Devotional Thought fo the Day:
But they were no match for Stephen, who spoke with the great wisdom that the Spirit gave him. Acts 6:10 CEV
28 When Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were surprised at his teaching. 29 He taught them like someone with authority, and not like their teachers of the Law of Moses. Matthew 7:28-29 (CEV)
In other words, loving neighbor means not only coming under God’s law but coming into God’s life. It also means coming under God’s law but in a deeper sense than obeying the precepts. Law in Scripture sometimes means not just precept or prescription, but also a principle or origin of living.
I have pondered the idea of Jesus teaching with authority often. Indeed, I have often thought it would be a blessing to compare His manuscripts (which we have in the four gospels) to the manuscripts of the teachers of the law. Imagine, being able to sit down and look at some of the greatest teachers in rabbinical history, and compare them to Jesus, to find out what is missing, and then be able ot include that in my preaching, teaching, and writing.
As I’ve grown older, I ‘ve realized that it is not the manuscripts that would hold the answer. I am sure there were men as erudite, that there were those who included more references to back up their teaching, who could also enthrall crowds. So comparing the manuscripts would not lead to an answer.
Jesus gave that ability to His disciples, we see it in the scriptures, for they to taught, empowered by the Holy Spirit. You can see that in their writings, but it is also seen in the way people react to them. Stephen, one of the first deacons, spoke in a way that astounded people. He spoke of Jesus, and as he does, they described his face as like one of the angels.
There was no mistaking it, it was unnerving.
I think Professor Kreeft has an insight into it, that I didn’t think about until my devotions lined up this morning. It is not when we study the law that we can teach it, it is not when we feel its weight, but when we realize we are in Christ, when His logos, His order is rooted in us because He is there. When His love, for He is love, has taken root in us. When we become intimately aware that we are in His presence, and His glory transforms everything.
Including us, and therefore, including our teaching.
Not just the instruction that occurs in a sermon, or a lesson. But the teaching of our lives. The teaching that points people, not to us, but draws them into His glory. It is the impact of knowing you are loved.
As Jesus taught, the Father was revealed, may as we teach, the Spirit reveals Jesus, and the love He has for those who are listening.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 170.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. John 13:3-5 GNT
860 As soon as you truly abandon yourself in the Lord, you will know how to be content with whatever happens. You will not lose your peace if your undertakings do not turn out the way you hoped, even if you have put everything into them, and used all the means necessary. For they will have “turned out” the way God wants them to.
There is a video going around of a basketball coach, who is seemingly striving to empower other women. While we have a long way to go to make sure opportunities and pay are equal for people of both genders, there is an underlying message that I struggle with.
The search and focus on gaining power and influence without knowing the direction that power will be used to achieve. Power can be used for good or bad, and we need to develop people as much on how to use power, as we do to encourage them to grab all they can. Will we look to develop people spiritually and morally (there is a difference) to use power properly, even as we teach them to seek it out?
I look to the reading from the Bible in red this morning, and something struck me that I hadn’t really noticed before. This is one of my favorite stories, it is the basis for one of my favorite songs (Michael Card’s “The Basin and the Towel”) I know it inside and out, and just like every year, it will be part of the reading on Maunday Thursday.
This year, I saw that beginning phrase, “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all power.” It goes on to talk that Jesus knew where he was coming from, where He was going (the cross). SO …. he serves. He takes the role that is humiliating as any, even though he was the guest of honor.
That is what he does in the context of having just some power, but all of the power. He uses it to serve, to teach, to benefit others. Jesus uses what power He has not to avoid the cross but to embrace it, because of His love for them, because of His love for us.
This is what power is for, not to increase fame, or wealth, or personal standing. Not ot get a kick “playing” with those you have power over. Rather it is to benefit those people you have been made responsible for, for power is only a tool of responsibility.
So teach our daughters and sons to strive to do their best, to find places to serve in where they can make the greatest impact. Where they can affect many, helping them learn to love. Help them achieve things that would take great effort, but always remind them of why they are there.
To love their neighbors who they can see, empowered by the presence, the mercy and love of God they can’t see, but can perceive.
For in his presence, there is peace, and contentment… and we are safe there, our hearts nd minds protected by Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3526-3528). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
40 “Whoever welcomes
The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches
Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37
The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.
Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.
It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.
It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.
This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.
To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.
In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.
To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….
Words like, “The Lord is with You”
Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
How Ministry Works
May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you mature in trusting God and serve those around you!
Cornfields of Dandelions?
As we look at the kingdom parables in our gospel reading this morning, I imagine you think the Farmer creates a farm like the ones we may be had driven by, where the seeds are planted in nice neat rows.
But the scripture says he throws the seeds, just slings them across the field, so a better illustration would be those beautiful flowers that spread their spores across the fields of my youth.
You know, those lovely things we call dandelions!
The spores fly where ever there wind blows, and overnight your beautiful yard is covered In bright yellow flowers, though some might call them weeds.
That is how the Kingdom of God is, as the seed of the gospel is blown about, and creates life from seemed barren, lifeless, and even dead. Yet that seemingly dead and lifeless seed, like the spores on a dandelion, produces incredible abundant life.
Without any manipulation of the farmer.
Which is why Jesus shared this parable with the disciples, and with us.
We’ve lost control!!!!
The first commandment is, I believe the simplest, and yet the hardest to put into play.
“You shall have no other gods to rival me. 4 ‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. 5 ‘You shall not bow down to them or serve them.; Exodus 20:3-5a (NJB)
That bow down part needs to be explained a little. In the culture of the time, it was more than a mark of respect, it was a mark of submission, of recognizing that the other person was responsible for you and had the right to direct your life any way they wished, including ending it. It was the kind of complete submission that occurs to one who has lost a war, or who really trusts the person they bow to, knowing the character of the person that they entrusted themselves to, as they bowed.
TO have a God means to trust them with your life, to run to them in times of trouble and need, and to trust their compassion, to trust them to make things right.
There is a problem with that, and it is not a new one. It is the reason Jesus told this parable.
We like to be in control, we like to know the outcome of our days, and whether the times we endured are worth it. We want to be able to have the right to question God and tell Him how we want the universe ran, or at least our tiny corner of it.
So too in the church, the challenge is to be focused on the gospel, on sharing God’s love as far as we can fling it and trusting the Holy Spirit to provide the result that our Triune God desires.
Except it always doesn’t work quite the way we like, and the Kingdom of God, which we would like to see nicely organized and ordered, in our opinion, seems messy and slow in its growth, and we can’t stand not seeing what is happening. We can’t wait for the blade to explode out of the seed, and the heads of wheat to form, and the plant to mature.
So we might get impatient, and rather than trust God, we trust ourselves. We strive to control and determine how and when growth happens. And in making ourselves God, we fall deep into sin. Believe me, it is easy to do, to become distracted from sharing the reason we have hope in what seems to be a dark and trying life.
It is pretty easy to move from frustration to sin, from impatience with God’s process to trying to take over and play God ourselves.
And yet the seed lies there, about to burst into life, all under the control of God, and not ours.
So how do we learn to trust Him, to look to Him to provide the growth, while still planting the seeds?
Time to find rest in the trees!
The other parable gives us the idea of how to do so, as we realize the seed of the gospel is simply Christ, who was planted in the ground.
This seemingly simple man, in the most remote part of the Roman Empire, dies, killed by his “own” people, those that claimed to follow God. And even as He is planted in the ground, the apostles had no idea of what we think of as Christianity today. They could see nothing but pain. Yet in His being planted, life is formed and created in us. A Billion people have found life in Christ, and in the second service, as a lady is baptized, another finds rest, like the birds that find a home in a mustard tree, safe deeply within from the predators.
It is when we know we are there when we can breathe deeply, and rest, and realize how God cares and provides for us that we learn to trust Him when we learn that He is the Lord of the church when we realize that He is God.
For we find our refuge and our hope in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in the promised God gives us, as we are united to Jesus in our baptism. He cleanses us of all our brokenness and all the times where we’ve tried to play God.
This is what God does, hiding us so completely in His grace that we simply trust Him, that we simply relax and know His love, so incredible that we simply get back to work, throwing out the seed of the gospel, the very love of Jesus.
The gospel that draws people into a relationship deep within Christ, a place where we are revived and renewed, as we dwell in His love! AMEN!