Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Zion, deep in your heart you cried out to the Lord. Now let your tears overflow your walls day and night. Don’t ever lose hope or let your tears stop. 19 Get up and pray for help all through the night. Pour out your feelings to the Lord, as you would pour water out of a jug. Beg him to save your people, who are starving to death at every street crossing. Lamentations 2:18-19 (CEV)
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which You planted in me at my making. Out of the depths I cry to You…
That is why the Song of Songs has been the favorite book of the Bible for so many saints: it lifts the curtain a little and lets us in on the divine secret behind the scenes, the point of the play we are in. All the other stuff in the play—all the war and suffering and death and law and punishment and spy stuff, all the stuff that seems so different from a love story—is part of the love story. It is in the love story as darkness is in a picture or a novel or a musical composition. The contrasting strokes set off the main theme, the villain sets off the hero, the dissonant chords set off the higher harmony of the whole.
20 Likewise the term “vivification,” that is, being made alive, has sometimes been used in the same sense.3 For when the Holy Spirit has brought a person to faith and has justified him, a regeneration has indeed taken place because he has transformed a child of wrath into a child of God and thus has translated him from death into life, as it is written, “When we were dead through our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5). “He who through faith is righteous shall live (Rom. 1:17).
As I look at the above quotes, and the prayer which shall end this, all quotes from my devotional reading this morning, I almost feel like God is double-daring me to trust in Him, to depend on Him and take a deep plunge into the darkness of life. Maybe He is even, to quote a former pastor of mine, double-dog daring me to do so.
Appleton (in purple) would say it is only there that I can truly cry out for mercy. Kreeft would indicate that I need to read that part of the story, as if there in our depths, we find that dimension of God’s love, a love deeper than our deepest darkness. And there, in the place of spiritual and emotional death, we find that God breathes life into us, that Revival has to happen at THAT point.
This is the place of Jeremiah’s cry as well, the place of tears overflowing, the place where we aren’t to lose hope, but we aren’t to let our tears stop either. It is the place where we are to pour out in our prayers, all though the night, our emotions.
Of course, we children of the Enlightenment, we descendants of rationalism back away from such a challenge. Tears change little we’ve learned, in fact they only reveal our brokenness, our weakness, our need.
Which is exactly what we need, it is part of how God revives us, it is how He renews His church. For these scars, revealed in the darkness by His glorious light, transform those scars, much as the wounds in the ankles and wrists, upon the back and in the scalp of Christ reveal His glory to us.
Perhaps that is what will come out of this time of COVID, and therefore we should be thankful. For they show a unique way to the Christ, and as His blood heals us, to the Father. Which brings up just about the only thing from my devotions, that I haven’t quoted, from Spurgeon, “If we cannot get sinners where Jesus is by ordinary methods we must use extraordinary ones. It seems, according to Luke 5:19, that a tiling had to be removed, which would make dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent we must not mind running some risks and shocking some proprieties. Jesus was there to heal, and therefore fall what might, faith ventured all so that her poor paralysed charge might have his sins forgiven. O that we had more daring faith among us!
This is the lesson for this day, the thoughts that God in His mercy, is merciful here, in the midst of pain, in the midst of the depth of darkness, in the place where if we can pray, it is only because we find someone else’s words, such as the Lord’s Prayer or those from the wounded healer below.
He is here, the tears that pour out, let them. Realize the darkness is but to show us the love of God in a way that doesn’t make sense, for nothing in the darkness truly does. But there, God will breathe life into you and I, and the sufferings are a small part of the glory we will know, as He comes to us.
So if you are in the place, pray with me these words composed by someone else who has been there.
Lord Jesus, my Saviour, Your hands and feet are marked with the wounds of Your crucifixion. In Your risen body, Your wounds have not been taken away, but are part of Your glory. May they remind me that my own wounds are not roadblocks on the way to the Father, but are there to show me my own unique way to follow You, the suffering Christ. Assure me that my wounds, too, will be glorified in my own resurrected life. Amen.
And know, the Lord is with you!
George Appleton ( Celtic Daily Prayer – Daily devotion for 9/7 – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ )
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 112.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 542.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought for our Day:
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High! 2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp, and the melody of a lyre.
4 You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. 5 O LORD, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts. Psalm 92:1-5 NLT
Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, “He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”
As you look at the Psalms, the early ones are through of trials. You see problems with the government in chapter 2, you see the brokenness caused by sin in 22 and 51, you see dealing with grief throughout and despair throughout the Psalms..
You also see worship, and it almost always comes after a lot of grief, and pain. I even heard one pastor say that the Psalms end in worship even as they start in the complaint.
As I meditated on this, this morning, I realized we have made a crucial error. The quote from Psalm 92 made this point, and Spurgeon hammered it home.
Grief and trial are not what precedes worship. In the middle of them, we find worship. Worship that realizes the faithfulness of God requires that we see Him faithful to us in the midst of suffering. If there is no challenge, no pain, no sin, or resentment to deal with, there is no need for Jesus.
God meets us there, in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of our pain, even in the midst of guilt and shame.
It is there the grief is realized to be the bass line – and often the volume of a teenager’s stereo’s bassline. But it still resounds with praise and awe. THis is lament.
He is there, with you…
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Our glittering gold has grown dull; the stones of the Temple lie scattered in the streets. 2 Zion’s young people were as precious to us as gold, but now they are treated like common clay pots. 3 Even a mother wolf will nurse her cubs, but my people are like ostriches, cruel to their young. 4 They let their babies die of hunger and thirst; children are begging for food that no one will give them. 5 People who once ate the finest foods die starving in the streets; those raised in luxury are pawing through garbage for food. 6 My people have been punished even more than the inhabitants of Sodom, which met a sudden downfall at the hands of God.
Lamentations 4:1-6 (TEV)
Our inner life should not be less important to us than outward performance, than sports, or technical ability. The “growth of the interior person” is deserving of our whole commitment: the world needs those who have become interiorly mature and rich.
There are a lot of people “remembering” today. A lot of people saying “never forget”.
But what have they remembered? The heroes, of whom we have so little information and background? Are they remembering the pain, the shock, the hurt, and dare I say the hatred towards those that look like, or sound like those who hijacked planes?
Or are they fondly looking back at 9/12 and the “revival” of patriotism that swept America?
As I came across these two readings this morning, I wondered the unthinkable. How many of those people in the twin towers walked with God that day? How many of them didn’t?
As I read Jeremiah’s lament, I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to lament of the present, and only remember the past? Do we see the trauma today, as we look out on the homeless, those who are abused, those who are traumatized by their health, their finances, the relationships that are shadows, dark shadows of what they should be, that they are in? Do we see those who might let their babies die. Do we see those who are suffering the punishment due for their sin… or sadly… ours?
We need to lament of the present! We need to be able to see the brokenness that surrounds us, and be there, bringing the comfort that only God can give them, but gives to them through His people.
Many of those situations don’t have easy fixes. But lament, in the presence of God, reminds us that He is with us, that has a plan, His presence brings a peace that is beyond understanding, which is why a Christian makes a difference when they bear Jesus into that room, into that situation. Into that moment of despair.
But to do that, we have to be connected to God ourselves. We have to have the awareness of His presence that comes from wrestling with our own lament, and being comforted by Him. It comes from spending time communing with God, and finding the rich strength that comes to us as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord. As we cry out with our heart, and know His response. As we find rest at the end of our tears, knowing He is our fortress and sanctuary, that He is our “safe place”
God is with us, and will be.
Not just as we remember on 9/11, but as we struggle every day amid trauma and strife, amid anxiety and pain, for He has sent us into these places, to reflect His light in darkness.
Lord, help us see that in our lives which we need to lament. Help us be there for those who do not know they can, help us hold the hands, dry the tears, weeop and laugh. Lord, help us to realize your presence, and do those things, not for their own sake, or even ours, but to walk with you. In Jesus name, AMEN!
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 292.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. 23 These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. 24 That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. 25 But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. 26 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27 He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28 That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Romans 8:22-28 (MSG)
But I pressed towards Thee, and was thrust from Thee, that I might taste of death: for thou resistest the proud. But what prouder, than for me with a strange madness to maintain myself to be that by nature which Thou art? For whereas I was subject to change (so much being manifest to me, my very desire to become wise, being the wish, of worse to become better), yet chose I rather to imagine Thee subject to change, and myself not to be that which Thou art. (1)
139 Nothing less than Christ’s power is needed for our conflict with the devil. We know that for Christ’s sake we have a gracious God and his promise. And therefore, we pray that the Holy Spirit may govern and defend us, so that we may not be deceived and err, nor be driven to do anything against God’s will. (2)
The congregation gathered around, absolutely devasted by the events they had endured. They humbly gathered, downcast, not know what to do or say. Heartbroken, unaware of how they will continue on, a simple, profound, wondrous hymn breaks out among them…
A hymn maligned, denigrated, and used as an example of poor hymnody, poor theology, poor worship by countless experts. I will contend that if we learn this hymn if we sing it as it was meant to be sung, there are few that express the theological depth it does.
It doesn’t matter to those singing it, for it is a lament that expresses the only hope they have… the gentle words pleading for that which is promised. A prayer expressed in words so significant that they must resonate in the church today.
“Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, O Lord, Kumbaya;”
O Lord, be with us…”
These words express the same sentiment that Augustine reveals he needed. The attitude that is found in brokenness, the attitude of facing death, and dying to self. St. Paul’s words echo this, comparing this life’s brokenness to labor pains, as we await the recreation, the rebirth of all things. It speaks of those moments when our hearts are too broken to know what to pray, and the Holy Spirit must be our intercessor, the translator of the groans too deep for words.
This song speaks of the eschatological hope we have in Christ, which St Peter begs us to be ready to do.
This song is an expression of the Theology of the Cross, the simple hope found in our brokenness and the healing promised and delivered in word and sacrament.
This song speaks of the incarnation, as we count on Christ’s presence in our lives
This song speaks of vocation, as it asks God to be there in every situation we encounter.
This song talks of the Omnipresence of God, who incarnates Himself into our lives, who draws us into Himself.
It speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our comforter-paraclete, who teaches us of God’s love.
Amazingly, this song speaks of the sacraments, as we know He has come to us as we are united to Him in the waters of baptism, as we hear His words, you are forgiven, as we are fed with His body and Blood.
It does all this in a humble way, not with glorious melodies, not with perfect 4 part harmony, not with a worship that seeks to impress both God and those who are spectators. Rather, it is sung by voices barely able to create an audible noise. It resonates with the depth of the hearts aid open. It can capture the heart of all, growing in fervor, moving us from darkness to the glory found in His presence.
It is sung with hearts who realize their only hope, the only way to find peace, to receive mercy, is to encounter Almighty God in all His glory and plead for mercy, to cry the Kyrie Eleison, to plead, O Lord, be with us…
This must become again the cry of a church, in a broken world, for it points us to what is necessary, what we need to desire more than all, the presence of God. Here, now, in our lives.
May we be able to cry such words in faith, together, knowing that He who has promised is faithful….
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 126). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Discussion thought of the Day:
“The wilderness is still the place of worship. (as it was for Israel) But for you and me ist is a matter of dunes and dry ground. In fact, it may be deceptively gree. Our Hunger and thirst are more spiritual realities than physical ones. The desolation we often experience involves our yearning for a more palpable feeling of the Presence of God. We need spiritual bread every it as much as they needed the manna in the wilderness. Our deep need for Living Water is as intense as any thirst their parch throats ever knew.
As so we look to the One whose coming incranated for us the Manna, the Living Waterand the presence of God. Jesus has entered into the wilderness of our wilderness and found us…. ” (1)
In a few hours I will be mentioning this passage in class. This morning – as most morning goes – the revelation that Michael Card mentions above was why we gathered for church. And even there, as I preached about the bondage caused by sin, and talked about our helplessness and need for Christ, I could “see” those who were burdened for others or by their own problems. We are, in many ways – so similar to Israel wandering in the desert – awaiting a promised land.
I wonder how many of us realize the fertile ground that exists in the desert – just a little water – and it blossoms with plants and flowers, incredible beauty – in the midst of what was thought to be barren. It just takes the touch of heaven to bring it forth.
So to in our lives….I’ve seen it too many many times to count. There is great beauty in the wilderness – there is a dance that comes from mourning, there is always life and reconciliation where we thought there was only darkness and despair. The key… simply is worship – worshipping the One who invades our wilderness, who brings light into the darkness. Who comes with compassion and comfort.
And in that darkness, in that solitude – as we find Christ finding us… we find life – and a life that praises – that glories – that begins to recognize the healing brought to us. …
And oh – how we need it. O how I need it – even though I know it is there…
If I can help you find it – this hope, this incredible mercy, this love and the presence of God, I would love to….
For as I see you find it – I am reminded it is there for me as well.
Lord Have mercy on us, and help us realize Jesus, that you have!
(1) Michael Card, The Sacred Sorrow – page 24