Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. 3 You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. 4 For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders. . Isaiah 9:2-4 (TEV)
3† You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:1-3 GNT
Temptation has its own “style” in the Church: it grows, spreads and justifies itself. It grows inside the person, rising in tone. It grows in the community, spreading the disease. It always has a word at hand to justify its stance.
When [Luther] was asked whether it was enough for a person to confess sin and believe in absolution and not use the sacrament [of the altar], he replied, “No! It is stated in the words of institution, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ [1 Cor 11:25]. Everything that is required of a Christian must be in the sacrament: acknowledgement of sin (which we call contrition), faith, giving of thanks, confession. These things must not be separated from one another.”
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being, so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me, that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me. But only Jesus! Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus will be all from you, none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me. Let me thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around me. Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force,the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you. Amen. (the radiating prayer of St Theresa of Calcutta )
One of the problems with theology is semantics, for there are not enough terms to enable everything to be put in nice orderly thoughts. For that matter there are too many thoughts to keep them straight, even for the brightest and largest minds.
If I talk to a Lutheran about two Kingdoms, they often think of a divide between the secular and the sacred, and though God operates and reigns in each Kingdom, the theory is that there are different rules, different concerns, and for some, a different sense of ethics and morality.
Others would think of two kingdoms as the Kingdom of Darkness where sin reigns (or perhaps Satan) and God’s Kingdom, where righteousness and holiness are predominant.
A slight difference, for in Lutheran thought, God still reigns in the secular, in other systems, it represents a warzone, good against evil, Satan against God. Lutherans miss this often, and often the awareness of how different a life lived in sin is different, or should be different, than one lived in grace.
As a pastor, I see people struggling with this all the time, this idea of living a life affected by grace, a life of holiness, a life separated to God. The life Paul describes to the church in Colossae, where he urges them to set their minds and fix their hearts on things that are above, for the reality they truly dwell in is found there, in the presence of God. It is that transition that Isaiah prophetically described, as people were awakened from the darkness, and would learn to live in the light, with the work of the Child who would be given.
Even so, we have to live in this world between the two kingdoms, this world of shadows. This place where we can be dragged back into the darkness by temptation. A temptation that can affect those in the church, just as powerfully, just as dramatically, as it does the world which it dominates over. This is the great challenge, to live in this Kingdom, but not be of it. To minister to those broken by it, and yet not let it dominate us.
Luther sees the answer in the sacrament of the Eucharist, (which is why we should commune often!) because of all it includes. To spend that time with our heart set and minds fixed upon Christ Jesus. To feel the relief of being forgiven, to celebrate the blessing of being freed from darkness,
It is from that point that an amazing thing happens, the prayer of St Theresa becomes visibly answered. Not by our own will, not even by our effort, but simply from having God work in our lives, not being as aware of it as His presence. Not understanding it, but simply reveling in this world of glory that we dwell in, with Him.
That glory of God radiates from Him through us, even as it did through Moses. As we spend time, focused heart and mind on God, experiencing the love, our life changes… and ministry happens without our knowing. In this place the secular and the sacred overlap.
It is a glorious thing…it is holiness, a life set apart to God. It is who we, who have seen God’s glory invade our darkness, were reborn to live in.
So let’s do it, living in both Kingdoms, reflecting the light that others might fight the freedom of being loved by God. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 238). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
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. 183). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
31 Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory. 32 Live in such a way as to cause no trouble either to Jews or Gentiles or to the church of God. 33 Just do as I do; I try to please everyone in all that I do, not thinking of my own good, but of the good of all, so that they might be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (TEV)
The Benedictine tradition is marked by a spirituality rooted deeply, intentionally in the issues and activities which confront us every day. These include the seemingly endless quotidian chores which fill the greater part of most of our days. Working. Eating. Caring for the sick and providing for the poor. Talking. Reading. Dealing with difficult people, just like ourselves. The Rule emphatically validates the sanctity of these efforts, drawing them up into the same sphere of holy activity as prayer, and meditation on sacred Scripture. Kitchen utensils and garden tools of the monastery are to be treated no differently than the sacred vessels of the altar. Guests are to be welcomed as one would welcome Christ himself. Rather than drawing lines between sacred and profane, or attempting heroic theological gymnastics to keep the high work of spirituality unspotted from the lowly tasks of this world, the Rule unabashedly weds life in Christ to life in the sanctified dust and sweat of our daily-grind existence.
6 Do not be afraid. Do not be alarmed or surprised. Do not allow yourself to be overcome by false prudence. The call to fulfil God’s will—this goes for vocation too—is sudden, as it was for the Apostles: a meeting with Christ and his call is followed… None of them doubted. Meeting Christ and following him was all one.
There are times the people that make up the church today seem to have a split personality. ( Or would it be better to say we are simply two-faced?)
We create one set of rules for behavior with our friends at church, that is our sacred world’ and another set of rules for our behavior in the secular world. And as a result, we don’t bring our religion/relationship with God into the “real” world, and we don’t want to bring before God in prayer our real life.
I am not sure if we think he wouldn’t be interested, or is incapable of understanding it (I mean Jesus “lived” so long ago! How could He possibly understand the fast-paced, media-hyped, techno/cyber crazy world in which we live?
Or maybe we want the disconnect between our sacred and secular worlds for our own benefit. Do we keep this illusion, that it is sacred and secular in order that we can have our sin and our Communion too?
Is this a big deal? It is when we think of the mission of the church, to be ambassadors of reconciliation, of bringing everything, of shepherding everything back to Christ. To reveal His active and grace-filled presence to those around us, to the effect that they are saved But if we have disengaged the two worlds, at least in our minds, then we can let them go, each to their own way.
Until the distance is so far we can’t stand on both. Then we become hyper-spiritual and condemn all the physical, or we become even more driven to satisfy our own pleasure, hedonists of the first order.
Some have tried to counter this division – Luther and his talk of vocation comes to mind. The quote from Robert Webber above, citing the work of the Order of St Benedict is another. And undoubtedly this get to the heart of St Josemaria’s Opus Dei – walking in faith in the midst of a broken world.
We need to stop dividing the life we have been given by God!
He walks with us through every part of our day, and we need to rely on Him during every part of our day. It is His mission to save the world and to do it through His people. Whether they work at Subway, or a University, whether they are pastors or stay at home moms. Whether they are 12-or 92. God walks with each of s, everywhere.
Knowing that changes things, it changes them by making them holy, precious, the work of God.
When we cry out, “Lord have mercy on us” it includes all of our lives, all that we do, all that we encounter, and we need to know, He is here, the Lord is with us! Not to judge, but to guide. Not to condemn but to comfort, to give us hope, to draw us into His glory and love.
Sacred? Secular? Hole? Profane? Religious? Worldly?
These divisions aren’t real for us, for rejoice, we dwell in Christ!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 252-257). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Live a Life Filled With Love!
† In Jesus Name †
This is my prayer for you, that because of the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, you would desire to live a life filled with His love, and imitate Christ Jesus in everything you do.
The Difference Between Playing God.. and Imitating Him
It was once said that the sincerest form of compliment was for someone to imitate you.
Well, it is a compliment as long as they imitate something you like about yourself.
For example, a lady asking another lady for a recipe.
That’s a compliment.
Another pastor asking if he can use a sermon, or learn Chris’s liturgy music, those are compliments.
Someone choosing to become a teacher, or a doctor or even a pastor, because of the impact that a teacher, doctor or pastor had on their life.
Those are compliments as well!
Is someone trying to duplicate my golf swing?
That’s not a compliment; that is insanity!
In today’s epistle reading, there are two different models to imitate, to mimic. One is insanity; the other seems impossible, but it is actually rather simple.
One is imitating the Gentiles.
The other is imitating God.
One possible, the other insanity….
Imitating the World is Simply Playing God The Sin of Self Idolatry
Let’s deal with imitating the Gentiles. Or as Paul says, living like the Gentiles, following the patterns and lifestyles of the world.
It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Psychology to see how crazy the world is.
Paul describes it well by saying that those living without a relationship with God are hopelessly confused, that their minds are lost in a darkness that consumes them. Paul goes on to describe them as close minded to God and having no sense of shame. They are people that live for whatever seems pleasurable, chasing after whatever is popular, no matter how degrading, how filthy, how degrading, how evil.
As long as it meets what they consider their needs….
Need for pleasure, for fun, for comfort, for approval. Or simply if it helps them get what they want. It is narcissism, self-centeredness Or put more simply, it is telling God his guidance is worthless, and replacing his rules with your own. Don’t worry about those ten commandments, or loving our neighbor, the world says. Scripture isn’t relevant or real! Do what seems right in your own eyes, and if peopled question you, tell them to not judge you.
That was the gGentilesattitude, it is definitely the world’s attitude today.
But there is a problem here… one we need to think through.
Lest we only judge those out in the world, I need you to recognize what Paul is telling this church, perhaps the most mature of all the churches he ministered to.
Look at this carefully
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do,
Now, let’s think about this. You don’t have to tell people to not do something, unless they are doing it!
And if you are an apostle, you don’t have to add, “with the Lord’s authority”, unless you know they are really going to struggle with you on the matter.
The people in the church in Ephesus struggled with living like the world.
If we are honest, we struggle with it as well. It’s not that we really want to, but some habits are hard to break. Temptations can be hard to overcome.
Paul lists a bunch of sin, buts the key is in verse 22. Sin is the result of lives corrupted by two things, the first is lust, desiring things that aren’t yours. The second thing that corrupts our lives is what is translated as deception, but is more like seduction. The things that distract us, attract our attention and cause us to hunger for them.
The sin dominated one is a insane life, for we don’t have the wisdom to choose wisely. It is crazy to say we know better than God. That we know what is good for us.
But there is an option to imitating the world.
Imitating God The life of the Transformed
We need to make sure we understand the difference between playing God, and imitating God.
The gentiles and the world, and yes often we play God. That is sin.
But Paul calls us to imitate God, to follow the example of Jesus. That requires something important. You see a hint of it on the cover of the bulletin. It is a transformation as incredible as that which occurs when a hungry caterpillar becomes a majestic butterfly.
A transformation that begins when you were baptized.
A transformation that happens as Paul describes, in verse 23,
let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Unlike the butterfly, our transformation is started, empowered and completed by Christ. It occurs as we spend time realizing His presence in our lives, the promise of our Baptism. It happens as we contemplate how much He loves us, and the freedom that gives us.
For the old controlling forces that corrupted our lives have been broken and we are free to see God’s reconciliation spread, even as Paul describes
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
This is not a command as we think of it, and imperative you must. It is more like discovering something incredible, a blessing of proportions!
Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, gossip, all evil behavior can be stripped off of us, and as we are united to Jesus, we find ourselves being dressed with God’s love, with His mercy, even as we begin to resemble Christ…even as we are being healed.
Because we are imitating God.
Like a child, wanting to be like his dad…
This is what happens when you trust in God, when you depend on Him.
We are changed, we are transformed… and instead of being locked into a life shaped and modeled by the world, we find something incredible, a journey through life, that as we mature, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus… causes us to resemble Him more… and these words become our life
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love,