Devotional Thought of the Day:
With your faithful love, you will lead the people you have redeemed; you will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength. Exodus 15:13 CSB
Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross!
For many of our contemporaries, though, work is “a tedious function”: they see their professional obligations—intellectual or manual, of public relevance or unfolding quietly within the four walls of home—as a weight that must be carried “because there’s no way out of it.” Some live for the weekend and try to bear with the fatigues of work with the consolation that their well-deserved break is coming. Thus, they condemn themselves to five days of suffering and two of fleeting enjoyment, for the gray monotony of the next Monday appears immediately on the horizon. Others imagine that work is a divine punishment, the fruit of original sin. They forget that when God created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden ut operantur, to work, he gave this command before the Fall of our first parents.
Yesterday, I had the honor of confirming 4 young adults in the faith. Over the time we studied together, I hope I gave them a different view of church than many adults have. A way that Fazio expressed above regarding work, the idea that we have to go “because there’s no way out of it.” That church is somehow an invasion, God trying to take his chunk out of the time of rest that people are owed for their back breaking work.
I think people need to see both work and church in a different way. Not as tedious things they must do, but as a time they are able to work alongside the God who loves them. Managers and bosses can encourage this, giving people the freedom to do their work in a way that encourages their artistic sense, or gives them a measure of satisfaction and joy.
We need to do this with church as well. To help people run to the cross, because they know the faithful love that is revealed there. They know how singing and even dancing in the presence of God, no dancing with God, is more fulfilling than anything else. That the feast of the Lord’s Supper is something to be celebrated, a time of great joy and wonder. We need to be drawn to the cross, not purpose driven.
This is the picture Moses drew for the Israelites in Exodus, as God guides His people into His presence, into their home. To see the faithful love of God at work in those moments, and to see it infect people who take that joy of being home with God into their work places, recognizing His presence there. He would guide them there, patiently, just as He guides us…
To that place where we look on awe, realizing the strength of the love that endured all of it, from the pain of the betrayal to the beating, from the mocking voices ot the tearing pain of the spikes which pierced His hands and feet. Hebrews tells us that He not only endured it, He did it for the joy set before Him, the joy of reuniting us with the Father, of bringing us home.
When we are there..at the foot of the cross, it changes everything. No longer is work an obligation, no longer is church a duty to do, a burden laid on us. It is a time of refreshment, of joy, of being reminded that God surrounds us in peace. That peace extends out from these few hours on Sunday, and makes even work come alive.
For we are His people…His beloved people, and He is with us… even if all we do is work in the kitchen…
Lord, help the people i minister to see Your love for them, and rejoice in it.
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.
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 105-106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 My strength, I will make music for you, for my stronghold is God, the God who loves me faithfully. Psalm 59:17 (NJB)
what more canst thou hope for than the fulfillment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love.
It is Karl Barth’s answer to the questioner who asked him, “Professor Barth, you have written dozens of great books, and many of us think you are the greatest theologian in the world. Of all your many ideas, what is the most profound thought you have ever had?” Without a second’s hesitation, the great theologian replied, “Jesus loves me.”
It is refreshing to read words of pastors from other eras in the church. Especially when those words haven’t been translated, and even cleansed in recent decades. Even so, sometimes how things are said are shocking, they set us back, and cause us to process what we read.
Such an occurrence took place as I was reading from Spurgeon this morning.
That seems such an odd word to use regarding the love of God. Whether it is used in the sense of carrying someone away (after pillaging their village) or causing an incredible level of intense delight (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ravish ), it just doesn’t seem right or maybe a better word, considering Spurgeon’s roots – proper.
But maybe that is precisely what is missing from Christianity today. We are missing a sense of the incredible idea of being raptured ( a synonym), not in the sense of eschatology. Instead, in the sense that as we realize we are loved by God, everything else is left behind, that the delight, the joy, the wonder of being loved transform where we are, and it is no longer the place we thought we were.
You see that kind of sentiment in the great preachers and saints throughout history. John Chrysostom, Pascal, Saint Theresa, St Josemaria, Luther, all expressed that kind of experience, as they experienced the love of God. It is what mystics search after, these moments of transcendence, these moments of uncontrollable, heavenly bliss.
It is only from dwelling in that love that we can minister to others. It is the only hope we have when we have been broken by the sin of the world and shattered by our own sin. To let our soul be ravished by the love of God, as He takes us out of the brokenness, transforming us and giving us a new perspective on the world in which we dwell.
The world we dwell in, as we live in Him, and He in us. Completely loved and adored, beyond our imagination, beyond our understanding. Rather than trying to figure it out, perhaps it is better to acknowledge it, and the peace we gain from His presence. The Lord loves you! And even as you find delight in that, the realization should hit you, He delights in it as well!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May God’s peace and mercy be upon you, as you live knowing this, you are a new creation, the very people of God
Where do we find contentment?
The Apostle Paul desired that he would never, ever boast in anything except the cross of Christ.
Not in His favorite sports teams
Not in a promotion, or an award given at work
Not in his citizenship or Nationality
Not even in the academic grades or the sports accomplishments of his children or grandchildren.
makes some sense, even as we know we do those things regularly. When we look a little deeper at the word
behind the word “boast,” the lesson gets a little harder.
The Greek word means to be proud of or to be satisfied and content with your situation or accomplishments.
Should I go back through that list?
We find many things that we find contentment, many things in which we find satisfaction. Paul would have us only find contentment, only find satisfaction when we looked there, at the cross which reminds you that God loves you enough that Christ died… for you!
Nothing is more important in your life than to know God loves you. Seeing the cross at the center stage of our lives, yet…
The Law – The world rules
That is why Paul talks about the need to see our interest in the world crucified, and the world’s interest in us terminated. This is hard to comprehend at times, for how do we live in the world and yet, as Jesus tells us, not be of the world? How can we deal with the family and friends we might lose, the jobs we might have to turn down, all because they do not understand?
It is not easy,
I need to say here we don’t lose them because we annoy them with our condescension, or pretend we are holier or more special that they are. We better not lose them because we condemn their sin, while ignoring our own.
But the ability to dwell miraculously in peace, and receive God’s mercy will create a difference, and not understanding that is challenging. As is the change in priorities that occurs when we are transformed by the presence of God in our lives.
You see, God starts transforming us, the moment He claims us in baptism. We might not even realize the difference He is making, But we become something new, something different, as we experience His love.
live differently, what the Apostle talks of, to live by this principle, the
principle is this: that we are the new people of God. In Greek, this is the word canon. Not the kind
I would like to play with, but canon as in the Biblical Canon. It means the rule, the form, the standard
that we can be measured by.
Luther talks about something similar when he talks about the third use of the law, that we live in a peace and mercy that affects our life, causing us to live as new creations.
While the world may not understand it, God changes us. It is why kneeling here is so incredible. It is why Al when he stood here and baptized his granddaughters was crying for joy. It is why people, when they hear that they are forgiven, every sin from murder to those little white lies that haunt us, feel as if they were released from the greatest of burdens. This is the transformation!
It is something the world just can’t understand, this remarkable peace and grace of God which defines us, when we remember that we have been made the children of God.
The Mark How does that happen? Paul describes it this way, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.
The stigmata in Greek. A Reference to the marks, the wounds of Christ. For it primarily means the mark left by the healing of injured tissue, in a way, a natural tattoo.
But it is deeper than that, because Paul says it is a mark that shows that he belongs to Jesus. A mark that tells us we are His, that we are united to Him and His death on the cross. We bear that mark of the cross, the stigma of it, for with it we were baptized , marked and sealed, so that not only do we die with Christ.
We live with Him as well.
Which is why I make the sign of the cross during the creed, because of His cross, and our death with Him there, we will rise from the dead and living in the glory of the Father forever!
And until that day comes, when all men will be judged, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, comforting us, transforming and guiding us, as we live as the new people of God… AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 David became very angry at the rich man and said, “I swear by the living LORD that the man who did this ought to die! 6 For having done such a cruel thing, he must pay back four times as much as he took.” 7 “You are that man,” Nathan said to David. “And this is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I made you the king of Israel and rescued you from Saul. 2 Samuel 12:5-7 (TEV)
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Look! Here is the man!” John 19:5 GNT
Identities are stolen every day.
Some are as innocent as a wife seeing her husband’s Facebook page open and typing in, ” I have the most beautiful, precious wife in the world!” Others have a more evil intent, stealing money, credit, anything they can from their victims, their families, even their workplaces.
Identity theft is so prevalent that it is has created multiple industries to defend against it, from computer programs and special routers to wallets that protect the information on your credit and atm cards, to special companies that scan your information regularly and alert you, and insurance policies to compensate you while it all gets straightened out. It is a billion-dollar industry.
But the greatest identity theft we see happen in two Bible passages above.
David, full of sin, and not all that remorseful judges a sinner as being worthy of death (and paying back 4 to 1 what was stolen.) The sentence was right and just, it was what the man deserved, Without a doubt, without any hesitation.
And then David hears the harsh words, “David, you are the man”
Remorse sinks in faster than the realization of Nathan’s words. His contempt for God has been revealed, his sin is now known to all. He is broken, or perhaps one can say, the brokenness he lived with is finally brought to light.
And this is where the identity theft comes in, as another man hears similar words, “Here is the man”, and a death sentence is carried out.
The death sentence David deserved is taken by Jesus. He steals David’s identity as a sinner, as an adulterer, as a murderer, The death David deserved is given to the Lord, who steals his identity.
And leaves David with his own, as David will become known as a man after God’s own heart.
But David is not the only one whose Identity has been stolen on a Friday like this.
Your identity is stolen as well.
Maybe you didn’t actually have someone killed, Maybe just in anger, you wanted someone dead. Maybe you have committed adultery, being unfaithful to your spouse, or causing someone else to be unfaithful to theirs. Or maybe it was simply desiring someone you aren’t married to.
Or any of the millions of sins in thought, word or deed that you committed, or the sins you committed by doing nothing.
That identity you have, and the accompanying guilt and shame is something you’ve lived with, maybe so long you have grown hardened to, and indifferent.
Jesus comes along, nailed to the cross, and steals that identity. We lost our identity, it is no longer ours, It is nailed to the cross, all of its ugliness, all our painful brokenness.
We are free, that is no longer us.
As we realize this, as we explore this new identity we have, as children of God, as we explore the breadth and width, depth and height of God’s love for us as Jesus is there, hanging on the cross…
it is time to say thanks, time to adore Him, time to let that old identity completely go…and be healed.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to steal our identity. And thank you for the Holy Spirit who establishes our new identity. Help us to heal and live new lives, sharing this “theft” with the world. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for our days…
“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates m his life n in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant o also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. John 12:24-26
When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
We, who are so often unable to put up with one another; we, who are not fit to appear before God, are received by Jesus. He wears, so to speak, the garment of our wretchedness and, by taking us with him, makes us fit to stand in the presence of God; we have gained access to God. We are washed by letting ourselves be drawn into his love. This love means that God receives us unconditionally even when we are not capable and are not worthy of it, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes our Brother.
In the middle of Jesus prophecy about His imminent crucifixion and resurrection, there is something we have to see, something we have to hear again.
6 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.
We have to bear the cross, we have to go with Him there, or more precisely we need to allow Him to draw us into Himself, to give up our lives so that we can live in Him, with Him, through Him. (yes the Eucharistic reference is intended)
For without the cross, His cross, we cannot truly be His disciples, we can’t be united to Him, for that is where our unity with God begins, it is where life is restored in the midst of death.
And so Jesus calls us to die, even as He was sent to die. We are drawn to the cross, not because of the pain, not because of the sacrifices required (those idols aren’t worth anything anyway) but because of the love we know there, this incredible, unbelievable love that is poured out on us, the broken and sin-crushed. Yet that love heals us, transforms us, judges us as those who are brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Son of God.
Without that death and resurrection, we are nothing. And having died to sin, and been raised in Christ, we begin to realize life differently.
The crosses we have to bear, the sacrifices we make to serve others, the forgiveness that pours out from our hearts is not something that is more painful than the joy we find in the presence of Jesus Christ.
In fact, as we get used to living in Christ, we may not even realize we are making sacrifices, bearing crosses, being patient with those who require the greatest patience. We just know what we do is what we are supposed to do…
It is just what we do,
What He’s called us to do, for He has revealed His love, He has revealed His promise
The cross..and the resurrection, He and us, united there, and forever. AMEN!
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. Print.
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.
Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)
Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours
† I.H.S. †
The Mark you bear….the passion it represents
A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead. Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.
Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.
As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden. We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.
Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….
The prayer tonight? It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”
An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight. A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.
The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross
Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away… Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.
Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.
We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness. To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.
And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.
The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!
The Mark of Bliss
As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.
The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)
It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish. The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears. All that is necessary for a time. But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,
The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.
In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…
Make Me thine
And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.
He has made us His own.
We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”
Devotional Thought for our day:
22 Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this. “God bless you, Master! Nothing like this must happen to you!” Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter, “Out of my way, Satan! … you stand right in my path, Peter, when you look at things from man’s point of view and not from God’s”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What could a man offer to buy back his soul once he had lost it? Matthew 16:22-26(Phillips NT)
When you want to control your abandonment in the hands of God, the tenderness of your filial relationship is lost. Neither ideology nor psychoanalysis or sociological interpretation of the mystery knows of tenderness. Rather, they know the art of manipulation, not of caress.
You want the world to change.
You can’t understand why the problems in our society exist, why there is hatred, why people can’t work together. You want them to change (whoever “them” is) and you easily get frustrated by their actions.
I get that, I am tired of my own anger at people who are angry at people who are angry because they are reacting against what they perceived as unjust.
I’ve got some news for you (and it applies to me), the change and the peace we seek doesn’t begin with their change, it begins with the change that needs to happen in us, in you and me. It starts with your giving up all rights to yourself. It starts with your relationship to God. It starts with you letting God be God and trusting Him to do exactly what He promised to do in our lives. You need to let Him guide you in life, and listen and follow. Not partially, but totally.
As Pope Francis notes, you can’t really control your abandonment in the hands of God.
There is a reason for this, which he explains as “the tenderness of our filial relationship is lost”. What that means is that as we play God, as we determine we are in control of our lives, we forget and lose track of our relationship with God. We forget about the fact we are His beloved children (hence filial – that of a son), we forget that He desires we walk with Him. , we forget about the love our Father in heaven has for us.
All this happens as we try to take control of our destiny, for 10 minutes or for a lifetime. THat is what Jesus talks about in that trying to save our life, we lose, but if we abandon it to the care of the Father, to the guidance of the Spirit, to the work of Jesus on the cross, we gain it.
And we gain a sense of justice, a sense of righteousness that God fills our life with. We realize that righteousness means we love those we consider unlovable, and rather than just condemn those who acts are unjust and unrighteous, we put them in God’s hands, We pray that He would spare them by transforming them just as He is doing to us. We work to help them realize they are His beloved children and that He has saved them from their sin. That is how injustice is fixed, first as we remember that Jesus’ work has committed us into the Father’s hands, and then, abandoning our will, our destiny, our life into his hands, we see Him work miracles, reconciling others through our work, as He guides us to love them.
Easy? No, and yet yes. He does the work! We have to just stop fighting Him…..
The cost? Already paid for on the cross of Calvary. The blood of Christ that was spilled that sin would be covered, and separated from the sinner.
This is our hope, whether the injustice is minor, or national. That Christ came to redeem the ungodly, and we have seen it happen in our lives.
So go, in His name, and love.
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. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:16-20 (NLT)
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (NLT)
249 Sacrifice, sacrifice! It is true that to follow Jesus Christ is to carry the Cross— He has said so. But I don’t like to hear souls who love Our Lord speak so much about crosses and renunciations, because where there is Love, it is a willing sacrifice— though it remains hard—and the cross is the Holy Cross. A soul which knows how to love and give itself in this way is filled with peace and joy. Therefore, why insist on “sacrifice”, as if you were seeking consolation if Christ’s Cross—which is your life—makes you happy?
All who believe, who trust and depend on Jesus are called to imitate Him. This is a constant theme in Paul’s writings, and it is what Jesus meant when he called disciples, when he asked men and women to follow Him.
It isn’t easy, in fact, there are days I wish we could quit, where the cost challenges my ability, or my patience, or the struggle and sacrifice is too high. Not wanting pity, for this is true for every believer. From the pastors that have labored for 40 years, to the young lady who was baptized last week.
Being a Christian includes embracing suffering, it includes greeting sacrifice willingly, not even complaining about it.
Yeah, I said that we are supposed to not even complain about it.
Look at Jesus’ words about fasting – don’t even show that you are, act normal, despite embracing the suffering you chose to embrace.
I am not saying we shouldn’t ask God to comfort us or ask other to pray with us, but there is a difference between asking people for help and whining and seeking praise for our suffering. Indeed, I think we can be addicted to the “praise” for being martyrs, for our suffering. That’s what we must avoid, for then our suffering serves a different purpose.
Think about this, Paul talks of rejoicing always, at the same time talks of praying without ceasing. The combination is that which sustains us, as we give our burdens to God, that is the way to deal with our struggle, with our sacrifice. Paul takes it further here. talking about making music in our hearts. singing and praising God.
St. Josemaria notes something we have to set our hearts upon, that as we take up the cross, there is love, His love. There the sacrifice takes on a new meaning, as it is a moment with Christ, a moment understanding the depth of His love for you and me. In fact, Josemaria would be so bold as to say run to that sacrifice, knowing what it means for us. Time with our Lord, time realizing the depth of His love, for He embraced far more than we will, he suffered that all of our sin would be forgiven.
God is with us, He is here…
Know His peace.. even in the midst of the storm.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1224-1229). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
34 Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35 This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” Matthew 13:34-35 (NLT)
After a brief pause, Jack said, “Explain yourself. I’m willing to hear you out.”
“Okay,” I said, “but to explain myself I have to tell you a story.” I sensed a puzzlement on his part, so I quickly added, “All spiritualities are based on a story. You have to know the story of a particular religion to understand its spirituality.”
This statement aroused the curiosity of everyone. “Tell the story,” said Jack. “Maybe I don’t know the story; as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Christianity told as a story.”
“Okay,” I responded, “but I have to tell you I can’t prove the story.”1
“I like that! I don’t like it when religious people try to prove their faith. Just the fact that you say that we shouldn’t try to prove the story with history and science makes me want to listen.”
899 The children of God are present and give witness in the world to draw others, not to be drawn by them. They should spread their own atmosphere, the atmosphere of Christ, not let themselves be won over by a different atmosphere.
One of the hardest lessons to learn in preaching is that it is very different from teaching, very different from teaching, very different from giving a lecture.
The goal isn’t merely to impart knowledge and information, but to draw someone into a relationship, to draw someone into the story, to reveal to them that they have a part, a role, and are wanted. (This is true not only about the sermon but about any time we bear witness to Jesus, that we share His love with others)
This is profoundly different than the way I was taught in the early days, in classes like Expository Preaching and Homiletics. I have written similarly before on apologetics, that the idea is not to win a case, to convince someone to judge Christianity right based on the proof I present.
We simply need to tell the story, to tell it so well the people are drawn into their place in the story,
This is why the post-modern sermon needs to be transparent, that the messenger be willing to tell his portion of the story transparently, the brokenness, the sin and shame (though not in great detail) the hopelessness that exists when we take our eyes off of Jesus, and His continual drawing us back, and the peace that comes when we see Him again. For if they know God can help us, then we are writing on their hearts the word of the story, the “God so loved (me)”, the “body broken/blood shed for (me).
I would assert that teaching the Bible without making the connection to the listener is not preaching, it is not bearing witness to Jesus. It is simply giving people, overloaded with facts, more facts to deal with intellectually. It appeals to their baser instinct, that they are the judge of reality. But they aren’t the judges, they are not just interested observers. So why preach to them if they were. Telling them the story involves them, it helps reveal to them that they aren’t observers and judges, but part of the story.
This takes the objective truth of salvation and helps it become subjective as well. It takes the historical information stored in our minds and makes it meaningful to our heart and soul.
This is the mystery that has been revealed, that which has been hidden from the beginning of the world. The mystery of God and His people, the people He makes His own, the mystery of how you and I, broken by our sin and the sin of the world, are picked up, healed, brought home.
That is preaching, that is bearing witness to God’s love, that is giving people what God wants them to comprehend.
Tell me the story, write on my heart every word, tell me the story of Jesus (and us), greatest that every was heard.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3181-3182). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
20 He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? 21 It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Luke 13:20-21 (NLT)
5 In coming to the other side of the sea, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” ………11 How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-6,11-12 (NAB)
397 Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that in order to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him. (1)
The exquisite elites know how to pucker their noses when confronted with failure; they are scandalized. They prefer to set up models of the Church based on “common sense” rather than on the failure of the cross.
Being effective is not always a blessing. In fact, some of the most effective things in the world are deadly, those viral and bacterial infections that can run amok and kill or gravely would everyone that comes in contact with them.
The scriptures above show this as well, as two different things are compared to the idea of yeast or leaven. The Kingdom of God can be like that, as we see the church explode during the time of the apostles, and in certain parts of the world today. Growth that goes beyond anything pragmatic, that causes us to scramble to try and adjust our plans to compensate for the growth. Yet the other passage shows a negative form of leaven, that of the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, groups that promoted a very pragmatic approach to being the people of God.
Yet their very approach was an obstacle to grace, a way that blocked people from identifying themselves as God’s children, And they were very effective – so effective that they were able to kill God, even as they nailed Jesus to a cross.
St. Josemaria talks about effectiveness that arises out of faith, not of reason. That the leaven we need to become is found in our holiness, in our being set apart to God, It is found, as Francis says,, not in models set up in common sense, but in the failure of the cross. For drawn to the cross we find Jesus, that is where the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus, binds us to His death and resurrection. That is where we are given gifts like repentance and faith, where we are declared God’s people, where we are cleansed. At the cross, we are infected/affected by His great love and mercy, and find ourselves set apart to Him. It is here we become infectious and spread the gospel simply by being in people’s lives.
Not a very pragmatic or reasoned approach, this dying and rising to life, this admitting our failure and our desperate need for God.
Yet it is how God would affect us, infect us, and see our effectiveness, as the Kingdom of God testifies not only to our presence but His presence in us.
Lord, help us see you on the cross, and know the depths of your mercy, and know you have risen, as it testifies to Your immeasurable love, and may our lives be effective, as we are united to You. Amen!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) 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. Print.