Devotional Thought for the Day:
23 But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24 What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! Romans 7:23-25 GNT
We, on the other hand, teach and comfort an afflicted sinner this way, and we console the afflicted sinner: “Friend, it is impossible for you to become so righteous in this life that your body is as clear and spotless as the sun. You still have spots and wrinkles (Eph 5:27); nevertheless, you are holy.” You, however, say, “How can I be holy, when I have sin and I perceive it?” “It is good that you perceive and recognize sin. Give thanks to God, and do not despair. It is one step toward health when a sick person recognizes and admits the disease.” “But how will I be liberated from sin?” “Run to Christ, the Doctor, who heals the contrite of heart and saves sinners. Believe in him. If you believe, you are righteous, because you give glory to God that God is omnipotent, merciful, truthful, etc. You justify and praise God. In sum, you attribute divinity and all things to God. The sin that still remains in you is not imputed to you but pardoned for the sake of Christ, in whom you believe and who is perfectly righteous in a formal sense. His righteousness is yours; your sin is his.”
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.
Sin is a serious issue.
The brokenness it causes is even far more serious. It shatters individuals, friendships, marriages, churches, communities.
It rages like a forest fire, and it often seems we are helpless ot do anything about it. We struggle to confront it in our own lives, and we are afraid to deal with it in others.
Rather than do so, we compromise, and settle for the brokenness, even embracing it, for the cost seems to high. Except the cost of NOT dealing with it is higher.
Paul demonstrates that in his plea to be rescued from death, a cry of hope that brings him to the only hope. We have to let Christ deal with it. We have to let the Holy Spirit cut us open, and the mercy of God penetrate to the most personal, intimate, secluded places where the brokenness has taken root.
As the Holy Spirit uproots the brokenness, He plants faith, the ability to entrust ourselves to Jesus, and to grow in our dependence on His work, trusting Him to pardon us, to declare that we are righteous and belong in the presence of God the Father.
Even though the struggle goes on, even if the struggle is magnified by our realizing how deep our sin and rebellion is buried, that very realization is proof of God’s work, unearthing it so He can heal us.
Healing is painful, coming face to face with the pain we thought we had buried, that we had gotten past, burying it deeply within. Yet that pain needs to be truly dealt with, by the only one who can. God.
And He has at the cross, and as you were baptised, and every day of your life, as the Holy Spirit cleanses us deeply, comforting us, healing us, making us the Holy people of God, the children He has call to dwell in His presence. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 168). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
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. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
A Chance to Relive our Deliverance
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to go all through your community and tell them everything God has done for you!
A Map of our Journey
Today’s message is a little different than most of those I deliver. I am going to take you on your life’s journey, seen through the eyes of the man who had been possessed not by just a demon, but whose life had been a plaything for thousands of them.
For most of us, such a journey is difficult, because, well I could joke and say it is because we are at Concordia, but because, as one philosopher once said, “life is suffering” Or so it can seem! Especially when Jesus seems like he’s moved on from us.
So let the journey begin.
The journey begins… alone and in darkness
Before we knew Christ, and even some days now, our lives seem like that of the man who found Jesus on the side of the lake. We may not live among the gravestones, or actually be the property of a horde of demons, but our lives may have been as dark.
Sin can dominate and rule us as certainly as demons, and they aren’t afraid to haunt us with temptations that seek to ensnare us
Like the man, in those dark days, we barely know anything except the emptiness. We may feel quite distant from people, and though we love them, there is a grave disconnect, as if we aren’t sure they understand us, or “get” us.
We might even hear their words of love and care as them trying to control us, to force us to change from who we are, for the brokenness we experience seems to be who we are.
When we are in bondage to sin, like when the man was haunted and owned by demons, there is this sense of walking around in the fog, disconnected from the world.
Even God seems a bit hard to communicate with.
Did you ever notice Jesus doesn’t talk directly to him at first? He addresses that which haunts him?
Joined on the Journey
On this broken journey, that is what happens next, we all of a sudden find ourselves standing in brilliant daylight, freed from what has hounded us, what has caused us to be disconnected,
We are no longer alone, as the light sines from our partner in our journey, the one that makes it come alive. The brokenness seems, for the moment to be mending, and people notice as well, something is different in your life.
Some may even be overwhelmed by the change, like the community where the man who the demons were forced to free were overwhelmed. They didn’t know what to make of it, and were so afraid, they couldn’t adjust to the glory of God that was transforming this broken man’s life and making him whole and healthy.
No wonder all the man wanted to do was to sit at Jesus feet, to hear Him speak of the Father’s love, to dwell in the sweetness of the moment, to just enjoy the peace and freedom that is here.
I think that is why little kids love to come to this rail and just sit here… I know that is why here, at the altar, or even over on the side, hiding behind the pulpit is the place where I feel the most at home in the entire world.
It is so radically different from dwelling in darkness, hounded by sin and despair.
To just sit here and know, the Lord is with you, and that because Jesus has risen, so we are risen indeed! ALLELUIA
He wants us to go where? WHY?
is then we hear the words of Jesus, as He leaves where He found us, and began
our healing, and showed His love, and the life that His gives us, freed,
forgiven, and healed/
We want to stay here, we never want to go without Him, and He says to us, as he did to the man, “No, go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you!”
Uhm, Lord, if I walk away, what happens if the demons return? What If I can’t handle it, and I fall into temptation and sin reaches out and gets me?
I can imagine these things went through his mind. Why? Because they can go through my mind, when I forget the most important truth in my life, that the Lord Is with me.
Then there is the fear, if I was this man, I would phrase It this way. “Lord, send me to anywhere, but please not back to the people that know me and my weakness so well. Not back to the people that rejected me, and who I have hurt. I could come up with 1000 reasons, but the bottom line is that I would rather be here, in them moments to come.
I even wonder if Jesus wasn’t accepted by his family, why I would ever expect my family and my community to listen to me.
Even so, having delivered us from what oppressed us, and as He is healing us, He sends us out, to those who will recognize the change God has made in our lives, to those whom we know need what God has given us. And as we share what God has done in us, we realize the depth of His love even more, and we realize what it means that because He died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we have risen indeed, and were are given new life and the companionship of the Holy Spirit who resides in us.
The more we experience this love, the more we seek to share what God has done, and that is something we can share…. Reliving again and again what He has done, as we share these blessings… and are in awe of His love.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize the incredible done in our lives, help us to live our lives, among those whom You have sent us, sharing all the mind-blowing things You have done for us. Help us to praise Your name while sharing it with those around us who need to escape their darkness. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT
The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.
But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.
To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”
In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.
And I know I am not alone.
We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.
you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.
That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.
It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.
And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.
They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.
This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.
Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. Amen.
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. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15 Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16 The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16 (TEV)
7 “Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am GOD, your God. 8 Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the GOD who makes you holy. Leviticus 20:7-8 (MSG)
The author of The Way shows that this invitation or calling does not in itself involve an invitation to leave one’s place, to choose another way of life; in fact, for the great majority of Christians it is an invitation to face the ordinary circumstances of one’s existence and find there a divine way which must be made holy. That is why Monsignor Escrivá rejects the temptation to “get out of place” (832), because this amounts to avoiding the will of God. Each Christian must find a holiness in keeping with his own mission and his own state in life; and so the ordinary Christian, who lives in the middle of the world, should sanctify himself and others by means of the world itself, sanctifying his professional work and his whole life.
If I asked 100 church going people, I wonder how they would answer the following question.
“Is your life sacred and holy”
I imagine some might answer with a theological statement, or some might answer from the perspective of pride and answer, “of course”. But I think most of us would look down, theink about the last few days and with a bit of regret and check the box that says, “no.”
I’ve written before that we don’t have a good handle on holiness, Most of us think it has to do with being good, with not just limiting sin, but to be some kind of spiritual superhero. (Have you watched superhero movies, those folk are far from perfect!) Someone who leaves wealth and riches to go serve in a third world country, or someone who prays for hours and “glows” like Moses did as he left the presence of God.
We hear the Apostle Peter’s words to be holy, because God is holy and we shake our heads, as we realize how impossible that command is.
We might even wonder if it would be more possible somewhere else, given a fresh start, given a new surrounding, one more conducive to holiness. (anyone want to start a new monastery?)
I love the words form the introduction to St. Josemaria’s classic devotional book, “The Way”. We find a “Divine Way” not on a mountain top, or in a cathedral, but right where God has placed us. Right in front of the people who have seen you sin, who have seen you be hypocritical, who know you at your worst.
That is where holiness is found. That is where we realize how sacred our life is, as it intersects with God. THat is where we find ourselves serving those who are broken, trying to help them know God, as we know God. Guiding them as they explore how wide, how broad, how deep and wide God’s lve is for them, as they experience that which they can’t understand, but they can know.
There in the midst of the brokennes, we find holiness. Not from our great effort, but just because we have to cling to God. We realize His power at work in us. We find that living a sacred, holy life is something that we are committed to, but that God makes happen, it is His craftsmanship, (Also see 2 Thes. 2:13) It is the transformation of our hearts and minds that God creates and sustains. Our biggest challenge? Not fighting against it, and allowing our old self-serving nature in to grab a foothold.
You are Holy, your life is sacred, from the moment God called you and the Spirit went to work, this has been the goal. It is the reason Jesus was incarnate and born of Mary, the reason for His life and teaching, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascension. All of that works toward this one goal , of setting you apart for a relationship with God, Father, Son and Spirit.
This is it, something we have to trust and depend on God for, as we walk with Him. Life has a way of making us depend upon Him, and that dependence (what chruch fathers called Tentatio) is part of He makes us Holy, how our life becomes sacred. That dependence is called faith, the gift He gives us to depend on Him.
Another way to look at it, if the presence of God in a bush that is aflame makes the ground around it holy and sacred, what does the presence of the Holy Spirit do in our lives. What simply makes the difference is our awareness of God’s presence and work in our lives.
RIght here, right now, whereever we are stuck and struggling.
He is with you.. and therefore,
Your life is sacred and holy.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 97-102). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts for the day:
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NLT2)
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.
And if our life means anything, if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and does some good, it is that somehow, by being here, at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand. William Brodrick
The Eucharist will restore to us our original dignity: to that of rational beings: not rationalists but rational ones, perfected by the grace of faith, hope and charity. This is a healing from a deviant emotionalism that is wrought by an authentic theological life, which puts the emotions and feelings in their rightful place. Otherwise, one is faced with two temptations: either lose oneself in emotion, or reject it categorically, which in both cases is a tragedy for the humanity of the person. Only an authentically theological life restores to human affectivity its legitimate and rightful place, including in our devotional lives.
As I sit in my home office, I am looking back on a week that I could never have imagined happening to me as a pastor. I am not talking about never imagining it when I was 8 and felt the “call” to be the pastor. Or when I was 18-22 and studying to be one.
I am talking about never imagining it as far back in time as last Wednesday.
And I have seen a thing or two as a pastor, and helped people pick up the pieces of hundreds if not a thousand or more traumatic experiences.
And so when I cam across the words of Mr. Broderick above, they resonnated incredibly well. there is where I stand, in the midst of the extremes of life (and along with me the staff of my church and school.) It is not the queit place it normally has been, and while the sense of peace is being revealed again, there are the challenges we have endured that have marked us.
But we are that candle, and by being here, in this moment, we help those around us cope with what they cannot understand, what we cannot understand. What was beyond our imagination, and yet became a reality.
So in the midst of that, we learn to focus on what is dependable, what brings about peace, what cannot be seen or perceived completely, yet has been promised to us.
We look to the Eucharist, the Body broken, the Blood poured out to restore us, to renew us, to help us believe and depend on God, even in the times we struggle to believe, because our minds cannot understand. This is what renews us, what calms our fears, that strengthens our dependence on Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And then in the midst of a peace that is beyond our understanding, we find our hearts and souls healing, and we realize the healing that we have been able to help others find.
Lord, bless us as we pray! You promised the Holy Spirit would interpret those prayers, even with groaning deeper than our own. Help us to look to You, to see Your love revealed, to strengthen our faith, our trust in Your love. Lord we need to know You are here, so make it evident that You, Lord, are with us! AMEN!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 121). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ 5/31/2019
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry and don’t keep saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:31 (Phillips NT)
Therefore, I maintain there is no one who can know everything that the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they had to proclaim or teach something from this psalm, they would not know where to begin. In order to shame these evil people and to honor the word of God, I have decided to interpret this psalm myself. I would like people to see both how clear and common it is and how it is nonetheless unfathomable. Even if it seems obvious (which it is not), nonetheless in virtue and power it is unfathomable, and it always renews and creates a clean heart and refreshes, washes, comforts, and strengthens us without end. I see and learn daily how the beloved prophets studied the Ten Commandments from where their sermons and prophecies had their sources and springs. Let us now divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and admonition.
Benedict XVI told the young prisoners n the prison of Casal del Marmo in Rome on the 18th of March, 2007, “We have recalled that God loves us: this is the source of true joy. One can having everything one wants and still be sometimes unhappy. On the contrary, one could be deprived of everything, even freedom or health and still be in peace and joy, if God is in our heart. So therein lies the secret: that God is always in the first place in our life.”
Before him, St Augustine said, ‘Sometimes the doctor makes a mistake in promising the patient health of the body. God gives you a sure and free healing, that is salvation’. This is the first point: this confusion between health and salvation. Make no mistake, let us look for salvation and many things will follow.
“How is your spiritual health?”
More important than your financial health, your physical health, even more important than your financial health is the question of your spiritual health.
You many think differently, and could point to reasons why mental health or physical health is more important. You could claim that poor financial health could affect the rest.
I know a lot of people in poor health, and they know joy. I’ve been on the mission field and seen the smiles of children and adults, and know they have something the richest people in the word do not. I’ve worked with people challenged by illnesses of the mind, who even through their challenges, find peace and comfort at the altar, where they receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Yet we often get confused about what it means to be truly “healthy.” And the thing we omit the most is our spiritual condition. We refuse to ask ourselves
– are we struggling with a particular temptation or sin
– are we repressing anger and resentment
– are there people we’ve offended that we need to seek forgiveness from
– do we realize we are in the presence of God, God who loves us.
– are we taking the time to adore God, and to realize the work He is doing in us, renrewing us as the Spirit cleansses us, and empowers our will and our deeds?
– Do we depend on God more than we distrust the world’s leaders, (or trust and depend on them? )
– Do we trust and depend on God to make all things work in our lives for good. All things, including the crap we don’t like.
I think most of us are afraid to ask this question.
We feel like the negative answers would result in massive amounts of guilt, the pain of judging ourselves, the feeling of failure and condemantion. The shame of falling short.
But unless we ask ourslves, we will never resolve to apply the easiest healing remedy that exists for anything. For it is simply being in the presence of God, hearing His promsies, receiving His blessing that renews and refreshes us. This is the salvation that Augustine spoke of, a deliverance from spiritual death to an abundant life, now and forever,
This is why Luther said Psalm 118 was so deep, for this is what it reveals, and celebrates and drives into our soul at levels beyond our comprehension.
We need this, for it transforms our life, it actually helps us really live life
It is when this is taken care of by God, as we realize His work, that life changes… it really changes.
Heavenly Father, help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and those we care about and are responsible for guiding in the faith. Help us to desire to see Your work in our lives, that our shame and guilt are left behind, as we seek You, and Your influence in our lives. We ask this, knowing Your love for us, revealed in Jesus Chrsist. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 130). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 111). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20 do not despise inspired messages. 21 Put all things to the test: keep what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (TEV)
I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.
The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.
My youngest years were spent on the fringes of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Roman Catholic Church. And like many, I witnessed abuses, the one lady who always had to have a prophecy, the crowd of people mumbling their prayers, each one trying to be louder than the next, the people that claimed spiritually giftedness, only to go hang out after the prayer meeting talking in ways that weren’t godly. I know too many people who bore scars and are afraid of churches because of those days.
(Note: I have seen similar folk in most of the churches and denominations I’ve been associated with over the years.)
And noting the extremes of such movements, if people stay in the church, they end up in churches that deny the Holy Spirit works in any miraculous way today. They come so close to embracing a form of deism, thinking that God left us the scriptures (and maybe the sacraments) and therefore we need nothing else, even His presence.
You really can’t claim that Pope Benedict or Martin Luther were charismatic or pentecostal extremists. In fact, most would assume they are contrary to the position of those movements.
Yet they both see an incredible need for the church to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Their words resonate with St. Paul’s about ot restraining the Holy Spirit, but heeding the Spirit’s call, and taking joy in the work of the Holy Spirit, as He calls, gathers, enlightens us and makes us Holy.
Such is a miracle, it is a supernatural work. It goes beyond on anything we can control, and therefore it makes us nervous. Theologians and people who need to understand get anxious, and as we realize God’s ways are not our ways, that who He sends us to serve, that those He brings us to love are not whom we would choose. Nor it the way we are to minister to them the way we would prefer.
As Pope Benedict notes, this isn’t the most comfortable of places to be, as we are directed by the Holy Spirit, given gifts and abilities, insights and a new heart (see Ex 36:25ff) that resonates with the will and desire of God.
So how do we listen and hear? How are we guided by the Holy Spirit? How do we know if what we are hearing is the Spirit’s guidance?
Luther would say prayer, meditation, and faith-building stress. For the more we look to Christ- the more we realize He is our hope, our life, the revelation of the Trinity’s love, the more we are hearing the call, the more we are gathered, made holy and used by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glorious love of God into the darkness of this world.
So don’t hold back the Spirit… don’t depend on your own reason or strength, but rather depend on God, as He reveals Himself in scripture.
And dwell in His peace!
Luther’s Small Catechism: Part 2 The Creed: Article Three
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
10 Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4 When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” GNT John 10:1-5
This word is expressed with great fervor and overwhelming joy, in which her soul and life lift themselves from within in the Spirit. Therefore, she does not say, “I magnify God,” but “My soul magnifies the Lord.” As if she wished to say, “My life and my whole understanding soar in the love, praise, and sheer joy of God, such that I am no longer in control of myself; I am exalted, more than I exalt myself to praise the Lord.” Thus it happens to all in whom godly sweetness and God’s spirit has poured, that they experience more than they can describe. It is not a human work to praise God with joy. It is a joyful suffering and God’s work alone and cannot be taught with words but only by personal experience. As David says in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” David puts tasting before seeing because this sweetness cannot be comprehended unless one has experienced it for oneself. No one attains this experience without trusting God with one’s whole heart in the depths and in the distresses of life. Therefore, David adds, “Happy are those who trust the Lord.” They will experience God’s work and will obtain God’s sensible sweetness and, through it all, understanding and knowledge.
Some may resolve not to speak for the Lord, but like Jeremiah, they find they must: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9 NRSV).
J. B. Phillips said somewhere that, while he was doing his well-known translation of the New Testament, he often felt like an electrician working on the wiring of a house with the power on.
The first thing that struck me today in my devotions was this line from the middle quote, “ No one attains this experience (joy) without trusting God with one’s whole heart in the depths and in the distresses of life.”
That sounds counter-intuitive at first. And at second glance as well!
But Luther notes why in the sentences beforehand. That we have to discover the refuge God is for us, that coming to realize that He is good. To understand that though, there has to be something to compare to experiencing God.
God doesn’t have to prepare those times of being deep in sorrow, or being caught in distress. The brokenness of the world will provide it, and the brokenness we choose compounds it.
From the brokenness, we find something extraordinary. We find Jesus there, and He is there with only one intention. To deliver us, to rescue us, to bring us home to the Father. ( He is so different from the older brother in the story of the prodigal son!) Jesus knows the Father’s heart, a heart that is restless until His wandering children come home to be rescued.
That is why Luther holds Mary up, as he explains the words of the Magnificat (it is a letter to a prince explaining the Magnificat – Mary’s song of praise in Luke 2) That this comes. True Worship, praise, adoration is not possible without God, and without the experience of God rescuing us from the midst of brokenness.
We have to learn to hear our Shepherd’s voice, to trust it more and more, to rely on what He has promised to us, mercy, forgiveness, love and His presence in the most intimate ways we can imagine. His body and blood given to us, His Holy Spirit dwelling with us, His presence with us in the midst of darkness, even the dark valleys where death’s threat can seemingly suffocate. He is there,
That’s why Jeremiah, broken, threatened with death, scared, scarred and broken cannot keep silent about the goodness of God! Matter of fact, trying to do so exhausts Him! The power that is experienced when we encounter God. It is undeniable, it is incredible, it is the feeling that comes from knowing you are loved so much by God, that He will go to extremes to bring you into His peace.
And there, in the midst of peace, there is joy. Abundant, unexplainable, mind-blowing joy…found in His presence…
For into the darkness shines His marvelous light, a light that shined for them, for us. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 97–98). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 3 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT2)
How, then, can I learn what it means to be human? What must I do? In his question the teacher of the law mentions a prerequisite that we seldom consider nowadays: if my life in this world is to be successful, I must view it as a stepping-stone to eternal life.
There are days in my life that are dark.
Just like most of you.
We hide from those days, we try to ignore them, and if we can’t, we try to anesthetize ourselves from the pain and emptiness they bring.
Days when I seem lost, when life doesn’t make sense, or when it gets in the way of what I want to do. Especially when what I want to do is serve God? To be with His people? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem that I am doing what I have been put here to do, and that dissonant feeling is horrid.
For me, those days have been a major part of life. Recovery from surgeries that left me isolated for months, asthma as a kid (one year I was in school only 40 days more than I was not!) and even the odd flu bug that knocks me out of church, like it did yesterday. Never mind all the fun things with my son and wife that I miss out on, because of health concerns.
Life can suck at times.
Into those thoughts, invading them comes these readings from this morning. First the psalmist, whose words I skim over at first, tacitly and religiously agreeing with them, Yep, I want that, that’s where I should be, there in the presence of God. What is next to read, oh yeah, proverbs?
A couple of readings later, I come to Pope Benedict’s one-year devotion. It’s become a favorite of mine. And his words make me go back to the Psalm and read it again.
My life doesn’t revolve around this mortal life. It revolves around my life with God. An eternity with Him, dwelling in His presence, not just in the stadium, like watching a rock star from the nosebleed seats. But interacting with Him, sharing the joy that comes from knowing the depth of His love.
This life isn’t the end, not even close, it is the dance lessons for our eternal dance with God.
That is exactly what I need to remember in these dark days. What I so missed my people telling me yesterday, as I missed church. What they fire back with me with conviction, as I tell them the Lord is with them
His presence here and now is a start.
And it’s only a start!
Lord Jesus, help us realize that your ministry to us was not just to make us right and holy, but to have a relationship with us, one that will last forever. Lord, help us to dwell with you, in peace! AMEN!
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. 87). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV)
Now when people have learned and become aware
Once upon a time, I was a non-denominational pastor. As such, I looked at Lent and Ash Wednesday with a negative eye. I thought it was all a bunch of hype, some innovative way to subject people, and steal from them the meager joys they have earned.
I had grown up Roman Catholic, and I had some good mentors in the faith. Fr. Alex and Sister Ursula made sure we understood why we did things, not just hearing that we had to do so. But even with that, I thought to take 40 days out to weep and grieve over our sins and my sins was a bit overkill. And to wear an ash cross on my forehead for a day? (Well at least that would stop an aunt or two from kissing my forehead!)
Yet, the older I get, the more experienced I get with my own guilt and shame, the more I need to spend that time, examining myself. Not to beat me down, or just to endure discomfort as if that can bribe God to keep me out of hell.
I need these forty days. I need to process the way I am when I set God aside.
Again, not to dwell in grief or shame indefinitely, but to remember what the psalmist said, You are there!
I can’t get away from the God who loves me, who loves me even “THERE.”
I need to know that even there I can go to Him, confess that I’ve sinned, that I’ve depended on other “gods”, that
I need to know that even in the midst of sin, God is there to bring healing and hope into my darkness. And let’s be honest, just because I am a Christian and a pastor doesn’t mean I still don’t struggle with the darkness of sin in my life.
Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is an awesome time. We can stop playing the hypocrite, we can stop pretending our sin is justifiable, we can grieve what we’ve
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 74). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.