16 “Now tell your fellow-exiles what I am saying. I am the one who sent them to live in far-off nations and scattered them in other countries. Yet, for the time being I will be present with them in the lands where they have gone. Ezek. 11:16 GNT
But God is trying to reveal by His Holy Spirit the utter weakness of the child of God who is still putting his trust in himself.
Why does it take us so long to put our complete trust in God? He has made it so simple, so rewarding to yield what we are to Him!
767 What really makes a person—or a whole sector of society—unhappy, is the anxiety ridden, selfish search for well being, that desire to get rid of whatever is upsetting.
As I read Ezekiel’s words to the exiles, I can easily put myself in their shoes. There are days I feel like I don’t belong, that I am all by myself and feel like there is no hope.. no relief from the pain or the loneliness. I also know I am not alone in this – all you have to do is look at the number of pastors leaving the ministry, the number of teachers leaving education, the number of frontline workers leaving sheriff’s departments, police departments, and the rise of “coaches”–more often than not those who could not continue in their vocation, but someone want to help those who remain (and find a remnant connection to it)
Often times we call such times of self-imposed exile “burnout.” And truly, they are.
Those times come with a promise though, one seen by Tozer, that God will reveal our weaknesses, and use those times to deepen our relationship with Him–that we would come to trust Him more. You see exile and burnout are a matter, not of a lack or weak faith, but a time that reveals those times so that we value what God’s presence in the brokenness provides.
What it we took St. Josemaria’s idea of what was upsetting – and instead of getting rid of it, saw it as an opportunity to get to know Jesus better? To look for how He will provide? To find the joy in the presence of God who loves and embraces us, even in the midst of all that we consider negative. What if we heard Ezekiel’s message – that our exile was not just a disciplinary action by God, but a chance to see Him active in our lives, restoring us, calling us back–fulfilling the promise He made through the words of Ezekiel.
God sends us off into the exile we choose in our rebellion, so that He can be with us, and therefore restore us. Even there, WE ARE NOT ALONE!
God is with us… even in our doubt-filled, sin caused periods of exile we choose and impose on ourselves. He lets us go there.. so He can bring us back..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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:
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 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! Psalm 27:7-9 (ESV)
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12 (ESV)
540 You neither want to be an evil man nor a good one. And so, limping on both legs, you will have mistaken your way and filled your life with emptiness.
When I read the psalm above, I feel guilty. I resonate with the words in my heart, oh how I long to know the grace of God, fully in my life. ANd yet, I don’t seek his face enough. It is not as much God hiding his face from us, as we don’t look for Him as often as we should.
We try to get through life on our own, we try to act like we are mature Christians, we try to walk in His steps, but without His help. We are like the 3-year-old, trying on her mom’s high heels, (or his dad’s boots) And when we fall, we wonder why God abandoned us, why He allowed us to
We need to hear God, we need to take Him seriously on the fellowship He desires to have with us. It is how we need to live, really live. To live and walk with Jesus. To abide in the Spirit, to realize the righteousness, the holiness that rains down upon us.
God is with us, and the more we can seek Him, the more our brokeness is revealed to be a place where His comfort and peace powerfully is at work.
Stop what you are doing, spend a few moments seeking God, letting HIs mercy and peace wash over you, a demontration of the love …anad live a full and abundant life. For it is time
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2333-2335). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
10 Moses heard all the people complaining as they stood around in groups at the entrances of their tents. He was distressed because the LORD had become angry with them, 11 and he said to the LORD, “Why have you treated me so badly? Why are you displeased with me? Why have you given me the responsibility for all these people? 12 I didn’t create them or bring them to birth! Why should you ask me to act like a nurse and carry them in my arms like babies all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Numbers 11:10-12 GNT
479 “Pray for me,” I said as I always do. And he answered in amazement: “But is something the matter?” I had to explain that something is the matter or happens to us all the time; and I added that when prayer is lacking, “more and more weighty things are the matter.”
It’s the thought of the mom as she picks up after her children or her husband. It’s the thought of the manager after he sends his workers home for the day, It’s in the mind of the secretary who has to deal with unreasonable people, guarding her boss from them. It’s the thought of the nurse, who has to care and clean up patients, who cannot care for themselves. it’s the thought of the pastor, burnt out after the holidays and yet still having to meet the needs of people in crisis. The denominational officer, trying to figure out why another church is struggling.
And we cry out to God, why have YOU stuck us here?
Why did you give these people into my care?
Why can’t these people be “normal”, why are they so needy, so unaware, so irresponsible, and why do I have ot work them, clean them up, get them back healthy, and teach them to play well with others?
If St Josemaria is right. we are going to deal with those people all our lives. There is always something broken, or some relationship that is breaking. There is always another mess to clean up, another person or church in trauma, another friend caught up in sin.
So how do we survive? How can we keep our strength
Fellowship with God, deep, intimate fellowship, and sharing that with others, so we develop a burden to pray for each other, to bring the other before the throne of God, knowing that is where they will find the peace, the rest, the healing they need.
And that includes those people we have to serve, whether those in ministry with us or those we serve.
And it is where we need to be ourselves. Because life is like a boxing match, and sometimes it seems like the bell will never ring, ending the round.
So please pray for me… and let me know what I can pray for you!
may you know you dwell in His peace!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2100-2103). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I lift my eyes to You, the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor. Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB
Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.
For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth. It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.
I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place.
When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place.
Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap. What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom. What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.
We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules. We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening.
While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God. So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!) We were made to live in community.
But that community starts in the presence of God, Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace. (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.) As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.
Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.
Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes. As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears.
For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace.
Which is what we need, more than anything.
Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip
How Accurate is our Sight?
Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.
We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side. Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.
But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.
Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of. He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country. He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.
And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.
And how differently he must have thought.
How accurate was His,
This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome. Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.
The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.
1 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)
The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.
What this means is that this man would face rejection again. Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.
The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God. But it also divided him from his own people as well. No wife for a eunuch. No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.
Like many of us today. We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin. Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.
And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?
That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?
Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,
32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)
And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.
His Hope realized
I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain. He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..
And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count. That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing. We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.
Just like eunuch.
God had prepared this man’s heart. Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.
As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone. No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God. His prayer was answered.
He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.
The lesson we learn..
Maybe you are feeling alone today. It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world. Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others. This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.
And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week. Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are….. And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.
God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. 21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22 The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— 23 I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:20-23 (MSG)
But the opposite can also happen: men, who are made for love, can find in this presence that is everywhere around them the security for which their whole being cries out. They can see therein a victory over the loneliness that no human individual can ever banish even though it is in direct contradiction to our being, which cries out for a You, for someone to share our life. In this secret presence, men can find a reason for the confidence that makes life possible for them. At this point, their response to the question of God’s existence acquires critical proportions.
Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him266 and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,267 some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;1* but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him
My name is Dustin, and I am an extrovert. My vocation is that of being a pastor, where it seems I am constantly surrounded by people.
And I get lonely.
Even with an awesome church that doesn’t acknowledge the formal line between my being their pastor and being their friend! (this is a great blessing, an incredible one) Even with a great wife and incredibly bright son. it still happens.
There is time to be alone, but loneliness is a different thing. Being alone is needed at times, and is both restful and restorative. Loneliness is wearing, it is needing someone to relate to, of not wanting to be alone, of needing not to be alone.
Loneliness, Pope Benedict wrote, was something we can never banish. He also noted how it is in direct contradiction to our very existence. That creates a very ugly paradox, the one thing we can’t avoid is what robs us of who we are. The emptiness, the inability to express love, and ot know we are loved wreaks havoc with our psyche, with our soul. We are designed to share this life we live with others, which is why sin is so devastating, as it shatters our ability to relate to others. It devalues them, and without anyone to truly value us, the loneliness drives us further into despair, and into the bondage of sin and addiction.
I said I knew this struggle, as do many of those I know in ministry, as most people who are happily married. There are still times where the darkness of loneliness forms and tries to crush the individual.
so where do I find hope?
Among other places, I find it in singing a hymn in our liturgy. The words preceding it are “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven, we praise and magnify your glorious name..even more praising you and singing” In that moment, I realize that friends that have passed away, and others that are singing it with me, and millions across the globe (along with angels ) are praising God together. Our voices are crying out to save us, (for this is what Hosanna means) to the One who can save us. Save us from the sin which divides us, from that which makes breaks us and leaves us unable to love, and unable to perceive we are loved.
We are, the very people the Spirit draws to Jesus, and in united to Jesus, we find our unity in God our Father, we are in Him, even a Jesus is.
As I read these words of mine, they seem too theological, to philosophical, to other-worldly to communicate the truth, the reality that I know. The presence of God, that should I remember leaves me never alone, and brings draws me out of the darkness, of my loneliness, and fills me with peace and comfort and joy.
This is why the gathering of believers around God’s word, and the sacraments where God pours out Hiss
Ratzinger, Joseph. 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. Print.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
22 “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Luke 9:22-24 (NLT)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)
252 Grant me, Jesus, the Cross with no Simon of Cyrene to help me. No, that’s not right; I need your grace, I need your help here as in everything. You must be my Simon of Cyrene. With you, my God, no trial can daunt me… But what if my Cross should consist in boredom or sadness? In that case I say to you, Lord, with You I would gladly be sad. (1)
Occaisonally I hear the complaint, “no one knows what I am going through, and no one understands, no one cares.” Sometimes I want to argue the point, confronting the opinion with that which proves it is not true. Other times I simply want to say, “stop whining, trust in God, you know that is not true!” And sometimes I want to walk away, tired of the complaints, which seem more an excuse for not living as one should.
But how do I walk away from myself?
Though I have heard such as a pastor and as a friend, I have heard it often in those internal arguments we have when we have that moment to think, when we have a moment where we are not recoiling from the constant stress that life provides. Even as I’ve shepherded others through those times, (some have even suggested I have a talent for it?) applying the same truth to my own life is difficult.
Part of me just wants to accept it, it’s part of taking up my cross, and I will get through it, eventually. After all, good Christians endure all things, right?
We are not meant ot bear our burdens alone. We are meant to share them, with God, and as our trust in God grows, with the people He’s called to be His own.
St Josemaria’s words that I read, that I need to inwardly digest this morning confront me in my struggles.They don’t dismiss the cross I’ve got to bear, but they remind me that a Christian doesn’t walk through such times alone. And we certainly aren’t the heroes who bear the weight by our own strength. We need to let Jesus be our Simon of Cyrene. We have to let the Spirit intercede for us, even as we are too overwhelmed to know what to pray.
We have to know we walk with God, we walk in Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We need to depend on a God who reveals Himself to be not just in a relationship, but to be the Relationship.
This is how we find ourselves to be able to rejoice in all things, and to not be anxious about anything. In order to survive, it is not about bearing up with things bravely, it is about depending on Jesus, about living, not in view of that would crush us, but in view of the cross and the love revealed to us there.
For taking up the cross, our cross, is found in being united to His suffering and death, and His life. That is where our peace comes from.. a peace that doesn’t make sense.
A peace that is ours, as we let Jesus be our Simon, as we let Him be our Paraclete, our Comforter, as we let HIm be our Lord and Savior!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1060-1063). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, 9 I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. 10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:8-10 (NLT)
254 An incurable illness restricted his movements. And yet he cheerfully assured me: “The illness suits me well and I love it more all the time. If I were given the choice, I would be born again this way a hundred times!”(1)
Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass (2)
I have the honor to visit a 97 year old lady for about 10 minutes a week. She lives with some other eldery people around the corner. It isn’t much of a visit by the world’s standards, but it is one I treasure.
She has lived a fascinating life, one that would have me asking her to tell the stories from, for she has worked in places that I find extremely fascinating. But with the strength she has, just a few minutes of hearing about God working with our preschoolers, and a prayer of blessing, and it is time to leave.
Yet her contentment is amazing, her joy as she sees me is so evident. She doesn’t mind her weakness. She seems to treasure our brief moments together. This incredible lady, me, and the God who loves us so! A few moments that make such an incredible difference.. in my life.
It is hard to look at her weariness, for the smile and the assurance of her love for God overwhems it. She is more at peace than so many I know. So much more full of joy. Despite the suffering, despite the hours spent alone.
There are all different types of suffering. Suffering can be caused by evil oppression, by poverty, by health, by age, by loneliness?
But what we find in the suffering makes all the difference in the world. In this time of Advent, can we find Christ there? Can we find the joy of having no other hope but that which is found in Christ Jesus? The hope of sharing in His glory?
When we do, when in the midst of the pain we hear His voice; when we realize the comfort Jesus brings to us in the Lord’s Supper; in those moments of prayer when we can only listen, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to us, that is when the quiet joy comes flooding through our souls. That is when the brokenness finds healing.
That is when we know we are loved.
Such a joyous thought…
I pray that you and I would know God’s love that deeply, with that assurance, at any age, in any situation. Because of that love, may joy be generated at our very core.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1244-1246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.