Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
29 The LORD our God hasn’t explained the present or the future, but he has commanded us to obey the laws he gave to us and our descendants. Deuteronomy 29:29 (CEV)
29 Things hidden belong to Yahweh our God, but things revealed are ours and our children’s for ever, so that we can put all the words of this Law into practice.’ Deuteronomy 29:29 (NJB)
29 “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT2)
“For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere.”
Although very few of those who express their uneasiness have a clear picture of these interrelated factors, there is an instinctive grasp of the fact that liturgy cannot be the result of Church regulations, let alone professional erudition, but, to be true to itself, must be the fruit of the Church’s life and vitality.
I read the verse in red in the first translation this morning. It piqued my interest because I get frustrated when I cannot understand the things going on in life. That has been happening a lot recently.
So i started looking the passage up in other translations. Sometimes that helps, sometimes I have ot go a bit deeper than that. I use the NLT in our church, and the NJB is the first full Bible I ever owned. I like it just like people who grew up with the KJV are not comfortable with more modern translations.
Turns out I like all three, but the NJB resonates the most with me.
To paraphrase it, “what God has made a mystery, these things we cannot know. That is good. The things God has revealed to us, this is what is needed for us to live in the relationship He created with us…. (at the cross) For the Law is not just the commandments, but the entire covenant, the entire description of our relationship. It is the explanation of, “I am your God, and you are my people!’
That’s the message – that is the mystery that we can’t conceive of, but we need to know is true. We have to have that, far more than why we have to understand some of the evil things that happen in this world or even the odd and unexplainable things.
Even if we understood the present or the future, could we change it?
No. Not really. We might even be more frustrated than we are with things all in the dark.
But if we know of God’s presence, HIs promise, HIs love, that changes it all…. and we can His peace and comfort in that revelation.
And this is where the two quotes about liturgy come in, for the liturgy needs to communicate God’s presence, love, and mercy above all. It cannot be the same, for it has to address the place where people are at, the struggles they face, the despair they know, and to reveal to them that they can depend on God, that He wants them to do so!
That means the liturgy may look a little different here from there. It gives expression to God coming into the presence of His people and healing them of their brokenness. And liturgy comes out of that feeling., as the people respond to the merciful, comforting loving presence of God. That is why liturgy is fruit, proof of the vitality of a congregation, proof of the truth revealed to them. And it is why those who would use the liturgy to bind the church are not protecting the church, but severely damaging it. Damaging it far more than the changes they fear ever could.
Liturgy is the expression of the faith of those who enter into worship and must always remain so. For then it gives voice to what God has revealed, and where He has not, where we don’t get it, the liturgy will bring comfort and peace.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Cinnfessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 173–174.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 86–87.
Filled with Joy!
† In Jesus Name! †
May you be so filled with fresh joy from seeing and hearing the love of Christ at work in your life, that you humbly welcome His molding you into His image!
The fear of the unknown
It is that sense you have, the night before you take on a new job.
Or maybe as you sleep for the first night in a new place and have to struggle to remember where the bathroom is, and where the light switches are. You hear strange groans and creaks and noises, and your heart it trying to decide to dive under the covers or find a weapon, or both!
Or maybe it is that call from the doctor’s office, you know the one where the doctor himself calls you and asks that you come in, right now…
I don’t know what the official phobia is called, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear that most of us will ever face. It doesn’t matter what the unknown is, a matter of fact; that is why it is so scary! We just don’t know!
As we look at the lesson in Isaiah today, we see that problem, the unknown future, the kind of future God prophecies about, but are we willing to hear, to see what He has in mind?
The message of God’s love
At the beginning of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, the future is compared to a sealed book. The future is explained in a message from God that reveals all that is needed to know. A message that would calm the fears, that would bring the heart peace, and give assurance that all will be good to those souls who are stressed and anxious.
But those who the message are given too, perhaps scared of the unknown, don’t bother to read the message. They say, “we can’t read it because it is sealed”, even though it was given to them to read.
It’s like getting that certified letter from the IRS, or from the Superior Court. You stand there looking at it, unable to open it, as if not reading it somehow makes things less terrifying! Every morning you see it on the table, and you don’t want to even touch it!
And the message from God goes unheard, unread, unseen.
Others will claim that they are unable to read it, that the words are beyond their comprehension, so they too leave the message unead, unseen, unheard. It’s like those people who haven’t read the book of Revelation, for they fear what they will read will scare them.
The future becomes even more concering, it terrifies us even more.
We tried to fill the gap
Which is where our hypocrisy comes in, according to this passage from Isaiah. You see, rather than face our fears, rather than dealing with God directly. The world does this by creating other gods. Gods who will give them what they want, who will allow them to chase after what is worthless.
Unwilling to hear what God says, we make up our own rules, our own traditions, and then judge others by whether they follows what we say. We will say that we are God’s, we will say and sing the right things, but do we really understand the heart of God? Do our hearts beat in time with His? Is what He desires what we desire more than anything else?
Or is our worship, and the things we do that “prove our righteousness” simply empty, going through motions without realizing that they don’t please God? The prophets called Israel out on this over and over, telling them their sacrifices meant nothing, that their gatherings were worthless. The Pharisees were accused of this as well, as they tithed everything, even down to the seeds for their gardens. But they overlooked mercy, and helping those in need.
Our attempts to fill in the gaps, to prove we are good are worthless, and when we think about it, they don’t rid us of the fear of dealing with a God who seems to perfect, so righteous, that we don’t, we can’t stand being in His presence.
If only we saw His words, if only we could read them!
We’ll even go farther, we will tell God, our creator, that He doesn’t know what he is doing. That His laws don’t make sense, that we understand and know better. That his idea of life, or right and wrong, is wrong. We are like Isaiah’s jars – telling the potter who made them that he is intellectually challenged.
Or as Chris will soon hear from some student, that he just doesn’t understand, because the sophomore knows what he is talking about! And compared to God, we often act like sophmores, a term from the greek meaning “wise fools”!
We didn’t have to, He knows what He is doing
The idea that Isaiah is trying to get across is that we don’t have to play God, we don’t have to step in and fill in the gap when we don’t see God doing what He wants to! He is far smarter, and if we try to take control, our lives will be full of sorrow.
Yet even then, God will not abandon us! He has promised to amaze us with amazing things!
For what God had planned for us causes us to disguard our own wisdom, to drop the plans, to come out from the darkness, to be able to see and hear His words,
or we are in the days of verse 18,
In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19 The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel..
Foe we, like Israel of old, like the believers who followed Jesus and struggled, have been told what the future holds, a future that has hope, that has peace, that has glory beyond our imagination.
Paul revealed that when he wrote,
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
It is seeing this plan come together, as we beging to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection, that this was the plan, this was the gospel even back in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Paul and Peter is amazing.
To realize that as He hangs from the cross and says Father, forgive them, Jesus is thinking of Dustin, Chris, Tom, Jim, Chuck, and Al and all of Concordia,
To know that when He said said, take and eat, this is my body, given for you, He was revealing our future. And when He said this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, He was making our eternity possible.
This is why we can see, it is what we heard, even though we were once dead to the words of God.
So hear, see and rejoice in God’s presence
It is as we see this, we lay aside our wisdom, our plans, our self defensiveness and know the presence and love of God.
We, those who are humbled by the love of God, are filled, as Isaiah promises, with the fresh joy of the Lord, and we, who were poor, rejoice in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God of Israel!
And our hearts and minds, finally enjoying His peace, relax and praise Him. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
As a young minister, the greatest challenge for me was when I didn’t have the answers. To be honest, there would be times where i would put my mind, and my computer into high gear, trying to come up with answers, any answers. It seems wrong, inconceivable even that we wouldn’t have all answers, that we couldn’t provide the answers to the people they need them.
That we wouldn’t be able to provide them what they need, that we can’t give them the answers that would solve their solution seems horrendous The answers that would bring an end to their pain, to their tears, why can’t we provide those answers, why can’t we know… and help them know… all that they need to know to bring them to peace.
And we feel we fail…them, ourselves…God – when we don’t have the answers, when we have to admit we see but a sliver of God’s will.
St Paul’s words here in 1 Corinthians 13 challenge that assumption of failure, that we aren’t strong enough or mature enough or faithful enough because we do not understand. We do know only in part, even as I child does. Or as one Bible commentary explained – the picture is that of looking at a reflection in a fogged cover series of mirrors – nine of them. The image is there, but the detail is not quite discernible.
Yet in our childlike view, there is an incredible blessing – we have to turn to someOne for the answers, someOne who is there, who is patient, who is willing to endure and love us, even while we struggle with our limitations. A Father who we can trust, whom we can depend upon, who will continue to work alongside us. That is the challenge, to realize the immensity of God’s love for us. To realize His presence, not just as an academic theological position, to to interact with Him, to relax in His presence. as a child does, assured by the love of his/her Father.Even after the peace comes from throwing a royal tantrum, as we struggle to realize, and get frustrated that we cannot realize, the power of living in God’s presence.
Not knowing, not being able to grasp what is going on in life around you, there is only one option – to depend on the one who welcomes you, and has all the answers. To walk with God, rather than trying to play a god. To trust in His logic, in His will, not ours. To rest assured… knowing His love…knowing His promises
Not an easy task…
But it is one, that will give us more rest.. more peace, even in the midst of storms. Not because we know about God, but because we know Him…