They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.
9 But you are the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light. 10At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received his mercy. 1 Peter 2:8b-10 GNT
When prayer is genuine, possessing the fire by which it is kindled, prompted by a sincere heart which recognizes its need and likewise the blessings that are ours as proclaimed in the Word, and when faith in God’s Word—in his promise—revives, then the individual will be possessed with a fervor prompting him to fall upon his knees and pray for strength and for the power of the Spirit. Martin Luther
767 What really makes a person—or a whole sector of society—unhappy, is the anxiety ridden, selfish search for well being, that desire to get rid of whatever is upsetting. Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge .
I’ve been doing some research into the collapsing mid-sized church, those that run 250-2000. In my group of churches, their numbers are shrinking faster than the hopes the fans of the… (well I won’t mention the team name). Seriously, we have a problem across the board–and many younger pastors are leaving their church to pick up the problems some other pastor left, in order to take the place of pastor #3. Or more likely, they leave the parish, and become life coaches or counselors or teachers or..
I have to believe some of this is do to our poor formation, not only of pastors, but of church leaders in general. As churches shrink, we put in place anyone breathing – anyone willing to volunteer, rather than adequately prepare them. Then frustration and anxiety set in, as they don’t feel successful, and the leaders who put them there see no results. We become unhappy, as if happiness is the answer to everything, and the lack of it causes anxiety and desperation and often, change that is… unwise
St. Peter’s words talk about what eventually happens – they forget the promises in the word of God and they don’t hear it…even as we study it with our churches, we don’t hear it. We hear about the Greek or Hebrew, we read and hear about the background of those who did hear it, and how the Holy Spirit used it to change their lives. We hear what we have to do, the doctrines we have to believe, the way we must behave (or that how we behave is okay…when we know scriptures teaches differently) But we don’t hear about the good news, the love of God poured out on His people…along with mercy and grace and healing…as He restores us.
And without hearing that, without knowing God is hear for us, ready to listen, ready to act…the noise and stress and anxiety only gets worse. Eventually, pastors and people leave, determining there has to be more, a different way…..and they try to find it on their own, or coach those who are looking for it–but are just as lost in the darkness….
The church needs to draw them out of that darkness, as it is gthered by Jesus and reflects His glory, as He revives them. He’s there, we just need to recognize our need for Him, and those promises, the promises that we are no longer alone – but we are His people. A message we receive, not just in sermons and the Lord’s Supper, but in that neglected sacrament of prayer…
Oddly enough – though Lutherans may not talk about it often today, Luther points us to that need – to pray for the power of the Spirit to be manifest in our lives together, in the church where the Spirit gathers and enlightens us all.There is no doubt of the need, there should be no doubt of the theology… and there should be no doubt of the promise…
So hear that word, those promises and pray with me…
10 As the priests were leaving the Temple, it was suddenly filled with a cloud 11shining with the dazzling light of the LORD’s presence, and they could not go back in to perform their duties. 1 Kings 8:10-11 GNT
20I am telling you the truth: you will cry and weep, but the world will be glad; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into gladness. 21When a woman is about to give birth, she is sad because her hour of suffering has come; but when the baby is born, she forgets her suffering, because she is happy that a baby has been born into the world. 22That is how it is with you: now you are sad, but I will see you again, and your hearts will be filled with gladness, the kind of gladness that no one can take away from you. John 16:20-22 GNT
While they are thus in fear and terror, the Lord brings them peace, not by removing any danger, but by quieting their hearts.
Now the liturgy is meant to form the individual Christian. Hence we have to learn how to understand its symbols, in order to absorb the lessons which they convey. But at the same time the liturgy is more than symbolism and more than ritual. Through the medium of the Church, which He has entrusted with the task of guiding, sanctifying and instructing mankind, God exercises a sacramental action upon the spirits of men of faith.
I have been thinking about church a lot recently, trying to understand why in parts of the world, the church is growing faster than it ever had, and why in others, it is rapidly shrinking.
I would love to blame the shrink on the amped up political atmosphere, as extremists in every spectrum try and force their way into power. Whether it is legalism or lawlessness, whether it is tieing to the secular conservatism or secular progressivism, the tactics are much the same.
I could blame it on apathy, and a country not able to escape the consequences of isolation.
I could blame it on a season dominated by every sin and temptation known to mankind.
Placing blame will do nothing – except causes dissention, more division and accelerate the decline of the Church, as sanctuaries empty—as they no longer are sanctuaries, as people find no refuge or peace in the places dedicated to communion with God.
I need the church to be such a place–a refuge, a sanctuary, the holy ground were peace overwhelms the struggles I am embroiled in this life. Luther’s words resonate with this, as he pictured God not taking away the struggles, the chaos, the anxiety or the pain. Instead, He quiets my heart, and the hearts of those with whom I share God’s word, the peace given them as I share with them the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Merton identified this as the sacramental action of God, as He pours out the blessings, the mercy, peace and love which forms us, creating a faith, a dependency on God, wherein the awe we find in His presence, makes everything else an inconsequential shadow. That all sounds like heavy theology tainted with a bit of mysticism.
I wish I could explain it in a simpler way, but the peace of the moment is beyond explanation, Jesus illustrates it well, in the moment a new mom holds her baby, and all the travail and even the mess isn’t important… the baby is here..
or in our case, God is here.
and like the priests – we are so in awe, that all we can do is enjoy the presence of God.
(Merton was wrong – this isn’t individual. It is who we are…together – the family of God)
This is why I need the church, the people of God gathered around His word, the people who receive His sacraments… who experience His peace..
I get to see it, facilitate it and that is awesome… but what is better – I participate….
I am so looking forward to this tomorrow… will you join me… either at Concordia, or with the saints in another location, but sharing in the same presence of the same Lord.
Please… come and know His peace and healing!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 138.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 160.
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross
16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times, 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20 do not despise inspired messages. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 (TEV)
The New Testament language is as plain as can be—in Christ through His death and resurrection, every legal hindrance has been met and satisfied: taken away! There is nothing that can keep us from assurance except our own selves.
Let us quit trying to think our way in, to reason our way in. The only way to get in is to believe Him with our hearts forevermore!
Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.
Imagine having tickets to some major amusement park, going in, and standing in line for 3 hours to ride the newest, greatest ride in America. As you get there, as it is time to take your place, you decide, its not worth it, and you walk away, apathy. All of that time and money invested, is now wasted, never to be used for something else. Or imagine someone giving you the best seats to the Superbowl, or to a favorite concert–plus the airfare and limo rides and access to all the good stuff, and just as you get there, you decide, “Nah, this isn’t worth it,” as you walk away.
Every person and every church has access to God the Father, because someone else paid the admission price, and waited for us to enter the presence of God the father with great confidence, but what do we do with this access? Tozer is right, to often we are the ones who dismiss the access…
Despite the encouragement to pray and be thankful, despite the commands and promises attach to it, the church has been not one that prays all that much. Not just today, even back in Luther’s day. even back in the 1st century.
We need to pray; we need to pour our hearts out to God, assured that He will provide what we need. His love, His mercy, the faith we need, even persecution and trauma that draws us closer to Him. We need to talk to Him enough that we can thank Him for the good things – and the challenging things in life as well.
The joy doesn’t come from the problems, but the awareness of God’s presence, His protection, His care, from the healing He causes. That hope comes, not from academic knowledge, but from experience. That is why the early Lutherans still considered prayer a sacrament, as sacred action that we need to keep at all the time. Not because doing that shows off our holiness, but because we need to be lifted up by God, we need to hear Him speak of His mercy and love..
So pray… and pray for me..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 213.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)
959 We cannot give way in matters of faith. But don’t forget that in order to speak the truth there is no need to ill-treat anyone.
One thing that history has shown us is the need to be theologically astute, as well as to know the history of theology. There are no new heresies under the sun, and they come back with greater frequency than the seasons. As St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, the role of ministry is to stop us from being tricked, by people who sound like they have the truth.
But it is not enough to simply be orthodox, to have the right explanation theologically, or apologetically.
There are a lot of theologians out there, brilliant men and women who can correctly and clearly explain why they know about God, and even why a contrary view is not dangerous. And there is a myriad who are quite vocal and prolific in their writing, yet still have gaps in their knowledge.
But even for those who have a mastery over theology, it is not enough, and those learning need to learn this as well, less their zeal for orthodoxy become a barrier to the ministry they desire.
Theological orthodoxy is not enough. It never has been.
We have to speak the truth, but it is not enough just to speak it. We have to speak it, loving the person to who we are engaged in conversation. Desiring not to win the argument, or that we were able to zing them. Rather we need to desire that they can glorify God more because they have gained a greater insight into the dimensions of His love for them, that they have experienced His love and mercy.
Too often I have seen the damage the theologian ( or a theologian-in-training like myself) has done because their words were not delivered in love. Words which had unintended consequences, and to use a military phrase, severe collateral damage. The damage that leaves people thinking the church, and therefore God, is heartless and doesn’t care about them, just creating clones, or getting people inside without caring enough to confront their brokenness.
And for us who claim to have some level of wisdom, how heartbreaking it is to realize that we have driven someone away from the love of God.
We can change this tendency we have, we must change it! But it is not simply through our will and determination. FOr we will find ourselves doing the same thing, to different people. Or we will find ourselves responding defensively to others.
It is through learning to adore Christ, as we ourselves are changed by His love, that this change occurs. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, revealing to us and helping us explore the depths of God’s love. That love changes us, enables us to love, and therefore to speak the truth in love. A maturity that is nourished in sacramental times, and in times of prayer and meditation.
So let us encourage each other to know the love of God, which is the reason we have hope and peace in this midst of this broken world, fr we know He will answer when we
Lord, Have Mercy!!!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3383-3385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)
323 Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.
3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.
There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought. So they had one of two easy solutions, Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.
If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help. If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same. But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family? How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?
St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us.
That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception.
Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace.
It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.
God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts. He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.
Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 When the seventy-two n came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”
18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 NCV
10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
For priests, pastors and all those who minister to others, there is a fine balance between humility and confidence. And if we are honest, it is when we are struggling with the latter that we don’t act all that humble. I imagine there may be one or two of us that think they are God’s gift to the church. (In a way they are0 But many of us still wonder why God has put us here, why God has entrusted to us this incredible, sacred, beautiful, demanding ministry.
I love Pope Francis’s words about our ministry. He nails it when talking about the awe that hits you when you pray over someone, or see their body loose every bit of tension and anxiety as they realize God’s forgiveness, as they realize He is present. I still can recall the eyes of people after I have baptized them, or their children. (Two incredible “devout” atheist/agnostic types come to mind as I baptized their children – eyes bright and full of tears… and God isn’t done with them either!) But his also occurs when we pray with someone over breakfast, or see people having an “aha” at work, as they realize another dimension of God’s love because we said something.
It is in those moments that our lives do feel like a work of art, as God weaves our lives with others, and creates something wonderful. If it iis awe-inspiring to consider sinners in the hands of an angry God, how much more incredible is it to see God work through the hands of a repentant sinner who trusts in Him?
Still, my heart cries out… why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
Nothing of course.
Which is where the first gospel reading helps us maintain some manner of balance. As wonderful it is that God can use us, the even more wonderful thing is that we already are certain He’s got us, we are HIs, our names are written in the Heaven,
That is even more amazing. As broken, as sinful, as able as I am to screw up something, God has claimed us as His.
SO tomorrow, as you go to preach, or lead worship, to distribute communion or work with the children’s ministry, or just tell the person next to you – God is with you, indeed, you are being used by God, you carry His presence within you, and it is blessing others. Remember though, that is simply proof of a greater mystery, a greater blessing. You are one of God’s people, He is your God, and He loves you! (me too!)
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
29 My God, how is it that I do not cry out in sorrow and love whenever I see a Crucifix? (2)
They are to correct the mistaken view that prayer is not action. The men are admonished to overcome the false sense of shame that would seek to conceal their interior life—their silent relationship with God—as something unmanly and old-fashioned. Granted, piety is not to become a public exhibition; discretion is always necessary. But neither is it to be hidden away. It should be courageous, for the body, too, belongs to God. Faith is not just a matter of the spirit; prayer is not just interior. The body must pray, too. (3)
.Yesterday, I thought, and introduced the idea that the Lord’s prayer is not just what he taught us with words, but rather with how Jesus actually lived. His life was the prayer, a lesson in humility, in being the Son, not the Father.
If we are to be Christlike, if we are to grow and mature in our trust in God, this prayer must be seen worked out in our lives as well. For it is not enough to just say the words, but rather we need to trust in God hearing them, and answering them, here and now. That is faith that is not just Spirit, but life. It is prayer that is not just internal, but the prayer of our life.
So as I encouraged us yesterday, let’s begin to see the Lord’s Prayer lived out again, in the life of the Lord we are called to imitate, to be transformed into the image of.
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. (1)
Here is where it all begins, as Jesus lives as the Son. Fully obedient, fully adoring, fully bending His will to the will of the Father. Equal in divinity, the creed informs us, Jesus still submitted in His humanity to the Father.
He didn’t seek emancipation, he didn’t strive to become the alpha male. He loved the Father, He honored Him, He grew up (as a man) to be like His Father, to the extent that to look on Christ was to look on the Father. The image of the invisible God, that is how He is described. We know about the love of the Father because we see it in Christ and his movement to the cross. We know about the Father’s desire that no one should perish, again because of the love of the Son which accomplished the calling of all to repentance.
Something that doesn’t happen unless there is communication. And as Jesus lived in view of the first commandment, He lived in view of the second. For to use a name, to keep it holy, is to use it well, to pray, praise, give thanks, to pour out your heart. We see that in the garden so clearly, and in the high priestly prayer. Prayers we know about, so that we can trust in Jesus, so we can learn to pray as well.
May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (1)
I just referred to this, but it iis one thing to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done, and another thing to grow in desire and want it to come here, right now.
To love your enemies, to live life full of mercy and righteousness. To live a life where you live humbly, as Jesus did. He laid aside it all that was self-centered. Even facing the betrayal, the kiss of Judas, the denial of Peter, He loved.
Someone once said that Christ would have died on the cross for us, even if they didn’t nail Him there. He wanted the nails though, not because of some masochistic tendency, but because the Father had said they would look upon the one they had pierced.
God’s will, God’s kingdom doesn’t always seem pleasant, or easy, or joyous. Until you realize the joy is in the one lost sheep coming home, one of the repentant who brings heaven so much joy!
To pray that God’s Kingdom comes, and will is done, requires that we accept the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, that we die to self with Him, and bear our own cross, humbly, and in love of the Father.
We need to pray, not ofor God’s sake, but for ours. To communicate with Him, to know His love, to see His work, tfor it is in prayer’s dialogue, and in celebrating the sacraments (which is really prayer as well!) that we begin to see the trasnformation God would owrk in us, where faith and work are not longer divided.
It is the beginning of Christlikeness!
So cry out, and pray!
(1) Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 344-345). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(3) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 98–99). San Francisco: Ignatius Press
Discussion Thought of the Day
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27b (NLT)
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. John 15:9 (NLT)
16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:16-17 (NLT)
21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:21 (NLT)
In a recent blog, I made mention that loving our neighbor is not just law, it is always gospel. The contention was over evangelism, when I said doing such was an act of love, that love compels us to work for reconciliation. But what compels us is not the law, but the love that is the effect of the gospel. And to not love our neighbor, by sharing the greatest treasure we have, the love and mercy of God, is sin.
SO I was asked to clarify how “love thy neighbor” isn’t just law, but the purest of Gospel. Because of that, we have a blog about it.
The simple truth is we aren’t capable of loving each other as God commands, in the midst of our sin. Therefore, a directive to love our neighbor is the law, and we can be judged by it. For most Lutherans (who the discussion seems to be between) this is normal use of the law, it guides our actions in community, and it reveals our need for God. It also shows how we should live, (what it called the third use of the Law)
But it is more than just a command, it is a commission, a way of life God prepared those of us in Christ to walk in, (see Eph. 2 10. ) It is who we are in Christ, formed by Him, transformed by the Holy Spirit. It is the effect of our reconciliation, our redemption and sanctification, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
It isn’t about living within the confines of the law, the don’t touch, don’t do, type of law. It is more than the third use of the law – because it isn’t about obeying, it is about being in Christ, about the Holy Spirit’s work. If it is the only law, it is about us. But loving God and loving our neighbor is more than that.
It is the freedom of living and abiding in God’s love. That is where the commission to love comes from. It is the encouragement to live within the reality of your salvation, As we look to Christ, as the Spirit transforms us, it is indicative of who we become, of who we are in Christ.
If loving our neighbor is only law, it is not an indicative state, it is not that which the Father commissions and makes happen as we are raised with Christ. We are no longer Christ’s masterpiece, the work that He is glorified and raised above all others for accomplishing.
But love is not just law. It is life, in communion with God and all of His people, all of His creation. It is indicative of the eternal life promised and given to us, as the Spirit quickens and transforms us.
Devotional THought of the Day:
15 After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.“ Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16 A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.“ Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” John 21:15-17 (TEV)
9 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? 10 Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 (TEV)
499 We men don’t know how to show Jesus the gentle refinements of love that some poor, rough fellows—Christians all the same—show daily to some pitiful little creature (their wife, their child, their friend) who is as poor as they are. This truth should serve as a salutary shock to make us react. (1)
I keep hearing that men are afraid of commitment, or they shy away from deep abiding relationships, and that is the reason why they struggle to church. There are even a number of books out there about why men struggle at church, and how to make the church “men friendly”. I even have a couple of friends who mock me (when they aren’t to criticizing me) when I talk about having a relationship with God, and that it has to be a deep, intimate relationship. “Those words will scare off men,” they protest.
But they realize that need is real, that we need that relationship with God. We need to know His love, the perfect love of a Father for His children, the love of Jesus, the perfect love of a husband, for us His bride.
A few days ago, a pro basketball player weeped because a young girl he knew passed away because of cancer. He broke down in a press conference after a game. Isn’t that a level of deep love, we often don’t hear guys expressing? What about the deep love that is show at funerals, or when a friend is hospitalized, or when we see someone hungry and in need? If you are old enough to remember Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo, how many guys didn’t watch the movie Brian’s song every time it came on?
Men are capable of deep emotions, of being dedicated and devoted to people. We may be silent about them, we may be afraid of them, we may not want to admit that we have them. But we are capable of having them, and moe than that we need them.
Especially a relationship with God. For that relationship makes everything else possible. To know His mercy, helps us to be merciful. To know His forgiveness, helps us forgive those who betray us, to know His holiness and presence, helps us to be holy….and to know the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love for us, helps us to have the courage and the love to read out and love others that way.
Real men can love, because in Christ, the fears are set aside because of the need of people to be loved.
We grasp that the little ways we love reflect that love, even as Jesus comments upon dad’s knowing what to give their kids. Even as St Josemaria noted that among the “simple” people of his day.
But loving God means taking care of the people he entrusts to us, finding ways to love them To care for them deeply, sacrificially. It means letting our hearts break when His does, it means bearing our cross to love them, even to the point of confessing the depth of that love to those around us. Peter, had to hear this three times, he had to get past the emotional tug of admitting his love for God, of admitting the intimate bond between them.
May we all find the strength and courage to love the God who cam to us, to show us love, and enkindle it in our hearts.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1907-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Discussion THought of the Day:
9 O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. Psalm 48:9 (NLT)
7 Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. Isaiah 64:7 (NLT) \
436 God’s love for his creatures is so boundless and our response to it should be so great that, when Holy Mass is being said, time ought to stand still.
Without question, it is the high point of my week. It is where time does seem to stand still, where the struggles of life seem to be of absolutely no matter. It is an experience that is “otherworldly”. It is definitely beyond logic or reason, and it’s beauty and peace cannot be explained. Right now, because it is more frequent, I rejoice, my days seem brighter. Because of that, I would say I am addicted to it….
A simple move, my hand placing in another’s hand Something so precious, and words softly spoken, that change everything.
“Take and eat, the Body of Christ, broken for YOU.”
As I say these words, some hear them so well their body’s change, the relax, they smile, some even weep with joy.
It is that moment, as they receive the gift of the Sacrament, that life makes sense. The presence of God is made clear, and that changes everything.
It is not that discussing God’s presence and praying with near strangers over breakfast is less, or praying at the bedside of someone having surgery, or helping two at great odds with each other know God’s peace isn’t as great of a moment. All of ministry, all of life is filled with the presence of God. We come to know peace in all things, in all places. His grace is needed in all those places.
But those are moments in this world, and there is something about the sacraments, about baptism and absolution and the Lord’s Supper that gives us a moment of heaven. It is, as St. Josemaria says, the moment time stands still. A moment of clear communion with God. It’s the time where our pleas and cries for God’s loving mercy are answered. What is a brief second becomes without measure.
Over the last week, I’ve come across a word a number of times, kenosis. It means the “emptying”. The moment where everything in life is shed. It is the description of Christ, emptying himself in order to become a servant. As we receive the Body of Christ, that happens to us as well, all is stripped away, save Him. Except His love. His mercy, His peace. It is the stripping away of sin, of all unrighteousness, It is the reliving of our baptism, of our being united, forged to Jesus Christ.
Emptied of all that isn’t God, we find out how we have been united to Him, How He makes us whole.
God’s glory, revealed to us as love conquers it all. All our sin, all our brokenness, all our rebellion and trauma. It is pictured in the Old Testament, where God gathered the leaders into His presence, having lefft Egypt far behind… and as they feast in His presence.
Receiving the Body of Christ is a great joy, as is see those who God called to that moment. The meditation and thought of that moment… that alone should compel us to know Him more deeply, to hear the stories of those He’s sustained, especially those in scripture. The sacraments do that, they help us realize our dependence, our need on the presence of God, and reveal to us that He is here.
Such is why i love to dwell on the Eucharist, and why such a little thing is such a tremendous blessing to me. tO see this happen to 50, 60, 100 people, is amazing. ( If there is a reason I am envious of those with larger churches, it is perhaps this!)
The promises of God, delivered to us, that we dwell in peace.
(and we who serve are blessed to deliver it!)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1681-1682). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.