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How Important is Our Belief In Jesus?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.  Job 19:25-27 HCSB

22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, j not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.  Acts 20:22-24 HCSB

15 These are the most necessary parts of Christian instruction. We should learn to repeat them word for word.
16 Our children should be taught the habit of reciting them daily when they rise in the morning, when they go to their meals, and they go to bed at night; until they repeat them they should not be given anything to eat or drink.
17 Every father has the same duty to his household; he should dismiss man-servants and maid-servants if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them.
18 Under no circumstances should a person be tolerated if he is so rude and unruly that he refuses to learn these three parts in which everything contained in Scripture is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms,
19 for the dear fathers or apostles, whoever they were,7 have thus summed up the doctrine, life, wisdom, and learning which constitute the Christian’s conversation, conduct and concern.

579    Faith. It’s a pity to see how frequently many Christians have it on their lips and yet how sparingly they put it into their actions. You would think it a virtue to be preached only, and not one to be practiced.

If you read the words from Luther in blue above, they might seem a bit extreme.  Over the top.  Harsh.  One might even accuse him of child neglect or abuse for insisting that children don’t eat until they can repeat them. (please notice it says repeat them)  And employees be terminated for not knowing them?  Isn’t that a bit much?

Then look at St. Josemaria’s words, decrying the life-less faith of those who can say they believe, but that belief doesn’t impact their lives.  They can preach it, they can state the arguments, but there is something missing.  One might even ask if they truly have faith if they depend on the Jesus they confess to with their words.

We need to have the kind of dependence on God that we see in Job, or in Paul.  One was encountering great trauma (and then it was greatly compounded by his wife and wise counselors) and the other, went where everyone told him not to go because the Spirit revealed to them the pain and trauma he would endure.

Job said no matter how bad it gets, he knew God would be faithful and would raise him from the dead just so he could be with God.  Paul corrected them, noting that the chains and afflictions were easily worth it, knowing that people’s salvation was at stake, knowing that without knowing God, there would be no comfort, no solace, no serenity found in the midst of life.

So how does our faith, our ability to depend on the God whom we can’t see, grow?  Is it possible to have the faith of Job, Paul, Luther, or Escriva?  Or are they just heroes of the faith that we cannot hope to be like?

For myself, my faith, my dependence on God grows or deepens, the more I encounter God’s love.  Whether that encounter is at the Altar, sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper with others who are struggling, whether it is in studying the word and teaching it.  Whether it is in times of prayer.

Perhaps the greatest times of growth occur when I hit rock bottom.  When I have no other option, no other hope, and I cry out to God.  I may cry out for a day, or even a week, but in the end, I find out He was always there.  In the end, I realize where He was working in my life, especially in the words of those who pointed me to God’s mercy and peace. It is then what I was taught in the basic tenets of our faith, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the promises attached to the sacraments also cause me to be still, to catch my breath, to know that He is God.  Our God.

This is why those that went before us are so insistent that we learn these basic things. It is critical, for people were right in the 80’s.  Life can be a bitch, and in the end, we die.  But for those who know God, even then, in our flesh we will see God, our Redeemer.  And until then, depending on Him, we can live in a peace that doesn’t make sense, kept there by Jesus himself.

Depend on it.  He who promised this is faithful.  AMEN!

Lord, have mercy upon us, and grant us the ability to depend on you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 363). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1383-1386). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s Monday, Have You Prayed Yet???

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17  Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1)

448  You haven’t been praying? Why, because you haven’t had time? But you do have time. Furthermore, what sort of works will you be able to do if you have not meditated on them in the presence of the Lord, so as to put them in order? Without that conversation with God, how can you finish your daily work with perfection? Look, it is as if you claimed you had no time to study because you were too busy giving lessons… Without study you cannot teach well. Prayer has to come before everything. If you do not understand this and put it into practice, don’t tell me that you have no time: it’s simply that you do not want to pray!  (2)

Let’s be honest, most of us hate Mondays with a passion!

The trying to adjust to “reality”, the drudgery of work, the lack of “freedom”, the stress, and the fact that Mondays somehow seem cursed to have everything going wrong.  The only thing that is worse, a Monday after a vacation.

If only there were a way to change the anture of Monday, to flip it on its side, to turn it from curse to blessing! We need to see it as a new opportunity rather than a drag.  We need to somehow realize that Mondays, like Sundays and the rest of our weeks, is a day the Lord has made!

But it is Monday…. did I mention I hate them?   Not because of their effect on me, rather, the effect they have on those I pastor. ( I simply lock myself in my office and study for next week’s sermon.)  I see the frustration, the quickness to respond to defend, or attack, the cynical matures that peak, the sarcasm and struggles that turn into great burdens.

Even when what was heard yesterday was. “come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest...”  It is as if we expect Jesus to say – well except on Monday – I take Monday’s off!

Here is the secret to Mondays.  Sanctify them!  Make them Holy!  Set them apart as a special day for you to watch God at work in your homes, in your workplaces, in your appointments throughout the day.  Spend the day in prayer, talking to God throughout it. Spend time praising His name, giving thanks, asking for His blessings and advice on each part of the day, and listening to that advice.  ( I would suggest that you make sure it is consistent with scripture – that’s how you can confirm it is His voice you are hearing. )

That brings up a point – praying – using God’s name as He meant for us to use it, in our relationship with Him is not just a commandment, it is not law, it is the purest of gospel messages.  It is a blessing beyond belief to realize we can spend our day walking with a God who comes to us, who will cleanse and restore and heal that which is broken, and that which we break.  It is the blessing that transcends all others, this conversation that we have with God, this relationship where He is God and we are His children.

That is why Melancthon and the reformers considered Prayer a sacrament in the Apology… for then it might help men pray more often. .  That is why St Josemaria, also noted the need for it to be the basic action of our life.   This conversation, this relationship, it is who we are, what we are made for… praying will change us, change our lives, not because it is a forced, but because it reveals the presence of God… here for us.

It will even blow apart a Monday… even if you haven’t started it the right way… take a break… and start talking to Him.

Your Monday will change into a Sunday…

Start with this – Lord, Have mercy!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1986-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Individual Relationship with God? Inconceivable…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT) 

19  We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20  He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21  We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:19-25 (TEV)

 

409         “I was a guerrilla fighter,” he wrote, “and I moved around the hills, shooting whenever I wanted. But I thought I had better become a soldier, because I realised that wars are won more easily by organised armies and well-disciplined armies. A poor guerrilla fighter on his own cannot take whole cities, or conquer the world. I hung up my old musket—it was so out of date!—and now I am better armed. At the same time, I know that I can no longer lie down in the hills, under the shade of a tree, and dream about winning the war all on my own.” Blessed be the discipline and blessed be the unity of our Holy Mother the Church!  (1)

I was asked this week, how do I respond to people who think that they can worship God all by themselves.  It’s not the first time, people have asked that question of me.  Apparently someone asked Pope Francis that earlier this week as well, as one of his tweets responded to such a question. He admitted that it was difficult, because people are sinners, and we can frustrate anger and even cause each other great anxiety.  But it was, nevertheless necessary.

We know God because others who are part of the body of Christ have shared His love with us.  No one comes to know Jesus, unless He is revealed to us by another.  It could be parents, uncles or aunts, a friend, even someone we were interested in dating.  But someone revealed to us the depth of God’s love for us.

The writer of Hebrews knows this all too well, as he begins to some up his letter, he address those who want to have some kind of individual relationship with God –  where it is just God and them, at the beach, in the forest, on their motorcycle, playing their music, where ever. The argument is that the relationship could be purer, less restricted, less affected by hypocrisy, or their own inability to be patient and deal with others.   But that presumes that the kind of relationship God has designed for each of us is one on one with Him.  That we don’t need the encouragement of others, that those times where we stress, where we worry, where we hurt, are going to take away from our relationship with God, rather than intensify it, as we realize our need for God, to need to know His presence, His comfort, His peace.  It

I love the quote from St. Josemaria, because it nails me to the cross.  For years growing up, desiring to be a pastor, I thought about my winning the world for God, the great things I could do.  I was the idyllic “guerrilla”, solider of the cross. There was a lot of encouragement for this, a naivete about the need for true fellowship – as working as one body in Christ. Of realizing what affects one believer affects us all, without regard to denomination or theology, or personal journey.  It’s not about what I’ve chosen to believe, or you think in right.

Paul explains it well in his letter to the church in Ephesus,

3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

Our unity is not found in our diversity, but in Christ, in His revelation, in His Love.  In what binds us together in His un-explainable peace.

That’s why we need to no abandon each other, finding reasons to walk alone.

It can’t be done.  For God has designed us to be His people – together, and He comes to us to be our (together) God.

The strength we find in this, the peace, the encouragement, even in times of stress, of anxiety, of dealing with brokenness, of dealing with sin…

It’s why church and Bible study are important.  Not to prove our holiness, but to encourage each other to remember we are holy, separated together for a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s the Church, simply put, His people….

Come and join us, as we walk with Christ, together.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1835-1841). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why a Crucifix can be so incredibly important… not just during Holy Week

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)

20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)

70  You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.

For some it is a piece of jewelry, or an art piece, and artifact.

For others, it is something they do not want to face, so they remove them from homes and sanctuaries.  They may say it’s divisive, or that they are afraid of it becoming and idol. Even a barren cross is seen as too close, and so they are removed, taken away, hid in a closet or irreverently thrown in a dumpster.

But there is something about a crucifix, about looking at a portrayal of a body wracked with pain, the crown of thorns, the nails through the wrists and ankles, the eyes that through the pain look out upon us.

The reason for the cross.

To make us the people of God,

This is what God the Father gave the son to endure, because He loves us……

This is what Jesus endured, hating its shame, but for the joy set before Him…. the joy of seeing us rise with Him.

This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to, the very power of the gospel that can save us all…..

Christ dying for us… and His crucifixion – the place where we died to sin…. the place where the promise comes home, we have risen with Him as well.

As i go through this life, as I see the effect of sin devastating marriages, crushing families, as I see the challenges of this broken world strike us with disease, as I see us choose, again and again, to tear down, to let resentment build, to seek after something that will quench our pain for the moment, whether it be sex or drugs or the latest television binge.  Escapes that mean little but a moment away.  We need something more substantial, something more enduring.

We need to remember when God came into our lives, dwelt among us, and the glory of God, displayed on a cross.  The love of God so incredible, so unbelievable, so needed. I need to stop and meditate on the wondrous love that would drive him there, to deliver us from all that assails us.  Crosses, crucifixes serve to call us to that point, to remember the love of God…. to remember His work – even now at work in us.

It is “the” game changer, that brings light to darkness, that dispells evil, that brings peace into chaos.

I don’t think we need less reminders… but perhaps far more.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Are We Satisfied With GIGO? (garbage in – garbage out)

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7  But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. 8  Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9  and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:7-11 (CEV)

8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

65         Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realised that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning. (1)

In the movie “Footloose”, there is a characterization of Christianity, or at least Christianity that used to be.

A Pharisaical legislative, in your face, take names Christianity where those that danced, or drank, or went to movies rated “PG” or worse were held up and scorned.  Where the rules of behavior were set in stone, and by golly, if you weren’t going to obey those rules, you were going to be tossed out.  If you questioned the rules, you were considered a rebel and someone to be watched.

A generation later, and perhaps we’ve gone the other way, yet are still “legislating” what is right and wrong.  Or more accurately, we are simply legislating everything as right, and banishing any thought of the idea of something being “wrong”.

The Pendulum has reached the other side of the swing,  This time, it has done what it rarely does – it has taken the church with it, gotten the church’s okay for what is vulgar, profane, sinful.  I look at my fb page and what I and others post, and am shocked.  Even if permissible, the things we post aren’t beneficial, (didn’t Paul say something about that?)

As one whose vocation, whose career deals with helping people in their brokenness, I see both these extremes as wrong. I have dealt, and continue to deal, with those damaged by these forms of legalism. The damage is horrendous, the pains are real, the broken families, broken marriages, broken friendships, broken people just mount up,

The ways that would excuse and/or justify any behavior, and the kind that would force behavior modification.

That’s not how it works in scripture, for like the old computer rule, these tactics focus on negative behavior – and even taking them in leads to sin.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Both ways do this – one by approving it, the other by making it tempting and looking good, in the very way we forbid it.

Holiness is something else though.  It is abandoning all of these behaviors, not because we are forced too, but because we realize their value compared to the value of knowing Jesus, to knowing the love of God, to knowing His comfort and peace.

Paul’s idea of Phil. 4 – about concentrating on the “good stuff” isn’t law – it is 100% gospel, when you hear it with chapter 3 still fresh in your mind.   Because those things he says to focus on are found in the presence of God. They are God’s nature. They lead us to adore Him, to want to be like Him, and in Him finding the strength to that which is positive. The more we see this, the less desirous the life of the prodigal will be, the more we realize the grip of sin was broken at the cross.  There is something about that cross, about the crucifixes and crosses we have, that remind us of His love, of His devotion, of that which is unlike anything else we can now.

Will we see God’s glory for what it is? Will we walk with the Lord?  Will we realize the garbage that we feed on daily for what it is, and leave it behind to know the love of God?

Lord have mercy on us, and help us to desire you in our lives, and therefore find the holiness that is found in your peace.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Have We Failed to Treasure a Blessing Which Saves us From Brokenness, Stress and Anxiety?

Devotional Thought of the Day”

John 20:21-23 (NLT) 21  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

James 5:14-16 (NLT) 14  Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Article XI   Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Psalms 19:12.(2)

45 You wrote to tell me that you have at last gone to confession and that you experienced the humiliation of having to open the sewer—that is what you say—of your life to “a man”. When will you get rid of that feeling of vain self-esteem? You will then go to confession extremely happy to show yourself as you are to “that man”, who, being anointed, is a Christ—Christ himself—and gives you absolution, God’s forgiveness.  (2)

In the Church History class I am teaching, we talked a significant time about the third quote above.  We were dealing with some of the issues at the dawn of what some call the Reformation.

Back then, people in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the Evangelical Church (what we now call Lutheran) understood the Sacrament of Reconciliation’s importance in the life of the believer, in the life on one who knows and follows Jesus. Melancthon, in writing the Augsburg Confession, was brief and short in Article XI.  Private Confession and Absolution should never fall into disuse. it must be retained. Not because it is easy, not because pastors and priests just love to hear of the dark parts of your life.  But because the result of having heard your struggle, we can assure you that you are forgiven.  We assure you that God hasn’t abandoned you, that you are still His children, still loved, and that He is faithful to you.

That assurance is needed, it eliminates much of what troubles us, much of what causes us anxiety, the guilt and shame that stresses us out, and robs us of peace.  To hear that God is committed to forgive you, to heal your brokenness.  For as St Josemarie speaks of, though it is a brother in Christ, a fellow sinner (for all clergy still struggle with sin, from popes and mega-church pastors, to common priests and pastors in ordinary places) we speak for Him, in His stead, by His command.   For that is why we are sent, that is our mission, our apostolate, the good news we preach – you who have been granted repentance, are forgiven in Christ.

You need this, and those around you need this – for the peace you know, having been assured that God will restore us in Christ.  Having been assured of that, our relationships change.  We find ourselves more patient, more willing to forgive, desiring reconciliation.

We find ourselves in the presence of God, in His peace, we find His rest….

A blessing that changes everything. …..

It is no wonder that Luther, and Melanchthon, and so many others throughout the church’s history talked of our need for this gift, this time……to hear of the depth of God’s love…for us.

(1) — Augsberg Confession, The

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 415-420). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Not Separating That Which Goes Together: God & Religion, Faith & Works, Justification & Sanctification

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17  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18  Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20  How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17-20 (NLT)

27  What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world. James 1:27 (TEV) 

11         I am copying this example of cowardice from a letter so that you will not imitate it: “I am certainly very grateful to you for keeping me in mind, because I need many prayers. But I would also be grateful if, when you ask Our Lord to make me an ‘apostle’, you would not insist on asking him to make me surrender my freedom.” (1)

This morning as I was looking on Facebook while waiting for the shower, I saw another “meme” that thought you could separate God and religion.  It had the usual accolades, the usual slams.  Comments about religion not being loving, that religion causes wars, that it is hypocritical, and so on.  Not one of those comments defined “religion”, not one of them quoted scripture.  But they universally condemned religion.

I guess they find caring for widows and orphans, and not bringing yourself down by involving yourself in sin, something that is very negative.  Though I expect that it is more the latter issue, than the former.  That and the people who are a bit insistent that others follow God’s commands, without teaching first of His grace.

Religion is putting into practice the love of God in our lives.  It is understanding His love is what gives us the Two Great Commandments, the Decalogue (aka the Ten Commandments), the Beatitudes. the directions given in the Epistles.  Living those out, isn’t possible without the presence of God, with His love and mercy, with understanding that He desires what is best for us.

Dividing God from what He considers to be pure and genuine religion, is the same as dividing faith and works.  Even though it is trusting in God (faith) that saves us, James (and Hebrews, and Paul and Jesus ) is clear. A person who trusts in God will live a different life from those who do not.  A religious life.  As will those whose first thoughts are to praise Him for His work in their lives, a work that becomes theirs.  Yet there are people out there who says we don’t have to follow God’s plans for our lives.  That they are outdated, that they are too restrictive, that they don’t make sense.

And they call for a relationship with Him, where what we do should be right in our eyes, not His.  It’s still a religion folks, it is just that the deity we are in a relationship with, has been replaced.  It is now us that rule, and God who does our bidding.

There is one last “break-up” that goes with the first two.  I use theological terms for it, Justification and Sanctification.  But I could easily use other theological terms, conversion/forgiveness and abiding in Christ/transformation/repentance.  In each case we divorce salvation, God delivering us from our brokenness (sin) and healing/restoring us to what should come naturally.  We make excuses, we blame others, we basically determine that we can’t live any better, that we can’t struggle with sin, and so we don’t.

And we toss God’s way of life out the window.

During lent, we take a breath, and see the need for God to put back together the lives we shattered, our own, and those we’ve had a hand in breaking. Not that we shouldn’t do this year round, but taking 7 weeks here, helps a lot.  We see that religion – God’s plan, does have a purpose in our lives, it is a way of life we can abide in with Him. That we can know and show mercy, love, forgiveness, that we can redeem that which was tossed aside, that we are called and chosen to do this very thing.

That we can get off our own pedestal, that we can stop playing God, and that we can know His peace.

AMEN

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 282-285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rejocing During Lent? Inconcievable? Not at All!

Devotional THought of the Day:concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - Copy

 25  Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26  And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27  David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment. 28  So all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres. 29  But as the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.   1 Chronicles 15:25-29 (NLT)

16  “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17  ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’   Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

Tonight my church will gather to celebrate the love of God.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say God will gather them, for that too is part of the celebration.

We are in the beginning days of Lent, just a week ago we celebrated Ash Wednesday, with a service that…could only be called a celebration. It wasn’t just that we had a much larger group than is our pattern. It was the idea that people gathered, and with reverent smiles  they were marked with ashes, knowing that this reminder of their sin, which grieves them, would be accompanied by another trip forward, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, proof that God wouldn’t leave them in ashes, that they would not be left in the dust.

That’s something to rejoice in, that’s something to celebrate, and even…like King David, dance over.

Yes, like Isiah, we are people who sturggle with sin, (and sometmies struggle is a strong word) , who live in a world that more and more rejoices in sin.  This is indeed something we should grieve over, it is something that we should never be callous about either.  Christ grieved and wept as He looked over Jeruslaem, the prophets wept as they reminded Isarel of what would be the consequences of their sin, especially their abandoning their relationship with God in order to choose idols of their own making.  Even so, Jesus went on to the cross, to do something about that grief, just as the prophets would foretell not just of doom and judgment, but of the glory of Christ incarnation, death and resurrection, and what it means.

So to, our journey of Lent, the remorse and grief we find as we review our lives, is tempered by the glory of God. The shear joy of realizing that we will soon be in Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday!  The joy of knowing that our grief has been dealt with, our expectation of God’s promises have been fulfilled. This is also a season of expectation, a season of hope that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!  How can we not be excited y the promise, and knowing it is fulfilled in Christ.

And so each service is a mini-lent to easter celebration, from the death of sin, to the resurrection to life in Christ, celebrated as we feast together at the altar (and on Wednesday nights, at the table)

Rejioce?  How can I not, when the glory of God is present, when His people are gathered together, when He gives us life and shares with us His mercy, His peace, His love?

As we walk through lent, even as the priests and David walked with God toward the Holy CIty, let us rejoice in His glory.  As well, may the light of His glory draw all to Him.

AMEN.

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishe(1rs. Kindle Edition.

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