Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 7 He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. 10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 (TEV)
For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all he has on earth—possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life.
66 Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.
67 Therefore, there is just as much need in this case as in every other case to pray without ceasing: “Thy will be done, dear Father, and not the will of the devil or of our enemies, nor of those who would persecute and suppress thy holy Word or prevent thy kingdom from coming; and grant that whatever we must suffer on its account, we may patiently bear and overcome, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away through weakness or indolence.” (1)
The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.
One engages in the apostolate through the faith, hope, and charity which the Holy Spirit diffuses in the hearts of all members of the Church. Indeed, by the precept of charity, which is the Lord’s greatest commandment, all the faithful are impelled to promote the glory of God through the coming of His kingdom and to obtain eternal life for all men-that they may know the only true God and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ (cf. John 17:3). On all Christians therefore is laid the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world. (2)
I was recently reading a document which described the mission field as one where suffering may be more likely than not. It wanted to prepare (and or scare off) potential missionaries, warning them that life would be hard.
But it is not just missionaries in exotic foreign places who are to live life in that manner. It is as well those who are missionaries here. All people who pray that God’s kingdom would come. All who understand the grace of God, having received it in awe, and in awe spent time in adoration and thanksgiving. This is the glorious work that God has given all the church, both its shepherds and sheep to do.
Luther is deadly with his recognition that there is a part of us that we balk at living lives full of suffering. We don’t want to be self-controlled, living simply to put first in our lives God’s priority – that of bringing the message of salvation to the world, making it know and helping all to accept it. Being brutally honest, I think sometimes we are glad when they are repulsed by it, or when we offend them enough to drive them away. It is easier to say “we tried and failed” than “we tried, and because we love them, we will keep praying and trying.” Vatican II says it well – it is our preeminent responsibility, this work of the gospel.
Being missional, being part of the apostolate (same term) requires us to suffer, to be patient, to be driven by the Holy Spirit, enduring to the end that people know Jesus.
Throughout this article, I haven’t used the other word, Sacrifice. I have not used it, because honestly, giving up money or fame, separating ourselves from our idols and false gods is not sacrifice. At least we learn it is not, as we find ourselves at the cross. That was sacrifice. Our giving up things, our endurance is simply the process of sanctification, as God himself separates us from that which distracts us from His love, from His presence, from the sacrifice of Christ’s love.
It is for that reason the passage from Vatican II calls the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the soul of the apostolate, or as some would know it, the soul of being missional. It is there, in that intimate moment as God gives you and your family Christ’s Body and Blood, as the covenant is renewed and celebrated, that we find again what is so precious. Time with God, the refuge of peace that overwhelms us that assures us that He loves us, that He will heal us, that He cares for us. God is our refuge, our strength, our very help in time of suffering.
This celebration of Christ’s sacrifice which unites us to God is the soul of our mission; it is what is so amazing that we know others must know it as well. That life is simply not the same without it. We have to reveal it to others, we are compelled, not by force, but by love to do this.
It doesn’t matter whether we are in the mountains of Papua New Guinea or the coastal towns of Sicily. It doesn’t matter whether we are in the suburbs of Boston, or in the urban city of Bellflower, California. It doesn’t matter whether we are risking our lives preaching the gospel in the Sudan, or in Istanbul, or having breakfast with friends in Cerritos.
The need for us to reveal God’s desire to meet their deepest needs, to bring healing to their brokenness exists.
This is our mission; this is why we are part of the apostolate, those who walk with Christ bringing light and salvation to the world.
We are Christ’s masterpiece. We are united to Him, and doing the good words God has created in our lives.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 429). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional/discussion thought of the day….
One of my favorite spiritual books – which we soon be re-opened – was written not by a famous pastor or priest – or by a saint, or by a powerful bishop or pope, but by a baker in a monastery. It tells of finding service to God in serving where one is put…. and that it is more important to serve well, than where one serves. (that is but one of the lessons) I know some people like that.
I know a lady who has volunteered at her church for 30 years – maybe 40. She is presently working in the sanctuary, filling the oil candles. Other times, she sits in the office, waiting for the phone to ring, or cutting out things for the pre-school teachers, or talking to those who drop by the office, lifting their spirits. She would turn bright red if she knew I was writing this blog about her and others. But if the church she serves runs smoothly – if we get things done – if things are in order… it is because of her service.
I know as well a number of teachers – but this morning I think of five – who are quite gifted – incredibly so. When their school closed, one stayed and has done a marvelous job with the preschool there, another went to another preschool and teaches the littlest – caring for them with incredible grace., two others are back teaching in elementary schools – teaching those who’ve others have given up on – the most challenging of kids to teach… and one serves the church as a office manager. What amazes me is that all of them are incredibly qualified and gifted – and yet they choose to serve where they do. All have chosen to serve those… who others would not, dare not. They do it – because God has placed them there – and though they may struggle with it – they serve those around them.
One of my favorite writes said this,
In God’s service there are no unimportant posts: all are of great importance. The importance of the post depends on the spiritual level reached by the person filling it. (1)
Luther – another of my favorite authors comments similarly
Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool—though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith—my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling—not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools. (2)
It is not what we do – as the six ladies above demonstrate – it is that we do it in faith, trusting God to use what we do, trusting Him to turn our simple works into something which blesses those around us.
As I go to write my final manuscript this morning, as I find myself distracted by a number of things – this too comes out – I have to depend on the Lord who put me here – I have to go to Him first, I have to see His work, in those around me, and find the assurance that He will work through my hands, through my voice as well.
For that is what makes the difference. Many won’t recognize the work and devotion others have… yet without their work…without their example to me…without seeing what God does in their life…and with their selfless work… my serving would be weakened.
Thank God for those who serve around you – especially those whose work is not easily seen.
And as you consider the effect of their work, of God’s work through them, may you find yourself being used where you are at as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2285-2287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 45: Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (40–41). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.