Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:2-3 (ESV)
As I read this verse this morning, it resonated more than a little.
The PSalmist is describing, to borrow a phrase, how God will make His people great again.
He doesn’t do it by attracting the rich, or those who have it all together, or at least pretend to. He doesn’t gather the powerful, He doesn’t market His church with a mission statement that resonates to the successful,
He gathers the outcasts.
He finds those people that are so broken, so weary, so burned out by the world, and brings them together to share in the healing of their souls. They will find a home in the peace He provides, they will find joy in the glory of dwelling with God, they will find rest, even as God brings about their healing and comforts them.
This is how the church grows, as broken sinners are drawn to the love of God, so clearly demonstrated at the cross.
This is why we are here… this is the reason churches exist.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but then a lot of what God does is…. for His ways aren’t ours.
Lord jesus, help us welcome the outcast, the broken, those without hope. Lord help us learn to care for them well, encouraging them to explore Your
Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matt 11:2-3 TEV
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you. Ps. 9:9-10 TEV
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.
I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.
And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.
And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.
The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.
Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it. ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?
His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs. It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus. It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us. But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….
Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all. Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.
Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything. The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma. The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.
So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:22-28 (NLT2)
The more fragile and vulnerable the persons are, the more we have to recognize their worth. Their dignity has to be aided, loved, defended and promoted. This is not negotiable
You see the videos start to come out this time of year, the football games where, i the last minutes, a young man is substituted in, and runs the entire field for a touchdown, cheered on by the players of BOTH teams.
Usually, the young man is affected by Down’s Syndrome, or perhaps is autistic. He usually just hangs out with the team, and wins their friendship by their determination to do whatever they can do. And so the “reward” for being part of the team is the run for the touchdown, The chance to be the star of the game and the center of attention for an accomplishment that only someone “normal” could make.
Yet oddly enough, it is that play that the teammates will remember all their lives, it is that moment that will impact them more than the trophies, more than the victories, it is that moment that defines them.
While it appears to be all about the young man who will score, it is about more than that. While it appears to be something to boost one person’s self-esteem, it is far more than that.
It is about our collective soul, about the fact that we aren’t just a group of individuals, but that we are, one people.
And as such, we cannot deny the dignity of an individual without comprising the entire body of humanity, without the entire community of mankind.
And yet we do this, as trash-talking has moved off the court, and off the field, into our daily lives. We see it constantly as criticism, so widespread in our culture, is so rarely constructive, but meant to belittle, to tear down, even destroy those we see as so different from ourselves.
Yet, all we are doing is destroying ourselves. When we fail to see the dignity in the baby in the womb, or the elderly person who only can devote their time to prayer. When we can’t see the work of God in the creation of our adversaries, when we try to eliminate the people in our lives who are a pain in our ass, what we are doing is crushing ourselves. We don’t know how weak and vulnerable they are, though we all know we need to find God as our refuge….as our safe place.
The answer to this, in my opinion, is understanding the nature of our baptism. For there, Paul tells, the Romans and Colossians, we are joined with Christ’s death, and raised with Him. We are united to Him, and we are promised that hear the Spirit replaces our heart with Christ’s, and our minds are renewed to be like Him.
But if this happens to one of us, it happens, they become part of the whole Body of Christ. And the great cloud of witnesses cheers us on, as we run the race set before us, which Christ has already won for us all.
So, before you open your mouth, before your fingers type that next message on social media, this about the blessing of your baptism, and the blessings the other person has received or hopefully will receive soon, and instead of tearing them down, hand them the ball… and run beside them in the race!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 329). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 HCSB
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.
The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.
Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.
What an incredible blessing! To be involved in such a work! What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken. Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness. It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.
I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord. It rings so true.
For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal. Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.
THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB
and which he tasked us to do as well…
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NLT2)
This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.
James’ last words are ones we need to hear!
Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT2)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
“Responsibility is something to be avoided. Evade it at all costs!”
It seems more and more this is the mission statement of the church. Not just in terms of man-made trauma, as people scatter, trying to avoid the blame game like kids playing tag. But in regards to the work of the church as well.
And we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline!
We all know the great commission, we know it is the responsibility of the church to disciple those who are saved. Yet we think its the pastor/priests responsibility. Or we think the pastors/priests should train those people up to do it, but no one will volunteer. Everyone avoiding responsibility, everyone pointing to someone else.
So the work goes undone, and we all shake our hands and wonder why…
How do we create in the church the attitude we see in Paul, who realizes this wonderful thought, Christ in you, which gives you the assurance of sharing in His glory eternally.
That people would know their share of this glory, that they would be free of the cruse of sin and enabled to do so, this was Paul’s struggle in life, one he threw himself into with all abandon, this was his reason for being here.
A reason that we, as the priesthood of all believers, have as well. To tell others about Christ, warning them and teaching them, that we may present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Jesus!
So it is time to wake up church, to realize this love that Christ has for us, that welcomes us, cleansed sinners, broken souls who are finding healing in Christ Jesus, and helping others who need to heal. We have to realize that this isn’t an obligation or a task… it is the glorious blessing God gives us, to see others made new!
Whether we help them teaching Sunday school, or praying for someone on the street corner, or offering them a cup of cold water, or simply inviting them to comse see Jesus love of them revealed.
And at the end of the day, may we each look back in awe at what Christ has done in our communities, through and with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 10 The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11 Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living! 2 Peter 3:9-11 (NJB)
48 It would be good if it could be said of you that the distinguishing feature of your life was “loving God’s Will”.
Most of us go through life, living day to day. Because of that we give little thought to tomorrow, or next week, or eternity.
We want everything now, and the struggle ( noted 30 years ago by M Scott Peck ) with delayed gratification has only become worse. We can’t wait months anymore, sometimes we can’t wait hours.
SO how can we understand a God who will be patient for decades with us, who will be patient for millennia with humanity? How can we understand the patience that is born of a desire to have us realize we are His people?
For that is His desire, that we realize the Jesus died, not just to separate us from our guilt and shame, but so free of it that we spend time with our God who is holy and righteous, who wants to care for our children. God is patient, hoping we understand His desire to call us His friends.
If this realization was the distinguishing feature of our life, and of our lives together, how incredible our lives would be! How we would consecrate ourselves to His mission, to the vocation of the apostolate – realizing we are sent, whether we work in a church, or at Best Buy or running a country, to see this desire of God fulfilled. Whether it is a friend we are sent to , or a homeless person, or a corporate CEO/COO. It doesn’t matter. God desires to see all His friends at His table. All of them.
Eternity is the goal, an eternity spent in the most loving relationship there is, eternity spent free of pain, of guilt, of shame, and eternal life.
So think about tomorrow…. and God’s desire for it… and watch your life change!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 402-403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Forging the faithful… and standing the heat…. Words of Encouragement for those who serve God’s treasured people
Devotional Thought of the day:
28 So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. Colossians 1:28 (Phillips NT)
12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Ephesians 4:12-13 (TEV)
There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun. I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood! How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?
I was talking to another person in ministry this week, and we were talking about how to encourage young people to make the sacrifices of entering the ministry. Within the context was also the discussion of the sacrifices we make to serve others. One of the sacrifices you might realize as you read the words in blue above.
If we are to be the instruments that which the Holy Spirit uses to “forge” people, to shape and mold them as we teach them and administer the sacraments, that weans we have to deal with the heat as well. Using more Lutheran terminology, you can’t preach Law and Gospel without hearing it yourself. For that is how St Josemaria’s forge works, as we are purified and fashioned for the life God has planned for us – to be there for them.
Yet if we spend time at the forge, we have to be there in the heat, we have to hold on, and care for those God gives us to care for, to be there with the fire and the hammer, to work despite the heat, despite how it zaps our strength, despite their sweat and tears (and even the stubborn refusal to bend to God’s will)
Over 20 years of preaching in jails and churches, spending time at bedside and with those who are ill and dying, this is what ministry has taught me. It is those moments where the heat is the hottest that I remember – not for the pain, but for incredible beauty that appears as the Holy Spirit transforms them, as the Spirit revitalizes them and reveals in them the image of God in which they were created, which was marred and broken by sin.
And being in the heat – you get to witness this, you get to see it. You get to look to God and say – I see what you did there, Oh my, how holy! How they shine because of Your care, your mercy and love! How they reflect your glory! As we see this, the heat is forgotten, the Lord and His beloved children are all our mind can focus upon. It is an incredible blessing to see, more than any discomfort, far worth the sweat and the tears…
Miraculously something else happens, those of us who serve as tools, who endure the heat for others, realize the same heat that transformed them, is why we are able to bear the heat, because we too have been transformed and tempered as well. While sometimes we think we are not made for this work, God turns our lives into masterpieces as well.
Praise God for the heat of His forge, and the work He gives us…. for it is an incredible thing to have a small part in, as He uses us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.