The Paradox of Pain
“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me,x but you will see me.y Because I live, you will livez too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father,aa you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:18-20 CSB
It was a time of drought, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he [Martin Luther] said, “Lord God, thou hast said through the lips of thy servant David, ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, etc., and saves them’ [Ps. 145:18, 19]. How is it, then, that thou art unwilling to give us rain? If thou dost not give us rain, at least give us something better, like tranquillity, life, and peace.
Two of Spurgeon’s greatest sermons were “God in The Silence” and “God in The Storm.” The heart that knows God can find God anywhere. I surely join with Spurgeon in the truth that a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who has met God in a living encounter can know the joy of worshiping Him, whether in the silences of life or in the storms of life. There really is no argument. We know what God wants us to be. He wants us to be worshipers!
This love of poverty should be especially practised by religious who have made the vow of poverty. “Many religious,” says the same St. Bernard, “wish to be poor; but on the condition of wanting for nothing.”2 “Thus,” says St. Francis de Sales, “they wish for the honor of poverty, but not the inconveniences of poverty.”
The last quote stings… it hurts…
I know the truth of it, that I am willing to embrace any suffering God would allow- if I don’t have know I am suffering.
I can endure all things – if I don’t have to really endure it – just sort of let the time pass me by.
That’s the kind of thing we all want, it is why we love to state that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.
Even as I read that, and am crushed by it’s truth, I resonate with Luther’s take – that if God won’t give us the water, he will give us something better. Not something which hides or denies the pain, but in the midst of it, finds the presence of God and is comforted by the Holy Spirit. That encounter is so…. beyond words… that you begin to love the suffering, and you even find joy int it, (even as you despise it) because there you find the prsence of God.
As Spurgeon notes, there you find yourself worshipping the Lord in whose presence you are!
It may take me a while ot see the suffering I am observing in that way, and yet, by the enxt time I share in the Lord’s Supper, – there it is. Christ is in me, even as the Father was in Him! What an incredible truth this is, when the words sink ito our soul and we realize their truth.
In the midst of this poverty, whether financial, mental or spiritual, here is Jesus, with me… with me!
truly, the truth of that sinking down into my sould can cause me to love that whcih made me aware of His presnce, and His promises.
This is my reality in these days…not so much from my suffering, but that which I witness around me….and weeping (and sometimes laughing ) with them, we find His presence together.
This is a blessing impossible to understand, hard to endure, absolutely one I will not by-pass. Even when there are days I wish I could. So,
Lord Jesus, as we face trials, and spiritual poverty, may your Spirit gather us and make us aware of Your presence. Comfort us, sustain us, and Lord, as You promised, keep us safe in You! Amen.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 192.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 424.
Thoughts to survive another monday…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. 13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear Gods and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.t 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl. 12:12–14.
O LORD Jesus Christ, thou holy, precious spotless and innocent Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, we thank thee for thy most holy sufferings and death. Thy soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, because our sorrows and iniquities, terrors and diseases were laid upon thee. We thank thee for thine anguish of heart and soul, for thy bloody sweat and dying agony, in which thou didst truly taste death for every man. We thank thee for thine agonizing prayer and for thy retirement into the garden, there to offer thyself to the Father as the willing Substitute from us. We thank thee for the bands which bound thee, for by them thou didst release us from the bands of everlasting death. We thank thee for the stripes which thou didst endure for our sakes, and for thy scourging, patience and humility by which thou didst offer a ransom for our disobedience, blindness and hardness of heart.
O eternal Father! I offer Thee the pure affections of the heart of Jesus. If Thou dost reject mine, Thou canst not reject those of Thy Son, who is sanctity itself; may they supply what is wanting in me, and may they render me pleasing in Thy eyes!
I only citred about 1/3rd of Pastor Loehe’s prayer (A 19th century Lutheran Pastor) that was part of my devotions this morning. I needed to re-read it several times, to soak in the attitude I need to have, if I am going to survive this day.
I need to realize the depth of His love, revealed at the cross, and at the altar as we receive His body and blood. It is there we see what de Ligouri (a Catholic saint) calls the pure affections of the heart – the incredible love for God and for our neighbor that we are commissioned to have.
THis is what the writer who ends Ecclestiases is talking about – to be in awe of God – for he brought every act into judgment at the cross – and there poured out His anger, at the pain that we have caused.
Jesus took it all, suffered for it all, loved us enough to do this….
knowing this gets me thorugh the evil and stress encountered on a Monday…..
nothing else will…
Jesus has done it all…
time to live in thanks………………………
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 135.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 256–257.
Ministry formation at its best… in our own Gethsemane
Devotional Thought for our Days
6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? 8 Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8 (CSBBible)
“I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for one does not learn anything without practice.”
I am not an anti-academic, I wouldn’t have a master’s degree and be on the final lap of a doctorate if I were.
But having those degrees did not prepare me to a pastor. They gve me tools that assist me in some parts of my ministry. Even preaching dosen’t come primarily from the studyof Greek and Hebrew, or the communication skills honed of twenty-three years of pastorl ministry, and another 6 as a chaplain.
The biggset lessons have come serving the drunk at 3 am before they head home to a wife they no longer loved, (or so they thought) They came at 2 am standing beside a nurse who cared for the hospice patient as they breathed their last. As I prayed for them, and prayed with the family, the nurse would wash the body once more, while waiting for the mortuary.
Ministey occurs there, in the brokenness of strangers, and in the times where I myself struggled. I am not alone, of course, nor have my battles been as severe as Job’s, Jeremiah’s, Peter’s or Paul’s battles.
Ministry is shaped when we have to depend on God’s promsied righteousness, when we realize we can depend on Him, for that is what it means to adore faithfulness, for He embodies what we are unable to accomplish. To simply walk with Him, letting Him shape our work, just as He shapes our eternal destiny. It is learned as we have to find the stillness to meditation in the middle of the tenseness and brokenness and anxiety of God.
Those battles we endure, they drive us to our Lord, teaching us how faithful He is to us. They drive us to the communion rail, and again we encounter Him. Not in a mechanical way, in a forced compliance. But in despair, looking for some hope, some comfort.
Academia provides the tools, But they cannot provide the suffering (though some students think they do!) that drives us to the Lord, the Lord in whom love us, the Lord who shows us mercy.
The Lord whom we praise, as those praises are generated from our hearts and souls, from the depths of our beings.
For He is there, the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 50.
Saul, David and the American Political Season
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 1 Samuel 24:3-7 (NLT2)
You became a bit frightened when you saw so much light, so bright that you thought it would be difficult to look, or even to see. Disregard your obvious weaknesses, and open the eyes of your soul to faith, to hope and to love. Carry on, allowing yourself to be guided by God through whoever directs your soul.
I have to admit that I am more than a little hesitant writing this blog this morning. Yet I have seen to many people who believe in God who struggle to live in the peace God has given them.
Fear, anxiety, anger, even hatred have done this damage to people’s souls. And as I see those emotions pouted out on social media, my heard aches. People look for scapegoats to blame for hurt they even struggle to identify. We look for that one person, or that one group that causes our pain.
David knew that pain. Heck, it wasn’t just projecting his problems on King Saul, Saul was out to kill him. He was hunting him down, and David had to live off the land, and dwell in caves. People who helped him were punished, and rewards were out for his life, and those who served beside him.
And yet, as he tweaks the king, (when he could have assassinated him) he feels guilt. He knows the pain, the betrayal, and et, part of him knows he should not have even tweaked the king….
As I read this, I wondered what it would be like, if we had that much respect for our leaders, that we bathed them in prayer rather than mocked them, or critiqued them and spewed hatred at them behind their back? What would happen if we treated them as we wanted them to treat us? If we didn’t use their actions to justify our own.
What would happen if we loved them as Christ loves us?
This is the kind of light we struggle with entering , this glorious love of God that takes away sin… This is the glory that realizes God’s at work, somehow, in all of this. This is the kind of trust, that comes from knowing God. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.
That will change us, even a it impacts the country.
For if we enter into a time of revival, it will not matter who wins the election.
Lord, reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in this world, Help us to trust you more than we fear, more than we are hurting, more than we have learned to hate…and heal us . AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Brutal but Blessed Truth…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you and formed your nation. Israel, don’t be afraid. I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. 2 When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won’t drown. When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned or scorched by the flames. 3 I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, the God who saves you. . Isaiah 43:1-3a (CEV)
A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances decay
I had always believed in God’s love and God’s omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together, saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), and applied this truth to my life, I could never again see the world the same way. If God is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then everything that happens is our spiritual food; and we should thank Him for it.
I am not sure I would use the phrase “godly man” to describe myself. Others might, assuming since I am a pastor, I must be. But I know the difference, and so does God.
But I can say, I desire to be a Godly man, and that expresses my broken and sinful heart. I desire it and know how deeply I fall short of it. That God guarantees that I will be, that I am in His eyes because of Jesus is a great theological and often academic exercise, but there are days where theology doesn’t serve, and where my academic strengths fail.
It is then that I realize that even for who would desire godliness, the times of failure can be blessings. Spurgeon is right, even for those like me. Kreeft says it even better – everything that happens to me, whether I am in control of it, or am not, is a result of God’s omnipotence, and more importantly, His love.
That’s hard to say when faced with disease and genetic disorders. It is hard to face for those who suffer from mental illness, and for those who have been affected by the evil of others, or by their own, this is a brutal truth, and one that it is hard to comprehend, and harder to accept.
Even so, as I desire godliness, I must grow to trust, even when I struggle ot accept, that this is true. Even more so, I need to grow in trusting and sensing His presence when the deep waters come, and I feel like I am drowning. Even more so when life feels like Dante is right about the inferno. When the pain and anguish seem to overwhelm, I need ot remember the promise of my baptism, and the discovery that I have made at the altar, that God is with us is not just words, it is a truth that is the purest of blessings, even when faced with the brutality of this world. Even when I am too tired to see it.
He is with us, He calls us by name, for we are His.
Even in the midst of “it”
Lord, help us to know Your presence in our lives, to experience the love that is beyond explanation, the peace which is beyond understanding. Help us not to praise You because You rescued us, but because you made us Yours. Lord, until you let the waters recede, and the fire be quenched, sustain us, and help us to be thankful for Your presence.. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 19.
The Cost of Being an “Institutional” Church Member
Devotional Thought of the Day
28 And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29 When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)
519 Serviam!—“I will serve!” That cry is your determination to serve the Church of God faithfully, even at the cost of fortune, of honor and of life.
Were they to take our house
Goods honor child or spouse
Though life be wrenched away
They cannot win the day
The Kingdom’s ours forever
(From “A mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther)
Yesterday, after a memorial service, one of the people there asked me how I can be there for people in times where the emotional pain is so evident, so dominating, so crushing. I shared one or two of my secrets, and the irony(?) that I have discovered, the more I can embrace their pain with them, the more I can laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry, the more that I see God at work, comforting them.
Funerals and weddings are not the hard part of ministry, nor are the other times when a pastor, priest or even a lay minister is able to make the presence of the Holy Spirit known to people. In those moments, the tears the grienf it is worth it.
But the challenge of being in the institutional church is when it seems not to be worth it. When you are in a meeting and people have hidden agendas. When people struggle with each other, and do not see the answer is struggling together.
When the brokenness of lives so blinds them to the healing that is found in Christ, the healing He does within the church, and through those He has called and given to the church.
When the church is forced to change its focus from the Jesus to dealing with the problems that are threatening to tear it apart. Such stuff happens in the institutional church, but it also happens in the house church, and in our families. As long as there is one sinner in the room, it will happen. And if you are there, or I am, there is a sinner there.
Yesterday, we ended the service by singing Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”. Not as a triumphal anthem, but as a song of need, a song of despair, and yet hope as he finds that God has him (and the church) THe part of the verse quoted above struck me again, especially given the loss the people were experiencing endured. It is echoed in St Josemaria’s words.
We usually think of such threats as external, or they should be. The people who for one reason or another hate the church, or feel threatened by it. But sometimes they are internal, as people do fall into sin, as people do deal with stress and brokenness. Paul easily recognizes the stresses that can occur when people are brought together, are drawn together in to the presence of God.
So if we are going to face that within or without the institutional church, why bother to belong to one? Why bother to deal with the added stress, why deal with the extra pain, the extra betrayals, the extra anxieties and fears? Why would someone who struggles with social constructs and the complications they bring ever dare enter into this willinging, and serve the church?
Why bear the cost of the trauma, the pain, the disagreements, the dishonour?
Simple. The eyes of a widow that full of tears, reaches out for a hug and whispers, “Yes, I know God is with me.” The grief that is shared, but the hope of the resurrection to life together in the presence of God. Watching God at work, reconciling people together. The joy, the quiet simple joy that comes as the people of God find themselves celebrating their forgiveness and their adoption as God’s co-heirs at the altar of mercy and peace.
Everything endured is worth that….whether the injury is external to the church or internal.
Seeing God at work is that priceless, and seeing Him at work in and through me and the people I struggle alongside, (and sometimes with) is nothing compared to the glory and healing found in Christ. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1258-1259). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tired of Rejection!?!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 He said to me, “Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?”
I replied, “Sovereign LORD, only you can answer that!”
They say that they are dried up, without any hope and with no future. 12 So prophesy to my people Israel and tell them that I, the Sovereign LORD, am going to open their graves. I am going to take them out and bring them back to the land of Israel. 13 When I open the graves where my people are buried and bring them out, they will know that I am the LORD. 14 I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. Then they will know that I am the LORD. I have promised that I would do this—and I will. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:3:11-14 GNT
4 Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ… At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received his mercy. 1 Peter 2:4-5, 10 GNT
This world is full of rejection.
I have felt a lot of it across my life.
No, I am not talking about the ladies in high school who thought I was going to ask them out on a date and proactively said no. (Fourteen of the them, and only one was I thinking about asking out!) Nor the jobs and positions I really wanted whom others got.
I am talking about people who reject each other, and people they don’t even know, because of political views, religious views, views on what is moral or immoral and what is right and wrong. Maybe we wouldn’t reject them outright, but we place the signs and meme’s were they can see them, dripping with snark and sarcasm, or being just being offensive and hurtful in what we choose to say. (we may defend our statement as being true and accurate, but we say it in a way for shock value!)
And so we reject each other.
It is as if we were the one the Lord asked, “Can these bones live?” and rather than answer that only God knows, we go “No!” and turn our back and walk away.
We have had this done to us, and I bet we have done it to others.
Look at Facebook and Twitter – we’ve said it about every president or candidate or politician, we’ve said it about the broken figures in sports and in business, we’ve said it about those who seek help, and those who do not seem to help others. We’ve said it about the diversity of people around us, no race or culture has been exempt, including our own.
Notice I have said “we’ve said it,” for though we don’t each say it about everyone, we all have had our targets, those whom we believe are beyond redemption, who are beyond God’s ability to “Make alive” or put His Holy Spirit in, as He has promised. And I’ve said we, because sometimes it seems the church is more antagonistic than any other group.We are willing to bach people who don’t understand grace and mercy, and they won’t necessarily learn about it from us.
They should, we should be the ones who explain to the rejected that God won’t reject them. He will love them draw them to Himself, heal and cleanse their wounds. He doesn’t want to reject them, He wants to make them His people. His living, blessed, God chosen, valuable people.
People who know God, and revel to be in HIs presence.
These bones can live – and so can yours.
Rejoice, and look at all people, as those God is calling to be His own….what a wonderful thing!
How to Survive this week…
Devotional Thoughts for the day:
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NLT2)
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.
And if our life means anything, if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and does some good, it is that somehow, by being here, at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand. William Brodrick
The Eucharist will restore to us our original dignity: to that of rational beings: not rationalists but rational ones, perfected by the grace of faith, hope and charity. This is a healing from a deviant emotionalism that is wrought by an authentic theological life, which puts the emotions and feelings in their rightful place. Otherwise, one is faced with two temptations: either lose oneself in emotion, or reject it categorically, which in both cases is a tragedy for the humanity of the person. Only an authentically theological life restores to human affectivity its legitimate and rightful place, including in our devotional lives.
As I sit in my home office, I am looking back on a week that I could never have imagined happening to me as a pastor. I am not talking about never imagining it when I was 8 and felt the “call” to be the pastor. Or when I was 18-22 and studying to be one.
I am talking about never imagining it as far back in time as last Wednesday.
And I have seen a thing or two as a pastor, and helped people pick up the pieces of hundreds if not a thousand or more traumatic experiences.
And so when I cam across the words of Mr. Broderick above, they resonnated incredibly well. there is where I stand, in the midst of the extremes of life (and along with me the staff of my church and school.) It is not the queit place it normally has been, and while the sense of peace is being revealed again, there are the challenges we have endured that have marked us.
But we are that candle, and by being here, in this moment, we help those around us cope with what they cannot understand, what we cannot understand. What was beyond our imagination, and yet became a reality.
So in the midst of that, we learn to focus on what is dependable, what brings about peace, what cannot be seen or perceived completely, yet has been promised to us.
We look to the Eucharist, the Body broken, the Blood poured out to restore us, to renew us, to help us believe and depend on God, even in the times we struggle to believe, because our minds cannot understand. This is what renews us, what calms our fears, that strengthens our dependence on Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And then in the midst of a peace that is beyond our understanding, we find our hearts and souls healing, and we realize the healing that we have been able to help others find.
Lord, bless us as we pray! You promised the Holy Spirit would interpret those prayers, even with groaning deeper than our own. Help us to look to You, to see Your love revealed, to strengthen our faith, our trust in Your love. Lord we need to know You are here, so make it evident that You, Lord, are with us! AMEN!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 121). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ 5/31/2019
Offended! Renewal or Revenge: I beg you…choose wisely
Devotional Thought of the Day
9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains. 11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you as a part of myself. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a •slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self. Philemon 9-19 HCSB
187 Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning, and act in consequence.
Christianity is Love, or better said Jesus Christ is love.
In recent weeks, there have been some issues where people have been gravely hurt, situations in which they feel they have been offended, gravely offended. Some of these things are sinful, even including some that are considered abominations,
Yet Christianity is love, St Josemaria reminds us.
Our mission, the mission of the church and everyone who is a part of her is found in loving others, to have the positive experience of being concerned for them. This isn’t easy, this mission of ours. It calls us to love the unlovable, to be concerned for the very people who hurt us, whom we pin the blame for our brokenness on, looking for someone to take the fall
Yet Christ is love.
This morning, my reading plan hit the book of Philemon, one of the greatest encouragements to love a neighbor found in scripture. Paul is encouraging Philemon to love more than the betrayal, to love more than he was sinned against, to love more than justice, in fact, this love flies in the face of civil justice.
Christ is love. Imitate Him!
Paul so desires Philemon to love the escaped slave, he is willing to risk having Philemon disobey him, willing to risk a betrayal. He so desires to teach Philemon about love, he is willing to sacrifice the one he wants Philemon to love.
The one who betrayed Philemon, the one who hurt him, stole his property, made him the object of ridicule.
Paul wants Philemon to love the most unlovable person in Philemon’s life.
And he is willing to risk everything to teach this important lesson, even as he encourages Philemon with just as much energy, reminding Philemon how much he is loved. Even reminding Philemon how much mercy has blessed him.
Christ is Love!
This is our calling, this is our way of life, this is a level of joy when we find that in Christ we can love the unlovable when we can love the one who has betrayed us when we can show mercy even as we show mercy.
What a joy to do that which we cannot do on our own. To so depend on the power of the Holy Spirit who comforts us, who gives us the ability to do what we cannot.
Christ in us! LOVE!
Take a moment, think of those who you would struggle to love, whether a famous person, or a family member or a neighbor. Hear those who have loved you when you were unlovable, pointing you to Jesus, and pray that someone would do the same for those whose actions and words hurt you, bring them to the Lord who will renew their lives.
Lord have mercy on us…..all!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Denial’s effect on the world…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 They have treated My people’s brokenness superficially, claiming, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14 HCSB
993 You reason well … coldly: how many motives for abandoning the task! And some of them are apparently conclusive. I see without any doubt that you have reasons—but you are not right.
For decades the Catholic church has ignored a crisis in their midsts, and now many are trying to avoid the blame that their denial of the issues has caused. They are not the only ones, there are a few protestant mega-churches now learning the high cost of denial of the problems of sin and immorality
You see the high cost of denial as well, as churches that were once 10 or 15 times their present attendance are floundering, struggling not ot close. But for the decades in decline, denial was the passive strategy, or implementing programs that promised great success, but didn’t account for denial’s apathetic response.
I’ve seen it in personal relationships as well, from abusive relationships to neglect, from drug and alcohol addiction to work problems. We deny our problems, we present that all is at peace, and the pain and trauma results in our heart and soul being destroyed.
We have all the reasons to engage in denial, we can rationalize it out with the best of them. We can claim we are powerless, we can claim we can’t do better, we can find theologians and pastors who will enable our denial.
But the denial is like covering up an infection without neutralizing it. It will rot, and build up pressure underneath the surface. It will eventually have to be dealt with, but by the time it is, the results are even more damaging, the healing takes longer, significantly longer.
So how do we overcome the temptation to enter into denial?
First, we have to recognize it. We have to realize we are running away and turning our back on the problem.
Second, we have ot trust in God’s ability to sustain us, to make things work out for our best, even in the midst of the pain of dealing with the situation. That trust grows as we pray, as we spend time in deep conversation, seeking God’s care, getting to be familiar with Him, and knowing His will.
What happens then is what Luther often mentioned, when he explains prayer, noting that God would see His will worked out whether we pray or not, but that we pray that we know it comes in our lives.
We pray so we remember He is here, so we are assured of His love, and His active care. Knowing His presence, the anxiety of dealing with the problem fades. W can take on the issue head on, we can deal with the problem. We can even handle it with great tenderness, patience, and love.
And life finds healing, and revival, and hope.
Lord Jesus, help us not hide our problems and the major issues in our lives, but run with them to you. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2307-2309). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.