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The Paradox of the Gospel. You are Valjean and you are the Bishop

Les Miserables Valjean's soliloquy lyrics (2012) - YouTube

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

9  That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God. John 1:9 (Phillips NT)

He told me that I have a soul
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
(Jean Valjean’s Soliloquy- Les Mis)

Go out into the streets to look, find, knock on doors,instruct and evangelize!
In a history marked by vulnerability our Lord Jesus Christ breaks in with an unstoppable strength and courage. That’s the Good News,the core of our preaching: the outright proclamation of this irruption of Jesus Christ incarnate, dead and risen, in our history.

The humblest Christian is called to live a miracle, a life that is a moral and spiritual life with such intensity and such purity that no human being can do it—only Jesus Christ can do it.

Yet this is no evangelicalistic theology, which is grounded in the same triumphalistic anthropology of the “I” (“I have decided to follow Jesus—no turning back, no turning back”). Instead—I believe that I cannot believe—the reversed Trinity of Luther’s catechism holds in tension the human inability in theology, faith, and life with the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament. Thus, the third article is the actual turning point of the entire catechism, because everything that follows (prayer, sacraments, living in community) is precisely what happens to unbelievers when, the Holy Spirit acts on them, turning our “Woe is me!” into “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy!). The theology of the reversed Trinity is literally “theo-logy” (God word), where God speaks to us and by speaking declares the old new, the sinner a saint, the unbeliever a believer—God’s service to us, not ours to God.

This mornigns devotional readings were accompanied by Les Mis, and the words of Jean Valjean kept echoing in my ears, as he considers the humble bishop who paid for his salvaiton…and yet Jean’s attitude was not to face who he was, but to create a new life, ignoring who he was. (In the book, this is a constant theme, for him and Javert.)

Their journey is the vulnerability that Pope Francis notes, a vulnerability we need, a lack of resistance to the incarnation, for Jesus must become incarnate in each of our lives.

It is the only way to change our cry of despair, as Wengert notes, from dismay and despair to the expecation of God hearing and acting on our cry for mercy. That is the only way we can live in the life of Christ that Tozer explains, a life that is obviously not ours, for it is not within our ability.

How does the bishop know Jean ValJean has a soul? Because the bishop has one, and has seen Christ invade it. It is why the silver is worth far less than Jean’s soul. It is why the investment is worth it, though it will take decades, with only a glimpse of the return here and there. Not until his death…is it revealed. ( I believe Colossians 3:1-4 explains this quite well)

You have a soul, and I have one as well. It is where the Holy Spirit dwells, bringing us peace, even as we struggle within this life.It is were our faith, our dependence on God is formed. It is where joy resonates from, when anxiety and trauma threaten to overwhem us. It is where peace exists, far beyond our comprehension, it is where we know His love more intimately than we can express.

Yet, we can share it with others… for that to is a miracle. You are ValJean and you are the Bishop.



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), 366.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Timothy J. Wengert, Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 46.

Is Correct Doctrine and Practice Enough? Are We Just Going Through the Motions?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our Day:

2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6  NCV

Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.

A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God. 

It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church.  That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol.  That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.  

It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing. 

The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above. 

They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.

They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)  

They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it!  Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against.  When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)

Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even.  Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important.  Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous.  But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry. 

St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God.  It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway.  The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!

I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution.  THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself.  Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him.  I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.

FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.

For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…

Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.  quote from Melancthon

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.

 

A True Test of Faith: Prayer

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image2  Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. 3  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:2-3 (NLT)

1  I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy. 2  I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. 3  When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.  Psalm 142:1-3 (NLT)

990      Sanctity consists precisely in this: in struggling to be faithful throughout your life and in accepting joyfully the Will of God at the hour of death.

As I read the passages from Isaiah and Psalms that I placed at the beginning of this devotion, I wonder again about my faithfulness.

Not from the point of not sinning and doing everything right.  It is another issue of faithfulness.

I have often found it hard to pour out my complaints, I find it hard to give Him all my troubles. I don’t’ turn to God at first, when troubles overtake me. There are ways we avoid this.

One may bottle it up, just shove it own inside until the day when we just sob uncontrollably.  Our bodies are purging our soul of bottled up grief or anger, or sorrow, any and every.

Another option is to vent but in an inappropriate way.  Venting looking for some affirmation; someone to recognize our heroic endurance, our suffering under injustice, the strength of character that it takes to endure.

Please hear me, I am not saying we shouldn’t look for support from other brothers and sisters who know God’s love.   But I am saying that we can go to others for affirmation that would glorify us, even if that glory is someone noting our ability to survive the struggle.  If we are blessed, our friends won’t allow us to throw a pity party.  Instead, they will guide us to the cross, and the mercy and grace that will heal us.

What is faithfulness?  St. Josemaria talks of it as accepting the Will of God joyfully – even at the hour of death.  It is with Isaiah knowing that God keeps us in perfect peace, and we trust Him to keep that promise, and look to Him to do it!

That faithfulness is crying out to God like Jeremiah, (see Jeremiah 20:7) when we feel like life isn’t fair.  Or even if it is fair when we feel overwhelmed by it.  When we don’t hesitate to plead for Hi mercy, to pray with both the bluntness of sharing our despair, and trusting God, and only God, to make a difference.

That is the faithfulness we need to develop.  The faithfulness that results in holding nothing back from the God, who loves US.  To give Him our life, not just our willingness to serve Him wherever He leads, but to give him our shattered hearts, our bruised and broken souls.  We need to entrust to Him the things that we hate to face in our lives.

That is faithfulness; the prayer of the broken and needy.  The prayer of a child, calling out to his Father to rescue them from the darkness.

The prayer so easily said…but one that echoes to the deepest part of us, and finds that even there, God is with us.

The Prayer:  Lord, have mercy on me….

Let us pray…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3490-3491). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lord is With You? What you say matters….?

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

45  A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 (TEV)

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me.   9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7a,9 (TEV)

26      It is painful to see that after two thousand years there are so few people in the world who call themselves Christians and that of those who do call themselves Christians, so few practise the true teaching of Jesus Christ. It is worth while putting our whole life at stake!: working and suffering for Love, to accomplish God’s plans and co-redeem.(1)  

I hear people claiming they know God, that they invited Him into their heart, that respond, “and also with you” or “and with your Spirit.  I do as well, and yes, this blog is written at me, as well as many of you.

If this is true, an I read the first quote from St. Luke’s Gospel correctly, then what should flow out of our mouths should be Christ Jesus’s words.  Words that encourage, words that heal, words that forgive and reconcile, words that invite people on a journey with Christ, towards the Father, towards eternity.

But what comes out of our mouth more often is complaining, criticising, lofty words that extol theological treatises, but never point to Christ.  Words that are full of innuendo, cheaping the blessing that God gives in the intimate relationship between a man a woman that He has joined together in marriage.   Words that lie, or gossip (is there a difference?) the demean, or dominate.  Curses, swears, false oaths. Words dripping with sarcasm, not realizing the blood those words can draw. Words that not only judge, but condemn and call for death to those whose sins are different than us. Words that betray a heart that doesn’t trust in anything, nevermind praising God for the promises He is fulfilling in our lives.

When I was a younger pastor, I would suggest that we just need to be disciplined.  That we struggle to be righteous in our words by simply a force of will.  Except that I didn’t quite get that the words are but a symptom of a heart and soul issue.   We might be able to discipline our tongues in some things like word choice (though we will slip out now and then…) But what about our thoughts, our attitudes, and what we truly trust in?  Those still will betray us unless there is a change.

Unless our souls, our hearts, our minds find themselves being conformed to the mind of Christ. Unless we see the cross, and its suffering that Christ embraced as an example of His love and desire for us.  It is there, in awe of the Body of Christ broken, the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins, that change begins to happen.  It is as we realize that God has marked us, claimed us, sealed us as His in Baptism, that He has reconciled and absolved us in sin.  That the Father in Heaven calls us His children, that Jesus will call us His brothers, that the Holy Spirit will reside in us; this is when this transformation, this metamorphosis happens.

it is them, like St Josemaria encourages, that we begin to desire to put our whole life on the line, and work and sacrifice in ways without even considering that it is work, that it is sacrificing our lives.  It is then, tired, weary, even burnt out, that what comes from our hearts, souls and minds are the words of God.  The miraculous words that bring to Him a people, who weren’t a people.

The Lord is with you always, dwell on that, recognize its truth, meditate on the blessing that is, a blessing revealed in God’s word, and delivered in the sacraments.

The Lord is with you…and He has brought you many gifts, the gift of faith, and the gift of repentance, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of life. ….

The Lord is with you, showing you the depth, the height, the width and breadth of God’s love you…. dwell on this, as often as you can……and then watch what happens to your words, and your thoughts.

The Lord is with you…

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 329-333). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is a Soul worth it?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4  We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) 

881 Sacrifice yourself, give yourself, and work at souls one by one, as the jeweller works on precious stones: one by one. Indeed you should exercise even more care, because you are dealing with something of incomparable value. The purpose of that spiritual attention you give is to prepare good instruments for the service of God: and they, each one of them, have cost Christ all of his Blood.

In 2 Corinthians, indeed in several of Paul’s works (and the OT Prophets) we see passages like the one above, where spiritual warfare and pastoral care are challenged, and answered.

The reason that Paul and the prophets, and even Jesus was challenged is simple, someone who cares for a soul will challenge that which enters a life and obscures the work of Holy Spirit, that denies the presence of Christ and our unity in Him, that which would try to convince us that something other than being God’s beloved is what defines life.   Simply put, if some sin, or some belief that would pull your focus away from God’s love for you exists, the word of God will challenge it, and those of us tasked with shepherding you will bring scripture to bear on life, their lives – and yours.

The reason is your soul is worth it.  Your life, lived distracted from God by obstacles, needs to be encouraged back to Him, and the obstacle?  Will you let us destroy it?  Even as Gideon destroyed the Ba;alite altar and image in his dad’s back yard?  Will you let the Holy Spirit perform surgery on your soul, skillfully using the word of God to remove that which holds you back from knowing you love?  Will you trust God to do that, trusting Him to leave you, and eradicate that which isn’t you?

It’s a scary thought. Especially for those who know some of their weaknessness well.  It might be pride, it might be resentment, it might be clinging to a sin that you think defines you, because it has been there so long.

Paul thought the souls of the people in Corinth were worth it, your soul is worth it.  Christ died to heal you from the damage of those obstacles…that is how much your soul is worth to Him.

Maybe its time to confess that sin… and trust in God  – knowing His promise to forgive you, and clease you from all unrighteousness….

Come – talk to a pastor who would love to point you to Christ, and do battle – by God’s strength – with the obstacles that would deny you knowing how much God loves you…

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3110-3113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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