Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. 8 You should make them sure of your love for them. 2 Corinthians 2:7–8 (CEV)
Try this, therefore, and practice it well. Just examine yourself, look around a little, cling to the Scriptures. If even then you feel nothing, you have all the more need to lament both to God and to your brother. Take others’ advice and seek their prayers, and never give up until the stone is removed from your heart.
84 Then your need will become apparent, and you will perceive that you have sunk twice as low as any other poor sinner and are much in need of the sacrament to combat your misery. This misery, unfortunately, you do not see, though God grants his grace that you may become more sensitive to it and more hungry for the sacrament.
During my lifetime I have seen two reactions to people who have been caught in sin.
The first to ignore it, often quote Jesus’ comment about those who are without sin can cast the first stone. So we ignore the sin, justifying it our mind somehow.
The second way people (and especially pastors) deal with it is to condemn it, banishing the person from the presence of those who are holy, less the sinner infects the rest of the people in the church. They justify this based on the idea of ex-communication in Matthew 18.
IN the Bible passage today, we see a third option. Translated here as forgive and comfort, we need to understand these things. Forgiveness here is the word for grace, to give them a gift they do not deserve. They do not deserve it, because of the sin. However, that is grace, we receive what we do not deserve, what could not even be asked with any sense of expectation, except for the promise of God.
And then the challenging part, the comfort. The word is one of the names of the Holy Spirit, being a paraclete. What Paul is asking us to do is to go alongside the brother or sister who is held captive by sin, and support them. To lift them up, to support them, to help them know that God is still their God. They are still part of the church, the family of God that finds healing and hope in Jesus while helping others heal as well.
Is this easy, no. Will the people you are trying to reach snap your head off at times, or resist the assistance, yes. Ministering in this way requires patience, and a willingness to wait until the opportunity is there. Not easy.
Yet, in the end, when the sinner realizes their need, there is no better feeling than when they are at the altar with you, and together you receive the Body and Blood of Christ, together. That is why Luther tells us when our hearts are hardened when sin has blinded us to our need for it, it is when we need it the most! That is when we need the comfort of God, as He reveals to us out need.
This is how we are to deal with sin and make it known that it is how we deal with sin.
Heavenly Father, help us to reach out to those who are broken, and when they reach out to us, let us gather in Your presence and bring us healing and comfort, and the desire to reach out with that to others. We pray this in Jesus name… amen!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 456.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD is compassionate, and when you cry to him for help, he will answer you. 20 The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more. Isaiah 30:19-20 GNT
This will all happen when the LORD bandages and heals the wounds he has given his people. Isaiah 30:26 GNT
102 Your mind is sluggish and won’t work. You struggle to coordinate your ideas in the presence of our Lord, but it’s useless: a complete fog! Don’t force yourself, and don’t worry either. Listen closely: it is the hour for your heart.
As I read the passages from Isaiah this morning, I thought I knew what I would write about, I thought I knew the route my devotions would take me. This idea of God making us go through hard times is a challenging one, even with the promise of His presence there in the background. Knowing He is ready to heal the wounds, knowing He has got us, and while we fall, it will be into His arms.
Simple, profound, difficult thoughts.
Would God really do that? Yes, He would do anything that would help us realize He is here. To get our attention, not for His sake, but because life is too challenging to go through without knowing He is there, caring, providing, yes, disciplining when necessary – but He is there.
With this thought in mind, I turned to the last bit of devotional reading, the words of St Josemaria, and my thoughts took a different direction.
You see I resonate with the sluggish mind, I too often find myself in a fog, unable to understand what I need to, never mind be ready to teach it to others. The days when my meds slow me down, or perhaps I didn’t eat right and my blood sugar is too high or low. Or maybe it is, like so often, I have many things to cope with, and it takes a while to hear which God would have me see Him work in, in that moment. (Rather than my prioritizing them!)
But added to the fog is my guilt and shame over it. Why can’t I beat it? Why can’t I be at my peak performance at all times, why do I have to grasp? Why can’t I force myself through this mental/spiritual block I have? Anxiety will set in, and I keep imagining the disappointment of God, because the things I have been entrusted with, take more time than they should, and aren’t done to my specification.
St. Josemaria tells me not to worry. Huh, what does he know! (did I actually just say that?) In fact, having read The Way a half dozen times or more, I don’t think I really read this one, really read it an thought thorugh it before.
As is proper, the Scriptures give me what I need to understand why I shouldn’t struggle and force myself, and why I shouldn’t worry and get flabbergasted. Isaiah gives me the “why”.
If there was an issue, if it was serious, then I believe God would, in His time, bring about the hard times, the wounds He would need to bandage, He would bring me running to Him. He cares about us that much, He loves us that much. He wants us aware of His presence.
There is a time for this fog, a time to be still and listen with the new heart that God has given us when He baptized us, The heart of Christ, where the Holy Spirit resides and makes Himself at home.
It is a time to be blessed, a time to be comforted, a time to be able to realize only one thing, we dwell in His presence… and that is enough. Confident that He will do what is necessary, we depend on a God who loves us, and find the rest we need.
(Realizing of course, that if we are off course, He will correct us.)
That is what faith is… being able to stop… and enjoy the fog that blocks everything until we recognize the Lord is with us!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 390-392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
14 And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him. 15 Look on our Lord’s patience as the opportunity he is giving you to be saved, just as our dear friend Paul wrote to you, using the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)
206 I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous. Think how God is waiting for them!
In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gives the following direction to the Twelve Apostles as they embark on their first teaching journey,
14 And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15 I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town! Matthew 10:13-15 (TEV)
I’ve heard this used a lot over the course of my ministry, in a way that is simply, sinful. The pastor who is burnt out on ministry, and can’t seem to get his people to appreciate his vision. The leader who, though sincere, is causing division in the church. The family member, who has given up on a parent, or a child, or a cousin, because they are too stubborn, too obstinate, too argumentative to see their need for Christ. Or the horrible sinners, proven by their lifestyle, or political choices, (or in their favorite sports team) who will not heed our call to repentance of the speck in their eye, while they see the petrified forest in ours.
We are tired of the pain, the anxiety, the stress, so we write off someone we care called to love, rather than embrace the call to minister to them patiently. We use the passage from Matthew to justify our cutting off the person or people that cause us such trauma. (often without thinking about the trauma we cause them!)
In shaking the dust off our feet, we feel vindicated, somehow more righteous or holy, and we think that God is on our side.
And we couldn’t be more wrong.
We, who have benefitted from the Lord’s patience, need to imitate that patience. We who have come to know His love, need to love that sacrificially/ Sacrificing our pride, our self-righteousness, even the sleep we may give up, as we spend the night in prayer for these people we are called to love, and that God would sustain and heal our hearts in the process.
For being patient with them, is about realizing this isn’t a win or lose based on getting them to church tomorrow, but spending eternity with them in the presence of God. That is why St Josemaria urges us to be patient, giving those we are sent to minister to enough time to realize the love being revealed to them. Wait for them with open arms, continually pray for them, knowing that our mission is different than the apostles, in that it wasn’t preceding Jesus to the cross.
Be patient, God is. Be loving, for He loves you! Be willing to sacrifice, and even suffer, for that too will prove to them the love of God who doesn’t give up on them, or on you and I.
Be patient, with the unbeliever, and the believer.
And keep on putting them in the hands of God…. for this will help, as you contemplate on how much God loves us all.
Lord, give us the heart to see people healed of their sin, to be freed from their brokenness, and the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give us, You patience, to wait and see them come to the Lord! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26 I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27 Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. Isaiah 1:25-27 (TEV)
The LORD says that his people reject him.7 Because of this the LORD Almighty says, “I will refine my people like metal and put them to the test. My people have done evil— what else can I do with them? Jeremiah 9:5-7 (TEV)
485 Well, so what? Unless your motive is hidden pride (you think you’re perfect), I don’t understand how you can give up that work for souls just because God’s fire which first attracted you, besides giving the light and warmth that aroused your enthusiasm, should also at times produce the smoke that results from the weakness of the instrument!
I don’t like confrontations, and even less do I like politics, of either the secular or church variety. They raise too much heat, they cause too much stress, they cause a reaction that is to fight or to flee, neither of which is good, right or beneficial.
Yet, as a pastor who is a sinner as much as the flock, he guides towards Jesus, I have realized two things about both confrontations and the politics that lead to them.
1. Heat caused by conflict is inevitable in the church.
2. Despite my dislike for it, despite how uncomfortable it makes people, there is always a blessing for those who neither fight nor flee, but depend upon God to resolve the conflict and reconcile those who struggle with each other.
Conflict can dull our enthusiasm for the church, and for the apostolate, the mission God has sent us all on, to bring the message of reconciliation to the people He would call His own. But the very idea that reconciliation is needed means there is heat somewhere, and that the mission will be uncomfortable.
One of the reasons it is uncomfortable is that part of what the heat will remove, our pride. This is the refining, the heat applied in such a way it gets rid of the imputiries, Even the pride that is buried deep within us, hidden even from our own conscious view.
If we can remember that even the person we are in conflict with can and will be used by God if we remember even if they are 90 percent wrong, there is ten percent of their statement that is a message from God, sent to purify us.
And it will, and the more pride that is hidden within us, the more the heat will rise. ANd we have to let it, w have to be patient, for to throw cold water on it will cause more of an explosion. We have to let it work itself out. It will, For God will perfect us, in His time, and this heat is part of the process!
That’s uncomfortable, but it is okay. You and I can survive the heat, we can stay in the kitchen. For I am confident that God will use this for good. He will refine us in it, the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort, even as we are transformed, purified. (and I still won’t like it!)
For what else can God do? He loves us, He can’t leave us broken, impure, spoilt. This heat can be part of our salvation, part of our sanctification.
So even as we struggle, even as we hate the challenges, the heat, we can stay, trusting God. He will work during the time when the heat is up, when we have to cry out,, Lord have mercy! And we can learn to cry it out confidently, and be patient for the resolution, for the reconciliation.
For He is with us! AMEN!
Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit to all who are enduring times where the heat is rising when life is challenging because of conflicts, even those that we try and ignore, or hide. Lord during these times, help us depend on You, trusting You to keep your promises to us. Humble us when needed Lord, keep us pliable and patient, comfort us and sustain us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3 Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4 And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’ ” Habakkuk 2:2-4 (TEV)
Impatience carries within itself a punishment: sterility.
The impatient, by wanting it all at once, is left with nothing. Their projects are like the seed that fell on rocky soil: they lack depth; they are mere words without consistency.
I remember the movie theatre in my hometown would change movings on Saturday, in time for the matinee. Then it began that they would open on a new movie on Friday night, and now often, there is a midnight screening that you can go to, usually packed, so that you can be among the first to see the new movie.
We aren’t a very patient society at all, when we are willing to give up our health in order to say, “I was there” for a movie picture. (Heck – now they will bring the popcorn barrel and half a gallon of caffeine to your seat so you won’t fall asleep in the powered recliner.
Is it any wonder that we are not patient in the church? That we are so wanting the church to be what we envision the church to be that when there aren’t instant results we give up? When this program or that staff member doesn’t accomplish the goals we set (did we even ask God what His vision for our congregation is?), we simply get rid of the program, find another place, a better fit for the staff member, rather than finding the patience we need.
But that impatience leads to fruitlessness, it leads to a weak church that doesn’t take time to see God at work, the kind of work that is sound, that is based in spiritual growth, that depends on learning to live in the presence of God. That learns that true growth happens as we are left in awe of His love, as we adore Him, as we realize the change He is making in us, and the difference that change is from where we were.
Patience and its corollary, steadfast-faithfulness, doesn’t mean futility or stagnation. It doesn’t mean doing nothing, but rather dwelling in Christ. Not just going through the motions for religious reasons, but treasuring what we’ve been given for the way it reveals Jesus with us, and helps us experience the serenity that the Spirit brings us. It means rejoicing as we realize what we’ve been given, what has been handed down to us.
This isn’t always easy, especially for one like me that thrives on change. (the only stable thing in my life is the presence of change, I get nervous without it) Patience is not on my virtues, but neither is it for many of us. Which is a good thing, as it drives us back to Christ, it reminds us that only in Him do we have hope, the promise that all will work out for good for those who love God.
God is with you, be at peace, and wait for it!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days
When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god z who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!”
21 Then Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them into such a grave sin?” 22 “Don’t be enraged, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil. Exodus 32:1, 21-22 HCSB
What is truly great grows outside the limelight; and stillness at the right time is more fruitful than constant busyness, which degenerates all too easily into mindless busywork. All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of time is being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mystery of time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same in the area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do; where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoid facing the true mystery of inner growth toward God. And yet, in the area of religion, what we receive is at least as important as what we do. (1)
Every leader, whether secular or religious has felt the pressure that Aaron felt in the passage above in red. Taken from the Old Testament, this is one of the first times that he has had to act on his own as high priest. Prior to this, he served as Moses spokesman, he said and did what he was told to say and do in the Old Testament Liturgy.
But now, in the absence of Moses, the people urged him to act, they urged him to make a decision, for that is what they thought a leader should do. They couldn’t wait! It is restlessness that Benedict XVI calls “Americanized”, the idea of resting and being still cannot be profitable, it cannot provide what we need. In our mixed up world, waiting and resting has no benefit, no importance, no sense of progress.
Instead of helping his people wait on God, Aaron submitted to their desires (and then lied about it!) As do too many of us. We run around, keeping busy, unable to find those moments where we simply wait on God, where we breathe deeply and find in that stillness that He is here!
I find this is even true among myself and my peers in the Lutheran Church, who replace doing with learning or at least acquiring knowledge and passing it on, whether we are able to wisely apply it or not. We move from one guru of the past to another, from one theologian to another, constantly seeking and yet, I wonder if we can ever be satisfied with what we know.
We see this even in a church service, where a long silent pause is even painful. When we struggle to take a moment to give to God the sins He longs to remove from our hearts and souls, when we struggle to be silent as we commune, unable to wait the time it takes to let our mind run out of the things it would use to distract us, unable to wait for the moment where peace and serenity and the rest that comes from being in His presence happens.
We need to learn to face the true mystery of our inner growth toward God, a growth that isn’t measured in pages read or written, a growth that isn’t measured with watches and calendars, a growth that is simply found, like Martha’s sister, sitting with Jesus, and being in awe of Him and His love for us. Or like Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, who sat and pondered in her heart the message of God.
Aaron would not be removed from the priesthood, for God was patient with him. The people would sin more often, and they would wander the wilderness for a generation. God would forgive them, as He promised, as He will forgive us of our sins, including our lack of patience, our lack of trust, or lack of conversion. Then again, that conversion is His work, for as Benedict reminds us, what we receive is at least ( I would say significantly more) than what we do.
Rest in God’s presence, dwell in His love and peace… for this is God’s will for you – and for everyone you know. May God help to desire this and to see it happen. Amen!
(1) 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.
Devotional Thought for our days:
25 The LORD is good to everyone who trusts in him,
26 So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us-
27 And it is best to learn this patience in our youth. Lamentations 3:25-27 GNT
942 Pray that your holy ingenuity may achieve what your intelligence cannot attain, so that you may give more service of a better kind to everyone.
Surrender don’t come natural to me, I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what you give that I need. And I’ve beat my head against so many walls Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees
And the Salvation Army band is playing this hymn and Your grace rings out so deep it makes my resistance seem so thin!
So hold me Jesus, Cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory won’t you be my Prince of Peace!
I hate waiting for an answer, for the solution to develop to the problems that exist, for the resolution that will end the conflict with the peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding.
I want to solve the problems, fix the brokenness, see the relationships healed, and everyone gathering together at the altar to praise God, and I want such solutions now. Why can’t I use my intelligence, which is supposed ot be a gift from God to solve these situations? Why must they require patience?
These situations don’t require patience, at least that is not the real issue.
Faith is. Trusting God is
Patience is just a part of what faith, what depending on God is all about. If I trust in Him, I must trust in His timing, I must trust in His plan, including the timing of it.
Satan would love to get us, saying we aren’t patient enough, and God wouldn’t really be patient with our impatience. He distracts us from God’s goodness, with a calendar or the second hand of a watch.
But again, patience isn’t the answer – it is simply a by-product of knowing and trusting in God. Of knowing His goodness, of knowing His intent to care for us, to even hold us when we are broken. That is faith, trusting in Him to do as He promised, even when we can’t see it yet. To let faith overwhelm doubt and impatience.
To realize the presence of God. To relax and know He is God, to be sure He is here… your Prince of Peace who holds you! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3828-3829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
from Hold Me Jesus – by Rich Mullins
Devotional Thought of the day:
9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 10 The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11 Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living! 2 Peter 3:9-11 (NJB)
48 It would be good if it could be said of you that the distinguishing feature of your life was “loving God’s Will”.
Most of us go through life, living day to day. Because of that we give little thought to tomorrow, or next week, or eternity.
We want everything now, and the struggle ( noted 30 years ago by M Scott Peck ) with delayed gratification has only become worse. We can’t wait months anymore, sometimes we can’t wait hours.
SO how can we understand a God who will be patient for decades with us, who will be patient for millennia with humanity? How can we understand the patience that is born of a desire to have us realize we are His people?
For that is His desire, that we realize the Jesus died, not just to separate us from our guilt and shame, but so free of it that we spend time with our God who is holy and righteous, who wants to care for our children. God is patient, hoping we understand His desire to call us His friends.
If this realization was the distinguishing feature of our life, and of our lives together, how incredible our lives would be! How we would consecrate ourselves to His mission, to the vocation of the apostolate – realizing we are sent, whether we work in a church, or at Best Buy or running a country, to see this desire of God fulfilled. Whether it is a friend we are sent to , or a homeless person, or a corporate CEO/COO. It doesn’t matter. God desires to see all His friends at His table. All of them.
Eternity is the goal, an eternity spent in the most loving relationship there is, eternity spent free of pain, of guilt, of shame, and eternal life.
So think about tomorrow…. and God’s desire for it… and watch your life change!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 402-403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’ ”(Mt 13:24–30) NLT
792 Duc in altum.—“Put out into the deep.” Cast aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you. Et laxate retia vestra in capturam—“And lower your nets for a catch.” Don’t you see that, as Peter said, In nomine tuo, laxabo rete—“At your word I will lower the net,” you can say, “Jesus, in your name I will seek souls!” (1)
I’ve often read the parable above as being about the end of times. It is an eschatological treasure after all, and challenges those with complicated end times theories.
But this parable has a heavy focus on ministry as well, about how we are to deal with evil and that which doesn’t seem to be correct or dare I say kosher. To hear this lesson is challenging, because it goes against conventional wisdom, It goes against leadership rules and all those ideas about dealing with alligators in the church. These people may be your enemies, your adversaries, even your pains in the neck. But they have been given to you.
To hear Jesus’ words here takes a level of courage, even a level of courage that could be taken for complacency. It actually takes more work, more pastoral concern, more leadership, more devotion and obedience.
Leave them in the field you care for, letting God determine whether they are weeds or wheat at the end of time..
Continue to share with them both their absolute need for Christ, and His mercy that overwhelms that need.
If they walk away, so be it, but don’t push them out of vineyard. That isn’t your call. It isn’t within your pay grade to uproot them and burn them in the furnace, or at the stake. Even in times of church discipline, keep them in sight! Minister to them, plead with them to be reconciled to God. (1 Cor 5 – note it doesn’t say reconcile themselves to God – He still does the work)
This is going to take courage, and obedience. it is going to require hearing the Master’s voice, and trusting that He knows what He is doing, what He has commissioned. It may take sacrifice, and yes, more than a little pain It will take creativity and ingenuity as you minister to them, But since when is ministry about the ease of our jobs?
Even as you call them to repentance, even as you shepherd them in view of the others growing in the fields that will be harvested, you need to love them. This is exactly what Peter is talking about, as he mentions the Lord’s long-suffering nature, not willing that any should perish….
So hear His voice… listen to His words… care for those that you think may be weeds..Seek the salvation of the souls He brings into your sight… and love them. ..
God might surprise you both!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1828-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. 26 Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, 27 dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. Ephesians 5:25-27 (MSG)
22 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23 Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24 Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25 not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:22-25 (MSG)
In the interview she also admits that, when it comes to a relationship, happiness might be more important than the commitment, which is why her perspective on love isn’t all that straightforward. “I don’t want to sound bitter because I’m definitely not, but I don’t know if people are meant to be together forever,” she tells the magazine. “Things happen over a long relationship that you can’t always fight. A marriage of 20 years, the accomplishment of that must feel really great, but there are also huge sacrifices. I just always want to fight for happiness.” (1)
As I read the article with Hillary Duff, and the quotes above, I was grieved. She notes how great it must feel for a relationship to last 20 years, the comments that the sacrifices are huge, too much for her, for her marriage has now failed.
I don’t know what they did to see it through, if there were counselors that were at their side, or if there were people there to encourage, to coach them through. Not only did they fail, their family, their community, and The Church failed them as well.
Yes, I said The Church failed this young couple.
For in the church, there should be the example of endurance, the example of depending on Christ. We are to depend on Him, the Spirit’s comfort and strength and ability to bring us through life. We do this, understanding and looking to Christ, who Hebrews 12 tells us endured, for the joy set before Him.
As I thought about this, I also thought about the church, and the commitment we have to each other. While some will look and pray for Hillary Duff, others will be scandalized by these words, The lack of faithfulness to vows made will challenge us, (hopefully?) and the attitude that marriage may not be meant to last a lifetime will see inconceivable.
Yet do we not do that with our churches? We change things, or even change churches, or forgo church for the same reason that causes Hillary to see marriage as temporary. We put our enjoyment (whether we prefer traditional, liturgical, contemporary etc.) over what will cause us to draw closer to Christ. Those of us who lead and plan our services far too often try to make the service something our people will like,
If we don’t like it? Well, there is the church down the street, or across town. If we are a pastor or priest, instead we place a call to our district president’s office, (or bishop or whoever works with churches looking for new pastors. (please note, I am not talking about leaving a church because of continued teaching that is contrary to scripture)
End result, the death of a relationship, and a further division in the family of God, A division that will be healed in heaven, but nevertheless, the pains of severing that which we pledged to be part of, in times of happiness and time of sorrow.
With each separation, the next separation gets easier, the time between finding a home church becomes less a priority, we find our happiness in other things, in other places.
Until we can’t remember the last time that we were at church.
Hillary Duff is right, there is an incredible reward that is found in a relationship that last 20, 30, 50 years. There is the knowledge that the one who makes our marriages and our churches possible will sustain them both, through the times of richness and poverty, through times where we, and the relationship are healthy or sick, the times of grief and the times of joy.
Such is our God, the Lord of Life. Such is what happens when we hear the Holy Spirit, the gift of our baptism. Such is the promise of life, walking with God, both now and for eternity, in the presence of God.
So let us work, to sustain all of our relationships! To do that, may we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Let us find His healing, His patience, His sacrifice and find in those things, the strength to desire to endure. May we find as well the strength to help others, to encourage them, whether they are struggling in marriages or in being part of their church.
Lord Have Mercy on us!