Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (NLT2)
We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
2531 Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God.
Though their good works are still imperfect and impure, they are acceptable to God through Christ because according to their inmost self they do what is pleasing to God not by coercion of the law but willingly and spontaneously from the heart by the renewal of the Holy Spirit
I am presently taking a class in pastoral counseling. For most, it is their first course in the subject, as it can be taken, and therefore it is good to see the first 3 hours of the course dedicated to helping the students develop listening skills.
But as I read these passages in my devotions, I wondered how developed our listening skills are, when it comes to God? If we don’t listen, how can we ever begin to realize how He sees us, how can we understand the love, and the mercy.
For instance, I have heard part of the quote from Isaiah in more sermons and lectures I can account for. Usually it is something like this, “God is so higher than you, you can never understand His mysteries, you just need to shut up and obey!” But I rarely, if ever, heard it in the context of the generous forgiveness of our sins! That is its context, there is focus of those thoughts that are beyond us! His desire that we turn to Him.
I think that is because we can’t see what the Lutheran Confessions, the Catholic Catechism and Spurgeon all encourage us to see, the way God sees us. If we believe He sees us as pure, we begin to realize that as our reality. Our works then, done to brink Him joy rather than “prove” our righteousness take on a different nature. Most important we bein to realize God rejoices in our lives, and invests in us His love in a way that transforms everything.
Not because we deserve it, love doesn’t give a rip about what is deserved… it instead desires the best for who it loves, and it does everything to help the beloved achieve that!
This is who we are… the beloved of God, the ones whom He sees as His people, and because of the cross as His righteous people, the ones He loves. We may not understand it compeltely, we may struggle to see it His way. But we can experience it, and that experience is strengthened through the hearing and meditating (not studying- meditating) on His word, receiving the sacraments and in prayer.
We need these things, for in them is revealed His thoughts, His mercy and His love.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 605.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 568.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth. 3 The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. 5 Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. 6 O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD. 7 Give the LORD no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth. Isaiah 62:1-7 (NLT2)
Let the orator expound on this topic, and one will see that faith is something omnipotent and that its power is inexpressible and infinite. It attributes glory to God, for whom nothing greater can be done. Moreover, to attribute glory to God is to consider God truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and almighty. In sum, it is to know God as the author and giver of all good. Faith does this, not reason. Faith fulfills the deity and, I might say, is the creator of divinity, not in the substance of God, but in us.3 For without faith God is for us diminished in glory, wisdom, righteousness, truthfulness, mercy, etc. That is, God has no majesty and divinity where there is no faith. Nor does God ask anything more from us than to attribute glory and divinity to God, that is, not to have God as an idol, but as one who has regard for us, listens, has mercy, helps, etc.
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I thought about the description of God’s people. It is truly a glorious description, and yet, it seems so far from our reality.
For me seriously far.
To be honest, dealing with the brokenness is the world and in my world, somedays it does seem like we should be called desolate and forsaken. I am not sure God would say he delights in us, for how could he delight in churches that are more interested in fighting and arguing with the world and each other than in reflecting the glory of Christ to the world? How could He love a church that tolerates sin, and can even approve of sins that serve their purposes.
How can Isaiah be talking about us.?
Yet this is the reason God can’t keep still, this is the reason He can’t be quiet. This is His work, and it is why we praise Him and glorify Him. It is knowing that God is the source and provided of the healing that makes us good that leads us to worship. And that knowledge is not reasoned out, it can not be logically stated.
Logically, i could never state the vision Isaiah casts includes me, and I would think I am not the only one who struggles with this. Too many of us know our sin, or in some cases, have had it constantly pointed out in sermons, blogs, memes and people who condescendingly point them out to us. If not, our own guilt and shame crushes us, for we know who we are.
Or we think we do.
But faith takes hold of this simple truth that Luther points out, we have a God who has regard for us, who listens to us, reveals an impossible amount of mercy and love and heals us.
He cannot keep silent or still, Isaiah reminds us, He will heal us and hold us up, the people He loves, the example of the skill and care He puts into His creation. His beautiful, holy bride. God delights in us, and only faith can experience and understand this! Because the Holy Spirit reveals it to us, and gives us the ability to depend on GOd’s promise that it is true.
This is US, the people of God who Isaiah describes!
Lord, though we believe, help us when we struggle to believe. Help us to depend on Your promise, the description of our identity because of the work you do in us. Help us to realize that these promises are true now, as we dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 162). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT
2 To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)
Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.
[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.
As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.
As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.
If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”
Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?
It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.
It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.
As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,
This is the future of the church, this is its hope.
Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.
It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.
Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!
This is our past, and our future.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. 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. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
devotional thought of the day:
8 Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. 9 You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. 10 You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. Psalm 65:8-10 (NLT2)
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honor of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22 No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23 Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:21-23 GNT
For as soon as the word of God rises up within you, the devil will track you down and afflict you. [This will] make a real doctor of you and, by making you suffer such devilish assaults, will teach you to look for and love God’s word. For I myself (if I, mouse dirt that I am, might mingle myself with pepper) have a great deal to thank my papists for, because they beat, belted, pressed, and frightened me so through the rampaging of the devil that they made a rather good theologian out of me, which I otherwise would not have become.
They had lost their vision.
But not a corporate vision with mission statements, and measurable goals and strategies. Not a vision created in board meetings and through surveys of congregations. Not a vision of the future, or of the goal they wanted to aim at.
They lost the vision that scripture says the absence of leads to death. (Proverbs 29:18a (King James Version) The kind of vision that Paul tells the Corinthian church transforms them. The king of vision that changes a sinner into the saint he was designed to be –
The vision of Christ crucified, and risen, revealing the love of the Father. It when we see that when it dominates our vision, that everything else we encounter we find ourselves in awe of, knowing that God created this to bless us. That is what the Psalmist is so amazed at, as he looks out at the world.
He realizes this is all God’s provision.
The same thing happens as King Josiah and his people find the Books of Scripture in the temple, and understand the glory that had been lost for two generations. The incredible story of God saving His people, so He could dwell among them
As the Holy Spirit makes the word of God come alive in them, the celebration is greater than any in Israel’s history, going all the way back to the Judges. (which would therefore include Solomon’s time!)
When we become in awe of God’s work in our midst, when we realize it is God at work, and it is proof of His love, the joy is amazing! Even in the midst of the trials and afflications of Satan! (he has a vested interest in you not seeing what is revealed in scripture, and will throw everything at you to prevent it!) This struggle, also known as Tentatio works against Satan’s purpose, for when we recognize it as such it can drive us deeper into scripture. It can, and does deepen our dependence on God
Luther said it was this that gave him such and understanding of Grace, for the pressure focused his vision of a God who was merciful, loving and present, blessing us through His word, and through the Sacraments.
Again, from the Apostle Paul,
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)
(James gives voice to this as well, in the first chapter)
So how in the middle of the struggle, do we find this endurance? It is through prayer and meditation on the word of God. It is found in the awe that comes from see Him keep the promises He has made, of His the devotion He has for His people, and the way He wants to relate, to interact with us. It is found as the Spirit reveals His love to us, and adoring Him, the Spirit consoles, comforts and changes us.
Without a vision of God, without realizing that, “the Lord is with you!” we perish. But as we realize that love, as He becomes our vision, not even the power of Satan can separate us from His love. In fact, realizing Satan’s attempt to distract us and separate us from the Love of God, will kindle the fire to help it grow.
Lord Jesus, help us to stay focused on You, to experience the dimensions of Your love, even though we can’t understand it fully. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 123). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9-10
Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.
In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”
In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.
In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.
Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.
One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.
I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.
Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.
Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…
Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.
So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought for our day:
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15-17 (NLT)
612 Wherever you may happen to be, remember that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Be sure that anyone who wants to follow him cannot attempt to act in any other way.
I suppose, like many good ideas, the selling of animals for sacrifice and the money-changers in the temple area started for the right reasons. Pilgrims came from all over the world, and they didn’t have the temple coin, and bringing livestock and pigeons would have made the journey e
ven more difficult.
Perhaps the inhabitants of Jerusalem entered into these services in order to be hospitable to help out those who had come from longs ways away. But over time it became a commercial venture, a way to make money, and the ministry to others faded in into the background, as profit and costs took over the ministry.
We see this in the church today, as ministries that once developed to serve people now are affected by significant costs. From the tuition of Christian preschools, schools, and universities, to music and books, industries have been formed, including those which support the other industries that directly “serve” our members. Oftentimes, membership becomes confused with the idea of clientele, where the ministry exists to serve them, rather than to equip them to serve others.
And in the meantime, prayer and worship, the adoration of God and giving as freely as we are given disappear, because prayer doesn’t have to line that can be analyzed in black and red terms. These things are the results of people having access to God, and giving them that access is what ministry has to be about. It is why we are called to serve.
We have to find the balance between stewardship and true ministry. We have to run things well, so that prayer and worship aren’t interrupted, that those needed encouragement and discipleship are provided it. Part of that discipleship is helping people learn to serve others, to care for others, to put others needs before their own.
This too is challenging, because many will hear it as a requirement of being a Christian. As the law which they must fulfill or face God’s wrath. It isn’t, for to do something as impossible as being a servant who leads requires only one thing. It requires us to know the Lord is with you! Knowing His presence, knowing His grace and mercy, dwelling in His love, this doesn’t just enable us to serve, it causes us to, as the Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness.
This is our call, this is who we are, leading people into the presence of Christ, and enabling them to know He will hear their prayers
May we serve well, diligently keeping what should be first, first. Lord, Have Mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2268-2270). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.“ Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
617 You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task. (1)
Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)
Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.
I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work. For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason. Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.
I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field. Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)
So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future. SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.
But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.
See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water. See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..
And God has appointed you and I to be there for them. This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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 in 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.
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!
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!
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.
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
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
2 People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2 (NLT)
“A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and of the faith that enshrines them. One such is….” Celtic Prayer Book, Reading for 8/11)
For the last couple of months, I have been praying about my congregations, the church that gathers here in Cerritos.
As a entity, there are necessary complications to ministry. How do we deal with an aging facility, how do we accomplish evangelistic outreach and meet the needs of people in our community. How do we make disciples of all peoples – of those young and old, of the stranger, of our own people. How do we effectively use all the talents God gives us. Big questions for sure, and we are working through them as a people.
But the biggest answer for my dream for our church is seen, not in our future plans, but in the green words above.
It doesn’t matter if we have a sanctuary that sits 500. Or if we have a school. Or even if there are 50000 people that attend our services and watch them on television, hear them on radio or live-feed them from the internet.
What matters to me is that where Concordia meets, becomes known as a place of holiness, a place where the love of God is known, a place where people’s trust in God’s faithfulness sees them through their lives. Where people are devoted to God, where His vision compels them to act in others lives, bringing that holiness there. What disciples become crafted, not just through intellectual stimuli, but by worship, by adoring God, by the thoughts about His love.
I think that was what the prophet Micah is referring to, the ways we are taught by God, to walk His way, That is the change that God’s word makes in our lives, it opens up a relationship defined by words like cHesed, agape, phileo, charis… love, mercy, grace.
If the people of Concordia (or your church, or any church) grow in these things, then we have succeeded as a church. We are a place where disciples are made, where God’s ways are treasured, where people live the life of those cleansed by God, and are immersed in His life. Where they are sure He will be with them, even until the end of the earth!
16 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17 He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19 and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ 21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” Luke 12:16-21 (MSG)
People engaged in worldly business say that time is money. That means little to me. For us who are engaged in the business of souls, time is glory! (1)
It seems we live in a world that concentrates on the here and now, and that now is imitated by the church. Back in the ’80’s,w e called this the Tyranny of the Urgent.
I think it has gotten worse, and we rarely, if ever, look to the long run, whether in how we invest our money, or something even more precious, our time. We want thee quickest turn around The quickest route to healing and recovery, and we will settle for far less than God has promised. Heck – do we even bother to consider the long range outcomes anymore, or do we just react to everything that is happening, to focused on “this moment” and what has to be accomplished?
What would happen if we did pay attention to our future? How would it change how we spend our time, our money, our lives? Would we give more time spent in God’s presence? Would we spnd time – not questioning those mysteries He hasn’t revealed to us, but simply being amazed by the truth of them? Would we consider our careers differently? Would we see what we do with our spare time differently?
Josemaria Escriva said, “time is glory”. The more I read that, the more I realize it is true. Because time, our time, has been revealed to be spent in the presence of God. God promises to never leave s, has promised to be very patient with us. Do we realize the time spent in His presence is spent in His glory – even if we cannot see it revealed clearly as it will be in heaven?
I think this is the biggest difference maker, to know God’s presence, to revel in it – to value and cherish it. To even be a little defensive of those times – until we realize how to integrate them into our blessed lives and walk with God.
So take a afternoon – find a quiet place – and think it through – what takes your time, how is it invested..
Then figure out how to spend it, knowing that you are in the presence of God!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 904-906). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- VIP Concert Passes, Surgical Nurses and Divine Appointments.. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- What Do We Choose to Invite into our Lives? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Meditating on God’s Love (justifiedandsinner.com)