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Socrates and the Paradox of Spiritual Maturity

Devotional thought of the day:
25  Brothers, pray for us!       1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ESV)

318      Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you.

An oracle once identified the smartest man of his time, the philosopher Socrates.  When asked about this Socrates thought and said the statement is not based on how much Socrates knew, but that Socrates realized how much he didn’t know.

Spiritual maturity is like that,  the more mature we become, the more we need to pray, the more we need others to pray for us. 

I think society has become confused as to what maturity is, about what it looks like.  I think the problem has to do when we consider independence a necessary part of maturity. It is as if we measure maturity based on how much we can do for ourselves.  That is because our ability to be independent parallels our physical and emotional growth, but that doesn’t mean being independent is an aspect of maturity, or for that matter is good.

I would tie interdependence to physical and even emotional maturity before I would think about independence.Being part of a community, being a part of family, being married, these things require interdependence.  Maturity can require a giving up of self.  A sense of sacrifice, a sense of commitment.

If that is true in regards to physical maturity, I would suggest that it is even more true in regards to spiritual maturity.   That we don’t become independent of God, but that we see our life more connected to Him, as well we become more connected to the family of God!

Like Socrates view of his intelligence, a spiritually mature person will run to God in prayer, will not hesitate to ask others to pray for them.

That is the paradox, you become spiritually mature by becoming more dependent on God, more aware of His work in your life, more content and at peace, knowing the Spirit is here, and that this life is not all there is, there is something far more… The more spiritually mature we are, the more we end up appreciating the sacraments, the time where God’s grace is showered upon us. Likewise our time in meditation on God’s love, that marks as us His in baptism, and our time laying in His hands all our burdens, all the things that cause anxiety.

It’s not easy though, to take such time.  Hence, the request for pray, even as Paul did. Please pray for me!  And for all who minister to others.

Lord help us all to take the time, to know and to ponder this basic truth.

There is God, and we are His.

Knowing that, may we cry out for the mercy that will enable us to see you!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1273-1276). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Forgiven much, so love much: A sermon on Luke 7

 

Forgiven Much, so Love Much
or Was our Debt the Smaller One?

A Sermon on Luke 7

I.H.S.

The grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus will bring you such life that you will adore Him!  AMEN!

A New Title:

There are times where the biggest struggle in a sermon is found in coming up with a title.  This week, that was part of the struggle, not the only one, but a struggle none the least.

I mean, I couldn’t turn the gospel into a pastor parker parable, could I?  The Kingdom of God is like a …   Nah, that doesn’t quite work. Imitate a … well never mind, that still doesn’t work either.

But the title of the sermon sets where I am going with it, so I went with the Forgiven much, and was our debt smaller. It is a good simple basic sermon about forgiveness, basics for a Lutheran sermon.

On Saturday, I decided to put a Concordia spin on it, to focus more on the woman than on Simon, to see here as Jesus, and for us to see Jesus as she saw him.  Which changed the sermon to:

Healed of so Much, So Worship and Adore Him And Let the Tears fall!

The challenge of dealing with our brokenness  – Simon’s challenge

I should mention Simon the Pharisee for a moment, just to compose myself and explain why the prostitute at Jesus’ feet is more spiritually mature than he is.  And why, in a way, we need to be more like here than like the religious professional who invited him to a feast.

Yes, I believe the lady balling was more mature than the calm collected Pharisee, who was devoted to serving God, and dedicated to living life as holy as possible.

It is seen in the parable he was told, about the two debtors.  Not because he was able to guess correctly, that the one forgiven of much was the one who would love and adore more the man who forgave the debt.

He got that right.

What he didn’t understand is that he was the greater debtor.

We have a look into this as Simon’s thoughts are shared with us in verse 39

39 When the Pharisee, who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
That is why Jesus tells the parable, and the mistake Simon makes is that Jesus knew exactly who the woman was.

Even more, he knew who Simon was, and that Simon’s debt wasn’t 1/10th of the lady’s debt, but that Simon’s debt was as great, therefore should his love for God should have been like the lady’s, and his welcome, as much in awe and adoration of Jesus, who comes into the presence of those who are sinners, of those who are broken.

The tears pour but why
This is what the spiritually mature lady knew, and I will explain why in a moment.  She knew he would welcome her; she knew she could go to him, she so valued this love Jesus showed in forgiving sins, that she poured out her life, the perfume that would cost more than a year of her life, just to bring comfort to his feet.

He didn’t just forgive her of her sins, He healed her of her inability to love, and now, able to truly love, she did.

With tears that didn’t just roll down her cheeks, but poured out of her. Enough to bathe his feet, not just rinse them.  She massaged those beautiful feet that brought her good news with her hair, again the cultural implications of this are staggering, for a woman’s glory was seen in long luxurious hair.

In her being forgiven of so much, she was healed to love so much.

To love without thought to cost or culture restriction, to love with every bit of her heart and soul.

That is what grace does.  That is what happens when God comes and lives with us.

She’s not the only one…
I mention a moment ago that this lady didn’t come to Jesus without.. encouragement., without expecting something to happen.

I didn’t get this till I looked at the end of the reading, the part that comes from the next chapter,

He took his twelve disciples with him,  along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

You see, this lady wasn’t the first broken person that Jesus healed, she wasn’t the first sinner that was amazed at His grace and love. She wasn’t the first person who learned to adore him, giving of all she had and all she was, literally pouring it out at her feet.  She knew He was her hope, even if she didn’t know what hope was.  Someone brought her there, someone helped her, brought her into His presence.

I am not sure whether it was Mary Magdalene who led her into the courtyard at Simon’s house, or whether it was Joanna or Susanna or one of the disciples.

Her experience wasn’t a novelty; it wasn’t a single occurrence in the ministry of Jesus. There had been others before her; there have been millions since.

Who learned to love and adore Him, who learned to let the tears flow, who learned that worship happens, not in a controlled managed environment, but worship happens when we encounter the God, who dwells in our midst, and open to sinners coming to Him, and feasting with Him.  This is who we are as a church, a people who’ve found healing in Christ, while helping others heal… and

This is our Lord, and He invites you to come, and as you do, do not be surprised at the tears that well up inside, or the healing that takes place, or that you find yourselves loving him, far beyond what you could have expected.

For those who are forgiven and healed of much love much, and this is you and I.  AMEN.

Not all roads lead to God, yet…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5  God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6  God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7  Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (MSG)

231         I like the motto: “Let each wayfarer follow his way”, the road God has marked out for him, to be followed faithfully, lovingly, even though it is hard.  (1)

It is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a pastor.  It is one that is not often taught in Christian Universities or Seminaries, except maybe a short aspect of a pastoral care class.

It is simple and profound, it wears you our and leaves you in awe.  Here is one of the greatest secrets to ministry:

You can’t minister to every person the same way, you can’t shepherd 100 people from 105 different places along the same exact path.  They need to be drawn/dragged from where they are at to the foot of the cross, to the very mercy of God, poured out as His blood paid for all our sins.

Yet we are trained to use the same materials, the same processes in our discipleship of those in our churches.  Those processes are based in some core thought that is essential ( for example, afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin. ) but how that is applied to the people in our churches should fit a particular process.   it is a big job, but discipleship is both corporate and individual.

Is it any wonder that most churches stop discipleship once people have passed a new members class?   Or if there is is a program, some drop out because it assumes a different starting path, and they are too frustrated to wait and see if it comes by where they are.

I know a great example of this, a lady who is a member of one of the churches I have pastored.  She insists that she is a novice when it comes to faith, yet lives a life a devotion to God.  A life I think is far more “along the path” that she realizes.

So how do you do this?  Do you make everyone take the same path?  Study the same scriptures?  Do you not care if people get lost or bored?  Or do you work with people individually?

It’s the same issue that Paul was talking to the Corinthians about. As they would serve in different ways, in different manners expressing the faith and growth in their trust of God.  Not everyone will do the same things, have the same vocations, have the same exact path to spiritual maturity.

So how do we minister this way, effectively discipling people, shepherding them from the basics of trusting God, to actually walking with them?

Not sure yet, but it will be a lot of what I think through during advent.

Discussion very welcome on this one!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1161-1163). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Need for Spiritual Discipline/Formation/Growth

May you realize that you live in God’s Kingdom, and desire greatly to see its beauty!

I am on the road this morning, with a friend as he begins his journey towards being ordained into the ministry.  During the journey by planes, (although it seemed we walked nearly that far!) I came across this in my reading.

It is quite common to find, even among apparently responsible and devout Catholics, the error of thinking that they’re only obliged to carry out their familial and religious duties. They seldom want to hear any mention of civic duties. The problem is not selfishness; it’s simply a lack of formation.”    de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-18). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume III, The Divine Ways on Earth (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 9415-9417). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It started my mind wandering on this idea of formation.  Surely there is a great benefit to the normal route of ordination, and in the “alternate” routes which are simply adaptations of the norm.  There are a few differences as well between my friends over on the other side of the Tiber, and those of us who are Lutherans.

But Spiritual Formation is, in my opinion, critical, and in these days, critically overlooked.  It’s been that way for a while.  Hear the writer of Hebrews comment:

5:11 There is much we have to say about this matter, but it is hard to explain to you, because you are so slow to understand. 12 There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13 Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14 Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (TEV) 

We see it there as well – as the author notes the inability of these people to get their butts of their spiritual couches and serve (by teaching) others.  Instead the would rather take it easy, and simply re-digest the same simplistic lessons.  They should be able to share the incredible blessings they have received, the basics of their faith.  Yet… they can’t

I love the comment by Escriva’s position on this – it isn’t because they are weak, selfish, and self-centered!  It is because they haven’t been formed.  They haven’t been discipled.  The very things that they need to learn, need to be shared, modeled.  The depth of God’s love isn’t just “He saved me from my sins”, it is an incredible thing, long planned out – every step taken toward the cross, and away from the empty grave.

And the deeper you go, not into academia, but into living in that grace, rejoicing in it, seeing it revealed to you in the words of scripture, being comforted in prayer, even in things like making sacrifices, little ones for sure, in order that others may see God.  As we live in Christ, as we are clothed in His righteousness, that overcomes what might appear to be selfish and infantile faith.

And we begin to share with others this glorious thing we’ve found.  A last thought, describing maturity in Christ:

1Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11 They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die.
Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

That, my friends, is a description of us, the mature believers who trusted in the God who comes to them –  not a bunch of selfish, infantile believers.

May Mark and Eddie and the rest of the seminarians that start this week be so formed… may our churches have the same attitude, may I as well.

Godspeed this day….

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