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Florida, An Elevator, and Peace….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 

1   On that day, you will say: I give you thanks, O LORD; though you have been angry with me, your anger has abated, and you have consoled me. 2  God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior. 3  With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation, 4  and say on that day: Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. 5  Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth. 6  Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!
Isaiah 12:1-6 (NAB)

The impression that people have today is that being a Christian is something irksome, a multiplicity of commands and prohibitions to which new prohibitions are added with every increase in knowledge and every new possibility that is opened to us. Little by little, it begins to seem impossible to live all that, to bear all that. Ultimately, faith seems to be just a burden. But when a person has once met Christ, when a person has once seen Jesus and really learned to know him, then everything is changed. Then everything else is comprehensible and life is renewed. And you priests have really only one task: to present Jesus to all people in such a way that they see him and learn to love him. Then everything that faith teaches will be self-evident.

I remember then that Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians, described his activity as apostle and priest in the following words: “I depicted Christ clearly before your eyes” (cf. Gal 3:1). Ultimately that is what the priesthood is all about: to have seen Jesus oneself, to have received with love him whom we have seen, to live in that seeing, and then to show him to others.  (1)

Yesterday, I awoke to the news that there was a tragedy, an act of terrorism by a man who was described by many as always angry, always wanting to strike out. A man who grew up here, in a land full of churches, in a land of freedom.

Today I woke up to a memory on Facebook, reminding me of another angry young man.  One who was specifically trained in the middle east to be a cold-blooded assassin.  He grew up in a nation torn by war, where both sides persecuted their enemies.  Where family members died, and where revenge was a way of life. It was tied to religion and culture, ethnicity and historic hatred.  A man who didn’t murder 49 people yesterday, but instead helped other know peace.  A year ago today he visited my church and shared about both his anger and brokenness, and how he now knew peace.

As I look at the star contrast, the difference between the two men, the difference comes down to a moment in an elevator.  AN elevator in a war-torn country that is still torn apart today.

Yeah, started in an elevator,  maybe the time it takes to travel 10-12 stories.  The man with the history, whose brother was killed, who family was torn apart by war, stepped into the elevator where another man was.  A man who could have represented everything the man was against.

And in those brief moments, everything changed.  In those moments, the brokenness of both men, and the fact that one found hope and healing, enabled the other man to do the same.

Peace became evident where it should not have had the slightest chance. Love made the difference, as an old man reached out to an angry young guy and who over time would depict Christ clearly to him, who would give him hope, who would see him come to know God’s love and praise the God, who saved him. The angry young guy is now a pastor, trying to reach out to others, and bring them peace.  The older man, simply took the time to listen, and talk, and share the peace he knew helped him in his brokenness.  The story of a man who loved his enemies enough to let them kill Him, so He could bring them peace, sanctuary, rest, and joy.

I am not sure if anyone ever tried to reach out to the man who terrorized a community as he killed people whose parents, siblings, friends who are traumatized and grieving this morning. I have heard that many recognized his brokenness and even lived in fear of him.

I don’t know about the past, save that we can learn from it.  We can reach out to those who are broken, who seem depressed, who are angry, hurt, even those who aren’t like “us.”  (Whatever that means)  We can make known His works to all the nations, doing so in a way that is loving and respectful.  We can love them, and pray for them, and see God work in their lives.

For in our brokenness, we have seen Christ, we have received Him and learned to love Him, and living in fellowship with Him.   We can show him to others….loving them,

even in an elevator…

Lord have mercy upon us ALL!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 
(1)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 191). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Necessity of Martyrdom, our Martyrdom.

Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Nazarene and Cross
10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

21  But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the LORD and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.” 2 Samuel 15:21 (NLT) 

I’ve seen all over the Facebook and Twitter the Arabic letter Nain.  Most are putting it up; they claim, in solidarity with the Christians in Mosul and Iraq who are facing persecution and reportedly are being martyred.  The story goes that it is the letter that is being painted on the homes of Christians, to mark and identify them.  It’s a handy little symbol and stands for “Nazarene.”  People are free to harass, persecute and even kill those who live in those homes.

I haven’t seen necklaces and wristbands with the symbol on it yet, but I am pretty sure some entrepreneur will develop them soon.

It’s popular; it’s in vogue, it makes us somehow feel like we are doing something against the evil in their lands.

Most of us aren’t. We may change the photo on our FB.  We might even donate an extra 10 or 20 bucks in the offering plate and designate it for relief.  We might have heard them added to our prayers at church on Sunday, and said amen under our breath. (that assumes we were there, and heard the prayers)

But are we really willing to go to Iraq and stand beside them, and/or take their punishment?  ( Sometime read the story of the martyrdom of Maximilian Kolbe – a catholic saint who did that very thing!)   How far are we willing to take this fight?

And what fight is it?  Is it a fight against injustice, the fight for making sure that no one ever suffers persecution.  It’s a fight that no one ever has to faith death because of their faith?

Or is the fight something against something more insidious, something more evil, evil incarnate, the power of Satan. The power of the one who would accuse us of the sins we have committed and demand that we pay for each and everyone.

Revelation is clear on how that evil is defeated.

1.  By remembering that Christ’s death, the shedding of His Blood cleanses, purifies and sanctifies us.  That God declares us righteous and just because of that blood being shed.

2.  By the words of our martyrdom, the words of  our witness.  It is interesting to note that martyrdom and witness are the same word in Greek. That we are so in awe of #1 that we have to share it with others, That God’s love and desire to save us transforms us into wanting others saved, even at great cost.  For some that means they will dedicate their lives to serving wherever God wants, even if it means forgoing things the rest of us take for granted.  Families, homes. jobs, personal pleasure. For others, it may mean their life.

For all of us, it means sacrificing the idol of self and pleasure.  If we aren’t willing to do even that, can we say we stand in solidarity with those who

3.  #1 and #2 lead to this – that we can’t love our life so much that we aren’t willing to sacrifice, or even portions of it (say a day off or a vacation, or even time with family) that others might know.

Paul talks of standing in solidarity, standing in communion, when he encourages the church to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”  He does it again as he asks us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Jesus’ words about those that would save their life must offer it up.   In each, solidarity is not seen apart from martyrdom,  In each we take up our cross, we willingly pay the price that others would know that God can be trusted, even through death

It goes deeper – for we are united with Christ’s martyrdom, with His witness, with His cross.  There is where we find our salvation, our deliverance, in the fact that He didn’t cling to life, but gave up Himself, for us.  You see that Nazarene died for us, even as some die for Him, even as we who live are living sacrifices to Him. Without His cross – without our unity to Him in it, our symbolism is void and worthless.

May we embrace whatever shame, whatever cost, whatever sacrifice is necessary, for the joy that was set before Him and before us.

Lord have mercy on us!

Hope Amidst Distant Wars, Rumours of Wars, and Your Personal Battles…

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

1  How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 (NLT) 

756         I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity throughout the day.  (1)

I’ve heard a lot of speculation recently on Israel and Palestine, people trying to justify the killing that is going on, from one side or the other.  Even the passages from scripture, about wars and rumours of wars have been used to justify war, ( I think those passages can bring us comfort and solace – but to justify it?)  The same kind of speculation about what is going on in Iraq, and in the Ukraine, and in a dozen other places around this world.

Yeah, there are going to be wars.  But that doesn’t mean we have to like it!  It doesn’t mean, that like Pope Francis, we can’t pray diligently that these brothers would stop warring against each other. (It amazes me  For them to realize they are brothers and sisters, that who they are killing are their own.

(Yeah, I realize that what I am saying is going to tick them both off at me – but hey – it just proves that they can agree on something!)

Its hard for them to see, I realize, that they are all related through Noah, and perhaps through Abraham. That even more, as people who Jesus Christ was crucified to redeem, they could be brothers via the application of His blood for all the sins that separate them.  After all, we see such an example in people like the Apostles Matthew and Simon the Zealot, and of course in the Apostle Paul

Peace, real peace, not just a passing cease fire, or a UN mediated true, has to come spiritually, It has to come from the One who died to end sin, to bring hope, to establish peace in our hearts.  As St Josemaria wrote, we have to increase our awareness of the supernatural, of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.  Only then will we see our brothers and sisters in a different light, only then will we see them as children of God, as righteous in Christ, and realize that to cause them sorrow, is to cause ourselves sorrow. Consider these verses, and God’s call to love your adversaries,

  14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!   Romans 12:14-16 (NLT)

That is true whether we are talking about national and international battles, or the battles that can rage in our workplaces, or homes.  Or the relationships that cause us stress, anxiety, even mild cases of paranoia.

Is it possible to live at peace?  I do not know.  I know it is possible to live In peace, the peace of Christ.

May you find yourself drawn into that peace, and may you draw those you are “at war” with, into that peace as well.

And pray, for the peace of Israel, and for those who oppress them!  (Jeremiah 29:7)

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3142-3144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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