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An incredible Lenten Friday Sacrifice – the “safe” distance.

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you. 18 “When I go, you will not be left all alone; I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will see me no more, but you will see me; and because I live, you also will live. 20 When that day comes, you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me, just as I am in you.” John 14:16-20 (TEV)

From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.(1)

Memories of Fridays growing up – fish sticks for lunch, Filet of Fishes for Dinner, Occasionally clam strips and sometimes, if things we going well – baked stuff shrimp.  Move forward into my early twenties, and working as a manager at McDonald’s – and we have to covert to extra friers to handle the demand for fish, because our unit was in a heavily hispanic area.

No meat on friday – no burgers, or steaks, or bacon or pork.  Not even spaghetti and meatballs!  I wish I would have understood lent as a kid, even as a young man, and the sacrifices that we were strongly encouraged to make.  (Try showing up at a Catholic Jr. High School with a baloney sandwich for lunch.  Still remember that day…)  Abstaining from things, and even fasting are not bad, but very solid practices, given the understanding that should accompany them.  They are not to make us more attractive to God, but rather, to free us to focus on Him.  (Something we should strive to do all the time btw – not just during Lent!)

A suggestion- spend little moments of time throughout the day thinking about the verse above.  The words of Christ, as he prepares his followers for His cross, for His death, but also for His resurrection.  A great passage to contemplate, over and over, during our Lenten journey. 

We must realize that because He lives, because we are united to His death and Resurrection we live, in Him. We are with Him, we aren’t far off.  

Most of us, seem to prefer to live a distance from God.  We want His blessings, and church sometimes isn’t a bad thing – especially when others are stressing us. We won’t Him in the background, just at the edge of how far we think our voices will cry, when we need to be rescued. Perhaps we are worried that He won’t like us close up, or that He will ask us to do something, to make some sacrifice,, or perhaps, He might want us to give up something closer and more meaningful to us than steak or bacon….yeah – you know – that sin we don’t want everyone to know about, or that resentment we nourish, because of a pain caused years ago.

It is time to give that up, to sacrifice that distance, to come close to God, to let Him draw you near, to make you an integral part of His family.  No more hiding, no more looking in from the edges… time to admit, to confess, to cry our in praise and adoration – My Jesus, i love you!  

For such is the response of faith, or trusting in Him and His revelation, of knowing His presence.  Of depending upon Him.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2697-2700). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

More about Grief and Death…

Devotional/discussion thought of the day…

 12 What return can I make to Yahweh for his generosity to me? 13 I shall take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh. 14 I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh, witnessed by all his people. 15 Costly in Yahweh’s sight is the death of his faithful. 16 I beg you, Yahweh! I am your servant, I am your servant and my mother was your servant; you have undone my fetters. 17 I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of Yahweh. 18 I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh, witnessed by all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of Yahweh, in your very heart, Jerusalem.   Psalm 116:12-19 (NJB)

If you read this blog yesterday, you know that I am dealing with a number of families who have had loved ones pass away.  It is a bit sobering, and yet, I am sure God will bring them comfort, through His word, through His presence, even if that comfort, if the revealing of His presence is done through a broken person like me.

This morning, as I looked at my calendar, it is my aunt’s Birthday – my dad’s sister who passed away a few years ago.  It reminded me of how grief never completely leaves us in this life, as I thought about their three story (they lived on the first story) in North Andover, and out walks to the little river that few into the Merrimac. Or the Dairy’s ice cream shop that was up at the top of their street, and across the busy thoroughfare.  (awesome pistachio ice cream there – but I always had it in a cup  because if I didn’t – it would be all over the place)  Or later, her house in Salem….

Melancholy accompanies the return of the grief – and missing what we didn’t realize we had. 

But then, to come across the passage above – which is both a foreshadowing of Jesus, and yet a comfort for us as well.  For God doesn’t take pleasure in our death, It costs Him, it cost Him dearly, for indeed His only Son died that death wouldn’t be our end.

That is what the rest of that passage is about the Son of the maidservant, who would fulfill His vows and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, as sacrifice of his own life.  

I used the specific translation, the New Jerusalem Bible here for a reason.  Rather than replace the Name of God, (as is the tradition of many translations)  with LORD in all caps, the NJB uses the Name God gives us to call on Him, the Name He gave first to Moses.  A personal Name, not just a title (Lord) or a descriptive noun (God, Deity), but the Name.

Especially in times of great grief, this brings me great comfort, to know that YHWH wants us to call on Him, wants us to know He is present, wants us to know He is there to comfort us.  As well, that the people who mean so much to Him, our loss is not overlooked, and it matters to Him as much as us.  Even more, as we consider what He has done, to rob that loss of any eternal significance.  For those who believe and are baptised, having died with Him, shall certainly rise….

Knowing that, showing these promises, showing them how God is here, as we dwell in His presence…. that makes a difference, that leave us, realizing as well, His peace.  

Lord, You’ve had great mercy on us!  

The Blessing of Pain?

A favored quote from the Princess Bride:

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

There is a lot of pain in the world, even as there is a lot of beauty in the world.  There is no way to doubt that, and we can only deny it so long.  Occasionally, we get a glimpse of something that is both, tied in a paradox that can be enjoyed and suffered through.

But let’s be honest – most pain sucks!

Rarely, do we see the beauty in pain, the glory of God revealed in trauma.  It is very difficult, for the pain grabs our focus. It dominates us, it pushes us down, and yes it causes us to doubt.  To doubt those around us, to doubt ourselves, to doubt God.

Yeah – it’s time to stop playing games – because of the levels of pain, it causes us to doubt God.

Even pastors, perhaps especially pastors.

Even apostles – hear how God had Paul reveal that in his own life.

4:7 Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. 8 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9 there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 11 Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours. 12 This means that death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (TEV) 

 

While I know I exaggerate the pain I have to endure, these words of Paul so incredibly describe some days I have.  It can be my pain, but often it’s the pain that people I walk alongside develop.  The pain endured by people struggling with the loss of a spouse, or losing a parent.  The people who are dealing with job sresses, or dysfunctional family members and dysfunctional families. The pain due to lack of trust, the pain of betrayal, the pain of opposition as we try to bless those opposed to us.

As we are troubled, as we doubt, as we deal with enemies, as we are “badly hurt”, how can we say this can be what this same Paul promises (speaking for God) that “all things work for good, for those who love God?”

The ability to endure such times, is to know the difference comes from seeing, knowing the relationship we have with the God.  TO begin to grasp the life that is united with Christ’s cross, which happened to us in baptism (see Romans 6:1-8)
Knowing that we endure in Christ (scripture talks about us as being hidden in Christ as well) we begin to look to Him in the midst of trauma, in the midst of pain.  We find His presence, and we find it very dear – even when we can’t see the fulfillment of the prophecies, when we can’t find the joy in the journey.

But we begin to trust, even in the midst our doubt – ever more and more, His presence. We realize our pain can cause us to run to God, as we look to Him for some hope, some sense of peace… and that is when the miracle occurs…. Like the disciples in the boat, we realize the Lord is with us… and the storms don’t die down, the pain doesn’t always diminish.   But God’s presence becomes the dominant part of our life, not the pain… we begin to find ourselves ministering to others when they observe the pain..we find our spiritual senses more attuned, and eventually trying to praise God ….for in the midst of lament, we find some of the most honest, most dependent worship there is….

And that is when pain….becomes a blessing.

When we realize HE IS HERE… when we realize the Holy Spirit is called the “comforter”, the One who comes alongside, for a reason…

HE IS HERE!

And that is more than enough…. even though we can never explain how….

Hmmmm… another Monday? Lord Have Mercy!

Devotional Thought/Discussion Thought of the day….

“When he saw the happiness with which that hard work was being done, that friend asked: “Is it through enthusiasm that you get all these tasks done?” And they answered him happily and calmly: “Through enthusiasm…? That would be the day! Per Dominum Nostrum Iesum Christum!— through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is constantly awaiting us.”

(Escriva, Josemaria). Furrow )

My thoughts:
Not sure if its cultural, but there is something about Mondays that is… depressing.  I actually like what I do most Mondays, studying scripture for the following weeks sermons, working with whatever deacons the will go out and extend the ministry beyond what I am able to do… its all good stuff.

But it is so different from Sundays, so different it seems from the gathering of God’s people around His word, as they receive assurance of His love, and are told once again the unbelievable news – that sin and the injustice of the world does not invalidate them, for God has taken care of it.  I wrote yesterday – why can’t everyday just be Sunday?  Not because God doesn’t work on Mondays – He does… but my awareness is more attuned to how he does it on Sundays. 

The key is what Escriva noted above – that looking forward to the time when God’s people will be gathered into His presence- to know that He too is waiting for that – leads me to want to focus, so we can get back together.  It is as Paul wrote in Hebrews – Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…. 

 The joy that was set before Him, the Father’s joy as His children come home, as they celebrate the feast..as they enjoy the rest found in community – the people of God in the presence of God……

How do we get through Monday?  To realize that a new Sunday is coming 

How do we get through Life?  To realize that Sunday is a picture of the sabbath rest to come….

Until then… remember He is with you… and don’t hesitate to cry out “Lord Have Mercy!”  

For He has… and He always will!

 

Dt 

A Desire for the Supernatural

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day….

“I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life.  And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity through the day!”  (Esciva, The Furrow)

My comments:

Having just finished about preaching about those whose faith and life are withered and, for all we can tell, extinct, this one hits home hard.  So often I see people writing off others as fallen, or congregations and parishes as “dead”.  Have to admit – I’ve been there as well.  Indeed, Sunday I quoted the lyrics of Casting Crowns song about Ezekiel’s experience….
A pastor stands before his congregation

Once a mighty army for the Lord

But now he stares into the lifeless eyes

Believers leading carnal lives

He wonders what they’re fighting for

But driven by a calling on his life

He spoke God’s word

Like he’d done a hundred times before

But this time he comes broken and weeping

With tears of a broken heart

And he cries out to the Lord

Oh Lord send Your wind into this valley

And breathe the breath of life into their souls

And raise them again a mighty army

For soon these arisen warriors will battle again

For they have been filled with the spirit wind

 

But a person’s spiritual life, or for that matter a congregations, is not measured by its faithfulness, but by God’s.  Our work in revitalizing congregations and parishes that appears lifeless is never successful if the call is fire them up, to get them to work – but rather – to cause them to see the supernatural that occurs.  Our work: to help them see the Spirit’s presence and promise in their lives, this will free them from the anxieties, guilt, and damage of their own sin, and that of the world.

It is then, as they see the Holy Spirit’s work and witness in their life, as they sense their lives changing that you see their desire to love God return, and then the desire to share the peace they know. You see more time in prayer, more hunger as they study the Bible. ( From my Lutheran/small “c” catholic perspective – even a greater desire for the Eucharist – the feast of Christ, the Lord’s Supper)  As the Spirit sweeps clear their lives (which He actually did at their baptism – they often just don’t realize it for years or decades…) this abundant love brings them a peace… and that peace must be shared.

The supernatural which causes us to love and have compassion on each other is present…the challenge for a person… realizing it, reveling in it… the challenge for pastor’s and priests… helping people to see it, even as we struggle to as well.

 

This day… look for the supernatural – the dry bones coming to life, as God’s word bubbles forth from you,… and rejoice- the Lord is with you!

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