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.
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!
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
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.
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God. ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)
695 In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.
As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.
The amount of trauma and conflict (more of the former than the latter) I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.
So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him. Can? I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.
At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words! Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.
I need to… I really do.
Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing. For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.
WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.
Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others. Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.
including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.
What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken? What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little? How incredible is that? How amazing?
Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.
As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!
What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life.
The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away.
Praise the name of Yahweh. Job 1:21 HCSB
10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. Job:210 HCSB
535 Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.
As I read through the Old Testament, I hate it when I come to the book of Job.
For one thing, all the wisdom of his friends. which in the end is declared useless – why bother with it?
The more scary thought, is my life going to resemble this soon (or I could make the argument it does it now!) If so, how will I survive? If so, why does God allow these times of adversity?
How will I survive? Will the darkness overwhelm me?
And then I get mad at God, I would even say I get pissed off at Him. I don’t have the patience or righteousness or wisdom of Job!
That is perhaps, why I need to read of his travail.
I need to know that kind of confidence, that accepts God’s providence, even when it is adversity, even when it will stretch us, even when we think we are at the end and can’t take one more thing. When we realize there is no strength in us.
It is then we realize that there is only one option.
Intimacy with God.
It is there we can be assured of His love. It is there, in His presence, we know His mercy so completely that we cannot doubt that even the adversity is somehow a blessing. It is there, as we receive Him, as He comes to us, that His peace overwhelms everything.
That is the communion that led to Job’s faith. That is the communion that sustains the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, and saints throughout time. It is that communion that enables us to go on. It is that communion that has sustained me through dark times in my life.
It is that communion, that presence of God that lifts me up, comforts me, guides me…
My only wish is that I could have it more often…
No, my wish is we could have it together more often.
Lord have mercy on us!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1295-1296). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 A ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One—God. 20 You know the commandments:
Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness;
honor your father and mother.”
21 “I have kept all these from my youth,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, He told him, “You still lack one thing: Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, n and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Luke 18:18-22
Creation exists for the sake of worship: Operi Dei nihil praeponatur, Saint Benedict says in his Rule: “Nothing is to take precedence over the service of God.” This is not an expression of exalted piety, but a pure and practical application to our own lives of the story of creation and its message. The genuine center, the force that moves and orders from within the rhythm of the stars and of our lives, is worship
888 You tell me that you want to practise holy poverty, you want to be detached from the things you use. Ask yourself this question: do I have the same affections and the same feelings as Jesus Christ has, with regard to riches and poverty? I told you: as well as resting in the arms of your Father God, with all the confident abandonment of one who is his child, you should fix your eyes particularly on this virtue to love it as Jesus does. Then, instead of seeing it as a cross to bear, you will see it as a sign of God’s special love for you.
The devotional part of my blog originated as a journal, the writings that summarized my devotional readings for the day, that helped me process what I encountered in the Bible readings and other readings I do.
Originally those readings started out as a discipline, and the writing was something I did because I realized that otherwise, I would go through the motions, Reading, and maybe even slowly changing, but not with any real desire. I read because that is what a “good” Christian should do, what a pastor “should” do because then I am an example for my people.
It has become more than that, partially because of Lutheran theology, partially because of St Josemaria Escriva, but mostly because of needing to cope with my own brokenness, and the darkness that would overwhelm me otherwise. I don’t like talking about it, I don’t like even dwelling on it, but it is there… lurking with every click of my heart.
In my devotional reading, in the writing I do that comes from that, there springs hope, I find not only the light at the end of the tunnel but the light, the glory of God, the love of Christ is not at the end of the tunnel, it is there, with me, guiding me, comforting me, protecting me.
The rich young man, (some say it was Saul, years before Damascus Road) couldn’t see his own brokenness. He couldn’t see the need to be with Jesus, and more importantly, to know Jesus was there, with him. The man had the same invitation the apostles did, “come, be with me,” and he turned it down.
Likewise, the poverty, the detachment that St, Josemaria describes is a form of the brokenness I have encountered, as things I loved dearly ( sports, martial arts) were stripped away from me, as who I was drastically and painfully redefined. So painfully, that I can easily acknowledge the only comfort that helps is finding rest in Christ, especially in His word, and in the peace, I find in the sacraments, especially Confession and Absolution, and of course the Eucharist, the Holy Supper where Christ gives us Himself. ANd in the midst of the brokenness, the pain of body heart and soul, I find something more precious, the love of God. That doesn’t mean I like the pain, but it doesn’t mean I can be thankful for it, and even praise God for it. For in the pain, I find His comfort.
Which leads me to a third reading, the one from Benedict XVI, where he talks about Creation is worship. So it is, I find. Not because I am a particularly pious person, or because I want to be considered holy. Take my word for it, I am not, not even close! Worship isn’t just about upbeat praise or ceremonial splendor, it is about finding yourself in God’s arms, held, comforted, healed. It is about being able and free to weep until there are no more tears. It is there that we find the reason we worship God.
He loves us.
And as we realize this, as it is revealed, nothing else seems to matter, all the brokenness falls away… and worship and adoration is what we do, in response to that love.
Why do I spend the time I do, reading scripture and works of others God has ministered to?
I have to… it is the only way I can survive. And yet, the beauty revealed, as I see how much God loves us, reveals that such reading and prayer and meditation is not sacrificial, but something that is life. with Him. It is exploring the length and width, the height and depth of the love of God, the love I cannot understand, but I can experience. I pray you can as well.
Know this, He loves you…
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.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3131-3137). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Seemingly Broken Days:
9 These wise teachers will fall into the trap of their own foolishness, for they have rejected the word of the LORD. Are they so wise after all? 10 I will give their wives to others and their farms to strangers. From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed. Yes, even my prophets and priests are like that. They are all frauds. 11 They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:9-11 (NLT)
311 Everything seems so peaceful. God’s enemy, however, is not asleep… The Heart of Jesus is also awake and watching! There lies my hope.
Since the devil is not only a liar but also a murderer,3 he incessantly seeks our life and vents his anger by causing accidents and injury to our bodies. He breaks many a man’s neck and drives others to insanity; some he drowns, and many he hounds to suicide or other dreadful catastrophes.
116 Therefore there is nothing for us to do on earth but to pray constantly against this arch-enemy. For if God did not support us, we would not be safe from him for a single hour.
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
It has, in the last few years, become my favorite Christmas song, replacing “What Child is This.” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is based on a poem by Longfellow, whose story seems like a modern Job.
In the verse above, we see the paradox of peace. As we see it in the prophet Jeremiah’s description of his time, when those who taught and led Israel would tell them there is true peace, and ignore the gaping wounds and despair their people were suffering because there was no peace. Their proclamation of peace simply was a band-aid, not put in place to bring healing, but simply to hide what was underneath.
It is in recognizing the despair that we can know peace, it is dealing with the mortal wound, that we can see the healing fo God which leaves us in true peace. This is the paradox that peace is.
I have seen this too many times, even as recent as last night, when in the midst of tears, of heartbreak and grief, a sense of peace that leaves us in awe floods a sanctuary. Even as the tears flow, there is something, you hear it in the voices singing His praises. It is hard to address the brokenness – but it is so prevalent in our lives, we can’t just cover it up and ignore it.
I think the illusion of peace provides the scenario that St Josemaria mentions, where under the illusion, the facade of peace, Satan and his minions are not asleep, but hard at work. (And yes, Satan is real, not just a mythical explanation for evil.) He is the one who would have us project peace when there is not. He would have us dismiss the havoc, the anger, and hatred, the misery, and grief, allowing people to dwell in despair, blinded to the idea of hope.
That is how Satan can do what Luther describes him doing. Satan could not keep Christ in the grave, and so his desire now is not just the glorification of evil, that it simply a means to his end. His end game now is simple, to keep Christ from living in our hearts, in our lives, and through us redeeming the rest of the world. He would stop us from being drawn to Jesus, to the mercy and love, and the peace that comes when we depend on Jesus for all of our life.
You see, that is the greatest paradox of peace. It is known, not in the absence of conflict and pain, but it is found there, in the violence and anguish of the cross. It is not found in ignoring the mortal wound, but found in the wounds of Christ crucified, It is not found in covering the brokenness with a holiday facade, but in the body broken, and the blood shared.
For there at the cross where Jesus was broken there is found peace, for there, untied to Him, we find the glorious peace that comes from knowing the immeasurable love of God for us.
This is what we need to experience, a love so amazing, so overwhelming, that doesn’t hide the brokenness, but bring to its healing, and comfort. That notes the mortal wound and pain and brings healing through the resurrection.
This is our hope, especially in these days…
So be drawn to God, allow Him to comfort you in your despair, Then, you will dwell in the glorious peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, but which Christ guards you, your heart and soul and mind. AMEN!
The Forge (Kindle Locations 1252-1255). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days:
7 But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. 8 We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; 9 we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; 10 always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. 11 Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. 12 In us, then, death is at work; in you, life. 13 But as we have the same spirit of faith as is described in scripture—I believed and therefore I spoke—we, too, believe and therefore we, too, speak, 14 realising that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up with Jesus in our turn, and bring us to himself—and you as well. 15 You see, everything is for your benefit, so that as grace spreads, so, to the glory of God, thanksgiving may also overflow among more and more people. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NJB)
929 Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are.
As you look at paintings of saints, some are portrayed in very peaceful serene moments, a soft glow seems to be about them, even without the golden halos There are others that show them in the depth of darkness, fully engulfed in pain, fully engulfed in a battle against Satan and sin and despair.
I find great comfort in the latter type of paintings, for I know far more people engulfed in a similar battle, who benefit from knowing they aren’t the first to do battle with temptation, sin, doubt, resentment, guilt, and all the lies of Satan. For when we look at Francis or St John of the Cross or Luther or Walther or Mother Theresa battling that which oppressed them, we realize there must be hope, for we know how the story of these holy men and women ring true in the moment.
Paul is correct, in these lives lived in the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t just see the brokenness, we see the Holy Spirit comforting and sustaining them, as the victory of Christ’s death on the cross becomes more and more real.
For united to that death, we find life.
United to His suffering, we find peace.
Yesterday I had the responsibility of sharing God’s love with a family, a neighborhood of people who were devasted by the death of a young man. A man so devastated by the pains of life that it overwhelmed him and he thought peace could only be found in the arms of death.
The confidence to speak in that situation comes not from theology books, or the education I have received, but from the darkness, I’ve seen Christ deliver so many people through over the years, from the darkness I have needed to be rescued from as well. St Josemaria is so insightful in his words, I can convince people of God’s love, because i have been convinced as well.
One of the 80+-year-old ladies is responsible for our church mission statement. She said one morning in Sunday school that Concordia is the place where people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.
It is an absolutely beautiful, brilliant and true statement about our church. It may not be fancy or measurable, it does not meet the standards of the guru’s who teach church leadership. It doesn’t hold out a goal for some future time where we will have a perfect, thriving, idyllic large church.
Chruch isn’t some kind of utopia on earth. It is a place for the broken, for the different, for those struggling with life, with shame and guilt, with resentment and hatred. It is where we find healing and hope amid our brokenness, amid the tears and the pain to deep for tears.
This is what the saints knew… this is why the paintings can show them in despair, and in glory, for both are true, in Christ.
And we are called saints just as those whose faith in God we admire! For we, like those who walked before us, are those called out, drawn to Jesus, those made holy the Holy Spirit, whose healing is being accomplished, for it is God the Father’s will.
He has heard our cry for mercy, and has answered it. May we always be convinced of this, even as we convince others of it.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.