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Who would weep when those who do evil die…?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!”  2 Samuel 18:33

19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”

55      Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God.  (1)

A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.

The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over.  Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.

The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over.  The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.

This doesn’t make sense!  Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude?  Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies?  Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died?  Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?

Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God.  The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation.  And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,

1  I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2  when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3  for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)

This is David’s heart as well.  This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.

(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son.  I will go where he is…)

I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.

Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?

I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine.  That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years.  Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.

What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.

For people to not know this peace?  To not know this love?  For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with?  This needs ot become inconceivable.

Lord, have mercy on us!  Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you.  Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer.  May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them.  For we pray this in Jesus’ name.  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There is Another Way: A Lenten Sermon on Romans 4


church at communion 2There is another Way

Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

 In Jesus Name

As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!

Parenthetical Statement

 In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis.  They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…

They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”

That seems simple.  No law, no breaking the law.

Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us.  They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”.  A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.

You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.

For one thing, it’s impossible.

For another… well you will see.

We can’t avoid it – because of Adam

Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.

All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.” 
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it?  You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!

Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.

Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…

You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.

Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.

 Hear David’s words again,

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”

This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed.  This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!

Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.

Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand.  Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.

That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart.  Paul gets this as well,

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.   1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.

His friends.

Let that sink in.

Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
His friend.

That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.

During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.

And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,

to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.

And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin.  And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.

AMEN!

Lent: It’s Not about YOUR Sin! A sermon for the first Sunday in Lent


church at communion 2Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
Romans 5:12-19

Jesus, Son, Savior

As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!

A Misconception

A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent.  Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”

It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.

Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent.  Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.

The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.

The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.

The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.

But how does that happen?  How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?

Your sin is nothing new…

Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.

Hebrews 12 tells,  “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”  (Heb 12:1)

That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside.  Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.

As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind.  And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam.  That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning.  Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.

For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.

Christ’s Act, and your right relationship

But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.

They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin.  To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 

This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent.  Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives.  To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way.  Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.

To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.

The Continuation of the thought..

At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life.  I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,

1  Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)

This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.

To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.

This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished.  It is accomplished.  We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!

Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.

For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God.  We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus.  AMEN!

Do I love My Neighbor Enough to…


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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:32 (NLT)

1  Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3  If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT)

19  My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20  you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (NLT)

We must indeed meekly bear with our friend in his imperfections, but we must not lead him into imperfections, much less imitate his imperfections ourselves. But I speak only of imperfections; for as to sins, we must neither occasion them, nor tolerate them in our friends. It is either a weak or a wicked friendship to behold our friend perish and not to help him; to see him die of an abscess, and not to dare to open it with a lancet of correction, to save his life.

I am preaching this weekend on Jesus’ direction to us to really love those around us, even our enemies.  To be so committed to people that we won’t even consider what we sacrifice to help them.  To be so dedicated to what is best for them, that we don’t look at the impact on us.

But before we get to loving our enemies, I need to consider whether I really love my friends, and those I claim to love.

Given the passages above, it is not as easy a question as I would like to think.

Do we love our friends enough to rescue them from sin?  To bring them back when they wander away from the truth?

Are we willing to see the relationship deep enough to where they know our love and care enough to respond when we ask them to confront the demons that assail them and allow them to do the same for us?

Or will we ignore the sin that so easily takes us captive, the temptations that so distract us from the presence and grace of God?   Will we even let our friends think we approve of their sin?  ( or will we simply abandon them in their sin?)

I think, more than we want to admit, that we need to repent, so that we can encourage their repentance.

So that we can hear the answer, together, to our cry,

“Lord,, have mercy on us, for we have sinned, and need your healing touch.”

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Another Urgent Task for the Church for Today!


Devotional Thought of the Day

2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche* to come to a mutual understanding in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my true yokemate,* to help them, for they have struggled at my side in promoting the gospel, along with Clement and my other co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.  NABRE Phil. 4:2-3

174    Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”

Yesterday I wrote about the church being urged to work for unity at every level.  That scripture urged us to do so, even as we find ourselves in opposition to others. That unity is found int he presence of God, in a sacramental (some would say incarnational) presence of God.

In my devotional reading today, Paul is again urging unity, but this time we aren’t the one’s who are divided – we are urged, as the church, to help bring two people back together, to help them reconcile and know the unity that can only be found in Christ.

Paul urges us to help them, and while we probably don’t have these names in our congregations and parishes, we have people that stand apart, that divided over something. People that we might classify as good people, people that work hard in the church, that minister to those hurting, that feed those who are hungry, that care and teach people about God’s love.

Let’s face it, we all have stubborn streaks, we all can be more than a bit irritable and irritating.  We can all struggle and in those struggles, get a bit defensive, and bit anxious, a bit territorial.  We all struggle with sin, and sin can divide people, even as it separates us from God.

Our sin, and the unrighteousness of the sins committed against us need to drive us to the altar, to the cross where the blood of Jesus cleanses us.  That is where the healing between two who find themselves divided and antagonistic can happen.  For there, face to face with sin being forgiven, with mercy being extended, we see what happens.

It is in the presence of God that we find that mutual understanding in the Lord.  It is where love overwhelms us and where healing begins, as God heals us, as God draws into unity together.

And sometimes – the two parties need the third to remind them of this – that there they are together, that there they are both cleansed, and whatever divided them fades as quickly as their own sin does.

There, at the altar, where we celebrate the New Covenant, there is where they are reconciled.  There, they find peace, and the joy of community united in Jesus is restored!  AMEN!.

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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The Real Controversy​ in the Book of Jonah


Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?” Jonah answered, “I have a right to be angry—angry enough to die.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You are concerned* over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. 11 And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot know their right hand from their left, not to mention all the animals?” NABRE Jonah 4:9-11

Missionary activity is nothing else and nothing less than an epiphany, or a manifesting of God’s decree, and its fulfillment in the world and in world history, in the course of which God, by means of mission, manifestly works out the history of salvation. By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation.  (1)

“I have learnt with sadness of the killing this morning at the Church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray. The three victims: the priest, Father Jacques Hamel, 84, and the authors of the assassination. Three other people were injured, one very seriously. I cry out to God with all men of good will. I would invite non-believers to join in the cry! “ (2)

A lot of people focus on the fish (some call it a whale) in the story of the prophet Jonah.  To be honest, the controversy there is silly, a game played to avoid what is truly controversial. The sin that is challenged there, and not met with repentance, the sin of Jonah.

Imagine today if an evangelical leader was called to go to Iraq or Syria, to preach repentance to the cadres of ISIL, or to AAfghanistanand preach to ISIL’s history enemy, Al Quaeda. Would they look for the nearest beach, rather than taking a ship to the location of their new ministry?  Would they and their friends get mad if they saw their enemies repent, throwing a tantrum as Jonah did?

There is the controversy, there is the place where ministry could occur, and those who know the grace of God are tempted to turn their back on not only the people God would have heard their gospel, but on the mission of God, and really on the heart of God.

God calling you on not loving your enemies?  God calling you on loving a “thing” ( in his case a plant, of for us, our way of living ) more than you love the people.  That’s controversial.  There is a conversation that will hurt, that may drive us from the room, or perhaps to our knees in repentance.

Look at the quote of the ArchBishop of the priest who became a martyr.  He prays for the two assassins – and calls them victims!  That is controversial!  Even more controversial than Pope Francis reminding the cChurch that Christians can be very violent as well.

We are all sinners, we are all victims of unrighteousness as well.  The unrighteousness of sins committed against us, the unrighteousness that springs from our being led into sin by those who should be carrying us to the cross. From those who should help us see our epiphany, who should help us see Jesus revealed as the one who cleanse all people of all sin, and all unrighteousness. Who desires that so much, that he is even patient with us as He waits for us to get our act together, to live as Christ lived, to love our enemies even as Christ loved us.

Jonah was pissed at God, for he couldn’t see why God would let a plant die.  Yet Jonah was willing to write off a city, and was ticked at their repentance.  God called him on that…

And perhaps now, or perhaps as we head forward to communion this weekend, we need to examine ourselves, confess our sins, our time of acting like Jonah.  To get past the little miracle to the big issue of Jonah.

God loves our enemies as much as He loves us.

It’s time to rejoice over that fact… and realize those who like us, were enemies of God, are our brothers and sisters.  Whether they are Muslim, or Sikh, Jewish by faith, or simply genetically, atheist or agnostic, Lutheran or Catholic.   God is calling them, and calling us to deliver that message.

Lord have mercy on us ALL!

AMEN

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2)  Archbishop LeBrun http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/general/press-release-of-the-archbishop-of-rouen-following-hostage-situation-at-church-of-saint-etienne-du-rouvray

IS This What Christlike Means?


Devotional Thought of the day:
1  Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.   Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)

That is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Mankind awaited the coming of the Savior for centuries. The prophets had announced his coming in a thousand ways. Even in the farthest corners of the earth, where a great part of God’s revelation to men was perhaps lost through sin or ignorance, the longing for God, the desire to be redeemed, had been kept alive.

When the fullness of time comes, no philosophical genius, no Plato or Socrates appears to fulfill the mission of redemption. Nor does a powerful conqueror, another Alexander, take over the earth. Instead a child is born in Bethlehem. He it is who is to redeem the world. But before he speaks he loves with deeds. It is no magic formula he , because he knows that the salvation he offers must pass through human hearts. What does he first do? He laughs and cries and sleeps defenseless, as a baby, though he is God incarnate. And he does this so that we may fall in love with him, so that we may learn to take him in our arms.

We realize once again that this is what Christianity is all about. If a Christian does not love with deeds, he has failed as a Christian, besides failing as a person. You cannot think of others as if they were digits, or rungs on a ladder on which you can rise, or a multitude to be harangued or humiliated, praised or despised, according to circumstances. Be mindful of what others are—and first of all those who are at your side: children of God, with all the dignity that marvelous title entails.  (1)

I have been struggling a lot this week.   Serious, soul wrenching struggle.

I originally thought the struggle was with other men, other men who, like me are called to shepherd the people of God.  I thought my struggle was with them because of actions and words that I have seen that divide the church more.  In one scenario, men are in opposition, not directly, but from bunkers of anonymity.  Both claim this is necessary because of a “fear of reprisal”. They actually both use that phrase, but I am not sure who they are afraid of, each other or some mythical third party?

Part of my angst, my struggle is found in wondering if this is Christ-like, or more specifically, if the adversaries think it is Christlike.  Even though I resonate with one side more than the other, I am repelled by the actions and secrecy of both sects. To be honest, there are days I want to utter a Shakespearean curse, “the pox on both your houses”.

Until I realize my angst is with neither group, my struggle is not in their ethical challenge.  My struggle is with my trust in God, the God whom Joseph had faith, telling his brother that what they meant evil, God used for good.  Or the promises of Paul that all things work for good for those who love God, and nothing can separate us from His love.

As I enter the arena of the discussion between these two sects, it must be with an attitude that Paul describes in the red above. Imitating Christ by being on one mind striving for that in love.  it is too easy to harangue and argue, to be dismissive and even paranoid.  It takes great faith to work for the reconciliation that Christ wants to see in the life of HIs people. If we see that we are reconciled to Him, then er can realize, and only then can we realize, we are brothers and sisters, the family that God loves,

Lord have mercy upon us, and may we love and pray for each other,

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1227-1239). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Man-colds, Suffering, Resentment, and the Abundant Life


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

26  Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? 27  Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? 28  “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29  But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30  It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! 31  “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32  (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33  Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34  So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings. Matthew 6:26-34 (TEV)

The teaching of Christ even requires that we forgive injuries, and extends the law of love to include every enemy, according to the command of the New Law: “You have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you” (Matt. 5:43–44).

You are not happy because you make everything revolve around yourself as if you were always the centre: you have a stomach-ache, or you are tired, or they have said this or that… Have you ever tried thinking about Him, and through Him, about others?

There are a bunch of pictures on the internet this week, making fun of men who are suffering colds.  Harsh and cruel to see when I am suffering with a cold.  I thought I was over it, until this morning when I coughed so hard I strained a muscle under my collarbone.  With a significant level of Pain, I am at work, trudging along when I came across the quote in blue above.

Ouch.  Now my shoulder and my conscience hurt.

But the idea brings to light something I have been realizing more and more in the last few days.

We don’t’ take suffering well!  We wil do anything avoid it, and if we can’t avoid it, we want peopel to share in it, as if their pity will somehow minimize the effect it has on us.  If we complain enough, it is possible to get so addicted to the care, to the attention, that we will subconsciously make even the littlest inconveniences, critical.

It is amazing though, what can be accomplished through the suffering, even when through the times where we are ruled by our anxiety, when we pray and keep our focus on is Jesus.  When we realise the love of God our Father, who cares for us.  It is then we find the focus that enables us to push through, to care for ourselves, but also to care for others.

This is what the gospel reading is communicating to us.  Know God cares, and if He watches out for us.  more than He does for daisies, or birds or anything else. He cares for you.

Which brings me to topic #2 for the day, which is mentioned int he green quote.

We can make our emotional and spiritual injuries all about us as well, compared to being all about, well us.  It may be the words stung us, or could hurt the people we care about.  We wallow in the injustice like we just lie there in our bathrobe  with a box of kleenex and a bottle of ginger ale, watching the movies or shows we have dvr’d months ago.  Instead of being flooded with phlegm, we are overwhelmed by our hurt, anger, and resentment.   We feel sorry for ourselves, and we want others to feel sorry for us as well.  we go over and over the story, remembering the pain being greater with every re-telling, and we convince ourselves that this event, those words, that moment in time was why we suffer throughout our lives.

What we need is the gospel to free us, we need to look at the suffering and realize it is nothing compared to the life we have in Christ, and abundant life that resentment may cloud for the moment, but that Christ’s love and mercy burns through, healing us, reconciling us to Him, and therefore to the one who is also forgiven because of the cross.

Our abundant life isn’t wrecked by a cold (even when the cough causes us to pull a muscle.  Even when the memories of injuries seem so dominant.  For these things cannot separate you from the love you have in Christ.

Just look to Jesus and cry out, “Lord have mercy!”, and be confident that He has kept His promise…

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 531-534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God, please turns their hearts.. not to me, but to You!


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1 John 4:11-12 (NLT)  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.

But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.

We all have people that seem to cause pain in our lives.  Often we label the pains in the neck, or compare them unfavorably to hemorrhoids.  Some of us have people that cause a more negative response, people who threaten us, who we label adversaries, or perhaps even enemies.

We may not even know them, they may be politicians of the opposing view, or someone who has their 15 minutes of fame for something that causes anger to well up in us.  We may even label them names – either in discussion on FB or over lunch.  Maybe we even can keep those names in our minds,  But we still think of them as jerks, the personification of evil or simply call them assholes.  You might, having read the last word of the prior sentence be shocked I use it, or you might be saying, “But pastor, they really are!”

Or you may feel guilt, worrying about why you can’t get over the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, hurt, and resentment.

Read the passage again that is in red above.  Can we do this?  Can we love each other, knowing that “other” has the same definition the lawyer received when he heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This ability to love them is the work that the Lutheran Confessions (in green) speak of, where the Holy Spirit makes our lives and instrument, and a means of the Holy Spirit’s work.  It is the heart of Christianity that then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of, to realize that for each one of us, every human being on earth, Jesus died, willing let his blood be spilled for you, and for them.

In an old hymnal (TLH), as part of the prayer of God’s people we found a very proper and timely prayer. It said something like this. “Father, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries to you.”

This is where our heart begins to change, as we see their need, (and ours) to be reconciled to God.  For that is the answer to everything.   Without the blood of Christ, spilled to heal us all from the damage of sin, there is no hope to come together in peace.  In Christ, the peace is not just compromise, but it becomes community, it becomes love deeper than any other.

It is in Christ, seeing Christ’s love for them, which we begin to be able to love them as well.  That love may end up pleading with them, not to deal favorably with us, but that which is more important – their reconciliation with God. That becomes our goal; it becomes what we pray for, what we begin to do, to live for, even as God does…

And as we see the glory of God, as we worship Him, the glory of the Holy Spirit works through us… and they know they are loved.

As do we.

”Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 290). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

How To Find Peace in the Middle of Conflict…. is it possible?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

6  I am tired of living among people who hate peace. 7  I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war! Psalm 120:6-7 (NLT)

304    Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.

I am getting very tired.

Tired of those who yearn to fight, whether trying to tempt others into confrontations or verbal arguments, and especially those over spiritual things. I’m tired of watching those who would try and dominate over others, forcing their opinions, even opinions about inconsequential things, on others.

Tired of seeing people react without thought, assuming the worst, rather than letting things settle down and work out.  I can think of international issues, issues in our cities, issues in the Church. People trying to take advantage of those emotions, encouraging division, encouraging the battles that can rob people of any comfort, of any peace.

So do we just walk away, do we fail to minister to those on embroiled in conflict?  Do we hole up in a cave, like some in the early church did, creating our own monastic fortress, a place where heaven is on earth, and there is no conflict, no battles, no one trying to take over our world?

Or do we stand and minister to those in the fight?  Do we enter the fray, with the intention, not of fighting, but simply giving aid and pointing out to those in turmoil the hope of peace that is always there in Christ?

It is not so much that we find peace; rather we need to know that we have it already.  We have it because the Spirit dwells within us, because the Spirit brings that peace into our lives from the beginning. Therefore, our presence in the conflict can bring peace there.We become the point of peace, not only for ourselves, but all of those involved in the conflict – even the aggressors.

For us to have the ability to do so, we must take time to be with Him, in solitude, to pour our heart out, to let Him take our burdens.  We need to let Him not only bear the weight fo the sins committed against us, but to deal with our sin as well. That’s what it means to be still, and know that He is God.

For being involved in conflict, even as the peacekeeper wears you down, and it isn’t your strength that will sustain you.  Even more so, if you are the one involved in the conflict, if you are the one being engaged,

We need Christ; we need to know Him, depend on Him and trust Him, in every situation, in every moment.

For as we grow in our relationship with Him, even in the middle of a battle, or an argument, or as our frustrations grow, we ill depend on His presence, and that will give us the hope and peace needed to survive.  That is the result of spending that time Saint Josemaria talks of, that time in solitude and silence,..with our Lord.

Lord, have mercy!

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 789-790). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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