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Where Hope is Found…and a Hard Memory


Tau CrossDevotional Thought of the day:
1  And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5  so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.    1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)

777      Yesterday I saw a picture which I liked immensely, a picture of Jesus lying dead. An angel was kissing his left hand with an inexpressible devotion. Another, at the Saviour’s feet, was holding a nail torn out of the Cross. In the foreground with his back to us there was a tubby little angel weeping as he gazed at Christ. I prayed to God that they would let me have the picture. It is beautiful. It breathes devotion. I was saddened to hear that they had shown it to a prospective buyer who had refused to take it, saying, “It’s a corpse!” To me, You will always be Life.  (1)

Alas and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?  Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?  At the cross at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.

It’s been nearly twenty years since “the discussion.”  One of my church members was quite irate.  And to be honest, I struggled to understand her complaint, and why i couldn’t get through to her why the cross, more specifically, a picture of the Jesus on the cross was not blasphemous, but rather a source of great hope, a source of great peace and comfort.

St. Josemaria’s words that I came across in my devotion this morning reminded me of that day.  The picture was simple, a picture of a Tau Cross ( the Greek Letter T being Tau) with Jesus body on it.  The passage I was preaching on was the one above in red (and the chapter before which says “we preach Christ crucified“) and all the songs were ones like the one in green above.  The Wondrous Cross, The Old Rugged Cross, At the Cross, there was a theme working, I wanted them to work through the idea that Christ died for all on that cross, and that He died for you… and for me.

Simple?

Apparently not. For the dear lady thought I was being blasphemous, picturing Jesus as if he was still there, for we know He has risen  I have in twenty years of ministry only twice seen someone more angry at me, and this just moments before church was to start, moments before we were to worship God, indeed for sending Jesus to die for us, and for the Holy Spirit uniting us to that cross. 

The next twenty-four hours were hard, I questioned myself, both my theology and my ability to communicate it.  In either case, the answer was perhaps found in my returning to work at a university, to giving up on ministry.  An old retired pastor changed that thought process, he was wondrous in his support in those days to follow.   

I still preach about Christ crucified, and if I ever stop, then I should leave the ministry.  For as St. Josemaria describes it, where others see a corpse, I see life.  It is beautiful, it speaks of Christ’s devotion to save us, a love so encompassing that He could embrace that cross for the joy set before Him. A love for sinners such as I.

In preaching about the cross, it has to include us, for owe were united to that death of Jesus there, as He hung there, as He paid for our sin, as He died to justify us,, cleanse us, and plant a seed of life in us.  It is there that the Holy Spirit brings us in our baptism, so that having died with Him, we rise with Him.

Not as an analogy, but being raised to a glorious,, holy life, being reborn, recreated as the children of God. Being brought to repentance, transformation, being able to have faith in God and His promise.  This is where our burdens are rolled away, our shame, our grief, our resentment, and pain.  It is taken there, nailed there. 

This is all there at the cross……this is given us as He died there.  This is His cross, and it is ours, again the apostle Paul describes the power, of the cross, in our lives.

5  For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6  And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)

.So think on the cross, picture Jesus there, know the power of His love, HIs devotion for you, and then love and devote yourself to Him, for that relationship is what He desired, and what He saved you for in the first place.

AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2787-2792). Scepter Publishers.
Kindle Edition.

(2)  Issac Whats, At The Cross – words in Public Domain

Who would weep when those who do evil die…?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!”  2 Samuel 18:33

19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”

55      Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God.  (1)

A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.

The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over.  Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.

The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over.  The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.

This doesn’t make sense!  Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude?  Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies?  Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died?  Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?

Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God.  The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation.  And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,

1  I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2  when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3  for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)

This is David’s heart as well.  This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.

(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son.  I will go where he is…)

I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.

Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?

I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine.  That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years.  Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.

What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.

For people to not know this peace?  To not know this love?  For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with?  This needs ot become inconceivable.

Lord, have mercy on us!  Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you.  Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer.  May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them.  For we pray this in Jesus’ name.  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

Why Are We Here? Why are YOU here?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the day:.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 3:15 (TEV)

19  God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. 20  For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. 21  It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:19-21 (TEV)

20      There are many people around you, and you have no right to be an obstacle to their spiritual good, to their eternal happiness. You are under an obligation to be a saint. You must not let God down for having chosen you. Neither must you let those around you down: they expect so much from your Christian life.  (1)

24    Many people ask with an air of self justification: Why should I get involved in the lives of others? Because it is your Christian duty to get involved in their lives, in order to serve them! Because Christ has got involved in your life and in mine!  (1)

Over the years, I have proposed a question to people, especially those who are struggling in life, or confused about what they should be doing.

“Why does God leave us on earth, once we’ve become His children?”

It is another way of asking what our individual purpose in life is.  Certainly it would be better for us to be in view of God as eternity will be.  To be free from the challenges, the suffering, and the anxieties of life.

So why do we remain?

For others.

Especially “those” people.

The ones who need our prayers, the ones who need us to give to them the hope we have, the very presence of Jesus Christ.   We don’t need to be here, but they need us here.  They need us to follow in the steps of Christ, even if that means sacrifice and suffering, even if that means we have to struggle with them.

As St. Josemaria says, we can’t be obstacles to them being drawn to Christ. Their eternal life or death does depend on us following Christ, of walking in His steps.

That sounds like a heavy burden, this living the life of a saint.  But that is because we don’t get what being a saint is, we have an image that is impossible to reach.  We think it means a life that is lived perfectly and without sin.

But being a saint is simply living a life with a purpose, to have a life focused on a goal.  In our case, it is living life in accord with God’s will.  Which makes the priority being patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

There is our purpose, whether we are a child, a retiree, a pastor, an engineer, or a fast food worker.  We are left here, to be God’s ministers, in a ministry of reconciliation.
May we be aware that God has given us the desire and the will to this.

AMEN!

Do We Desire God’s Presence? Do we Desire Eternity?


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day       :This was the church of my parochial school... a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..now used for something else.

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. Psalm 27:4 (TEV) 

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) 

857 Someone we know well told us sincerely, in confidence, that he had never been bored, for he had never been on his own, without our Friend. It was late in the evening, and there was a great silence… You felt very intently the presence of God… And, in the knowledge of that reality, what peace!  (1)

Each morning that I find myself in my office, I start the day with the morning liturgy from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  Each morning I do so, after remembering my baptism while making the sign of the cross, the very next thing is Psalm 27:4. I read the words and often ask myself a question.

Do I really want only that – to live in His house all my life, for all eternity?

Let me confess, I struggle with that, as I imagine you do.

And if I struggle with living with Him here, in this time and place; I also struggle with seeing that which Solomon mentioned, that God has planted eternity in my heart.  For often my heart and mind are not centered there.  Some things I desire may be good and beneficial, like seeing people given the gift of faith, and the promises that come from Baptism and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.  I desire the church to grow, to find reconciliation where it is so needed.  But anxiety over making that happen.

Is my first desire God’s presence, to be where He abides?

There are times it is, and I can think back over the years and long for those times again.  The quiet sanctuaries of my youth, the incredible retreats I’ve been on, the baptisms, the putting into people’s hands the body and blood of Christ. The holding someone’s hand while they passed away, just silently praying.  Praying again with my son, when he fit in the niche of my arm, praying that God would bless him, and through him many people.  They are my treasured times, they are the best moments of my life.

Yes I do desire this, and I cannot but help look forward to eternity, because of promises like this:

9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

The times are precious, when I can sit and meditate on this, when I contemplate my baptism, or the Eucharist, or receiving the incredible news that my sins are absolved.

It is then I realize the peace the Josemaria’s friend new, the silence, the presence of God.  That which we do desire the most, if we take a moment to realize it.

Be still, my friends, and know there is a God, and you are His…..

It is worth every micro-second.  For there eternity, the eternity planted in our hearts is revealed.

For eternity is yours already.  He is with you…

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3511-3515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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