Devotional Thought of the Day
7 If your servant comes in from plowing or from taking care of the sheep, would you say, “Welcome! Come on in and have something to eat”? 8 No, you wouldn’t say that. You would say, “Fix me something to eat. Get ready to serve me, so I can have my meal. Then later on you can eat and drink.” 9 Servants don’t deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. 10 And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.” Luke 17:7-10 (CEV)
We come now to the taproot of our surefire program: intimacy with the indwelling Trinity. To put it simply: the main source of deep conversion is to fall in love with endless Beauty. A genuine person will gladly sacrifice for real love. Christic martyrs are in love. Jesus tortured to death on the Cross is the icon of perfect love, unconditional, selfless love. All the saints imitate him in their heroic virtue because they too are in love. Their concern, determination, and motivation are rooted in and arise from their intimacy with triune Beauty who is purest and endless love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8).
1025 You will have as much sanctity, as you have mortification done for Love.
When you love someone, truly love someone, you are willing to embrace pain and suffering if you know it will help them. I know a husband who gave a kidney to his wife, or couples who have endured hardship to stay together. I don’t know if children of any age ever realize what their parents give up, so that they can have things the parents never had at their age.
That is what love is!
It is the same as the servants, who have cared well for their master. It is just the way things are supposed to be. We are just who we are – nothing special here… just doing what we do….
We need to grow in this as the church. Whether it is in trying to help the poor, or train up more people to serve in ministry, here or abroad, whether it is in giving of time or treasure, or letting someone else learn to serve in our place and coaching them in it, we need to learn to sacrifice our preferences in view of the love we have for God, and the people He’s created.
It may be even sacrificing our preferences, in order to work with the government during times like this. ( I hate saying this… but hey – gotta preach to myself as well as to you!)
The key to this is the cross, to being drawn to where Jesus is lifted up, not just as an observer, but being transformed into His image, as we are united to Him on the cross there. There everything is so based in a love so incredible, so deep, that everything else, including the work to help others be drawn there… is nothing.
Being loved by Him becomes everything. – other challenges… – what challenges… God is with us!
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 99.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking. 24 Don’t let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true. Psalm 139:23-24 (CEV)
One day he startled Mr. Rittles with the question: “Why cannot moral questions be posed with the same precision as a mathematical equation, so that given X and Y, Z is the only possible answer?” The tutor scratched his peruke, at a loss to answer. He had never heard the question posed before; and it had been asked by a mere boy. Finally, he ventured a reply, hoping that it did not precipitate another query. “Because many such questions do not require precise answers. Theology and the Scriptures do not invite reasoned inquiry. And moral philosophy only seems to.” “No, they don’t,” remarked Hugh. “But I believe they should.”
2697 Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.
The best way to see how contemplative intimacy and love are the same reality is to look at the radiant image of the Father, Jesus himself (Heb 1:3). He habitually spent hours “long before dawn” deeply absorbed in the Father, and even on occasion it was the whole night in this profound communion (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16; 6:12). He obviously was totally in love with his Father, for the Father was always present to him (Jn 16:32). Indeed his deepest love was coterminous with his deepest prayer
I usually do not quote from historical novels in my blog, though I love the genre, especially the era from 1750-1815 or so. It is one of the ways I relax, to enter the age of sail, and ignore the techno social babble from which I need to escape.
I read the words penned by Cline, and a part of me resonated with the students question, and the desire to be able to approach theology and faith like mathematics or a science class with a laboratory aspect. That is why one undertakes learning Greek, and picking up Hebrew, why we spend semester after semester in Systematic Theology, trying to derive the unity between Faith and Reason as if it is some kind of Venn Diagram.
“I believe they should (invite reasoned inquiry)!” That was the young students response. Since i am no longer a young man, I can tell them they don’t, and while disappointed, I also find myself glad they cannot be subjected to reason inquiry.
For our Faith, our Dependence on God cannot be subject to a reasoned inquiry any more than a husband’s love for his wife can be something he understands. It is there, mysterious yet comforting, it is overwhelming and awe-inspiring, yet so critically part of us. The husband is to close, to involved, to intimate for him to stand back and appraise its value.
The is why the CCC tells us we need to remember God more often than we breathe, and for the same reason. Failure to breathe results in our death. Failure to remember God’s presence, and love, to taste and see His goodness and His mercy results in living a life numb to existence!
Spurgeon, that incredibly rational and logical preacher described it this way, “
There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them!
Intimacy with God is so different than a reasoned inquiry into dogma, than using superlatives, trying to describe how it is better, is meaningless.
Search out God, even better, let Him search within you. Trust Him enough to let Him in to clean the dark crap you’ve tried to buy. Run to Him to heal the emptiness that is there because of sin. Find yourself drawn into the intimate relationship of the Father and the Son… and let that become who you are, as the Spirit transforms you.
This isn’t theology… it is something far more… that will make that theology mean something far more than data… that will make you understand and be joyous when those rational inquiries can’t be answered…
For then you will know you are in love with God.
Cline, Edward. Sparrowhawk: Book Two, Hugh Kenrick: A Novel of the American Revolution (p. 97). Kindle Edition.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 648.
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 72–73.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12 So tell them, “I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13 and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD. 14 My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:11-14 CEV
Abraham certainly had sufficient ground for a disputation when he heard God’s words about offering up his son, because these words were patently contrary not only to reason and to divine and natural law but also to the eminent article of faith concerning the promised seed, Christ, who was to be born of Isaac. He could have asked if this command was to be understood literally or if it was to receive a tolerable and loose interpretation. But as on the previous occasion when Abraham received the promise of the blessed seed of Isaac, although this seemed impossible to his reason, he gave God the honor of truthfulness and concluded and believed most certainly in his heart that what God promised he was also able to do. So Abraham understood and believed the words and command of God plainly and simply, as the words read, and committed the entire matter to God’s omnipotence and wisdom, knowing that God had many more ways and means of fulfilling the promises concerning the seed of Isaac than he could comprehend with his blind reason.
But even if we had not fallen, even apart from sin and its consequences, a second reason for the imperfection of our knowledge of God is that we are finite. Only a finite image of the infinite God can appear in a finite mirror. The only mirror that reflects all of God is God. The only one who knows the Father perfectly is the Son.
A character named Harry Callahan once noted, “A man has to know His limitations!” It is a brilliant piece of advice, possibly based in Socrates admonition to “Know thyself” But that is not all we need to know, it is nt all we need to experience.
We need to know God’s limitations as well. We may not be able to understand them, but we can know them.
Abraham had an idea of them, so he determined that God could be trusted, even if God did something that seemed inconsistent. And so he took his son up the mountain in order to sacrifice him. God wants him to do that, well God gave him the son, though his wife was 40-50 years beyond childbearing age! And so he knew God’s limitations, simply the promises God has made, and the love which causes those promises to be fulfilled.
The problem is with our finite knowledge, how we picture God is so limited, and because of our experience, so flawed. We only know imperfect love, and mercy that always has a cost. We know how fragile our on motives are, how even when we do good, we may not be doing it for the right reasons.
This is why we need to go back to the promises God has always made people. We need the Spirit to breathe into us life, we need to be set free of what oppresses us. To get to the place where we can take a deep breath, and realize He is God.
And that He has brought us into His presence…. and with Him we are home.
Lord, work in our lives, and through us in our communities. Help us, even with our limitations, to experience Your presence, and Your love. AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 577–578.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 141.
Devotional Thoughts for 9/11:
14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death. 15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying. Heb 2:14-15 CEV
We doubt God’s love when we see and feel all the sufferings that our freedom to sin has brought upon us. Like Dostoyevski’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, we prefer happiness to freedom. We wish God had given us less freedom and had guaranteed that we would stay in Eden forever. We wish that He had put up a sign saying “No snakes in the grass”, that He had given no law that we could ever have chosen to disobey.
I was in Del Taco, the one on 29 Palms Highway, the one from which you can see Yucca Valley High School. I had just placed my order, and heard people gasp. I rounded the corner. and froze.
And we, along with millions of others, watched as thousands died.
I don’t remember what I ordered, or if I ate it. I was supposed to go play golf on the base golf course, that would be cancelled. I drove to my church, threw open the doors, let 107.7 know people could come and pray…. and they did.
19 years later, the memories, along with many of the people I’ve stood by the bedside of, as they died. Many of those times are passing before me this morning. Some people were at peace, others not so much. All, along the journey, questioned God about the suffering that they, or the loved ones they cared for endured.
Why does it have to exist? Why couldn’t god just leave us in paradise, and make it impossible for us to sin? Impossible for us to suffer, impossible to…die. Why do we fall for temptation, again and again? Why do we have to suffer the consequences of the freedom God has given us all? Why did Adam and Eve fall for the lie that all freedom is good? Oh the power of that lie! Oh the damage that freedom can wreak… for freedom means that we often choose that which leads to death. Our death, or others.
Wouldn’t we be happier if God just programmed us perfect, and we knew no freedom, but only happiness? If we knew naive bliss, but not how love is still love in the midst of our brokenness? Would it not be nirvana if there was no war, no discrimination, no terrorism, no death?
Perhaps it would, but nirvana is but emptiness, it is the emptiness, the lack of self, and while this may seem peaceful, it misses out on what truly creates and sustains peace. It lacks the thing we need to know the most
The kind of love that brings peace in the midst of suffering and death. The kind of peace that has us give up control, but in order that God’s love may be revealed to be in control. The kind of love that rescues us from the fear of dying, by reminding us for the promise of heaven.
Kreeft finishes the paragraph above with this,
Mere kindness or compassion would keep us protected against suffering by denying us real freedom. That is the love we have for pets but not for persons, at least not persons we really respect. We are not meant to be God’s pets. He did not create us for that. We are to be God’s lovers.
We aren’t not God’s pets, His naive, companions. Who wants a scratch behind the years, or a treat when we behave right, and ask to go out rather than leaving a puddle on the kitchen floor. We are the bride who will cry on His shoulders, who will depend on His strength to get us through life,e who will sing His praises, for eternity is more than death… and even in the times of death, those who know Him, can know His peace. We need the Holy Spirit to come, and to comfort us, in the midst of terrorism, amid the brokenness of a country torn apart by disease, or sin, or natural disaster. We need to find something so amazing that we can leave the painful emptiness behind, in view of the amazing love.
That is why people ran into First Christian Church on 9/11. That is why they cried at the altar, and why they could leave… still distraught, still not believing, but knowing that God was with them, and therefore knowing peace on a horrendous day.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 116–117.
10 For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being. Job 12:10 (NLT2)
First, God loves everything. Second, everything loves God. The second is as true as the first. Acorns grow into oak trees because they are in love with God. That is, they seek (unconsciously) their own perfection, which is a participation in some of God’s perfection. An oak tree is more perfect, more Godlike, than an acorn. An acorn is not satisfied to be an acorn, because it wants (unconsciously, of course) to be more like God. God is the magnet that draws all the iron filings that are creatures closer to Himself. That is why everything moves. It is seeking its own perfection, which is a reflection of God’s perfection. Everything moves out of love of God.
There are people who will not acknowledge God, yet they are drawn to Him. The aspire to be like Him, much as young children might want to be like their parents. There is a part of us that longs to excel, to be good at something, anything. To be the best, to be the expert, to know more, do more, be responsible for more.
It is actually a drive to be like God. To be perfect. Using the old Army slogan, to “be all that you can be.”
Kreeft indicates that this is actually a love of God. It may be a little warped, it may lead us into sin as it did Adam and Eve. It may surface as false pride and even self-idolatry. Often it reveals itself as a desire to supplant God, even as a young man may try to be the alpha dog in his family.
Sin often masquerades as light, which means it must have a kernel of truth in it. We want to be like God, whether we acknowledge His existence or not, because we are made in His image. And that drive, corrupted by sin, leads us to rebel against what He has planned for us.
The drive is not sinful, the pursuit of perfection is not wrong. It just needs calibration, and focus as we imitate Christ, even as Paul and the apostles were transformed into doing.
Redeemed, reconciled, adopted, revived and renewed, that drive is to see God at work within us, leaving Him in control, leaving His wisdom as our guide, and our norm. This is how we are to live , in Him, perfected.
In communion with Him, this hunt for perfection leads us to fall to our knees, to allow Him to remove our imperfections, to cover our failures, to even erase our sins.
This is revival, when our desire for perfection finds its fulfillment in a relationship with the Lord who created us, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus, recreates and perfects us.
Come Holy Spirit, make Your presence known as You fill our hearts, renewing our lives. AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 102–103.
Devotional Thought for Today:
1 First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. 2 Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. 3 This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. 4 God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is, 5 There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us. 6 God showed us this at the right time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (CEV)
“I think more of the place where I was baptized than of Rheims Cathedral where I was crowned. It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a Kingdom. This last I shall lose at death but the other will be my passport to an everlasting glory.” (St. Louis IX, King of France)
746 From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.
In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and noting more should be vut on his gravestone:-
WILLIAM CAREY, BOTRN AUGUST 17th, 1761.: DIED-
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm…on Thy kind arms I fall.”
The king and the missionary knew the same thing.
They understood what truly mattered in life. Both had amazing successes, and failures beyond imagination. They were known and loved by some of those they served, and hated by others. Neither was perfect, yet both knew what mattered in their life, to the extent that I would hold their words up to you, and ask you to come to similar conclusions.
The same conclusion that St. Josemaria urges us, even as we work diligently, to let our hearts escape into God’s presence, and declare boldly, “my Jesus…”
You see that is what the great missionary to India meant, as he fell into the arms of Christ. Nothing else in his life was worth recognizing, save that. The King, choosing more important the moment where the Father unites him to Jesus, in the death and resurrection of Christ, (see Romans 6, Colossians 2) says the same thing.
Everything that is critical in life boils down to to that point, where Jesus makes us His people.
This is what we need to pray, that as God is revealed to people, that they know His love, and His mercy, so shown to us at the cross.
It is the presence of God that we need in our lives. That is where everything changes. To realize that is what Jesus gave up to gain for us, to be welcome there in the presence of the Father, to be drawn into the glorious love in which the Trinity dances, this is everything.
That is the point of the religion we call Christianity. Not to just explore where we have come from as humanity. Not just to reign in behavior, teaching people how to be good to each other.
Our purpose is that everyone, from people in France and India, clergy and politicians and those they lead, know the miracle of being welcome into the presence of God!
This is why we pray for people, surely asking for God to help them in their times of being challenged, but that they might now Him as well.
So my friends pray for all… and pray they come to know the living Lord Jesus, and then together with Louis, and Josemaria, and William, find the peace that passes all understanding, as we experience the Love that goes beyond explanation.. and know I pray you know this too!.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles. Morning and Evening – Morning, August 29, Logos Edition
Devotional Thought for This Day:
15 In Ramah a voice is heard, crying and weeping loudly. Rachel mourns for her children and refuses to be comforted, because they are dead. 16 But I, the LORD, say to dry your tears. Someday your children will come home from the enemy’s land. Then all you have done for them will be greatly rewarded. 17 So don’t lose hope. I, the LORD, have spoken.
37 Can you measure the heavens? Can you explore the depths of the earth? That’s how hard it would be for me to reject Israel forever, even though they have sinned. I, the LORD, have spoken.
Jeremiah 31:15-17, 37 (CEV)
743 If you put your mind to it, everything in your life can be offered to the Lord, can provide an opportunity to talk with your Father in Heaven, who is always keeping new illumination for you, and granting it to you.
Maybe it is a once dear friend who loved the Lord in a way that inspired others. Maybe it was a cherished mentor in the faith, a professor who taught you more than you ever realized. Maybe it is a parent, a child, a cousin, even a spouse.
Most of us have someone who has rejected God, or is struggling with His way, and so rejects the gifts of forgiveness and mercy, who rebel against God. Perhaps there is a reason, a church, a pastor or priest who has caused them pain.
WE all have a person who has wandered, even as many of us have. Our reaction is usually the same as grieving the loss of physical life, for we realize that eternity is at stake… We may not want to say it is the difference between heaven and hell, yet our heart fears that consequence.
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are so appropriate for those who watch with tears, those who attempt to wander away. The need to hear God say “dry your tears, they will come back” is real, to allow God to comfort those who worry, who deal with anxiety over those they care about.
The second part of the selection, where God reminds us of His power, and the inability of man to completely reject them is even more comforting. It tells us how much God is willing to pour into calling the people back. Despite their sin, God will continue to work in their hearts.
So then, how do we deal with the trauma we see in their lives? Josemaria’s words comforted me this morning. We talk to God about it, we spend time offering the person, and the situation, and our hearts, batter and torn, to Him. It seems counter-intuitive to offer such to God as a sacrifice, but it is the best we can do. We are His children, and our Father wants to fix what is broken in our lives. He wants to recreate, to show the craftsmanship He finds joy in…and as we give into His care those we love, whom we worry about, we can realize peace. He died for them, that they may live.
Lord, help us give you our brokenness, help us place in your care those we would see return to the joy of your salvation. For Your love for them is even deeper than ours, and You can reach them. Help us to trust You, and in Your love and work in all our lives! Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts for this Day
My friends, even though we have a lot of trouble and suffering, your faith makes us feel better about you. 8 Your strong faith in the Lord is like a breath of new life. 9 How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us? 1 Thes. 3:7-9 CEV
Like homing pigeons flying home, like iron filings drawn irresistably to a magnet, like solar flares falling back to their parent sun from which they had sprung, lovers of God become one with the fire of their Beloved. The twentieth-century British poet Stephen Spender wrote their epitaph: “Born of the sun, they travelled a brief while toward the sun and left the vivid air singed with their honor.”
That is what a Christian is. Not to be one is life’s only real tragedy.
Twelve years ago today, two friends, I knelt down and my District President installed me as the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos. A few weeks before that, the church had laid to rest a beloved retired pastor and his wife. Within three months, I would bless the graves of another couple. And over the years, there have been a lot of deaths, people that had become not only parishioners, but good friends. There has also been trauma that scars one deep, and ministering to those broken by such, has been commonplace. Enough so that prayers start ascending every time the phone rings, or a text message beeps.
It would be lying to saying this has been an easy time. It would also be lying to say this time has not been a huge blessing. My devotional reading this morning explains why:
It is all about the faith of the people I see, a faith that is lived out in the midst of trauma, in the midst of sacrifice. A faith that keeps coming back to God, must as Kreeft’s pigeons and iron filings being attracted to their “home.” There is a joy in this, even amidst the shared tears. There is a confidence, born out of the Body and Blood of Jesus in which we share, that even the tears are somehow beneficial.
The ability of people to depend on God in this time is what lifts me up. Just as it did Paul, to see people being sustained by God, to the point where they are ministering to others during their own trauma, is the best feeling a pastor can observe. It is what sustains us, as we see the effect of them being drawn back to God.
This is how, after 12 years, I can look to the future.
Knowing the response of those to whom I remind, “the Lord is with you!”
And knowing they are right when they answer back, trusting in God, “and also with you!”
Lord, as we go through these days, help us to continue to help each other, trusting You to show us their needs, and empowering us to meet them. Help us set our own brokenness aside, help us to leace it there… knowing You are healing us in this time. We pray this, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 93.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. 2 You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. 3 If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong. Galatians 6:1-3
Finally, there is a mind-boggling mystery about agape which we must look into. Somehow when we love we really give ourselves away. We do not just give of our time or our work or our possessions. No, we give ourselves. How can this be? How can I put myself in my own hands and hand it over to you?
430 Jesus, may I be the last in everything … and the first in love.
There are people who claim to be spiritual, not religious. I get it, organized religion is a challenging thing to be part of, and I am a pastor. (Not to mention having a role in the bureaucracy!)
I often wonder what it means to be spiritual because when I ask, the answers are more nebulous, very loosely defined. Some might even say to be like Jesus, loving everyone.
The passage above in red, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the people of Galatia, puts some meat to the skeleton of “being spiritual.” Spirituality doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin, it gently restores the sinner. It walks with them, working to bring about their healing, revealing to them that God will forgive them.
This is spirituality, this is the point of holiness, and why it makes a dramatic impact in not just your life, but in lives. This is the greatest gift you can give someone, a gift you can give to family, neighbors, co-workers, and even your enemies.
This, of course, is easier said and done, which is where the other two readings from this morning come into play. In order to see this spirituality grow in our lives, we have to put the other person’s good before our own. We have to think of their eternal welfare as being more important than our comfort.
If this is what it means to be spiritual, then I am all for it, but we need to pray more, and spend more time in scripture, and receive the sacrament as often as possible. We need to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we need to find the strength of God in our lives, to set aside all of our own self-centeredness. But it is there, in the confidence of knowing God’s presence, that this all occurs, that this all happens.
This is spirituality, to love them as Paul loved the Jewish people who would give up his life and soul to save.
It is time for this kind of spirituality to infect the world again… starting with you and me…
Lord have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 67.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. 8 You should make them sure of your love for them. 2 Corinthians 2:7–8 (CEV)
Try this, therefore, and practice it well. Just examine yourself, look around a little, cling to the Scriptures. If even then you feel nothing, you have all the more need to lament both to God and to your brother. Take others’ advice and seek their prayers, and never give up until the stone is removed from your heart.
84 Then your need will become apparent, and you will perceive that you have sunk twice as low as any other poor sinner and are much in need of the sacrament to combat your misery. This misery, unfortunately, you do not see, though God grants his grace that you may become more sensitive to it and more hungry for the sacrament.
During my lifetime I have seen two reactions to people who have been caught in sin.
The first to ignore it, often quote Jesus’ comment about those who are without sin can cast the first stone. So we ignore the sin, justifying it our mind somehow.
The second way people (and especially pastors) deal with it is to condemn it, banishing the person from the presence of those who are holy, less the sinner infects the rest of the people in the church. They justify this based on the idea of ex-communication in Matthew 18.
IN the Bible passage today, we see a third option. Translated here as forgive and comfort, we need to understand these things. Forgiveness here is the word for grace, to give them a gift they do not deserve. They do not deserve it, because of the sin. However, that is grace, we receive what we do not deserve, what could not even be asked with any sense of expectation, except for the promise of God.
And then the challenging part, the comfort. The word is one of the names of the Holy Spirit, being a paraclete. What Paul is asking us to do is to go alongside the brother or sister who is held captive by sin, and support them. To lift them up, to support them, to help them know that God is still their God. They are still part of the church, the family of God that finds healing and hope in Jesus while helping others heal as well.
Is this easy, no. Will the people you are trying to reach snap your head off at times, or resist the assistance, yes. Ministering in this way requires patience, and a willingness to wait until the opportunity is there. Not easy.
Yet, in the end, when the sinner realizes their need, there is no better feeling than when they are at the altar with you, and together you receive the Body and Blood of Christ, together. That is why Luther tells us when our hearts are hardened when sin has blinded us to our need for it, it is when we need it the most! That is when we need the comfort of God, as He reveals to us out need.
This is how we are to deal with sin and make it known that it is how we deal with sin.
Heavenly Father, help us to reach out to those who are broken, and when they reach out to us, let us gather in Your presence and bring us healing and comfort, and the desire to reach out with that to others. We pray this in Jesus name… amen!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 456.