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Where and How We Worship and Pray: Does it Matter?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for our Days….

3“Is there anyone among you who can still remember how splendid the Temple used to be? How does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all. 4But now don’t be discouraged, any of you. Do the work, for I am with you. 5When you came out of Egypt, I promised that I would always be with you. I am still with you, so do not be afraid.
6 “Before long I will shake heaven and earth, land and sea. 7I will overthrow all the nations, and their treasures will be brought here, and the Temple will be filled with wealth. 8All the silver and gold of the world is mine. 9The new Temple will be more splendid than the old one, and there I will give my people prosperity and peace.” The LORD Almighty has spoken.   Haggai 2:3-9  TEV

Threats against those who do not love God: Ps. 11:5; 109:17; John 3:19; 1 Cor. 16:22; John 12:25; 14:24; 1 John 3:14.
Threats against those who do not trust in God: Ps. 49:6 ff.; 115:8; Prov. 11:28; Is. 59:4; 42:17; Jer. 17:5; 7:8; Luke 18:14; Mark 10:23.
Threats against those who do not hope in God: Job 8:13; 11:20; Prov. 11:28; Is. 20:5; 28:13.
Threats against those who do not fear God: Prov. 29:25; Hos. 10:3; Deut. 11:28; 2 Cor. 10:6; 2 Thess. 1:8.
Promises connected with love: Deut. 11:5–7; Ex 23:20 ff.; Is. 64:4; Prov 4:6; 8:17; John 14:23; 1 Cor. 8:3; John 16:27.
Promises connected with trust in God: Ps. 125:1; Jer. 17:7; Ps. 37:5; 56:11; 91:14; 31:1; Prov. 29:25; Is. 40:31; Rom. 5:5.

 

It cannot be that we choose for ourselves whether or how we shall worship God: what is important is that we respond to him in the place where he gives himself to us. We cannot decide on our own terms where God is to meet us, and we should not strive to reach him by our own efforts. He can come to us and let us find him wherever he chooses.

Of the three readings I posted above from this morning, the middle one troubles me the most.  Chemnitz’s inventory of threats (curses in Covenantal terms) is pretty clear.  If you don’t love God, if you don’t trust Him, if you don’t find Hope in His words, or aren’t in awe of His glory and power, what you have chosen is wrath and abandonment.  Yes, there are promises if you do love and trust in Him, but the threats, the curses that one could choose?  Why would anyone?  Why would anyone not warn someone who is heading that way?

Compare that to the promise of Haggai, and the people that looked out of their lives and couldn’t believe how far they had come from the beauty they once knew or heard of from their parents or grandparents.  The majesty of the temple of Solomon, where people could pray and know they were forgiven,  The beauty of the place where they met with God, sure that He put His name there  A place where their trust and dependence on God was rewarded, blessed, nurtured.

There is not much difference really, between Chemnitz and the prophet. They are both urging us to listen,, to really hear and depend on God.  We need to do that, and realize that while we are His people, He is our God.  

That means we have to let Him care for us, we have to let Him heal us.   We can’t be the doctor of our own souls. Which means when He prescribes something for us, such as being in a community of others who are struggling to trust Him as well, this is His good will for us, not some kind of harsh discipline. 

That’ why I love Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI’s ) remind us that we don’t get to choose for ourselves.  Nor do we have to seek God out.  He will find us, It is not by our own efforts we are saved, it is not something we deserve or are owed.  

God will go out and find us, and bring us home, but that is where we should stay, in the home, the church where He has placed us so that He can give Himself to us!  This is the greatest of miracles, the most glorious thing we can experience in this life, or in eternity. 

God, coming to us, loving us, cleansing us, and making us a holy people. 

Cardinal Ratzinger went on, “What matters is not just some pious feeling of ours that relegates religion to the realm of the nonobligatory and private but the obedience that hears God’s call and accepts it. The Lord does not want our private feelings; he wants to form us into a community and to build the new community of the Church on faith. The body must share in the divine worship as must the community with its hardships and discomforts.”

This is who we are, the people that have a God whom we can truly and completely depend on, a God who sees us complete, the masterpiece of His creation, a glorious work of grace and love.  

As we cry out for His mercy, the prayer should contain a willingness to receive that mercy, where He has promised to pour it out. 

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Unfair Laws, Taxes, Corrupt Government and the Duty of the Christian

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Remind your people to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey them, and to be ready to do good in every way. 2  Tell them not to speak evil of anyone, but to be peaceful and friendly, and always to show a gentle attitude toward everyone.
Titus 3:1-2 (TEV)

10  So Samuel told them, delivered GOD‘s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. 11  He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, 12  regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. 13  He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. 14  He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. 15  He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. 16  Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. 17  He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. 18  The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect GOD to answer.”
1 Samuel 8:10-18 (MSG)

13  For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, 14  and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. 15  For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16  Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 17  Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (TEV)

As the political campaigns for President get more heated, I am becoming more and more concerned with our response as those who trust in and follow Jesus.  Some are Republican and some are Democrats. Most have a hot button issue, but even more often they have a candidate, within or without their own party, who riles them, whose success can cause great anxiety, whose name alone affects body language and betrays thoughts.  (And sometimes the words match!)

(the idea that Christians may faithfully follow God while in the other party also causes division, dissension and resentment!)

And so I take a moment to call to mind the words of Paul to a young bishop named Titus.  Who urged us to obedience, and St Peter, who urged us to respect those in authority and obey their laws as well.  I could also quote Jesus. who talked of giving to Casesar what is rightfully his, but to God what is His.

But it is this respect thing that will rankle many.

Some will even talk about respecting the office instead of the man, and then deride their opposition personally rather than the laws and policies they put in place.  As a side note, dividing the office from the person means that they are now your neighbor, and you should treat them accordingly!

Others will talk about how evil their leaders (or potential leaders) are, and the evil they do.  As if leaders in the past where always honorable and self-sacrificing.  Hence I call to mind the Emperors and Governors (Caesars, the Herods, Pontus Pilate who killed people and mixed their blood with the sacrifices) who Peter and Paul had to submit to and obey.  Or the words of Samuel above, who described what kings and national leaders would do, warning us of the cost of living in this world, as well as in God’s kingdom.  Evil and corrupt leaders are nothing new, nor are laws which seem patently unfair, and taxes that are not used for the good of all.

In countries like ours, we have the blessing of being active in our governance.  We have the ability to vote, to work for change, to strive for what is good, and right.  Yet we still have the obligation, not to man, but to God, of respecting those that are in leadership.  And striving to be in leadership.  Other countries don’t have that blessing.  It doesn’t even matter what kind of political system is at work, monarch, democratic republic, one based on Socialist or Communist, or even a Dictatorship that is less than benevolent.  Peter is clear, it is not because of their righteousness, or their corruption and threats that we submit to their leadership.  It is for the Lord’s sake!!

So we do, and so we become martyrs, witnesses not to the righteousness of the government, but to the righteousness of God.

For what should it matter that we gain the White House, have a clear majority in Congress and the Supreme Court, if we even gain the whole world, if the cost of that is bondage to sin, and losing our relationship with God?

Dear brothers and sisters, this is something we all have to work on, to so treasure God’s love that we hear him, that we give up our fears and frustrations, that we are good stewards of both Kingdoms we are in, that we reflect His love.  The only way to do this is to keep our eyes on Christ, our Lord, our master and King.  For He is our hope, for He is the One who can bring about real transformation, real change!  He is the King who is looking out after all our interests. He is our savior.

For in Christ nothing is impossible, knowing that even if those we are subject to plan to do evil, our God will use it for good.

AMEN!

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