Thoughts to encourage you to love and adore Jesus…
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT2)
It is related that a pious hermit, one day while the king was hunting through the wood, began to run to and fro as if in search of something; the king, observing him thus occupied, inquired of him who he was and what he was doing; the hermit replied: “And may I ask your majesty what you are engaged about in this desert?” The king made answer: “I am going in pursuit of game.” And the hermit replied: “I, too, am going in pursuit of God.” With these words he continued his road and went away. During the present life this must likewise be our only thought, our only purpose, to go in search of God in order to love him, and in search of his will in order to fulfil it, ridding our heart of all love of creatures.
We get used to getting up every day as if it could not be otherwise; we become accustomed to see violence in the news as something inevitable; we get used to the usual landscape of poverty and misery while walking the streets
of our city.
We get up, we check out email, our twitter/facebook/newest social media feed and go on. We listen to the news, we fet in our cars and go about our day. It doesn’t matter what form of music we listen to, rock, emo, country, edm – the lyrics are anything but positive. And even if they are encouraing our overcoming, whose cost is it at?
Is it any wonder we become pessimistic? Is it any wonder we become anxious?
Pope Francis notes how accustomed we are to conflict and violence. It becomes what we expect. The stories talk of bigotry and racism, greed and hatred, sexual and sensual perversion, so we don’t think anything else exists in the heart of man.
We become acclimatized to these things – they become our norm, and we don’t expect anything else.
For an option to getting beat down by what we see, what if we were DeLigouri’s hermit – looking here, there and everywhere, but expecting to find God? What if we were, with St. Paul, willing to press on, to focus on, to even stalk God, for He has called us, and Jesus pressed on with everything we are…
How different would our outlook be in life?
How different would it be, if our focus was on the God who we depend on for life, and we knew all His promises that fill our lives? If we looked for His touch in every part of each day?
There is part of my daily prayers that helps…. especially if I slow down and hear the words, rather than just saying them. It is a modificaiton of a old Celtic prayer, that helps me realize I will see God at work today.
Here it is, ( the link is at the boottom)
Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day, realize the Lord is all around you – and stalk Him. Look for His work in others, and in your actions. See even the hard times as a blessing – as you reach out to Him, even in desperation.
God is with you…
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 376–377.
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), 246.
Devotional Thought for our days:
4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:4 (Phillips NT)
195 Just now, Jesus, when I was considering my wretchedness, I said to you: Allow yourself to be taken in by this son of yours, just like those good fathers, full of kindness, who put into the hands of their little children the presents they want to receive from them… knowing perfectly well that little children have nothing of their own. And what merriment of father and son, even though they are both in on the secret!
St. Josemaria’s words give a definition to my greatest fear in life. That because of my wretchedness, because of who I perceive myself to be, I will never, ever do anything for God that pleases Him.
It just won’t happen, despite a desire to do it, despite an attempt to dedicate my life to serve Him, and led people to Him. There are days when it seems to happen, but those days are far apart, and seem more like an accident than anything I really do.
The challenge is in getting my mind off of my wretchedness, and see what God is doing around me. It’s not easy to do at times, as my own failures and wretchedness dominate my landscape. The sins that seem so obvious, and even the things I strive to do like my sermons, seem to fall so short, so often failing to show people what they need to know, the presence of God in their lives.
But it is that very presence I need to see, as God works through us, His hand masterfully, artfully guiding us, doing the work He planned for us to accomplish.
It is only by seeing His presence, by resting safely in His arms, that I can see this. It is only by relenting, and meditating on His love, that this assurance, this peace, can comfort a soul that is not as wretched as it thinks.
I know God does work through me, like the Father who helps the child create the gift to be given back to the Father. Or the Father who makes the gift the son brings truly become something special. What I need to do is let this amazing, wonderful truth sink deeply into my heart and soul, creating a joy that is described as unspeakable by the Apostle Peter.
I would imagine that I am not the only one….. so let us pray for each other!
Lord, Have mercy on us, and give us the ability to know this joy, to know that the Spirit works through us, doing what is pleasing to the Father! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 876-880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven
That’s not FAIR!!
† IHS †
As we journey together, may we know the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the peace of Jesus Christ, and look forward to the feast with our Heavenly Father.
Two Candy Bars and some Chuckles
Last week we started on this path, a sermon series that will explore the journey of our lives. It is a parable of sorts, comparing that journey, where we will end up in heaven, with our journey as children, on the way to an Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, or maybe our Grandfather’s for the party on Christmas Eve.
Last week we looked a little at the squabbles that can happen, as you jam three young children in the backseat of a 1970 Dodge Dart, and heard the conversation that would ensue when my dad would tell us to “get along back there.”
Well, today we continue that journey, hearing another conversation.
My dad had a lot of common sense. He knew that If we were eating something, our mouths couldn’t open. And on so many of these trips he had stashed our favorite candies in the car. A Chocolate Charleston Chew for one of my siblings, a Chunky chocolate bar for the other, and because I was allergic to chocolate, I got a pack of chuckles.
This worked until one day, when one looked at other’s candy bar, and saw a long narrow bar – nearly 10 inches long! She looked at my Chuckles and saw six pieces of candy, each about an inch long. And she looked at her chunky bar, 3 inches by 3 inches and proceeded to yell out,
“It’s not fair!”
She didn’t see the weight of the candy bars as equal, or that hers was three times as thick and wide, or that all of the candy cost the same amount. Explaining that to her, well, anyone ever try to point out such logic to an upset young child.
It wasn’t fair as she saw it, and when two brothers have to share and sacrifice their favorite candy, and they do understand the logic, well, now the journey becomes more complicated!
But we are often like little children, complaining that life isn’t fair.
We end up just like the crew who sweated all day in the hot sun, and didn’t get a larger payday than the guys who put in an hour.
We need to realize the blessing in that… we need to see God’s view of this, so we can rejoice in how God cares for His people.
Why did they cry it wasn’t fair?
If Jesus’ parable were told today, a number of us would probably be telling the employees who broke their back all day long to contact a lawyer, or to call Handel on the Law. Certainly there is a law out there, that demands the same exact hourly wage for all employees.
Some of us might take the Master’s side, saying that he can do whatever he wants, after all it is his money.
The story might even go viral on Facebook, and there would be interviews on Youtube, and maybe even an appearance on some daytime talk show like Dr. Phil, or Dr. Oz, or Judge Judy.
After all, it’s not like it’s fair, what this employer did.
What did our Old Testament reading say?
His Ways aren’t our ways
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Could it be that this Master’s goal wasn’t about getting the vineyard harvested?
Could it be that he was more concerned about the people in his life, the people of his community, than he was about making money?
Think about this, he started at 6 am, then returned to hire workers at 9, 12, and 3 o’clock, each time he saw workers standing around, doing nothing. The first time – he negotiated a wage that was fair and equitable – after that, the scriptures tell us he simply promised to be fair.
It is that last time, at five o’clock, which he didn’t just see some workers, the Greek word there is the root word from where we get heuristics. Anybody here watch CSI, or NCIS? Heuristics is the science of finding that which was hidden, not in sight. He went to them, found them, and hear again the description of His action,
“6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ 7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “
It was his desire, not to gain a harvest, but to provide for the people what they needed, to be part of His work, His life.
And so it is, with the kingdom of heaven.
God would provide for us what we need.
As a pastor, I’m often approached with the question of who will be in heaven. What about the people that come to know God’s love on their death bed, minutes before they pass away. Do they get into heaven, or does God punish them for all the years they refused to follow Him, and they don’t get to go into heaven?
Usually the question involves the people most people would consider beyond any chance to be saved. Would God let them into heaven, if they repented at the last moment?
If I answer in the affirmative, knowing that the power of God is so incredible to transform us, sometimes I hear those words, “But that’s not fair pastor!”
You mean that mass murdered could get the same blessing that those of us who’ve been in church every Sunday… ok one Sunday a month get? They get the same size mansion as those of us who served as preschool teachers, or elders, or deacons?
Yes, and that is the incredible blessing of your working alongside God in His harvest. They are blessed to come into our family, to have the grace and mercy and peace that God has desired for all of us.
Remember again – what the Old Testament said,
7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
There is God’s goal, to take all of us, who struggle with doing what is loving, what is merciful, what is right, and can’t. There is His love, for He finds us, this Father/master who will bring us into His marvelous life’s work.
That is better than just being fair from a human perspective, it God being extravagant in his love. This is what we call justification – God making us right, forgiving our sins, and sanctification, God setting us apart making us His co-workers in His work. If God were fair, would He share with us His desires, His life? Would He trust us enough to serve alongside Him?
God is more than just fair; He is extravagant beyond all measure.
God, bringing us into His ministry to the world, making us part of the family.
All this because Jesus Christ, true God, true man, didn’t give a rip about what was fair, and died that we could all become the children of God.
That’s what the kingdom of God is about; His love for us, making it known and seeing it transform us.
This is a love that brings mercy and peace into our lives, a peace beyond measure, the peace we know and celebrate here, together. For we are His people. AMEN?
Here is my Brother and Sister…
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1 & Mark 3:20–35
† In Jesus Name †
May we, with all God’s holy people have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, as we are filled with the utter fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (adapted)
Blood isn’t thicker than water…baptismal water…
Today’s gospel challenges an old German proverb about family relationships being stronger than any other relationships we have. To those who know German, I apologize for my pronunciation – the old proverb went like this, “Blut ist dicker als Wasser”
I would think that the family of Jesus would agree with the German proverb. In verse 21, after they determined that he was out of his mind, they set off to save Jesus, to save Him from Himself and the uncontrollable crowd.
As they call for Him to come out – as the message is relayed inside, the answer seems almost insolent in response to their pleas. For Jesus says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Some people think that Jesus’ words border on rudeness, on dishonoring His mother.
Yet I think it is just the opposite, for here, once and for all, Jesus doesn’t limit His family, he expands it… to include us!
We, who trust in His faithfulness – who accept and find hope in the promises He makes to us, He was thinking of us, as well as the millions of others in “our family”….
Genetics doesn’t create the closest bonds that a human can know – though perhaps blood does and water…
Not our blood, but the blood of Christ spilled on the cross,
And the water of our baptism – where God promises to unite us to Christ’s death, that we may be united all united with Him as One, in His resurrection!
In uniting us together, in making each of us the place where the Holy Spirit dwells – the Father creates the new temple – place where He will abide forever, a temple not made of human hands, but of His people.
How strong is this bond? What makes it different? That is what we talk of… today!
A Different “Out Look”
When we talk of the relationships we have, as the body of Christ, and how close they are, it is not to mean that we have some romantic idealism that there will never be strains and stresses in our relationships.
I know that I can get on people’s nerves at times, and there are one or two… million people that cause me to struggle. We are people who struggle with sin, and with self-deception and self-centeredness, after all! While we strive to be holy, it is not within our lives, apart from that which is united with Christ!
But that is the point – our bonds are so tight – because in Christ – we have been given a different outlook, a different way to see what is important as Paul states in our reading this morning from 2 Corinthians,
are unseen are eternal
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal!
Our family, those found in Christ, those who know His incredible love and mercy.. we look at different things that the world that has, as yet, to realize that love.
The more time we spend realizing that we are in the presence of God, not just here on Sundays, but every moment of our lives.. ohhhh how that changes things! First eternally, as we consider promises like 1 Corinthians 2:9
2:9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;
Given that – our temporary struggles, are simply that, light and momentary afflictions! Yet it is more than knowing that eternity is forever, and that comparing this life to that is not even possible…
This isn’t minimizing the pains of life, but putting them into perspective – it is hard to be mad at someone for being a pain in the neck, when we realize what Christ went through, in order that they know His love, and we can take on the fact that we are getting old – and our bodies don’t work as good as they did when we were in our twenties and thirties,
but our focus, our hopes, what causes us to tick and live and work in God’s kingdom is that we look to that we cannot see – but that we know – the presence of God, which is as real for us now, right now – and every moment of our lives…
Because we have been given the Holy Spirit – promised all over the Old Testament – especially clear in books like Ezekiel, and in the Psalms… made true for us, as Christ promised – the Spirit has come! Again, I love Paul’s way of describing it!
3:3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7 (NLT)
And even as we share this wisdom, as we share in the gift of the Holy Spirit – we share in it together – for we all dwell together with Him, and the love of God binds us together!
We believe, and We speak…
Knowing this – we begin to understand the start of the Epistle reading:
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Paul’s quote comes from a psalm that praises God in the midst of a struggle, in the midst of life, when if we look at life without the lends of eternity, we would nearly give up. It’s not worth the struggle, its not worth trusting God in the midst of temptation, its not worth the pain and anguish of dealing with people that are stubborn, or stupid, or irritating or corrupt…
Yet we know what God can do with such people, as we look at Moses, and David and young Jeremiah and Daniel. As we see what God has done with Peter and Paul, and the visions he gave to a man who was called a son of thunder… and yet… wrote the gospel of John, the gospel of live. In the same way we see it in men who have sinned like Will and Stephen and Chris and I, yet who God has cleansed and called to proclaim His love, His mercy, and His grace…. And to guide people, as they hear of that love, and as we bring you closer and closer to Him! For we trust in Him, and know what He has done in our lives.
He changes us, He causes us to trust in Him, and then He calls us to speak – to assure you, to help you be confident that the very power that raises Christ from the dead – will bring us with Jesus, into the very holy, awesome, presence of God…
both then – face to face- and now, as we serve together – as His grace and mercy extend to more and more people – and as we see them embraced by His love, as we do His will, as the ones we reach out to and we are shown to be the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ – His praises arise within us, His glory grows, and we continually thank the God, who has made us us… and causes us to dwell in peace.
And because of that – …our “tradition”
One of the parts of our traditional service – that has grown to be a major focus of our multicultural service in English, is when we realize we are in the presence of God, and I get to declare – as I will in a moment – that the Peace of God is with you always – and the people exclaim “amen”!
The moment then comes – when we take some time – and share with each other –
shén de píng’ān yǔ nǐ tóngzài – the peace of Christ is with you – as we greet each other with this blessing!
This day… it is very appropriate… to end the sermon in this way – as we realize that because we are the brothers and sisters of Christ – as we realize that means we are bonded by Him to each other, in His presence… as we dwell – now and forever In the peace of God which passes all understanding, …
P The peace of the T Lord is with you always!