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Why Mondays Feel So….Empty….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”  John 6:68-69  HCSB

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. 5  In times of trouble he will shelter me; he will keep me safe in his Temple and make me secure on a high rock. 6  So I will triumph over my enemies around me. With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple; I will sing, I will praise the LORD. 7  Hear me, LORD, when I call to you! Be merciful and answer me! 8  When you said, “Come worship me,” I answered, “I will come, LORD.” Psalm 27:4-8 (TEV)

The pure in heart shall see God.  The seeing of Him will be the sign that we are like Him, for only by being like Him can we see Him as He is.  But when shall we be fit to look at Him in the face, God only knows.  That is the heart of my hopes by day and by night.  To behold the face of Jesus seems to me to be the one this to be desired.

Whenever we speak to God, whenever we open ourselves to God, we ourselves are renewed. Conversely, whenever the world closes itself to God, whenever it turns away from him, it is like a planet broken loose from its field of gravity and forever wandering aimlessly through nothingness. When a person loses God, he can no longer be genuinely himself because he has lost the fundamental norm of his existence. When we cut ourselves loose from our proper norm, there remains only excess or reversion. Some theologians suggest, as a precaution, that theology be so worded that it will still be functional “etsi deus non daretur”: even if there really is no God. But if God does not exist, we will have lost more than just an ornamental bauble on the periphery of our existence. If God does not exist, nothing will be as it is now; everything will proceed from emptiness and will revert to emptiness.

Part of my daily time I spend in prayer, talking to God, trying to listen, meditating on his word includes the two Bible readings above. There is a pattern, an order for morning prayer I use that includes them both.

And every Monday these words hit me in the face, and I feel like a hypocrite. I know God’s words are the words of life, I know how wonderful it is to be in His presence, I know how special it is to be in God’s presence.

Yet Mondays seem so empty of all of that, so distant.  Even in this holy week, it’s MONDAY!

So there is a part of me that feels convicted, even judged and condemned as a hypocrite when I say these words.  It’s not that I don’t want to feel this way, I want to, but it seems like I can’t. I feel like the theologians who imagine theology to be able to functionally exist if God doesn’t exist.

Monday’s seem empty, which is ironic because the day before was so full of His presence I would think my joy would never fade or fail.

So as I start my time dedicated to being in His presence, it starts out as a struggle, (it doesn’t help that the first reading was also in my readings today,)  Or the McDonald reading, or that from Pope Benedict.  Each reminded me that this is how I should be.  Each reminds me that my reality is not what I want it to be.

Each reminds me of how hungry I am for life to change.

I guess over the years, I’ve realized that these feelings could so easily betray me, these feelings that I am the worst hypocrite, these feelings that I am just going through the motions.  The dissatisfaction with my own faith and practice could cause even more of a spiral into guilt-ridden apathy until my cold heart no longer cares.  It’s easy enough to stagger down that road.  Will I ever be fit to see Him face to face?  That is my question on Mondays, when my heart lies, and tells me, no.

I need to read these words of scripture and ask God for help to make them mine.  I need to find that desire, and the only way to do it is to depend on Him to renew me, something that happens when I enter His presence as I am broken, tired, empty. For then I do see God as McDonald desires.  I do become who I am, as Pope Benedict points out.  Because God is the one who renews, who revives. It is His love that draws me into His presence, that makes me aware of it

It seems counter-intuitive to need God to provide the desire, the strength to desire to be in His presence. But it is the reality I’ve come to learn to live with.  I have to dive into my pattern, for there, Mondays lose their emptiness, the meaningless.. or perhaps, they have no meaning, because meaning is all wrapped up in being in God’s presence, and the day doesn’t matter.

He is the Lord of Life.  I need to know that on Mondays… and He makes sure I do…

So let’s pray together, that on Monday’s we would encounter our Lord, and know we can confidently cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!’

He will, that is what He does.

 

Daily office Meditation for 3/26 (quoted from George McDonald) Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 2 

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.

The Infinitely Valuable, That Leaves All in the Dust; A sermon on Phil. 3:4-14

church at communion 2 The Infinite Valuable

That leaves all in the dust…

Phil. 3:4-14b

 In Jesus Name

 May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.

Value beyond calculation…

Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it.  It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.

500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.

Interesting,

It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done.  And its value?  That is easier to calculate.  A half of a billion dollars could provide

2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊

So its value isn’t infinite

Not even close.

Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.

Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.

An Important word?

Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage.  Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was.  Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.

Me?  I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.

Skubala.

Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today?  Rubbish?) or garbage.  The old King James was more accurate with dung.  While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.

For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.

Rubbish?  really?

But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.

I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.

Important enough to leave all else in the dust.

For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.

Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught

Paul explains why a few verses down,

I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable.  Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.  To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.

To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.

In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor,

Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”[1]

That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was.  And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it.  No way, no how.

Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy.  Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty.  All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life,  all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.

But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…

That is infinitely valuable.

So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.

Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…

For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace.  AMEN.

 

 

[1] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

The Restoration of Christmas… and the People of God

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you Featured imagein his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, 18  as one sings at festivals. I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 19  Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you; I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts; I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration. 20  At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, When I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:17-20 (NAB)

Would it be a bad thing for the church to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to the spring. The tradition of Christmas and Christ’s birth could be seperate. Just a thought.” ( my friend Mark B. )

“When I hear the phrase Merry Christmas I think of decorated trees, presents and good food. Christ’s birth is the last thing that comes to mind.” ( also from Mark B )

A few days ago, one of my friends responded to one of my wild ideas about a sermon concept, as you see above. My basic idea, well – you can read the sermon, I posted it a little while ago.  ( Or listen to it on Itunes at Concordia Radio)

Mark has a very valid point. We’ve allowed Christmas and its traditions to be redefined.  To the point where celebrating Christmas is a completely separate idea from celebrating God’s invasion into our lives, as the baby laid in a manger, who would die on the cross.

I’ve seen this in the lament of some, as churches cancel midnight services/masses, once “the” service that all went to on Christmas Eve.  You see it in the multitude of Meme’s talking about keeping Christ in Christmas, and how to do so.  You see it in the willingness of people to beleive “modern” scholarship which will claim Jesus’ birth happened at some other point in the year, but the one day it couldn’t have happened was 12/25.

I think many would go along with Mark’s thought, out of frustration, out of a sense of hopelessness.  Let’s just start all over again!  Let’s just celebrate Christ-birth at some other point that on Christ-mas Day.

I asked Mark if I could share this, and what his vocation is.  He saw the connection, and agreed.

So here it goes.

Mark is in the furniture restoration business, so I am going to suggest we use some of his techniques in restoring Christmas, and then re-use the same concepts in restoring our congregations, our parishes, His Church.

1.  Vision
The first thing to know is that you don’t restore something based on your vision.  You didn’t create it, and as you begin to carefully work at it, the vision that has been muddled, covered over, damaged will be restored!

2.  Value
In restoring something, you have to be aware that it survived because it had value.  Maybe it is pragmatic, maybe it is artistic, maybe it is both.  If it was simply sentimental, it wouldn’t have survived and taken all the abuse, neglect and paint that it has.  (Example – having everyone over to feast…. there is something about gathering together to celebrate Christ’s birth hidden under all of it!)  Sure, it’s often about gluttony and to see which part of the family has bragging rights now… but once… it was to celebrate God’s faithfulness!

3.  Flexibility
Because the value and vision are often so muddled, so hidden, so broken, we may not perceive it accurately.  That’s okay, be willing to adapt to what is revealed.  After all, no Christian at baptism knows everything… we grow and mature.  So will the revelations as you see more and more what you do points to Jesus.
You also have to realize that what you thought was the valuable part, may be that which obscurs the most, and the part you originally were doing to toss aside.. is a critical component.

4.  Love

in order to have the patience, the ability to make this happen, you have to learn to love what you are restoring.  It’s the only way you will take the years and maybe a decade it take to see the job towards completion.  There will be interruptions, distractions, days of frustration, that’s okay.There might even be people who question, you wisdom, your integrity, your sanity – they do this to me all the time!

The goal is worth it – a beautiful restoration that is a double piece of work of art…..that of the Creator, and that where the Creator’s vision was once again visible to mankind… and the hopelessness became hope.

I said in the beginning that this works with churches and parishes as well with the simple idea of making Christmas about Christ’s coming to us.  The Mission and concepts are the same, and the goal is the same.  To preach Christ crucified, whom is our hope of Glory. It’s what we do here at my church, when Christmas Day was first 10-12 people, now is 50, (Our Christmas Eve services have also grown)  where once it was a bother, now people are excited to come.  It can happen

It is what God promised, look above at the scripture, dive deeply into those promises… and rejoice… for God is restoring you… that started that very first Christmas morning.

He is with us.  Immanuel.

Focus on that…. and all comes into place.

For no one does restoration work like God our Father!

(and if you need restoration work done on furniture – go talk to Mark at http://www.bausmanandfather.com/ or

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bausman-and-Father-Furniture-Refinishing-of-Huntington-Beach-Ca/321617409278?pnref=lhc

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