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The Darkness seems to close in… yet…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” 12  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (MSG) \

19  O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21  Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22  Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance! Isaiah 30:19-22 (NLT2)

470    The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?

There are days that seem absolutely dark, where the sinful nature of mankind is so dominant in my environment, that it seems like the darkness creeps in, and there is no light to see things by, to discern what is truth, what is shadow and what is evil. 

It seems like such times may never end, but how can we truly know that, when the darkness seems to totally envelop us.  How can we know that the next step won’t lead us out of the threatening forest and into the light? ( I often think that next step will be over the edge of a cliff, as my anxiety twists my discernment even more than the darkness had blinded it!)

As I read the first verse in my devotions, a song I’ve never heard from one of my favorite artists quoted it. And I knew that this is part of what I need to write, and hear this morning. 

Even though I can’t see in the dark, my Rescuer can, and He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. Even though I endure adversity, and suffer as I struggle to know God’s presence, it is there.  He can see us, and guide us, gently, firmly.

So much so that we will destroy those false gods, those things that supply a false hope. We will simply abandon them, finding no need to cling to them. 

This is why the saints and “great Christians” of the past are who they are.  Not because of their own faithful battle against the evil they encountered in their world, or in their own hearts. 

Why there were saints?  They clung to the God who saw them in their darkness.  They clung to the Lord who has them safely in His hands.  In the cross, not just at it, they found the peace that allowed them to relax, and be sustained by the God who came to them. St. Josemaria nails it, there is the cross, the Gospel, and they promise that we will rise with Christ, that we have risen with Jesus.

Even if we can’t see it yet.

He has found us, for He sees in the darkness. 

Count on that, even as you listen for His voice, even as He reveals the glorious light of His love for you.  

Lord, have mercy on us, as we struggle in the darkness.  Help us to depend on You, to be guided, cared for and healed by Jesus, for this is what You have always promised your people.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1153). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8

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Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
Acts 8:26-40

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip

How Accurate is our Sight?

Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.

We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side.  Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.

But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.

Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of.  He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country.  He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.

And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.

And how differently he must have thought.

How accurate was His,

This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome.  Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.

The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.

1  “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)

The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.

What this means is that this man would face rejection again.  Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.

The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God.   But it also divided him from his own people as well.  No wife for a eunuch.  No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.

Like many of us today.  We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin.  Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.

And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?

That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?

His hope…

Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,

32  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)

And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.

His Hope realized

I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain.  He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..

And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count.  That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing.  We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.

Just like eunuch.

God had prepared this man’s heart.  Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.

As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone.  No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God.  His prayer was answered.

He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.

The lesson we learn..

Maybe you are feeling alone today.  It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world.  Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others.  This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.

And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week.  Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are…..  And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.

God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.

Let’s pray…

Thoughts for our Dark Days

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12  but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (NLT)

101    Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful.
102    Your mind is sluggish and won’t work. You struggle to coordinate your ideas in the presence of our Lord, but it’s useless: a complete fog! Don’t force yourself, and don’t worry either. Listen closely: it is the hour for your heart.

Recently, the skies in Southern California were filled with clouds.  Not the light fluffy kind that seems so high, but the dark, ugly, black storm clouds. The kind of clouds that are once fascinating, but also frightening.

Some of us are enduring those clouds spiritually.  Whether the storms are coming or not, we feel almost paralyzed as the clouds gather around us, coming at us from every direction. 

it is at those times when my prayers seem hollow, my devotions, just going through the motions. I want to move on past them, but the fog which St. Josemaria describes is enveloping us, just as the darkness seems to cover us.

St Josemaria advises us to persevere in prayer, not in pushing our prayer, but listening more carefully, becoming aware of the Lord’s presence, until it shatters the darkness, until the Holy Spirit breathes into us, clearing away the fog. comforting us,  loving us. 

SO what do we do?  Do we fight the burden?  Do we just abandon our prayer time, discounting it as too draining, to ineffective, and not worth it?  Do we let guilt swallow us because we wonder if our faith is lacking and that is why our prayers are so dry?

I’ve been there, done that, given up, said I will come back in tomorrow, or next week, and once, it was a year…

What I didn’t realize was that these “down times” are essential for my spiritual health.  They teach me like they did Ezekiel, who hid in a cave, waiting to find God in the storm and in the fire, then recognizing God’s still small voice after hiding.  Why else would Jesus Himself head into the mountains to pray, or go to the garden, begging his friends to watch and pray with Him? 

We need to be ministered to by God.  We need to let Him love us, care for us, comfort us, and kindle the spark of love that exists in us. 

As I come out of these times or at least see the light of the tunnel, I can begin to realize the power of God that raised Christ from the dead is at work in our lives.  

And I need that… so need that.

So I’ve learned to try and persist in prayer, waiting to hear He will have mercy, to know His presence and love.  ANd some days, I can even rejoice in the dry times, knowing that God is going to take care of it.

As he does for all He loves… and you are one of those He does!

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 389-392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Having one of “those” days? You aren’t alone…..

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional THought of the Day:
41  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42  and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43  Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me? 44  For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. 45  How happy you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true!” Luke 1:41-45 (TEV)

2  John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3  “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4  Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5  the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6  And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” Matthew 11:2-6 (NLT)

32  And John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and stay on him. 33  I still did not know that he was the one, but God, who sent me to baptize with water, had said to me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and stay on a man; he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34  I have seen it,” said John, “and I tell you that he is the Son of God.” 35  The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, 36  when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said. John 1:32-36 (TEV)

106    You wrote, and I well understand: “Every day I spend my ‘little time’ in prayer. If it weren’t for that …!”

As I was reading the 3rd reading about John the Baptist this morning,  (part of my daily routine) I thought of the other two readings.

John, before he was born, and while Jesus was even younger, recognizes the presence of God. (not to mention what happened to John’s mom must have been cool!)  Incredible experience!

Move to the second reading, and now John is in prison, he is having one of “those” kind of days. Miserable, depressed, anxious and afraid, he needs to be encouraged, he needs to remember that what he devoted his life to, actually was worth it.

A bad day to say the least.

A day where even he, a prophet, doubted the very prophecy he was meant to give.

John, who had pointed to Christ, who knew him well, who proclaimed he was Israel’s hope, doubted and struggled with trusting God.

Just like we do!

There is a lot of hope in this realization, that John the Baptist could have one of those days, and apparently more than one.  That he could be so caught up by his own situation that he needed to know God was at work, that God’s promises are true.

And God responded to his query, John wouldn’t die without knowing for sure Jesus was the Messiah, that John’s ministry was validated, it was good, it was needed.  That Jesus was still there, doing what John knew he would do, even when he didn’t know.

And Jesus is here for you and I, His promise is that we are never alone.  ( Read Psalm 139 sometime – David realized God couldn’t be outrun either)

Even when we struggle, even when we doubt, God is there…. and will respond to our cries, our cries of despair, our cries of doubt, even our cries of anger and frustration.  He hears you and I and responds.  As St. Josemaria notes, if it weren’t for those little times of prayer, where we listen, where we vent, …

This is the lesson of John the Baptist, the lesson that even the greatest stumble and struggle, and are ministered to by God.  For He hears us…and loves us.  AMEN

Does it help you to know the prophets and apostles struggled and doubted?  That they ahd bad days as well?
How do you feel when you realize God was there, working behind the scenes?  Can you accept that you won’t always be able to see Him at work?

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 397-399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Worship Boring?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!
20  Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine – to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen! Ephesians 3:14-20 (Phillips NT)

77    You told me that to tie yourself to a plan of life, to a schedule, would be so monotonous! And I answered, “It is monotonous because you lack love.”

It is sometimes.  Ver much so more than I would like to admit.

It doesn’t matter if it is a high powered contemporary service, or a organ blasting traditional service, or a small intimate worship time on a retreat.

Church services can be boring, even monotonous,

And while the pastor and those who music facilitates our praises can impede or encourage worship, there is one key that absolutely makes the difference in whether you find a church and the worship service.

You.

I’ve seen couples where one is completely engaged in worship, one is actively engaged, and talks about church as the high point of their week.  The spouse, however, was so disengaged that they eventually fell asleep.

What makes the difference in perception is the person.

St Josemaria says it well, it is monotonous because of the truth of this, you lack love.

And if you lack love, there are two options, you are unable to love God and others, or what is necessary to love him, you haven’t been immersed in the reality of HIs love for you.  You haven’t had the opportunity, as St Paul desired for you, to explore the incredible dimensions of that love for you.

Not just know the love as a piece of data, because you can’t fully, it is so far beyond our comprehension, You need to be filled with that love, you need to be filled with God.

And that is the purpose of a church service, to help you explore that depth, and those who lead are simply guides on the journey.  Guides who hopefully are still in awe of the same journey, pointing out this treasured point, and that, how this explores the heights, and that explores the depths.

For if you know how incredible God’s love is for you,

And when you do, the hunger to more will help you engage, to enter the service as a participant as we dance with God, rather than being an observer.  For everyone has a part in worship, every voice has its role, a part in the service.  It’s not just about the guys up there in robes,   We are just there to point you to the love that God has for you, the incredible love that makes a difference in every aspect of your life.

So when you come into a church, expect something special, expect to hear you are loved, listen for it, rejoice in it, walk in it, even dance in it, and then love and adore the God who loves you.

The same service will never be the same.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 339-340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When the waters aren’t still…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)

12    Let obstacles only make you bigger. The grace of our Lord will not be lacking: Inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae!—“Through the very midst of the mountains the waters shall pass.” You will pass through mountains! What does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment, if later, like a spring which has been compressed, you’ll advance much farther than you ever dreamed?

There are times I read Psalm 23 and I wonder where the still, restful waters are, the places where peace, where it seems that the green peaceful pastures are not easily found.  For it seems my soul isn’t “restored”, instead, I find my life to be one that is weary, harried, and in great need.

So what happened?

Are those words only for King David and/or really devout believers?

Are they for most Christians, and not for me?

Are they just words on a piece of paper, and not the word of God?

There is a question that I haven’t asked, but I need to ask.  

Is it possible that He is here, that He is leading me where He would, guiding me, protecting me, delivering me from the evil I fear? 

I’ve been through times where I don’t know God is there too many times in life.  Where the stress is too distracting, where the concerns seem too overwhelming, to serious, and I cannot see the Spirit at work, I don’t feel the comfort that is promised.  I just see the shadows, I just know the evil that is lurking there. 

I want to break through the stress, I want to learn to fight it, to be strong in my faith and face the storm head on…

And then, in such a time, I need to realize the point that St Josemaria makes, the grace of our Lord will not be lacking.  

I don’t have ot wield the rod and staff, instead, I can realize that my Shepherd does.  That God’s grace will provide, and that provision includes the comfort. For there are the meadows and streams, but the valleys exist as well.  

He is there.. He is here.

My Shepherd. 

He is here.

That’s what I need to gain by working through the 23rd Psalm.  Though my mind wants to struggle with what I can’t see, I need to grow in my ability to know what is promised is the reality.  And as I do, my faith, put under pressure, is finally released, the energy released being spent in praise and adoration of the Lord, my shepherd, my protector, my God. 

Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to see that which is revealed to us in Your word. AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 191-195). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Wait for it…..can you?

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The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God. May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  The LORD gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3  Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4  And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’Habakkuk 2:2-4 (TEV)

Impatience carries within itself a punishment: sterility.
The impatient, by wanting it all at once, is left with nothing. Their projects are like the seed that fell on rocky soil: they lack depth; they are mere words without consistency.

I remember the movie theatre in my hometown would change movings on Saturday, in time for the matinee.  Then it began that they would open on a new movie on Friday night, and now often, there is a midnight screening that you can go to, usually packed, so that you can be among the first to see the new movie.

We aren’t a very patient society at all, when we are willing to give up our health in order to say, “I was there” for a movie picture.  (Heck – now they will bring the popcorn barrel and half a gallon of caffeine to your seat so you won’t fall asleep in the powered recliner.

Is it any wonder that we are not patient in the church?  That we are so wanting the church to be what we envision the church to be that when there aren’t instant results we give up?  When this program or that staff member doesn’t accomplish the goals we set (did we even ask God what His vision for our congregation is?), we simply get rid of the program, find another place, a better fit for the staff member, rather than finding the patience we need.

But that impatience leads to fruitlessness, it leads to a weak church that doesn’t take time to see God at work, the kind of work that is sound, that is based in spiritual growth, that depends on learning to live in the presence of God.  That learns that true growth happens as we are left in awe of His love, as we adore Him, as we realize the change He is making in us, and the difference that change is from where we were.

Patience and its corollary, steadfast-faithfulness, doesn’t mean futility or stagnation.   It doesn’t mean doing nothing, but rather dwelling in Christ.  Not just going through the motions for religious reasons, but treasuring what we’ve been given for the way it reveals Jesus with us, and helps us experience the serenity that the Spirit brings us.  It means rejoicing as we realize what we’ve been given, what has been handed down to us.

This isn’t always easy, especially for one like me that thrives on change. (the only stable thing in my life is the presence of change, I get nervous without it)  Patience is not on my virtues, but neither is it for many of us.   Which is a good thing, as it drives us back to Christ, it reminds us that only in Him do we have hope, the promise that all will work out for good for those who love God.

God is with you, be at peace, and wait for it!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

The Necessary Ingredient of Heroism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)

821      Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.

We are no different than the children who put on superhero costumes for Halloween.

There is a part of us that wants to be the best, at something, anything. 

Especially the idea that we are the best at what we do, whether it is a parent needing the hero for their kids, or being the superstar at work, the one everyone turns to, that everyone counts on, the person who is indispensable.   

We want to be the heroes

We’ll even attempt to the difficult, the impossible if that will lift us up, not just for the praise, but for the acceptance.  For heroes are always accepted, aren’t they?  They always are welcome, aren’t they?

But this desire to be accepted, to be the hero, to be indispensable will fade, or we will fail. For we can never do enough, not for those whose favor we want, but to assure us own hearts that we will never be forgotten.

Compare this drive to the idea of humility, the idea of knowing who we are based on who God is, and what He does for us.  I love that St. Josemaria says that humility is counting first on God’s blessings.  Humility then is not a matter of self-abasement. It is not primarily an understanding of who we are, of recognizing our talents and limitations.  That comes into play, but even then, that should drive us back to the first step.

Who God is: our Father, our Brother, our COmforter, our deliverer, our Lord, and Shepherd.  WHat He does for us, creation, reconciliation, and as we are united to Jesus, the miracle of holiness happens to us.  We are holy in Him, in no other way, yet so incredibly transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This happens as the Spirit enables us to trust, to depend, to have faith in God, who loves us.

You want to be the hero?  Why?  You have one, and that Hero has provided what you need, accepting you, making you His child, treasuring you!

Humility is found in depending on this.  The Lord, your God, is with you…always!

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2912-2916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did Jesus Come For You?

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

15 While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. 16 When the scribes m of the Pharisees saw that He was eating p with sinners q and tax collectors, r they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat s with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor,  but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:15-17

In revising the Roman office, its ancient and venerable treasures are to be so adapted that all those to whom they are handed on may more extensively and easily draw profit from them.

It is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity, those who think Jesus wouldn’t associate with them are the very ones He came to unite to himself.  And those, who think they are spiritually adept often miss out on the blessing.

I dare say that our liturgies have for too long aided and abetted this problem.  The look and sound more like the pious Pharisee than the broken tax-collector.  The content of our services, from the mass to vespers and then compline need to be in the language that is profitable, that is beneficial for those broken by the weight of sin.  It needs to resonate with their soul and reveal to them the love and mercy of God, their God, who would have them dwell in peace.

I think those at Vatican II and those who influenced the council’s deliberations were starting to see this.  That the liturgy was for all the people of God, not just those who knew the right actions, the right words, and could repeat them without knowing the power of their meaning.  ( I wish my own small part of Christianity would follow suit, but I fear it is heading away from such thoughts)

We desperately need to be formed by the word of God in our prayers, in our liturgy.  And by we, I don’t mean those on the membership roster of our church and the churches we trust.  It means all the people of God, those He died for, those He is drawing to himself, those who may fight now, only to be baptized tomorrow.  The people of God include all who don’t believe God’s mercy is available to them, for in their humility, they will receive it. Those who think they are good enough already, why would they bother? The liturgy can cause us to really cry out for His mercy, and express praise and wonder at God’s love seen as Jesus was slaughtered like a lamb, that we might live.

If the word is to form us, we have to be able to understand it, simply and without a dictionary, lexicon, and thesaurus by our side.  This message is to needed, to precious, to amazing to conceal it with elaborate words, and movements that have no meaning because they are not know, not explained, not heard.

We all, from the youngest to the oldest, from every continent and country, from every economic group, language group, everyone, needs to know that Jesus came for us all.  It is really a simple concept, one spoken originally in simple Hebrew, Aramaic, and common Greek.  We can and show do the same today so that the people God draws to us will know Him, as the Spirit reveals Him to them through our words, our music, our liturgy.

As we finalize our words for the Christmas celebration, may we do so, and may all those the Spirit draws near profit from them.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

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Are We Afraid to Pray?

photoDevotional Thoughts for our seemingly broken days:
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 11:28-30 (NLT)

291 Jesus is asking you to pray … You see this very clearly. Nonetheless, how poor your response has been! Everything is a great effort for you: you are like a baby who is too lazy to learn to walk. But in your case, it isn’t just laziness. It is fear, too, and a lack of generosity!

The Second Petition
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.

In my daily devotions this week, there seems to be a common thread, the idea that we are afraid of intimacy with God, the idea that we are afraid of God.

Looking at the church today, we see this is truly an issue.  We speak far more about God than we speak to Him.  We train our pastors and ministers to teach theology, to pursue accurate doctrine (even on this feast of St Nicholas, to punch out those who don’t teach accurately)  but do we help them to desire those moments, where we simply are in awe of God’s presence?

A friend of mine used to talk about how he hated the Sundays when the church had communion (some Lutheran churches have communion every other week, some even less,) because that meant church went 20 minutes longer, and he would miss 20 minutes of football.  In later years this changed, and as a pastor, the churches he cared for moved to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week.  He had realized how precious this time was, in fellowship with God.   It meant something special to, this time of breaking away from life, and concentrating not on the truth of God’s presence, but on God himself, there with us.

Prayer is no different, and we need to realize that so that we don’t treat it with indifference.  It is the Kingdom of God coming to us, the Holy Spirit transforming us, comforting and calming us, helping us to trust in what is revealed about God’s love in scripture.

We shouldn’t fear it either, this coming of God to interact with us.  Some fear the change that God will ask of them, either to give up this sin or that habit or to make some sacrifice (like becoming a missionary to some jungle or the inner city)  s if somehow the more we hang out with God the more likely He will ask us to do something that only a saint could do.

I am not going to promise you won’t e “volunteered” for something, but that can happen if you aren’t praying.  I can’t say that God won’t put on your heart a desire to break the habits of sin either, for surely He will.  What I can promise is what He doesn’t, that in spending more time with God, our burdens are lifted, our anxieties fade away, and our souls find rest, even as God more clearly uses us to reconcile the world to Him.

In a world where peace seems so fragile, prayer, walking with God shows us that the real peace is internal, a gift of confidently living in Jesus.

Don’t be afraid, don’t be apathetic, rather, run to Him, leaving all your brokenness, find rest for your souls.  And while you talking to Him, pray that I learn these lessons as well!

Thanks!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

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