7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:7-8 GNT
Trial and temptation are the initial means of spiritual formation. Through them the Christian is stripped time and time again of presumption and the delusions of righteousness. One is thrust into a kind of existential free fall with nothing to break the descent into darkness, nothing to hold onto but Jesus the Christ.
309 Far away on the horizon heaven seems to meet the earth. Do not forget that where heaven and earth really meet is in your heart of a child of God.
Yesterday, I posted on FaceBook the following thought
“Struggling with the idea that Maranatha shouldn’t be just a prayer of despair, but one of expectation.”
Let me be honest, the last week or so, as I’ve have witnessed so much trauma, that I would be very grateful for the Second Coming of Christ. And in a desperate way, I want to plead for it, for the release from the tribulation and tears that seem to be occurring wherever I turn.
And yet part of me regrets wanting the Second Coming for such a personal excuse, for such a homecoming, for such peace. I know I should know this peace, and there are times where I know it, especially as I hand to my brothers and sisters the Body of Christ, as my elders and deacon encourage them to take and drink the Precious Blood poured out to activate the New Covenant, a relationship where we are free from sin.
As I look out on this broken world, this shattered community, as I see the sin ravaged relationships, my instinct to run and hide from the pain.
And gently confronting my angst this morning, I came across the readings above, and sit in wonder, as I realize God’s providence.
In the reading from Luther’s Spirituality, I see the blessing of such tribulation, as it strips from me everything but Christ. Out of need I cry out to Him and find He’s already there. He’s not on the distant horizon, not somewhere out there in time. But He is here, He is wonderfully sustaining me! He is wonderfully here!
And then, like Joseph, I realize the pain’s purpose, the salvation of all of those around, the chance we all have because even in this midst of the trauma, I see God at work. Oddly enough through some of the most broken, those in the deepest pain, those with no other option but Christ.
What an amazing paradox, what a wondrous mystery. What an unbelievable peace that is found now, in the presence of the Lord who will wipe away every tear one day, yet now cries with us, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us,
And as I think this through, I realize the peace, the incredible peace of being claimed and cleansed in baptism, of the feast where God celebrates our being united to Him. And though the trauma remains… so can we.
If you too are dealing with, or surrounded by those who are dealing with trauma, pain, whether from nature or because of sin, consider this prayer for you as well.
Lord, there are so many in need of Your peace, as they feel pressures crushing them, or feel for those who are being crushed, Lord reveal yourself to them, may they know the presence of the Holy Spirit, that in the midst of everything, builds within them the undeniable peace that is unable to be explained, but comes from knowing they are loved by you, Jesus, and the by the Father and Holy Spirit, as You reign and care for us, forever and ever, AMEN!
Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxvii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1471-1472). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
20 He who gives his testimony to all this says, “Yes indeed! I am coming soon!” So be it. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone. Revelation 22:20-21 (TEV)
8 And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day—and not only to me, but to all those who wait with love for him to appear. 2 Timothy 4:8 (TEV)
The believer has in essence already received God’s favorable verdict. Now, as at the future judgment, he or she stands clothed only in the righteousness of Christ and for his sake is assured of life. Thus, the fear of condemnation disappeared for Luther, and, instead of holding out the return of Christ as an object of terror, he could exhort his parishioners to pray for the speedy arrival of the lieben jungsten Tag, the dear last day, when the riches of divine grace, invisible to the eye and accessible only to faith in this world, would be revealed in the kingdom of God.
I grew up in the midst of a hysteria about the end times. Even as the revival and renewal of the 60’s and 70’s guided people back into the church, part of that renewal was based on fear, and false teaching about the tribulation, the horrors of God’s wrath powered an evangelistic fever, and a desire to make sure our family, neighbors, and friends were safe.
End times, much like in the time of Luther, were pushed as something to drive people to God in fear of his wrath.
And salvation became a salvation from the extreme power of sin, and Satan, and the power of death.
Men like Tim LaHaye, Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, and Jack Chick became experts in this presentation of end times, and of using what Freud called Thanatos to motivate people’s going to church, and buying books and tracts.
We all grew to fear the second coming, and what preceded it, we studied the news with as much emphasis as studying scripture, and eventually, many burnt out on this fear-of-the-end-driven religion, and many more turned off, as we tried to scare and shame them into our form of Christianity. (and we were often proud of our “evangelistic efforts” being rejected, as proof we were doing the right thing!)
And as the day delayed, the church lost its grasp on people, the fear diminished, as did the fervor to save them from something, for we forgot to teach them what they were saved into…
Luther had this going in his days as well, though instead of buying books and tracts, they bought indulgences.
As I was reading this morning, the passage above from a book on Luther’s Spirituality again helped me to see a different approach regarding the end. One I’ve come to appreciate on its own but didn’t make the connection of it to Luther.
I want the end to come! I pray that Christ will return
Sometimes for the wrong reasons, for the end to all the trauma, I see, especially in the church. Sometimes so there is finally an end to the trauma and pain caused by our sin, that spiritual illness that we are powerless against.
But the real reason to desire the end, to desire the judgment is that we know what Luther knew. Because of Jesus, we are already judged as righteous, as holy as able to walk into the presence of God, glorifying Him for doing the impossible. For He has declared and made us as holy, as special as Jesus.
And that makes heaven a homecoming, that makes heaven an entry into something beyond our imagination, beyond our ken. To see God in all of His glory, and to know we belong in His presence. To hear our welcome, to hear with delight (and still the attitude of “who? me? really? when Lord?”) the Lord welcoming us into His presence. To have answered the prayer that my mornings begin, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, and this is what I seek.: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to seek HIm in HIs temple”
May we all learn to desire this, to pray for it, to realize how real that day is, and rejoice in the thought it is nearer than before. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Taken from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (psalm 27:4
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 13:41-43 (NLT)
1. O hell, I detest thee now and for evermore; I detest thy torments and pains; I detest thy miserable and accursed eternity; and, above all, I detest those eternal blasphemies and maledictions which thou dost vomit forth eternally against my God. And, turning my heart and soul to thee, O beautiful Paradise, everlasting glory and endless felicity, I choose my habitation, forever and irrevocably, within thy fair and sacred mansions, within thy holy and most lovely tabernacles. I bless thy mercy, O my God, and accept the offer which it pleaseth Thee to make me of it. O Jesus, my Saviour, I accept thy everlasting love, and I acknowledge that it is Thou who hast acquired for me a right to a place in this blessed Jerusalem, not so much for any other thing as to love and bless Thee for ever.
One of the devotional books I am using this year is De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life. Over the last year, my sermon research has regularly included quotes from this 19th century priest, so I thought I would add it to my list, along with a deep theological text by Martin Chemnitz.
Early on, it has used the hell a significant number of times as part of the devotions; something I was surprised to see. Partially because I am not a “hell, fire and brimstone” type preacher/evangelist, trying to keep God’s Law and the Gospel in tension. Or to use a covenantal approach, making sure people understand both the curses and promises that exist in our covenant, our “contract” with God.
But as I think about our devotion to God, the reason we are drawn to Him, the reason we adore Him, it makes sense that we take both heaven and hell seriously.
Knowing what He has delivered us from creates some of the devotion, it gives us a reason to adore Him. Over 25 years ago, I had a cardiac arrest. I can still remember who it was who did CPR till the doctors got there. I remember who was in my ICU room (even though I was sedated) Those moments of coming back to life are indeed precious to me. Those people I will always feel a special way towards.
SO much more so when we meditate on the hell we deserve because we choose disobedience, rebellion and sin rather that walking with God. As believers to look back and know what we deserve, yet His love changes all that! As we consider what we deserve yet are rescued from, our devotion, our adoration,, our hunger to worship Jesus grows.
As we adore Him, let us look to our future as well, and to what God does in our lives at this moment. For the heaven that we can know only in part is glimpsed in this life, ever so briefly.
Otherwise, heaven is too great a concept for our minds, our hearts, and souls to contemplate. But in the eyes of a sinner, freed as they realize the mercy and love of God, the comfort that settles on one who mourns, the relief as a beloved prodigal walks back into the life of a church they left behind.
These are glimpses of heaven….just as when we see someone claimed by God in their baptism, or we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus.
As we consider the reality of both heaven and hell; as we realize the enormous difference between them, our hearts will cry out, glorifying the Lord who delivered us from Hell and into Heaven.
This we need, we so need….. and it changes everything….
As our cry of Hosanna (Lord Save Us!) and Kyrie Eleison are proven answered!
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
22 Whoever does not love the Lord—a curse on him! Marana tha—Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
1 Corinthians 16:22-23 (TEV)
Yet when the Church departed from her Semitic motherland she took with her some words that have since become familiar to all Christians: amen, alleluia, hosanna—and, above all, marana-tha! (1)
59 If you respond to the call the Lord has made to you, your life—your poor life!—will leave a deep and wide furrow in the history of the human race, a clear and fertile furrow, eternal and godly. (2)
I love reading Pope Benedict on the topic of worship, especially about liturgical renewal. Despite being one of the greatest theological minds of the last 200 years, his focus is that liturgy must be understood, and it must reveal Jesus. This morning, the devotional I have that is made up of his writings focused on this,and it is very good.
What struck me the most was the blue quote above, and the word that we need to keep from our “Semitic motherland”. Not amen, that is, “this is true.” Not Alleluia, that is, “Praise you YHWH/LORD.” Not even the cry hosannah, which means “save us, LORD”!
The word that he would have us keep more than all, is the prayer, Maranatha! Come Lord!
I thought I knew the word, but I looked it up, just in case. It is a bold prayer, but more than a bit terrifying in context. For the prayer is for God to come with all of His justice, to come with His judgment. To answer a call to purge that which is evil, that which is wicked, that which is sinful and rebellious. It is the cry of the psalms, Lord, rescue the righteous, to pour out your wrath on those who deserve it.
To get rid of the murders, the cheats, the liars, those who are envious, the sexually impure the gossips… those who sin actively and passively, in what they do, but also what they say and think.
Are you ready for that? Are you confident that your soul is clean enough to have God come back right now? Everyone wants to end up in heaven, but are we ready to be judged for what we have done, or didn’t do? Do you feel a sudden need for confession, to hear the words you are forgiven?
I know I do…
I need to know that grace! I know I need to realize that I have found my hope, in that in Christ’s mercy, my sins have been purged from me, that I am counted as righteous because He cleansed me, uniting me to His death and Resurrection in Baptism (Romans 6, Colossians 2, 1 Peter 3) I need to be comforted, and know the love of God for me, a sinner. 9
It is in this Easter season that we are reminded that we are hidden in Christ, in heaven already. For we dwell in the presence of God Himself. We need to realize this, contrary to the old saying, we need to be so Heavenly minded, so that we can be worth something here on earth!
That is what Josemaria Escriva is talking about as well, responding to the call that Jesus has put on our life. Not the call to be a pastor or priest, or a lay leader, but the call of all, to be the children of God, to live in His presence. As we think of heaven, as we realize we are dwelling already in His presence, that changes us, and we leave a mark on this earth that makes a difference, because we love as He loves us.
This isn’t just thoughts of piety, but immense practicality. We need to cry out Maranatha, but we need to do so in faith, knowing out relationship with Jesus, knowing that repentance which He grants us, which gives us life. And that repentance, that cry of faith, changes us, and through us, changes the world.
So cry it out, in awe, in fear, counting on Jesus to do what He has done.
And live life, knowing He is with you.
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. 130). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 436-438). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.