Learning from the Lives of Those Who’ve Gone Before
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD says,
“Listen to me, you that want to be saved, you that come to me for help. Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut. 2 Think of your ancestor, Abraham, and of Sarah, from whom you are descended. When I called Abraham, he was childless, but I blessed him and gave him children; I made his descendants numerous. Isaiah 51:1-2 GNT
In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. Eph 3:12 GNT
105 If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others?
In our first quote from Isaiah, God tells us to look back at our past, at the people who came before us. The passage will start with Abraham, but it will not stop then. God wants us to think about those who went before, to consider their situations deeply.
But the reason why is critical. We look back at the past not to glorify them (they were sinners – notorious ones at times) or imitate their actions (they were sinners remember) and turn what they did into our traditions. They aren’t superheroes, and people for us to adore. They were sinners.
We can talk of Abraham or Moses, we can move to the New Testament and talk of Peter and Paul. We can talk about the saints through the ages, ones like Francis of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, modern favorites like St. Theresa or Billy Graham, or my two favorites Martin Luther and St. Josemaria Escriva.
Looking back at those who went before us is good, unless we begin to turn them into idols, or people whose faith and practice was so much “holier” than our own. We need to remember Paul didn’t say “imitate me!” He said imitate me as I imitate Christ”
So what do we do with these saints? what do we learn as we look back at those whose faith precedes our own?
The Lord tells us in Isaiah, we look back and see that Abraham was a broken guy, just like the rest of us, and then God worked in His life!
As we look at the past, that’s what we need to see, that the Lord worked in the life of Abraham, that God worked in the life of Moses, and King David, and stubborn and broken guys like the Apostles Peter and Paul
God works in our lives too. Which is why the chief of all sinners can tell the church in Ephesus to enter the presence of God the Father with confidence. Not when we die and get to heaven, though that surely will happen then. But to do so now, as we be still and take time to pray, to seriously find ourselves in the presence of God, laying burdens down, letting Him strip us of sin, talking with us, being with us.
This is why we look back at the our ancestors in the faith. To realize as broken and sinful as they were, God worked in their lives, He drew them into a relationship with Him, and in the process, things happened. But the major lesson – they lived in the presence of God, learning to depend on Him, whether in their prayers, or the times where He was physically present.
That’s what we need to know. That is what we must experience. that is what every person in our world needs. Looking back shows us He will be there, because He always has been there for His people, no matter how broken, even calling them back when they wandered or ran off.
He was faithful, He is faithful, and we learn He will be faithful in our lives, and in those who follow us… and look back to us.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pay Attention to What the Prophets Wrote!!
Pay Attention to What They Wrote, Until…
2 Peter 1:16-21
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the height, the depth, the width and breadth of God the Father’s love for you, as we see it revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we see scriptures?
Maybe I am just projecting my own personality onto Peter, but I think he must have had the hearing of a typical guy, somewhere from age of 4 until the age of 94. In other words, he probably had that dreaded disorder called “selective hearing”, especially at church.
Well, it’s not completely based on my own experience, but on his words in the epistle, look at verse 19.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote,
Maybe it is because I am cynical, but I see Peter, prior to the experience of the transfiguration, sitting in synagogue because his mom or wife is dragging him there. As the Rabbi is reading the Torah, or Isaiah, he’s thinking about where he will fish this week, about the taxes he has to pay, about the challenges he faces working with his dad…who happens to be sleeping two pews back…
Let’s be honest, there are times in our lives where the Old Testament scriptures, and sometimes the New Testament scriptures don’t seem as important to us as who will win the big game, or the struggles we face at work, or the challenges that affect those we love. We may have forgotten the wisdom of Leviticus last week already, the often repeated phrase in the midst of the commandments,
I am Yahweh, your God.
Or we might have forgotten the phrase we learned back in January, “Alleluia, He is Risen!” (therefore I am risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Something happened to Peter, up on that mountain. That changed how he looked at scripture, how he felt about those boring Old Testament scriptures… so much so that he encourages us, begs us to pay close attention to them…..
I pray we shall, as we encounter the Christ they reveal to us.
Getting Peter’s attention…As we hear Peter tell of the event, we hear his passion well, how much this event, years later, changed him. It is one of the reasons why I love teaching people how to read scripture, and the bottom line is to read it like you would read to a young child. Let me read it again, but first, consider this.
Imagine someone coming up to you, Al, and asking that all the stories you told, about the joy of baptizing your granddaughter were really true? Or asking any of you ladies if your wedding really happened? Or some event that moved you more than anything else in your life, actually was that important. Now, as you think through that attitude – hear these words.
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
I wouldn’t call it being defensive, perhaps Peter could be, but this is important to him, it is one of those events that you don’t forget, for God is revealed to you in all of His glory. As you realize, like Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and every other prophet, and yes, Peter, James and John that there it is a wondrous thing to be found in the presence of God, and to realize you are welcome there.
Instead of hearing a list of his sins, and the verdict of complete judgment, Peter hears God the Father’s voice, uttered from heaven, sharing about His love for His son……..
And completely foretold in the Old Testament.
Now God has Peter’s attention… but will He have ours?
Words shining in Darkness
So do we need a transfiguration event, an experience like Peter’s to help us take scripture, including the Old Testament writings more seriously? Do we need something to help us pay attention to all the promises of God’s love, to the promises of Jesus coming to deliver us, to carry us back into relationship with God our Father, the promises that God will never abandon us?
Or will Peter’s words, about these stories he tells, that are neither fables or myths be enough? I can point us to the transformation in Peter’s life, the repentance and humility that becomes so part of Paul’s life, the changes in people like King David’s life, the determined hope of Jeremiah?
What will it take for these stories to so impact us, that we can’t wait for Bible Study on Wednesday or church on Sunday, but that we desire and guard our time that we can spend as Paul encourages us; to pay close attention to what is written and proclaimed by the prophets?
Will it take a mountain top experience? I don’t think so, been on enough retreats to know the fervor fades, much as Moses face did coming off of Mt Sinai.
What about the other things Peter witnessed, the miracles, the great teaching, or the things he experienced, the walking on water, or looking into an empty grave?
What will help us see the these words in scripture as a lamp shining into the darkness
What would help us know these words, in order that we could bring light into our neighbor’s darkness? If not for our sake, for theirs, to see them transformed as we have been, as we are in our baptism, to see their joy as they come and celebrate God’s love at the altar, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ?
Peter’s answer was simple – the experience made him realize that the scripture was all about Christ’s light invading our darkness, about His coming, the incarnation, about God dwelling with us. When the Nunc Dimitis is SPOKEN by Simeon, he quotes the Old Testament about the light that shines for the darkness.
Similarly John takes up that theme…
14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NJB)
They saw His glory, His light invading the darkness. That is what makes the difference, and it is what we need to see, to really think through.
We say it sort of, when we ask how people who don’t know God’s love can survive in life. We realize something has happened to us, but do we realize how much?
Yes, and yet no,
We can’t , until we find ourselves before the throne of God,
Until that day…
Which is why we should pay close attention to scripture, to hear the promises, to see what eyewitness record, to see the lives that are changed because they walked with God, and the lives that were sustained, because they know God is there….
Put simply, the reason we read scripture is to know that our lives, as we walk through them with God, are transformed. That we walk with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we in Him. To know and be assured of the promises that spell out the depth of His love for those He calls to be His own. The very things that life tries to hide.
Those prophets, those writers tell us of His love, of His mercy, of His healing presence. That’s why Luther said he saw Jesus on every page of scripture, because that is who He was looking for there!
You see, that’s what devotional reading of scripture, and even serious study is about. To know as Paul tells it, of the incredible depth and height, the width and breadth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s not about knowing the theology, its about knowing God.
It’s why it’s not fable or myth – it changes lives to know that love, to understand the promises, to get why this baptismal font and this altar and the words we say here matters.
It’s about God’s love – a love that can’t be stolen from you, a love that will see us to the day when we clearly see Him.
But until that day, of the promises you have been given, I end it with this one,
May you know you dwell in the presence and the peace of God our Father, a peace that can’t be put into words, but indeed a peace that holds us, comforts us, strengthens us, as our hearts and minds secure, for we abide in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN?
So pay close attention to those promises then!