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As Much As! A sermon on John 17 at Concordia

As Much As
John 17:20-26

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you know this. 
YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD!

Intro – They Don’t Know His Mind toward them.

In Luther’s Large Catechism, there is this sobering thought:

66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Kathos Key

It is a sobering thought, and yet has to do with the gospel reading this morning.  For what the heathens, Turks, Jews and false Christians need to know is what Jesus reveals in today’s gospel reading, the words that give the context to the title, “as much as”.

May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me


God the Father loves you, as much as He loves Jesus!

As much as, to the very same degree, to an equal measure…

God loves you, just as much as He loves Jesus.

“As much as.”

And this is revealed when we see how much we love, how much we are devoted to, how much we care for one another.

This is the very glory that Jesus shares with us, that we are loved, and it is proven in the unity we have with each other.  A unity that is often not spoken, but it is so…evident.

and proves the love that God has for us.

The Law

When you looked at the apostles, it is truly a miracle that they were of one mind and one heart.  There were men that were enemies, such as Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax collector. Seriously, both the lesser Simon and Judas from Iscarioth were rebels, they lived and trained to kill those who work with the Romans.  No one worked closer than the tax collectors, who grew rich off the people.

Or what about the “sons of thunder”, do you really think they got that nickname because they were so gentle and kind towards each other?

Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become one in mission and one in heart and mind.  The fisherman and the scholar, the enemies, the brothers, and even Peter.  Sounds a lot like us, if it wasn’t for the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

When we are so desperate, so overwhelmed we listen to God, and hear how he loves us, that love causes what divides us to drift away.  It doesn’t matter how much hatred we had toward others, how much sin was in our lives, how depraved and evil someone is, when the love of God cuts through to their heart, that love changes everything.

That is how incredible it is that God the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus.

As God reveals this love, as Christ hangs on the cross, as He is in the grave, as His rises.  The Spirit reveals it to us, as our hearts are cut open, and all that which is broken begins to heal as we are untied to Christ in our baptism, and here at the altar, as we receive His body and blood.

Impact – so that’s!

We see it at work, as we don’t want to stop until we have past God’s peace to every person in the church. We see it as we kneel at the altar together.  I dare say it would be more than awkward to commune next to someone we are pissed off at!  But somehow, as our sins are forgiven together, there is healing of our relationships.

And the world, seeing this, realizes that Christ came for them all. 

For such unity is not natural.

It is Godly though – and people will praise God because of what they see Him doing in us. And that is a witness to the world, just as Jesus prayed it would be.

God has made us one, as He loves us as much as He loves Jesus…..and we will be with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for eternity.

And so, along with knowing Jesus asked the Father for this kind of peace, I end with one of the prayers and the words that follow of St Paul,

5  May the God who inspires men to endure, and gives them a Father’s care, give you a mind united towards one another because of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ. And then, as one man, you will sing from the heart the praises of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!

So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.

Romans 15:5 (Phillips NT)


AMEN!

Worship is more than a service!

Word, bread, wine, CHRIST IS WITH US!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

40 But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41 not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42 And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.” Acts 10:40-43 GNT

Worship is not only submission, but also translates into the mystery of ‘communion’ and ‘union’.

A conversation I had this week touched on the idea of liturgical worship and its connection to evangelism. I thought it interesting that it wasn’t considered as a natural progression.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be, given all the years of worship wars that have dominated churches, especially those who have a formal liturgy. Who defines worship and liturgy as what happens in a formal, even antiseptic manner as God blesses His people in a gathering and they respond back with canned prayers and hymns barely sung.

That isn’t worship – although it should be, too often we go about it so mechanically that it isn’t worship. It is simply a machine, a time where we keep everything highly organized and controlled. ( I am not sure if this is to stop our freedom, or to place God in a box!)

In the passage from Acts above, we see Peter describing a complete form of worship, the time where Jesus gathers His people around them and blessed them, and shares a meal with them. Here is our model for the mass, for the gathering on Sunday morning where we come to be taught and fed by God.

Worship includes that time of letting God provide for us, care for us. IN order to do that, we get at the heart of what submission is – not to bow in fear of getting beaten up or abused if we do not but submitting and letting someone else care for us. Think of Peter at the last supper, struggling to submit to Jesus washing his feet. Worship is realizing that we need God’s word, we need to hear of His promises and love, worship is letting Him feed us at the altar. This is the beginning of worship and it includes the prayers where we lay our entire lives before God, trusting Him to cleanse us, to heal our hearts, our minds and souls of the brokenness that is caused by our sin, and to allow Him to do whatever He finds pleasing with our lives.

It is that last part that is also communion, that is also the sweetest of unions. And yet it continues past the benediction, past the exit from the church, past the coffee and doughnuts.

That communion, that sweetest of unions occurs even as we reveal that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who judges His people as being righteous, as being Holy, as being worthy of being the children of God.

For that is what we learn, and re-learn in our church services, it is why our confession says “the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to give people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.”

And that is what our world needs to know… all about Jesus.

That is what our families, our friends, co-workers, and neighborhood needs to know… they need to know the love of Jesus…

The Jesus who died for us, and with whom we are risen to a new life, a life lived in communion. A life lived, being fed and feeding others.

Lord Jesus, help us to grow in our dependence on You, submitting ourselves to Your love and care. Thank You for inviting us to commune with You, to be united to You, and the Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 101). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Why asTheologians We Need to Re-learn Common English

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? 7 If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music? 8 If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle? 9 So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what’s the point of opening your mouth? 10 There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. 11  But if I don’t understand the language, it’s not going to do me much good. 12 It’s no different with you. Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? 13 So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don’t hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. 14 If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. 15 So what’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind. 16 If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what’s going on know when to say “Amen”? 17 Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it.
1 Corinthians 14:6-17 (MSG)

He (Luther) had labored hard to put the word of God into the everyday language of the German people so that hearing and reading the scriptures would inform their biblical spirituality. He considered the gospel more as an oral message (mundhaus) than as a literary text (federhaus).

I read a lot of books.

From a lot of different genre’s, from a lot of different sources.

A lot of them are novels ( I love 18th-19th-century naval historical fiction) and a lot of them are religious works. Some are written very technically, with a vocabulary that often causes me to pull out my dictionaries or a Biblical Encyclopedia (or a Greek, Hebrew, Latin lexicon) Those are more challenging, yet they have their place. But they are a different language.

Their place is not in worship, or in Bible Study with my people.

Maybe in a class or individual study, maybe in a gathering of pastors, but it is not necessary for the people of God.

We don’t need to speak in “another tongue” when we lead worship or preach, or when we teach. And yet, far too often, we do that very thing.

That is what Luther is getting at when he speaks of the gospel as more an oral message than a literary text. It is a message that is to be communicated, not just analyzed. It is something that speaks to the soul of a person, not just their intellect. It is something that gives them hope, peace, and joy, even when they are in the midst of trauma.

That is what Luther wanted to do, he wanted to make his work, trying to reveal the love and grace of God to the people he was entrusted to care for, and to those who didn’t have shepherds, or whose shepherds didn’t do their work.

So we need to examine what language we use, in our sermons, in our lessons, in our liturgies, and whether those words are in common language. Not just vocabulary, but the style in which we write. It has to be common English, words that affect and encourage their walk with God.

As St. Paul says, “Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy.”

The intimacy to walk with God, to revel in His love, to find rest in His peace, to savor what it means to be forgiven.

This isn’t just about teaching them “our language.” This is about pastors ensuring we explain and reveal God’s love in a language they understand and giving them the ability to praise God in words that mean something, that resonates with them.

Imagine a church, where people we able to be still, to be quiet and just know that God is our God and that we are His people. That is what the prayer that Paul instructs us in has as its goal.

Not that they would be able to diagram the communication of magisterial attributes of Jesus…

But rather that they would burst into tears of joy when they hear, “The Lord is with you!”

Abba Father, Lord Jesus, help us to be so overwhelmed by Your love and mercy that we have the insight and ability and desire to bring others into a relationship with You that leaves them in awe. Help us to speak clearly, and rejoice as we see this happen. Send Your Spirit to inspire us, and guide us in this we pray. 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. KLrey, Trans.) (p. 119). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Don’t say a little prayer before sharing your faith. Instead, try…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

They loved human approval rather than the approval of God. John 12:43 GNT

5 “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. John 15:5 GNT

The dynamic ‘from Adoration to Evangelization’ represents, in fact, the only real and possible path for an authentic witness which is capable of knowing how to ‘overcome the world’.
An Evangelization which is not born from an authentic, prolonged, faithful and intimate relationship with God will bear fruit only with difficulty. Even more difficult still will be its ability to captivate the men of this age.

For years, before I go and make a call, whether, in the hospital or someone’s home, I say a quick prayer. This was a practice drilled into me decades ago when I was a young Bible College student and my pastor and I were part of Evangelism Explosion. (we didn’t get great results… but we tried to be faithful!)

I am starting to think that is not a good and proper practice.

We shouldn’t pray before engaging in outreach.

We need to do more. We need to bathe ourselves in worship, in adoration, in meditating on the incredible dimensions of God’s love. We need to be in awe of His glorious mercy. We need to have given Him all of the challenges we are facing, entrusting to Him everything that causes us to take our eyes off of Him.

The priest whose words are recorded above in purple, could not have explained why evangelism efforts, whether formal or informal are successful or not. Simply put, if you haven’t spent significant, intimate, authentic time with God, and seen Him addressing your brokenness, how can you dare think you can share His love with others?

If we can’t reflect God, we are reduced to our own logic and strength, we omit the blessing of the Spirit, and what we are craving is human approval. We want to win people on the strength of our logic, on our ability to manipulate them into the Kingdom, rather than let them be drawn into the healing, cleansing glorious light of Jesus.

We don’t just need that intimacy to power our evangelism efforts. In truth, that effective empowering our sharing our dependence on God is a secondary effect, it is what happens as the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus.

We need Him to change us, to reveal to us the work He is doing making us saints, making us the people of God. And the more we see that the more adoration becomes a reaction, and a necessity in our lives because of how amazing God is.

So take some time, be still, dwell in His peace, meditate on the cross, on the blessings of Baptism and the incredible gift of the body and blood of Christ Jesus, praising God with all your heart and soul, mind and strength; then go out and make disciples of all nations.

Lord, help us hear and rejoice in Your presence and love… and then let us shout it so loudly through our lives that the entire world knows! AMEN!

Piacenza, M. (2012). Homily for the Solemn Mass of St Aloysius Gonzaga. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 68). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Resurrection: Something far beyond hope.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted.   Matthew 28:16-17 (TEV)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not the happy ending of a movie. It is the intervention of God against and above any human hope, as it proclaims as “Lord” the one who accepted the path of defeat so that the power of the Father may be revealed and glorified.

No one could have written the script. It is far too unbelievable.

When the disciples saw Jesus, their mentor, their friend, their hope nailed to the cross, they didn’t just give up hope, they didn’t abandon it, it was sucked out them.

It wasn’t just Jesus who died, they died with Him.

For without Jesus, what was there to their world? They had given up everything to follow him, and yet, he was dead. He was gone. And with Him all their hope.

They were so devasted that even after walking around with the risen Lord for over a month, some still doubted, they still waivered, they struggled with the idea of hope being restored. They doubted, they waivered they struggled to adjust to the fact that Hope was alive again.

So why are we suprised we struggle with finding hope, and when it comes alive in Christ. When it is resurrected with Him as we are (see Romans 6 and Colossians 2) it takes time to get used to be able to hope again.

I’ve had to struggle with this, as life has changed dramatically. As health, or age, or work or even the impact of sin has caused me to redefine who I am, or who ministers alongside me.

The reaction that all is lost, that it is broken beyond repair, that I can’t deal with the life that is dealt me is overwhelming.

Yet know there is life, a fill and abundant life in Christ. We’ve been drawn into it, we are revived, we have literally begun life anew.

So how do we live in it, how do we throw off the doubt, the struggle? How do we simply spend our lives walking at peace in His presence?

It starts with adoration and contemplation. Adoring the Lord who loves us, realizing and exploring the depth of His love. Contempation of the Resurrection, trying to get our minds to realize the power and glory of what was more than broken,

Trying to get our mind around the fact that we have risen with Him, that we are made anew, that we are cleansed and forgiven.

It takes a little time, it takes us getting our minds off our ourselves, and just dwelling with Christ. And that time of adjustment takes patience and persistence. It takes time becoming aware of His presence and allowing Him to transform us.

So breathe easy, be patient with yourself. He is here, and all power and authority have been given to Him. Look to Him, let the Holy Spirit transform you.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 42). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

An Overwhelming, Overlooked Verse in Genesis

photoDevotional Thought for the Day:

Seth had a son whom he named Enosh. It was then that people began using the LORD’s holy name in worship.  Genesis 4:26 TEV

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself

“The Church originates, and has her continuing existence, in the Lord’s communicating himself to men, entering into communion with them, and thus bringing them into communion with one another. The Church is the Lord’s communion with us, which at the same time brings about the true communication of men with one another.”

It is an odd comment, sitting there at the end of chapter 4 of the first book of the Bible.

They began to worship him using the Lord’s Holy name….

They are talking about the name YHWH, or as it can be translated, “I AM”

It is a name that is amazing, even in its simplicity.  And for Seth and Enosh, it is a profound thing, once that doesn’t have a further explanation because.. well, how do you explain it?  It is too overwhelming.

God, who was betrayed by Seth’s parents, so much they were kicked out of Eden.  Betrayed by one brother as he killed his other brother in a rage of jealousy, this God still cares for and provides for people. 

“here is my name, YHWH, use it to call out to me.  

God wants us to identify Him, not just as GOd, not just as the Divine, not just as Master or Lord (which is why I hate the tendency to translate YHWH as LORD) but to reach out and call Him by name.  He wants us to call out with an intimate form of address, He wants that relationship with us.

We have to understand this, that Christ’s mission was not just to cleanse us from sin, but the purpose was to draw us into communion with God the Father, the Son and the Hoy Spirit.  That Jesus’s work was to draw human existence into the existence of YHWH, into existence in God.

As Paul taught the Athenians, 

27  “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28  For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)

This is what it all boils down to, a God who would come to us, with the express desire of having a relationship with us.  YHWH, whose wisdom we should realize is so incredible, and in relationship with Him, we realize that His best interests are guided by that wisdom. That’s why we hear and walk with Him. (Obey is simply  to hear in both Greek and Hebrew)

They began to worship Him, using His holy, precious, intimate name….

I pray you and I do the same today, and all this week.

Question to discuss:

What is hard about talking to God by His name?

 

 

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 351). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 7). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Evidence Within, a sermon on 2 Cor 4:5-12

church at communion 2The Evidence is Within
2 Cor 4:5-12

† I.H.S. †

May the gifts of God’s mercy and peace become so integrated in your lives that everyone can see and praise God that Christ lives in you!

Can you keep going?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see my first two churches.  They are 115 miles from here, in a desert community called Yucca Valley.  Saw a lot of friends at one of them, as we gathered to pay respects to a man I helped trained in ministry.  He was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks after he was installed as a pastor at his first church.  Drove by the other, my very first church.

During the drive I back, I did a lot of thinking, about why I’ve been doing this twenty years as a pastor and years before that as a chaplain.  I thought about my friend, who at 62 started seminary to become a pastor, and who died a week ago.  I thought my own mentor that retired in that place whom I was able to see. And I thought about some of the challenges that fellow pastors and ministers are facing…

And I heard again these words of St Paul that were read this morning…

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

I’ve seen that statement become true not just in pastors’ lives, but Christians who live all over the world.  Some face physical threats, in places like the Sudan, or China.  Some are harassed and mocked because of their faith.  Some face challenges in the inner city, or in churches that struggle to survive, both financially and because of conflict.  I know a younger lady, with a master’s degree in International Business, who set that aide to be a missionary among the refugees in Turkey, while her sister is working at an orphanage school in Nigeria.  I know people who serve in churches as teachers or setting up everything every Saturday for Sunday service, who volunteer thousands of hours.

Not one of them does it for the accolades or the applause. Just like the Apostle Paul in that passage  – we don’t talk about ourselves. Those who know and follow Jesus serve each other and the world for Jesus sake.

Because God has shown the light of His glorious light into our hearts.

That is why all this is here… To help people know that…

Why?

In verse 6-7, Paul explains why people would embrace suffering,

. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

The light that invades the darkness…A darkness that affects our hearts and oppresses our very lives.

The darkness has a name, it is called sin.

What is this thing we call sin?  Basically, It is failing to love God and hear His voice as He shows us how to live.  It is failing to love Him and all those around us, helping them. even those that count themselves, enemies and adversaries, because God loves them and would invite them into this incredible relationship with Him, that would make them our family.

Sin can seem as little as a tiny lie or breaking an oath or gossiping about someone.  It can seem as big as murder or theft.  In every case, it works to destroy relationships, it plunges us into darkness.

This is the darkness God’s love shatters.

The love that we see in Jesus, as He died to remove all that darkness, all of the burdens, healing the relationships that have been broken.

That is what the cross is all about… the payment for the sin, but in order that we can be in fellowship with God, so that we walk with Him, not only during this life but eternally.

That is the reason for the forgiveness of sin, for the forgiveness of those times where we put ourselves first and forget God and others.  Yet despite the damage we’ve done, and may still do, God is willing to deal with it, He has dealt with it.  By dying on the cross for us, and rising from that death, so that even death cannot separate us from Him

This is what it means for Him to shine His glorious love into our lives, by revealing to us the love that erases the punishment, in the life and eternity, that we would have earned.

The Evidence

It is that glory that you see, in the lives of people that are willing to give up everything, fame, fortune, salaries, comfort, their own pride, even the right to be angry at someone who has hurt them.  This is the love you see, as someone gives up their comfort, or even their retirement, to serve others, This is the glory you see, the evidence that Jesus lives in us, even in us broken down older folk.

God loves us, and wants to cleanse all of us and make us His own people. His own children.   It is then we know the peace of God, which goes beyond all comprehension, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Are We Superheroes, or Slimeballs?

boy child clouds kid

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created 7  This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8  Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9  not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)

592    Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?

There is a balance to everything in life, especially in how we are to view ourselves. The problem is we fail to judge ourselves accurately.  And sometimes we believe we are superheroes, and sometimes just the opposite. 

Pride may cause our self=examination to fail n that we think we are better than we are, smarter, more beautiful, more successful, more in tune with life.   So too may a poor self-esteem, as we consider ourselves the ugliest, the most wretched, the failures that deserve nothing more than eating dirt.

Asking others doesn’t help, they may boost our pride, they may tear us down even more. And when these statements are coming from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we keep them in balance? 

Into this discussion comes the words of a simple, but a very effective priest.  St Josemaria was fond of describing himself as a donkey, tied to one of those decides that lets him walk in a circle, faithfully plodding, though sometimes in need of some “encouragement”  His words today, describing us as a garbage, re-purposed as a planter makes so much sense.

It establishes our value, who we are, not based on our natural talents, abilities, charisma, but rather on what the “divine gardener does with us”.   Our value, our being is so integrated into God, that we take on both humility and yet a meaning deeper than anything we could have imagined. 

This is God at work in you and I, God at work creating something in us not seen before, A value that finds fulfillment in the greatest work there is, the saving of souls. What an incredible joy it is to know that someone will be in heaven rather than hell because I took a moment to pray, a moment to offer comfort, a moment to help them know peace.  

That somehow, God can use you and me to reveal His glorious love to others.

Even if how he uses us in the same way he used St. Paul

15  This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17  All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT2)

God is at work… He is with us… all glory and honor to Him, who makes us His children, and invites us to the feast!

 

Conversation:  Which do you think you are, the superhero or the slimeball  Do you struggle more with being humble, or with seeing yourself having value?  

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whistle While You Work… (or sing while you suffer!)

7 dwarvesDevotional THought of the Day:

16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy,  the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  T  Acts 16:1-3, HCSB

13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14  HCSB

524    “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.

I have a confession to give.  I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!

( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)

The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work”  Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding.  Don’t those characters know how serious work is?  Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!

Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.

First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul.  Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive?  Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment!  ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)

Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love.  The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people?  How do you whistle or sing during that?

Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured.  And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.

Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria.  “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!”  Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church.  Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering.  You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God.  That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.

And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God.  The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison.  SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.

So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time.  And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)

Amen

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Worship Boring?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!
20  Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine – to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen! Ephesians 3:14-20 (Phillips NT)

77    You told me that to tie yourself to a plan of life, to a schedule, would be so monotonous! And I answered, “It is monotonous because you lack love.”

It is sometimes.  Ver much so more than I would like to admit.

It doesn’t matter if it is a high powered contemporary service, or a organ blasting traditional service, or a small intimate worship time on a retreat.

Church services can be boring, even monotonous,

And while the pastor and those who music facilitates our praises can impede or encourage worship, there is one key that absolutely makes the difference in whether you find a church and the worship service.

You.

I’ve seen couples where one is completely engaged in worship, one is actively engaged, and talks about church as the high point of their week.  The spouse, however, was so disengaged that they eventually fell asleep.

What makes the difference in perception is the person.

St Josemaria says it well, it is monotonous because of the truth of this, you lack love.

And if you lack love, there are two options, you are unable to love God and others, or what is necessary to love him, you haven’t been immersed in the reality of HIs love for you.  You haven’t had the opportunity, as St Paul desired for you, to explore the incredible dimensions of that love for you.

Not just know the love as a piece of data, because you can’t fully, it is so far beyond our comprehension, You need to be filled with that love, you need to be filled with God.

And that is the purpose of a church service, to help you explore that depth, and those who lead are simply guides on the journey.  Guides who hopefully are still in awe of the same journey, pointing out this treasured point, and that, how this explores the heights, and that explores the depths.

For if you know how incredible God’s love is for you,

And when you do, the hunger to more will help you engage, to enter the service as a participant as we dance with God, rather than being an observer.  For everyone has a part in worship, every voice has its role, a part in the service.  It’s not just about the guys up there in robes,   We are just there to point you to the love that God has for you, the incredible love that makes a difference in every aspect of your life.

So when you come into a church, expect something special, expect to hear you are loved, listen for it, rejoice in it, walk in it, even dance in it, and then love and adore the God who loves you.

The same service will never be the same.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 339-340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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