The Effect of the Resurrection
Part III: Losing our Ignorance
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ circumcise your heart, cutting away all the ignorance, hatred and sin. Leaving you holy, transformed in heart, soul and mind. Amen!
I need a break!
Over and over this week, there is one phrase that I kept on wanting to explore. It is one I think I understand, but there are times, where I wonder what it would be like to experience such a time.
The phrase is, “times of refreshment”
I mean if our weeks at all were similar, you don’t know what that means either.
I mean it sounds like those days when we were young and were playing baseball or in our case hockey, or whatever, and after sweating and running around I the hot sun, we all had a cold glass of Kool-aid, then dove in the lake, or a friend’s pool
That sounds refreshing!
In our reading from acts, it is not just a time of refreshment that is promised as God transforms us, as our sins are wiped away, buts times, seasons of it. Time upon time of living in that refreshment, that time when the soul is healthy!
But as to what such a time is today, I am not sure. You might say I am ignorant of such a time, but it sure sounds nice!
How could they be that ignorant?
As Peter discussed all of those who were involved in crucifying Jesus, he doesn’t call the people and their leaders, evil. He doesn’t say they are wicked, or bad. Instead, He says that they were ignorant, that they didn’t know better.
Now I suppose it is better to be called ignorant rather than evil. Still being called ignorant is not really fun to hear. In this case, where they rejected and crucified the Messiah, despite Pilate’s protest, it seems impossible. How could they not know Jesus was the Messiah?
I think before we go any farther, we need to understand what ignorance in the Bible is.
It is not about having the data about something. It goes deeper than that, and in fact, that depth is the key to defining ignorance and overcoming it.
We talked about this term last week, when the two disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and they didn’t know it was him. The word isn’t talking about simple recognition, it’s the term that indicates understanding someone the way you can when you live with them for year and decades. When you can finish their sentences for them when you know how they are feeling and what is on their hearts.
It is what, for lack of a better term, I call having an intimate relationship.
Not that kind, though oddly enough, the same word in Greek and Hebrew describes that as well.
They crucified Jesus because they didn’t understand Him. Despite all the scriptures telling them about the Son of God, they did it. They sinned.
Much the same as we do when we choose to sin.
We forget Jesus, we don’t understand or really, deeply know God. And so, being ignorant about Jesus, being ignorant of God, we ignore the way He planned for us to live, a life of love and peace.
And a God draws us to Himself, as He brings us to repentance as He brings us to this transformation where we allow Him to cut away the sin, and the guilt and the shame, the ignorance is removed as well
And what we find out when we enter this relationship is that God loves us, He cares so deeply for us. He makes us whole and brings us a peace.
That is what the ignorance was hiding, that is what we couldn’t know when we didn’t understand God. And it was that way until God started to work in our lives. Until He brought us to repentance, to that place where our souls find healing, much as this lame man found healing.
Everything changes when we realize how much God loves us, how unwilling He is to be separated from us.
One pastor, in explaining how a church service is organized, explained this love of God in this way.
This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.
This is why we do what we do, why we worship the way we do, and study the Bible and pray, and remind each other of the Lord’s presence, for the more we do, the more we know Him, in a way that is so full of peace and joy.
It is as we see this God, revealed to us, that the power of sin is broken, that it is wiped out of our lives that we are free, that we finally find the love that we so need, and the peace, and the refreshment until He comes and restores all things…as He has promised.
So let us pray…
Devotional Thought for our days….
Like a young man taking a virgin as his bride, He who formed you will marry you.
As a groom is delighted with his bride, So your God will delight in you. Isaiah 62:4 TEV
8 But you are our Father, LORD. We are like clay, and you are like the potter. You created us, 9so do not be too angry with us or hold our sins against us for ever. We are your people; be merciful to us. Isaiah 64:8-9 TEV
You will be like a child that is nursed by its mother, carried in her arms, and treated with love. 13I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child. Isaiah 66:12-13
For God, we are not numbers! We are important; indeed, the most important of all his creatures, the closest to his heart whether we are saints or sinners.
Yet sisters continued to leave and new ones failed to come. Perhaps, without being fully aware of the reasons, women religious felt a deep unrest at living in a Church in which Christianity is reduced to an ideology of doing, a Church in which there is no longer any place for mystical experience, for that zenith of religious life that has been—and not by chance—the most precious treasure of the Church through centuries of uninterrupted constancy and fullness in the lives of religious, usually women rather than men; in the lives of those extraordinary women whom the Church has honored with the title “saint”, and sometimes even “doctor”, not hesitating to offer them as models for all Christians.
As I study the scriptures with a group of guys, all who are servants of the church, there is a debate that is somewhat constant. It is over the use of a phrase that I use to help us study and communicate the good news of God’s love and care.
The phrase is simple, two words that I feel capture the essence of what we need to make sure people understand about God and them. The words are
They would plead that we can’t use those two words together, they will scare off men, they will be heard and people will think about sex or sensual or even perverse relationships. For years I have asked them to come up with another phrase, another way to express what Hebrew and Greek words like Agape and cHesed and Eleos do.
They cannot. And they admit that this is at the heart of the gospel, this relationship with God that is so deep, so powerful, so captivating. So intimate.
The Old Testament prophets saw this and expressed it simply and clearly. Isaiah even is inspired to compare it to the delight of a groom as he takes his bride to himself. He will also compare it to a woman nourishing her newborn. or an artist crafting His creation ( relative to Eph. 2:10) and the relationship the artist has with his work.
It is scary, as anyone who has been a bride or groom knows, the anxiety of letting a person get that close to you, not just physically, but spiritually, psychologically. Letting every barrier down, turning every defensive mechanism off, simply loving and being loved. Whether it is the groom, the newborn’s mom, or the artist, each opens themselves up to the “Other”, or as some philosophers have said, the “Thou” is important to the I and they reach a point where you can’t define one without the other!
That is what “intimate relationship” describes,
What Isaiah also notes is that God is the one who initiates this, who keeps it going, who is responsible. The groom in those days, the mom feeding the infant, the artist creating the “Work”. Each has the responsibility in the relationship for making it happen, for making the connection.
As Pope Francis notes, we aren’t just numbers, we are just parts of the Body of Christ, Each one of us has that relationship with God! As Benedict grieves, it is this zenith, this mystical experience, this constant fullness of the presence of God has gone missing from the church, and why it is weaker without the women (and some men) who could experience such joy, such delight, such wonder as living in the presence of God brings.
Luther would call this living the baptized life, living in the truth that in our baptism, we are united with Christ, and become one with Him. We live in Christ, for there is love, and joy and peace, far deeper than we could have ever imagined.
Far more intimate that we could normally be comfortable with…
Yet a place of peace. deep abiding peace that is beyond the peace of the world, A peace so unexplainable, save with these words….
The Lord be with you!
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.
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:
9 I will thank you, O Lord, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 10 Your constant love reaches the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies! Psalm 57:9-10 GNT
52 “How terrible for you, you experts on the law. You have taken away the key to learning about God. You yourselves would not learn, and you stopped others from learning, too.” Luke 11:52 NCV
Baptism has also shifted away from identity with Jesus in his death and resurrection and turned into “my personal testimony to others that I have given my life over to Jesus.” The spiritual life in this case is not a passionate embrace of God signified by a baptism into his death and resurrection but a passionate embrace of my personal decision to follow Jesus signified by my conversion. In the outworking of this experiential spirituality, baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus is replaced by confidence in my personal decision. And baptism no longer has any meaning. (1)
In Martin Luther’s small catechism, there is one phrase that constantly appears.
What does this mean?
It appears so often, that it has become part of Lutheran’s vocabulary, a phrase that is reduced to a thought.
Even so, as we excel at defining the concept, it seems we’ve lost our ability to make the connection. We have become the experts in the law Jesus is talking about in Luke’s gospel, able to become experts on the Greek and Hebrew, experts on the nuances of the history/ grammar, but we’ve lost the key to it all, and in our pride, refused to learn. The impact on our churches is enormous, and though the details can hold some people’s attention and fascination, it does only that, and it neglects their heart, their soul.
This is demonstrated in the quote from Dr. Webber, where he summarizes a shift that took centuries, showing our teaching on baptism moving from something that had great personal meaning to a teaching that highly defines baptism, yet robs it of its connection to the person we are instructing.
But it is not just those who have lost sacramental insight that rob scripture and religious teaching of what Webber caused the Divine Embrace ( I often use “intimate relationship” while others use sacramental or incarnational). I have seen this occur in my own denomination, as teaching on ministry becomes more and more about proper order and understanding regarding the ordained clergy than what the role of the ordained is. We are nothing more than conduits, the pipe of the pipeline that carries grace. We are necessary only when our role is that of dispensing grace through Word and Sacrament. But our teaching has elevated the understanding of the ordained to a higher priority than preparing and placing them where people need them.
That’s where “what does it mean (to me)” is such a necessary question. Or where we ask “so what” when someone explains the “what” of theology. We give them what the caused the psalmist to rejoice, the revelation of God’s love, of God’s faithfulness, of a God comes to us, and shares with us His glory, His love, HIs peace. A God who nurtures and cares for you and I – not just some group which we may be on the fringe of, but He desires and cares for us specifically.
He embraces us.
This is what evangelism is about, what sharing the hope we have in these dark times means. It is the gospel we preach, it is why we should teach scripture. To answer the question that they should have – “what does this mean…. to me?”
May God bless us, as we reach out with His love… and may they hear it. AMEN!
(1) 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:
13 Then some people came to him bringing little children for him to touch. The disciples tried to discourage them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant and told them, “You must let little children come to me – never stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Indeed, I assure you that the man who does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and laid his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13 (Phillips NT)
But behold, I see a thing not understood by the proud, nor laid open to children, lowly in access, in its recesses lofty, and veiled with mysteries; and I was not such as could enter into it, or stoop my neck to follow its steps. For not as I now speak, did I feel when I turned to those Scriptures; but they seemed to me unworthy to he compared to the stateliness of Tully: for my swelling pride shrunk from their lowliness, nor could my sharp wit pierce the interior thereof. Yet were they such as would grow up in a little one. But I disdained to be a little one; and, swollen with pride, took myself to be a great one.
But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.
The words in blue from Augustine, one of the smartest philosopher-theologians amazed me this morning. As he writes his confession, not unlike Solomon, he describes the times of darkness. Even as he hungered for truth, he couldn’t find it.
Pope Benedict XVI’s words in the third quote support this lack of finding that which is sought for, as he responds that only conversion can bring what we need, what we search for in our lives. To paraphrase Socrates, we are only truly wise when we realize how much we don’t know..
It is ike Christmas and the difference between a child and an adult receiving a gift. The child is awe of the gift, even the box the gift came in! They are in the moment, enjoying it. They are often in awe, as if to say, “this is for me?” They dive into the joy of the moment, and that is their reality
As we grow older and know more, there is an innocence lost about such moments. We don’t often dive into the presents, the moments of joy, and we contemplate instead on how we will pay the bills, or why people don’t understand us (proven by one of those gifts again!
( I was thinking, based on years of marital counseling – people can treat sex the same way, losing the awe and being int he moment, instead trying to analyze it!)
SO it is with God, if we stay outside and try to study and understand Him. When developing the next great theological manuscript, or understanding what a dead guy said about some aspect of God, or His creation. We spend too much time looking for the big answers, seeking to understand things that are far greater than us, things that simply exist when we approach them as children
The solution to this is simple. The same as it is for the adult at Christmas. We need to get down on the floor and become part of the celebration. We need to engage in the joy, in the moment, in the relationship that God desires with us. We need to pray more, trust more and celebrate His love with all of our heart and soul, mind and strength.
That may mean dropping that theology text, or putting aside that debate.
That’s okay, if you were meant to write it, or read it, you will get far more out of it when you have spent some time in the moment with the Lord who created that moment, and desires to spend it with you. If you don’t believe me, think about Augustine, Benedict, Luther, Socrates, and the 2-year old who simply wants to sit at the altar rail throughout the church service.
Lord, have mercy on us, please give us the trust and awe of a child!
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc
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. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day
10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (TEV)
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)
“If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?” “why?“ (1)
“The only preparation which multitudes seem to make for heaven is for its judgment bar,” (2)
Nearly 30 years ago, my pastor and I were trained in what was known as Evangelism Explosion. The goal of the ministry was to prepare people with a scripted message that they could share the Christian faith. Tens of thousands of pastors and people were trained in the method. The scripts basic concept (as with most evangelism methods ) was to give peopel the assurance of eternal life in heaven, rather than eternal damnation/annihilation/punishment and the wrath of God.
In fact, last week someone asked those very questions to me via social media.
And this blog has been simmering ever since. The key was the quote from my devotions this morning, which brought it home. is our evangelistic work as believers primarily focused on making sure people get into heaven? Or is it about giving them the life, the peace, and the knowledge of God’s presence in this life, that is our hope for eternity?
If it is evangelism to prevent them from being sent to hell, there is strong motivation that would cause us to share God’s love with those we care for, with those we love. But that mission accomplished, is there the tight communion that you should see, is there the shared life, is there a willingness to stay together through thick and thin. To be blunt, does create a life that struggles with sin, and strives to love others as Christ did?
If our questions and manuscripts lead people only to get past the St Peter and those who guard the gates of heaven, what are we really doing? is conversion something that happens in a twinkling of an eye? You were going to hell, woops now you are going to heaven?
Or is our hope, our expectation based on a promise that we have a hint, a glimpse of in this life, and that glimpse changes everything? A promise that is repeated time and time in the scriptures. “You will be my people, and I will be your God.”
isn’t that where our hope lies? In the fact that who weren’t once a people, are now a people? Isn’t our hope seen in the promise that God will transform us and cause us to walk in ways that are incredible and blessed. (even though they might include suffering)
The evangelism explosion questions have their place, much of the material I still use to this day. Even so, the direction of our evangelism must be more than selling eternal fire insurance. What our hope is based on is one promise, that is as true now as it will be then. That gives us hope for this world, when it seems like it is falling apart, and yes for eternity.
The hope that is found when we know that the Lord is with us, and will never abandon us.
May the questions you ask lead people to realize this.
(1) paraphrase of the two questions from Evangelism Explosion used in many evangelism training seminars
(2) Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper 1 Publcishing – the devotion for this day
Devotional Thought of the Day
And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’” Ezekiel 48:35b (NLT)
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)
Being saved means being loved and only the love of God can purify damaged human love and restore the network of relationships that has been fundamentally alienated. (1)
7 First of all, there is in this article no disagreement among us concerning the following points: That it is God’s will, ordinance, and command that believers walk in good works; that only those are truly good works which God himself prescribes and commands in his Word, and not those that an individual may devise according to his own opinion or that are based on human traditions; that truly good works are not done by a person’s own natural powers but only after a person has been reconciled to God through faith and renewed through the Holy Spirit, or, as St. Paul says, “has been created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
In church gatherings following what is called the traditional liturgy(3) there are two phrases, a statement, and a response, which I have come to treasure.
The pastor/priest/bishop says, “The LORD is with you!” And the people respond, “And also with you”, or perhaps in some forms, “and with your spirit”.
As I write this, the 1001st blog on justifiedandsinner, I can think of no better phrase, nor better promise to explore. If justification is the core doctrine in theology, this statement is the heart of theology. In fact, it is the sole reason for justification. Justification exists in order to draw and unite to God, a people who weren’t a people, to create His family, to give those who did not have a real god, but followed idols, a God that loves and cares who heals and forgives, who is merciful, and therefore just.
That is what it means; that is the bottom line promise throughout scripture. It was the promise in the Garden, and the promise of the Exodus, the promise of the restoration of Israel, as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold it. Though we can’t realize it, this promise was fulfilled and made real at the cross. The promise was restated as Jesus promised at the Ascension that He would never forsake us, and at Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came to abide in those God called and made His own. In the people, God is transforming and making into the image of His son.
This freedom from sin God gives us has a dramatic effect. It changes us into God’s workmanship – not just someday, but even now. That is what repentance is, not just some heartfelt apology, but the transformation of our mind, the putting on of Christ.
Side effects of the Lord being with you are well described above, but few highlights
- We are clothed with love Paul says, not as a command, but as the promise of our Baptism, a love that flows out to others. This isn’t some matter of force, or of obligation. It is a transformation God works inside us, the effect of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in us.
- We become those who walk in good works, as the Lutheran Confessions describe. Again, it is not a matter of obedience of our will, but the effect of reconciliation and renewal.
- We see relationships in a new light – that they are healing and healed by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead
These are incredible blessings, things beyond our ability to see and lay hold of perfectly. That again proves it is not ours naturally, but still something that becomes more and more our transformed nature, the effect of the trust in God the Holy Spirit works in us. It is part of what this idea that God is with us means.
But it is not the primary, glorious meaning to the Lord is with you….
The primary, glorious meaning of this simple phrase, is the phrase itself…..
HE is with YOU!
Revel in that, knowing that nothing can separate you from His love. AMEN!
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. 221). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 552). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(3) What traditional liturgy means fluctuates greatly over time and denominational affiliation -but the basic outline is similar.
devotional thought fo the day
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matthew 28:20b (NLT)
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Mt 1:23
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Mt 18:20
“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” (1)
2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself. (2)
584 Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!” (3)
We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things (4)
When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog. Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read. It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember. The critical fact I need to remember.
To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us. He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us. Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.
It all begins and ends with that relationship.
Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship. The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.
This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism. It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)
This is what our religion is all about, walking with God. Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.
It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.
I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.
The Lord is with you!
1. Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana
3. Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
4. 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. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.