Devotional Thought of the day:
32 If the bull kills a male or female slave, its owner shall pay the owner of the slave thirty pieces of silver, and the bull shall be stoned to death.
Exodus 21:32 TEV
The Eucharist is not a private business, carried on in a circle of friends, in a club of like-minded people, who seek out and get together with those who already suit them; but just as the Lord allowed himself to be crucified outside the city wall, before all the world, and stretches out his hands to everyone, thus the Eucharist is the public worship of all those whom the Lord calls, irrespective of their personal make-up. It is particularly characteristic of him, as he demonstrated in his earthly life, to have men of the most diverse groupings, social backgrounds, and personal views brought together in the greater whole of his word and his love. It was characteristic of the Eucharist, then, in the Mediterranean world in which Christianity first developed, for an aristocrat who had found his way into Christianity to sit there side by side with a Corinthian dock worker, a miserable slave, who under Roman law was not even regarded as a man but was treated
It always amazes me when I read the value the priests of Israel put on the life of Jesus. Thirty
Mankind, uncontrolled, would gore and trample Jesus, and they paid the penalty in advance, to the one, no really, one of several who would betray Jesus.
But in paying the price of a servant killed, there is another message. Jesus is the servant of all, and that is seen as we look at those He gathers together. People, as is noted in the second quote, as different as can be. From every economic class, from every culture, from those who people look up upon, and those that are looked down upon by society.
He gathers us all, cleanses all of us of the sin that would entrap us, heals us of our brokenness.
This is the service Jesus renders, even as we dismiss him as insignificant. As we dismiss Him as someone who just was there, whose value was not visible, despite the healings, the miracles, the teaching.
Despite the death and resurrection.
It is time now to realize His value to our lives and praise Him for the way He loved and served. To know that and be sure of that more than anything else. To experience value the love he pours out and the way He mercifully serves us.
And to do this together, with the people we have only two things in common with, sin and a Savior.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 108). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.” 21 That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.” 22 Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? 23 Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? 24 Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both… .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” 25 Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. 26 The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
Luke 5:20-26 (MSG)
God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.
Doubts and hesitations justifiably trouble those who feel they are spoken to by God as Gideon was. “Why is it,” comedian Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?”
Gideon, however, pursued the conversation with the angel of the Lord—testing the situation to see if it was real. We can do the same—think about it, wait, ask God to help us know if the speaker was himself or our own self.
There’s a new show, where a man receives text messages from God detailing his role in other people’s life. Though he is the son of a pastor, he struggles to believe in God, so these messages, well, he struggles with the messages, and the idea of a benevolent, loving God. A few years back there was another show with a similar twist, called Joan of Arcadia, and in a like manner, the young lady struggled with the idea that God would talk specifically and directly to her.
Lili Tomlin has a point, we will struggle to believe we are sane (and other people will as well) if we believe that God is talking to us.
But we need to hear Him, we need to hear His voice, as He talks to us. We need to begin to trust in Him and to have faith in Him, and you can’t do that unless you are listening, (and along with Gideon, asking to Go to help us discern whether it is truly God, or just our heart speaking)
Listening to God isn’t easy, and discerning that it is Him is challenging. He speaks to us through His word, and through His sacrament, but this is delivered through others voices, through others hands. through others lives. And He speaks to us in prayer, which is more than just a monologue of our laying our burdens down.
So how do we start, listening to God?
I would say it starts with hearing one of the most important things we can hear, what the man lowered through the roof heard.
My friend, I forgive your sins!
The Lord, who will judge all of Creation, forgave your sin.
You have to hear that and know that no-one, not even you, has the right to judge you as guilty of them. You have to hear those words, spoken with so much love, “I forgive your sins!”
Hearing God starts there. It opens up for you a great big can of healing (as opposed to the great gig can of whoop-#*& your think you deserve), it opens up the door to where God dwells and draws you in from the darkness of sin, shame, and the need for self-justification or self-pity. And in His presence, as you are welcomed into His glory, you get to hear the next message from God.
I am the Lord your God, and you, you are my people.
Start hearing these two messages, let them sink deeply in your soul, and your will begin to hear and clearly understand God.
Lord Jesus, as you did for the blind, open our eyes to see You, and as you did for the deaf, heal our hearing so we can hear Your words, spoken in love, that our sins are forgiven, and that we are in a relationship with You. ANd then help us to list, as you talk to us, thorugh the words You’ve given us, through Your sacraments, and through the people You bring into our lives. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT)
669 The co-redeeming—eternal!—efficacy of our lives can only become real with humility, passing unnoticed, so that others can discover Him.
Recently, the president of the United States was reported to have commented with harsh language about several countries. There is no doubt the phrasing he used was wrong. But there is also no doubt that those countries, much like our own, are broken.
Sin does that, and in some places, the sin is more evident to us, and to others, our sin is much more evident than theirs.
But rather than focus on the brokenness, both those backing our president and those opposing out president focus n the words of the message. I would not say the reason they d this is conscious and deliberate, but in focusing on the President’s phrasing, they are able to forget about the real problems in those countries and our own.
The brokenness, the sin that dominates our culture, whether it is corruption, or theft, or murder.
We would rather get mad, or get defensive about the word order than doing something about it
And these places, (including the USA) continue in their brokenness. And very few do anything about the problems. Which, in and of itself, is just as sinful, just as corrupt, and just as wrong.
St Josemaria wrote about the humility required to become effective, to have a real meaning to our lives. He talks about it from the point of our not caring about the credit we could receive, but rather being satisfied with only one goal, seeing people see God’s love for them. It doesn’t matter if I am the man baptizing them, or whether it is my Catholic priest or Methodist pastor friend. It doesn’t matter if it is my sermon that opens someone eyes to God’s love, or someone else’s.
All that matters is that they know God’s love and mercy. As they do, they will be changed by God, and their little area of the world will be filled with less skubala. (that’s is crap in Greek)
But humility doesn’t start with not caring who gets the credit. If it does, it could just be a nice excuse for apathy, and not working in the ministry God gave us all, the ministry of pleading with people to be reconciled.
Humility is found in our own reconciliation, in realizing the crap that we’ve got ourselves into, and that on Christ can reconcile us with the Father. He saved us from our crappy life, full of sin, and cleaned us up, and gave us life. As he doesn’t in just about every country in this world.
And He does it through us, the people He reconciled.
He shares this incredible work with us and makes it happen.
As we simply point to the cross and the empty tomb and invite people to know that is all for them. For Christ would unity with them there, as He did with us.
This is our hope, this is our joy, this is who we are meant ot be, working with people to see their lives change, and then to rejoice and see that every day. This is what makes our lives and communities a little less crappy…. and will do the same for the world.
The love of God, the power of God that would reconcile everything back to Him.
So rejoice in what God has done and is doing in your life, and pray for those who need reconciliation, and as you can, plead with them to let God do what God does… and then rejoice some more, in awe that God does work, and works through you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2460-2462). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for your new year!
4 “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)
14 Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15 Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16 But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17 Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)
503 Love Our Lord passionately. Love him madly! Because if there is love— when there is love—I would dare to say that resolutions are not needed. My parents—think of yours—did not need to make any resolutions to love me: and what an effusion of tenderness they showed me, in little details every day! With that same human heart we can and should love God.
In Lutheran thought, most commands are what are known as “Law.” Law has three purposes, The first is to keep civil peace. The second use of the law is to show us that we are guilty of sin and deserving eternal punishment. Knowing that we can be drawn to Christ to receive grace, the merciful forgiveness that restores us, and welcomes us into the presence of God. The third use of the law is simply to show us how to live, now that we are bound to Him, for Christ’s life is the picture of a life lived in full harmony with the law.
But the command following the words of the Lord being our Lord, the phrase known as the Shema, is not Law in the Lutheran sense.
Yes, we may struggle ot love God with everything we are, and if we think about it, this could make us wallow in guilt and shame. Most of us can keep our resolution longer than we can maintain a love for God that includes every part of our life! But if we feel guilty, or if we just ignore our shortcomings, we are missing the incredible, glorious, life-changing words that come before it.
The Lord, and the Lord alone, IS OUR GOD!
This line is why this isn’t Law, it I the purest of Gospel, for it describes what it means for us to have God (using His name YHWH) as our God. Loaded into that phrase is the idea that God takes responsibility for us, provides what we need, loves us. It means His nature of loving mercy (cHesed/Agape) is at work in us, bringing to completion the work began in us.
And as we consider this, as we think it through, there is no need for a resolution, no need for goals to change us. As we think and meditate on God loving us, we love Him, we adore Him, we become more and more hungry to hear of His love, and to share it with others.
So maybe you made a resolution or four to change in this new year. To lose weight, to be more patient with people, to be more determined in your spiritual disciplines. Maybe you already broke one or two.
Real change in our lives starts with something else.
Being still, and knowing He is our God.
Knowing His passion and love for you…
Just sit there for a moment, and let His love sink in…
and find yourself changed.
Godspeed my friends!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1920-1925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. z “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. 17 Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar c or not?”
18 But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a •denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.
21 “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.
Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22 HCSB
298 My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope.
I vaguely remember the first time realizing the inference in the gospel reading in red above. That while money bears the image of Emperor’s and Presidents, we bear in ourselves the image of God. Intellectually, it was pretty cool insight for a kid, and I remember being pleased with the simple idea.
We are made in the image of God!
What a wondrous thought, that every person we meet was created by God Even though we have too often obscured His image as we’ve fallen to temptation, the image remains. Bruised and battered, torn, dented, covered in the slime and muck that is the result of sin. And one of the joys of being a Christian is when we see someone realize this, as God cleanses and recreates them, restoring the image. What a joy it is, to see God begin to transform them! (see 2 Cor. 3)
Yet there are times, even as I observe that the observation seems to be from a distance. I get the idea of being made in the image of God, yet as I look in the mirror, I see something far different. I see the darkness and brokenness still, I see the damage of my sin. To borrow from St Josemaria’s words this morning, I see far too clearly the wretchedness of my poor soul.
This is where God’s love is so glorious, so wonderful, so nearly beyond belief. St Josemaria describes it so well, as he is sure of God giving us the supernatural beauty, knowledge, and power we need so that Jesus is not sullied, not shocked by looking upon our brokenness.
Realizing this, we find another reason to adore Him, for we find another facet, another depth of His love for us! He will let us love Him! He doesn’t just accept the love we show Him, He will treasure the love we are able to show Him!
He is our God, and He makes us His people, and rejoices in our love! Even as He transforms it, and creates in us the ability to love.
Enjoy His love, my friends!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1219). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…
Then Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Matthew 4:1 HCSB
15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:15-19 HCSB
216 With God’s grace, you have to tackle and carry out the impossible… because anybody can do what is possible.
I sit here, just finishing my devotional time up, having done the reading, having prayed, and now I try to put what I’ve read into some kind of concrete summation. After that Iw ill try and write a sermon, but to be honest, it is going to be a struggle.
Even writing this is, as I try to think, what will people hear tomorrow, what might they read in this, that will help them know God’s love, know God’s mercy, know His comfort.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year, a day when we look at Christ’s second coming, not from the point of judgment, but from the point of the promises given to us in Baptism being fully seen, fully revealed, fully experienced. it supposed to be a joyous celebration, yet my heart will struggle, caught up in what it should be, versus where we are, in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.
It seems impossible, and I understand how Moses felt, trying to find reasons to no go back to Egypt, to the place of suffering. How will they believe?
And yet, it is the very thing I need to preach, the lesson in my gospel reading this morning, the promise that this valley is not unending, the promise backed up in the very confession of Peter, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
There is a lot to unpack in that confession, from Jesus unique role as the Son of God, to what it means to be the Messiah, the One anointed by God to save God’s people. All of God’s people, those the Spirit calls and gathers.
Because of His work, the gates of Hell have been shattered, that the bondage of sin has been cut, that we, in the midst of the shadow of death, can have hope.
God is with us, the promise is complete, even though we don’t see it fully…yet.
That is why we are reminded by Josemaria that we can tackle and carry out the impossible, a reminder I need today, and tomorrow. For it is in knowing God’s grace in the middle of the impossibility, that we realize He is working through us, with us, and it is His word that will make a difference.
That’s what I have to count on tomorrow, and every day until we see the reality of Christ the King is clearly visible. For He is coming, and His Spirit is here, comforting us, reminding us that He is with us, that we aren’t alone.
And because of that, the impossible is not. For we walk with Him. And somehow, others will know this, because our words and lives will testify to His presence.
Lord, have mercy on us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 940-942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:4 (Phillips NT)
195 Just now, Jesus, when I was considering my wretchedness, I said to you: Allow yourself to be taken in by this son of yours, just like those good fathers, full of kindness, who put into the hands of their little children the presents they want to receive from them… knowing perfectly well that little children have nothing of their own. And what merriment of father and son, even though they are both in on the secret!
St. Josemaria’s words give a definition to my greatest fear in life. That because of my wretchedness, because of who I perceive myself to be, I will never, ever do anything for God that pleases Him.
It just won’t happen, despite a desire to do it, despite an attempt to dedicate my life to serve Him, and led people to Him. There are days when it seems to happen, but those days are far apart, and seem more like an accident than anything I really do.
The challenge is in getting my mind off of my wretchedness, and see what God is doing around me. It’s not easy to do at times, as my own failures and wretchedness dominate my landscape. The sins that seem so obvious, and even the things I strive to do like my sermons, seem to fall so short, so often failing to show people what they need to know, the presence of God in their lives.
But it is that very presence I need to see, as God works through us, His hand masterfully, artfully guiding us, doing the work He planned for us to accomplish.
It is only by seeing His presence, by resting safely in His arms, that I can see this. It is only by relenting, and meditating on His love, that this assurance, this peace, can comfort a soul that is not as wretched as it thinks.
I know God does work through me, like the Father who helps the child create the gift to be given back to the Father. Or the Father who makes the gift the son brings truly become something special. What I need to do is let this amazing, wonderful truth sink deeply into my heart and soul, creating a joy that is described as unspeakable by the Apostle Peter.
I would imagine that I am not the only one….. so let us pray for each other!
Lord, Have mercy on us, and give us the ability to know this joy, to know that the Spirit works through us, doing what is pleasing to the Father! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 876-880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for Our Day:
42 And whoever gives j just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple —I assure you: He will never lose his reward!” Matt 10:42 HCSB
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand questions of a pilgrim.
Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Most of us will never baptize 30 people in a day, never mind 3000. Most of us will never write a book that will revive and change the church at large. We aren’t Calvin or Luther or Pope Ratzinger. We aren’t the great minds of the church, nor the servants whose love and sacrifice is honored by millions
Yet our ministry is just as powerful, if not more so, even when it is as simple as praying with someone who is struggling or offering a cup of water to someone who is tired and weary.
Pope Francis explains it well if a bit technically. Mission, the work God sends us to do, doesn’t come about because of our doctrinal knowledge. It doesn’t come about because we have all the questions answered, and know it all. We will still have thousands of questions, many of them which will go unanswered in this life. For doctrinal statements are not really statements of faith.
Nor does faith come about just because we have security in this life and for the next. It is not because we are assured of heaven that we spring up to serve others, to care for them, to reveal to them the God who loves them. We can’t even anticipate what heaven is, it is unfathomable.
But faith, the kind of faith that leads to being “mission-minded” comes from encountering Jesus. An encounter that is irreplaceable, an encounter that leaves us in awe, and in peace that is inexpressible. For in our encounter, Jesus takes away our burdens, our sins, our resentment, It’s all gone. Even the anxieties of today and eternity, and the academic explanations of religion, they slide into the background, for there is only Him.
And it is wonderful, it is beyond explanation.
And from there, we find something else happening. We see our hearts aware of those in need around us, the very people God has sent us to minister too, even when that ministry is a simple cup of water…given because the Lord is with you!
I pray that we all experience Jesus’ presence, revealed by His word, know in His sacraments, and therebt dwel and minister to others in His peace. AMEN!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional thought for our days…
14 “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. 15 I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. 16 When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT)
15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect 1 Pet 3:115-16 NCV
66 My God, teach me how to love! My God, teach me how to pray!
Every once in a while, when doing bills, I put the wrong month in, and sometimes the wrong year.
It is hard for me to accept we are in 2017, and that we are almost at 2018. It seems that this should be in the future, way in the future.
Similarly, it sometimes feels like the promises of God aren’t here yet, like 2017 shouldn’t be, I can’t see it, I can’t picture it, even while I long for those days when my hopes, my expectations will be fulfilled. The expectations and hope that make up my faith, the answers I need to answer people with, as St Peter says, in a gentle way and with respect. Even to those who do not respect me, especially to those who do not respect me, or God.
That is the amazing thing that gives me hope!
We see it in the underlined part of the first reading, these people who hated GOd, who turned away from Him and worshipped gods they made of wood and metals and gems. Those who ignored what He would say, especially when He told them that He loved them.
These people of God wouldn’t call him master, they wouldn’t call Him by some official titles, but they were to use an endearment to call Him by, a name that revealed the love that they recognized was between them.
For God would win our affections back, God would restore us, and we would willingly give ourselves to Him, a response to His healing and caring for us.
FOr we would finally realize that He loves us!
We are Christ’s bride, not His slave, we are the Father’s beloved children not, the servants who run from His anger. We are the companions of the Holy Spirit. RElationships that are not bound by law, but love. A relationship that began because God was stubborn and patient, not willing to let us perish, but bringing about in us a change of mind…
A change that comes when we begin to see His love for us fully revealed at the cross.
May we realize this is now – this hope, this expectation is not just in the future, some far off date when we finally realize He loves us. That was revealed at the cross, and at our baptism, and every time we share in the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar.
This is our reason for hope, our assurance of everlasting life, with the God who doesn’t want us to call Him Lord and Master, but beloved…for
He loves us…
And so we pray, with St Josemaria, that God would teach us how to love, how to interact with Him!. Lord have mercy on us! (And be confident and know He has!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 452-454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Infinite Valuable
That leaves all in the dust…
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.
Value beyond calculation…
Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it. It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.
500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.
It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done. And its value? That is easier to calculate. A half of a billion dollars could provide
2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊
So its value isn’t infinite
Not even close.
Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.
Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.
An Important word?
Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage. Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was. Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.
Me? I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.
Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today? Rubbish?) or garbage. The old King James was more accurate with dung. While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.
For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.
But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.
I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.
Important enough to leave all else in the dust.
For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.
Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught
Paul explains why a few verses down,
I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him. To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.
To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.
In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor, “
Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”
That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was. And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it. No way, no how.
Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy. Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty. All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life, all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.
But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…
That is infinitely valuable.
So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.
Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…
For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace. AMEN.
 Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.