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Life’s Priorities and Work

Devotional Thought of the day:

15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16  Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)

538         A terrible person is one who is ignorant but at the same time works tirelessly. Take care that even when you are old and decrepit, you keep on wanting to be better trained.

One of my favorite sports teams has a motto, “No Day’s Off!”

And it doesn’t mean 7 days in the office, 10 hours a day. As St Josemaria says, it is a terrible thing for a ignorant people to work tirelessly. But it does mean that what we do in our freetime affects what we do in our work.

And example of the athlete that trains and rests and eats as one fluid process, a process that is his vocation. Even when he isn’t playing what he is doing is in sync with the goals of his vocation. Time off to rest, training, time spent studying his art, all of those things are geared to make him better.

You could say the same for a surgeon, whose hands are precious. He wouldn’t engage in activities that would over stress and/or damage his hands, he wouldn’t get drunk the night before a major surgery, he would find ways to ensure he gets the rest and excercise he needs.

The same would be true for a pastor, a minister (in our synod, a Director of Christian Ed, Director of Worship, Deaconess or Deacon) any lay leader or really anyone in the church. Our lives need to be not just balanced between work and rest and time spent in devotional reading of God’s word, prayer, and adoration/worship of God, in receiving the sacraments (all of them!)

But we have to understand what our primary vocation is, what we need to focus and work on, and what are the things that support that work.

What is it? Something we have in common…

Being the Church, being the bride of Christ. Finding our rest and peace in Christ as He mercifully heals our brokenness, as our sin is forgiven, as we are made alive as we are joined to Him in baptism. Our vocation is our being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Those things I mentioned as part of the balance that are what some call “spiritual disciplines” are not what we do to balance the rest out, rather, they are our life, they are ways to strengthen our awareness that we are walking with God.

It is that walk which the rest of our “life” (our work, our family, our roles at church and in our community) needs to resonate. Depending on God, realizing that He is involved in every part of our life, He sustains us, this is our primary role in life – our relationship with Him.

And as St. Josemaria points out, we need to continually be guided in this and to be trained by those who walk with Jesus as well. (that is another post perhaps) We need to work hard at it, for depending on God takes intent and focus, things easily lost in this crazy world and time.

This is our core, the experience of the love of God that is beyond our ability to explain. To spend time realizing that love, and learning to depend upon it.

Know you are God’s family and spend time experiencing and learning what that means. Celebrate it with others, and realize, this is your life!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2327-2330). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Do we understand what “rest” is?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. Leviticus 23:3 GNT

“Ever since he was a child,” he replied. 22 “Many times the evil spirit has tried to kill him by throwing him in the fire and into water. Have pity on us and help us, if you possibly can!”
23 “Yes,” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
24 The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”
25 Jesus noticed that the crowd was closing in on them, so he gave a command to the evil spirit. “Deaf and dumb spirit,” he said, “I order you to come out of the boy and never go into him again!”
26 The spirit screamed, threw the boy into a bad fit, and came out. The boy looked like a corpse, and everyone said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took the boy by the hand and helped him rise, and he stood up
. Mark 9:21-27 GNT

445         If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.

So, as the holidays come to a close, as Advent’s focus and the joy of celebrating Jesus coming into the world begines to wane, a number of people have asked me what my plans were.

Actually, they phrase it like this, “go get some rest pastor!”

Then they ask, where I will go, to get the rest! What plans do I have, what will my family and I do.

As if rest is a synonym for travel and vacation. As if spending all day getting tired doing “fun” things provides what our souls need. Please note, I am not saying we shouldn’t take vacations, but rest is something very different.

Rest is what the boy and his dad gained, as Jesus freed them from the grip of demons. It is the time when we step aside from life, ot remember God is with us, to celebrate His presence, to remember His mercy, to let Him free us from the demons that afflict us, and the trauma that so assaults our hearts and souls.

That is what rest is, a time for our lives to relax, and leave everything in the hands of God Almighty, (and not giving him instructions and timelines!).

It enables us to truly pray, which enables us to truly live, and to know that God is here, with us, right now. That allows us to set aside the masks that hide our brokenness, the hypocrisy that everything is perfect in our lives, and the idea that we are saints, by our own power.

Taking this rest in Christ allows us to be human, forgiven, healing from the brokenness and even the demonic activity around us, as we depend on God, who has promised to care for us.

That’s the rest we need, and that is why I believe the place of greatest rest is at the altar rail, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Jesus, as He strips us of our sin, and heals us..It is there I am most aware of His peace, of the presence of God where He pours out all His love on us.

So I had my rest, and maybe we’ll sneak in some vacation time as well…. after I get past my traditional new years cold.

May you allow God to grant you the rest that your souls need!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


It’s Hump Day…But You Need Rest to Finish the Week. Here is how to find it!

devotional thought of the Day:

1  One day it happened that Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us how to pray, as John used to teach his disciples.” 2  “When you pray,” returned Jesus, “you should say, ‘Father, may your name be honoured – may your kingdom come! Give us each day the bread we need, and forgive us our sins, for we forgive anyone who owes anything to us; and keep us clear of temptation.'” Luke 11:1-2 (Phillips NT)
5  Then he added, “If any of you has a friend, and goes to him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Lend me three loaves, my dear fellow, for a friend of mine has just arrived after a journey and I have no food to put in front of him’; and then he answers from inside the house, ‘Don’t bother me with your troubles. The front door is locked and my children and I have gone to bed. I simply cannot get up now and give you anything!’ Yet, I tell you, that even if he won’t get up and give him what he wants simply because he is his friend, yet if he persists, he will rouse himself and give him everything he needs.”
9  And so I tell you, ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks.” Luke 11:1-9 (Phillips NT) 

470         Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day.

What did the disciples see in Jesus as He prayed?

HOw did it differ from the prayers they saw in their families growing up, and in the leaders of the synagogue?

We hear them ask Jesus to teach them to pray, but these are men who had been praying all of their lives, They grew up learning to meditate on the word, great up worshipping God as they sang and read the psalms.   SO what is so different about the way Jesus prays, that they want to learn how He prays?

The answer, I believe, is found in the word, “rest”

Yeah. prayer is the most restful thing you can do, even as we struggle through another long week. (even the week after you get back from vacation)  We are tired, frustrated, worn down, even though the work we are doing is good and beneficial – it can also be spiritually and emotionally exhausting.

And we need that rest.

Sometimes desperately need it.

And it can be found, as we take a few moments, find a place that is quiet, and unload all the crap we are dealing with, all of the stress, all of the weariness on the God who cares for us. who loves us, who asks s to cast all of our burdens and cares upon Him.

As we become confident of His love and mercy, we can do that, accepting He will do as He promised.  what is best for us. ( It may take some to grow in this kind of faith and dependence – that’s okay!  You will need refresher courses in it too!)

As we do, as we unload all that we carry, the good, the bad, the blessings and the unrighteousness, as we drop it all we can breathe, we can find not just hope, but peace.  A peace that restores us, a peace that calms us, and refocuses us on the life we have in Jesus.

We need this daily, but as we do more, we need it more often.  As we mature in faith, we find a correlation between finding rest in God and our ability to endure.

Be at peace my friends, find the rest you need, pray, not as if you are doing somethign for God, but because you will remember He is with you…and loves you, and works to give you that peace.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

want a meaningful vacation? try this…

Featured imagedevotional thought of the day

25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you.  Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

Insofar as we can trace its history at all, pilgrimage is one of the primordial impulses of humanity. Man sets out again and again to find escape from the customary daily humdrum, to gain distance from it, to become free. This impulse is still active today in the more recent profane brother of pilgrimage, namely, tourism. Its continued existence accounts for the hordes of wanderers who incessantly make their way through our continent, feeling that they are not completely at home there. But pilgrimage must be more than tourism. I mean: it must realize more truly, more fundamentally, and more entirely what the tourist only hopes to experience.

I have to admit, I was tempted to put the entire devotion from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger into today’s blog, and leave it alone.  It is one of the most brilliant pieces I have ever read.  When we go on vacation, what we are, in the bottom of our hearts looking for, is a retreat, a pilgrimage, and encounter with something that will restore and give us rest.

Instead we often try to move so fast, see so much, experience it all.

A few years ago, my wife and I were given a gift – a vacation to Italy.  We tried to see it all in the ten or eleven days we were there.  Having read this, I thought back to the trip, and what made it special.  I asked her, and it was the moment I thought, as it was for me.

It was in a church; Santa Maria de la Pace, that was located in a place called Villa Tevere. The church was built in what we might call the basement of a very ordinary building.  It wasn’t ancient, it wasn’t even old by American standards, never mind Roman.  It wasn’t a large cathedral or a majestic major basilica.  It was a place where we were able to pray, given as much time as we wanted by the man who showed us around.  It was a place that invited such prayer, even begged for it.

It was the place where a vacation turned into a pilgrimage.

We could then identify two other places, much more humble, yet even more incredible and precious than the huge places that surrounded them.  The chapel/sanctuary where St. Francis was buried, under to other incredibly beautiful sanctuaries in Assisi.  And the pantheon, a place once dedicated to destroying life to appease gods and re-dedicated as a church, a place where people came spiritually alive as they heard the Word and received the Eucharist.  We came back from this trip not exhausted, but fulfilled, rested and aware of the grace of God because of those moments kneeling in prayer.

I don’t think either would have meant as much without the church inside Villa Tevere. Thirty minutes, simply quiet and on our knees.  Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict ) later wrote in the devotion why this is so critical;  Those moments were amazing, a taste of heaven in a way words cannot explain.

The purpose of pilgrimage is ultimately, not an object of interest, but a breaking through to the living God. We attempt to reach this goal by seeking out the scenes of salvation history. Its interior and exterior ways do not follow the direction of our whims. We enter, as it were, into the geography of God’s history, where he has set up his directional signs. We journey toward a goal that has been designated beforehand, not toward one that we invent for ourselves. By entering into his history and turning toward the signs the Church gives us out of the fullness of her faith, we go toward one another. By becoming pilgrims, we are better able to attain what tourism seeks: otherness, distance, freedom, and a deeper encounter.

It is a chance to get a sight of what Ezekiel describes, a foretaste of what we will have for eternity, a time where we realize the reality of walking with God, we see the fellowship, the communion that is life changing, that leads us deeper in faith.

If you can’t go to Italy, I can recommend two other pilgrimages.  The first is to travel in time, to go back to your baptism, to meditate on what was given there, promised there.  The promise God made to you, an eternal promise of life, an eternal promise of His presence. The second is also sacramental, the time at the altar, on our knees, as we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  As we realize we are one with Him, as we gain what we really desire, the sense of otherness, distance from the world, freedom from sin and Satan and so much else.  It is that moment where we arrive at a deeper encounter, a transforming and transcending moment where all we are aware of is God presence and the presence of His family.  So in a very precious and real way, every Sunday becomes a pilgrimage, a real vacation, a real time of restoration and rest.

Come and rest, come and leave your burdens behind, come and know that God is indeed with you.  AMEN.

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. 335). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. devotion for 10/22

Are You Burdened As You Follow Jesus? Here is Where I Find Help and Rest

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (TEV)

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

72 If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength.73 If you wait until you are rid of your burden in order to come to the sacrament purely and worthily, you must stay away from it forever.

Open your own hearts to Jesus and tell him your story. I don’t want to generalize. But one day perhaps an ordinary Christian, just like you, opened your eyes to horizons both deep and new, yet as old as the gospel. He suggested to you the prospect of following Christ earnestly, seriously, of becoming an apostle of apostles. Perhaps you lost your balance then and didn’t recover it. Your complacency wasn’t quite replaced by true peace until you freely said “yes” to God, because you wanted to, which is the most supernatural of reasons. And in its wake came a strong, constant joy, which disappears only when you abandon him.

In the last week, I have had to deal with a lot of people whose lives are in turmoil.  Some are dealing with health issues, some are dealing with financial issues, a lot are dealing with the impact of sin, either others sins, their own, or both.

I’ve tried to be there when I can, or at least send a note or someone who can be there for them.  Not that I am any greater than anyone else, but I am, by call, a pastor.  I want to be there, as do many who have closer relationships.   Somewhere in the middle I plan worship, write sermons and Bible studies, and am married.

Just like every other person I know who has a relationship with God, there are times the burdens seem overwhelming.  Let me drop the pride, they are overwhelming. Every pastor, every priest, every chaplain, youth worker, Christian educator (whether a professional teacher or just a Bible Study leader) I know gets weary; the burdens mount up.  They get overwhelmed.

Usually when I start to show wear, my elders remind me to take a vacation.  Take a few days off, play golf, (and I sometimes do!) Go get your mind off of things.  To be honest, that doesn’t work that well, either my mind doesn’t leave the “office” (because the office is the life of people I care for) , or I end up finding someone else that needs help, and I struggle to remember I need it too.

So where do I find rest?  I’ll tell you – Sunday mornings, about 1045 to 1100.  As people come and kneel, as eventually I will kneel with them.  On every Wednesday evening during Advent and Lent, when we are in that same place.  When pastors gather together once a month, and recently, as some other servants of God, gather on Monday evening.   Guys who are as weary, as broken, as under pressure as I am. Some work 1 or 2 jobs, some of us have relaxing careers as pastors ( please note sarcasm)

We gather in His present, and as the elders did with Moses on Sinai, or as the apostles did in churches (even house churches) the sacrament is shared.

Martin Luther in the blue quote above talks about receiving refreshment, comfort, and strength as we do.  St Josemaria Escriva notes that as we say “yes” and walk with Him, we gain a level of peace beyond comparison.  St Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, echoes this, talking about sharing the blood and body of Christ as ONE people, of finding in that feast a level of unity and therefore peace beyond comprehension.

This is where the burdens are lifted, where they are removed.  Where we find God working in our lives and even celebrating His work.  There is a sense of peace, a sense that all is right in the world.  This is where again God tells you of His love, of the promises He makes to all those He brings into a relationship (that is what a covenant is) with Him.  It is there we are assured that our sins are forgiven, that they can’t separate us from God’s love.

As a pastor, from my perspective, this isn’t just theory.  I wish I should show you the changes in people’s posture as the anxiety leaves them, as the guilt drains from them, leavening refreshment. As joy replaces tiredness, weariness in people.  For God is doing what He has promised, what He has done for others.

He has visited His people, demonstrated His love, and the fact that they will never be alone.  He has given us a glimpse into the amazing height, the glorious depth, the abundant breadth and measureless width of His love.

We know it and celebrate that together.

I wouldn’t trade it for a month in Hawaii – or in New Hampshire.

For it in sharing His presence that we are refreshed, strengthened, lifted up and where we find healing for our hearts and souls.

Come join me tomorrow – come feast with God, come revel in His presence. And then let us go out and bring this hope to others.   AMEN.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 455). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 374-378). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

WHen You Want to Run Away….should you… or not?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image12  When Mordecai received Esther’s message, 13  he sent her this warning: “Don’t imagine that you are safer than any other Jew just because you are in the royal palace. 14  If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” 15  Esther sent Mordecai this reply: 16  “Go and get all the Jews in Susa together; hold a fast and pray for me. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days and nights. My servant women and I will be doing the same. After that, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. If I must die for doing it, I will die.” 17  Mordecai then left and did everything that Esther had told him to do. Esther 4:12-17 (TEV)

29    The limited and pitiful happiness of the selfish man, who withdraws into his shell, his ivory tower … is not difficult to attain in this world. But that happiness of the selfish is not lasting. For this false semblance of Heaven are you going to forsake the Joy of Glory without end?  (1)

There are times in our lives where we want to runaway.

There are times we want to run because of conflict, and we think that peace is found in avoidance.  

There are times we want to run away because of the sacrifice we know we will need to make.  Sometimes it is not even a major sacrifice, sometimes it is an inconvenience.

There are other times, when we are weary, when we are afraid, when we just want some time to kick back, and rest, because the battle is to hard, the suffering we encounter is to overwhelming.

There are also times when we need to retreat, when we need to walk away and pray. There are times I struggle with this more than I struggle with staying.  Sometimes it is a war within myself, as I question myself.  Should we stay in place, even beyond our strength?  Should we run?

We have to ask a couple of questions, even seek out a confidant to help us examine our situation. We need to ask Why and Where.

Why – am I simply running for my own comfort, my own survival? There is a point, like Esther faced, where running was a matter of selfish self-preservation.  A door was opened so that she could do God’s will, in this case to save the people of God.  There is a time for a rest, to be ready to re-enter the fray, that is the idea of the sabbath.

Where – This is ahar question.  Do I want to run to where the grass is greener, where there appears to be more peace, an easier life?  Or do I need to find  cave like Elijah, a place to find respite and allow God to bring healing. (if you have encountered this before, you know that it isn’t the easier path.)  Am I running from God, or to Him?  We need the latter.

Ultimately, the answer isn’t found in a logical examination of our thoughts and desires. And our perceptions can be shaded, and if our lives are turbulent, our thoughts may be as well.  The answer is going to found, not in whether we run or not, but whether we realize we are in God’s presence wherever we are. When we realize his unexplainable peace, a peace so different from the world, can sustain us in the harshest of times.  That is the key in the times that challenge us and make us want to run, and in the times where we need to find rest and a time of prayer and communion.

Ultimately, it boils down to this:  are you where you are at for such a time as this?  To be there, that people would know the Kingdom of God is near, that His presence is there to pardon, to love, to heal?  Are you depending on your own strength, or on His?

Then you are there for a purpose – take time to rest, ot know God’s presence… and then glorify Him as He works in your life and community… bringing hope and peace, healing and love.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 228-230). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lord, I Believe You Will Do the Impossible… Help me trust you will!

Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

15  Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15 (NJB)

23  “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)

929         Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are. (1)

I’ve had a task to do, that I am not looking forward to handling.  Simply put, there are things we are called to do as believers that are impossible.

This is one of those.

The temptation is to really on our own wisdom, our own strength.  To force the issue, to pretend we are God, that all things can be fixed, with the “if only” caveat.  That caveat justifies failure, it allows us to walk away without having to admit the failure.  It allows us to walk away without feeling disappointment.

That caveat is the seed of our defeat, just like a prenuptial agreement is a danger sign in a marriage, because it leaves open the room for failure, and nearly guarantees it will happen. It puts the success or failure somewhere besides making us responsible for it, and therefore leaves out the one crucial ingredient for success.  The one ingredient?  Oh, you want to know what it is?

Jesus makes it known in the 2nd quote above.  If you believe, if you trust in God, if you know His heart well enough to base your life on it, even risk your life on it.

To which the man cries out a Kyrie Eleison – Lord have mercy – help me when I cannot trust.

Depend on Him.  That sounds simple, but it isn’t.  We have to know His desire, we have to understand the effort God will put into keeping his promises. We have to realize the depth of His love.  We have to know it – deeply in order to trust in it, even as this man had to trust that Jesus could heal his son.

It isn’t easy – but we can pray, we can communicate our need for something to booster our faith, we can admit we need His help – even to trust.

But when we do, patience comes naturally, peace flows, the impossible seems be have cracks of God’s probability shine through. We realize we can wait for it to happen, we realize that God will make all things work for good, we realize the power of mercy and forgiveness.

And we trust in His presence to make all the difference, and it does.

For He has promised – and He is faithful.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Need for Vacation, (or the Sabbath) is Really Our Need for Christ

DSCF1083

a nice peaceful sunset off of the Huntington Beach Pier..

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:

1   LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3  Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. 16  So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. 17  All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. Colossians 2:11-17 (TEV)

657 Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can!  (1)

Today starts my vacation, so it was a coincidence?  Ironic?  God having fun? that my devotional readings switched from focusing on sacrificing to focusing on resting in Christ Jesus this morning.

As I started to read the Psalm this morning, and the other passages and the devotional reading, (with my son at my side – which was great!) I started thinking – how much people look forward to vacation, how much we look forward to a break from the grind of daily work. Even though many of us physically do not rest, do not take a break, but fill as much of our time as we can!

Matter of fact, we spend extra time preparing our work places and lives for vacation, we know we will have more work when we get back, we tire ourselves out during it and… well.. we don’t always get what we need – rest, a chance to breath, a chance to recover and be revitalized. It works against the Human Resources justification of Vacation – that employees will be more energetic and productive with that time away for rest and recreation, That it will reduce burnout, that it will have a positive impact on our work.

As I was thinking through this, I realized what vacations are supposed to be about is why God created sabbath times – not just weeks, but yearly and even sabbaticals where things rested for a year. When all pressure is off, where time is spent simply, without concern, knowing that God is caring for us, protecting us, Where we can find contentment, and peace.  Where we can be still, knowing that it will take a couple of days to do so… to unwind, to breathe, to even gasp.

We need to do this more, setting aside even in a minute or two an hour, an hour a day, a day a month?  And yes – our week or two a year…..

We need our time with our Father, for that is precious and restores our soul… It can give us the strength to face the rest of the hour, the pains of a day, the punishing grind of a year.

My son got it, when we talked of my role as a pastor, and why I need to start the morning with a devotional time.  He said if I didn’t spend time with God, even though the time I spend with people is very good – I can’t really pastor!  (He indicated he was guessing – he knew it was right – but he didn’t know why!)

How can we live as believers, if we don’t spend time, talking to Him with the love and adoration a son has for his dad?

This is why it doesn’t make sense to restrict people to a specific day for such rest, for dwelling in such love. If someone needs that rest on Tuesday night, or on Thursday morning.  We need it.  The Sabbath is about man receiving the peace and rest God would give them.  It isn’t about obedience, but about restoration. That is why some prefer daily mass, and some churches with staff and time enough – have multiple service times across the week.

Well time to wrap this up – need to finish getting ready for some time of rest……

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2756-2758). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did Jesus Rest on this Sabbath?

Devotional Thought of the Day: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!

18  For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. 19  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20  who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21   This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NAB)

“Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead:”  (1)

A conversation yesterday, between Good Friday Services, brought up the issue of what Jesus was doing, in the time between His death on the cross, and the Resurrection.

The people I was in dialogue with said he simply rested in the grave. They were using this to “prove” that everyone should worship on the Sabbath, during the time between Sunset on Friday, and Sunset on Saturday.

It brought up memories of my childhood, sitting in the pews at St. Francis in Lawrence, or St. Joes in Salem, and wondering about the line in the Apostle’s Creed above.

Why did Jesus have to descend to Hell?  Wasn’t the suffering and death on the cross enough?

It bothered me greatly, and those I asked about it, had no answer. Which bothered me a little more.  Would the Father let Jesus go to Hell, to suffer there for our sins? Why did He have to go?

I am not sure when I came across the verses in Peter’s epistle above, but they seem to settle the issue.  Jesus didn’t go to Hell to suffer, but to preach, to proclaim the love of God, that He would die for the sin of the world.  All sin. That those who trust in Him as their God, would know His salvation.  it is not quite a victory parade, though it is to declare victory.  And the gates of Hell cannot prevent it, Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God.   He was sent, apostle’d to deliver to the Father, those who have, would, will become the children of God

The words about baptism are not remiss therefore, for it is in Baptism that we are united with the death of Christ, and with His Resurrection.  Glorious events, worthy of praise, (yes the cross is glorious) for they show the depth of God’s love for us.  Love that wouldn’t even let those imprisoned by sin not know of His love, of His grace.  It is what takes those dead in sin, and makes them alive in Christ Jesus.

Which brings us back to the Sabbath, and the purpose of it.

It’s not about not working, for surely God is continually at work, sustaining the universe.  And those of us, who preach, who lead worship, who do a myriad of things on Sunday (or Saturday – Romans tells us we have this Freedom) certainly are at work in the House of God.    The Sabbath is about priority, teaching us to rest – not just from labor, but to rest in the presence of God.  To be in awe of His love, to be aware of the depth of His love, that will even descend into hell to deliver the children of God to their home… with Him.  That is why Paul says the sabbath is simply a foreshadowing of Christ, for it is in Him we truly find rest.

Even on a Saturday, while we prepare to celebrate the resurrection… Even here, the Lord of the Sabbath reigns, and because He does, we know we dwell in the Father’s peace, an indescribable peace, a peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
AMEN.

 

(1)  The Apostles Creed

Struggling with your past and present? Something that will help!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9  On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 (MSG)

 16  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 (MSG)

22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23 (TEV) 

The priest mentioned the sacrament of confession. That was new to me. The confessional in our parish church had been transformed into a storage room for buckets and brooms. I had always thought that confession had been abolished in the sixties. That evening, I asked the Carmelite sister about it. “On the contrary,” she said. “Confession has not been abolished at all. It’s one of the most beautiful sacraments there is!” “So… um… how does it work?” I asked. “Do you just tell the priest all your sins, and that’s it?” “It isn’t just about listing your sins,” she answered. “Confession is first and foremost an encounter with Christ. He loves you more than you know, and when you truly meet him, you start to discover what in your life stands in the way of that love. So you entrust all those obstacles to his mercy, and he takes them away.” “If that’s the case, I would love to go to confession,” I said. After all, I did like Jesus. I also knew that there were many things in my life that still needed to change to be able to deepen my friendship with him. “Just go see the priest, and ask him to help you. He will guide you through it. Don’t worry about a thing.” That evening, I made my first confession. The priest was friendly and listened to me with his eyes closed, as if praying. I do not recall what he said to me afterward, but I do remember vividly the moment he stretched out his hand and told me my sins had been forgiven. It was as if a ton of bricks just had been zapped to another dimension. I felt like I was walking on air— I was so light, so relieved, so incredibly happy. That night, I hardly slept. I felt overwhelmed by God’s love for me. My doubts had vanished. I didn’t just believe in God on an intellectual level— I sensed that I had just met him personally.  (1)

As I was reading this book, I came across the above passage, and though a little long, it talks so well of something so needed.  There are too many of us dealing with the repurcussions of sin, the guilt and shame from doing what we know we shouldn’t.  The confusion we get when the games we play to avoid that shame come crashing down, and even the stress caused by the way we react to others sinning against us.

Roman Catholics call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we use a more common term, Private Confession and Absolution.  Basically, whether very formal at the altar, or in my office, someone comes in, and shares about the guilt they feel, or some area where they know they’ve done wrong. As this happens, it is awkward, both for the person coming to me and for me.  We talk, the person and I and God, and then a time as precious as we get occurs.

But I love Fr. Roderick’s description of what Lutherans call Private Confession above  (see the 5th section of Luther’s Small Catechism) …and what Catholics call The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or commonly Confessin) that I had to share it.  For even with our differences in our practice and application of this, the effect is the same.  As God and the person and the pastor/priest are talking through the sins that afflct them, there is some holy and sacred and freeing that happens.  As a pastor I see the burdens lifted, when I get to pronounce them free of the chains by wihich sin oppresses them.  There is a great sense of joy and freedom.  It’s hard to describe, either from the point of view of the person confessing, or as the pastor (and I think priests feel the same way) who speaks forgiveness as God has commanded us to speak.  Even though I don’t get to serve people this way as often as they need. need,

Let’s face it, we all have a past, and we all still live in the present.  We deal with sin daily, our own, the sins of those close to us, the sins of generations passed, as the divisions they cause impact our lives still.   Too often, rather than obeying God and giving these heavy, heavy burdens to Him, we bury them and stew over them.  The anxiety, confusion and grief burdens us more, divides us from others more, and can crush us…

If you are in that situaiton, I beg you, on God’s behalf, let God reconcile you to Himself. (2 Cor. 5:20) Come to one of us, those who know God’s forgiveness.   With the Catholic Church and with some Lutheran churches- they often post times the priest/pastor sets aside for this.  Others of us have an open policy – just call, drop in and let us know you need the peace and rest this sacrament brings.  You will not be imposing… matter of fact, you will make our day. Don’t worry about us being shocked – St Paul has a good point when he says if God can save us, you guys are a peace of cake!

Dump that guilt and shame, be rid of that burden of grief, trust God as His word!  And realize the depth of Christ’s love for you, that He would restore you and show you His love.

If you

Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 658-674). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

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