Loving God with All Your Soul– the Blessing of Incarnation
† I.H.S. †
May Jesus’s incarnation in your life be so real, so tangible that your love for Him grows with every breath you take!
My eyes are dry…the broken soul
It seems that many people this year would describe themselves with one word.
There may be some factors that cause us to be so weary, so many it seems like all we do is go from trial to trauma, from prayer request to prayer request. And as we talked about hearts being broken and needing Christ’s healing presence last week, the song talks about another part of us that is just worn down.
The part of us, that inner part that provides our courage, our character, our desire and the holiness that we need to walk through life in love with God, and to love our neighbor.
As we look at loving God as He asks, with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, this one is hard.
When our soul is weary, when it is worn and broken, we hear the encouragement to love God, and we think about trying, and our soul cries out,
I’ve got nuthin. Nuthin.
It’s that dryness that causes us to wonder why we pray, or if God is listening, or if He cares at all. It is that dryness that causes us a spiritual exhaustion that robs us of hope, and leaves us thinking we still abide in the darkness.
He incarnation changes us… it dresses us.
Which is why we need to think about the incarnation, not just the incarnation when Mary is carrying Jesus in the womb, although contemplating that helps us contemplate His incarnation into our lives.
He came then, and angels sang. They sing as well as Jesus draws us into Himself on the cross, taking all of our sins into Himself, and cleansing us of it. He takes that dryness as well, as we understand the cross, as we understand he is not distant. He is here.
Isaiah’s second reading now makes sense –
I rejoice Heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul!
We are in Him, we abide in Him, and as we realize this, everything begins to change as well.
This is the joy we find in Advent, the restoration of our soul when we realize that Holy Spirit is there, despite our dryness, that He is here to comfort us, to restore us, to translate our prayers as Paul tells the church.
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)
So, even in those periods where we aren’t sure if God is listening, He is listening. Hearing and responding to the deepest cries of our heart. Even when we don’t know what to say. Even when we are too dry to say anything.
He is with us, He is here, ministering to us, assuring us of His presence. Using speed bumps to help us slow down, and know He is God, and He cares. As we realize this – so much happens, our souls come alive, as we realize His power saving us, as we are dressed in His righteousness, as He treats us as His beloved bride. Our reaction, from the deepest part of our soul, is to love Him back… with all we are.
This is why our services include the Lord’s Supper, even before our eating dinner.
Because as we commune we stop and we find ourselves giving Him everything, our burdens, our anxieties, our fears, our sins, our dryness. In his presence they actually fall off us, God removes them…as we stop and receive His blessed Body and Blood, given to us, His beloved, which strengthens our faith, helps us to depend on Him all the more, and dwell in peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? 3 Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you. Job 38:2-3 (TEV)
11 When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12 What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. 13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (TEV)
It’s been 30 years since i read it, but I think we need a sequel to the book. Specifically, asking the very tough question of whether we replaced our emotions with what we perceive to be our logic, our ability to reason.
I am not talking about outside our churches, although that might be an interesting study. I am talking about inside the church. We have tried to divorce our feelings from ourselves, and the church has been lifeless because of that. We extoll those who present the faith logically, who try to show, step by step, the logic of scripture. (Side note: It is not surprising that as Dobson downplayed emotions, exegetical preaching – verse by verse – became “the” way to preach. Exegesis is good, but it can be blind to the gospel)
But is our intellect, our reason, our ability to be logical all that reliable? Or does it have the same frailty as our emotions? Can you actually divorce the two? The biggest question we need to be asking ourselves is the same question Job was asked, who are we to question God?
You might say that you don’t, that everything you listen to or teach or preach is in complete accordance with God’s revelation. That your brand of theology is the correct version, and you are sticking to it, come Hell or high water. That everything else is heretical or heterodox or mysticism or pietism or legalism, and you are contrary to all that crap.
At which point, you have sinned, and placed yourself in the place of God.
Get it straight, even as your emotions can betray you, so can your logic. That is why John tells us that if we deny our sin, our brokenness, the truth is not in us, we are liars.
That is why we need Christ, that is why we need Him to come to us, His presence revealed and know by hearts and minds in word and sacrament. Not just emotionally, not just logically, but present here, now, overwhelming us with His righteousness, with His mercy, and with His peace.
That is why we need the Spirit to transform us, to conform us to the image of Christ, and to the will of the Father. That is why we need to lay aside all things, and set our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, of our life.
It is then, Paul tells the church in Rome,
2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:2 (TEV)
Be still and know He is God, let Him be your place of rest, and safety, and let Him transform you. This is the hope you need, that those around you need as well. That He will reconcile our broken reason and our broken emotions to Himself, and gives us life.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The Third Article: On Becoming Holy”.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)
14 But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)
815 You have seen very clearly your vocation to love God, but only with your head. You assure me that you have put your heart into the way you are following. But you say that you are distracted at times, and even attempt to look back. That is a sign that you have not completely put your heart into it. You need to be more sensitive! (1)
The second requisite for effective preaching is that the preacher not only himself believe the things he preaches to others, but that his heart be full of the truths which he proclaims, so that he enters his pulpit with the ardent desire to pour out his heart to his hearers. He must have an enthusiastic grasp, in the right sense of the word, of his subject. Then his hearers get the impression that the words dropping from his lips are flames from a soul on fire. That does not mean that the Word of God must receive its power and life from the living faith of the preacher; for the Lord says distinctly: “The words that I speak, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. Moreover, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12. But when a preacher proclaims what he has ever so often experienced in his own heart, he easily finds the right words to speak convincingly to his hearers. Coming from the heart, his words, in turn, go to the hearts of his hearers, according to the good old saying: Pectus disertum facit, that is, it is the heart that makes eloquent. This does not mean the artificial eloquence acquired in a school of elocution, but the sane spiritual art of reaching the hearts of hearers. For when the hearers get the impression that the preacher is in full and dread earnest, they feel themselves drawn with an irresistible force to pay the closest attention to what the preacher is teaching in his sermon. That is the reason why many simple, less gifted, and less learned preachers accomplish more than the most highly gifted and profoundly learned men. (1)
In our midweek Bible Study, I have been teaching about preaching this summer. Not because my people are going to preach from the pulpit, but because:
1) It will help them interact with the sermon/homily more, and therefore benefit from it more
2) It may help me grow in the area of preaching>
As we are going through a very elemental book on the craft of preaching, I came across the quote above in blue. I very well may take the italicised part of that and hang it above my desk, It is to become a goal of mine, knowing the context from where the quote comes.
I want people to know what I know, the presence of God. Gosh I want them to know it.
Because it seems to me the only way to survive this life. To get through things like I’ve gone through in life. the pains, the surgeries, the anxieties, the pain. To deal with things like the sin which the author of Hebrews says so easily ensnares us. For it does, and the grief and shame of our own sin can crush us, and resentment towards those who sin against us can tear our souls apart.
To be able to deal with death, something I’ve had to deal with since a child, my own hovering over me, and later, ministering to those who are dieing, and those who were left behind. Knowing God’s promises are the only way to deal with that pressure. To deal with demons as well, both those who are figurative, the idols we create that drag our life’s focus from God, and the real one’s who work to destroy our life by attempting to destroy our relationship with God. We see both of those demons at work today, although we can never quite be sure which is which… both are real.
I love Escriva’s words, and I Pray mine would encourage people to believe with their heart (as Paul talks about in Romans 10), to know God, and relate to Him as their Lord, as their Savior. Not to just know about Him.
Can a sermon be passionate, charismatic, full of zeal and dripping with flames from a soul on fire?
It can, if the pastor, the priest, the preacher has been broken and by God’s loving kindness is healing.
For as we heal – we begin to see the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of the love of God, revealed to us all in Christ Jesus.
That’s preaching…. that’s proclaiming.
And our people, not from pulpits, but in their homes, and their workplaces, in restaurants, coffee shops, in line at Walmart, will begin to do the same.
For such is our glory, the hope that we have in Christ Jesus….
And may we share it with zealous love.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3361-3364). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Walther, C. F. W., Dau, W. H. T., & Eckhardt, E. (2000). The proper distinction between law and gospel: 39 evening lectures (electronic ed., p. 112). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.