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More Intimate than the Incarnation

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
16  Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. 17  The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. 18  I won’t leave you like orphans. I will come back to you. John 14:16-18 (CEV)

The Incarnation was already a stupendous feat of intimacy. God did not just love us as an other but became one of us. Yet even this was not enough for Him, not enough intimacy. Jesus told His disciples that it would be better for them if He went away so that He could send His Spirit (Jn 16:7). Why is that better? Wouldn’t we all prefer to have Jesus still with us physically? Wouldn’t He draw a crowd of millions if it could be advertised that Jesus would appear in the flesh?

He had become incarnate. Jesus was born of Mary. John 1 tells us that He came and made life among us, and those who saw him beheld the very glory of God.

There are days I am jealous of Peter, and Matthew, and even James the lesser. They lived with Jesus, they camped out under the stars that were made through Him. What a relationship with God they must have had! How easy must have it been to just talk to God, and morning devotions must have been just… awesome!

3 years of walking with Jesus, of experiencing life in the presence of God! What a blessing, what an incredible blessing!

We are equally blessed, but we don’t often take the time to appreciate that our relationship with God is even more intense, even more intimate. For God did not just come and dwell among us, the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

God is us!

So intimate that our deepest, darkest thoughts are exposed, and as we pray, they are prayed for with groans that go beyond our hearing. (see Romans 8) Healing us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ, enabling us not only to do God’s will, but to desire to do it, because we know we are loved.

We need to think on this, so spend time getting to know that One who lifts us up, and carry’s us. We need to listen to the Spirit’s call and directions, even when we don’t like it. We need to even allow the Spirit to change our calendars, for there will be times the Spirit will minister to others beyond our imagination! Or times where we need to slow down, and let the Spirit minister to us.

This is the deepest for of intimacy we will know, until we have arrived before the throne of God.

I pray that we realize the presence, the intimate, transforming, comforting presence of the Holy Spirit more and more each day.





Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 132.

The True Evangelical Life…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26 Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward. Hebrews 11:26 CEV

Putting the saint’s observation in simple contemporary terms may help. Bernard was saying that there are more men who give up serious alienation from God, mortal sin, than there are people who give up small wrongs, willed venial sins. And there are even fewer who grow into heroic virtue and live as saints live. If we are not saddened by this realization, we ought to be.

1 The law of God serves (1) not only to maintain external discipline and decency against dissolute and disobedient people, (2) and to bring people to a knowledge of their sin through the law, (3) but those who have been born anew through the Holy Spirit, who have been converted to the Lord and from whom the veil of Moses has been taken away, learn from the law to7 live and walk in the law.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best; seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest!

Being and Evangelical should not be about a political perspective, To be honest, it shouldn’t even be a theological perspective, as in choosing to be more Reformed, more Arminian, even more Lutheran or Catholic, or catholic.

Being Evangelical is about life, and about our greatest need in life. After reading Dubay’s comments (purple) above, Jackson’s beloved evangelical hymn made more sense to me. I need to keep hearing the gospel, not to celebrate what Jesus has done, but in order to continually be evangelized, to continually be confronted with my guilt, not so I wallow in shame, but because I need the grace of God to be applied to my life today, in this moment.

I need to go from rejoicing and being satisfied that the cross saved me, to imitating Christ. Some might call this sainthood, Wesley would talk about a second infilling of grace. Lutheran theologians talk about it as the Third use of the Law. I prefer Luther’s view of living in the promises made to us in our baptism. Or living the Evangelical life. Letting the news of God’s love, of His mercy being applied and washing away our sin so affect us, that our lives are changed. Not by our actions, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to realize that God’s work isn’t done in us, yet. Paul would describe this in several ways in Romans. The battle with old Adam, the struggle with feeling like a wretch because we can’t seem to conquer temptation, even the attitude of some that others must eat the way they do, and worship n the way they do, because they’ve arrived and everyone else has not.

We can’t be passive in our conversion, as if just being saved is enough. Not that we active make ourselves holy, the Spirit does, as the word of God, law and gospel bring us healing. We need to learn to desire that, to rejoice in it, to welcome it, and more than anything else, to expect and look for it.

To become like Moses, who would learn to set aside the things of this world, to embrace the suffering that comes with following God. The suffering of having our hearts circumcised, as sin and its cohorts are cut away. Suffering as we share this incredible joy that is affecting our life with others.

That is what the evangelical life is really about…

Lord, help us to hear anew of Your love and mercy daily, and grant that we would never tire of seeing You at work in our lives… AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 12.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 563–564.

Alan Jackson, “I Love to Tell the Story”

9/11, Peace, Nirvana and Heaven

Devotional Thoughts for 9/11:

14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death. 15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying. Heb 2:14-15 CEV

We doubt God’s love when we see and feel all the sufferings that our freedom to sin has brought upon us. Like Dostoyevski’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, we prefer happiness to freedom. We wish God had given us less freedom and had guaranteed that we would stay in Eden forever. We wish that He had put up a sign saying “No snakes in the grass”, that He had given no law that we could ever have chosen to disobey.

I was in Del Taco, the one on 29 Palms Highway, the one from which you can see Yucca Valley High School. I had just placed my order, and heard people gasp. I rounded the corner. and froze.

And we, along with millions of others, watched as thousands died.

I don’t remember what I ordered, or if I ate it. I was supposed to go play golf on the base golf course, that would be cancelled. I drove to my church, threw open the doors, let 107.7 know people could come and pray…. and they did.

19 years later, the memories, along with many of the people I’ve stood by the bedside of, as they died. Many of those times are passing before me this morning. Some people were at peace, others not so much. All, along the journey, questioned God about the suffering that they, or the loved ones they cared for endured.

Why does it have to exist? Why couldn’t god just leave us in paradise, and make it impossible for us to sin? Impossible for us to suffer, impossible to…die. Why do we fall for temptation, again and again? Why do we have to suffer the consequences of the freedom God has given us all? Why did Adam and Eve fall for the lie that all freedom is good? Oh the power of that lie! Oh the damage that freedom can wreak… for freedom means that we often choose that which leads to death. Our death, or others.

Wouldn’t we be happier if God just programmed us perfect, and we knew no freedom, but only happiness? If we knew naive bliss, but not how love is still love in the midst of our brokenness? Would it not be nirvana if there was no war, no discrimination, no terrorism, no death?

Perhaps it would, but nirvana is but emptiness, it is the emptiness, the lack of self, and while this may seem peaceful, it misses out on what truly creates and sustains peace. It lacks the thing we need to know the most

Love.

The kind of love that brings peace in the midst of suffering and death. The kind of peace that has us give up control, but in order that God’s love may be revealed to be in control. The kind of love that rescues us from the fear of dying, by reminding us for the promise of heaven.

Kreeft finishes the paragraph above with this,

Mere kindness or compassion would keep us protected against suffering by denying us real freedom. That is the love we have for pets but not for persons, at least not persons we really respect. We are not meant to be God’s pets. He did not create us for that. We are to be God’s lovers.

We aren’t not God’s pets, His naive, companions. Who wants a scratch behind the years, or a treat when we behave right, and ask to go out rather than leaving a puddle on the kitchen floor. We are the bride who will cry on His shoulders, who will depend on His strength to get us through life,e who will sing His praises, for eternity is more than death… and even in the times of death, those who know Him, can know His peace. We need the Holy Spirit to come, and to comfort us, in the midst of terrorism, amid the brokenness of a country torn apart by disease, or sin, or natural disaster. We need to find something so amazing that we can leave the painful emptiness behind, in view of the amazing love.

That is why people ran into First Christian Church on 9/11. That is why they cried at the altar, and why they could leave… still distraught, still not believing, but knowing that God was with them, and therefore knowing peace on a horrendous day.



Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 116–117.

Thoughts after Twelve Years in One Place

Devotional Thoughts for this Day

My friends, even though we have a lot of trouble and suffering, your faith makes us feel better about you. 8 Your strong faith in the Lord is like a breath of new life. 9 How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us? 1 Thes. 3:7-9 CEV

Like homing pigeons flying home, like iron filings drawn irresistably to a magnet, like solar flares falling back to their parent sun from which they had sprung, lovers of God become one with the fire of their Beloved. The twentieth-century British poet Stephen Spender wrote their epitaph: “Born of the sun, they travelled a brief while toward the sun and left the vivid air singed with their honor.”
That is what a Christian is. Not to be one is life’s only real tragedy.


Twelve years ago today, two friends, I knelt down and my District President installed me as the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos. A few weeks before that, the church had laid to rest a beloved retired pastor and his wife. Within three months, I would bless the graves of another couple. And over the years, there have been a lot of deaths, people that had become not only parishioners, but good friends. There has also been trauma that scars one deep, and ministering to those broken by such, has been commonplace. Enough so that prayers start ascending every time the phone rings, or a text message beeps.

It would be lying to saying this has been an easy time. It would also be lying to say this time has not been a huge blessing. My devotional reading this morning explains why:

It is all about the faith of the people I see, a faith that is lived out in the midst of trauma, in the midst of sacrifice. A faith that keeps coming back to God, must as Kreeft’s pigeons and iron filings being attracted to their “home.” There is a joy in this, even amidst the shared tears. There is a confidence, born out of the Body and Blood of Jesus in which we share, that even the tears are somehow beneficial.

The ability of people to depend on God in this time is what lifts me up. Just as it did Paul, to see people being sustained by God, to the point where they are ministering to others during their own trauma, is the best feeling a pastor can observe. It is what sustains us, as we see the effect of them being drawn back to God.
This is how, after 12 years, I can look to the future.
Knowing the response of those to whom I remind, “the Lord is with you!”
And knowing they are right when they answer back, trusting in God, “and also with you!”

Lord, as we go through these days, help us to continue to help each other, trusting You to show us their needs, and empowering us to meet them. Help us set our own brokenness aside, help us to leace it there… knowing You are healing us in this time. We pray this, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 93.

Making Sense of It All

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the day:

9 In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 2 Corinthians 1:9 (CEV)

Each Commandment makes sense only when you see it in the light of love. Take the first, for example: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why? Because God is an egotist? No, because God is a lover. What lover wants half the heart of his beloved? Also God is a realist. He knows that false gods simply cannot make us happy, however many times we are deceived into believing and acting as if they could. Love, of course, seeks the beloved’s happiness. It is God’s love of us, not self-love, that is behind His jealousy.

I have had a number of people ask me how I, as a pastor, cope with all that is going on in these days. I have pause for a moment because what I know is going on in people’s lives, I can’t always share. Matter of fact, that is too often the story.

I have my challenges, but they are nothing compared to those that people are experiencing. In the midst of that experience, I am trying to help them experience something else. What I want is for them to experience the love of God, which I know I can’t explain clearly enough.  There are no words for it, but that love sustains us through the most broken parts of our lives.

So perhaps it is good for people to ask me how I am coping. By being honest with the fact that I could not cope without God holding me up, perhaps they can know His comfort as well. Perhaps they can see, in the midst of my struggles, that God doesn’t give up on us, that He will comfort us,

This works into Kreeft’s observation about God’s jealousy, about the idea that He isn’t jealous for His sake, but for ours. God wants what is best for us, and being smarter than us (what an understatement) He longs for what is best for us. As Kreeft indicates, it is love, and a desire for our joy, that drives the jealousy of God

That is why Jesus hung on a cross for us.  It is why he spent years teaching and mentoring people like John and James, “the sons of Thunder”. It is why Jesus is not only merciful to sinners but is patient with us as well. And it is why He sens and equips apostles and pastors and missionaries and teachers to train us to serve others. As they train us like Paul did, training us by example.

Even when that example was tiring, frustrating, painful, and heart-rending. Because you, child of the King, need to know He is there for you in those times. If God was with Paul, and with me, certainly He will be there for you, for He loves you.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 45.

 

 

Why Do We See Scripture Reading as a Duty, Not a Blessing?

photoDevotional Thought of the Day:
2  You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. 3  That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.
Psalm 119:2-3 (MSG)

Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart’s fire, they are live coals; let us attend sermons, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.

When I made you a present of that Life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: “May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.” These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first one?

I have often struggled to find the words to encourage people (and pastors) to meditate on Scripture.

To treat it more than a textbook, or a self-improvement novel, or something they have to do, in order to be better believers, to be loved by God.

I would love to blame it on the enlightenment, or modernism and the need to rationalize and have a purpose for everything we do. But we, conservative or progressive, high church or low church, all seem to be willing to forgo spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation on the words through which God reveals Himself to us.

It is too easy when trying to encourage people to spend time contemplating God and His love, to resort to tactics which can produce guilt or shame. It is challenging to help someone see the blessing of spending time, no, cherishing the time that comes when we slow down and hear the word of God, describing how we are loved by the Word of God.

Notice that the translation doesn’t say go and find your blessing? It simply acknowledges you are, when you follow the directions to find Him and do. He’s not that far off, even today amid a pandemic.  Spurgeon says we need to be alone with Jesus, he gets the blessing that it is!  St. Josemaria urges us to find Jesus, with the same concept. Not because we have a duty too, but because of the blessing.

This is our time of refuge, our time of peace, it is the time where we are loved and affirmed, and our hearts set on fire, our passion for God grows because we realize how passionate He is about us. It is the time of restoration, a time where we spend intimately with God, a time we need to survive, to take a time out, to breathe, to regain hope, to be healed, to realize that God is even dealing with our sin.

All that and more happens when a believer finds Jesus, right were they are. When they spend time savoring the message of Scripture when they don’t just read it to read it, but let it soak deep inside them.

I can only but urge you to do so, to spend time with God as He reveals Himself to you… and how He is you God, and you are His beloved people.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Place Where The Left and The Right Find the Same Blessing…that they are both in the wrong

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day

17 If you had not helped me, LORD, I would soon have gone to the land of silence. 
18 When I felt my feet slipping, you came with your love and kept me steady. 19 And when I was burdened with worries, you comforted me and made me feel secure.  Psalm 94:17-19 CEV

The perfect example of God’s love transcending our “right” vs. “left” separations is the sacrament of reconciliation (“confession”). When a “conservative” enters that holy place he suddenly becomes a “bleeding heart liberal”, for he knows that our only hope is not truth and justice but mercy and compassion. And the “liberal” suddenly wants the authority of the Church to be infallible, dogmatic and absolute when the priest pronounces that his sins are forgiven.

I had to think through Peter Kreeft’s words this morning.

In the midst of this broken, divided world, we struggle. We look for answers, and as we do some fall to the right and some to the left. Which divides us more, causes division, and it breaks us down.

We see this today,  in the midst of the pain and anxiety that is taking over our world.

In the midst of this, Kreeft finds the place where we have to deal with our own error and our own sin to be the place of the miraculous – the conservative crying for mercy, and the liberal crying for something to depend upon that is inflexible and cannot change.

For there, they both find the mercy of God.

And they both need it.

Desperately.

And as they find the God who draws them to Himself, as He declared the mercy one doesn’t want, and the other doesn’t think they need,

There they can find unity, as the pastor or priest assures them of God’s love, as the words are  heard, and you realize that God has helped us, saving us from silence, hold us when we stumbled,

We have all sinned, we have all been narcissistic. and Jesus died for all of us.

There is where we find unity, as we are all forgiven and cleansed.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 223.

The Battle for What is Right

The-breakfast-clubDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Matthew 5:20 (NLT2)

10  “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12  I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13  “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ Luke 18:10-13 (NLT2)

943    Be careful that in dealing with other people you don’t make them feel like someone who once exclaimed (and not without reason), “I’m fed up with these righteous characters!”

The problem of dealing with the hypocrisy of pharisaical people is that we often become as pharisaical as they are!  We grow in disdain over their self-proclaimed righteousness, and we begin to compare ourselves to them. We might say, “Yes, I am better because I know what a sinner IAM, and God has saved me, while he is off thinking God should just honor him.”

It is too easy to become self-righteous in our own eyes. This results in the situation that St.Josemaria mentions. The horrible thought that our righteousness act would drive someone away from the love and mercy of Jesus. That we could rob them of the peace of Christ because we are simply a bunch of assholes, pretending to be holy. That we could become so pharisaical that we would not enter God’s presence…is beyond horror, beyond sadness…

And yet we do it, every time we compare our faithfulness, our doctrine, our actions to those around u.

he tax collector, desiring the Lord’s mercy, doesn’t compare himself to the pharisee. He seeks absolution, He seeks to be cleansed of his sin, he seeks to be healed of his brokenness. He prays there and walks away righteous, having encounter the God who promised to be merciful.

Having been shown mercy, we become merciful. Having been loved, we are able to love. Without even realizing it, we are revealed to be in the presence of God.

Where we belong.

Lord, have mercy on me…a sinner.

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is there anything on earth…like heaven?

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought fo the Day:

“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”  1 Cor. 2:9 CEV

When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22 Gideon realized that he had seen one of the LORD’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.”  “Calm down!” the LORD told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.” Gideon built an altar for worshiping the LORD and called it “The LORD Calms Our Fears.”  Judges 6:21-24 CEV

Even the atheistic philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There comes a time when you say even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’ ” How can we understand anything of Heaven if there is nothing at all on earth to compare it to, nothing heavenly, nothing that never gets boring? Thus either Heaven is boring, or something on earth is not boring, or nothing on earth is like Heaven.
There are two parts to the answer: first, that everything on earth except agape is meant to be boring; and second, that agape is not.

So let us take up this problem: genuine art is “esoteric in the best sense”, say Rahner and Vorgrimler; liturgy is simple; it must be possible for everyone, particularly the simple, to participate. Can liturgy accommodate real church music? Does it in fact demand it, or does it exclude it? In looking for an answer to these questions, we will not find much help in our theological inheritance. It seems that relations between theology and church music have always been somewhat cool.

As I read Kreeft’s words in scripture today, I was amazed by their accuracy. We don’t understand heaven, we can’t conceive of it, even as the Apostle Paul says in the first quote.

I remember a professor quoting one of the early revivalists who said if he could give people a minute of hell, he would never have to convince them to repent.  My sarcastic comment was, “but what if we could give them a glance of heaven?”

Sarcastically said then, but I’ve thought of the wisdom of it – how can we give people a taste of heaven?  How can we help them know the joys of which we should sing?  That which is “beyond” theology, that which defies our explanation?

How can we show them the holiness, the glory, the pure love that we will experience in heaven? How can we help them experience love beyond love, as radical as the day is from the darkest, stormiest night?

The church’s liturgy aims to do so, revealing the love of God as we celebrate our forgiveness, the Lord dwelling among us, the actions He takes to bless and transform us into His holy people, and the feast of the broken bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus. The feast that celebrates the love, the feast that opens, for a few moments, a view for our souls of heaven.

I love the story of Gideon, especially the verses above. Here he is, somehow missing the miracles the Angel did, then realizing afterward the significance of being in the presence of a holy messenger.  He starts to freak out, the anxiety builds as he realizes his own sin and inadequacy. His glimpse of something holy, someone from heaven, causes enormous fear.

Then the Lord God tells him to chill.

Wait – where was he?

God does speak to us still, just as He did to Gideon.  One of the ways that should happen is in our church’s gathering.  Even as we receive the message we will struggle with, that kills oof our sinful self, and raises us to life with the crucified Christ.  Even as we struggle with that, the Lord comes to us in His feast and tells us, don’t fear, I am with you…

That is why we have a dilemma about the art of leading liturgy and the art of leading songs and hymns that accompany it. The use of the term “art” makes us think it is a showcase for the best o our talents. It isn’t!

What the art is, is not found in the musician’s talent, or the pastor, in the charisma. It is found in the communion, the communication of revealing to people they dwell in the presence of God, and helping them to hear His voice. Therein is the art, there is our target, the goal we strive for, there is our art.

There is our joy as well, for the connection is undeniable, and beautiful beyond words, as people come to know they are loved… as they feast with the Lord, knowing the joy that only comes from knowing you are loved.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 88.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 100.

The One Line in Lennon’s Imagine, that I know is wrong (and it isn’t what you think!)

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

The Israelites tried some of the food, but they did not ask the LORD if he wanted them to make a treaty. 15 So Joshua made a peace treaty with the messengers and promised that Israel would not kill their people. Israel’s leaders swore that Israel would keep this promise.  Joshua 9:14-15, CEV

Concern for achieving unity “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.”But we must realize “that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts.” That is why we place all our hope “in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Man looks with suspicion upon God, so that he soon desires a different God. In brief, the devil is determined to blast God’s love from a man’s mind and to arouse thoughts of God’s wrath.

There was nothing that Jesus sought more than faith, except love. Faith is the necessary beginning of the Christian life, but love is its consummation

Listening to my favorite “radio” channel the other day, they played one of the songs I hate and love.  Musically, John Lennon’s Imagine is right up there, and I understand the sentiment, the yearning, the great desire for there to be peace, and unity in this world.

Musically, I love the piece, it is my favorite style of music, the ballad. But what Lennon demands people to give up, doesn’t guarantee there to be real peace or real unity. For he is asking them to give up things that clearly define us, our culture, our beliefs.

Most of all there is one line that bothers me, far more than most.

I’ll get to it, in a moment. (It’s not the one you think!)

In my readings this morning, the  Israelites fell into the same trap for peace.  Tired of conflict, they entered into a covenant, a sacred treaty with people that was based on lies. They sought something good, but they didn’t look to God. and they fell prey to their own desires. This would become a curse to them, and to the Gibeonites for centuries.

This is what Luther was talking about, as they didn’t even bother to consult God, but made up their own mind.  Satan blasted God’s love from their minds, giving them a goal, a god to pursue, and they did earn for a time, God’s wrath. ( I’ve always wondered what would have happened if they went to God and pleaded with Him to save these people? We can not ever know, but we have examples of such prayer!)

What did satan steal form them?  What did he blast at?  The religious structures? The doctrines of the Faith? The traditions, the laws, and promises?

No, Luther says, it is the love of God that Satan would have out of sight and out of mind.

Kreeft tells us that Jesus sought love more than faith. What are the two greatest commands?

And what do we have faith in, if not the absolute love that God has for us? He loves you, and He loves me. Absolutely! Purely! Passionately! With such love that He doesn’t ignore our sin, but He deals with it, and had planned to – from before the foundation of the world!

That is what sustains us, and that is what can create true unity, not just unity that hides conflict, but true unity and true peace.  That is where the Catholic Catechism has it correct, our hope for unity is found, not in the boardroom, not in the halls of academia, but at the altar, where we find ourselves enveloped by His love.

Which brings me back to Lennon, and the line that bugs me, that I truly can’t accept. It is not the one about no religion. It is this one,

Nothing to live or die for…

Love does have something to die for, One who loves will die for the one who is loved.

Without that kind of love, the kind that sacrifices self, unity, and peace is but a dream…

One last word, that love is not something you have to dream about, for God loves us that much, that Jesus would die for you… because He loves you. And in doing so, all that would impede peace…are shed, and are left behind, as we discover this new life in Jesus.  

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 218.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 103.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 77.

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