Devotional Thought of the Day:
You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. Leviticus 23:3 GNT
“Ever since he was a child,” he replied. 22 “Many times the evil spirit has tried to kill him by throwing him in the fire and into
23 “Yes,” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
24 The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”
25 Jesus noticed that the crowd was closing in on them, so he gave a command to the evil spirit. “Deaf and dumb spirit,” he said, “I order you to come out of the boy and never go into him again!”
26 The spirit screamed, threw the boy into a bad fit, and came out. The boy looked like a corpse, and everyone said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took the boy by the hand and helped him rise, and he stood up. Mark 9:21-27 GNT
445 If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.
So, as the holidays come to a close, as Advent’s focus and the joy of celebrating Jesus coming into the world begines to wane, a number of people have asked me what my plans were.
Actually, they phrase it like this, “go get some rest pastor!”
Then they ask, where I will go, to get the rest! What plans do I have, what will my family and I do.
As if rest is a synonym for travel and vacation. As if spending all day getting tired doing “fun” things provides what our souls need. Please note, I am not saying we shouldn’t take vacations, but rest is something very different.
Rest is what the boy and his dad gained, as Jesus freed them from the grip of demons. It is the time when we step aside from life, ot remember God is with us, to celebrate His presence, to remember His mercy, to let Him free us from the demons that afflict us, and the trauma that so assaults our hearts and souls.
That is what rest is, a time for our lives to relax, and leave everything in the hands of God Almighty, (and not giving him instructions and timelines!).
It enables us to truly pray, which enables us to truly live, and to know that God is here, with us, right now. That allows us to set aside the masks that hide our brokenness, the hypocrisy that everything is perfect in our lives, and the idea that we are saints, by our own power.
Taking this rest in Christ allows us to be human, forgiven, healing from the brokenness and even the demonic activity around us, as we depend on God, who has promised to care for us.
That’s the rest we need, and that is why I believe the place of greatest rest is at the altar rail, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Jesus, as He strips us of our sin, and heals us..It is there I am most aware of His peace, of the presence of God where He pours out all His love on us.
So I had my rest, and maybe we’ll sneak in some vacation time as well…. after I get past my traditional new years cold.
May you allow God to grant you the rest that your souls need!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
34† When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw this large crowd, and his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34 GNT
404 The good shepherd does not need to fill the sheep with fear. Such
Over the years I have worked with a few churches looking for a new pastor, and I still do. I’ve also worked with pastors and those studying for the ministry, enough that these two passages resonate with me. They help explain this wonderful world of pastor and people.
They also describe the needed component, that changes a preacher/lecturer in “their pastor”. It is seen as Jesus gets out of the boat, as He looks at the crowd, and His heart aches for them. I believe it aches because these people are so hungry for help, they are so in need, so desperate for hope, so directionless.
They need a shepherd, and they find one in Jesus, and they find the promise seen in the twelve, that God will provide that Spiritiual guide, even as God is developing them, in their midst.
But the reason they need shepherds is because they don’t have them! Those entrusted with the task were experts in the law, in making sure Israel didn’t do the things that they thought would lead to God’s wrath. They wanted to protect their people by instilling in them a sense of judgment, a sense of fear.
The shepherd doesn’t instell a sense of fear in his people, rather, he fears for them, for what will happen if they don’t experience the love of God, if they don’t have the knowledge of God’s love and mercy, if they don’t understand the relationship God wants with them is based on His love for them, not their fear of Him.
Jesus sits the people down, He teaches them, He feeds them, He makes God’s love for them real and tangible. He meets the needs of their souls.
For pastors, this is your calling, it is why you were given the responsibility of word and sacrament ministry. It is why you are entrusted with the means of grace. It is why you are given a heart that resounds with Christ’s love for His people, as you are given a portion to care for.
For people, let your pastors in, allow them to minister to your soul. Allow them to see your hunger, your needs, your brokenness, and trust them to bring healing there, Christ’s healing. Make their job worth the sacrifices and suffering your brokenness demands of them.
You are in this together, the compassionate shepherds, and the people that need them. For you dwell together, in the mercy of Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1821-1823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 1 Thessalonians 5:13-15
Tenderness is not a virtue of the weak; on the contrary, it spells fortitude, attentiveness, compassion, openness to the other, in short, tenderness is the daughter of love.
If you minister to anyone, whether as a “professional” (pastor/priest, ministry director, worship facilitator) or as a volunteer (elder, deacon, altar guild, bible teacher etc) I want you to go back and read those words in red again.
Go ahead. Go back and read them.
One more time, please.
Sounds like a formidable task! I am not sure which of the tasks is the most challenging! Patience is tough, warning folks is often an invitation to pain. Then there is this, stopping people from repaying evil with evil. That might mean taking the damage intended yourself.
And this letter wasn’t written to pastors, but to the church. It is how we are to minister as a whole, to each other. And these things are challenging because they require great care and caution. They can’t be done with a velvet-gloved iron fist, but with tenderness, with discernment.
And it is what our broken society needs. It is what is relegated to a class or two in seminary, and rarely do we train our elders or Sunday school teachers in it. We by-pass this critical step of being a brother, of helping people to learn to love as Christ loved. For that is what soul care is, loving our neighbor, even loving our enemy.
It is the fulfillment of the law that happens as we are transformed into the image of Jesus.
We need to be there for each other, for the broken in our communities, for those who are questioning the world and all there is in it. We need to be there when we are broken when we are hurting when we want to give up. When our souls are thirsty.
That is what the body of Christ does for each other.
Who is God calling for your to treat tenderly today? WHo will you minister to tomorrow, that needs God’s mercy and love?
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 274). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.