Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)
Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours
† I.H.S. †
The Mark you bear….the passion it represents
A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead. Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.
Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.
As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden. We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.
Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….
The prayer tonight? It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”
An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight. A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.
The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross
Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away… Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.
Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.
We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness. To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.
And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.
The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!
The Mark of Bliss
As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.
The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)
It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish. The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears. All that is necessary for a time. But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,
The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.
In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…
Make Me thine
And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.
He has made us His own.
We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”
Devotional Thought of the Day:’
He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness. The LORD your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.’ Deut 2:7 HCSB
It has become habit to read through the Old Testament every year, and changing translations each new year. There are times it seems a drudgery, a journey through this guy begat that guy or a recitation of all of the different ways to sin. (as if I needed a detailed list!) What will I find here, I wonder, that will make this habit worth it. Where will I find something that is nourishing in this wilderness?
And then I come to a verse like the one above, Tucked into the history of Israel’s rebellion and sin, a recounting of all the times they did what was right to them, completely disregarding God’s directions, given through Moses.
Go here, they go there. Do this, they do something else. It sounds like a group I would find myself some like-minded companions. People who struggle just the way Paul did, doing what they shouldn’t, and failing to do what they should.
As Moses tells them their own history, there is this incredible verse. He tells them that as they have walked through the Wilderness, their punishment, their discipline for the sin they have committed, where God was.
There. providing for them. For 40 years, He didn’t abandon them as He disciplined them.
That is an incredible thing to realize.
By no means should that continue to wander in sin, we need to confess our sin, trusting in God to forgive those sins, because Jesus came and died to pay for them.
But there is a comfort to know that God doesn’t abandon His rebellious children, that He desires, truly desires that all come to repentance and that this is part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
What an amazing, loving merciful God we have, that allows us to wander, that disciplines us, and yet provides for us during that time, giving us what is truly beneficial!
He is with us, even when we don’t see it, even when we don’t want to see it. When we are faithless, still e is faithful.
So if you are wandering today, you can’t escape Him, so it is time to come home, and confess your sins, and find the incredible love and mercy of God is yours. Come, confess your sins, and find that He is faithful, forgiving you of those sins, and cleansing you of all unrighteousness.
Devotional Thought for our days:
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)
8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?”
“To find favor with you, my lord,” he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.” Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB
173 Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.
There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin. We want to get past it, but we cannot. It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.
Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him. Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection. Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.
Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit. Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost. But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.
We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!
That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off. This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him. Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us? It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.
He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.
He holds us close to His heart, so very close! As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.
It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.
But He is there, with us.
For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.
Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
6 “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8 I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’” 9 So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 (NLT)
Now it becomes clear that what took place on Sinai, in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the land. Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters. No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. Israel is constituted as a people through the covenant and the divine law it contains. It has received a common rule for righteous living. This and this alone is what makes the land a real gift. Sinai remains present in the Promised Land. When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.
As I read these two quotes above, as it talks of people who are discouraged and inwardly lost, they resonate with me. A lot of my ministry is helping people who think they are lost realize that they’ve been found, The role of a shepherd/pastor is to bring people home who are broken and lost.
Israel was there in Egypt, it wasn’t where they belonged. They would later confuse the belonging to being attached to real estate, and when they lost that and were taken in captivity again, they had already lost the belonging that made the land special in the first place.
It wasn’t the dirt they lived on that made them special, it was who they lived with, as God shared His glory with them. It was the interior life, as we dwelled with God that made the place special. It was the fact that they were aware that God had claimed them…
Even as He claimed us.
At Sinai, the people couldn’t do anything but dwell in God’s presence. They struggled with the glory, they struggled with depending on God for food (manna again!) and water. They struggled with idolatry, and with obedience.
Yet they lived in His presence, and they had access to the restoration God provided.
There is a lesson here, as we remember how dependable God was at Sinai, how eagerly He would restore those who came for forgiveness. He was there for them, He would rescue them again and again.
He will rescue us, and refresh our shriveled interior life, and help us to again live in His glory. For He has claimed us as His own> We are His people, whom He loves.
Discouraged by the evil you see in this world? The brokenness you feel in your life and the brokenness in the lives of those you love? There is hope, there is the promise. You are His!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, m where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 HCSB
165 You must always remember that the spiritual faculties are fed by what they receive from the senses. Guard them well!
“You shall have no other gods.”
1 That is, you shall regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God?
2 Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
I really don’t like meditating on this passage in scripture, because if I do, then waht follows next is an inventory of what I truly treasure.
Add to it the words of Luther and St. Josemaria, and I begin to realize what I treasure, what I value, have slowly become my idols, and just as gently, they wean me away from my faith, my trust and dependence on God.
For there is no idol we create and feed that knows satisfaction. They desire more and more of our attention, more and more of our devotion, more and more time and money to satisfy them.
These idols may not be things we carve out of wood and stone, they can range from our health to our technology, to our careers, to even our family and their success. it might make more sense to ask what we value, what our priorities are, for it is the same question. What do we invest, not our money, but our time, and our thoughts in, because they are our top priority?
This is hard for me, there are a number of things I invest too much time, too much thought in, that can dominate my day, and often determine whether it is a good day, or it sucks.
So where is my hope, how do I break away from these idols, and see my support systems taken away?
Simply put, to treasure heaven, to treasure the intimacy with God that is ours because of the work of Christ Jesus. To put our focus on what truly matters, His love. His mercy. To take him up on his invitation to walk with Him, to dwell in His glory. To feast at His table, knowing that such is reserved for His people, His children, on those he’s called there.
These things we are drawn into, prayer, meditation on His message, the incredible blessing gives to us in our baptism, strengthened as we are told again, “your sins are forgiven” and nourished at the altar; they are not our work. We are drawn into this glory of God, we are declared to be His beloved, and transformed into that which receives that love, and can love in return.
We need to be drawn into that love, constantly. We need to know we are welcome there, not only that, that God desires us there.
That is the only answer to our idolatry. To hear His voice, to treasure His love…which means we need it revealed.
Heavenly Father, please help us to listen to the Holy Spirit in our lives. Reveal His presence through little children, through elderly saints, through our pastors and priests, so that we can drop our sin, our idolatry and cling to our hope in you. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 774-776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
The Reformation Cry of a Broken Soul!
† In Jesus †
As God’s grace for us is revealed, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we find it easier to depend on Him completely, for we are His people and He is with us! AMEN!
Not a Battle cry!
As we’ve approached the 500th anniversary of Luther inviting people to discuss problems in the church, I have become more and more upset by what I’ve seen. I’ve seen some extremism creep in, as some have label Leather not a reformer, but a revolutionary. I’ve seen that said negatively by some, and some say the same thing with great pride as if we were celebrating something akin to the 4th of July.
As if Sola Fide (Faith alone) was a battle cry, a chant to get behind as we took on an evil enemy, and triumphed by the power of our will. For some Protestants, the 500th anniversary has become a chance for our touchdown dance. For some Catholics, we are still the impertinent upstarts who want to destroy the church for whom Christ has died.
But Sola Fide wasn’t a battle cry at first.
It was the cry of a priest named Fr. Martin, who had tried every way possible to be good enough for God, and yet remained broken and in great despair, tormented by the sin which had its talons buried deep into him, and wouldn’t let Him escape,
Until he listened to the words God spoke through the scriptures, the words of the mass, the worship service he led every day since his ordination, and found hope….
as he learned to depend, not on his on work, but on the work of Christ alone.
That is what Sola Fide, the great reformation cry of a broken soul means.
to depend on Christ, no other, to save us from our brokenness, the brokenness caused by sin.
That is why Sola Fide is a cry, a cry of a broken heart that has found hope, and will not let go of it.
The Brokenness of Those Who Trust in Rubbish
A couple of weeks ago, we heard that Paul tossed aside the rubbish he once depended on, what he thought proved he was a good man, what proved he was righteous, godly, holy.
We see that attitude in the people Jesus was talking to today. They claimed they didn’t’ need to be free from the sin, and the rubbish that they counted on to show them good enough for God.
We were never slaves!
They didn’t remember their own history that well, for scripture tells us these children of Abraham were enslaved by Egypt, (see Exodus), by Midian various Philistine groups (see Judges and the Books of Samuel), by Assyria and Babylon (see the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets) and eventually by Greece ( see Maccabees) and then, even in Jesus day, hey were the subjects, the slaves of Rome and Caesar.
But nah, they weren’t slaves.
Can you imagine someone who said they don’t struggle with sin at all? Or worse, that they never sin anymore?
That’s what we are claiming when we say we are good people, or when we say that person or this person is so good, surely they will get to heaven. When we say that – we are exactly like the people Jesus encountered, the people who thought they were okay with God, that their sin was insignificant.
The True Burden
In the Luther movie we watched last week, Luther’s mentor Staupitz confronted Luther, saying that of all the monks, his confessions were the least interesting! They were boring because none of the sins were interesting.
Yet Luther felt all too well the distance those sins led him from God. He despaired of the brokenness. A book I am reading on his life gave a little more detail. One of those times of private confession lasted over 5 hours, as Luther tried to account for every sin he committed in the last week. He walked away from that confession convinced that he wasn’t sorry enough, that he missed sins that wouldn’t be forgiven.
I get that. Part of me doesn’t want to look upon my own sin. I want to excuse it, find justifications for it, dismiss it as not as serious as it is. But when I am thinking seriously about my sin, for example when I am up here, and we have those brief moments of confessing, there are times I wonder why God has me up here, heck why He even let me in this place.
Like Luther, it would be easy to sink into despair, to believe that God wouldn’t accept someone a sinner like us.
How I wish we could take sin that seriously, for only one reason.
If we did, how much more would we be overwhelmed by the knowledge that He comes to us, picks us up, forgives of our sin and cleanses us of our unrighteousness.
Then we would know how much God loves us, as He embraces us, prodigals still smelling like the “rubbish” and pig slop we lived in, as He calls for us to be dressed in the best robes. As he tells everyone, my child is home.
hear again Jesus.
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I’m going to rephrase that a little, for clarity
“You are truly my disciples if you depend on my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus, the Son of God came for one purpose, to free you and I, and every other person from the power of sin. Jesus dying on cross shattered the hold it has on us. His resurrection comforts us, as the promise is clearly seen.
You are free of that sin, you are cleansed of that unrighteousness,
Depend on that as you approach the altar, confidently as the Book of Hebrews tells us to do, knowing we are in the presence of God who loves us.
Depend on Jesus, trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, for He alone is our Savior, our Lord, who brings us home to the Father.
And as you cry out, aware of your need, don’t be surprised that knowing He is God brings you peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Devotional Thought for our days:
5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:5-7 (NLT)
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin. 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 4:14-16 (TEV)
80 If you are a good son of God, in the same way that a little child needs to be assured of the presence of his parents when he gets up in the morning or goes to bed at night, your first and last thought each day will be for Him.
Luther saw in this the very essence of Christian theology. God reached down not halfway to meet us in our vileness but all the way down, to the foul dregs of our broken humanity. And this holy and loving God dared to touch our lifeless and rotting essence and in doing so underscored that this is the truth about us. In fact, we are not sick and in need of healing. We are dead and in need of resurrecting. We are not dusty and in need of a good dusting; we are fatally befouled with death and fatally toxic filth and require total redemption. If we do not recognize that we need eternal life from the hand of God, we remain in our sins and are eternally dead. So because God respects us, he can reach us only if we are honest about our condition. So it fit well with Luther’s thinking that if God were to bestow upon him— the unworthy sinner Luther— such a divine blessing, it must needs be done as he sat grunting in the “cloaca.”
It is not what we think of as a holy place, yet it was.
A man who suffered incredibly from guilt and shame, whose anxiety nearly paralyzed him, when it wasn’t driving him mad.
And he finally had that aha moment while sitting on a toilet. During a particularly hard bowel movement.
Seriously? Yeah, seriously.
In a way, it is the perfect parallel physically to what needs to happen to us spiritually. We might call it thus, “The Kingdom of God is like a good laxative! We need to get rid of all the crap in our lives, the sin which binds us up! We try to eliminate the sin’s stench by trying to legitimize our behavior, to justify or excuse it. We do all things these, and all they do is cause us pain, and grief, and more foul air. And when God comes to us, all that crap is eliminated.
We need God to meet us there! And that is what Luther realized God would do, a God who loves His children so much that He will meet us even there. A God who would answer the cry of a child in pain, a God who would be there for us, no matter what we are dealing with in life. A God who knows the crap we’ve been messing around in, and loves us enough to set aside the stench and do what needed to be done.
As we realize this, how it changes us! How it reforms us and the way that we look at life! How it draws us to Him, to adore Him,, to love Him, to worship Him, even as we run to Him with confidence, assured that he can take care for the crap we cannot deal with by our own reason or strength.
This is our God, cry out to Him in confidence! Lord have mercy on me!
And assured of His love and grace, know the relief, the peace that His presence brings! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 498-500). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days….
After the vision of these things I looked, and there was a great number of people, so many that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They were shouting in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9-10 NCV
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (NLT)
The goal of the early Augustine, “God and the soul—nothing else”, is not realizable; it is also not Christian. In the last analysis, religion consists, not in the solitary way of the mystic, but in the community of proclaiming and hearing. Our conversation with God and our conversation with one another require and condition one another.
Every once in a while someone will tell me they don’t go to church because they don’t need it. They can worship God in a park, at the beach, in the mountains, by a lake. I almost believe them. After all, they will claim, didn’t Jesus often go away from the disciples to pray?
No, I do believe them. Some of the most intense moments, where I have realized the grace of God, have been those solitary moments when I am still, when I must know that He is God, that He is with me. And it is usually dealing with people that drives me to seek such solitude!
And of course, I am not alone in this. Augustine’s thoughts about this, referenced by Pope Benedict, show a similar desire. Just me and God, just God and my soul, nothing else needed! Benedict XVI sounds similar, if less harsh, to the critiques of Luther in regards to monasticism. Our relationship with God and with each other is the same relationship, it is the same package. Both Paul and Peter describe this in scripture as we are one body, many different parts perhaps, but we are one, and Jesus is our head. The creeds talk about one Church, noted because it is holy ( dedicated and separated to God ) Catholic (universal, across all 4 dimensions), apostolic ( it has a mission, it is sent by God) church ( those drawn together in Christ)
This is the way it was the early church, so in awe of the resurrection of Christ and what it means for us, they couldn’t help but meet together often, to talk about it, to show the love they had for each other. It wasn’t programmed, it wasn’t the result of marketing, it was the joy of being in Christ. Were there problems? Sure, but they worked themselves out as people realized they were reconciled to God.
Ultimately, in heaven, in the presence of God, face to face with Him, we are standing shoulder to shoulder, we are singing loudly together. It is not you, walking in the garden alone with God, We are all His! He walks with all of us, He talked with all of us, and He tells us all, we are His own. That is the way it is.
What does this mean for the church today?
That’s a big question. In a world with tens of thousands of different bodies, each claiming to be the church, yet each a broken fractured part of the one Church. But we can’t ignore the rest! Just as an individual can’t separate themselves from the church, neither should a congregation or even a denomination. There still needs to be a desire, a strong sense of this division is wrong and prayer that God would lead us to wholeness, real wholeness. Found in reconciliation in Christ, not in man made compromise. Still- that we would be one, even as Jesus and the Father are One.
May this be part of what we cry out for, when we cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!” 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 for our days…
24 Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25 Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26 That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27 I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TEV)
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)
1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.
60 Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.
Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders. Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy. Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.
Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation. And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection. (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_
The struggle is real.
The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives. Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,
But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it? Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it? Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle? A different sort of discipline?
There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing. I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.
So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it? Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries? Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?
I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us. Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God. These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.
That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple. Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.
In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it! We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us. FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far…
And still, He is here…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). 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 for our days
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4 For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. Hebrews 12:1-4 (TEV)
50 Feel the responsibility of your mission: the whole of Heaven is looking down on you.
Most of the time, when I read this passage, I get hooked on the idea of leaving my sin which has such a grip on me, and so many others I care about. To be free of that insidious evil that tries to sink its talons into us, what an incredible thought! To be rid of those things that get in the way of the life we live, whether it be resentments, or hurts or anxieties, what an incredible invaluable blessing!
A blessing that comes as we look to Jesus, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, as the Holy Spirit transforms us! What an incredible thing! It is amazing, awe-inspiring s we focus our adoration on the Lord who loves us. us!
Yet this passage isn’t primarily about this blessing, but in what this blessing allows us to do, to run the race, to complete the mission, as Paul will say in Colossians, to present every man perfect IN Christ, who is the goal of our mission as well.
That is the same mission as those who went before us and trusted in God. All of the great men and women of faith, who struggled with God and were used by God, who came to trust Him with their lives. And in the process, even when being martyred, killed for their testimony, they were able to embrace the hate and pain, knowing that in some cases, their dependence on God would bring the ones torturing them to know God’s peace.
The author here encourages us not to give up, reminding us of how much Christ endured for us, and how much those people of faith endured. Don’t give up – keep focused on Jesus love for you – plunge its depths, ascend its height, explore its unending breadth and width, walk with Him through life…
Even on Mondays, even when it is not torture, but the boring return to our monotonous weekly grind beginning again.
He is with us, remember that, the day will be different. Full of joy and peace, no matter what our bosses or the world throw at us.
God is with us! Let’s get back to work in His harvest, with Him!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 406-408). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.