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When It Matters

Does this picture show a place of peace, or a place to fear?

Some thoughts to assist you as you grow to adore Jesus,

At the summit, Moses removed the priestly garments from Aaron and put them on Eleazar, Aaron’s son. Then Aaron died there on top of the mountain, and Moses and Eleazar went back down. 29 When the people realized that Aaron had died, all Israel mourned for him thirty days. NUmbers 20:28-29 NLT

28  Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30  I have seen your salvation, 31  which you have prepared for all people. 32  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Luke 2:28-32 (NLT2)

We can thus already see that Christianity, as a genuine revealed religion, cannot be a communication of knowledge, a “teaching”, in the first place, but only secondarily. It must be in the first place an action that God undertakes, the playing out of the drama that God began with mankind in the Old Covenant…… Just because God’s Covenant is his battle of love with sinful man does not mean that this battle of love can be understood and assessed by man. Indeed, the fact that God’s love transforms him, converting him or hardening his heart, expresses not the essence of that love, but its effect.

Simeon has become my favorite characther in the scriptures, and his quotes from scripture grab my heart every time we sing or say them. He knew, having seen the Messiah, that everything God had promised him was fulfilled, and therefore he could be content with death.. He was ready for it to be time….

Along with reading that in my devotions this mroning was reading the end of Aaron’s story. He climbs the hill, knowing at the summit that all of God’s promises have been fulfilled, and it was just okay for him to die, it was time.

At this point, neither of them needed another lecture, another Christian Book to read. As Balthasae noted, as the genuine true religion, Chirstianity is not primarily about teaching, about the communication of knowledge. It is not just about God revealing a plan, whether that plan is the covenant, or the way the world will end.

All that secondary stuff, the stuff God does, the drama He sets into action, and even the effect of love is secondary to especiencing the love of God, communicated not just rhough words, but through the presence of the Holy Spirit, through the revelation of Jesus, in our midst, never forsaking us, never abandoning us.

When it matters, He is here… and it always matters.

And so we preach, and teach, and give people the sacraments, always realizing that what matters is not what we do, but that they know God is here… and He loves them..

One day, the lessons learnt, there will be a time of no more teaching. Simply the fact that we are with the Lord. AMEN!


Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. page 70

Spirituality, Religion, debates, a serpent on the pole (and other theological nonsense)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. 27  Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:26-27 (MSG)

12 In the third place, such traditions have turned out to be a grievous burden to consciences, for it was not possible to keep all the traditions, and yet the people were of the opinion that they were a necessary service of God.
13 Gerson writes that many fell into despair on this account, and some even committed suicide, because they had not heard anything of the consolation of the grace of Christ.
14 We can see in the writings of the summists6 and canonists7 how consciences have been confused, for they undertook to collate the traditions and sought mitigations to relieve consciences,
15 but they were so occupied with such efforts that they neglected all wholesome Christian teachings about more important things, such as faith, consolation in severe trials, and the like.  (1)

384    Confusion. I knew you were unsure of the rightness of your judgment. And, so that you might understand me, I wrote you: “The devil has a very ugly face, and since he’s so smart he won’t risk our seeing his horns. He never makes a direct attack. That’s why he so often comes in the disguise of nobleness and even of spirituality!”  (1)


When I see individuals or groups opposing each other, I often find that they make the same error. Like my favorite illustration of the pessimist and the optimist arguing about the 16 oz container with 8 oz of liquid in it.  They lose their ability to fight when I reveal that the purpose for the glass is not the discussion, but so I may be refreshed through drinking its contents.   (Usually they get upset at me until I remind them that it was my beer they were arguing about.. not their own)

I see this often in debates about religion, and about spirituality.  Often it includes a debate about traditions, whether those traditions are understood or not.  Or whether the traditions belong to the centuries or that traditions someone has created in more modern times… like over the last decade…. or year.

Either way, the debates come about in such a way that they are competitive and miss the meaning.  They may not be debates even, but blogs and video blogs that try and prove their view right. Or that their preferred theologians kick but on less holy and knowledgable folk.

And all it does it leave the writers, and the readers, scrambling to find the next quote, the next arrow to be added to their quiver, the next weapon to back their position.

And int he meantime, we lose sight of Jesus,  We turn away from the conduits of grace, His word, and His sacraments.  We fail to be in awe, for we fail to recognize His presence.  The very presence that our traditions (whether new or ancient) had a part in revealing to us.

My son last night, as we were reading about the destruction of the serpent Moses obediently fashioned, wondered why people would offer sacrifices to it.   He’s noted that God saved them using the bronze serpent; the serpent didn’t save them.  So it was silly to his eight-year-old mind that people would worship a tool rather than the one wielding it.  But how many other things have been like that.  The Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, Gideon’s breastplate, the liturgy, contemporary and traditional music. Even crosses and church buildings, theologians and philosophers and their writings…

All of that stuff can be good, it can also distract us from offering a glass of water in His name.  It can edify us, or it can prevent us from edifying others.  It can consume our time, and while seeming good, it can also become sin, separating us from spending time with God.  It can blind us to what God has commissioned, a life walked with Him, going where He sends us, to reconcile the world back to Him (and therefore to each other).

This is real life, walking humbly with God…. living for others as Christ did.

May all our traditions, all our practices, point us toward Him, and may we see Him, and not the practices.

.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 65–66). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 970-972). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why is it still Monday?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….

I woke up this morning, with this dreaded feeling…

I thought it was Monday – and I had a longgggg trek ahead of me until Sunday, the day that makes sense of it all.As I get to my office, and look at the preparations for my trip to China – I find myself doing the same work I would do on a Monday… It’s eerie… and even a little scary..

Especially given yesterday… I don’t want to relive that day again. Ever… and if it is only Monday… I will have to.

Oh God, why does it feel like Monday… again!

I got through it, only by the grace of God, only by a remembering what the sermon passage is for this week – Romans 6:1-11 – the incredible discussion of what it means to be baptized. to be one who has died completely with Christ, that we may find our resurrection with Him.  It is there we find our strength – in realizing what God HAS done to us, is doing in us, because He claimed and washed us in baptism, and the most precious part of that gift – He has given us His Holy Spirit – to dwell in us,  to strengthen us, to comfort us….to help us live in His peace.

It is no wonder that a pastor/priest could write:
“You want to be strong? Then first realise that you are very weak. After that, trust in Christ, your Father, your Brother, your Teacher. He makes us strong, entrusting to us the means with which to conquer—the sacraments. Live them! (1)

Ultimately, these sacraments, these means of grace do make us strong!  Not because of who we are, for we do not deserve them, we do not deserve the blessings.  But He gives us His grace, our life in Him, the peace, the mercy, the love and comfort, in ways that go beyond our comprehension, beyond our understanding.  That is the work He is doing… in us.  It is the means by which we realize and know we are living in the presence of God – the One who would have us call him Abba… Daddy.  The God who revealed to us His work, that we would come with boldness and confidence into His presence.

Rejoice!  The Lord has had mercy on us!  Even on Mondays… or the days that seem like it!

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2375-2377). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Power and Mean to Accomplish Great Things

Discussion/Devitional Thought of the Day:

I used to have big dreams of doing great things.  When I was my sons age,I dreamt of being a president like Abraham Lincoln, just a few years later – a priest whose sermons would change the world, like some of those I read about in school.  Time and distance changes some of those dreams, and some of us have left dreams behind.  I do not think today I could be a politician, never mind a president – the public is far too mean – and doesn’t respect the office, or the burden it carries – and being a priest – well,…..

But does that mean we have to give up trying to accomplish great things?

Or do we realize how great the normal things God calls us to do are?  Like loving our neighbor, like helping those who find themselves without the ability, even for the moment – to help themselves.  It is my opinion, that visiting someone who is a shut in, or sitting by a stranger at church is worth more than 10,000 facebook forwards, or eating at a restaurant whose owners are undersiege.

Even greater, forgiving that adversary, working to reconcile a couple of friends, telling someone of God’s grace.  These are the great things… things that take sacrifice, things that may actually cost us.  And that gets to the point of this entry, the thing I would have us discuss- how do we accomplish the greatest things in life?

One author put it this way:

” The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?”    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1152). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Cross and the Gospel – the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross – that is where our sins our forgiven.  The cross which we are linked to in our baptism – where we were united to Christ’s suffering and death, that we would be untied to His resurrected life.  And of course in the Feast where we know that sacrifice  In this cross – where God comes to us and transforms us – they are the means by which God enables us to do the great things He has planned for us to do.

And the Gospel is that same “means”.  The incredible news of God’s love, of His mercy, of His grace. The news that He has come – and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, even as we will one day share in it.

Comprehending that through the cross, through the gospel, Jesus comes to us, bonds us to Himself and changes us – it is in this that we find our strenghth, our life, our hope…. and the power and means to accomplish the greatest things, the very things God has planned from long ago to do… because He has sent you to do them.

One last thought from St. Josemarie, a prayer:

“Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard, make us love all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood – and then cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day, for the Love of You.  Amen!  ( Escriva  – The forge)

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