Devotional Thought of the Day….
I long ago came up with, what is my theory of life.
An optimist looks at a 20 oz beverage container holding 10 oz of fluid and calls it half full. A pessimist looks at the same container and calls it half empty. I walk over drain the mug of beer, ticking off the optimist and the pessimist simultaneously. It was a good beer, the container served its purpose, and I caused opposing sides of an argument to be united. (against me – but that is cool) That’s a very good day! (1)
For some reason, I am occasionally mistaken for an optimist. I’m not sure why. I am certainly not a pessimist either, and I don’t fit on a line somewhere in between.
Don’t get me wrong – there are times I am sure everything is going to collapse around me, that the world is going to implode – and the proof of the possibility of that is that… well – I am here, therefore it could happen. At the same time – I a pretty sure that if it does, it will be a truly glorious thing to witness, mind-blowing even, and that I will find myself thoroughly enjoying the spectacle!
This weirdness in me is developed in part – by a long list of tragedies and traumas I have seen in life, either experiencing them myself ( for example my heart issues and marfans syndrome, my dropping out of college, my motorcycle accident, heck I could fill a blog) or by those I’ve walked beside, as they have seen God cause them to persevere and endure in peace …even unto death.
I’ve seen to much to be a carefree, naive, optimist who thinks everything is coming up roses. I have seen God’s action in those times nearly as often (sometimes I admit I can’t see them) to be a “the sky is falling” pessimist. Sure I will rant and rave at times, or celebrate a bit too early in other times. But overall, I am neither, or both, finding the joy in suffering, and the soberness in joy.
Maybe it is that my optimism is found, in that same place as faith, as trusting in God to fulfill specially what He has promised.
I like how St Josemaria put it,
“659 Christian optimism is not a sugary optimism; nor is it a mere human confidence that everything will turn out all right. It is an optimism that sinks its roots in an awareness of our freedom, and in the sure knowledge of the power of grace. It is an optimism which leads us to make demands on ourselves, to struggle to respond at every moment to God’s calls.” (2)
Call it “baptismal” optimism – the attitude we have in knowing that which God has given and done to us, when He claimed us as His people, when He cleansed our lives, and bound and sealed us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the never-ending presence of God in our lives. Knowing that because of the grace poured out there, our lives are renewed, revitalized! That sin and shame and guilt and fearing death and Satan no longer have a hold on us, that we enter God’s presence and abide there confidently in peace.
There – instead of naively assuming that everything will work out right, or that everything is sure to fail, we can engage the attitude Paul describes as ours..
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT)
Live in your baptismal grace my friends… and rejoice… not just because all things will work out for good for those that love God, but that they will, because you abide in Christ..
(1) DT Parker – ~1988
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2424-2428). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Here is my Brother and Sister…
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1 & Mark 3:20–35
† In Jesus Name †
May we, with all God’s holy people have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, as we are filled with the utter fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (adapted)
Blood isn’t thicker than water…baptismal water…
Today’s gospel challenges an old German proverb about family relationships being stronger than any other relationships we have. To those who know German, I apologize for my pronunciation – the old proverb went like this, “Blut ist dicker als Wasser”
I would think that the family of Jesus would agree with the German proverb. In verse 21, after they determined that he was out of his mind, they set off to save Jesus, to save Him from Himself and the uncontrollable crowd.
As they call for Him to come out – as the message is relayed inside, the answer seems almost insolent in response to their pleas. For Jesus says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Some people think that Jesus’ words border on rudeness, on dishonoring His mother.
Yet I think it is just the opposite, for here, once and for all, Jesus doesn’t limit His family, he expands it… to include us!
We, who trust in His faithfulness – who accept and find hope in the promises He makes to us, He was thinking of us, as well as the millions of others in “our family”….
Genetics doesn’t create the closest bonds that a human can know – though perhaps blood does and water…
Not our blood, but the blood of Christ spilled on the cross,
And the water of our baptism – where God promises to unite us to Christ’s death, that we may be united all united with Him as One, in His resurrection!
In uniting us together, in making each of us the place where the Holy Spirit dwells – the Father creates the new temple – place where He will abide forever, a temple not made of human hands, but of His people.
How strong is this bond? What makes it different? That is what we talk of… today!
A Different “Out Look”
When we talk of the relationships we have, as the body of Christ, and how close they are, it is not to mean that we have some romantic idealism that there will never be strains and stresses in our relationships.
I know that I can get on people’s nerves at times, and there are one or two… million people that cause me to struggle. We are people who struggle with sin, and with self-deception and self-centeredness, after all! While we strive to be holy, it is not within our lives, apart from that which is united with Christ!
But that is the point – our bonds are so tight – because in Christ – we have been given a different outlook, a different way to see what is important as Paul states in our reading this morning from 2 Corinthians,
are unseen are eternal
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal!
Our family, those found in Christ, those who know His incredible love and mercy.. we look at different things that the world that has, as yet, to realize that love.
The more time we spend realizing that we are in the presence of God, not just here on Sundays, but every moment of our lives.. ohhhh how that changes things! First eternally, as we consider promises like 1 Corinthians 2:9
2:9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;
Given that – our temporary struggles, are simply that, light and momentary afflictions! Yet it is more than knowing that eternity is forever, and that comparing this life to that is not even possible…
This isn’t minimizing the pains of life, but putting them into perspective – it is hard to be mad at someone for being a pain in the neck, when we realize what Christ went through, in order that they know His love, and we can take on the fact that we are getting old – and our bodies don’t work as good as they did when we were in our twenties and thirties,
but our focus, our hopes, what causes us to tick and live and work in God’s kingdom is that we look to that we cannot see – but that we know – the presence of God, which is as real for us now, right now – and every moment of our lives…
Because we have been given the Holy Spirit – promised all over the Old Testament – especially clear in books like Ezekiel, and in the Psalms… made true for us, as Christ promised – the Spirit has come! Again, I love Paul’s way of describing it!
3:3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7 (NLT)
And even as we share this wisdom, as we share in the gift of the Holy Spirit – we share in it together – for we all dwell together with Him, and the love of God binds us together!
We believe, and We speak…
Knowing this – we begin to understand the start of the Epistle reading:
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Paul’s quote comes from a psalm that praises God in the midst of a struggle, in the midst of life, when if we look at life without the lends of eternity, we would nearly give up. It’s not worth the struggle, its not worth trusting God in the midst of temptation, its not worth the pain and anguish of dealing with people that are stubborn, or stupid, or irritating or corrupt…
Yet we know what God can do with such people, as we look at Moses, and David and young Jeremiah and Daniel. As we see what God has done with Peter and Paul, and the visions he gave to a man who was called a son of thunder… and yet… wrote the gospel of John, the gospel of live. In the same way we see it in men who have sinned like Will and Stephen and Chris and I, yet who God has cleansed and called to proclaim His love, His mercy, and His grace…. And to guide people, as they hear of that love, and as we bring you closer and closer to Him! For we trust in Him, and know what He has done in our lives.
He changes us, He causes us to trust in Him, and then He calls us to speak – to assure you, to help you be confident that the very power that raises Christ from the dead – will bring us with Jesus, into the very holy, awesome, presence of God…
both then – face to face- and now, as we serve together – as His grace and mercy extend to more and more people – and as we see them embraced by His love, as we do His will, as the ones we reach out to and we are shown to be the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ – His praises arise within us, His glory grows, and we continually thank the God, who has made us us… and causes us to dwell in peace.
And because of that – …our “tradition”
One of the parts of our traditional service – that has grown to be a major focus of our multicultural service in English, is when we realize we are in the presence of God, and I get to declare – as I will in a moment – that the Peace of God is with you always – and the people exclaim “amen”!
The moment then comes – when we take some time – and share with each other –
shén de píng’ān yǔ nǐ tóngzài – the peace of Christ is with you – as we greet each other with this blessing!
This day… it is very appropriate… to end the sermon in this way – as we realize that because we are the brothers and sisters of Christ – as we realize that means we are bonded by Him to each other, in His presence… as we dwell – now and forever In the peace of God which passes all understanding, …
P The peace of the T Lord is with you always!