The Reason Life is Worth it…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “Believe me,” returned Jesus, “the time is coming when worshipping the Father will not be a matter of ‘on this hill-side’ or ‘in Jerusalem’. Nowadays you are worshipping with your eyes shut. We Jews are worshipping with our eyes open, for the salvation of mankind is to come from our race. Yet the time is coming, yes, and has already come, when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in reality. Indeed, the Father looks for men who will worship him like that. God is spirit, and those who worship him can only worship in spirit and in reality.”
25 “Of course I know that Messiah is coming,” returned the woman, “you know, the one who is called Christ. When he comes he will make everything plain to us.” 26 “I am Christ speaking to you now,” said Jesus. John 4:21-26 (Phillips NT)
Thus we teach that in using the sacraments there must be a faith which believes these promises and accepts that which is promised and offered in the sacrament.
20 The reason for this is clear and well-founded. A promise is useless unless faith accepts it. The sacraments are signs of the promises. When they are used, therefore, there must be faith, so that anyone who uses the Lord’s Supper uses it this way. Because this is a sacrament of the New Testament, as Christ clearly says (1 Cor. 11:25), the communicant should be certain that the free forgiveness of sins, promised in the New Testament, is being offered to him. He should accept this by faith, comfort his troubled conscience, and believe that the testimonies are not false but as certain as though God, by a new miracle, promised his will to forgive. For that matter, what good would such miracles or promises do an unbeliever?
21 Here we are talking about personal faith, which accepts the promise as a present reality and believes that the forgiveness of sins is actually being offered, not about a faith which believes in a general way that God exists.
22 Such use of the sacrament comforts devout and troubled minds.
Man is always looking for the right way of honoring God, for a form of prayer and common worship that pleases God and is appropriate to his nature. In this connection, we must remember that originally the word “orthodoxy” did not mean, as we generally think today, right doctrine. In Greek, the word doxa means, on the one hand, opinion or splendor. But then in Christian usage it means something on the order of “true splendor”, that is, the glory of God. Orthodoxy means, therefore, the right way to glorify God, the right form of adoration. In this sense, orthodoxy is inward “orthopraxy”. If we go back to the word’s origins, the modern opposition disappears. It is not a question of theories about God but of the right way to encounter him. This, then, was seen as Christian faith’s great gift: we know what right worship is. We know how we should truly glorify God—by praying and living in communion with the Paschal journey of Jesus Christ, by accomplishing with him his Eucharistia, in which Incarnation leads to Resurrection—along the way of the Cross.
I came across some big and heavy quotes in my reading this morning. But they center around that encounter with God we call worship.
In my opinion, this word is what makes life worth living, and I hope, in writing this, I can convince you of that as well. But to do so, we have to come to a definition of worship, a way of understanding it that can be commonly accepted.
Worship is what the lady at the well experienced, it is an encounter with God. For one cannot encounter Him without experiencing the love and mercy that is what is His glory, and our hearts respond in worship, in adoration. As the early Lutherans agreed it accepts the promise of God in the sacrament as a present reality, It is what Pope Benedict simplifies orthodoxy too (much to my amazement, as I have been teaching this for years!) it is the right way to encounter Him.
It is no surprise then that both a pope and the early Lutherans testified that this worship, this right praise is linked to the sacraments, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. For during that time of worship, every bit of our body is involved in recognizing that we are in God’s presence. From our voices testifying that this is the lamb of God who takes away our sins, to our knees bent in supplication and adoration, to our hands and mouths receiving His precious Body and Blood, we encounter Him.
We encounter Him as He promised He would come to us, as He asked us to know Him, to recognize His presence with us. This isn’t just some boring rite, some meaningless practice that can be overlooked. The Lord’s supper and the other times we encounter God in word and Sacrament ministry are precious because they bring comfort and the remainder of the peace that is ours because of Jesus.
And in the midst of this broken world, as we dwell in the midst of trauma, we need that reassurance, we need that reminder of what is real, that we are the children of God,
Knowing that makes life worth living, it makes it precious,
We are His, come celebrate that with us, and with the God who draws us together!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
The Promise of God: I Will!
The Promise of God: I Will!
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
† In the Name of Jesus, our King †
May the comfort that comes from receiving the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as we wait for the joyful return of our King, Jesus the Messiah!
At Least 18 times…the work of a shepherd
One part of the Feast of Christ the King Sunday is the purest celebration, as we look forward to seeing God in all His glory, as we hear Him welcome us home.
Another part to consider, I think, is the relief, for the battle is over. Not the battle on the grand cosmic scale. That battle ended when the ladies found the tombstone rolled away. I was thinking the battles we face individually, the battles with life’s daily challenges, the people we interact with, who challenge us, and the inner battles we deal with, the anxiety, the pain, and yes, the sin.
Yet even as we celebrate Jesus as our King, as our Lord, we also celebrate His being the Shepherd King, the one who will guide us through every aspect of life, and frees us from the stuff that hinders us knowing God’s love and peace, the stuff that hinders us right now, right here.
We see that in the Old Testament reading today, as 18 times in English, and more in Hebrew we hear God making us a promise. He makes you and me, and everyone that hears His voice a single promise.
That promise is described in detail but it boils down to this. God promises, “I will!”
“I will be your shepherd”
So we are going to look at what that means, using the phrases said over and over…so that we would know His promise.
The first part of the shepherd’s work, described multiple times – is that God will search us out. Two words used here for searching.
The first describes the intensity and range of the search. To look for something with incredible diligence, without consideration of effort and range. To look in every place, under every stone, and under the stone under that. God searches for us far and wide, wherever we are, whatever trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into.
The second is more along the lines of a very thorough examination of our situation, to understand our brokenness in order to care for us. As we will hear about in our advent readings, the God who will care for us so tenderly that He will not break a damaged reed, but nourish it back to health, or a dying ember in a fire, that He will restore to a burning inferno. It says He will bandage us, those who are broken and strengthen us.
He will do this, He is doing it right now, as we dwell in His presence.
Bring them safely home
The next “I will” our Shepherd promises is to bring us safely home. For the Jewish people, the promise was to bring them back from where they were taken into exile, either by the Assyrians, or the Babylonians. For us, the captivity is no less severe, but we are more likely to willingly enter it. For sin not only tempts us, it drives and drags us away from God. It doesn’t matter the sin, whether murder, whether sexual sin, whether gossip or coveting what others have.
But Jesus will bring us home, as He searches us out, where ever we are, whatever mess we’ve gotten ourselves, He will rescue and provide for us, and cares for us.
Feed/provide pasture land
And on this journey, He cares for us, He doesn’t leave us alone.
Numerous times he talks of feeding us, of providing us safe pastures, providing us the nourishment we need. In verse 16, he defines that nourishment, what He feeds us is justice, righteousness,
And you could say because of Christ’s coming, we become what He feeds us, we are counted as righteous, that on judgment day, that is what the Father sees.
But that is what happens, as God nourishes us with His word, and with the word, the promise, that makes the Lord’s Supper more than just bread and wine.
He searches us out, rescues us, brings us home and nourishes us, with His word, His body and Blood!
I the Lord, will be their God!
Which brings us to the final I will, which is even more compelling, more incredible than Jesus being our shepherd, the one who searches and heals, rescues us and brings us home, nourishing us all the way.
verse 24 says it well, I, YHWH (the LORD will be their God, and Jesus will be the prince the ruler, the King of His People, for God HAS SPOKEN.
May we hear this clearly, for this Is the God who so dearly loves us. The God who made us His own.
May we rely and depend upon His work, to the day we are all found in His glory! AMEN!
Dwelling in Jesus…is more incredible that we can know (for now)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
97 Renew each day the effective desire to empty yourself, to deny yourself, to forget yourself, to walk in novitiate census, with a new life, exchanging this misery of ours for all the hidden and eternal grandeur of God. (1)
Since teaching through Colossians a couple of years ago, these words in red above seem to resonate with me more and more. I have written about them before, and will probably do so again.
I think they are critical for us to understand, this idea of our “real life”, a life which seems hidden, a life which is easily overlooked and forgotten, a life that is found at the throne of God.
THat’s where we belong, it is our eternal life. The life that began when God circumcised our hearts, cutting away the sin and unrighteousness as He baptized us. That was the conversation in the previous chapter in St. Paul’s letter to these saints.
But in chapter 3 he gets to the impact of that cleansing, the difference it makes in our lives today, and every day that will come. He talks of our eternal life as our real life, our reality. He urges us to set our hearts on this dance with God the Father, Son and Spirit. The dance we’ve been invited too, and see glimpses of, even if our mind cannot clearly picture it.
If our mind cannot, our hearts and soul can be set on this. For our hearts are better at knowing we are loved, knowing we are forgiven, and being able to accept the mysteries that our minds can’t fathom.
But as our hearts settle there, we dwell in the peace of God, we lose ourselves, yet find our life in Jesus. For everything changes, from our priorities, to our relationships, from what we “need” to how we view those around us.
So today, think about the glory of heaven and come to realize with your heart that not only do you have a place there… you are already in His presence…
and rejoice in that peace!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 556-558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Pastoral Confession: The Paradox of Holiness
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
13 So brace up your minds, and, as men who know what they are doing, rest the full weight of your hopes on the grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ reveals himself. Live as obedient children before God. Don’t let your character be moulded by the desires of your ignorant days, but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’.
1 Peter 1:13 (Phillips NT)
887 That discouragement produced by your repeated lack of generosity, by your relapses, by your falls—perhaps only apparent—often makes you feel as if you had broken something of exceptional value: your sanctification. Don’t be worried: bring to your supernatural life the wise way simple children have of resolving such a conflict. They have broken—nearly always through frailty—an object that is dear to their father. They’re sorry, perhaps they shed tears, but they go to seek consolation from the owner of what has been damaged through their awkwardness; and their father forgets the value—great though it may be—of the broken object and, filled with tenderness, he not only pardons, but consoles and encourages the little one. Learn.
Like most pastors, I struggle with this thing called holiness.
On the one hand, Scripture clearly lays it out as a requirement for our lives, and as a measuring stick for me personally, and for my vocation, my life as pastor. If my goal is a pastor is to present you perfect and holy to God (see Col. 1:28)) then it is the standard to judge my work, my vocation, my life.
I’ve looked at how pastors treat holiness, looking for examples and encouragement, but I find too little. I see most pastors and priest taking one of two attitudes about it, and neither seems to help. I will go so far as saying both are contrary to scripture.
The first attitude is one of regimentation, of physical and mental obedience that doesn’t affect the heart. This quickly develops into legalism, that is less concerned about you than about your life being lived visibly according to the set standards. Everything becomes measured, notated and analyzed like a geometry test. It is not discipleship as much as a form of cloning. And it burns people out, for no one can live up to the standard, including those who see themselves as being responsible for measuring people against it.
The second attitude is just as dangerous, even though it seems the exact opposite. TO deny the need for holiness, to say it is a unachievable goal, and that Jesus broke us free from answering completely to the law. ( For Lutherans, this would be those who deny that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a third use of the law) As the legalists do this is not about the person, it is about the behavior. They might say since holiness is impossible, just rely on grace to forgive you. Not directly, but that is the result of their theory.
So I either push them too hard or don’t care what they do.
So where am I to shepherd them too? How are they to be holy even as the Father is holy if they aren’t taught what holiness is, and how it develops in a person?
Even harder is my own application of holiness if I am not holy, how in the world can I expect to lead them into holiness, into a deeper, more committed, more fulfilling relationship where the peace and comfort that comes from knowing God loves them is their primary desire?
I think it comes from understanding what holiness is, what it looks like.
St. Josemaria gives a picture of it, with his description of a child breaking a treasured item. This is going to God, the owner, the author, and perfector of our holiness, and asking for comfort, for consolation – this is holiness. At the very purest level, this seeing God’s help in restoring what is marred, what is broken, what is shattered, this is the kind of holiness we need to see.
The holiness of a child, seeking comfort, seeking peace, because we know what we have done, this destruction of what God treasured, is an act of faith, and an act of trust.
God will look past it; He promised He could because it was taken care of by Jesus on the cross. Knowing this, we can run to Him; we can tell those running to Him the words of comfort, “Your sins are forgiven!”
This is the faith that runs to God, knowing He is with us. Knowing and depending on a love that will allow nothing to separate us from Him. Providing for the people of God this encouragement, this blessing, this life.
Not just dismissing their sin, as if it didn’t cost the blood of Christ, nor scourging them and beating them up for their not living like the Lord who shed His blood for them.
It is in His death, which we are united to in baptism, that we find the grace St Peter talks of, the grace that gives us our hope, the hope that sustains us, and actually sanctifies us, for when we walk in His presence, when we run to Him for forgiveness and comfort, there He is working, making us Holy.
May we all run to our Father, and cry out for His help!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2049-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Incredible, Precious Long-forgotten Wisdom
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. 2 Be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of adversity. 3 Cling to him, do not leave him, that you may prosper in your last days. 4 Accept whatever happens to you; in periods of humiliation be patient. 5 For in fire gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation. 6 Trust in God, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him. (Sir 2:1–6 NAB-RE)
13 Thus you can easily understand the nature and scope of this commandment. It requires that man’s whole heart and confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. To have God, you see, does not mean to lay hands upon him, or put him into a purse, or shut him up in a chest. 14 We lay hold of him when our heart embraces him and clings to him.
15 To cling to him with all our heart is nothing else than to entrust ourselves to him completely. He wishes to turn us away from everything else, and draw us to Himself, because he is the one eternal good.
Too late loved I Thee, O Thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! too late I loved Thee! And behold, Thou wert within, and I abroad, and there I searched for Thee; deformed I, plunging amid those fair forms which Thou hadst made. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee. Things held me far from Thee, which, unless they were in Thee, were not at all. Thou calledst, and shoutedst, and burstest my deafness. Thou flashedst, shonest, and scatteredst my blindness. Thou breathedst odours, and I drew in breath and panted for Thee. I tasted, and hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me, and I burned for Thy peace.
292 You should repeat very often: Jesus, if ever a doubt creeps into my soul, setting up other noble ambitions in place of what you are asking of me, I tell you now that I prefer to follow you, no matter how much it costs. Do not leave me!
Bear with me, as a share some background to this post…. Growing up, my first full Bible was a white “leatherette” Bible with a silver cross imprinted on it. Like the one in the picture, though the leatherette was cracked, and the pages worn…
I remember reading and being asked by Father Alex questions each week about what I read. I was probably not more than my son’s nine years old then, and I remember reading the book of Ecclesiasticus, or Sirach, or properly the Wisdom of Ben-Sirach. Do I remember what I read sitting on the couch against the bay window? No, I just remember it was a book of the Bible that gave me peace. Peace I needed then, as I dealt with a few serious issues in life. The deadly threat of Marfans, often being sick with Asthma, trying to work through the idea I that was adopted, and possibly what would now be known as Aspergers. For by no means did I “fit in” at school, nor could I understand why “they” didn’t fit in with me.
Every year I pick a different translation to read through, thanks to one of my computer programs, and this year it is the New American Bible, Revised Edition. What replaced my beloved first “full” Bible. As such it has Wisdom/Sirach in it, as it is a Roman Catholic translation. First time I’ve probably read this section of the Bible in 30 years or more.
Now I know why I recall the peace that came from it, sitting in my living room – it talks of what Luther calls faith, it identifies what Augustine burned for, what Escriva says we should often repeat, crying out for the Lord to help us remember and stayed focused upon.
This is faith, to cling to God no matter what assails us, to trust God, to do so recognizing His Majesty, His mercy, His love. For as we trust in Him, as we depend upon Him, He will make our ways straight, He will not just give us hope; He will be our Hope. Maybe as a child I understood that better than I do today, maybe there was less theology, less human insight. This is what scripture said – cling to God…do not leave Him, trust in Him….
A message I need to hear today, as new problems arise, as even as I serve Him, I find Sirach right – there are so many trials, so many heartaches, so much that challenges my embrace of the Lord, who embraces me.
Probably as some of my Protestant friends are reading this, their mind is going to throw a stumbling rock in the way! Sirach isn’t scripture, and all the side conversations of what that means. Perhaps my Catholic friends will be wondering why I can quote Luther next to Augustine or Escriva (some Catholics might question that as well! )
Drop it. Drop all that crap now!
Hear the words of Sirach’s wisdom, wisdom that is not only in harmony with three of my “heroes”, or role models, but is in accord with all of scripture. This is what the covenant means, this is what the promise of God declaring that we are His people, that He is our God. This is faith; this is why we are declared just, why we are made holy. Whther you think this is pure scripture, or a good book, you can’t argue with the fact it is scriptural in its teaching, it is what all of scripture proclaims, and urges us to believe.
That we could know the peace of God being our sanctuary, where we find rest and peace, peace that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our broken hearts and minds, and makes them whole.
Cling to God, no matter what happens as you serve Him. Know His love, know He holds you… even as you cry out,
Lord, have mercy!
You will find He will strengthen your faith, and He will be your hope. AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 366). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1189-1191). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
want a meaningful vacation? try this…
devotional thought of the day
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26 I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27 I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from everything that defiles you. Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)
Insofar as we can trace its history at all, pilgrimage is one of the primordial impulses of humanity. Man sets out again and again to find escape from the customary daily humdrum, to gain distance from it, to become free. This impulse is still active today in the more recent profane brother of pilgrimage, namely, tourism. Its continued existence accounts for the hordes of wanderers who incessantly make their way through our continent, feeling that they are not completely at home there. But pilgrimage must be more than tourism. I mean: it must realize more truly, more fundamentally, and more entirely what the tourist only hopes to experience.
I have to admit, I was tempted to put the entire devotion from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger into today’s blog, and leave it alone. It is one of the most brilliant pieces I have ever read. When we go on vacation, what we are, in the bottom of our hearts looking for, is a retreat, a pilgrimage, and encounter with something that will restore and give us rest.
Instead we often try to move so fast, see so much, experience it all.
A few years ago, my wife and I were given a gift – a vacation to Italy. We tried to see it all in the ten or eleven days we were there. Having read this, I thought back to the trip, and what made it special. I asked her, and it was the moment I thought, as it was for me.
It was in a church; Santa Maria de la Pace, that was located in a place called Villa Tevere. The church was built in what we might call the basement of a very ordinary building. It wasn’t ancient, it wasn’t even old by American standards, never mind Roman. It wasn’t a large cathedral or a majestic major basilica. It was a place where we were able to pray, given as much time as we wanted by the man who showed us around. It was a place that invited such prayer, even begged for it.
It was the place where a vacation turned into a pilgrimage.
We could then identify two other places, much more humble, yet even more incredible and precious than the huge places that surrounded them. The chapel/sanctuary where St. Francis was buried, under to other incredibly beautiful sanctuaries in Assisi. And the pantheon, a place once dedicated to destroying life to appease gods and re-dedicated as a church, a place where people came spiritually alive as they heard the Word and received the Eucharist. We came back from this trip not exhausted, but fulfilled, rested and aware of the grace of God because of those moments kneeling in prayer.
I don’t think either would have meant as much without the church inside Villa Tevere. Thirty minutes, simply quiet and on our knees. Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict ) later wrote in the devotion why this is so critical; Those moments were amazing, a taste of heaven in a way words cannot explain.
The purpose of pilgrimage is ultimately, not an object of interest, but a breaking through to the living God. We attempt to reach this goal by seeking out the scenes of salvation history. Its interior and exterior ways do not follow the direction of our whims. We enter, as it were, into the geography of God’s history, where he has set up his directional signs. We journey toward a goal that has been designated beforehand, not toward one that we invent for ourselves. By entering into his history and turning toward the signs the Church gives us out of the fullness of her faith, we go toward one another. By becoming pilgrims, we are better able to attain what tourism seeks: otherness, distance, freedom, and a deeper encounter.
It is a chance to get a sight of what Ezekiel describes, a foretaste of what we will have for eternity, a time where we realize the reality of walking with God, we see the fellowship, the communion that is life changing, that leads us deeper in faith.
If you can’t go to Italy, I can recommend two other pilgrimages. The first is to travel in time, to go back to your baptism, to meditate on what was given there, promised there. The promise God made to you, an eternal promise of life, an eternal promise of His presence. The second is also sacramental, the time at the altar, on our knees, as we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. As we realize we are one with Him, as we gain what we really desire, the sense of otherness, distance from the world, freedom from sin and Satan and so much else. It is that moment where we arrive at a deeper encounter, a transforming and transcending moment where all we are aware of is God presence and the presence of His family. So in a very precious and real way, every Sunday becomes a pilgrimage, a real vacation, a real time of restoration and rest.
Come and rest, come and leave your burdens behind, come and know that God is indeed with you. AMEN.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 335). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. devotion for 10/22
Sharing the Hope You have in Christ Jesus: Doing God’s work
Devotional Thought of the Day
27 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:27-30 (NLT)
658 If things go well, let’s rejoice, blessing God, who makes them prosper. And if they go wrong? Let’s rejoice, blessing God, who allows us to share the sweetness of his cross.
We are too much like the laborers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1–16). Once they discovered that they could have earned their day’s pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labor the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we—like the workers of the first hour—want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others’ lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian.Escriva,
A recent response to a blog indicated that I was doing something wrong, by trying to show that sharing one’s faith, doing the work revealing the love and mercy of Christ, was wrong. The writer thought I was unjustly burdening people, by using the law to motivate people.
Except that in a relationship with God, sharing the good news of His mercy, the love He wants everyone to know, isn’t hard, or burdensome. It is if we condemn people for not doing it, but it isn’t if we free them to be able to share the greatest gift they have ever been given.
Like Herod talking to John the Baptist, I like and dislike hearing the words of Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict). They ring very true – why are we jealous of those who find a relationship with God at the last minute? Are we upset that we had to work harder alongside our master?
I’ve often explained it this way. Imagine some billionaire is down at the local bank, handing out million dollar checks to whoever shakes his hand. You get yours, deposit it. What do you do? Do you simply go home, or go to the local BMW dealer? Or do you get out your cell phone and call a few friends? Do you consider it work, do you consider it burdensome to do so? No, you do it because you know people who could use some cash, and you care about them.
It’s the same thing with the good news that God loves you. Yeah – you. He loves you so much to carefully strip away everything that hinders you, all the sin, all the resentment from being sinned against, all the crap in your life. Is that worth more than a million dollars? If we realize it is, then shouldn’t we joyfully share it with those who are hindered and broken by sin?
That is what being yoked to Christ is about in this life. It’s about doing the Father’s will, helping fulfill His desire that all would come to the transformation that is true repentance. Serving others, ministering to their needs, helping them find Jesus, and the hope He gives them in life. Some have the vocation of doing this as shepherds of God’s people. But if they are doing it while they are shepherding, so the church is doing it alongside them. Which is why the burden is easy. We aren’t alone. We bear this with all the church, and with the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers us.
It is bearing our crosses, it is abiding in Christ. When we see people come to know Him, to receive His mercy, His forgiveness, His love, it is an incredibly joy filled experience. When the road gets a little rough, when thins don’t work as we planned, when we are rejected or when we are oppressed, we still are sharing His cross, His yoke, and dwelling in His presence, the joy remains.
It is the only work, the only vocation I know of, where we beg people to join with us, as we rest in peace. His peace.
Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1538-1539). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 217–218). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
The Reformation is only about this: The Lord Almighty Is With Us!
The Reformation is only about this:
The Lord Almighty Is With Us!
† In His Name †
May the peace of God, the peace which comforted Martin Luther and so many others who struggled with their own sin, and the sin of their time, bring you comfort and peace and stillness….
Luther’s Nightmares… do we have such?
Are our dragons… less?
It doesn’t matter which movie about Martin Luther’s life that you watch. There is always a scene which people find troubling,
Luther, not long after his ordination, is in his monk’s cell. It is late at night and time to sleep. Even though his confessor tells him there is nothing interesting in his confessions, Martin is tormented spiritually and emotionally. He rages against satan, and in grief and shame, against his own weakness.
The scene is violent, as Luther storms around the room, flailing and yelling, screaming at Satan, weeping over his own brokenness. He feels God’s wrath for the existence of sin in his life. In the movie made a little less than a decade ago, as Luther faces his own inability to overcome sin, he questions God. How can a just God create us so weak that we cannot overcome sin in our lives? Luther only saw God as just at the time, for that is how he was taught.
His mentor, His confessor, tries to share with Martin that God is love. The Augustinian Abbot sends Luther to Wittenberg specifically to study the New Testament, hoping that as Martin does find God’s mercy and love, and when he does, that which torments him will be replaced with peace.
It is the reading from Romans today, that Fr. Martin Luther finally realizes God’s love, and that Luther’s life has been entrusted to God, and therefore he can live in that trust.
Later, coming across the Psalm we chanted, in awe of the incredible grace and providence of God, Luther writes the incredibly Hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God.
I think there are days, where I am much like Luther, I look at the challenges people face, in life, the challenges of lives hampered and damaged by sin, the anxiety, the suffering there are days where for a moment, the despair that Luther knew seems all to real.
Our hope is the same as Luther’s this Mighty Fortress, this incredible Lord of Heaven’s Hosts is with us. We will grasp
1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.
2 Therefore we will not be afraid,
As the Psalm moves on from that crucial first phrase into the second verse, I am reminded of a conversation this week. I had commented, “it’s simple – if you can’t run from your problems, you also can’t run from the One willing to bear those burdens.”
The response was that my comment was beautiful, but I wonder, if in thinking of the beauty of such thoughts, we reduce them to something not real, not practical, not for us.
I think we do this with Psalm 46, as well – we know we need to stop – give pause to the anxiety the world tosses at us, yet we find such a pause… disturbing, and we fill the silence, rather than stop… and stop our fighting God…and know peace.
The World is being tossed aside.
But Compare that to the Heavens streams
As I was saying the Psalmist moves from this brash statement, that because God is that refuge and strength, we need not fear – he has something in mind. He doesn’t get to it directly. He talks of a world devastated by natural disasters, of earthquakes and floods that we should have no fear of, of the disasters that make prior disasters we have seen look like summer rain showers, and 2.0 tumblers.
Even as violent as these storms are, as much as the world shakes, as the mountains collapse, the Psalmist calls our attention to a different body of water, instead of disaster though, this other seen is pastoral, peaceful, glorious.
4 There is a river— its streams delight the city of God!
the holy dwelling place of the Most High!
5 God is within her; she will not be toppled!
God will help her when the morning dawns!
Given the pause, the “selah” the break in the meter and psalm, the shift goes from the traumatic, the terrifying, to the peaceful, to the pastoral, to that which is kept and protected by the power of Almighty God – for it is where He dwells. That is the purpose of the Selah – a time and moment to pause…
To realize what this means – that God dwells in a place of peace, a place that cannot be toppled, a place that cannot be moved….
Could the Psalmist, looking forward to the promises of God, realize what God would have Paul write to the church in Corinth?
3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)
As we deal with the pause, the Selah, the interlude, can we realize that it is there – to help us transition from the trauma, from the pain, from the brokenness of the world that would send an overwhelming flood into our lives?
It is there the psalmist goes next, to reveal that the shaking and storms aren’t caused in the physical world, but in people, and in their lives.
The Nations Rage, and are tossed aside….
But like the world, all is shattered,
It’s time to be quiet, to stop fighting..it’s time to be still
6 Nations rage, kingdoms topple;
It is here that we begin to see the truth, it is not the mountains and oceans that cause us to be shaken, but people and kingdoms – whether we are talking about kingdoms as in nations, or the kingdoms of our homes.
It is therein we find our greatest shaking, our greatest pains, the greatest storms, and the storms that make us question life … and make us struggle – even as Luther would struggle in his cell.
How do we deal with our sin, with our failing when tempted, with our humanity, and the humanity and sin of others…as our earth quakes, …as they are shattered, even as the evil seems to surround us, to even drown us…
Not just evil as in slavery and murder..
But the evil of gossip and hated, of wanting to get revenge, of the pains of being betrayed, never mind the pain that comes from suffering from the overall weight of sin – even the things we are sure are sin, yet we feel guilt and shame as we endure them…
We might question our hope, our life, our salvation, we might even despair or fight God – accusing Him of unfairness because of what we must endure.
Luther knew this…feeling, this despair…
It is why Romans 3, and the concept of our living, trusting in God was such a revelation – it is not up to us to become the solution to our sin, to the brokenness of the world.
You see the context of that favorite beautiful sentiment, “Be still and know” is not just about being calm in the middle of external struggles, but our struggle with God.
Hear another couple of other translations….
46:10 “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)
46:10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” Psalm 46:10 (TEV)
and I love what the great English pastor wrote n this..
That is the great theme of Psalm 46. The nations and their princes are all being addressed; these people who are arguing against God and querying whether there is such a God. ‘And listen’ says the Psalmist, ‘here is the God who makes wars to cease; this is the God who arises and vindicates himself.’ Then, having displayed his case, he says, ‘Be still,’ give up, give in, admit, ‘that I am God.’[i]
Be still, become, look, here is Almighty God! Here is the Lord of the Heavenly Host! He is here in all His power, in all His glory! Realize this with awe, even as He feeds you His broken body, and you drink His blood,
He is here for you, to protect you, to keep you, to guard your hearts and minds… for He dwells, not in a city made of hands, but among His people.
And therefore – we do not fear, we live in His peace….AMEN
[i] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1987). Revival (120). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
Anxiety, Temptation, Fear, or Peace…. Choose you this day…
Discussion Quote/Devotional THought of the Day:
“God is with you!” So cast far away from you that fear and spiritual agitation. They are reactions to avoid in the first place, for they only serve to multiply temptations and increase danger! ” St Josemarie Escriva,
Within our worship service, multiple times a phrase is said by the pastor, noting that the presence, the peace of God is with His people, and then we pray together, or feast together at the Lord’s table. It is a powerful thing, this knowing that the Lord is present, that He is here, that we have a relationship with Him, and that He is the Paraclete, the Encourager/Comforter/one who comes alongside and supports us.
To lack that presence is to invite in something else, Escriva says agitation, I tend to call that anxiety, the peace robbing emotional reaction that doesn’t trust in God, but wonders about all the permutations of the situation and starts spinning our hearts and minds out of control, as fears take over. We seek to escape such, and there is Satan, holding out temptations that will kill the anxiety, or at least hide it, for a few hours, for a few minutes. Those temptations often become addictions, because we turn, over and over, for some kind of release, some kind of escape, a vacation from the stressful strain of the world. With those temptations is always danger, always a struggle, always…..more stress
The option to it is simple – to simply rest and find yourself in the presence of God. To know His peace is with you. Luther talked of dwelling on the promises of your baptism, others talk about contemplating the incredible truth found in the Lord’s Supper – that there, we come face to face with the truth of how much the Father loves us, how much Christ was willing to sacrifice. ( Our brothers and sisters in the RCC talk about Eucharistic Adoration – a complex devotional time before a host that is saved for that very time – it is my thought that it developed simply from stopping and considering what the Lord’s Supper reveals, and not wanting that moment to just come and go so quickly) How deep the Father’s love for us… for me… to dwell on these things…. how the burdens, the transient, temporary burdens disappear! How the escapes that we had planned, as we broke before temptation now seem so.. empty… because we know that which makes a difference.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with you always……
And even as I write, I can hear my people say “AMEN!”
(and under their breaths… utter.. Thank God!)