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.
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NLT)
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.
Galatians 6:14 (NLT)
One word should suffice, that is, the cross itself. The cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the cross of Christ: a word that is love, mercy, and forgiveness. It also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us.
A thousand years ago, there were crusades. Men fought for land, urged on by those who would use religion as the promise of reward.
Now we have crusades to correct what we think are injustices. And like those who fought a thousand years ago, we often do so without completely understanding what we are getting into, without having the whole picture, without understanding the cost to those we crusade against, or to ourselves.
I’ve been there, getting all excited, getting all ready to do battle, working strategically on the arguments and planning the step by step approach to annihilate the opponent. The energy that ramps up is amazing, as our hearts feed on the competition which can quickly turn to hatred.
And then, whther victorious or shot down in defeat, we realize the emptiness, the quickly fading glory, as we see the cost in the bodies and relationships that are broken. Including our own.
I would suggest that in the quotes from the apostle Paul above (in red) is a great guideline to help us choose wisely what we invest our heart and soul in, a way to measure whether a crusade is good, moral, beneficial. Simply put, does it lead to the cross of Christ?
There we find the answer, God’s answer, to injustice. There we find an answer to the brokenness of the world which we experience. There we find the hope that sustains us, and the glory of God which brings us peace. For He was broken so that we didn’t have to remain broken. He died, so we could live.
Does what we do help people know about Jesus, does what we speak, tweet, post, do these things show His love?
People need an answer, we have one that will bring peace.
There is a crusade worth involving ourselves in… one that will cause our own peace to grow.. and will never leave us empty.
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:
20 Then Jesus went home. Again such a large crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples had no time to eat. 21 When his family heard about it, they set out to take charge of him, because people were saying, “He’s gone mad!” Mark 3:20-21 (TEV)
910 Your ideal, your vocation: it’s madness. And your friends, your brothers: they’re crazy. Haven’t you heard that cry deep down within you sometimes? Answer firmly that you are grateful to God for the honor of being one of those “lunatics.”
It’s been a while since mad was a synonym for crazy, but the idea is that you are not in control of your emotions, and your emotions are in control of you.
It sounds like an odd description for Jesus, the one who is fully God, fully man! Especially the fully God part. Can God really be mad, crazy, a lunatic? There were times people were sure he was insane, a raving madman.
Who else would tell people to love their enemies? To not stand against what was evil? Who would demonstrate these were not just sayings, but would actually prove the logic of the madness.
And while we may doubt the sanity of some of his followers, Jesus did tell us the world wouldn’t understand our madness, even to the point they would persecute us.
There is another word for the madness, in Hebrew, it is cHesed; in Greek, agape; in Olde English, it was Charity; in modern English, the depth of the word love. An affection, a care for someone where you do what is best for them, no matter the cost. Where you put their salvation before your comfort, and often times, their comfort before you own need, or wants, or desire.
Not just those like you, Jesus makes that clear in Matthew 5. All people.
Which means you must know His love, and how it put you first, without any thought of cost. To know God’s love…because He loves us, we love Him.
This is madness to the world, but it is God’s logic, God’s love… it is reality.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2116-2118). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (NLT)
Therefore, anyone who seeks an office in the Church must know that he thereby declares himself ready for a greater share of the Cross. For, properly speaking, the real pastoral activity of Jesus Christ, through which he fashioned the Church and will never cease to fashion her, is his Cross, from which there flow for our blood and water, the holy sacraments, the grace of life. To want to do away with suffering means to deny love, to disavow Christ. It is impossible to struggle with the dragon and not be wounded. That is why what the Lord says in the Beatitudes is valid for all times: “Blessed are you when men revile you; blessed are the meek; blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:11, 5, 9). It is true, too, that where the Lord is, where the Master is, there must his servant be also. But the Master’s place was, ultimately, the Cross, and a shepherd who seeks nothing but approval, who would be content to do only what is required of him, would certainly not be taking his place where the Master has taken his.
I was once told that if I could be content in any other field, to avoid becoming a pastor. At the time, I didn’t understand. Today I do.
The blessing requires a high price to be paid.
I look at my friends in ministry, those I admire the most sacrifice so much to serve. Some are pastors and priests, others missionaries serving far from what most would consider their home. Some are teachers and youth workers, others are the leaders most don’t consider professionals. The elders, musicians, those who teach the Bible to young and old.
The costs are high, and while I am not talking about financial costs or the time demanded by the needs of those we serve, they cannot be dismissed either. The deeper costs include betrayals, it includes weeping with those who are weeping, crushed in grief. It means disciplining people that may not like be corrected. It means being willing to accept the loneliness of the prophet, being dismissed as we bring messages of hope, of being sent to stubborn and stiff-necked people as the prophets encountered.
It’s not about reports and strategies, it’s about laying aside our plans when someone is hurting, and helping them bear that pain. It’s not about giving a vision, unless that vision includes the cross, leading to the resurrection. It’s about the joy of the sacraments, and the pain when we see people in need for the comfort and strength they give, but who dismiss them. It’s about not giving up on the prodigal, it’s about showing mercy to the prostitute and tax collector, the drug addict and the scoundrel.
This is ministry, this is service, this is finding that as we minister to those who are drawn (and sometimes dragged ) to the cross, we find our healing occurs as well. For we are at the cross, where Jesus raises us from death, heals us from brokenness, comforts us in our grief, and gives us hope, even as we despair.
That is the paradox of Christian ministry, the sacrifice, the life surrendered at the cross is the great blessing of being such a servant leader.
Which is why Paul, the one we imitate as he imitated Christ praises God int he midst of sacrifice and suffering….
as will every leader in every parish, in every congregation, and throughout the Church in history, and throught out the world.
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.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. 14 And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NAB)
The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace, which is the heart of the New Testament. When we are baptized, when we eat the Lord’s body, when we are absolved, our hearts should firmly believe that God really forgives us for Christ’s sake
292 Your interior life has to be just that: to begin …and to begin again.
Mondays are unavoidable. The next begins in less that 160 hours.
Two other things are as unavoidable.
The first is sin. Or at least it seems to be. In thought word and deed, we fail. We fail to love our brothers and our sisters. We fail to love God, and we often live life without Him, going without His assistance, without calling on His name.
Sin is like Monday, it will happen, even if we don’t want it to happen! (not that we should use this as an excuse!)
It is depressing, as Paul admits in the 7th chapter of Romans. What a wretch I am!
Given similar despair, the words of Saint Josemaria give us hope. It is time to begin again! To approach God’s throne of mercy and ask for what seems impossible, to ask for forgiveness again!
But forgiveness is as ubiquitous, as omnipresent as Mondays! ( Ubiquitous and omnipresent simply mean “always there” )
The Lutheran Confessions note this when they talk of the sacraments and urge us to firmly believe that God forgives us! Because of Christ! He does! The one who told Peter to forgive Andrew 7 times 70 demonstrates it 1000 times over with you and me.
He forgives us!
The cross was for you and me! He did it for the joy He would know, as we are called
That is what St. Paul means when he says we are called into the Body of Christ.
Bring confident of this mercy of God, knowing He will forgive us is the evidence of Christ’s peace controlling our hearts, assured that guilt and shame do not have a place in our life That we don’t have to keep a record of sins against us and let resentment eat away our soul.
It’s Monday. You will probably sin, but you can begin again,
9 If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. 1 John 1:9 (NAB)
So let us confess, and depending on the promise of God, begin again, dwelling in His peace! AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 765). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day.. err Night… well.. you know…
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4 For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5 Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. 6 Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”
Hebrews 12:1-6 (TEV)
522 Even on those days when you seem to be wasting time, in the prose of the thousand details of the day there is more than enough poetry for you to feel that you are on the Cross: on a Cross, which no one notices. (1)
In more than one way, I feel like I have been wasting time over the last few days. Nothing has been accomplished, tasks at home and church are going on without completion, and to be honest, the place I am is one of pain, betrayal, incredible frustration and where I am witnessing the brokenness of humanity in ways I’ve never seen before.
It seems like I am wasting time, just waiting to get off a plane and hug my wife and son, and celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for me, for those I love, including my birth family, my adopted family, my church family, and for all the world. Sunday can’t come along fast enough, as we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for us as we take and eat, and take and drink, the Body and Blood of Christ.
In the meantime there is this brokenness, both that I observe (tears, frustrations,) and the feeling like I am wasting time.
Even here, this is not death I am facing, it is not the shedding of blood, it is an incredible lesson in depending on God. It’s about fixing my eyes on Christ, about remembering His sacrifice, about realizing I have been united to that death, so that I can survive this life, even trying times such as these. I am driven to the cross to avoid the despair, to avoid the discouragement, for there, standing before my Lord, contemplating His love, in awe adoring Him because of His mercy – there I find the poetry, the craftsmanship that leads me in peace. That poetry Josemaria notes is seen in lives that are broken and healing, in lives that likewise only can find peace there.
The poetry, the poiema of God (the word in Eph. 2:10 which guarantees this isn’t wasting time), healing brokenness. That I can appreciate, in that I can find hope and peace, comfort and even joy. At the cross where He Bled – at the cross where we join Him, at the cross where all is made righteous.
Realizing that, many this LCMS convention is not as much wasting time as I think it is….
Still hurtful, still feel like I have been betrayed… yet God… is working – and that is enough for me to find rest in Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1980-1982). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” Isaiah 40:3-5 (NLT)
397 Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him. (1)
Some may recognize the passage from Isaiah 40 quoted above as being fulfilled in John the Baptist. For he was the first to cry out that Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior was near, that the glory of His cross would soon be revealed to everyone.
John’s call for repentance leveled the playing field, for no man could stand higher than another, and when Christ was lifted up, all could see him. No longer would wee little men need to climb trees to see Jesus. All would be drawn to Him; all would be able to know the hope of salvation.
The problem is that we forget that we share in this ministry of making Christ accessible. The problem is that many of the obstacles, the hindrances, the mountains and canyons are ones we built. Perhaps not intentionally, perhaps to give us a better view, but they still block the view, they still delay people who are bring drawn to the cross.
We have to stop treating ministry as if people are to serve it, rather than it serve the people. It is wrong to make the one being drawn to Christ detour for miles or weeks or years to get around the trenches we dig, the barriers we put up to keep things safe and neat. We need a call to repentance, especially among those who are to shepherd the church, or who serve the church as the priesthood of all believers.
We need to hear these words, Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all the people will see it together, and recognize that in these words our commission is clear.
They need to see.
We cannot continue to get in the way, but rather, we are called to help them respond to Christ drawing all of us to Himself, to hear the answer to our prayer,
Lord, have mercy upon us, sinners,
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
He Will Do All the Good Things He has promised!
He will gather (JOY)
† I.H.S. †
I pray that the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that all you can do is rejoice as you think of His coming…even as God does!
How Can I….Know this Joy
A pastor once wrote,
Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this[i]
Sometimes I feel like that, like all of world that I encounter wants to assault me, attack me, trample all over me.
I so understand those words, that we assume there is nothing else but this….
And this week, when the darkness of the dark “blue” weeks of Advent are interrupted, as if a hint of a new day were peaking through, even as the darkness still threatens, we are encouraged to rejoice. Not just look forward to the day of rejoicing… but to rejoice.
Now, today, even as we struggle with world events, with national and local problems; as we struggle with our finances, or families or maybe it is just our personal struggles, we are urged to sing and shout praises, to be glad and rejoice with everything in our hearts and minds and souls. We are called to cheer up, and not be afraid.
Thank God that He gives us a reason too…
The people that rejoice in the presence of God are described in the following ways,
Those who need to be calmed, for they are afraid and anxious,
Those who mourn as they consider the state of appointed festivals like Christmas, and how they have become less about God and His people.
The people who will rejoice are those who are oppressed, to those who are weak and helpless.
Those who were chased away, or exiled.
This is referring to those who were run out of the camp in the days of the Exodus, who were cut off from the people of God because of their sin, yet will be welcomed back and restored.
Those who were exiled because of their sin and shame, for they too will be drawn back by God and restored.
Yeah, those who will rejoice in Jesus’s coming will include those who are burdened by shame and guilt, but who will be called by a new name, who will be given a new name, whose life will be restored. The prodigals who return, those crushed by their sin. For that is what Jesus does, as He was lifted up on the cross.
Lifted there because Jesus wasn’t just called a friend to tax collectors and sinners, He is a friend to them. And lifted up on the cross, the very image of God’s mercy and grace, He draws people to Him, as He desires.
Gather, for the Lord Will Live Among US
The pastor quoted earlier, who talked about the world assaulting us, following those words with these,
One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, (your soul) is worth more (to God) than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.
There is the key to seeing where our joy comes from, in the midst of a world that will try to make life a living hell.
Realizing the worth of a single soul, your soul, to God.
And that is why we are gathered by God together. For in this Old Testament prophecy, over and over it mentions this promise – six times! – the fact that God will gather His people together, that He will make things right, and twice more just so we understand, he explains that happens as God lives in the midst of His people.
God living among His people
God gathering His people together
God living among His people
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
The apostle John said it this way,
14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. John 1:14 (TEV)
The hardest thing to get theologically is a concept known as “now, and not yet.”
Jesus has been lifted up, He has drawn us into Himself in His death, and in our baptism, bringing us into life everlasting. We celebrate now the feast that is the first taste of the feast to come. We can live free of the guilt and shame, free of what separated us from God.
We don’t see it yet, but we get glimpses of it. As we gather, and as we do, our hearts should cry out His praises, for He is our Savior. And I want you to hear one more “now and not yet
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Know this, like the prodigal’s father, our Father rejoices as we are gathered into His presence… that is His love and mercy… AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.