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Who Is Really Your King? A Tough Question for the Church.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

14 ,,,Pilate said to the crowd, “Here is your king!”
15 They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?”
The leading priests answered, “The only king we have is Caesar.”
16 So Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.  John 19:14-16

508         The Lord has the right to be glorified by us “at every moment”—it is an obligation for each one of us. So if we waste time we are robbing God of his glory.

One of my greatest temptations is to respond to my friends on the left and the right political spectrums who say (and post and tweet) news that seems to replace God with Donald, or bash him and say if only we had Hilary, if only we had Bernie. if only “they” would get their act together and think about us.

Some even talk as if the end of the world is imminent, because of the “others” being so stupid, so ignorant. As if the eschatology of the universe was completely dependent on American politics.

It is as if we are back on Pilate’s porch, willingly casting aside Jesus, as we pin our hopes to a god that is foreign to us.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Trump or it is the idea of someone else needing to sit in that seat – both sides find their only hope in either Trump or getting rid of him.  As if that we do away with all that is evil, all that is negative, all that is broken in our lives.

But kings and presidents, governors and judges cannot save us from ourselves, from the evil within that demands to be fed, demands to be taken care of, that demands to have our desires met and fulfilled.

Not only is that not the job description of any government official, often it is contrary to their work, especially the work God gives them as is described in places like Romans 13.

Yet we still lay aside Jesus, we still forget about God, we still shatter the commandment to not beat false witness, all in hopes.

It is time to stop, time to repent.  We know that Christ died on the cross to redeem us, to save us, to bring us into the kingdom of heaven. He is our God, He is our King, Jesus is the one who presides over us.  He is the one who gives us hope, who sustains us in times of trouble, and who defends us, promising nothing can separate us from his love.  And may God be glorified in everything we say and post and tweet.

May we trust in and depend on Him more than we trust or distruct in those who lead us.  Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2214-2216). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

You Need Hope! (whether you think you do or not….)

Devotional Thought of the day:
15 When Jesus heard about the plot against him, he went away from that place; and large crowds followed him. He healed all those who were ill 16and gave them orders not to tell others about him. 17He did this so as to make what God had said through the prophet Isaiah come true:
18 “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, the one I love, and with whom I am pleased. I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will announce my judgment to the nations. 19 He will not argue or shout, or make loud speeches in the streets. 20 He will not break off a bent reed, or put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
21 and in him all peoples will put their hope.”  Mark 12:15-24

491    Nonne hic est fabri filius? Nonne hic est faber, filius Mariae?—“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” This, said of Jesus, may very well be said of you, with a bit of amazement and a bit of mockery, when you really decide to carry out the will of God, to be an instrument: “But isn’t this the one…?” Say nothing, and let your works confirm your mission.(1)

I stood there, having voted for everything but a candidate for President.  My mind was not made up  even then even after praying a lot. Serious concerns over both candidates, and indeed about the political spectrum in which we exist delayed that vote.  I have dear friends, many of them who follow Christ, who made passionate pleas for me to vote for their candidate, and those friends were advocating four different choices.

My thoughts were about them, and as the night closed, and this morning dawned, I saw some urging us to work together, others railing in triumph, and others drowned in despair.  What words could I write this morning that would minister to these beloved friends?  There is comfort needed, encouragement needed, and in some cases, a gentle rebuke, on that would re-focus them on Jesus, and restore a true hope.

Daily I do what I call devotional reading.  Reading not to prove my devotion, but to see God’s devoted care for us revealed. It is there I found these readings this morning, and the promise of God’s precise care for us.

Even as we are at our weakest, our most broken, shattered point, Jesus does not crush us. Even though we are burnt out, God knows where that little spark can be found, enough that with care the fire will roar again.  Even when we are at our weaknest – not because of despair, but because our success leads us to be vulnerable, and we don’t see a need for the hope we have in Jesus.

Yet justice, His justice, not ours, will prevail.

His.

No loud speeches needed, no arguments, no cheering or wailing.   Instead caring, comfort, a correction of course for those, re-orienting all to the presence of Christ.

It is so hard in these days when we let anxiety rain, or celebrate beyond what is beneficial.  When we go on the defensive, trying to justify our position, to show those who mock us they are wrong. When overwhelmed by sorrow or joy we don’t pay attention to those around us and end up breaking yet another relationship.

It’s time to stop – get back to what we do, to be silent and not take things personally, and to simply point people to the comfort and grace that is found in Christ, because He died, He rose, and He leads us into and keep us in His peace.

Rest there, no matter who you backed, and greet those who like you, find a respite from the days past. Let Jesus minister to you – bringing you life and hope!  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1199-1203). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why I Am NOT Anxious About the Election:

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.  Matt. 6:31-34 TEV

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all Christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself (cf. Rahner, Schriften II, p. 221). One is in heaven when and to the degree that one is in Christ, where one finds the true location of one’s existence as a human being in the existence of God himself. Heaven is, then, primarily a personal reality. It remains forever stamped by its historical origin in the Easter mystery of death and Resurrection. (1)

110 hours from now, people will be shattered.  

The reason they will be shattered is that the media and the social media is making this election sound like the end of the world could occur if one of the two were elected.  I even see articles about no matter which are elected; the American life is over as we know it.

No matter who is triumphant, no matter who is crushed by defeat, no matter how depressing this election campaign season is, there is something far more important.  There is something that neither candidate can affect.  There is always an opportunity to know peace in the middle of the storm.

Jesus is clear about that in Matthew’s gospel.  Your anxiety, your fear, your angst about the candidates will not change anything, from the outcome of the election to the number of hairs on your head.

You’ve prayed for God to provide you the necessities of life, your daily bread, trust Him on that.  You’ve asked Him to have His will be done as well – again, this is something we can depend on, even when we don’t understand it!  So think first of His kingdom, that God is in charge, that He has made you incredible promises, that those can’t be affected by who is the president of our country, the governor of our state.

Focus on God, on His love, on HIs mercy.  This is why Pope Benedict XVI once wrote the passage in blue, and where I underlined it, we have to realize this.  Heaven isn’t some far off place, where we will go and play golf, or play a harp when we die.  Heaven is revealed as that place we are, when in doubt and pain we find ourselves surrounded with hope and peace.  When we realize God is in charge, when His presence becomes so real, we cannot deny it.  (Which is why the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so critical in the life of the church!)  It is our presently reality, and it has been one since Peter walked into an empty tomb, and Jesus walked through locked doors. That is what Paul talks of as well – as he urges the Colossian believers to focus their lives on the reality of heaven.

He is risen!  ALLELUIA!

And therefore, we can pray and vote, and know God is with us, so everything will work out for good, because He loves us.

AMEN!

(1)  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.

 

 

 

Preparing for After the Election… “O Lord What Will We Do NOW?!?”


Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 16  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17  Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
2 Kings 6:15-17 (NLT)

482    What does it matter if the whole world with all its power is against you? Forward! Repeat the words of the psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum—“If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.”

If I were to believe everything said about each of the candidates, I would think that no matter who is the next President of the United States, we would be better off with a global flood, or perhaps that the full tribulation had come into effect.

The words of Elisha’s servant would certainly be mine, as fear and anxiety overtook me. “Lord, what are we going to do now?”  How will we survive this?  Every worst case scenario will flash before our eyes, as we expect America to sink in a moral crisis unheard of since.. well at least the 1960’s – and maybe all the way back to the 1890’s! (Or ancient Rome)

Some fear one winning, others fear the opponent dominating.  Some and anxious because they don’t want either to win! No matter who, there will be people displeased and distraught, worried about the world changing, even fearing it ending.

What we need is the same thing the servant needed, to have our eyes opened to the reality that this world is still part of God’s kingdom.  That the richness of His promise of eternity and His presence with us in this life is more than our fears.

Christ is with us.

Think about that….

No, I mean really think about it, let your heart and mind dwell in the presence of Christ here, in your presence right now.  Remember the moment you communed that you shared His Body and Blood and experienced for a moment, the wonder and awe that comes when He is revealed.

This experience, this knowledge, this awareness that God is for us, is what has sustained people of God for millennia.  That has enabled them to know peace in dictatorships and revolutions, in times of global war, and famine.  They have known that peace even as their brothers and sisters are martyred, even as they are martyred.

It is the one constant hope we have, in a broken, hurting, rebellious world.  Knowing this, we are confident not only that the world’s sin cannot separate us from God, but we are reminded that our own cannot either.  Including the anxiety and doubt, we have that God is still in charge, working everything our for good for those who love Him.

And it is more than enough to sustain us at this time.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us to see you, incarnate, present, benevolent and in control.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1179-1181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual Formation, Gossip and Presidential Campaigns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (NLT)

263 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
265 To avoid this vice, therefore, we should note that nobody has the right to judge and reprove his neighbor publicly, even when he has seen a sin committed, unless he has been authorized to judge and reprove

444    Never speak badly of your brother, not even when you have plenty of reasons for doing so. Go first to the tabernacle, and then go to the priest, your father, and also tell him what is bothering you. And to no one else.

As I have been considering God’s discipline recently, and the way in which God forms us, I realize we are in a season where our faith is either tried significantly.  It is a time where we can depend on God, or we can rebel, being disobedient children ruled by fear and anxiety.

For the temptation is great during this presidential campaign to gossip, to speak ill of people, from the candidates themselves to those who back them.

Please hear me, there are issues that we need to discuss, issues that themselves lead to sin, advocate and approve of it.

There is more to the debate, both in this world and in the cyber portion of it.  There are rumors, which we are ready to believe and exaggerate as we spread them throughout our spheres of influence. There is character assassination done, and we rejoice as we have the chance to “speak the truth.”

If we took St. Josemaria’s advice, how better off would we be?  If we took those anxieties and laid them at the altar from which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?  If we still struggled, going to our pastor, our priest, those who assist them in guiding us, and let them reassure us of God’s promises, his presence, and His benevolent, loving merciful reign over all of His creation including our hearts and mind.

What we happen if we didn’t try to destroy the people running for office, but instead prayer for their salvation, and that they would know, without any doubt, the love of God or them?

What I am saying takes a lot of faith, it requires us to depend on God in a way similar to the children of Israel were supposed to trust during the Exodus a the Exile.

This is spiritual formation, this is spiritual growth, this is living the life of a disciple.

It is my prayer that this election season that we all may grow in the awareness of God’s grace and love, so that this faith would be revealed to all.

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 Locations 1090-1092). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

My thoughts on the election…

 

 

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.i 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”   NAB-RE 1 John 4:16-21

As i worked through my social media accounts last night I grew quite depressed.  Friends of mine, including pastors and priests, were commenting about the upcoming presidential elections.

Let me make it clear, I don’t mind people discussing the issues, or the candidates.  I think that is beneficial.  When the things discussed are not based in fear and anxiety, when they don’t spew hatred towards the candidates and those who support them.

I may never again talk to Mr. Trump, or ever talk to Mrs. Clinton.  Yet they still are neighbors, those we, who claim to love and follow Jesus, are called to love and not hate.  We are also called to love those who support them, and not insult them, or belittle them.  (see Matthew 5:22)

I am not saying this will be easy, we need to be on guard, whether we support or the other. There are many fears, there is much in the lives of those running for office that we cannot approve of, that may even cause us to recoil in disgust, or horror.  Yet their sin is no worse than ours, we have no right to stand before God and thank Him for our not being wretched sinners like them, apart from the grace of Christ.

We have to overcome our fears and anxieties, we have to get past the hatred, and there is only one way to do that.  To remain in Christ, to dwell in the love of God,.  We need to be focused on that which is revealed, the presence of God in which we dwell, safe there, welcome there because of the Cross of Jesus.   Because he died, we have been freed us from sin, and Satan, and even the fear of death.  Because we are united to that death, we are also united to Him in the resurrection, and nothing can separate us from His love.

Even having to vote.

So look to God, continually think about your Creator, who hasn’t abandoned you, and will not. Rejoice in His presence, and from that place of unsurpassed peace, pray for those running for office, not just president – but all those we elect.  Pray for them a lot, and even for yourself, that if you do get the chance to talk to them, you would show them love, the love of God reflected through your very being.

Lord Have Mercy on us, sinners all!  AMEN!

The Emperor’s New Clothes, and our Need for a(nother) sacrificial victim.

Devotional Thought for the Day:

10  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)

20  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21  But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22  Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23  And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)

It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.

Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world.  The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.

Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify.  During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police.  Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others.  I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something  – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.  

We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay.  Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results. 

 What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”  We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it.  We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace.  And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.

And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.

if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness.   The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target.  Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame.  But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.

We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.

We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.

We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality.  We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was.  For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one.  There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.

He also rose from the dead.

Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.

He died, and no one else has to be crucified.

He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.

Even those we wanted to crucify…

The Blessing of Anxiety….?

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Devotional Thought of the day:

1  A great anxiety has God allotted, and a heavy yoke, to the sons of men; From the day one leaves his mother’s womb to the day he returns to the mother of all the living, 2  His thoughts, the fear in his heart, and his troubled forebodings till the day he dies– 3  Whether he sits on a lofty throne or grovels in dust and ashes, 4  Whether he bears a splendid crown or is wrapped in the coarsest of cloaks– 5  Are of wrath and envy, trouble and dread, terror of death, fury and strife. Even when he lies on his bed to rest, his cares at night disturb his sleep. 6  So short is his rest it seems like none, till in his dreams he struggles as he did by day, Terrified by what his mind’s eye sees, like a fugitive being pursued; 7  As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.
Sirach 40:1-7 (NAB)

I cast all my cares upon You. I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon You  (Kelly Willard) 

307      Pray resolutely using the words of the Psalmist: “Lord, you are my refuge and my strength, I trust in thee!” I promise you that he will preserve you from the ambushes of the “noontide devil” when you are tempted and… even when you fall, and when your age and virtues ought to have proved solid and you should have known by heart that He alone is your Strength.  (1)

Anxiety is nothing new. People in every era are plagued or blessed by it. Obviously, the writer of Sirach was well aware of it, as were Solomon and David,  So have been men and women of God throughout the ages.  The most beloved hymn of Luther, “A Mighty Fortress” reveals his dealings with anxiety, His need for a safe place.

It can and should be used as a blessing, rather than the source of paralysis. It can be what drives us to seek peace, rather than dwell in fear and confusion, and it can result in a deep faith, dependence and confidence in God that is truly supernatural.

But to see stress as a blessing takes time, and the ability to be patient with ourselves, knowing God is patient.

When I see this work, it happens something like this.

1.  I enter into a situation where stress is high, or just as likely, something I say or do causes the stress to elevate.

2.  My mind starts to project what the horrid result will be (my mind is quite skilled at this!) and how to minimize pain and damage and drama.  If I let my mind get into this anxiety, the anxiety will increase geometrically, with a decrease in anything practical.

3.  The option is to realize the anxiety is a simple signal; you can’t do this on your own. It is a time to pray; it is time to seek the refuge and the sanctuary that is being in the presence of God.  To trust in and depend on God, for He is faithful.

We have to realize His promises are not impotent but driven by His love and mercy, they are true.  When Jesus asks us to lay our burdens at God’s feet, to cast our cares ( Psalm 37:5, Ps. 55:22, Mt. 5:25 , 1 Cor 7:32, Phil. 4:6 , Heb 13:-6.  1 Peter 5:7 do you want more verses to assure you of this?) upon Him.   When we do so, this is what Sirach is talking about when he mentions us reaching safety and waking up astonished that there was nothing to fear.

As anxiety begins, it is a signal of our need for God’s peace, of our need to remember that God is our refuge, which in Him we are safe.

This is the Lord who responds to cries begging for mercy, who is here to heal the brokenhearted, to free those crushed by life.

So feeling anxious about the political actions of the day?  Feeling frustrated and unsure of the future?  As you begin to worry, as it begins to get confusing, run, knowing God’s love and peace are where you are to dwell, for He is your refuge.   AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1239-1243). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Scripture Says about the Presidential Election…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.   1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44  But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46  Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47  And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48  You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (TEV)

145      You must never treat anyone unmercifully. If you think someone is not worthy of your mercy, you should realise that neither do you deserve anything. You don’t deserve to have been created, or to be a Christian, or to be a son of God, or to have the family you have…

If you are hoping for me to justify voting for your preferred candidate, you might want to stop reading now.  But I pray you continue to read, and think through the Bible verses above, the quote from St. Josemaria, and the words I write.  Struggle with them, doesn’t dismiss them.

You might get angry; you might say what I am saying isn’t realistic, that I don’t know how evil the “other” candidates are, and how your candidate is the only hope we have. 

That doesn’t matter.  I think, no, I know God well enough to know He will keep His promises no matter who is elected. 

What I am concerned about is how your heart, your soul is doing, and what this election will do to it.   Will you so harden yourself, will you be so affected by those who would have you live in fear and even hate the other candidates, that you forget you have been given the grace that would lead you to love each of the candidates?  

You have been made a new creation, you have been counted righteous, you’ve been given the Holy Spirit, and are reminded by word and sacrament to imitate Christ Jesus, even as the Holy Spirit transforms you into His image.   (see 2 Cor. 3:16ff)

Which means you are called to love those you can see, in this case, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders.  People who were created in the image of God, people who Christ died for on the cross, even as He died for you. 

Look at the Gospel readings from Mathew, and the call to love your enemies.   Look at the first reading, where St. John tells us we are made to love, and if we don’t love those we see, how can we the God who made them, whom we can’t see?

This isn’t easy, I understand this, and I struggle with it.  I personally don’t like the positions of any of the candidates, and I am tired of making a decision based on the “least of all evils.” Possibly because I can’t be sure which is the least? 

But if I give into the fears, the anxieties, if I read the materials all over the internet, and sent to me, if I engage in the hatred and fear of those I don’t like, the biggest damage I do is not to my country, but to myself, and to those whose lives I will impact. 

For I will have lost the ability to love, to trust God enough to love those that aren’t lovable.  I will have lost the ability to show mercy, and to trust God for promises like Romans 8:28. And I will have lost my understanding of that which David so clearly explained. 

1  Whoever goes to the LORD for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, 2  can say to him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.” 3  He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and all deadly diseases. 4  He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.    Psalm 91:1-4 (TEV)

So learn to love these people!  Desire what is best for them, that they would know the love that will give them peace. When it is time, you will know how to vote, and you will know that no matter who wins, God is at work.  

Pray for them all, and place their care in the hands of a God who showed you mercy, and as you do, that mercy will be revealed, and in this time where the country is going ballistic with anxiety and angst, you will dwell in peace.

Lord, have mercy on us sinners!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 707-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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