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How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tired at Work? of Work? Me too! Yet….


Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17  And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NAB)

23  Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, 24  knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.   Colossians 3:23-24 (NAB)

277    You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.”  (1)

It is Friday, and I am sitting in my office, trying to get my act together, to prepare an inspiring sermon.  I’m tired, my allergies are not helping! Neither is a sore back.  I want to whine and complain and go home and escape into a television show, or more likely a book.

And I know even those who aren’t tired are counting down the hours until the work day is over, and then get that rush of energy which signifies that it is the weekend!

O wait – the laundry needs, to be done, the garage cleaned, the …..

The energy drains and we are back to being tired.

As I was reading this morning, I was reading the book of Colossians, lots of good rich teaching in that work of Paul. Could have written about anything from preaching and baptism to the fact we dwell in and for Christ.  IN fact, I was thinking about writing on the incredible song of praise that starts in 1:15, until I got to Josemaria’s writings, and the quote in blue above.

“Tired and abandoning my work….”

Uhm, yeah – I have not only been there, I am there.

And the ministry waits… and yet the cross has no body…

Will I bear my cross?

Part of me wants to say no, I’m too tired.  I hear the invitation to bear the cross as one demanding more sacrifice.

Then I remember the other cross, the one where I am there, and His body has taken it up. There love is revealed in all of its fullness, where I find hope beyond belief.  Where joy is the focus, not the shame (see Heb 12:1-3) Where I am invited to die with Him, that I may live with Him.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether my work is writing a manuscript from which to preach from, or listening to a co-worker, or a friend. “Whatever you do” Paul reminds us – all of it do in God’s name, for His glory, knowing we have already been guaranteed a reward of all of eternity, sharing in His glory.

To run to bear our cross, to embrace the work, even the suffering is not just a challenge, it is an opportunity to experience God, to know His presence that sustains us.  For while we were nailed to a cross with Christ, He is with us, as we bear our cross.

Knowing that, the work takes on a new meaning, a time of contemplation, a time where His peace overwhelms my brokenness, my tiredness.

God is with you, share the work with Him, as a child shares their work with their dad.

Have a blessed Friday!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let’s Not Get Tired…. REALLY? A sermon on Galatians 6

Let’s Not Get Tired!

Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18

 In Jesus Name 

May God’s mercy and peace rest upon you, as you live a life drawn to the Cross, for you are the people of God!

No Un-obeyable Orders
But Don’t get tired?

Every summer I read a series of books by one of my favorite authors.  He writes series about the military and the police, novels based on true events.  In one of the books I was reading this week, an older retired officer mentioned to a younger officer that you never issue an order you know can’t be obeyed, or won’t be obeyed.  Specifically, if the character of the person you are directing leads you to believe they can’t or won’t obey the order, don’t bother.

Find someone else, or find a way to replace the person.

For some reason that piece of wisdom made me laugh, when I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.

Of course, when I read it, I read it more like, “don’t get tired while doing good!”

Too late – been tired for a while – way too tired sometimes.

But oh the feeling of accomplishing something good is… to Goood!

Even if we are tired.

So today’s lesson could be titled – How not to get tired of doing good to other even when we are tired.

So how do we do that?

Obeying the Law

First, we have to define what it means to do good. Not that’s not right, we don’t get to define it, God does.

What we have to do Is have revealed to us what God sees as doing good, or doing what is right. The easy answer is found in next week’s gospel – a passage I preached on 30 years ago.  To do good is to do this,
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)

If you all agree that everything you do will fulfill that, we can have communion and go home!  Seriously, we need to understand that, and today’s epistle gives a number of examples, such as,

“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”

“2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3″

These are pretty strong commands, pretty challenging.  For how many of us are willing to go to someone who is sinning, and try to help them to see the need to stop?  How many are willing to invest and risk what it will take to gently and humbly restore that person.

Knowing that loving them this much – even with a gentle and humble spirit could mean that they strike back, and tell you to mind your own business.  Or even worse?

How many of us are willing to help someone bear their burdens, to be there in times of sorrow and in times of tears?  What about in the dark times, where anxiety and doubt and guilt are crushing them?

This is as much doing good as is celebrating the service of those who are retiring, or those whose ministry is changing.

It isn’t easy, it takes commitment, patience, the old kind of patience which is called long-suffering, it takes faith, and the ability to set aside our own self-interest, to make sure the physical, emotional and most importantly spiritual needs of others are taken care of, that they are okay.

But how do we do that?  How do we set aside a basic interest of self-preservation to minister to others, to share their burdens?

Treasuring the Walk

We remember Jesus, and we let Him draw us back to the cross.  Here St. Paul again,

14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died!

This is our hope, in the cross, where Jesus was brutally put to death.  At the cross, where he was nailed, and where a spear pierced his heart and lungs.  In Christ lifted up, drawing us to Him, that we could become children of God.

Where our transformation into His likeness begins.

That is where the interests of the world disappear, that is where what drives the world, riches, fame, pleasure and even health don’t seem as magnificent as seeing Jesus looking at us, knowing only as God can the love for us that says the torment and pain are worth it.

For he freed us from sin, from Satan, from the power of death that would separate us from God and all that is good.

Getting tired, exhausted even?  Feeling like you do not have another step in you?  Like I said, some of us have been there and done that often.  Sometimes, it is at that point where we see another in need, someone desperate for help. Someone caught up in sin and struggling to stay afloat.

Look to the cross, see the love of Christ, dying there for you and the person in need.  You won’t tire of responding to that need then; You won’t say I don’t have the strength, or I can’t make that sacrifice.

You will simply take their hand, and lead them to the cross, to the Lord of love, to the one who was crucified, died and was buried and rose again… for us.

Knowing this, the peace of God our Father is your, the peace beyond all understanding; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Christmas Sunday Sermon: “I Have Seen!” (Growing past weariness)

I Have Seen!

Luke 2:22-40

†  Jesus, Son, Savior

 I pray for you this, on this third day of Christmas.  That you would know the awe, the joy, the wonder on the 8th day of Christmas, that Simeon and Anna knew… and that you would never forget this joy of seeing God’s salvation for all people!

How tired, how weary, and this strange man

It was a cold day when they woke up, and Joseph packed up all they had.  We think he had a donkey, but who can be sure?  We do know that they were among the poorest of the poor, so it is possible they had to carry all they had.

Even so, the mother of the Messiah, seven days after giving birth picked him up, and with her husband set out on a six to seven-mile hike.  A hike that would climb 2000 feet in elevation, as they went through olive groves and past military outposts.

Al, how many of us could walk from here to your house? That would be a little farther, but not as strenuous of a climb!  Seven days after giving birth.  They were still weary from the long trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  Deacon Bob asked a question in our preparation that I couldn’t answer.  Would it be easier for Mary to hike that distance, or ride a donkey, considering she just gave birth. I have no idea…..neither sounds like an easy trip!

They had no choice to take either journey.  The first was mandated by the laws of men.  The journey on this day mandated by the laws of God.

The good thing was that they were in Bethlehem, and not Jericho.

As they finally climb the temple mount, weary and tired from the three to four-hour journey, a very old man wanders over to them, with a huge smile, mumbling praise God! Praise God! He looks down at Jesus and gently takes Him from Mary, crying out to someone(?), I see! I see!

I wonder what they thought when he broke into song????
How would you feel, if you someone handed to you Jesus, the Messiah?

What would it be like to hold Jesus, the one who would die for your sin? Not sure of that perhaps, but knowing the hope for all humanity was there… in your hands?

That is what Simeon experienced…

How tired and weary are we?

Do we manage the things God desires?

What if Mary and Joseph didn’t?

The apostle Paul once wrote,

9  So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10  Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)

Somehow, Mary and Joseph found the strength to make it to Jerusalem, to have Jesus circumcised, to offer the sacrifices that it took, for Him to be considered righteous.  I mean, what would have happened if they had said – well the roads will be too rough, Mary needs another week in bed, we can go to the temple any time?  Or the temple opens too early, or tool late, or we don’t like the long lines.  I could even imagine Joseph saying, Mary, if you don’t stop trying to give me directions we are just going to head home!  If they didn’t complete the journey, if the offerings and circumcision hadn’t happened, then he would not be righteous, and he couldn’t have died for us.

My friends weariness is not a valid reason for you or I to sin.  To fail to do the good that God commissioned fro us to do.  To say a mean word because we are tired and irritable is as much a sin as the lies and gossip we know are forbidden.  Failing to help someone because they drain what energy we have left is just like stealing from them, or even murdering them. Sin is sin, whether we feel like we are Abraham’s age, or William’s.

That’s why Paul encourages us not to grow weary, not to stop doing what God has prepared for us.

it’s hard you say.  I agree.

But so was a virgin and her husband, who had given birth a week before – making the trek to the temple.

I have seen!

As they come to the temple, they meet two people have known weariness.  They have spent their lives in prayer, and in ministering to others.  We hear of their devotion, their faithfulness, their righteousness,  Both are guided by the Holy Spirit, even as we are.  And despite their age, they serve God with willingness and great desire. And both are older, much older.

Simeon, the one guided by the Holy Spirit that day, who was told that this baby, this newborn, was the one who would make us born again.

He had seen it, what he had been waiting for all of His life, why he spent that life eagerly awaiting for the Messiah to appear.  So assured by the Holy Spirit that all he had to see was the baby, to hold him.

The nunc dimitis. Our completion, there in his hands.

This baby would reveal God to every nation, it was the reason God had chosen this small nation of Israel and protected and guided it.  This child who would be a great joy to many, the One, who would reveal all our deepest thoughts, and cleanse us anyway.

As God had promised, our salvation revealed!

Our salvation, there in Simeon’s hands.

The other person, whose weariness would fade was a 84-year-old woman who had spent 64 years waiting for that day.  For sixty-four years and more, she would fast and pray, that God would save His people.  As Simeon noted, not just Israel, but all of His people.  And so He did!  She told everyone there, everyone who was waiting for the Messiah.

He’s here!  Simeon is holding Him!

How much the weariness would disappear from their old bones.  How much the joy of knowing God had kept His promise.

As we gather at the rail this morning, as we are given the Body and Blood of Christ, Take a moment…and think about what you have been given.  For we too see our salvation, we see God revealed to us, we are brought into His glory.

Find the peace that chases away the weariness, the love which embraces you, the joy of Christ’s gathering us to Himself…and sharing Himself with us.

And rejoice, for He is with you!

How Do You Survive Ministry Weariness and Do Your Job

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.  (Hebrews 6:17-20

122         You find yourself in a position which seems rather strange: on the one hand, you feel fainthearted, as you look inwards; on the other, sure, encouraged, as you look upwards. Don’t worry: it is a sign that you are beginning to know yourself better and— more importantly!—that you are beginning to know Him better.  (1)

As things get more expensive, the ability of most churches to have sufficient staff that is compensated for their work has decreased dramatically. Where there might have been a couple of pastors, a youth worker and secretarial staff of 2 30 years ago, is now down to a full-time pastor, and maybe a part support person or two. Sometimes the pastor is blessed with a large amount of volunteer staff, but to train them and still be responsible for their ministry, adds to the burden.

It is no surprise that pastors, ministers, priests and the others who “minister” at the church burn out.  Or simply get too weary to do things effectively.  For a pastor putting in a sixty hour a week (or more) or a volunteer putting in 15-20 hours after their full-time job, weariness becomes a way of life, a pattern that seems unbreakable.

St. Josemaria’s words hit home to those in those periods of life.   We look inwards and wonder how we will keep going.   How can we do our job, not just passably, but well.  After all, our ministry does have an importance like no other.  It is not just a life or death situation, it is now and eternally a life or death/hell issue.  So when we fall asleep on the job, what do we do?

We look up, we run to God for refuge, We find in Him our anchor for our souls.  And anchor that pulls us into the Holiest of Holy places, into the presence of God Himself.

And this holy place, this sanctuary, this place where God dwells becomes our life.  Because the Holy Spirit is given to us, we become that holiest place,  Our feet are standing on Holy Ground because we are there.  We find know His presence, exult in it.   Which is why the letter of Hebrews talks about encouraging each other, helping each other, coming alongside and reminding us that God comes alongside us.

It is there, in the second someone says, “and also with you” as you share with them the Lord’s presence in their lives, that we find the strength.  And the weariness fades long enough to drive home, and rest in His peace.

This is ministry… empowered by God… dwelling in His presence.. bringing Him to others who need to know that.

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 702-705). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Overcoming Monday -itis

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”    Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV) 

When you find yourself tired and exhausted, approach Our Lord confidently, as that good friend of ours did, and say: “Jesus, see what you can do about it. Even before I begin to fight, I am already tired.” He will give you his strength. (1)

It’s Monday morning and I am sitting in the office after a very tiring weekend.  I am looking at 2 back-breaking days of work, then going on a retreat where I am still “pastor”.

To be honest, all I want to do is crawl back into bed, relax, and rest and know that He is God.  Gladly let Him rule the universe today, I just want to go back to sleep!   (oh wait – ruling the universe includes me… drats!)

There is little difference between the words of Jesus, and the words of St. Josemarie Escriva.  Indeed, the passage in Matthew came to mind as I closed my devotions this morning with a few similar quotes on pessimism from the book “The Forge”   There is a reason I posted them both, one – to show Jesus commanding us, asking us, to depend on Him, to call upon Him, not just for the forgiveness of sins, but for the strength to endure, even to endure Mondays.  We need to know that Christianity is more about Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, not because we have to be holy all that time (which would be nice) but because God is with us, all that time.

Which is why I put the quote from the Forge.  Having read about the challenges and endurance of a priest caught between wars, challenged by those who valued the system more than the ones it was created to serve, who served sacrificially and diligently and to the point of exhaustion, that  it is encouraging to hear him advise us to ask God for the help GOd promised.  My theory is that we are encouraged by the priest to do this, because it is where he found the strength to do what he did.  To do the work of the gospel, to encourage and train and shepherd people, and to train shepherds, he needed a strength that would empower him through the midst of the tiredness, the exhaustion.

If he experienced the yoke being easy, the burden being light, as he walked with Jesus, if he pointed to those who’ve gone before doing the same thing, if I can think of people in my own generation who walk with Christ – and find the strength to get it done, I know Jesus will be faithful and get me through this day… and the dreaded tuesday.

Jesus commits Himself to fulfill this promise in Matthew.  History and so many saints have testified to Him keeping His promise, in situations more grave than a Monday.  To make that burden easy, to make our work light.  Maybe your exhausted, mentally, physically, spiritually.  You’ve got a case of Monday-itis. and you’ve got it so bad.. that you don’t even have the strength to feel guilty about it. Realize God is with you, empowering you, and lean on Him rather than trying to do it yourself.  Enjoy His presence, and the work… it will get done.

Cry out, “Lord have Mercy”, and know His is with you….even on Monday

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1029-1031). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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