Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 1 Peter 2:23 (TEV)
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
The reception of communion too requires faith in the grandiosity of what is about to happen—the Lord comes to me or rather coming to me, He embraces me and wishes to transform me into His very being. It is not just a mechanical act of reception of a piece of bread—something done in an instant. It is this invitation to be in communion with the Lord: invitation to love.
I remembering hearing a sermon about “imitating Jesus” when I was in Bible College. The thoughts that ran through my mind were about imitating Jesus as He taught, as He trained the disciples, as He did miracles, even as He “officiated” at the first communion service.
I didn’t think about the suffering, or even the insults he endured from those who should have been his closest followers. The pains caused by his family who didn’t understand. The loneliness when even his closest disciples didn’t understand His ministry. The times that were so challenging that He needed to go away and pray to the Father… alone.
Are we ready to imitate Paul as he endured, as He imitated Jesus who endured through all of this?
Can we forgive the insultm? Can we show mercy to the one who threatens us? Can we love the ones who cause us to suffer, either deliberately, or accidentally?
That too is part of the call to imitate Jesus.
Can we do it?
I believe it is possible, but only as God has a relationship that is, only one word works here, a relationship that is intimate.
A relationship where He is able to transform us, a relationship where He is able to cleanse us thoroughly. A relationship where He is able to descend to a darkest place, where fears and anxieties form and control more of our life than we can explain.
A relationship that is that intimate.
A relationship that is nurtured at the altar, when Jesus comes to us, where we come face to face with the Lord who died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.
It is there, in the midst of His grace being poured out on us, that we realize what God is doing, and how complete the change is that He is crafting in our lives. We become more and more like Him, and we may not even realize it. His desire that people would come to know His love, that the Spirit would grant them repentance becomes far more important than our revenge.
Such a transformation is the result of, and only possible because we encounter Jesus. For then, we see the final judgment of God, and His work in all of us, making reconciliation possible. Our being reconciled, as well as those who offend us.
This is our hope, this is His work.
Ranjith, M. (2012). Addressing Objections to Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 162). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring.
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first. Job 42:10-12 HCSB
670 Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!
Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness. Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome” a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.
As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear. I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.
I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me. There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings. They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.
Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.
So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?
If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.
No, absolutely not.
While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42. It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.
It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.
And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.
He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.
And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.
25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB
There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it. To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger. This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.
Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all. And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”
For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts for our seemingly broken days:
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
291 Jesus is asking you to pray … You see this very clearly. Nonetheless, how poor your response has been! Everything is a great effort for you: you are like a baby who is too lazy to learn to walk. But in your case, it isn’t just laziness. It is fear, too, and a lack of generosity!
The Second Petition
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.
In my daily devotions this week, there seems to be a common thread, the idea that we are afraid of intimacy with God, the idea that we are afraid of God.
Looking at the church today, we see this is truly an issue. We speak far more about God than we speak to Him. We train our pastors and ministers to teach theology, to pursue accurate doctrine (even on this feast of St Nicholas, to punch out those who don’t teach accurately) but do we help them to desire those moments, where we simply are in awe of God’s presence?
A friend of mine used to talk about how he hated the Sundays when the church had communion (some Lutheran churches have communion every other week, some even less,) because that meant church went 20 minutes longer, and he would miss 20 minutes of football. In later years this changed, and as a pastor, the churches he cared for moved to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week. He had realized how precious this time was, in fellowship with God. It meant something special to, this time of breaking away from life, and concentrating not on the truth of God’s presence, but on God himself, there with us.
Prayer is no different, and we need to realize that so that we don’t treat it with indifference. It is the Kingdom of God coming to us, the Holy Spirit transforming us, comforting and calming us, helping us to trust in what is revealed about God’s love in scripture.
We shouldn’t fear it either, this coming of God to interact with us. Some fear the change that God will ask of them, either to give up this sin or that habit or to make some sacrifice (like becoming a missionary to some jungle or the inner city) s if somehow the more we hang out with God the more likely He will ask us to do something that only a saint could do.
I am not going to promise you won’t e “volunteered” for something, but that can happen if you aren’t praying. I can’t say that God won’t put on your heart a desire to break the habits of sin either, for surely He will. What I can promise is what He doesn’t, that in spending more time with God, our burdens are lifted, our anxieties fade away, and our souls find rest, even as God more clearly uses us to reconcile the world to Him.
In a world where peace seems so fragile, prayer, walking with God shows us that the real peace is internal, a gift of confidently living in Jesus.
Don’t be afraid, don’t be apathetic, rather, run to Him, leaving all your brokenness, find rest for your souls. And while you talking to Him, pray that I learn these lessons as well!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days…..
19 If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world. 1 Corinthians 15:19 NCV
18 We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18b NCV
Paradoxically, a widespread decline in traditional religious practice in the West runs parallel with an ever-increasing hunger for spirituality. The question at the forefront of most of the great spiritual classics used to be “What or who is God?” Nowadays the characteristic question of the contemporary spiritual seeker is more likely to be “Who am I?” Great Christian teachers of the past such as Julian of Norwich understood quite clearly that these two questions are inextricably linked.
And I saw very certain that we must necessarily be in longing and in penance until the time we are led so deeply into God that we verily and truly know our own soul. (a quote from Phillip Sheldrake’s Spirituality and Theology in Webber’s text The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life) (1)
850 In your heart and soul, in your intelligence and in your will, implant a spirit of trust and abandonment to the loving Will of your heavenly Father… From this will arise the interior peace you desire. (2)
Who Am I?
I’ve been trying to answer that question for as long as I can remember. I see som many others trying to answer it as well.
Who is God?
Most people don’t bother to ask this, and those who do pursue it with an academic passion that is absolute, and yet nearly impossible to communicate to others simply. (this is why we develop creeds and confessions, statements of belief and doctrinal texts, and then wonder why they don’t sell as well as novels and religious fluff)
Some might even try to describe this in general terms as Webber’s citation seems to above. The older folk are more concerned with proving beyond a shadow of a doubt who God is (or isn’t) and the younger (gen X and Millennials ) struggling with who we are.
And without both questions being asked, neither is ever truly answered.
And in asking both at the same time, as Julian of Norwich and Augustine and Luther did, as Webber is trying to ask, we find the answer. In that answer is the hope and peace that we so need.
We can only define God in terms of His relationship to us, as our Creator, Redeemer, the One who makes us Holy, the One who loves us and is our Father, Brother, Friend, Counselor, Encourager, Comforter.
We only find out who we really are when we are defined by God, as He ministers to us. We may not like to hear it, but we have no identity outside of our identity to Him, our identity in Him.
it is in that definition of “who am I” that I find out I am loved, cared for, guided, That GOd is transforming us into the very image of Jesus, to be like Him, yet to be ourselves. And yet this definition, this transformation is far more than we know, for it is an eternal transformation.
Paul isn’t joking when He says without the resurrection we are a hopeless group of people. For a life trusting in God is not just about this life, and the change takes our entire life to begin to see. It may mean we live in hardship, it will mean that we deny ourselves, abandoning ourselves into the hands of the Lord whose love for us is seen in the scars on His hands.
Spend some time there, at the cross. Spend some more time there, at the altar, examining yourself and knowing how desperately you need Him, and the fact, HE IS HERE! And we will be with Him Forever! Everything we are in life flows from Him, and it is glorious and real, and now, and yet even more to come!
The answer to Who is God?
He is your God
Who are you?
You are His!
So live life, based on these words: He is our God, we are His People! AMEN!
(1) Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3487-3489). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Jesus said, “Two people owed money to the same banker. One owed five hundred coins n and the other owed fifty. 42 They had no money to pay what they owed, but the banker told both of them they did not have to pay him. Which person will love the banker more?”
43 Simon, the Pharisee, answered, “I think it would be the one who owed him the most money.”
Jesus said to Simon, “You are right.” 44 Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. 47 I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The people sitting at the table began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.” Luke 7:41-50 NCV
42 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for you, the living God; when can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 GNT
Let me illustrate this shift toward a spirituality disconnected from God’s story by comparing historic spirituality to this new intellectual embrace of forensic justification.
Historic spirituality looks like this: God became one of us in the incarnation. When the Word became incarnate in Jesus by the Spirit, God lifted all humanity into himself and, by his death and resurrection, reconciled all to himself (Rom. 5:12–21). Spirituality is therefore a gift of God’s grace. God has taken the initiative to unite with us so that we may be united with him. Baptism is the spiritual rite of conscious and intentional union with Jesus (Rom. 6:1–14) and reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The spiritual life is the freedom to live in the baptismal pattern of his death and resurrection, dying to sin and rising to the new life in the Spirit. In this ancient model of spirituality, Jesus is our spirituality because we are in union with God through our union with Jesus by the Spirit. His entire life from conception to resurrection is on behalf of humanity. He reverses our belonging to Adam (Rom. 5:12–21). He overcame sin for us (Col. 2:13–15). He destroyed the power of death (1 Cor. 15:35–58). He begins the new order of creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He does all this in the power of the Spirit. Christ now dwells in us by the Spirit and we in him.
Spirituality rooted in justification without the connection to the incarnation and Christology looks like this: We are justified by Christ who has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. Christ is our righteousness. God looks at us through the righteousness of Christ and imputes or declares us righteous in Christ. (This is called the forensic or judicial view of establishing our relation to God.) Now that God has made us spiritual through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to God in thanksgiving by living the sanctified life. The new emphasis in spirituality within Protestantism, in general, is this justification/ sanctification model.
Sixteen years ago, I left the non-denominational brotherhood of churches I was trained and ordained by and became a Lutheran pastor. The Brotherhood had a broad diversity of theology, not just among church members, but in its Bible College and seminaries. There was nothing that tied the group’s theology together, which made for some interesting conversations over the years! but this isn’t about them, it is about Lutheran theology, and how it ((and most conservative theology today) screws up Justification.
One of the tenets of Lutheran Theology is that the Doctrine of Justification is the central doctrine of theology. The first couple of times I heard that I hesitated, and still do on occasion. Then a wise professor explained it to me this way. Picture a bike wheel, you have the hub, the spokes, and the actual tire. The hub is Justification, but it isn’t the only, nor the most important of doctrines, and if you remove any of them, the wheel will fail, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.
That makes sense, but I think today, as Webber points out, we have got the hub but forgotten the tire. We’ve forgotten the reason we are justified int he first place, to be in a relationship with God, to walk with Him, to know His love, to stop the fighting, internally and externally, and simply take refuge in God our Fortress, in God our peace.
This is the error of Simon the Simon, a leader in the Jewish religion. He had his hub set, the spokes tightened, the rim in place, but he forgot the tire. He didn’t recognize that God was there, not just to pronounce forgiveness, which is amazing. He was there to eat and drink with Simon, to share bread, to laugh, to cry, to be with him.
This is our God, whose come to us. God who wants to share our lives, even as we share in His, and dwell in His glory and peace. Christ’s death on the cross, enables God to declare us clean, righteous, holy, and that enables us to walk with Him (Or maybe to ride?) We need to keep this in mind, we need the entire wheel, hub, spokes, rim, and tire. Missing a part, or getting it out of line, is serious, but the goal is and always will be, to sit down, and eat and drink, to fellowship with Him.
May you enjoy that feast this weekend and always! AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought of the Day
15All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant with all their heart. They took delight in worshipping the LORD, and he accepted them and gave them peace on every side. 2 Chronicles 15:15
In the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we detect the enthusiasm of the new converts, for whom being Christians was an unexpected gift, a blessing, great riches bestowed on them by God. It is good for us to realize this—for us who, as Christians, live for the most part with wrinkled brows and such an anxious awareness of the problems it entails that we feel almost guilty when we are happy about being Christians—that might be a form of triumphalism! Fundamentally, the joy of this epistle derives from the fact that the Apostle has dared to look directly at the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and his eternal love.… (1)
There is a part of me that misses the old days when I would enter church and its silence would lend itself to the awe I felt being in the presence of God. Reverence wasn’t just an attitude one took on to appear pious, it was something you were assimilated into, it consumed you. It was a very solemn reverence, one that facilitated dropping all your defenses, dropping you guard, and collapsing in the arms of God, in His sanctuary.
Those were precious times, and I still need them on occasion.
But then I need days like yesterday when as our mass ( our worship service ended) some people spontaneously began to clap. Not sure who, not sure why, but it was appropriate to applaud God at that moment. TO thank Him fo the work He does in us, work wrought with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead. For in His resurrection, in that moment of glory, we find ourselves taken up into Him.
His death we share in, even as He takes from us our sin, our shame, and our pain.
When I was younger, my dear devoted teachers would be angry? hurt? shocked? by the idea of people applauding and rejoicing in the presence of God. But what else can you do, when you, as Pope benedict XVI describes, “dare to look directly into the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and His eternal love”
That love is so overwhelming, so precious, so deep, we must respond, we have no option. Even when overwhelmed (see Jeremiah 20 – he tried to keep silent! ) This is what Christianity is about – to know we are loved beyond measure, to know we are loved by God, Father, Son, and Spirit. He has accepted us as His own, given us peace beyond explanation, and therefore we delight in worshipping Him.
We are His… and even on Monday, that is incredible news.
(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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you are telling me: Lead this people. But you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said: You are my intimate friend; You have found favor with me. 13 Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways so that, in knowing you, I may continue to find favor with you. See, this nation is indeed your own people. 14 The LORD answered: I myself will go along, to give you rest. 15 Moses replied, “If you are not going yourself, do not make us go up from here. 16 For how can it be known that I and your people have found favor with you, except by your going with us? Then we, your people and I, will be singled out from every other people on the surface of the earth.” 17 The LORD said to Moses: This request, too, which you have made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.
18 Then Moses said, “Please let me see your glory!” 19 The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, “LORD,” before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.f 20 But you cannot see my face,g for no one can see me and live. 21 Here, continued the LORD, is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. 22 When my glory passes I will set you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face may not be seen. Ex 33:11–23 NABRE
The New Testament does not say that men conciliate God, as we really ought to expect, since after all it is they who have failed, not God. It says on the contrary that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This is truly something new, something unheard of—the starting-point of Christian existence and the center of New Testament theology of the Cross: God does not wait until the guilty come to be reconciled; he goes to meet them and reconciles them. Here we can see the true direction of the Incarnation, of the Cross. Accordingly, in the New Testament the Cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way around.
Moses is not the only one to have the struggle he describes in this passage from Exodus. We all do, we all face situations where we don’t want to go another step further, because we simply do not have the strength.
It may be that we can’t deal with the people we are called to serve, as Moses often struggled. Or maybe we see how impossible the task is, and we know it cannot be done with God’s presence. Maybe we perceive the situation as being unfair, (whether it is or not is actually not relevant -get used to this idea: life isn’t fair!)
It might be more personal, the struggle that you have that you don’t want to face. It may be that you have to be freed from a sin that has its hooks in you, like Israel faced so many times in the desert. It could be some dark area that God wants you to be freed from, but it is so hard to break free.
Moses keeps telling God – I can’t go there without you! If you are my God, please help, if I have an intimate relationship with you, don’t leave me alone. He’s pleading for what every other religion tells us is impossible.
For God to come to us, as we are crushed, oppressed, weary and broken. As we know the law that condemns us or the people we care about all to well.
As Pope Benedict XVI points out, this is where things are different with Jesus, with the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. He comes to us, He always has! He came to Adam and Eve in the garden, He came to Abraham (even when he was trying to pass off his wife as his sister!) He came to Hagar at the well. He came to David in his sin, and encouraged Moses and even Hosea to deal mercifully with the unfaithful, and gave them the strength of heart and soul to deal with those trapped in sin.
He even gives us glimpses of Him, as He ministers to us. Yes, the obvious glimpses of His faithfulness in the past, to those who are broken like us, in need of healing, like us. In need of knowing we are in His presence.
But glimpses as well in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, the feast were we see the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away our sin.
Who comes to us, and we hear Him as He promises, “your sins are forgiven.”
He comes to us… He brings us through the transformation that is repentance and makes His presence known, and that His presence is, as this translation puts it, that of an intimate friend.
This is what Advent is all about, as we meditate on His coming to us, in all our need!
May we realize our need, the same need as Moses, and may our eyes be opened to His presence.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 372). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:4 (Phillips NT)
“What is faith? Well, it is an act that penetrates to the very heart of a person, an act comparable to the definitive Yes of a great love. That is why faith not only can, but must, also be called grace, for like love, it is ultimately a gift, a recurring grace. We do not simply choose grace for ourselves, for grace is by nature an answer and is therefore attributable in the first place to what comes to me from another person, penetrates deeply into me, and makes me open to say thou and so to become truly I. It is, in truth, a gift given me by another person, and yet I am more deeply and more completely involved in it than in any work I might have chosen for myself. Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him. Faith penetrates to what is most personal and most interior in me and, in doing so, responds to the Person of Jesus Christ, who calls me by name. But just because it is so entirely personal, faith has nothing narrow or exclusive about it; rather, it leads me into the community.” (1)
14 We lay hold of him when our heart embraces him and clings to him.
15 To cling to him with all our heart is nothing else than to entrust ourselves to him completely. He wishes to turn us away from everything else, and draw us to himself, because he is the one eternal good. It is as if he said: “What you formerly sought from the saints, or what you hoped to receive from mammon or anything else, turn to me for all this; look upon me as the one who wishes to help you and to lavish all good upon you richly.”
16 Behold, here you have the true honor and the true worship which please God and which he commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart should know no other consolation or confidence than that in him, nor let itself be torn from him, but for him should risk and disregard everything else on earth.
If you didn’t know from whom the above quotes in blue and green came from (the citations are below0, you would hold them to be in agreement. They are both consistent with the top quote from scripture, which describes God’s work in His people.
That faith comes from, is born from knowing that God loves you (yes, you the reader) and that love is revealed in Christ Jesus.
Both Cardinal Ratzinger’s (later Pope Benedict XVI) and Martin Luther agree on this, the intimate relationship that God calls us to, as He unites us to Christ
When I came across Cardinal Ratzinger’s words in my devotions this morning, I was amazed at this picture he draws, of God’s love penetrating deeply within us. That love gives us the ability to respond to God, to return His love as we recognize His presence. And in coming to know His is with us, we find out who we really are. Everything else is laid aside, except for the relationship God has called us to. A relationship where we can trust God completely, with everything we are, even the darkest, most troubled parts of our souls.
I find these words so… powerful, so resonant with the truth we know, yet struggle to believe. That God cares for us, and would free and with great love cleanse us from all that causes the guilt and shame. Even the stuff we don’t want to admit.
As we entrust ourselves to Him, as we put our faith in Him, we achieve something the world cannot. We understand that when life is fully about God, it is fully about us. For in our dance with God, nothing can separate us from Him, nothing can tear us away from that moment and the realization that Christ is with us.
Cardinal Ratzinger makes the link, in this devotion to baptism. I also see the link to the communion of the saints, that moment when God has called us all together, made us one. God’s work, he says, is so personal that it cannot be exclusive, that is why we rejoice that we are tasked with reconciling every person to God. That is why we want to reveal this treasure, this hope to everyone.
We gather to worship to celebrate this very thing, and it is that which unites us, this presence of Christ. It is why I would rather pray for the church’s unity, rather than celebrate any division in the church. That we would recognize that which Paul says,
2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:2-6 (NLT)
One God and Father, who is over all, and in all and living though all,….
May we grow in such faith, as Christ is revealed, bringing us to faith, to entrusting ourselves to Him.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 366). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
45 A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 (TEV)
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. 9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7a,9 (TEV)
26 It is painful to see that after two thousand years there are so few people in the world who call themselves Christians and that of those who do call themselves Christians, so few practise the true teaching of Jesus Christ. It is worth while putting our whole life at stake!: working and suffering for Love, to accomplish God’s plans and co-redeem.(1)
I hear people claiming they know God, that they invited Him into their heart, that respond, “and also with you” or “and with your Spirit. I do as well, and yes, this blog is written at me, as well as many of you.
If this is true, an I read the first quote from St. Luke’s Gospel correctly, then what should flow out of our mouths should be Christ Jesus’s words. Words that encourage, words that heal, words that forgive and reconcile, words that invite people on a journey with Christ, towards the Father, towards eternity.
But what comes out of our mouth more often is complaining, criticising, lofty words that extol theological treatises, but never point to Christ. Words that are full of innuendo, cheaping the blessing that God gives in the intimate relationship between a man a woman that He has joined together in marriage. Words that lie, or gossip (is there a difference?) the demean, or dominate. Curses, swears, false oaths. Words dripping with sarcasm, not realizing the blood those words can draw. Words that not only judge, but condemn and call for death to those whose sins are different than us. Words that betray a heart that doesn’t trust in anything, nevermind praising God for the promises He is fulfilling in our lives.
When I was a younger pastor, I would suggest that we just need to be disciplined. That we struggle to be righteous in our words by simply a force of will. Except that I didn’t quite get that the words are but a symptom of a heart and soul issue. We might be able to discipline our tongues in some things like word choice (though we will slip out now and then…) But what about our thoughts, our attitudes, and what we truly trust in? Those still will betray us unless there is a change.
Unless our souls, our hearts, our minds find themselves being conformed to the mind of Christ. Unless we see the cross, and its suffering that Christ embraced as an example of His love and desire for us. It is there, in awe of the Body of Christ broken, the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins, that change begins to happen. It is as we realize that God has marked us, claimed us, sealed us as His in Baptism, that He has reconciled and absolved us in sin. That the Father in Heaven calls us His children, that Jesus will call us His brothers, that the Holy Spirit will reside in us; this is when this transformation, this metamorphosis happens.
it is them, like St Josemaria encourages, that we begin to desire to put our whole life on the line, and work and sacrifice in ways without even considering that it is work, that it is sacrificing our lives. It is then, tired, weary, even burnt out, that what comes from our hearts, souls and minds are the words of God. The miraculous words that bring to Him a people, who weren’t a people.
The Lord is with you always, dwell on that, recognize its truth, meditate on the blessing that is, a blessing revealed in God’s word, and delivered in the sacraments.
The Lord is with you…and He has brought you many gifts, the gift of faith, and the gift of repentance, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of life. ….
The Lord is with you, showing you the depth, the height, the width and breadth of God’s love you…. dwell on this, as often as you can……and then watch what happens to your words, and your thoughts.
The Lord is with you…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 329-333). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.