Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 Nothing makes sense!
Everything is nonsense.
I have seen it all—
nothing makes sense!
3 What is there to show
for all of our hard work
here on this earth?
4 People come, and people go,
but still the world
Ecc 1:2-4 (CEV_
12 But the Scriptures teach that if we piled together all the works of all the monks, no matter how precious and dazzling they might appear, they would not be as noble and good as if God were to pick up a straw
Heaven too is a gift and a glory, not a payment. All talk of merit and law and obedience—necessary as it is on earth—will disappear in Heaven, except perhaps as a joke.
There are days when one wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Then there are days when one wakes up, finds out the bed is upstairs still, and that somehow they have woken up at the bottom of the stairs. (though the idea is figurative, the body aches make one wonder if it is reality!)
And the day proceeds to get worse.
Devotions do not always help, as you see clearly in the first two readings above. One thinks, well we’ve escaped the tedious nature of Job, only to come across Solomon in a grand funk. His heart isn’t soaring; in fact, it seems like it is plunging into the abyss. Luther doesn’t help as his cry indicates everything mankind does for God is about as meaningful as picking up a dried weed.
So how do we keep going? How do we handle the pervasive emptiness and meaninglessness of life that seems our destiny under COVID? We can’t keep up with the changes, we struggle to make things work, workplaces are shutting down, or reducing hours of valuable employees…
This brings us to the third quote…
I think some of us, no matter how well we know scripture, still feel like we have to be valuable to the world to be valuable to God. That our value, our success, our ability to please everyone in life directly affects whether we matter to God. That our view our perception of our value to our families and workplaces isn’t accurate is another story. We simply believe that our perceived value here is reflective of how God does not care.
Our minds, our theological knowledge, may agree and confess that we get to heaven by grace, but our hearts and souls are breaking at the same time – and they feel otherwise.
We are, in a way, right, our merit, our value is not enough to meet a standard to enter heaven. That is if there was such a standard.
There is no such standard.
Heaven is a gift, given by One who values us and loves us more profoundly than we can perceive. It is a glorious thing this love, the desire of God to have us as HIs companions, as His beloved children.
That is where our value comes from, the fact we are loved, that we are treasured by God Almighty. So treasured that God gave up His Son to show all creation what He knows of us. That we are worth saving.
Even when we get up on the wrong side of the bed….or at the foot of the stairs.
God is with you… when things seem the worse.. cry out to him. AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 438.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
46 But Paul and Barnabas bravely said: We had to tell God’s message to you before we told it to anyone else. But you rejected the message! This proves that you don’t deserve eternal life. Now we are going to the Gentiles. 47 The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth.” Acts 13:46–47 (CEV)
1533 Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world.
THE FIFTH (Commandment)
“You shall not kill.”
10 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.
As I was working through my devotions this morning, in the back of my mind was lurking the idea of what difference do I make in this world. I know I am not the only one who is pondering this. This virus situation has taken away from so many how they perceive they are valued, as jobs, schools, and interaction with people that would normally give their life meaning has been stolen away.
I have friends whose children are graduating from junior high school, high school, college, and graduate degrees. They cannot celebrate these accomplishments in normal ways, stealing from them the celebration of their endurance. Preschool teachers I know, who live for interacting with their kids, and getting hugs, cannot. In my case, my primary joy is communing people – the 50-70 people that show up on a given Sunday, and have not been able to for the last 8 weeks. This has been my dream and desire, and I believe my calling since I was 8.
It is brutal to our psyche, to our mental health.
It is wearying, and those around us, who are going through the same things, feeling the same pressures, are struggling with each other.
And hope is given and taken away with every newscast, with every internet article. The roller coaster of our heart and soul seems to have no one at the controls, as we are wildly whipped around, and unable ot catch our breath.
The Catholic Catechism, notes our common place in life is found via the sacraments. That in that grace pouring out on us as we are cleaned and united to Jesus, we find our place.
We find we are being made holy, that we share in the same vocation as the Apostle Paul, as those tasked with sharing the news that God loves us, that God is with us, that we can, (and should) help other people know this! Not just in church on Sunday morning, but throughout our week, in our homes, our zoom meetings, our telephone calls.
God has placed us here, (even as the Father sent Jesus) to be a light to the gentiles. e
We do this by loving them, and helping them and befriending them in every possible way. Including the incredible necessity, they may not be aware of, the necessity to know God’s presence. The necessity to know they are loved, the necessity of knowing they have a place, and God redeems the world.
This is hard to see and easy to get distracted from by the cares and pressures. It is a place that takes up our entire lives, and yet..happens best when we don’t force it, but we simply live in this amazing relationship with God.
This is our place.. this is where we find out ultimate meaning in life, as the ones whom God loves, as the ones He shares His greatest work with, the recreation of everything.
Let us find our peace and joy, there, as we work side by side with Him. AMEN!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 383.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Small Catechism from The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 So I came to regret that I had worked so hard. 21 You work for something with all your wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn’t had to work for it. It is useless, and it isn’t right! 22 You work and worry your way through life, and what do you have to show for it? 23† As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache. Even at night your mind can’t rest. It is all useless. Eccl. 2:20-23 GNT
5 I would like for all of you to speak in strange tongues; but I would rather that you had the gift of proclaiming God’s message. For the person who proclaims God’s message is of greater value than the one who speaks in strange tongues—unless there is someone present who can explain what is said, so that the whole church may be helped. 1 Cor. 14:5-6 GNT
I once thought that when I left management behind to become a pastor, I would leave behind the feeling of futility that often plagued me.
You know, the feeling of having to juggle three balls at once, and then someone throws in a torch, and another person toss in two pieces of your wife’s china, and then another person tosses in three sticks of TNT?
I mean you know you can do a little, but you keep on thinking the torch is going to hit one of the pieces of TNT and then…
I don’t care if you pastor a church of 150 or 1000, or administer a computer system, or a washing dishes on graveyard shift at a Denny’s. There are times where you feel like you are spinning your wheels, and you being to regret that you work so hard, and it all seems useless. And if you are about to go on vacation, and are struggling to get it all ready, and your daily Bible reading gets to Ecclesiastes, you are probably feeling this way!
God does have a sense of humor!
And the feelings Solomon writes about are very real. Most of us have to deal with them on a regular basis. Anxiety, heartache, feelings of unfulfillment, uselessness and even the idea that while you don’t gain from your dedicated work, someone else will – all these feelings can crush us. And they often do.
Yet, in the midst of that stands our “proclamation”. And in all of those places, in 1981 at Denny’s in New Hampshire, (and again in 85-86), at Pepperdine, and as a pastor, I’ve seen God at work in the lives of people. It’s not about certain vocations proclaiming Christ, or even people of a certain age. It is about being in the moment, and recognizing the grace of God, and sharing it, “proclaiming” it, to those who need to see it as well.
I heard a long time ago, that while we work, we are ultimately there because God sent us there. The pastor said that while we are employed by Company X (I think it was Ford) who we are representing is God. Therefore we work in a way that would bring glory to God) So while we are devoted to our job, (washing dishes, analyzing financial and security reports or preparing a sermon or study) and work hard, the ultimate reason we are there is to bring God glory, and as appropriate, proclaim how great His love and mercy are.
It is those moments we cherish, the moments that make a difference. For example, as you help the guy at the counter sober up, and go home to talk and pray with his wife, because there is now hope that God can bring healing to his broken marriage. Another example could be the young college student, who thought their world was over because their boyfriend dumped them, or they didn’t get a good grade in that class. Because God had someone there, they knew that God wouldn’t forsake them. The stories live on, and even to this day, I don’t remember what I said or did, I remember the look in their eyes, and the release of all the tension built up in their bodies. It is how they left, knowing that they were there as well, in the presence of God
So look for those moments, look for the people God has sent your way this day. Find ways to share with them, as St Peter advised, the Reason your have hope in the midst of a broken world. Pray for them, and as you have the opportunity, pray with them.
This is what matters, this is what makes a difference, and this is what is not vain. You are sent were you are, by God, in order to be a blessing to others. To help them, slowly at time, to discover the love of God. As they do, the joy you will know, is beyond words.