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An Incredible Example of Pastoral Care…

Cover of "Les Miserables (Barnes & Noble ...

Cover via Amazon

Devotional Thought of the Day.

 1  And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2  For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4  And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5  that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ASV)

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive. (1)

It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own of judging things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel. (2)

I think I read Les Miserables in high school, if I did, I certainly didn’t get it.

I am reading it again, and the character of the Bishop is mind-blowing, if only because somehow, Victor Hugo understood what a pastor should be.  A man who lived far simply that his state allowed (he lived on 1/15th of his salary- using the rest to minister to others) , who gave up the home built for the Bishop to live in, that a hospital could be built.

A fictional character perhaps – but who is it based on?  Who would be so centered in the gospel, whose eloquence would so reveal Christ? Who is the unknown model for Hugo’s pen?

Who would be such a man?  Does such a leader exist for the church today?  Is there any that, while humble of voice, is one who reveals Christ because he is convinced is persuasive himself?  Is there someone who judges things based on the gospel?

I pray that such are raised up… that we encourage their development – the character of Christ encouraged far more than even their knowledge or practice.

Who know little, or count any knowledge as little, save that of knowing Christ, and the power of the cross and the resurrection.

May the Lord have mercy by providing such…and may we rejoice in such men.

 

 

(1)  Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 23). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 25). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Will We Rejoice?

Sebastian Shaw as Anakin Skywalker, unmasked i...

Sebastian Shaw as Anakin Skywalker, unmasked in Return of the Jedi (1983) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will We Rejoice?

Psalm 32:1-11

May the grace, that mercy and peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you such great joy, as you no longer hide your sin, but eagerly confess it and find yourself freed and cleansed!

Will We Know Joy…

I’ll tell you a secret.  Dad’s can cry.  An example, there are some death scenes in movies, that overwhelm us. Any dad here willing to admit that they cried at the end of Brian’s Song?  Or when Luke pulled off his Father’s mask in Star Wars, as Anakin Skywalker died?  Or when Spock utters, “I have always been and will always be, your friend…”

Looking at the Psalm for today, of all the movies I have seen, of all the deaths that have been portrayed, I could only think of one… and it almost seems sad, that it comes from a musical….. yeah – a musical.  Father’s day… and pastor uses a…. musical… in his sermon?

Yeah – because that story, Les Mis, is an illustration of our psalm.

For the tears there, as they start with death… turn to an incredible joy…as Jean Val Jean prays, and realize the answers to his confession, as he realizes the power of God’s redemption.  In this incredible story, of a man whose life at the beginning of the movie, is that of a slave who had run from his punishment. At death, he finds himself in the company of saints…and all his burdens taken away.

No longer one of “les miserable”, but rather, he has become one of the redeemed, one of “les joyeaux” – one of the joyous.

Because of that, it pictures perfectly the lesson of our incredible psalm…

The wasting away of those trapped in sin…

Character after character in the movie, so much like real life, finds themselves drowning in sin.  Some wander into it, blissfully unaware of the damage it will do.  Others turn to sin out of desperation, like Jean Valjean who steals to provide for his family, or like Fontine, who sells her hair and her body, in order to provide.  Others just embrace it, as one embraces hating others, and working for their destruction. In every case, sin sucks us in, deceiving us, promising false hopes, and leaving us broken…
It is so like the words of David, as he talks about the power of sin,

3  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

So often, we don’t realize the damage of our own sin, and the weight of the sin of the world that corrupts life, until it is too late.  Until life is wasted away, like that which happens in desert – as the heat sucks the water out of our bodies evaporating that which we so need to survive…

The Psalm is clear, the issue isn’t the sin itself, though that is, indeed sin, and we should strive to avoid it.  The problem is not dealing with sin, the idea that we can hide it, bury it, justify it, compare it to others, and somehow think God doesn’t notice…

When we bury that sin, when we hide it, protect it from view, we choose to let it rot from ourselves.   We would condemn others sins… and yet we are not able to face ours own sin, and therefore we can not face redemption. Some hide their own sin, and they hide from own grace even to go as far as to try an escape dealing with the life of redemption and mercy by ending life…

Truly such is the nature of those miserable, those suffering… unable to face their own sin…

 The Turning Point…

“Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory….”

That is the cry of Jean Valjean at the end of the movie, a plea for grace, a grace that had he had struggled with, since a Bishop gave him the silver he stole.

“By the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness!” were the words of the pastor/Bishop that day, much earlier in his life, not long into the movie.

It took most of his life to understand the power of that absolution, that loving forgiveness.  He gets it little then, but struggles with sin the rest of the movie, and the impact of it.  He will run from who he is…. He will run from his sin a number of times, he will eventually learn to deal with it… and when he does…

He finds joy and peace!
He has arrived at the point where David is at in the psalms,

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

That is of course, what is realized in the end, as Jean Valjean is welcomed into God’s glorious presence, a presence that was there throughout his life, a presence he prayer too, cried to, yet somehow still struggled with – even as we constantly struggle with our sin, and are tempted to bury it, hide it, and attempt to dismiss it. He finally knows joy, He finally is at peace…

We aren’t the only ones who struggle with our sin like Jean Valjean does… Listen to Luther…

Be a sinner and sin boldly,but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here  we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness,but… it is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small?
This is not permission to go out and sin more, as many will take this statement.  It is a measure of the extent of God’s incredible grace – even more a measure of the depth of God’s love for us. The measure of God’s desire to have us take part of His glory, to revel and rejoice in His love.

There are so many passages in scripture that describe God’s love for His people, when they come to Him.  You see it’s not just our joy that is described when sins are forgiven, it is the Father in Heaven’s joy as well… when His children come to Him.  There is the story of the prodigal son, and of course revelation… but there is one that is always will be a favorite of mine,

17  The LORD says, “I am making a new earth and new heavens. The events of the past will be completely forgotten. 18  Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create. The new Jerusalem I make will be full of joy! Isaiah 65:17-18 (TEV)

We are joyous – not just because of the joy of being freed from our sin, but because free of those burdens, we find our Father in Heaven just as joyous, the word picture in Hebrew is that we are dancing in that joy…

We don’t have to wait to our closing scene..

For in our baptism we have been freed, we’ve been brought into His glory… even if we can’t see it clearly…yet.

The question maybe isn’t will we rejoice… but when will rejoice…

I would suggest now is the time and here is the place, for the victory feast awaits… AMEN?

Anne Hathaway, Les Mis, and….Liturgy

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Disclaimer – I am not a fan of musicals, or even stage theatre.  I did like Phantom and Wicked because of the plots – but.. I would much rather see a great concert (Kansas, Styx) or the LOTR if I am sitting in theatre seats.

Having said that, my wife and I saw the movie Les Mis the other night.  ( Did I say I hate musicals?)  Those acting in the movie intrigued me, and I went, preparing to make a sacrifice to see the movie.

From the first, I was stunned by Anne Hathaway.  Not the cutest role ever for her, not by a long shot.  But perhaps the most breathtaking performance of her life. As she goes from purest despair and lament over her situation, as hopeless as any can be… her voice sings a song that is normally one that is supposedly, “inspiriational”.  You hear it on shows like American’s Got Talent, when someone wants to impress the judges with their voice – range, power all of it.  Anne’s performance rises up against all of them, and confronts them all- for the song is one of lament, of pain, of anguish – and she sings it that way.

One of the reasons I don’t like stage musicals – is that they are, for many, simple performances.  They are directed and choreographed in such a way… that the power of voices overcomes and drowns out the power of the story, the pathos of the charachter, as they throw themselves into singing the song – for the song’s sake.  The play simply becomes the vehicle for solo performance after solo performance, with some group pieces tossed into the mix.  Not so with this one – the music and singing served the play – and I have to admit – not even begrudgingly, that it was incredible.  Because everything served the story – because the actors and actresses – Anne especially, seemed driven to live the role.

Sometimes I think we treat church like that – the liturgy serves to set up this hymn or that choir or praise team piece.  We sit and yes, we sing, but for some reason, we forget the story line – we don’t throw ourselves – whether pastor, musicians, or congregation into the story that is being revealed.   When we say AMEN! after we have been told we have been cleansed of the guilt and shame of our multitude of sins – we react – that’s nice… oh yeah Amen!.  When we sing the Kyrie, our heart doesn’t plead for the Lord’s mercy and presence…and love as we hear our needs – our desperate need for God’s presence… realized.

One of my dreams – one of my goals, has been for a long time – to help people not just be involved in the liturgy – but to live it – just as Anne does the role.  To sing with the passion appropriate – as we sing the Gloria to do so with the awe of those who have realized – He has had mercy! He is here!  The Church, His Bride, He has come for!   As we sing the Sanctus, the great Holy Holy Holy – we hear the angels and archangels and all the host of heaven joining in with us…. as we pass the peace – to share the joy of realizing that God has not only reconciled us to Him, but to each other…that ALL is forgiven.

And when we sing the Agnus Dei – as the Lamb of God – who takes away the sins of the world… as He shares His body, His blood, with us, the awe… the majesty, the raw love – there for us… and the joy of Simeon’s Song – as we walk away from the feast – knowing that God is with us, that we have seen, we have tasted salvation…. oh the joy that should be evident from our voices.

I am not saying we should act, but you get the feeling that Anne somehow wasn’t acting – she was the role – she was in the story.   Not really sure how she did that – for Les Mis is a work of fiction – though it touches us all at a deep emotional level.  SO much more should the real story of the Liturgy – of the need for God, of His coming and teaching and healing and feeding and loving and cleansing and….bringing us into His presence… that story should sweep us all off our feet… and into the story in which we live.

For liturgy is not just a way to “do church”.  It is our story, intertwined with that of Christ, that runs the gamut of every emotion… that leaves us… in His peace….

I pray this helps you….become the church…not just be there……

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