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Who would weep when those who do evil die…?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!”  2 Samuel 18:33

19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”

55      Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God.  (1)

A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.

The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over.  Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.

The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over.  The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.

This doesn’t make sense!  Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude?  Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies?  Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died?  Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?

Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God.  The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation.  And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,

1  I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2  when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3  for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)

This is David’s heart as well.  This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.

(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son.  I will go where he is…)

I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.

Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?

I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine.  That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years.  Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.

What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.

For people to not know this peace?  To not know this love?  For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with?  This needs ot become inconceivable.

Lord, have mercy on us!  Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you.  Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer.  May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them.  For we pray this in Jesus’ name.  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Repentant: King David

The Repentant

King David: Pride and the Altar

1 Chronicles 21:1-19

In Jesus Name

May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross!

This is not that story

As we hear the stories of the Repentant, the lives God would change so much that all heaven would rejoice, most people who know the Bible would expect me to bring up David at some point.

I won’t disappoint you.

Well, I will, because I am not going to talk about the little affair he had with Bathsheba, and killing her husband.  Simply because that sin, while horrible, doesn’t measure up to the sin of counting his soldiers, of counting the people God entrusted to His care.

Wait, are you saying that counting people is a grievous, horrendous sin?

Hmmm. Dane, have you counted how many people are here tonight?  If not, maybe you shouldn’t?

There are, and there are not, greater and lesser sins.  In this case, the sin was directly disobeying God, which adultery and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband also are.  SO in one way, the sins are equal. It is in their impact on others that these sins differ.

One affects two families and children.  That is the sin we know about, the story of lust and jealousy. This one has far more serious repercussions.  David chooses his punishment even, and even that stands out.  His sin, this time, affects 70,000 of the people for whom he was responsible.

70,000.

For disobeying God.

He was tempted by Satan, and he sinned gravely.

Innocent people had to die because of it.  Well, they were innocent of the sin David committed.

Just like every sin we commit has consequences that affect others.

Even though we might repent, even though we might ask forgiveness, the impact of our sin’s damage on others is felt.  Families are divided, friendship’s shattered, lives crushed, because we chose our way, rather than listen to God’s direction, to the life He clearly describes for us to live, that we might bless others.

Disobedience, which boils down to telling God that we know better than He does, that we should be God.
Distressed by the realization of the impact
David asked forgiveness, but there are days where we ask for forgiveness, and while we want to be forgiven, we think that is enough. We don’t always want reconciliation; we just want to be free from punishment.  We don’t always want to be repentant, and we just want to be sorry….

As David looks upon the innocent suffering, as David sees the Angel of Death ready to destroy his people, the reaction is different.  He is distressed by his sin, he realizes the consequence, hear His words,
“I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O LORD my God, let your anger fall against my family and me, but do not destroy your people.” 1 Chronicles 21:17 (NLT)

This is part of what repentance is, the distress of realizing the depth of our sin, and that sin isn’t victimless.  It is what drives us to confess our sins….and beg God to spare the innocent, even as David did.

(after this first half of the sermon, we have a time of silent confession and prayer, and express our hope in God, that is described in the Creed)

The Repentant

King David: Pride and the Altar

1 Chronicles 21:1-19

In Jesus Name

May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross

The Altar & the Promise

Even as David and leaders are face down, praying that God’s wrath will be limited to those who are guilty, there is a strong lesson in grace, a lesson that is overlooked.

You see, that place where the angel stands, the place where God commands the angel of death to stop, where he tells him it is finished, is a special place in Jewish history.

It is the temple mount, the very place in the temp that would be called the Holy of Holies.   A place of grace, a place where sin would be atoned for, with the blood, portraying the blood of Jesus, the innocent, holy Son of God, taking on the curse of sin, once and for all.  The plague would stop, the power of death would be shattered, and repentance, the transformation that occurs to us because of Jesus, is made sure.

For repentance is not just the feeling of sorrow, it is not even just the distress caused as we look at the effect of our sin, repentance is not just the removal of sin crushed hearts and minds, but it is effected by the blood of Christ, the love of God being poured out upon us.

You will notice that God ordered the stoppage before the repentance was complete, and that’s because of His desire to bring us back, the joy of the father seeing his prodigal son seeing the dust from his son’s feet in the distance.

I can’t make this point enough – our repentance, our realization of how badly sin has crushed us.as that repentance becomes real, as it occurs in even just one of us, the joy of heaven is beyond belief.  It is as if the entire company of heaven is looking done in wonder as God takes us and heals us.

A moment of great joy, a moment beyond our comprehension… a moment to find His peace and rest and healing… for like David, and Naaman and Josiah, we’ve become the Repentant.

AMEN!

 

Justice, Mercy, Thirsting for Revenge or Righteousness?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6  Arise, O LORD, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6 (NLT) 

A few days ago I wrote about mercy.  A disclaimer, I was struggling with the topic myself.  In at least 3 cases, I was trying to figure out how to respond mercifully, and yet honestly.  Try to seek reconciliation, and pursue what is right and just.

After reading that day’s blog, and a couple of tweets, a good friend asked how we are to balance justice and righteousness.   In fact, she asked me to write on it.

Darn it, now I have to think it through!

That’s what real friends do – they help drive home the lesson God is trying to teach you!  And so my friend did for me….and others helped.

Tough question, not just because of the thought needed, but to face the answer, I don’t want to face.

I just want to pray with David the top quote from Psalm 7.   Bring JUSTICE!  Trash my enemies.  Get rid of those who are my adversaries!  Whether they be ISIS/ISIL or whether they be… well, God knows who I am struggling with presently.  Anf I find myself too often wanting revenge rather than justice.   Revenge is never justice; it is a judgment against some in my favor.  It is, therefore, contrary to justice.

I thank God for some other friends that study the Bible with me a couple of Thursday mornings a month.  We looked not only at Psalm 7:6, but the verses before and after in the chapter.

If we are to hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness AND show mercy, we need to find the point where both are valid.  In the Psalm, as we discovered, there is the answer.

1  I come to you for protection, O LORD my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me! 2  If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3  O LORD my God, if I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, 4  if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, 5  then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust.  Psalm 7:1-5 (NLT)

Developing a heart that desires justice and mercy starts with examining one’s own heart, and one’s behavior.  Knowing how easy our heart can deceive us, we do what David does, we don’t examine it.  Rather it is in prayer we beg God to examine it.  We welcome His judgment, and the means He will use to bring about in us humility.  The humility needed to answer a call to holiness; the humility needed to trust God to make things just, to make things right in our lives.  The humility to know we need His mercy, we must depend on it.

For otherwise, a call to the purest form of justice will see us judged.

We need to be examined, cleaned, healed.

Foremost of us, this process of being refined will be painful.   It will be difficult; it will be filled with grace, applied to the darkness, most sin-dominated areas of our lives. That grace will sting at first, but will soon turn sweet, and joyful.

It is then we can thirst for justice, and to love mercy.  Mercy for our enemies, adversaries and those who we see being unjust.  Our being refined will counter that as we realize that God’s justice, at this point in eternity, is still synonymous with other words.

Reconciliation.

Restoration.

Healing

Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.

Lord, have mercy on us all!  AMEN!

Advent Message #1 Psalm 51 Have mercy on me!

Have Mercy On Me
Help me to know your unfailing love!

Psalm 51:1-6

† IHS †

David’s Scenario

The pastor descends, and heads straight toward a member of the church.  The look on his face is serious, there is no humor in his eyes.

He walks up to one of the most respected leaders of the church, the man respected for his faith.  He zeroes in on him, heads straight at him, and as he stops, he reveals to the man that he knows about that specific sin.  The sin that was serious enough for the people to take up stones and kill him.  The sin which didn’t just break a commandment, but shattered several of them.

He calls him out on it, in front of everyone

What happened to David, happens all over again.

Except that it happens to Tom. Or Al, or Doug, or Wanda..

I want each of you to think how David felt in the first reading, as Nathan revealed to the world David’s sin.  The sin he thought no one knew.  The sin that ate him, that continued to eat at him.

What if tonight, instead of David’s sin, it was yours that was revealed.

What terror would you feel, what pain?

Even though we are looking at the Psalm during this advent, we can’t understand the strength of David’s plea for mercy, we can’t understand how desperate His cry to God, without hearing the depth of despair, as David’s sin was found revealed not just before God, but before all.

How Can this Be?
It is in the aftermath of this scene, that David writes these words,

Have mercy on me, o God, because of your unfailing love!
Have mercy on me, I am a sinner, I am a wretch.

He cannot deny it.  He cannot simply say, no, I’m good with God.  Nope, don’t worry pastor, that Confession thing, hearing you tell me I am forgiven, it’s not a big deal.  It’s the other people that you have to worry about.

You know, those that rip their neighbor’s off, those who are sexually immoral, those who lie and cheat and gossip.  That’s for them, not for me.

David’s sin is laid out.  Undeniable, horrid, sickening.

It would still make every headline today.

You are the man.
You are the woman.
You’ve sinned.

And revealing that sin, in a way you can’t deny, in a way you have to confess, is part of the healing.  It is why Luther and the early reformers didn’t get rid of confession, either public of private.

Because we know in our plea for mercy, that it will be answered.

Just as David’s was, just as Moses’ was, just as Peter’s was.

Just as Tom and Al and my plea’s for mercy will be answered.

Hear David’s words again,

Have mercy on me, o God, because of your unfailing love!

That is what Advent is about, learning to depend on God’s unfailing love.  Learning to cry out what has been called the Jesus Prayer, Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

Crying it out, knowing the heart of God, knowing the heart revealed at the manger and the cross, as God comes into the word to show us that mercy,

Crying out, not based on anything but the unfailing love of God.  For that is our only refuge when we come face to face with our sin. When we realize how wrong it is, and that we can’t fix it.

To do as David would continue to pray,

Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.

2  Wash me clean from my guilt.

Purify me from my sin.

3  For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.

4  Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

5  For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.

6  But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.

7  Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:1-7 (NLT)

A prayer of despair, a prayer of recognizing what we had done, a prayer of faith, knowing the heart of God.

The heart of God that answered David, and answers you and I

“Yes, you have sinned, but I have forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin..”

Amen!

 

Are We Worthy to Be In Their Company?

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35  Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)

258      What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is!  (1)

I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need.  I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict  XVI.  I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham,   I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness.  Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives.  I think of King David and Bede,  Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley,  Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.

And I wonder, do I belong in their company?

My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me.  This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.

Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven?  In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?

After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me.  I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.

Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game.  God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.

In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust.  How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.

But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people.  People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt.  People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.

First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;

40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Without us.  Without you and I.

God has something in mind… that we will join them.

These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..

And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did.  Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus.  He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained.  He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..

they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.  

We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ.  And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…

AMEN….




Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why Write Blogs? Why Preach? Why Worship? Because….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. 19  The LORD looked down from his holy place on high, he looked down from heaven to earth. 20  He heard the groans of prisoners and set free those who were condemned to die. 21  And so his name will be proclaimed in Zion, and he will be praised in Jerusalem 22  when nations and kingdoms come together and worship the LORD. Psalm 102:18-22 (TEV)

Gently he helped each person to face up to his or her responsibility to love God and souls. This was always his main concern. No matter what he was talking about, everything he said was linked to this one theme: that because the plenitude of Christian life is rooted in charity , love is of the utmost urgency.”

A young woman who attended a retreat he preached in 1945 found in his preaching “something new, something distinct…. It moved me deeply. Although I had habitually made a retreat in the past, I had never heard anyone speak in the same way about the love of God. It was a great discovery for me, an encounter with God as Father, as friend. It had a great impact on me.”  (1)

I am sitting in my office, having done my devotions, having skimmed through the study notes I prepared earlier in the week.  After this blog is completed, I will review the notes again, and finally put down and polish the words of the sermon for tomorrow.

But why do all this?  Why have i written so many blogs over the last three years, why have I written and delivered somewhere around 1000 sermons.  Why do I get up on Sunday morning?

I hope in retrospect someday someone might say something like the young woman said about a priest back in 1945.   i hope what has been read, what has been heard, what will be heard tomorrow and for the years I have left is what she said about Fr. Portillo’s sermons.  That these messages reveal the love of God, the desire of God to make us His children, the incredible love that Christ showed to a bunch of sinners when He said, ” 15  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:15 (NLT)

That love was described by the Psalmist above, recorded that we would see the very heart of God.  Those of us that deserve death because of our sin, those of us imprisoned by the snares of sin, He looked down and heard, which means He acted.  Hearing isn’t just an auditory action, it is a stimulus to action.  That action, the Incarnation, the Life and Death of Christ, His resurrection and Ascension and advocacy , the coming of the Holy Spirit and His work as He abides in our lives.  That is what His love for us compelled Him to do, as He heard our cries….

The response, the world worships Him, we praise Him, we proclaim this love in whatever ways possible, to whomever will listen, that they may know His love… for them, for us.  

That’s why….and whether we are telling about God’s love as a pastor preaching or blogging, or as a friend over lunch, or as a parent telling their kids, that is our mission, why we have been sent…. for we too will learn to hear their cries… and respond in love…. as we worship God with our lives.

AMEN….

(1)   Coverdale, John F. (2014-07-09). Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo (Kindle Locations 1100-1105). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rejocing During Lent? Inconcievable? Not at All!

Devotional THought of the Day:concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - Copy

 25  Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26  And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27  David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment. 28  So all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres. 29  But as the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.   1 Chronicles 15:25-29 (NLT)

16  “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17  ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’   Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

Tonight my church will gather to celebrate the love of God.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say God will gather them, for that too is part of the celebration.

We are in the beginning days of Lent, just a week ago we celebrated Ash Wednesday, with a service that…could only be called a celebration. It wasn’t just that we had a much larger group than is our pattern. It was the idea that people gathered, and with reverent smiles  they were marked with ashes, knowing that this reminder of their sin, which grieves them, would be accompanied by another trip forward, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, proof that God wouldn’t leave them in ashes, that they would not be left in the dust.

That’s something to rejoice in, that’s something to celebrate, and even…like King David, dance over.

Yes, like Isiah, we are people who sturggle with sin, (and sometmies struggle is a strong word) , who live in a world that more and more rejoices in sin.  This is indeed something we should grieve over, it is something that we should never be callous about either.  Christ grieved and wept as He looked over Jeruslaem, the prophets wept as they reminded Isarel of what would be the consequences of their sin, especially their abandoning their relationship with God in order to choose idols of their own making.  Even so, Jesus went on to the cross, to do something about that grief, just as the prophets would foretell not just of doom and judgment, but of the glory of Christ incarnation, death and resurrection, and what it means.

So to, our journey of Lent, the remorse and grief we find as we review our lives, is tempered by the glory of God. The shear joy of realizing that we will soon be in Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday!  The joy of knowing that our grief has been dealt with, our expectation of God’s promises have been fulfilled. This is also a season of expectation, a season of hope that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!  How can we not be excited y the promise, and knowing it is fulfilled in Christ.

And so each service is a mini-lent to easter celebration, from the death of sin, to the resurrection to life in Christ, celebrated as we feast together at the altar (and on Wednesday nights, at the table)

Rejioce?  How can I not, when the glory of God is present, when His people are gathered together, when He gives us life and shares with us His mercy, His peace, His love?

As we walk through lent, even as the priests and David walked with God toward the Holy CIty, let us rejoice in His glory.  As well, may the light of His glory draw all to Him.

AMEN.

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishe(1rs. Kindle Edition.

More on the Faith “under attack”

Devotional THought of the Day:  1 God, hear my cry, listen to my prayer. 2  From the end of the earth I call to you with fainting heart. Lead me to the high rock that stands far out of my reach. 3  For you are my refuge, a The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!strong tower against the enemy. 4  Let me stay in your tent for ever, taking refuge in the shelter of your wings! 5  For you, God, accept my vows, you grant me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6  Let the king live on and on, let his years continue age after age. 7  May his throne be always in God’s presence, your faithful love and constancy watch over him. 8  Then I shall always sing to your name, day after day fulfilling my vows.    Psalm 61:1-8 (NJB)  

1. A mighty Fortress is our God a trusty Shield and Weapon;He helps us free from every need that hath us now o’ertaken.The old evil Foe now means deadly woe,deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight. On Earth is not his equal.

2. With might of ours can naught be done soon were our loss effected;  But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is.Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.

3. Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us.This world’s prince may still acowl fierce as he will,  He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.  (A Mighty Fortress is Our God:  Martin Luther)

I wasn’t planning on writing about Spiritual Warfare again, about the church being under “attack” by society, until I looked at my devotional reading above this morning. Seems King David was no light weight when you consider the internal and external spiritual warfare he faced in life. THink of the time with Saul, where David’s music calmed his spirit.  His sons who died, one because of David’s sin, one because of his own rebellion.  The man was surrounded by enemies, yet so often, not did he just escape, but he triumphed.

Spiritual warfar is like learning the passive self defense styles like judo and akido.  You want to ask the Master, “what do you mean I need to let him hit/kick/grab me before doing anything else?”   “What do you mean that their attack is the beginning of their loss?”   Except we take it one step further.  A real victory for those who attack us, becomes something we rejoice in, in the same way we rejoice in our baseball team, (the World Champion Red Sox) getting the final out that leaves us victorious.

For their victory isn’t found in their triumping over us, but in Christ enveloping them in His love, in His crucifixion, and in the hope of the resurrection.

That is our goal something possible when we realize that if Christ is our Fortress, that if our trust is in Him, then they have to attack us on our ground.  In the fortress where mercy prevails over unforgiveness, where righteousness triumphs over sin, where love overcomes all that is not loving. That when they come to fignt, condemn, mock us, that as we are confident in Christ’s presence, we can point to Him, not as judge, but as Deliverer.

It may be that we have to suffer some, in order to see this happen.  It may be that our “rights” are taken away, it may be, as it is in many countries, that Christians will becoem martyrs, their lives given as a testimony to the love and mercy of Christ.  It’s happened before, it is happening all around the world. Yet it is in those places, where the church/the faith is under true attack, that there are miracles of reconcilliation, or redemption, of repentance.

May we yearn for that, more than we yearn to prove ourselves, our culture, even our theology, “right”.

Lord have mercy, and help us look on our persecutors with mercy and love.

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