God Didn’t Fight Fair! (and still lost!)
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus increase our desire to cling to Jesus and never let go! (Even as we know He won’t let go either!)
- Did God Cheat?
I titled this sermon God didn’t fight fair and still lost, but I was tempted to title it, “God cheated”. Here is why I wanted to say that:
“When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
We know from later in the passage and from other places in the scripture that the “man” was God. So look at the passage again….
God saw he wasn’t going to win… so he dislocates Jacob’s hip. Hmmm, I wonder if that’s a legitimate technique for the next family fun night?
But there are two huge issues here…
The first – God can chea…err not play fair?
The second—God can lose?
Those things may not make sense…
Until you realize that God’s goal was for Jacob to not only get the blessing, God wanted him to treasure what he gained.
A little background, in case you are not familiar with this man who wrestled with God. From his very birth, he was a didn’t play fair! He took advantage of his brother’s hunger and gained his inheritance. He would later take advantage of his brother’s absence and steal his father’s blessing for the firstborn, effectively taking over the family.
If there was an easy way to get something—he did it. If there was a scam, or a way to deceive someone, he was there.
Another way to say it, Satan knew how to tempt him, and he fell into sin every chance he got.
Most of us don’t have Jacob’s moral fiber, or lack of it. But we cannot say that Satan has no clue about how and when to tempt us. Maybe it is gossip, some nice juicy truth and rumor that makes someone look bad. Maybe it’s not spending time with God, finding your sabbath. Maybe the temptation is revenge and wanting something bad to happen to someone who did you wrong. Or maybe it is lust…
Everybody has their sin, and needs to be confronted with it by God, so that God can bless them, healing them by removing the curses they had earned. For every sin, whether thought, word or deed, earns a curse, a punishment.
Only God can bless us by removing the curse.
And as Jacob finally went home, as he would meet his brother the next day… he needed to be free of his past, the guilt and shame. He needed to find his blessing, and this stranger, he was certain, was the one to give him that blessing.
That’s what happens when we encounter God, we know it, even if we can’t put words to it, or explain the blessing that is to be ours.
- What was different – The Blessing ( why he wanted to know the name
The question that needs to be asked is what changed in Jacob, that would make him so tenacious. Why did he have to receive the blessing?
It had to be the blessing that he expected.
He wanted to know the man’s name to confirm, but God simply blessed him. That blessing confirmed it, for Jacob, now renamed Israel, confessed who the man was…
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
What he expected, he could testify to, a place he encountered God. He experienced being in the presence of God and even could demand a blessing—and received it.
That is what you and I need, to realize the blessing that is ours as we interact with God.
If we only had a place where we could wrestle with God. Where we could question Him, struggle with Him. Where we could recognize His presence and never want to leave it, but stay there until we were sure we were blessed by Him.
Where could there be a place like that? Where is our place where we can wrestle with God, demand a blessing, (hopefully not get a dislocated hip)
Here at the altar rail is a place to do so. A place where His love is, as we take His body, broken so we could be healed, and His blood shed so we could be forgiven.
Where God would remove the burdens we have, the weaknesses, the curses. Even if we can’t explain it, we would know that He is with us. Where we could bring others who need healing as well.
Here is the place that changes life, as God comes to us, and we hold on for the blessing. This is where we know we are loved… and cared for, it is where we find peace. This is where we see God, and live. AMEN
Thoughts that help us to adore Jesus, and encourage our devotion to Him..
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:2-9 CSB
When we really come to admire and love the most sacred humanity of Jesus, we will discover each of his wounds, one by one. When we undergo periods of passive purgation, which we find painful and hard to bear, periods when we shed sweet and bitter tears, which we do our best to hide, we will feel the need to enter into each one of his most holy wounds: to be purified and strengthened, rejoicing in his redeeming Blood. We will go there like the doves which, in the words of Scripture, find shelter from the storm in the crevices in the rocks. We hide in this refuge to find the intimacy of Christ. We find his conversation soothing and his countenance comely15 because “those who know that his voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the gospel, which makes them say: ‘You have the words of eternal life.’”
Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed it upon me, that I can glory in his name and be called God’s servant and creature, etc., that his name is my refuge like a mighty fortress to which the righteous man can flee and find protection, as Solomon says [Prov. 18:10]
I’ve heard people mock the youth for needing safe places, a
I’ve heard people make fun of brave people who state that they need a safe place.
Part of me wants to ensure those who make fun of others realize that they need a safe place as well. The easy way to do that is to firmly correct their errors! First, the error of their failure to love their neighbor. Second, their belief that they are beyond the need for a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place.
Luther needed such a place; he wrote sermons and more than one hymn about the ability to find safety in the Mighty Fortress that is God. The words he wrote were not as much a doctrinal manifesto as the cry of a heart that needed comfort, that needed peace. Look a the words of his cry in what was never meant to be the battle anthem it has become. Look at the description of the prayer. He knew God was his safe place…
St. Josemaria also found that refuge, that place to hide, as he meditated on the love which welcomed the wounds borne at the cross. This is where we find the greatest and truly only safe place, where even sin cannot do its damage. It is paid for; it is forgiven.
At this point, in such a sanctuary, the words of Peter become so much more than words! Go up – and read them again!
There is an ability to deal with grief in various trials. It only comes in those intimate moments with God where we realize His ultimate plan. That amid the refining of our faith, as God removes all that is not of Him, that we find a joy that goes beyond anything we can explain. We may not even think of the eternity promised because we are now experiencing a foretaste of it as we rejoice in Christ!
This intimate grace, so full of compassion, so incredibly healing, as we find rest and peace, this is the glory of God, dwelling in us!
This is our safe place, amid the battles, the storms, the complications, the woundedness, and brokenness….
There are times I hate all of that… and yet… in an odd sense, I appreciate it all. For in it, when I don’t run, I realize I have a safe place….there… amid it all, in Jesus.
Lord, in the middle of life, when we are at our wit’s end… help us to remember that You are our safe place, our sanctuary, our Mighty Fortress. AMEN!
Oh – and stop making fun of people who know they need safe places – and invite them into yours!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 201.
Thoughts to help us realize God’s love….
71 Then he started to curse and swear,be “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time,a and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:71-72 CSB
When Jesus encourages us to pray with insistence he sends us to the very heart of the Trinity where, through his holy humanity, he leads us to the Father and promises the Holy Spirit.
We’ve been there…
We have fallen deeply into whatever temptation Satan has thrown at us.
You and I deny Jesus far more often than we want to admit.
Sometimes that denial is in order to secure some momentary pleasure. Sometimes the sin is to avoid discomfort, the unknown or known consequences that happen because people don’t understand what it means to be baptized into Jesus.
And in that moment, when we are in tears, the Spirit comes and brings us to repentance once again.
As the Spirit calls us to pray, as Jesus encourages us to pray, it is not a prayer of an someone cast away, drowning. Satan would love for us to think of it that way. And our own hearts and minds might agree with that demonic assessment.
But God is drawing us in, cleansing us, brinnging us into the very heart of the Trinity, into the place of healing, into the sanctuary, into the place of rest, until we find hope….
When we realize that, when we take a deep breath and remember that we dwell in Chirst – and therefore are in the presence on a holy, triune God, everything slowly takes shape.
And that is the only answer when we find ourselves betraying God, or anything that is less painful.
Here is our hope, that He is our fortress, our sanctuary, our place of hope and healing. Ours, not yours or mine, but everyones. If, as we are realizing God’s work in our lives, can help someone else come along, that is wonderful, and the way it should be…
But you and I, we need to pray… and talk with God.. even when we just sinned.
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), 255.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Listen when anyone in Israel truly feels sorry and sincerely prays with arms lifted toward your temple. 39 You know what is in everyone’s heart. So from your home in heaven answer their prayers, according to the way they live and what is in their hearts. 40 Then your people will worship and obey you for as long as they live in the land you gave their ancestors.
41-42 Foreigners will hear about you and your mighty power, and some of them will come to live among your people Israel. If any of them pray toward this temple, 43 listen from your home in heaven and answer their prayers. Then everyone on earth will worship you, just like your people Israel, and they will know that I have built this temple to honor you. 1 Kings 8:38-43 CEV
884 You are full of weaknesses. Every day you see them more clearly. But don’t let them frighten you. He well knows you can’t yield more fruit. Your involuntary falls—those of a child—show your Father God that he must take more care,…. Each day, as our Lord picks you up from the ground, take advantage of it, embrace him with all your strength and lay your wearied head on his open breast so that you’ll be carried away by the beating of his most loving heart.
One of the names often used for the church building is a sanctuary, a safe place. Usually, that is interpreted to mean that we have found a place to hide from the world. Indeed, there was once a time in Europe when those in authority could not remove someone from a church, even if they were wanted for a crime.
But if we think that is is a sanctuary from the world, as in others arent welcome into it, as if it is the place of protection from those who are sinful, who are broken, who are oppressed and even possessed by evil, think again.
It is not.
Solomon made that clear, at the dedication of the temple – all are welcome in the presence of God, all are invited to pray in those places where God puts His name, where He makes it clear that this is where He will meet with all of us.
Age doesn’t matter, color doesn’t matter, ethnicity doesn’t, even the sins you have committed ( and don’t ever doubt they are sins!) do not matter.
For church is the place to come and discover that God loves you enough to erase those sins, to wipe them out wIth the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, cleansing you of that sin. And that isn’t just for the little white lies, or the gossip that is listed along with sexual sins and murder.
It is about all sins, your deepest, darkest sins that your thought you buried and concealed, along with the sin of your neighbor which you said is so bad that it makes you want to throw-up.
You see, that sanctuary is first a place to come and be restored from your own brokenness, it is the place to come to be healed when you are broken. Look at the prayers in the scripture. It is our own sins that we need to know are forgiven, it is our own brokenness that we need to know will be healed. That is the prayer that we need to know will be heard.
These places aren’t a sanctuary from others, They are where we find healing in communion with each other, as Christ heals us all.
That is something the church needs to remember, especially when the time of brokenness is upon us, as it is now. We need to help others see that God will pick them up, even as He has picked us up! We need to help them be comforted by Him and carried by Him.
Even as we are!
Heavenly Father, help us to know your presence in our lives. Lord lift us up, and help us to bring others into Your Holy Place, that wherever You are, they will know Your mercy, and Your Love, and Lord, help us rejoice in the sanctuary You provide for all of us, in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)
14 As for me, however, I will boast only about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world. Galatians 6:14 GNT
Because rock music (and country and others – DP) seeks redemption through liberation from personality and its responsibilities, it incorporates very precisely the anarchistic ideas of freedom that today are more undisguisedly dominant in the West than in the East. For that very reason it is fundamentally opposed to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, is its real antithesis
A “God” is that upon which one relies for all good things and in whom one takes refuge in all times of trouble. Thus, to have a God is nothing less than to trust and believe in that one from the whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that makes both a God and an idol.
We went with a priest to bless a dying woman who was in great distress and fear. He did a wonderful thing. He took her face in his bands and said: ‘Giuseppina, one day Jesus said ‘Do you love Me?’ You said ‘yes!’ Then He said, ‘Giuseppina, I want you to help Me, you said ‘yes!’ Then He said: ‘come up here on the cross with Me’. You said ‘yes!’ Now Giuseppina, you are on the cross with Jesus and you are helping Him to save souls’. A tremendous peace came over her. Sometimes we also have to believe in the meaning of their sufferings.
As I look at hodge-podge of quotes above, the comment about Rock music strikes a bit hard. I understand it is a generalization, and there is abundant examples of what Pope Benedict speaks of, when talking about the search for freedom, and losing yourself. It is a sublime imitation with a twist, it not only seeks freedom from self, it creates a godless option, which itself becomes the god, the place to pursue, the place to run. It is a freedom that is not free, for there is no redemption.
But that is what we do when we create idols.
We create a place to run to when we are hurt, when we are broken, when we no longer care, because of the pain we encounter. Even as Pope Benedict notes the role of one of our idols. Luther describes what makes one, the need to have someone/something to run to for comfort, for hope when all is broken. A place to hide and heal, entrusting that what remains of us can be revived.
I am in one of those times now, a time where I simply need to be patient and trust God. Yet my heart would draw me to look other places. I need ot learn again that the place to run to is the cross. To understand like the dying woman that our suffering, our challenges should draw us there, where the challenges and suffering can have meaning, where they work to bring others to salvation. When we realize this, that God uses everything for good, then we are amazed and find that peace we so desperately need.
Its not easy.
But look at the scriptures verses in red. They reinforce, both from the Old Testament and the New, that this is part of our relationship with God. He wants to be our refuge, our safe place, our God. He is there when we are overwhelmed, He is there when things are broken, there to comfort us, there to protect us, there to not just put our lives back together, but to make them new.
This is what it means for Him to be our God, and for us to be His children, the children He loves. It is how and why we trust in Him.
He is here, I can break down and be safe… I can take the time to heal.
So can you..
We’ve found our safe place. It is in Jesus.
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. 249–250). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 193). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 188). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 1 Co 3:16 HCSB
1 How lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD of Hosts. 2 I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 64:1-2 HCSB
37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
King Solomon once asked if there was ever a place God could fit in.
As I read the readings quoted this moring I thought of Solomon’s words at the dedication of the temple, and as I read that we were God’s sanctuary, I didn’t think about it in view of a huge cathedral’s sanctuary, but the place for someone seeking a home, seeking a place where you “fit in”, where You were loved. To quote the old song from the show “Cheers”, the place where “everybody knows Your name”.
A sanctuary is a place where you are at peace, where you can rest, and be yourself. Where it is safe. Where you are worry free and free to discover who you are, and live as you were meant ot live. Some people mock those described as “millenials” for wanting such a place, for struggling to understand this world and the chaos we have seen it become.
Yet even as the Psalmist desires to be in the dwelling place of God, (something I resonate with a lot, as I struggle with my own sin and the sin of the world) I find it comforting to know God seeks this place as well. That God would look for His safe place, the place where He would be who He knows Himself to be, to create and find every part of His sanctuary. God is far more desirous of that place than we are, and the extreme measures He will go to create that place, to found the place where He fits in, to dwell in the place where everyone knows (and praises) His name.
People reading this may think that I am picturing God as a wimpy needy person, just as they picture the millennials who they berate and mock. The need for a safe place and a call for it by the younger adults of this day is not about them being wimps, it is about their keen sense of the dissonance that sin causes, the brokenness that our hearts and souls cannot tolerate.
And neither should ours.
We, especially those in the church, should be crying out to God, to make His presence know, to help us to understand that He dwells in our midst, that we are the sanctuary we so eagerly seek out. We can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, see those out searching for a place, drawn to Him, pointed there by our words, by our lives. For this church is the place we find ourselves in the heart of Christ, and it is there, as the Spirit dwells in us,.
This is the sanctuary God desires more than anything, for Jesus, died to establish it. This is the community that is called holy, that is set apart to know and love one another, where everyone knows your name, and everyone knows His. This is His masterpiece, this church made not of wood and stone, but of hearts and souls, the place figured in the words of John 1, where it says he came and made His home among us. This is what all creation culminated in, this sanctuary, this safe place God has made to dwell in with us.
Realize my friends, you dwell in Him, and you are His sanctuary. For this is His desire, to have this sanctuary for Himself.
Lord,, help ys to realize that in the Sabbath you rest, and envisioned us finding rest and peace with You. In making us Your Holy People, you created a place where You fit in, where You would rest in peace with those you call by name, who call You by Name and call upon that Name. Help us to do so often so that every burden is lifted, and every praise is sung. AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Discussion thought of the Day:
7 “The LORD did not love you and choose you because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation on earth. 8 But the LORD loved you and wanted to keep the promise that he made to your ancestors. That is why he saved you by his great might and set you free from slavery to the king of Egypt. 9 Remember that the LORD your God is the only God and that he is faithful. He will keep his covenant and show his constant love to a thousand generations of those who love him and obey his commands, Deuteronomy 7:7-9 (TEV)
10 Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power. 11 Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks. 12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:10-12 (TEV)
830 Don’t be a fool! It’s true that at most you play the part of a small bolt in that great undertaking of Christ’s. But do you know what happens when a bolt is not tight enough or when it works itself out of place? Bigger parts also work loose or gears are damaged or broken. The whole work is slowed up. Perhaps the whole machine will be rendered useless. What a big thing it is to be a little bolt!
I am struggling with the paradox that was America yesterday.
We saw an action taken that will defend the life of an innocent, defenseless human being, found in the womb. Not long after we saw other defenseless innocent humans denied assistance, denied protection. Irony isn’t the right word, and paradox doesn’t express my grief, and indeed my fear.
Both pro-life issues are close to my heart. I’ve known refugees and immigrants as long as I’ve can remember. From my adopted grandfather, to Bing, a family friend who escaped his country, to classmates in junior high and high school. Even the city (and my church ) I live in now is one of the most diverse in California, full of immigrants, and yes refugees who are thriving here. Make no mistake, this closing of our doors to those in need is as evil as the act of taking a child from the womb to die. I’ve counseled too many who have had abortions, and dwelt is silent guilt and shame when they later had another child, and they realized the blessing they were convinced was simply an “inconvenience”. There are other reasons this burdens my heart as well, too deep for me to quickly comment upon.
But what can I, the pastor of a small church, without any political or influence, do in the face of such evil actions as the denial of life? I feel powerless, that my grief and sorrow and even anger is meaningless.
St Josemaria reminds me that even the smallest washer and bolt is critical to a machine. if it isn’t tight enough, if it has worked itself out of place, then the entire machine and process could be at risk.
I understand the illustration, I even like it, but am not sure of its application here. Can my 100 or so people actually make a difference?
I then look to the first quote from scripture, that Israel too was not a large and powerful country. Even at its biggest, under David and Solomon, it couldn’t compete against Egypt or Assyria, against Greece or Rome. Yet its power, its very existence wasn’t to be the powerful kingdom dynasty. The reason God sustained them, the reasoned God remained faithful to them, was in order to reveal HIs love in the incarnation. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus] we find God.
Which is what St Paul is telling us as well. Our ENEMY isn’t Donald Trump, just as it wasn’t Barack Obama, the Bushes, or the Clintons. Our weapons aren’t our marches for justice, our clever memes, our reasoned (if only half researched) articles that we share or chant.
It is not those things that brought us to Christ ourselves, It wasn’t our strength or our reason. So what makes us think our strength and reason will make a bit of difference to those we oppose? (Assuming somehow they heard it?) No, our place is as that bolt, holding fast, just as St Paul tells us,
Holding fast to Christ, to the hope the Israelites were to see bless the world. Our hope is our being united with Christ. He is our weapon, He is our hope for victory. He who defends the defenseless, whether they are too weak, or too guilty.
This is why Paul and Peter both urge us to prayer, to ask God to bless those who are enemies, our adversaries, to see God transform them as He is revealed, just as He did to us. Even as we pray, our pain sacrificed becomes the love which will impact others, and bring about new life.
This is no little task, this gripping Christ as tightly as any bolt to any screw. This praying and depending on Him, and learning to love those we could easily hate, just as Christ loves us.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of God that is at work in you, or HIs desire to bring us all to transformation. That is where our hope is, and continues to be.
And pray and don’t be surprised if you become the next Ananias….
We pray through the tears, “Lord, have mercy”, and hear His comforting answer.
Lord, we pray this morning for our President, and all those that work with them. That they would know your mercy, and as they begin to realize they are loved, that they would show your mercy and love to all who are defenseless, all who are looking for sanctuary and hope.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1905-1909). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. 17 If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18 Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Romans 12:9-18 (TEV)
Christian experience begins in the everyday world of communal experience. Today, the interior space in which Church is experienced is, for many, a foreign world. Nevertheless, this world continues to be a possibility, and it will be the task of religious education to open doors on the experiential space Church and to encourage people to take an interest in this kind of experience. When people share the same faith, when they pray, celebrate, rejoice, suffer, and live together, Church becomes “community” and thus a real living space that enables humanity to experience faith as a life-bringing force in daily life and in the crises of existence.
As a young believer, I watched the church betray and hurt people I loved. I’ve seen it again recently, to more than one person.
It puts the words from Pope Benedict above in a different context, as he speaks of those for whom the experience of being the church is a foreign world. We aren’t talking about those who are completely blinded to the gospel, we are talking about those who have had to seek refuge from the Church.
Why would the place described as the place where we “experience faith as a life bringing force in daily life and the crises of existence” be the place where such faith is snuffed?
Have we forgotten that the church is a body, that we are to have the same concern for everyone, weeping and laughing with them, That we are to try and live in peace with everyone? This is why we talk of church as a community, a communion, a fellowship. Everyone is important, no one is to be silenced because they are drowned out by the crowd.
But how do we create this environment in the church? How do train leaders to develop such a spirit, especially in a culture which promotes narcissism? How do we do this in a culture which says we have to take care of things at home?
Pope benedict talks of the mission of religious education being to help people experience this – but how can they, if the church is more often seen as a cold and heartless place?
My answer may seem to simply, but it is the only one I’ve seen work. That answer is to work on developing hearts full of devotion. This kind of church is not something naively discussed, but it occurs as God’s presence is revealed, and people adore Him, because of what His presence brings about, the lives of joy that His presence creates, strengthens, and sustain.
We find what people what we need, in the communion of saints, the communion that is fashioned by Jesus, and gathers and laughs and cries, as He laughs and cries with us… all as one.
This is where the church is, where it is experienced, where it goes and finds refuge from the world, and then brings others to experience that refuge. AMEN
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:20 *W
20 *When David went home to bless his own house, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him and said, “How well the king of Israel has honored himself today, exposing himself to the view of the slave girls of his followers, as a commoner might expose himself!” 21 But David replied to Michal: “I was dancing before the LORD. As the LORD lives, who chose me over your father and all his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people, Israel, not only will I make merry before the LORD, 22 but I will demean myself even more. I will be lowly in your eyes, but in the eyes of the slave girls you spoke of I will be somebody.” 23 Saul’s daughter Michal was childless to the day she died. 2 Sam 6:20–23 NABRE
426 Once you were pessimistic, hesitant and apathetic. Now you are completely transformed: you feel courageous, optimistic and self-confident, because you have made up your mind, at last, to rely on God alone. (1)
There is an inner war within me, one which swings between wanting a time of quiet reverence, and times where like David, we are just so in awe of God’s presence that we forget ourselves, and just enjoy the moment.
There is a part of me that understand’s Michal’s view, a call for some reference, a call for propriety, a call for being sedate and controlled in the presence of God. That we should be like Isaiah, so afraid of being a sinner in the presence of God, that I freeze. As if all the world should be like the calm reflections of Lent.
There is a time and placed for that kind of lowliness, that form of meekness. But it can’t be forced or manipulated any more than the kind of joy that David exhibited. That is part of my thoughts this morning, which we can’t manipulate the quiet, reverent spirit anymore than we can manipulate a spirit that is celebratory. And while those who try to help lift the spirits of those who are depressed are accused of manipulation, we don’t accuse those like Michal, David’s wife, of the same thing.
There is an inherent danger to the Michal’s of the world. For to manipulate people into that mood does breed the kind of spirit that Josemaria speaks of; a spirit that is pessimistic, hesitant and apathetic. A Spirit that doubts God, and searches for reasons to dismiss His presence, to be freed from His love. The reaction from the Michal’s, those who rejoice in the bitterness of a Monday, is very dangerous.
For it divorces the person from the strength that comes from being in the presence of the Lord. It gives a permanent case of the Mondays, a spiritual barrenness that can lead to a life of complete barrenness.
The Michal attitude even steals the peace that it seems to protect so diligently. For peace is so refreshing, so wonderful, that you enjoy it. You throw a parade, or a party, you dance and sing. You act like the prodigal’s dad, so overjoyed that his boy is home, that nothing could stop the celebration.
Are there times of sorrow? Of course! Are there times of great pain, or great loss? Yes, though it is limited. Are there times where we should approach God in so much awe we can’t speak. Yes, there are times for that as well. Even then, there is a joy that breaks the silence, a confidence that speaks of a life lived in Jesus. Not the bitterness and resentment that refuses to tolerate other people’s joy.
What makes the difference, is to depend on God for that which He promised. We depend on Him to make all things work out for good, all things to be a blessing. To know that even when life doesn’t seem fair, God is still faithful, and He will bless you. When we know this life is God’s work, the joy breaks out.
Relax, know that you are safe, that you have found a refuge in the hands of God.
And remember the joy of knowing God’s invited you to be a part of His feast!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1905-1907). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)
2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. Psalm 91:2-3 (NLT)
For the past week, I have been getting more and more weary. As I see people respond to the unrest in places like Ferguson, or the despair in places like Detroit, as I see the hatred that the President’s actions took regarding immigration, I find myself getting more and more depressed.
If you go – well, of course, look what THEY are doing, please keep reading. For I see the anger and hatred in the reactions of both sides of the issues. It’s just not electronic social media, you can’t even eat lunch in public place without hearing the hatred, the condescension, the call for others to change, but rarely, very rarely, the call to reconciliation, to coming together, to true fellowship. We even create ways to mock the injustice we perceive, not seeing the mocking as less than just…
Some have hated the hating. Demanding that others love, asking why can’t “THEY” just get along. Or quoting platitudes about love and hate as if people were easily capable of the former, and able to just stop the latter. As if we could stop sinning with the snap of a finger, as if we could love without self-sacrifice, as if life was as simple as platitudes and the memes which present them.
I entitled this blog “Why Love isn’t what is needed to combat hatred”, because I keep seeing such memes, such advice. It’s as if this is a war between good and evil, a war between love and hate. It’s not. good doesn’t conquer evil, and love cannot hate hatred enough to go to war against it. What turns love into something that can hatred is fear, fear created because of a lack of what we do need.
For without faith in God, faith in Christ’s work on the cross, trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, what we call love, is not love. It is not the cHesed type of love which sacrifices and bears every burden, so as to bless and reconcile the relationship. Without faith/trust in God we can’t cope with the pain of others, we can’t stop the fear of being hurt again, we can’t cope with the anxiety that living in a sin-plagued world brings.
When you have a moment, look at home many times the psalms call God a refuge? It takes faith/trust to see this. Or how God is described as our hiding place, (and include Colossians 3:2) in that. Look at what God can do to evil, when we trust in Him as our focus, rather than fighting back. Joseph did this, Paul learned to do this from Stephen. David did this when Saul was after him.
In order to love, we have to have the faith, the confidence that God will make all things work for good, even though waiting for that good will be…challenging. For we must trust God through the pain, through what we perceive as evil, knowing that He is Lord, that He is our refuge, that we are protected, our hearts and minds, by Jesus. For as we dwell in Him, the Father surrounds us with peace, the peace that comes from finding refuge.
Lord, help us to trust you more than being repulsed by hatred… and help us love and sacrifice, that all would come to know You1
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1565-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.