Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 And he gave these orders: “At the end of every seven years, the Year-All-Debts-Are-Canceled, during the pilgrim Festival of Booths 11 when everyone in Israel comes to appear in the Presence of GOD, your God, at the place he designates, read out this Revelation to all Israel, with everyone listening. 12 Gather the people together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living among you—so they can listen well, so they may learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, and diligently keep everything in this Revelation. 13 And do this so that their children, who don’t yet know all this, will also listen and learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, for as long as you live on the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 31:10-13 (MSG)
Christ has died.
Christ has risen
Christ will come again
We were dead in our sins
Now we’re buried with Him
We are risen in Christ
We are given new life
And Christ will bring us home
Making us his own
Christ has died
Christ has risen
Christ will come again!
The Christian images, as we find them in the catacombs, simply take up and develop the canon of images already established by the synagogue, while giving it a new modality of presence. The individual events are now ordered toward the Christian sacraments and to Christ himself. Noah’s ark and the crossing of the Red Sea now point to Baptism. The sacrifice of Isaac and the meal of the three angels with Abraham speak of Christ’s Sacrifice and the Eucharist. Shining through the rescue of the three young men from the fiery furnace and of Daniel from the lions’ den we see Christ’s Resurrection and our own. Still more than in the synagogue, the point of the images is not to tell a story about something in the past, but to incorporate the events of history into the sacrament. In past history, Christ with his sacraments is on his way through the ages. We are taken into the events. The events themselves transcend the passing of time and become present in our midst through the sacramental action of the Church.
The centering of all history in Christ is both the liturgical transmission of that history and the expression of a new experience of time, in which past, present, and future make contact, because they have been inserted into the presence of the risen Lord. As we have seen already and now find confirmed anew, liturgical presence contains eschatological hope within it. All sacred images are, without exception, in a certain sense images of the Resurrection, history read in the light of the Resurrection, and for that very reason they are images of hope, giving us the assurance of the world to come, of the final coming of Christ.
324 Looking at his mercy, faith comforts and consoles us. Our opponents teach wrongly when they praise merits in such a way as to add nothing about this faith that takes hold of mercy
The readings this morning were just crammed full of thoughts that I needed to hear. I could have doubled the amount I quoted, and foregone writing. Except that I need to, for as I’ve said before, my devotions have to be thought through, meditated upon, and brought together in my writing. It used to be called spiritual journaling, and someone once suggested i put it out there to be shared.
Today, it seemed like a lot of my readings were set up to talk about living within the story. About faith is a life of dependence on God, living in harmony with Him, rather than a statement of what theological statements we hold to be true.
We see that in the words from the Lutheran confessions, as we take hold of mercy. That is faith, this incredible love of God that is revealed to us, that floods our lives so that we can hold onto it. For faith is an engagement with God with not our mind at first, but our heart and soul.
Pope Benedict in the longest quote talks about this in the imagery in the early church and the synagogue, when visuals made our sacramental life part of the narrative poured out in visual representation. And all of that representation is reflected in the resurrection, the very summit of our being made one with Christ. For we are united to Him in His death, in order that we can rise to our new life with Him.
That is the reason for the reading of the entire community of Israel, over 2 million people, plus the foreigners that make their home among them. (Note that part about the aliens!) They were to know the covenant, so that they could be in awe of God’s love and provision for them! Even more than that, this awe was lived out before Him. In other words, not just in His are of vision, but right before Him, in His presence.
As I was reading all of this, I thought of my friend’s version of the liturgical hymn, the Memorial Acclamation. Chris is not only an incredible musician and professor of worship but has a great understanding of sacramental covenant theology. So when he recomposed this ancient part of Christian worship, he not only told Christ’s story, but he made clear what was inferred. That we share in that death, and in that resurrection, and in Christ’s coming again. What has become veiled and vaguely visible, Chris revealed in a glorious way. ( You can hear a rock version of it at the link!)
Every aspect of our ministry, from the music to the artwork and images, to the words we speak and lessons and liturgy are geared to help us make this transition. We are not just people reading about history, we aren’t just witnesses to the story, we are the characters in the story, living and interacting in great awe with God. Just as people have done since Adam and Eve walked through the garden. Our people may not realize this, so we need, like Israel, to teach them more and more. They need to know it, they need to experience His love. as do we, as do our communities.
May the Lord make this happen, opening our eyes more and more to His love!
The Memorial Acclimation by Rev. Dr. Christopher Gillette
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
He is Risen! Therefore…
Why are you standing around?
In Jesus Name
May you go out from this place, realizing that the grace, mercy and peace of God is with you, with the understanding that is it more glorious when you share it with others!
The Memorial Acclimation:
The words are familiar…..
“Christ has died! Christ has Risen, Christ will come again!”
At least, they should be to those of us who regularly gather here. We say something like them when we testify of our faith, using the words of the Creed. We sing them occasionally, too, when Chris puts the Memorial Acclimation in the service.
How often do we do those things anyways? ( both every week, twice in lent and advent!)
Yet I wonder if we hear them, when we do?
I think we get that He has died, for we celebrate that constantly. And that He is Risen? (He has Risen Indeed, Alleluia! And therefore We are risen indeed!)
But what about that last part, words similar to those two men, who spoke to the disciples, while they were just staring off into, well as they were staring off into space.
They ended the discussion with these words, “but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Do we hear those words? I mean, not just like hearing them as the sound waves travel in one ear and out the other. But hearing those words, and having them stick to our very soul. Do we hear that Jesus Christ will come again? Do we know it, count on it, live our lives in view of it?
Or do we need to hear the first words of the two men in white….
Men, why are you standing here, staring into heaven?
But why do we stand around like the apostles?
As I read the entire story, recorded by Luke for his friend, Theophilus, I wonder about these apostles, and I guess I am not surprised by their standing around. They weren’t the quickest to understand something.
in verse 2, we see that Jesus, in the forty days he walked with the apostles, had to prove to them in many ways that he was alive. That just seems more unbelievable than believing that someone could rise from the dead in the first place!
In the upper room twice, on the shores of Lake Galilee, appearing to Peter one other time, and I imagine that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 as Paul writes about, some of the apostles were probably there!
Yet he still has to teach them, proving to them He was alive! Even that day, for Matthew 28 says, “Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Matthew 28:16-17 (NLT)
It seems strange, that these men who walked with Jesus more than three years, who saw His wounds, who saw Him heal, who heard Him teach would still struggle to put together everything. Yet in those forty days, Jesus continued to invest Himself in His chosen men.
He went over the same lessons that He taught them prior to the cross, At least four times Jesus talked about the coming of God’s kingdom, and that it wasn’t known until it was revealed. At the last supper it was an issue, and here at the ascension, it still is! “When will we see you reigning over the world Lord?” they asked.
Maybe we still do?
Among the things He kept teaching them, indeed twice in this passage, is that they would be His witnesses. He had to keep letting them know that they would testify of what people needed to know about Jesus, to the world. He actually commissions them to this in verse 2, and then reminds them again in verse 8!
Yet, after all that, they are standing around, staring up into space?
Is it any wonder that we have the same issues today?
If we are like the apostles, what made a difference in their lives will make a difference in our lives, as we become witnesses of His to this world.
You see in the middle of the passage – Jesus reminds them that they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. That the Holy Spirit will come into their lives, and that this is the reason they will be able to tell people about His life, his death, resurrection and that He is coming back.
That is part of what Jesus taught them, about the role of the Holy Spirit. In John 14, Jesus promised,
25 “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)
This includes us by the way, for even as the Apostles were baptized in the Spirit, so were you and I, when we were baptized in Christ. That what these apostles heard and saw, over and over, we too will recall. Prodded by the Holy Spirit, and those messengers that might just say to us, “why are you standing here, looking into space?”
Sharing our faith isn’t about the law – a duty enforced on us, any more than having the grace of God our father, the love and mercy show to us in Christ is. It is what happens when Jesus is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, as we are continually taught about that love and mercy, and the Kingdom of God, and the day we shall see it.
It is what we are commissioned to do, because we are the children of God, sent into places like Cerritos, and Downey, La Palma and Buena Park and Lakewood. Sent to places like China, or the Philippines or Northern California, or even the doctor’s office or Walmart, to be His witnesses.
Even as we are in awe of God’s presence among us, even as we consider that Christ has Died, Christ has risen (wait for it), and yes, He will come again…….even as all that goes through our mind, it is time to stop standing around, and it is time to bring the news of God’s love to this lost and broken world.
We can do it, because we know that we dwell in the peace of God that passes all understanding, a peace in which Christ guards our hearts and minds… and therefore, we don’t have to just stand around!