Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:14-15 (CSBBible)
Peter Lombard was adequate as a theologian; none has been his equal. He read Hilary, Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, and also all the councils. He was a great man. If he had by chance come upon the Bible he would no doubt have been the greatest.”
If I read aright the record of Christian experience through the years, those who most enjoyed the power of the Spirit have had the least to say about Him by way of attempted definition. The Bible saints who walked in the Spirit never tried to explain Him.
Thou dost promise to come with the Father and the Holy Spirit to abide forever in their souls: He who loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, … and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.3 And what more hast Thou to promise and to give, to entice men to love Thee? My dearest Lord, I see how it is; Thou dost wish also to be loved by me: yes, I love Thee with all my heart; and if I do not love Thee, do Thou teach me to love Thee; make me to love Thee, and to love Thee above all things: “Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.”
I have to admit, I snickered when I read Luther’s words about Peter Lombard. Immediately came to mind some self-proclaimed theologians I know, men who have little time for worship or devotions. As I carefully stored away this little insult, I realized my need for repentance…
But then, I do not believe Luther was just snarky. I believe he was onto something and perhaps needed to go farther.
Tozer makes that point with more clarity, as he describes saints who walked with God, who could not, and did not spend time trying to explain the Holy Spirit; they experienced Him.
I am not saying we become seekers of experience, to be driven for emotional highs and lows. There is a difference between experiencing God and seeking experiences. The former is the earnest prayer of de Ligouri, as he begs God to teach him to love God, to make him love God. That is what Luther is getting at, what is missing from Lombard.
I am not saying we shouldn’t study, but it has to have its proper place. In fact, without time in prayer and meditation, without sacramental time, without worship, such study is simply an academic exercise.
The Lord is with you! The Spirit dwells in you…
Rejoice and enjoy the presence and work in your life!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 92.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 26.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. John 5:39-40 (NLT2)
Yet experience alone makes the theologian.
For many liberals the scientific worldview functioned as a norm by which to measure the credibility of Christian claims. As I once heard someone say, “How can the church ask you to believe something that you otherwise think is not true?”
I have a Master’s Degree in Theology, and am working on my doctorate. An yet I know the title of this blog is accurate.
Theology is far more than an acdemic subject, or an academic/intellectual pursuit. I have seen children and those with barely high school degrees who are better theologians than those who teach in seminaries and BIble Colleges.
That is because education has nothing to do with whether someone is a thoelogian or not. Yes, there are some theologians who are academics, but it is not necessary. And whether conservative or liberal, advanced degrees don’t make you a theologian.
Luther was correct – theologians are made by experience. And Allen points out an essential necessity, you have to set aside your disbelief and depend on what scripture reveals about Jesus. The claims are credible, it is inability to see that, that is the problem.
Just as seas don’t split open, a man dead for 60 hours doesn’t start breathing and walking around – with his wounds gaping open for all to see. Man can’t take 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feed 12-15000 people, or take bread and wine and declare it to be His Body and Blood … and it is. We can’t prove it, our minds may scream these things are untrue… but they are true.
The challenge is seeing that every scripture is about Jesus. That every page of scripture declares His glory and His power and His love for us. A love that planned for our salvation before we were born, but not before He was.
And here is the experience you and I need, to become theologians, (and hear it, dear reader, as my prayer for you!
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 7.
Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 24.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT2)
4 What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5 No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” Luke 13:4-5 (TEV)
If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.
This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God.
As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.
We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.
The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. THat too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.
Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday’s rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that – even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.
And the 12 year old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5’11.5″, 170 lbs and has a IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bed time he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question…
“Why does God allow earthquakes?”
I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above, and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority, because we don’t know what comes next. And while God doesn’t cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder – that creation is subject to God’s curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such “groaning” God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.
He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don’t get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.
Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we ut in place when we can’t find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology, and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount, when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don’t see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma, or frustration.
He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness…
Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn’t make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to, and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.
Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don’t have the answers, Lord bring us peace, and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 O LORD, our God, you answered your people; you showed them that you are a God who forgives, even though you punished them for their sins. 9 Praise the LORD our God, and worship at his sacred hill! The LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:8-9 (TEV)
The temptation, for a seminarian or priest, to reduce Christ to an abstract idea is most destructive of the spiritual life. It leads to the loss of his own identity and prevents him from accomplishing his first and most important mission of leading the faithful in his care to a knowledge, love and service of Christ as He is alive for us in the Church.
The tempation that is descibed in Burke’s words above is quite real. Those who minister to others can spend so much time styudying Jesus, studying His word, that we can forget to interact with Him. That leads to our treating Him (and God the Father and Holy Spirit) like an abstact idea, something to study and observe from afar, something to comment on, much as an editorialist comments about the events and people of his day.
The result is our preaching becomes filled with illustrations and quotes, refering to what others tell us about Jesus. Their observations are far sharper, and sometimes we resonate with them, but don’t understand them. We resort to meme’s written by those whom we are told are “great thinkers.” Catachesis and discipleship become more about instruction than helping people see Jesus revealed to them, evangelism and apologetics become more about debate than sharing a journey,
And as Jesus becomes someone to be studied, what disappears is what Paul desired for people, what he described in this way to the believers in Ephesus,
I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18† so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Eph. 3:16-19
So how do we prevent this from happeneing? How do we realize Jesus is a person to talk to, and not just talk about? It is to see what He promised, that He is here, disciplining us when needed, but always ready to forgive, to show His mercy, to pour out His gifts of love upon us.
In our present journey thorugh Ezra Nehemiah, there is an incredible prayer, describing the journey of the people Israel. It mentions the times of blessing, and the times where God disciplined them, it is honest about their failure. But it isn’t a lecture, it is a prayer. We would do well to do the same, to consider how God’s been faithful to us, telling Him how we are greatful, and remembering in our rebellion and sin, how He was faithful to us.
I often do this while contemplating the incredible mystery in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, How Jesus comes again to us, and provides a feast celebrating our being forgiven and restored, of God’s revelation of His love for us, shown in the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.
He showed us, and we experience that love when we partake, eating and drinking His body and blood. He shows us, as prayer becomes more than a duty, but a deep conversation, as we hear His voice. Worship comes alive as we realize we participate in its dance, again celebrating the fact that He is here, with us.
And that changes everything in our lives. including our study of scripture as we desire to know more aobut the Lord who loves us, who interats with us.
Lord bless us with the conviction that You are with us, and as You are healing us, help us to know who you are drawing to Your side, and help us reveal to them Your incredible love, mercy and presence in their lives. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 144). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors—for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did. 13 When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; 14 and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.” Luke 14:12-14 GNT
656 It is through Love rather than study that one comes to understand the things of God. That is why you have to work, you have to study, you have to accept illness, you have to be sober—lovingly!
Far too often we define our faith by the set of doctrines we believe. As if we could ever completely understand the mysteries of God. As if our logic, through enough study, could transcend the gap between the human and the divine.
That isn’t how we were saved in the first place, (our small catechism reminds us that it isn’t “by our own reason or strength”) so why do we think it is the proper process for our growth in our dependence on God, on growing in our awe at the love of God.
Please here me, meditating on the word of God is important! Studying it with other believers is important as well. But it is not enough on its own, we simply cannot know enough.
We have to experience that love, we have ot come to know it, as Jesus does exactly what He tells us to do. He invites us to feast with Him. Not the angels and archangels, but the broken sinners, the ones who are not holy (yet), who are not just in how they deal with others, the ones who are weak, the spiritually blind, the ones everyone else writes off. He invites us to share in His body and blood, showing us the love, bringing us the experience that fills in all of the gaps where we simply can’t understand the mysteries of God.
It is that love as well, extended through us to others who are just as broken, just as blind, who also struggle with sin and its constant partners, guilt and shame. As we are conduits of that grace, as we reveal their need for God and God’s response to that need, we find our understanding of God’s mysteries growing. It is an amazing thing to witness the glory of God at work, to see the Holy Spirit bring to life the one who was spiritually dead.
That is why St. Josemaria says that understanding comes from love, not just from the study (though he mentions study again). It is seeing God’s care for the broken that we were to understand what we can’t, the incredible love, that is beyond our ability to understand but not to experience.
May Paul;’s prayer for the
17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots
Ephesians 3:17-19 (TEV)
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2753-2755). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. Matt 19:20-22 TEV
5 That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6 I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)
One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.
he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.
We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.
We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized. How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.
The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith. he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well. The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.
They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.
Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him! Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.
Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above. Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God. It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.
This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated. Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.
It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.
Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.
It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.
The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.
Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us. AMEN!
Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
In that day— this is the LORD’s declaration— you will call Me, “My husband,” and no longer call Me, “My Baal. (my master)” Hosea 2:16 HCSB
Faith needs intellect if it is to be understood and practiced. But it needs, above all, an intellect that will not only be productive but will also be able to understand what is proper to it. It needs an intellect that hears.
There is a big difference in the relationship between a husband and wife, and a master and his servant. Even in the days of Jesus, or in the days of Hosea, there was a huge difference.
And yet, for many today, the idea of a relationship with God is one where we are the slaves and God is the Master. While Jesus is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings, for the people of God there is a relationship that is more important,
Far more important.
Far more meaningful, far more amazing, far more, dare I say it?
Far more intimate. (not in a sexual way, but a spiritual/emotional manner)
Hosea talks of God as our spouse, noting the incredible change from our identifying His as Lord, to identifying Him as our spouse, our beloved. That is the nature of faith, of a relationship in which we learn to depend completely on God, on His presence, His mercy, His incredible deep love for us all. We need to learn that God desires to spend time with us, desires that we know the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love! That He wants us to experience it, even if we can’t explain it. (Modern forensic apologists and theologians take note!) This is the God who calls us His own, who makes us His own, no matter the cost, and shows the greatest love, in dying that we might live.
That’s not the love of a master, a lord, a Ba’al.
That’s the love of a husband, who adores His precious bride. (see Eph. 5!)
We know from scripture that even demons can see Jesus as Lord. (Mark 5. Matt 8, James 2:19) and that many will identify Him as Lord, whom he doesn’t know.
But He knows the ones He loves, and who love Him. He knows those who hear His voice and walks with Him. (this is why Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger talks about the need of the theologian to hear God to properly understand Theology.) We need to hear him, to hear of his love, to hear of His care, to know He is with us.
So rejoice in the love of God! Talk with Him, listen to Him, and rejoice in His presence!
And if you don’t know how to do that, let’s talk and listen and see what His word, His self-revelation to us says. AMEN
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 329). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” 12 It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (MSG) \
19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22 Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance!” Isaiah 30:19-22 (NLT2)
470 The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?
There are days that seem absolutely dark, where the sinful nature of mankind is so dominant in my environment, that it seems like the darkness creeps in, and there is no light to see things by, to discern what is truth, what is shadow and what is evil.
It seems like such times may never end, but how can we truly know that, when the darkness seems to totally envelop us. How can we know that the next step won’t lead us out of the threatening forest and into the light? ( I often think that next step will be over the edge of a cliff, as my anxiety twists my discernment even more than the darkness had blinded it!)
As I read the first verse in my devotions, a song I’ve never heard from one of my favorite artists quoted it. And I knew that this is part of what I need to write, and hear this morning.
Even though I can’t see in the dark, my Rescuer can, and He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. Even though I endure adversity, and suffer as I struggle to know God’s presence, it is there. He can see us, and guide us, gently, firmly.
So much so that we will destroy those false gods, those things that supply a false hope. We will simply abandon them, finding no need to cling to them.
This is why the saints and “great Christians” of the past are who they are. Not because of their own faithful battle against the evil they encountered in their world, or in their own hearts.
Why there were saints? They clung to the God who saw them in their darkness. They clung to the Lord who has them safely in His hands. In the cross, not just at it, they found the peace that allowed them to relax, and be sustained by the God who came to them. St. Josemaria nails it, there is the cross, the Gospel, and they promise that we will rise with Christ, that we have risen with Jesus.
Even if we can’t see it yet.
He has found us, for He sees in the darkness.
Count on that, even as you listen for His voice, even as He reveals the glorious light of His love for you.
Lord, have mercy on us, as we struggle in the darkness. Help us to depend on You, to be guided, cared for and healed by Jesus, for this is what You have always promised your people. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1153). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)
959 We cannot give way in matters of faith. But don’t forget that in order to speak the truth there is no need to ill-treat anyone.
One thing that history has shown us is the need to be theologically astute, as well as to know the history of theology. There are no new heresies under the sun, and they come back with greater frequency than the seasons. As St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, the role of ministry is to stop us from being tricked, by people who sound like they have the truth.
But it is not enough to simply be orthodox, to have the right explanation theologically, or apologetically.
There are a lot of theologians out there, brilliant men and women who can correctly and clearly explain why they know about God, and even why a contrary view is not dangerous. And there is a myriad who are quite vocal and prolific in their writing, yet still have gaps in their knowledge.
But even for those who have a mastery over theology, it is not enough, and those learning need to learn this as well, less their zeal for orthodoxy become a barrier to the ministry they desire.
Theological orthodoxy is not enough. It never has been.
We have to speak the truth, but it is not enough just to speak it. We have to speak it, loving the person to who we are engaged in conversation. Desiring not to win the argument, or that we were able to zing them. Rather we need to desire that they can glorify God more because they have gained a greater insight into the dimensions of His love for them, that they have experienced His love and mercy.
Too often I have seen the damage the theologian ( or a theologian-in-training like myself) has done because their words were not delivered in love. Words which had unintended consequences, and to use a military phrase, severe collateral damage. The damage that leaves people thinking the church, and therefore God, is heartless and doesn’t care about them, just creating clones, or getting people inside without caring enough to confront their brokenness.
And for us who claim to have some level of wisdom, how heartbreaking it is to realize that we have driven someone away from the love of God.
We can change this tendency we have, we must change it! But it is not simply through our will and determination. FOr we will find ourselves doing the same thing, to different people. Or we will find ourselves responding defensively to others.
It is through learning to adore Christ, as we ourselves are changed by His love, that this change occurs. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, revealing to us and helping us explore the depths of God’s love. That love changes us, enables us to love, and therefore to speak the truth in love. A maturity that is nourished in sacramental times, and in times of prayer and meditation.
So let us encourage each other to know the love of God, which is the reason we have hope and peace in this midst of this broken world, fr we know He will answer when we
Lord, Have Mercy!!!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3383-3385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
21 For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. 22 Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23 As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24 but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 (TEV)
The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.[i]
The relationship of spirituality to God’s story has a long history in Christian thought. This relationship has been affirmed, challenged, distorted, lost, and regained in various epochs of history. Today spirituality is separated from God’s story. In his crucial work, Spirituality and Theology, Philip Sheldrake points out that “contemporary spiritual writing is open to the accusation that it amounts to little more than uncritical devotion quite detached from the major themes of Christian faith.”2 In order to understand this separation, I will comment briefly in this chapter on (1) how God’s story was affirmed in the ancient Christian church and (2) how the story was lost through Platonic dualism and in late medieval mysticism. In chapter 3 I will address how ancient spirituality was regained with some moderation by the Reformers and how Christian spirituality was lost again in the modern shifts toward intellectual and experiential spiritualities together. We will look at these points in Western history where the stone skims the water and through this history gain a perspective on the crisis of spirituality in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (treated in chapters 4 and 5).[ii]
Gandhi has been credited with saying that he loved Christ and His teachings, and if he found a real Christian he would become one. The modern version is those he say they love Christ but hate the religion his followers created. They want a relationship with God, but like too many theologians, they want it on their own terms. As if man is equal to God as if man gets to judge God, and force God to modify the covenant he created for our benefit.
The religious respond to this, not with understanding, but often with contempt. Or with the condescension of thinking that we have to logically work to correct their sinful narcissism.
Both Robert Webber and Pope Benedict this morning warn us about this, noting that far too often we have done the same as those we question. Our theology and philosophy is used to put God into a box, to prove His existence, and to prove our perception of His plan. The Pope warns of this with the quote, “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” As if man could do this! Webber mentions the same concept as he promises to track the history of the divorce of spirituality (the divine embrace) from God’s story.
We’ve been so eager to know about God, we chased after that without knowing Him.
And those who are critical of us, they pick up on this ironic tragedy.
What they see is either a scholastic approach to religion devoid of the relationship or an experience of God devoid of living with Him as our Lord, our Master. In both cases we set aside scripture, or have it subtly twisted in our minds, and we get to judge whether it is binding or not, whether it is “clear and logical” or not.
So what is the solution? How do we ensure our humility, and stop playing as if we have to “prove” God’s logic, while at the same time submitting to its wisdom?
I would suggest it is communion, what Webber calls “spirituality” or the “divine embrace”. It is what Pope Benedict calls approaching God with an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility. It is Moses at the burning bush, hearing God and taking his shoes off, or Peter getting out of the boat. It is David, realizing he was the man in the parable, and grieving over his own sin, it is the man formerly possession by demons, sent home to tell what God did for Him, or the blind man testifying to the religious leaders.
In that moment, when we realize we are in God’s presence and realizing that He is cleansing us, healing us, declaring we are His holy and just people. When both experience and knowledge are subject to God, and when our pride is overwhelmed by His love. When we stop trying to be observers and judges, and settle for being with our Father, and hearing Him.
This is the moment we need, the awareness of being in His presence, and of His work in our life. It is found as water is poured over us, as we are given His Body and Blood, and know His peace, for it is found in His promise, that He is with us, and will never abandon us.
We are welcome in His presence, we are welcome to hear Him testify of His love for us, and count on His faithfulness. AMEN!
[i] 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.
2 Sheldrake, Spirituality and Theology, vii. Sheldrake is one of a few contemporary authors who understand spirituality as an ancient applied theology. I fully recommend this book and Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method, rev. ed. (1991; repr., Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998).
[ii] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.