What worship is… the place where souls are cured
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
The Battle for What is Right
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Matthew 5:20 (NLT2)
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ Luke 18:10-13 (NLT2)
943 Be careful that in dealing with other people you don’t make them feel like someone who once exclaimed (and not without reason), “I’m fed up with these righteous characters!”
The problem of dealing with the hypocrisy of pharisaical people is that we often become as pharisaical as they are! We grow in disdain over their self-proclaimed righteousness, and we begin to compare ourselves to them. We might say, “Yes, I am better because I know what a sinner IAM, and God has saved me, while he is off thinking God should just honor him.”
It is too easy to become self-righteous in our own eyes. This results in the situation that St.Josemaria mentions. The horrible thought that our righteousness act would drive someone away from the love and mercy of Jesus. That we could rob them of the peace of Christ because we are simply a bunch of assholes, pretending to be holy. That we could become so pharisaical that we would not enter God’s presence…is beyond horror, beyond sadness…
And yet we do it, every time we compare our faithfulness, our doctrine, our actions to those around u.
he tax collector, desiring the Lord’s mercy, doesn’t compare himself to the pharisee. He seeks absolution, He seeks to be cleansed of his sin, he seeks to be healed of his brokenness. He prays there and walks away righteous, having encounter the God who promised to be merciful.
Having been shown mercy, we become merciful. Having been loved, we are able to love. Without even realizing it, we are revealed to be in the presence of God.
Where we belong.
Lord, have mercy on me…a sinner.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
My Search for Justice…
Devotional Thoughts of my Day:
My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you.
22 My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too. Luke 10:21-22 CEV
With all these things against us, now—in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be—now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” “Ah, but,” you say, “see how I am arrayed! my graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory.” But read the next: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” The Holy Spirit shall purify our minds, and divine power shall refine our bodies, then shall we see him as he is.
I used to think, (and sometimes still do) that with enough learning, with enough time spent in meditation and prayer, that I would gain in my understanding of how God works in life. Why does He allow this or that to happen, or that, how He makes everything run, heck, why he allows “those people” to have authority over a country, a city, a denomination, a church.
I thought I would understand what God’s idea of justice is, and be able to work towards it. Yet I resonate with a pastor who wrote these words over a century ago. I am not able to show grace to all people, and my ideas of righteousness/justice are not always glorious. It is broken, and because I can’t figure out what God is doing, and when that happens I get frustrated, agitated, anxious.
Eventually, using after a period of depression, in the midst of the brokenness I realize that we don’t know everything, we aren’t God, but what we have been shown is more than enough.
We’ve been shown, given, united to Jesus. And in Him, the Holy Spirit is at work, preparing us for the day when we shall meet the Father face to face.
This doesn’t mean I don’t work for justice and righteousness in this world, that I give up and leave it all to fate. In fact, it means that I take my role as an evangelist, and ambassador of reconciliation more seriously. (You should as well!) For as we walk with Christ, as we feel His comfort and peace overwhelm our anxiety and frustration, we take what we know of Jesus, and share it with others.
Especially those struggling with the concept of justice, who struggle against unrighteousness.
We need to know Jesus is there.. we need to know His work, which results in our being revealed as the children of God, and that nothing can separate us from Him. AMEN
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Please! Stop Trying to Be Holy!
Devotional Thoughts for the Day
Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.” CEV Matthew 22:21
See, now you understand the meaning of the term “to hallow” and “holy.” It is nothing else than withdrawing something from misuse and dedicating it to its proper godly use, just as a church is dedicated and appointed solely to the service of God. In like manner we must be hallowed in our whole life, leaving nothing but the name of God to dwell in us, in other words, nothing but kindness, truth, justice, etc. Hence the name of God is hallowed or profaned not only with our lips but also with our soul and all the members of our body.
Second, God’s name is defiled by robbing and thieving. Although wise men will at once understand what I mean, it will be too subtle for the simpleminded, since we are here referring to the arrogant ones who regard themselves as righteous and holy and do not feel that they are profaning the name of God as those in the aforementioned group do. While they dub themselves righteous and holy and truthful, they freely and fearlessly pilfer and purloin God’s name
551 Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.
As I read the words Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago, I knew I had to write on the first paragraph, and what holiness/perfection truly is. I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be spoken about enough. We hear, “44 I am the LORD your God, and you must dedicate yourselves to me and be holy, just as I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 (CEV)) and we get to work, trying our damndest to become what we think holy means, or when we fail, working equally hard to maintain the illusion of holiness.
It is the latter action that leads us to be convicted of robbery, trying to steal what is not ours. We profane God’s name, Luther writes, when we pretend to be something we are not when we put up the charade that we are perfect, that we are righteous, that we are holy. For not only do we not understand holiness, but we also take the responsibility that is God’s alone when we declare we are. What a scam the devil has laid upon us, to get us to think that we determine whether or not we are righteous, and others are not! Falling for it, we try to determine what is good and what is evil, unaware of our own spiritual blindness.
Holiness is as simple as what Luther notes, taking something misused and redirecting it towards its purpose. Whether it is God’s name, no longer used to swear, condemn or falsely justify ourselves and others, or whether it is our lives, created in His image in order to spend time with Him. This is the truth that St. Josemaria talks of, in regards to being pious and holy, the key is simple. Being constantly in the presence of God. Finding out that we are int he presence of a loving, merciful, gentle God who will gently (and firmly) heal our brokenness.
Stop trying to be righteous, stop putting on an act that presents you as holy and perfect. Instead, spend time talking to God, letting Him do the work that only He can do. Look to Him, focus on His love, spending as much time aware of His presence as you can.
Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 29.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discouraged? Remember His Claim
Devotional Thought for our Days:
6 “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8 I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’” 9 So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 (NLT)
Now it becomes clear that what took place on Sinai, in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the land. Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters. No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. Israel is constituted as a people through the covenant and the divine law it contains. It has received a common rule for righteous living. This and this alone is what makes the land a real gift. Sinai remains present in the Promised Land. When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.
As I read these two quotes above, as it talks of people who are discouraged and inwardly lost, they resonate with me. A lot of my ministry is helping people who think they are lost realize that they’ve been found, The role of a shepherd/pastor is to bring people home who are broken and lost.
Israel was there in Egypt, it wasn’t where they belonged. They would later confuse the belonging to being attached to real estate, and when they lost that and were taken in captivity again, they had already lost the belonging that made the land special in the first place.
It wasn’t the dirt they lived on that made them special, it was who they lived with, as God shared His glory with them. It was the interior life, as we dwelled with God that made the place special. It was the fact that they were aware that God had claimed them…
Even as He claimed us.
At Sinai, the people couldn’t do anything but dwell in God’s presence. They struggled with the glory, they struggled with depending on God for food (manna again!) and water. They struggled with idolatry, and with obedience.
Yet they lived in His presence, and they had access to the restoration God provided.
There is a lesson here, as we remember how dependable God was at Sinai, how eagerly He would restore those who came for forgiveness. He was there for them, He would rescue them again and again.
He will rescue us, and refresh our shriveled interior life, and help us to again live in His glory. For He has claimed us as His own> We are His people, whom He loves.
Discouraged by the evil you see in this world? The brokenness you feel in your life and the brokenness in the lives of those you love? There is hope, there is the promise. You are His!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Justice, Mercy, Thirsting for Revenge or Righteousness?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Arise, O LORD, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6 (NLT)
A few days ago I wrote about mercy. A disclaimer, I was struggling with the topic myself. In at least 3 cases, I was trying to figure out how to respond mercifully, and yet honestly. Try to seek reconciliation, and pursue what is right and just.
After reading that day’s blog, and a couple of tweets, a good friend asked how we are to balance justice and righteousness. In fact, she asked me to write on it.
Darn it, now I have to think it through!
That’s what real friends do – they help drive home the lesson God is trying to teach you! And so my friend did for me….and others helped.
Tough question, not just because of the thought needed, but to face the answer, I don’t want to face.
I just want to pray with David the top quote from Psalm 7. Bring JUSTICE! Trash my enemies. Get rid of those who are my adversaries! Whether they be ISIS/ISIL or whether they be… well, God knows who I am struggling with presently. Anf I find myself too often wanting revenge rather than justice. Revenge is never justice; it is a judgment against some in my favor. It is, therefore, contrary to justice.
I thank God for some other friends that study the Bible with me a couple of Thursday mornings a month. We looked not only at Psalm 7:6, but the verses before and after in the chapter.
If we are to hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness AND show mercy, we need to find the point where both are valid. In the Psalm, as we discovered, there is the answer.
1 I come to you for protection, O LORD my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me! 2 If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, 4 if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust. Psalm 7:1-5 (NLT)
Developing a heart that desires justice and mercy starts with examining one’s own heart, and one’s behavior. Knowing how easy our heart can deceive us, we do what David does, we don’t examine it. Rather it is in prayer we beg God to examine it. We welcome His judgment, and the means He will use to bring about in us humility. The humility needed to answer a call to holiness; the humility needed to trust God to make things just, to make things right in our lives. The humility to know we need His mercy, we must depend on it.
For otherwise, a call to the purest form of justice will see us judged.
We need to be examined, cleaned, healed.
Foremost of us, this process of being refined will be painful. It will be difficult; it will be filled with grace, applied to the darkness, most sin-dominated areas of our lives. That grace will sting at first, but will soon turn sweet, and joyful.
It is then we can thirst for justice, and to love mercy. Mercy for our enemies, adversaries and those who we see being unjust. Our being refined will counter that as we realize that God’s justice, at this point in eternity, is still synonymous with other words.
Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.
Lord, have mercy on us all! AMEN!
We Talk of Winning Souls, but Do We Protect them?
Devotional Thought of the Day
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.Ro 13:11–14NLT
64 What a wonderful thing to convert unbelievers, to gain souls!… Well, it is as pleasing, and even more pleasing to God, to avoid their being lost.
This week, as I prepare to preach on Mark 9, this theme keeps coming back in my devotions.
This idea of the Church, its pastors, and its people, not caring whether we cause others to walk away from the church. Whether we, with all of our theological studies, with all of our systems and programs, do not have a pastor’s heart, a brother or sister’s care to encourage people like Paul does above.
Do we encourage people to live lives that will bring God glory? Not because of their perfection, but because of the love we show others? Because we don’t look out for #1 but look out for the one, who isn’t in line? Who is starting to wander off, who is choosing the darkness, or just being tempted by it?
I am not, by any means, talking about a forced life of purity. For such doesn’t exist.
But I am talking about a life that recognizes the love of God and treasures it more than the pleasures of the moment. That knows the promises and blessings, the love and mercy of God who comes to us. A life that journeys close to the cross,
And we allow too many not even to know that is possible.
It is simple in theory to change, as we encourage each other to hear God, not just a verse here and there. But time spent understanding the breadth and depth, the width and height of God’s love. To share in that word, not just study it in a closet, to rejoice and point out the blessings confirmed to us as they flow through the sacraments. To make sure that the old who know the story best hear it alongside those who haven’t heard it, so they may all rejoice together in God’s presence.
All of us, those who have been in the church for all our lives, and those who are just coming to hear of His love.
That’s the way it has been, that is what we even see at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. All come to pray, all come to know His love.
The family, acting like a family, the people of God, gathered around Him.
Bringing others, ensuring everyone has a place, helping others continue to focus on Jesus.
May our lives be lived in Him, and may they draw others to reconcile with God and encourage
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 487-489). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Why “They” Are Wrong About Sin….
devotional thought of the day
8 And when he comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God’s judgment. 9 They are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in me; John 16:8-9 (TEV)
Prayer does not fall into a void; neither is it just a kind of psychotherapy that helps us to assemble our spiritual forces and bring them once more into balance; nor is it merely a kind of pious fiction to exercise our souls and calm them. Prayer is directed to reality. It is both heard and heeded. God, then, is someone who has the power, the ability, the will, and the patience to listen to us men. He is so great that he can be present even for those who are small.
If I bring you to this point, I have also brought you to confession. Those who really want to be good Christians, free from their sins, and happy in their conscience, already have the true hunger and thirst. They snatch at the bread just like a hunted hart, burning with heat and thirst,
33 as Ps. 42:2 says, “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” That is, as a hart trembles with eagerness for a fresh spring, so I yearn and tremble for God’s Word, absolution, the sacrament, etc.
34 In this way, you see, confession would be rightly taught, and such a desire and love for it would be aroused that people would come running after us to get it, more than we would like.
I am curious about who you thought “they” would be, when you read the title of this blog.
Maybe you were hoping I would lay into those rejoicing over the jailing of the court clerk in Kentucky. Maybe you were hoping I would chastise those who complained about her being arrested, sure that she is the bravest person under persecution in the world today.
What if both groups of people are those that are wrong about sin? What if, when they are describing sin, when they are pointing out sin in others are proving Jesus correct. They don’t understand sin because they don’t get that it isn’t about breaking this rule or that rule.
It is because they don’t trust in God, they don’t know Him. They don’t understand about sin because they don’t have the relationship where they depend upon Him.
Take away hat intimate relationship with God away from someone’s understanding, and sin can only be defined as breaking all the rules. But that can’t be what defines sin, because to do so would result in condemnation, and there would be no hope.
For hope, for relief and comfort comes within a relationship. Forgiveness, mercy, love are all words that exist withing the nature of a relationship.
And sin is ultimately, denying that relationship is the ultimate sin.
You see that clearly in the quote from Pope Benedict XVI where he talks about prayer, about what it is and what it isn’t. It is that greatness of God that He can relate to us, not in a condescending manner, but He comes to us. He listens to us, not as a king listens without empathy or interest to his serfs, (or a CEO to one of his p/t employees) but as a friend, as a Father, as one who loves us. He listens, He cares, He knows us.
Which brings us to the quote from Martin Luther, about confession and absolution. Sometimes we treat a sin, or a tendency to sin as if it is the worst thing that can happen. In the Kentucky case, she is either the greatest sinner since Hitler, or those that deny her the office she was elected to.are the equivalent of those who crucified Jesus. In either case, I will not say there is no sin, my instinct is that both groups of observers need to be called to repentance, and to reconciliation. As do the actual people involved in the case
In fact, if there is a need to be reconciled to another person, you can be pretty sure that there is a need to be drawn closer to God. Not for Him to punish, but for Him to heal. For God to be so manifested in their life that His call on their life is understood, not just a law to obey, but as the loving guidance of a parent, We need to realize His law is not punitive, bt based in wisdom. Wisdom beyond us.
That is why reconciliation, why confession and absolution are so critical. We desperately need to hear that our sin is not going to wreck our relationship with God, that He will still hear and answer our prayers, that He will comfort us as anxiety threatens, That is what absolution does. It reconciles us to Him; it assures us of His presence. It helps us to trust, to wait in His presence.
That’s why Luther says if we understand what Absolution gifts us with, we won’t hesitate to confess our sins. We wouldn’t hide in denial of them, we wouldn’t play the game of “their” sins are worse than ours. We would rejoice in the word of God, rejoice in our forgiveness, and we would plead with others to be reconciled, rather than condemn others without the intent of showing them the love of God.
May we spend our days rejoicing in God’s answers to our plea – “Lord have mercy on us sinners!”. 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. 286). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 460–461). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
The End that Justified the Means
The End that Justifies the Means
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may that love and mercy be revealed to you, and may it assure you that in His presence you will remain!
Is the Journey more important than the destination?
Four years before Martin Luther would nail to the door an invitation to discuss indulgences, a man in Italy, the man who would become the father of political science, and the first to write on political ethics finished his best known work.
Though not in the book as a direct quote, a summary of it gave us one of the best known proverbs that is not contained in the Bible. A proverb many a businessman and many a politician see as foundational.
The end justifies the means.
Basically, Machiavelli held that, “a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.” (Wikipedia)
One example given on Wikipedia of that is this, “Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”
As odd as it sounds, there is one example of that proverb, that you and I must be grateful, one time in history where the end justifying the means was not only appropriate, but a blessing.
As the Jewish people struggle with Jesus teaching that they must eat His body and drink His blood, they will struggle even more that in order to receive the promises of God, in order to be His people, they would have to depend upon the greatest injustice in history.
There is a part of me that wants to preach on this passage from the safety of focusing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After all, there are theologians who say this passage where Jesus demands us to eat His Body and drink His blood as being primarily about the Lord’s Supper. And there are some that say it is not. Fascinating arguments on both sides.
It is safe, it would help you comprehend what we do during communion, and it would miss the point.
This passage isn’t about communion, in the way that a journey isn’t about the journey, it is about the destination. Because the Jewish people were worrying about the journey, they missed the message of the destination.
That God would remain in us, and we in Him.
We’ll get back to that in a moment, but we need to see that we are no different than the Jewish people, who though knowing God’s law, struggled with what Jesus was saying, struggling so much that they would say,
“This is very hard to understand, how can anyone accept it?”
It was so hard to understand, that most of the disciples would leave.
Because they were focusing on the means, rather than the end.
We do the same thing today, when we toss aside God’s word. Maybe we consider it out of date in the moral standard. Or when we dismiss something because those rules were okay back then before people were educated, but they don’t apply to us smarter and more sophisticated people today. We argue with God, we try to define what is right and what is wrong. We try to change the rules, rationalize our way out of things, or create a different standard.
A great example is how we treat our enemies, adversaries and those who are a pain in the butt.
Do we really love them? Do we really pray for them? Do we really want to forgive them and welcome to commune with us?
Or do we try to find a loophole, an exception to God’s desire that we love all our neighbors?
Or what about when God says to embrace persecutions and suffering, for the sake of the gospel. He just means pastors and worship leaders and elders. Not bass players and sound men, and ushers, right?
We don’t get it, it seems too hard to understand. We don’t like it when God confronts us and challenge our agendas, or rules out what we like and what we dodo. Sometimes, confronted by God’s wisdom and unable to get it, sometimes we walk away. Just like the disciples did.
John’s gospel shows how hard it is, as it records Jesus’ words, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.”
We need it, we need a God we can relate too, trust in, depend upon…
for our very lives.
Remaining in Christ Jesus
One of the things that we look at, when studying the passage, is the frequency something is mentioned. For example – if a thought is repeated, even if a little different, that is called a parallelism – and it is important. Especially if it followed by AMEN! AMEN! or “This is True!” Three times is even more critical to understand.
We know this well. If our parents or our wives or our bosses repeat themselves, it is critical we are listening.
In this passage, the body and blood being sacrificed is mentioned frequently. But even more frequently is something else. Here it is….
“will live forever”
“so the world may live”
“have eternal life within you”
“has eternal life”
“I will raise that person at the last day”
“remains in me, and I in him.”
“will live because of me”
“will not die”
“will live forever.”
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life”
“Very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
This is what it is all about, this life we have with God. That we are His people, that He is our God. That we are fixed to Him, we remain in Him, and He in us. United from the very moment of our baptism, united by a promise, the very new covenant, a promised renewed as He sustains us with His body and blood.
A life given, and shared.
A glorious eternal life.
That is our destination, that is the end that justifies the means that seem beyond unfair.
For one of Nicollo Machiavelli’s summaries became true, at the cross.
Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”
Or let me phrase it a little differently
Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of God’s reign and introduction of a new covenant.”
The violence of a Cross, the creation and stabilization of a righteous people of God, gathered in His presence, by the enactment of a new law, a new covenant.
That is what this is all about… it is why we know Jesus words are true.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
So eat, be nourished, understand the gift of life in Christ and remain in Him, for there is His peace. AMEN.
The Cry for Justice…..
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)
502 If bare justice is done, people may feel hurt. Always act, therefore, for the love of God, which will add to that justice the balm of a neighbourly love, and will purify and cleanse all earthly love. When you bring God in, everything becomes supernatural. (1)
We live in a day where the cries for justice are ringing out, or do we?
At least the cries that sound call for justice.
But I don’t think we know what justice is anymore. If justice is based on an outcome that is demanded, It is justice? if in seeking justice, we have to commit injustice to achieve it, is it right?
Will will seek after justice if we, or our way of life is that which is found unjust? Will we as readily accept our punishment and suffer for what we’ve done, (or not done) that led to unjust actions?
Do we want bare justice? An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, ruination for ruination?
Because if we do, we don’t want true justice, we don’t want the other term scripture uses for justice, righteousness.
God showed His righteousness, His justice at the cross, When the value of those who act unjustly was seen – God’s righteousness, God’s justice meant He had to take on the burden of injustice, and make it just and right. That those who were once unjust, could walk into the presence of God Almighty peacefully.
I don’t know whether the which of those in Ferguson or New York, Cleveland or in the interrogation rooms of the CIA, in the Ukraine, the Middle East, the Ukraine, etc are just in God’s eyes. Well let me re-phrase that – none —- none are.. Yet all who believe, all who have been cleansed by God are now right. for they dwell in the One who determines what is righteous and what is just. ….
Praise God my friends… this is a marvelous thing that brings us hope and peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1916-1920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.