embrace, and with those around us who likewise are locked in His embrace, we are safe… and can find the rest we need, even as we hurt.

Webber went on from the start of the Divine Embrace to note that this spiritual life, this divine embrace is nourished in the gathering of people known as the church.  It is there we find the presence of the incarnate Christ in the world (this is why some call the church our mother and say salvation is not found apart from her! )  As we pray and worship, as we continue in the apostles teaching of the Word of God (Jesus) as revealed in the word of God (scripture)  as we take and eat the body of Christ, and take and drink His blood, poured out to remove all of our sin and restore our relationship with God, this divine embrace, this intimate relationship with God is restored, and it envelops all of us.  

This early description of the church in Acts talks of this – look at what they did! It doesn’t say they held endless meetings or held strategy meetings for growth.  It says that they did the things which reminded us and strengthened our awareness of God’s embrace.  

Maybe it is the time we got back to being the church, rather than doing church.  Our people need it, we need it. and oddly enough God treasures it far more than we can realize.  For He sent Jesus to minister to us, even to the point of offering His life as a sacrifice, that we could be held in God’s hands…

Time management in the church?  Where is our time of understanding God’s word, praying together, sharing our lives and meals together, and sharing in the Eucharist?  It may seem too simple, but the joy we will find being those God called together will be far more contagious than anything we can plan.  

The Lord is with you! It is time to manage our time so that we spend most of it Celebrating that Divine Embrace!

 

 

 

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

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.

How do I evaluate my church services?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

7  Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8  Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. 9  Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10  Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:7-11 (NLT)

19  And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20  so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NLT)

But the current popular phrases surrounding the worship experience seem oriented around personal perception. “Did you like the worship?” But this may mean, “Did you like the sound?” “Did you like our performance?” “Did you like the preaching?” These questions have more to do with style and preference than the transformation of thought and action. Some have suggested turning the words toward God and asking, “Did God like our worship? Was God pleased with what we did today?” These questions, however, equally misunderstand the purpose of worship. In worship we proclaim and enact God’s story of the world. Therefore, the more appropriate experiential question is “Did God’s story, which was proclaimed and enacted today, make a transformative impact on your life?” Or, “How has the weekly rehearsal of the meaning of human life that is rooted in God’s story changed the way you treat your family, your neighbors, the people with whom you work?” (1)

As I was reading Webber’s quote, I started to think about the way I evaluate the church “services” I officiate.  The questions Webber describes are the questions I have asked, both my members, my visitors, my elders, and staff.

How did you like it, was the experience worth your while? Those questions another hard question, will you be back, will you invest time talent and treasure in this ministry here.  Do you find our church service of value, enough to become part of out community?

I don’t think Webber is saying those questions are completely wrong, but they are not the primary question we need to ask.

Have you met God in such a way that you know He is changing you?  Do you desire that change more now than before?  Would you cry out to God to purify you, because you are confident that He will, that this is His desire, that He wants you to be part of His people?  That if you are struggling with sin, that He would come alongside, and continue to work through you, with you, in you? Basically, that we are no longer talking about His story from a distance or our story as if He is distant?  A million ways to ask it, but the basic idea comes back to this:

DO you and I know, as God reveals Himself to us, that He desires and will make us His people, for He is our God.

After all, that is our role, as agents of reconciliation (see 2 Cor. 5)

And therefore, our evaluation of our church services, whether worship services, or our classes, the work of caring for children or the elderly, or the poor, or the ministry of our people to their family, neighbors, and community comes down to this simple concept.

Are you ready to challenge what you do?

Heavenly Father, reveal Your desire to us, as You heal our brokenness as we dwell in Jesus, and as we do help us draw others to be healed by you as well!  AMEN!

 

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

The Key to Patience, to Avoiding Worry and Anger


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the day:
3  Trust in the LORD and do good; live in the land and be safe. 4  Seek your happiness in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire. 5  Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him, and he will help you; 6  he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun. 7  Be patient and wait for the LORD to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans. 8  Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble. Psalm 37:3-8 (TEV)

The view of Scripture developed by modern conservatives differs from the view held by the Reformers. The Reformers did not seek to prove Scripture. They simply spoke out of a scriptural worldview. For them, the story of God did not need to be proven; it simply needed to be proclaimed. People were to live in the story that Scripture authoritatively delivered by the hand of God, even though the story was seen somewhat statically, as opposed to the ancient dynamic view.

Webber’s point about modern Biblical conservatives needs to be considered, to be thought through.  As a fairly conservative pastor, I’ve been trained to see the Logos as logical, reasonable, and therefore it made sense that we would present that logic for others to see.

Do this, and this happens, dot that and deal with the consequences.  Viewing the covenantal relationship as a contract, a give and take, a scratch my back and I will scratch yours type agreement with God.  So line up the benefits and promises, and consider the cost, and accept it, because it is logical.

If we take scripture from that position, we make it subservient to our mind, our ability to reason.  If we do the same thing with Jesus, (we tend to get the logos and the Logos confused) we will make God our servant, not our Master who cares for us.  The relationship moves from a true partnership (koinonia) and participation to something that is far less, and Christianity becomes a simple bartering transaction.

That isn’t what it is about, we don’t become patient, we can’t surrender our anger or anxiety in that kind of system.  Those things run to deep within out heart and our soul.  It isn’t like going to the dentist every six months for a cleanup, (even if we go every week)  The ability to turn over to God that which we are impatient about, that which causes us to respond in anger, those worries that keep us awake at night only comes as we trust Him, as we depend upon Him, as we have faith that He is here, as He reveals Himself to us.

This is a life together with God, it is our story and his intertwined in a way that we can’t figure out where one begins and the other ends.  And the impact on our lives, as significant as it is, is nothing compared to the glory of the moments we are aware of His presence.

Don’t defend scripture, it doesn’t need you to, it stands on its own pretty well over the centuries.  Don’t defend Jesus either, he didn’t want any defense when he went to the cross.  Live with Him, remind and invite others to do so as well.

Nothing compares…

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


Stop the Noise!!!!


ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:

5  Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7  My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 8  O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)

179         Days of silence and of intense grace… Prayer face to face with God… I broke out into thanksgiving, on seeing those people, mature in years and experience, who opened out to the touch of grace. They responded like children, eagerly grasping the chance to convert their lives, even now, into something useful… which would make up for all the times they have gone astray and for all their lost opportunities. Recalling that scene, I put it to you: do not neglect your struggle in the interior life.

These days are filled with noise, and if it weren’t enough to have noise, it is noise that in many cases can’t be trusted, no matter where it originates.  And as the noise grows, it gets louder and louder, as those making noise want to grab our attention

As I sit here in my home, I have no television on, no music playing through my Groove Ap, there is just the odd bird chirp, my fingers making noise on the keyboard, and my artificial valves clicking away.

It is odd, and uncomfortable at first, this silence.

It takes a moment to adjust, to move past the temptation to close my eyes,

And as I write, my mind drifts to Sunday morning, and the Body and Blood of Christ that I will give to HIs people, the nourishment they need.  My mind drifts to the people I know are dealing with high stress. who need healing of body, mind, and soul.  My mind drifts then to my own failures and stresses, some I would rather not deal with, but the silence drives me there, and there in the midst of my own brokenness, I find Jesus…

Hard at work, the craftsman of life, transforming my brokenness into something glorious, something that others can see that will cause them to praise God, and desire such a journey for themselves.  If that alone were the reason for my journey into silence, into the place where I have to leave my anxieties, grief, guilt, shame and pain in Christ’s hands, it would be perhaps enough…

Yet there He is, welcoming me into this place, relieving my burdens, and my sin, and in doing this, I realize the what defines His glory far beyond His power, authority, wisdom.  What defines His glory is, His love for us!

Do not be afraid of the silence, but be still, and find in that silence, your refuge in God.  Amen

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locatitemptation63). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can We Neglect Prayer and Meditation? Are they “optional?”


20170124_103703Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (TEV)

49  Zain Keep in mind your promise to your servant on which I have built my hope. 50  It is my comfort in distress, that your promise gives me life.   Psalm 119:49-50 (NJB)

579      There was a young priest who used to address Jesus with the words of the Apostles: Edissere nobis parabolam, explain the parable to us. He would add: Master, put into our souls the clarity of your teaching, so that it may never be absent from our lives and our works. And so that we can give it to others. You too should say this to Our Lord.

Maybe a year ago, a missionary friend of mine and I were talking about the balance of ministry.  He had recently gone through a rough patch, and he realized that he had been so busy that he neglected what he was saved to be.  He as neglecting his time with God.

It is far too easy, in this day when time demands all we have, and far more.  Especially for those in ministry, whether in a congregation, on the mission field, or in preparing those who will minister in the classrooms of our colleges and seminaries. It is tempting to reduce our time with God to the study of His word for teaching others.  After all, it is similar, it is similar motions, it is dealing with the same material.

Yet Jesus did the same things – and still went away to pray to the Father.  He didn’t just count the sermon on the mount and preparing for it as His time with the Father.   And he praised Mary for sitting at his feet, rather than serving those in her vocation as hostess.

There is a time for both.  There is a need for both, but especially for our regular, deeply intimate time with God.  A time where we ask Him to show us how to pray, a time where we ask Him to explain to us His teachings, where the Holy Spirit takes us to school in prayer, so that He permeates our very lives, and from that life, we can give it to others.

We need this time with Him.  It is what underlies the basis of a sacramental approach to God.  Otherwise, we could just replace the church with a classroom, we could make do even with the latest book or podcast, getting knowledge from others. I believe some churches have done this, diminishing prayer and worship, times of meditation and absolution for a longer exegetical sermon that may or may not mention Jesus, and may or may not bring comfort to broken hearts.

The gathering, the church service, the mass is a time of prayer, it is a time waiting on Jesus, listening to Him, seeing His love revealed and given to us, not just taught to us.  Our times of prayer, of spending time contemplating and meditating on His word is similar. This is why the early Lutheran priests talked about prayer as a sacrament, it is why the ancient church fathers talked about how we pray is how we believe, and why the dedication of Solomon’s temple talked all about “when people pray”.

Spend time with God, talk, listen, ask for insight, ask to understand, that what you experience may be an integral part of your life, a delight, and that it may flow from you to others.

I pray that you see revealed and experience the peace of God which passes all understanding, and that found in the presence of Christ, you know He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2156-2159). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Key to Prayer…


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

19 This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God’s presence. 20If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that he knows everything. 21And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God’s presence. 22We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. 24Those who obey God’s commands live in union with God and God lives in union with them. And because of the Spirit that God has given us we know that God lives in union with us.  1 John 3:19-24

386      You lack faith… and you lack love. Were it not so you would go immediately and much more often to Jesus, asking for this thing and that. Don’t delay any further; call out to him and you will hear Christ speaking to you: “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as when he stopped for that poor blind man by the roadside who continued to insist, without giving up. 

To write on prayer is challenging.

In the first place, it is too personal, especially when considering St Josemaria’s words about pleading for this thing or that.  Personal becomes I have, and sometimes been disappointed.  It is also too personal, because some of the things I would ask, are well personal.  Lord, help me with this temptation, Lord, help me with this that causes anxiety and fear to rise up within me.  Not a lot of personal examples would I want to give,

The second reason is that there are two extremes when it comes to prayer.  The first is those who express what is often mocked as “name it – claim it” theology.  These are those who say you should pray like Jabez, and God will bless you with all forms of materialism, perfect families, perfect jobs, perfect health and absolute heaven on earth.  The other extreme confronts this so callously that you would almost think they believe God doesn’t listen to any prayer, that God doesn’t care for His people here.

But there are passages, the blind man that St Josemaria points out, the unjust judge, the father who doesn’t give his son a stone or a viper, but gives him what is asked.  The passages where Jesus invites us to cast all our cares on Him, all our burdens, where He tells us to ask and it will be given.  God wants us to pray, including asking Him to care for us, but I think there is something more that we need to understand.  If we don’t, then God is reduced to being a Genie in a bottle.  ( I think sometimes we think we have to save up for those really big things, so we don’t give him the everyday stuff)

Here is the key, faith and love, the very things that unite us to God, the very things that bind us to Him.  That is where prayer comes from, this close connection, this committed relationship.  It is knowing we are loved and loving back, it is in knowing that God is faithful, trustworthy, completely dependable because He desires what it good for us. Prayer is realizing that in Him we live and breathe and have our very being, so this communication is only natural.

This allows the prayer to come out of the depths, the places in our hearts, soul, and mind where we fear to go. Prayer comes from the place that so needs His peace, to know He is our sanctuary, our deliverance. This is the astonishing depth of prayer, and it shows our trust in the love of God who has come to us and given us life.

It is there that “Lord, have mercy” is simple and yet comprehensive prayer to the one who has brought us into union with Himself, for we are His children.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Intimate Prayer, the Theologians Fertilizer


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

6 Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was once a man who had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He went looking for figs on it but found none. 7So he said to his gardener, ‘Look, for three years I have been coming here looking for figs on this fig tree, and I haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it go on using up the soil?’ 8But the gardener answered, ‘Leave it alone, sir, just one more year; I will dig round it and put in some manure. 9Then if the tree bears figs next year, so much the better; if not, then you can have it cut down.’ ”  Luke 13:6-9

 

To God the Holy Spirit:

KYRIE, bountiful Spirit, united with the Father and the Son in a subsistence of one substance, proceeding from both the Father and the Son, have mercy.
KYRIE, who, when Christ was baptized in the waves of the Jordan, appeared in Your glory in the form of a dove, have mercy.
KYRIE, kindle our hearts with divine fire so that we are made worthy to praise You forever, have mercy.  (2)

And what about us? Are we so far away from the stable because we are much too refined and too smart for that? Do we not get all entangled in scholarly exegesis, in the proof or disproof of historical authenticity to the extent that we have become blind and deaf to the Child himself? Do we not really all too intensely dwell in “Jerusalem”, in a palace, withdrawn within ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of being challenged, too much so to be able to hear the voice of the angels, to set out to worship? Thus, in this holy night, the faces of ox and ass are turned toward us questioningly: My people does not understand, do you recognize the voice of your Lord? When we put the familiar figures in our crèche, we would do well to pray that God would bestow on our heart the kind of simplicity that recognizes the Lord in this Child—just like Francis in Greccio. Then this might happen also to us: everyone returned home, full of rejoicing.

Martin Chemnitz, perhaps the greatest of the Lutheran theologians.   Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Later Pope Benedict XVI, in my opinion, the greatest of the theologians in the last century.

Martin’s prayer and Joseph’s words about the birth of Jesus give us a picture of their souls.  Brilliant though they may be, they see the need for God to work on our hearts, to create the simplicity, to kindle in them a divine fire.

These words help us realize that the study of theology must take a back seat to those intimate times where we realize the presence of God. Where we hear HIs voice, where we see His hand at work, where we experience His glory.

Good theology is a result (not the result) of a prayer life that is created, nurtured and guided by the Lord and Giver of Life. It cannot simply be the work of active minds but needs to be preceded and immersed in the presence of God.  It then becomes more than an academic pursuit, it becomes life, a life pregnant and incarnate with the presence of God.

It is the same for those theological masterpieces we call sermons and Bible studies.  They need to come our of our devotional life, out of the riches of our interaction with God.  If Chemnitz and Pope Benedict need this in their lives, how could we think we don’t need this work of the Holy Spirit?

Otherwise, we may look like a fig tree, have the leaves and trunk of a fig tree, but we won’t bear any fruit.

May we pray with simple hearts, formed and enkindled by Holy Spirit, as we do what God has called and planned for us to do!  AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

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.

What Sex Can Teach us About our Relationship with God.


Devotional Thought for the Day:

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6NAB-RE

Men experience the preciousness of things, and experience it fully, only in the company of those who share their enjoyment; in this way, they become aware of the festive quality of an existence that is so often hostile and ill-humored in their regard but is present at a meal, as it were, with open hands, with a gesture of lavish generosity, of unrestrained joy. This liberality of existence, which is rich and bestows itself freely, is an intrinsic part of a meal. The same is true of a wedding. In it, the elevation of the biological process of sexual attraction to a fundamental spiritual act of Eros, of the human being’s loving transcendence of self, is crystallized, epitomized, and confirmed. Here, too, we experience the liberal graciousness of existence, which grants us the festive wonder of a love we cannot force but that comes to us of its own accord, takes us by surprise and overwhelms us, transforms our life, gives us a new inner center, and even, in moments of ecstatic bliss, confers on us a foretaste of a life that is brighter and fuller than our everyday life.  (1)

I’ve been known to use the phrase “intimate relationship with God” more than once, and more than in one setting.  Reactions are often very strong and very polarized to it.  Some feel it is too common, to base, even too perverted,  or it could be taken that way.  Some understand it, even though they might struggle with the implications of a God that desires that we should be His people.

The words in blue above come from a man whose took an oath to remain celibate for the rest of his life.  His words describe it well thought – the transcendence, the even spiritual act of eros – of giving and being given, or experiencing a level of transcendence, and even “confers on us a foretaste of a life that is bright and fuller than our everyday life”.

The physical act is not contrary to God’s purposes – he established it as something two should share. two that committed before God and man to each other, as a way of testifying to the love.  It is as much spiritual as it is physical, and in that sense gives us a look at what our spiritual relationship with God is like, and what it will be like in heaven.

Please hear this – we aren’t saying eternity is sexual – that our relationship with God is simply physical – but rather – that the spiritual aspect gives us an insight into what it means to truly commit to another – to love them, to seek our their best interest.  Love means losing yourself, the awareness of yourself, as you care for the other person – and as you do that – there is something overwhelming, something that transforms us, something that is more than life, alone, abandoned, broken.  It is intimate in it reveals the innermost parts of us, the part that is being recreated in Christ Jesus – the most intimate, deep, definition who we are – defined in relationship to God – the I AM.

You see this a little earlier – as a father reacts to his beloved son’s return,

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  – Luke 15:20

The father doesn’t care about his dignity, he doesn’t care about his prestige or reputation.  He doesn’t care about people (including his other son) thinking he is fool who will be taken advantage of.   All that is set aside – this is a son, whom he loves, and the answer to many a night without sleep.  THIS IS HIS SON!!!

It is that transcendent moment, the moment the I become I-Thou, the moment we realize how deeply God loves us, and how it transforms us, as we learn to love in return, as He teaches us.  As we are united to Him in baptism, reunited as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, as we celebrate this relationship – this holy relationship as He gives us His body and blood.

Bringing us back to the original quote of scripture.  They ask fo more faith, and what they are really asking for is to trust God more, that God would draw us closer to Him, make Himself more real, defeat our defenses – and show us His complete love for us.

That is, of course, the answer to another prayer as well…

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And it is answered, and we see it when we are in union with Christ Jesus. 

(1)  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.

The Common Work of Marriage and the Faith


Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day:

16  So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.   Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)

346 Loyalty  demands a real hunger for formation, because you are moved by a sincere love and you do not wish to run the risk of spreading or defending, through ignorance, principles or attitudes which are very far from being in accordance  with the Truth.  (1)

In a few hours, I will be officiating at the wedding of a cute couple, both incredibly passionate about each other.  It will be fun, as was most of the pre-marital counseling I subjected them to undergo.

Some may think such a day is the best day of their lives. My prayer is that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will know much joy, much peace, even as they will undoubtedly have trying days.  They might have a fight or two, they will definitely misunderstand each other, and the very passion that can result in incredible tenderness, incredible hunger for the other (in every way including sexually!) , can also turn on a dime and be focused on betrayal, or a perception that they are betrayed.  For passion, and words, are meant for us to use positively,

It is not unlike our relationship with God.  We should be passionate in our relationship with God, but I have often seen such passion turned against God when God doesn’t deliver what we think should be delivered.  In btoh our relationship with our spouses, and our relationship with God, our sense of self-preservation and selfishness can misinterpret the One (or the one) we love.

This is when we need to realize that a major component of love is loyalty.  Both the Hebrew cHesed and the Greek agape see loyalty, dedication to the “other” as the true nature of love.  To desire and use everything that the one has to achieve what is best in the relationship.

Escriva is right, and it is applicable in our intimate relationship with God and our intimate relationship with our spouse.  Formation is key, because it is there when we encounter love at its most incredible level.  It is revealed to us, this love that sustains us, that empowers us, that purifies us.  It is as we get to know the other (whether God or our spouse) that the relationship takes on such value that we would never want to risk damaging it.  When such damage does occur, we need to grow to where we run to see it healed.

That is what formation does, it trains us, it helps us grow, it brings healing with it, for growth can’t occur if we are damaged beyond our ability to even seek healing.  Formation is encountering mercy at its sweetest, at the moment it is unexpected.

For then it is revealed to be love.

Such love draws us to God, such love will bring a couple through anything that could occur.

I pray we all find those who will encourage and guide our formation with God, and for those who are married, I pray that your being formed with God provides the strength to really set aside your own needs, to meet the other’s needs.

Lord, in your great love, have mercy upon us.

AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria, The Furrow

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