Posts Tagged ‘Discipleship’
“So I forced myself…” [25APR2013]
Reading: 1 Samuel 13:1—15:35
As I read about the actions and heart of Saul, I find similarities between his life and my own that I wish I did not. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say I’m probably not the only one, but I won’t project my thoughts on anyone else… at least not today, not in this post.
Reading in chapter thirteen, Saul had been given specific instructions by Samuel. The details of the instructions aren’t critically important, but Saul’s situation was deteriorating as was his patience. Saul felt as if he had to “do something,” so he did. Against Samuel’s instructions.
I think the interesting points I noted as I read this account was the wrestling it seems that Saul went through. It might not be obvious in the written account, but it certainly seems implied. It is evident that Saul knew his instructions because he waited as he had been told. Also, when he was confronted by Samuel, he began to explain himself and offer up an excuse…even to the point of projecting part of the blame on Samuel.
“When I saw that the people were slipping away, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering…” -1 Samuel 13:11 NRSV
Saul goes on to fully explain himself and then caps his excuse with the words that really caught my attention; “so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12).
“I forced myself;” says Saul. Some versions read, “I felt compelled…” In either event, what comes across to me is there was a deliberate weighing of a decision to choose against what he knew to do. “I forced myself.” Indeed. As I reflect on the choices of my life, if I am transparent, I have done exactly as Saul did in this account. There have been more than a few occasions when I have known the right thing to do and I deliberately chose a different path. Some of these decisions were not so obviously blatant rebellion against something I was instructed to do, but I think there have been times when I had a strong sense of what God wanted from me… I sensed the Holy Spirit guiding me and I felt “compelled to go a different direction.” Like Saul.
This attitude in itself is bad enough, but when confronted and rebuked by Samuel for his actions of insolence and disobedience, Saul appears to simply shrug off the rebuke and go his way.
“Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you…’ And Samuel left and went on his way…” (1 Samuel 13:13-15)
There are a number of lessons here for consideration, not the least of which is Saul’s continuing downward spiral toward complete self-absorption. Saul continued to “force himself” to make the decisions he wanted to make and then justify his disobedience in words that were couched in religious pontifications. He always did what he did for the glory of God… so he said. Interestingly, every choice he made “for God” was against the instructions and commandments of God.
I think the primary lesson I’m taking from this reading today was how easy it was for Saul to first turn his back to God. I wonder if he had been repentant when first confronted by Samuel if there would have been a different outcome. I also think while this might have been an obvious transgression, there are probably less obvious acts each of us might wrestle with, “feeling compelled” to do what we want to do that ultimately take us in a direction other than where God wished to take us. Perhaps when I “force myself” to do things my way, I don’t turn 180 degrees from God… I just turn 45 degrees away from him. And the slide begins.
I don’t want this to be me, not even a little bit. I’m in a season of seeking God’s direction for a new chapter of life for me and my wife. I don’t want to be second-guessing God and justifying guesses with religious reasoning. I don’t want to pontificate as Saul did that by doing what he did he could glorify God all the more. Samuel responded to Saul’s dogmatic excuses with these words:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
I do not want to take for granted hearing the Word of the Lord to me. When I ask God’s direction, I want to hear Him speak. I want to act in obedience to all He speaks to me. I do not want to reject His Word. I think paying attention to the little decisions and acting with integrity with those choices might be preparations for the bigger decisions. Getting the little decisions right and obedient might be what helps deter me from “forcing myself” to do what I think best instead of choosing to wait and obey God.
Abandoning the LORD and idol or idle worship
…The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and worshiped the Baals; and they abandoned the LORD (Judges 2:11). …The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, forgetting the LORD their God, and worshiping the Baals and Asherahs (Judges 3:7). …As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals… The Israelites did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side (Judges 8:33-34).
…The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, worshiping the Baals and Astartes, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. Thus they abandoned the LORD, and did not worship him (Judges 10: 6).
…In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).
I think it is easy for us to hold this narrative at arms distance. We might be quick to say; “I don’t worship idols,” or “I do not forget or abandon the LORD.” I’m not entirely sure those arguments would be true for all of us.
It is rather easy to make the ancient Israelites the bad guys of this story, but is not the story ours too? We distance ourselves from the offenses of the Israelites making distinctions between their ancient idols and our contemporary lifestyles. We might not see ourselves worshiping the god Baal, but during the time of the Judges, Baal was known as the god of nature. More particularly, Baal was the rain god, and subsequently the god of fertility since water was the source of life not only for humanity, but crops and livestock as well.
Asherah aka Astartes, was considered the mate of Baal and the highest-ranking female god. Known as the moon-goddess, she was also considered the god of love and war. The practice of Asherah worship was very sensual in nature and often consisted of ritual prostitution.
Personally, I don’t think it is too far of a reach to connect the idolatry of these ancient peoples to twenty-first century citizens. Nature worship, the War Machines and military complex, Sex Industry, Fertility gods (Wall Street, Financial Investment vehicles, Lottery, Gambling, and other get-rich opportunities), and a host of lesser gods (Entertainment industry, sports industry, and other personal hobbies) exist all around us. I think the reality of our situation is that we have not named these other gods of ours and personalized them.
We will push back against this indictment of idolatry saying, “But we have not abandoned the LORD!” Generally speaking, the ancient Israelites did not abandon the LORD either. In every instance that God turned them over to the care of their idols, when the Israelites were distressed enough, they would cry out for relief to the LORD, so they did remember Him. I think; once again, we are not different from those primitive worshipers who knew the LORD Almighty as their God, but chose to add a host of lesser gods to their collection.
What does it look like to us that we would abandon the LORD for other gods? What is the context of this in our contemporary lives? How often are we guilty of not remembering the LORD our God? I think that for many of us, at least those of us who profess Christianity as our faith, the moment we walk out of our local church we forget the LORD. Others of us might keep God in the forefront of our minds even in the context of our home life, but the moment we walk out of the bubble of our homes each day we “forget” Him. Our attentions become directed elsewhere and our focus is realigned on the business of the day…often on the gods of happiness and personal survival who are often disguised versions of those ancient Baals and Asherahs.
The primary covenant command of our God was that we are to love him with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our strength. There was to be “no other god” but the LORD Almighty who is One God. Our attention and efforts are to always be “set aside” or sanctified holy unto the LORD our God. While many of us will agree to these covenant stipulations (Israel did too) and believe we are currently living in agreement with them, we will make the distinction that we live in a world that is both secular and sacred. How can this be? We will profess that we embody the Living Spirit of God—the Spirit of God indwells the heart/life of the disciple-believer of Christ. We profess that where God is, that is sacred or holy ground. If then, we embody the Spirit of God, wherever we go and whatever we do as Spirit-filled people, the place we are and the “thing we do” is sacred… or it should be… if we are living as God intended.
Have we become idle worshipers? Is our faith so passive and fragile that we succumb to the lesser gods that society surrounds us with? I think a sad truth is that we have bought into the self-deception that many of these lesser gods are not so bad. As long as we talk with more passion about the LORD that will mean we keep these lesser gods in check. Unfortunately, as is the case with radiation, small doses are just as lethal as the massive doses… one just takes longer to kill than the other.
Another story included in the Book of Judges is the life of a man named Samson (Judges 13:1—16:31). Samson, like us, became an idle worshiper and took his position and his relationship with God for granted. He assumed all was well because he “knew” the LORD. He gambled his very life on this relationship, but he did very little to maintain the health of it. Near the end of Samson’s life a tragic thing happened; he presumed one too many times that God would be with him in spite of his passive relationship (idle worship) with God. What happened follows:
When he [Samson] awoke from his sleep, he thought, “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him (Judges 16:20).
What a tragic statement; “He did not know that the LORD had left him.” Do we deceive ourselves as Samson did? Do we make assumptions about our relationship with God thinking it is healthy when we surround ourselves with lesser gods…even if telling ourselves we do not? How high is the LORD in my priority list of life? Do I truly love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength or do I excuse myself by proclaiming “I’m trying to get there…”? The choices I make each day express my trust and my understanding of God. My faith and what I base my faith in, is made manifest by how I live out my days.
I, Yahweh, search the heart, test the motives, to give each person what his conduct and his actions deserve. (Jer. 17:10)
“I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matt. 21:43)
The Lenten season is a time to take real inventory of my life and relationship with God. It is a time to turn fully in the direction that takes me toward Him alone. Now is not the time to be an idol worshiper or an idle worshiper. He calls. We answer. What will our answer be?
Yahweh, you examine me and know me, you know when I sit, when I rise, you understand my thoughts from afar. You watch when I walk or lie down, you know every detail of my conduct. God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. (Psalm 139:1-3, 23-24)
Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto you.
Unharden my heart, O Lord
I’m doing a lot of reading these days, even more than my normal heavy appetite. The net result of this is that I have a lot of influences and swirling thoughts. If my writing or thought processes seem disjointed, it might be because they are. Nonetheless, they are good and challenging thoughts—I am motivated and I am inspired.
“Solitude is one way we can imitate Jesus…” Emilie Griffith
As I consider this season of Lent and venturing into the “desert” to be alone with Jesus, there are a number of themes and postures that I intend to assume. One is an attitude of humility and another is repentance; both of these postures are necessary to keep my heart surrendered to the transformation of Christ in me. I’ve written several times in the past week or so about living noisy and distracted lives. This is the thorn in almost every American side. Our daily lives are often too busy with work and sleep getting most of our attention. How often do we make the space to get alone with God-Jesus? How long do we spend with him? Most importantly, what is Jesus telling or teaching me?
Everywhere is the evidence and handiwork of our God. Am I paying homage and tribute to the glory of God in my day? Is my professed relationship manifest in my daily travels?
“The cross is not the horrible end of a pious, happy life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ… Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ, and are not disciples. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Discipleship and the Cross from Meditations on the Cross.
Bless YAHWEH, my soul. Never forget all his acts of kindness. He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses. AS the height of heaven above earth, so strong is his faithful love for those fear him. As the distance of east from west, so for from us does he put our faults. As tenderly as a father treats his children, so YAHWEH treats those who fear him.
O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.
O God, help me to never be that man. Help me to cling always to your holy garments. May my love for you always be pure and righteously motivated.
Questions for the 1st Sunday of Lent
“Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O you righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)
- 21:9—purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst
- 21:18—purge the evil from your midst
- 22:21—so you shall purge the evil from your midst
- 22:22—so you shall purge the evil from your midst
- 22:24—so you shall purge the evil from your midst
Not to make the obvious trite, but it seems that God wants to make it abundantly clear that His people are intended to be holy, pure, undefiled. I think the reasons are far more reaching than for this to be for a single purpose, and that primarily for show. While the visible example of purity and holiness is likely one of the purposes, I think an extended reason for this purity is that we need it. We are easily distracted…and what distracts us often corrupts us. We are influenced by what we come in contact by and keep company with. The examples of this are many, but one quick example is the acceptance of violence and sexuality in T.V. programming. Through the course of my life, there has been a major shift in what we permit to come into our homes on the television…in fact, not only is it permitted, for very many it is acceptable and demanded. This illustrates why purity and undefilement may have been so rigorously and unwaveringly demanded by our God.
This begs the question of me; “What compromises do I continue to make in keeping myself holy and undefiled for the purposes of God and the health of our relationship?”
“The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.” (Matt. 4:10)
Another set of questions I think are good for me to ponder as I venture through this Lenten season, I found today while reading a book, Small Surrenders by Emilie Griffith. In it she quotes a question from Brennan Manning, who asks; “How is my life unfolding in terms of my primary goal of living with God forever?”
This is a pretty big question and might be difficult to nail down in practical terms, so Emilie unpacks this question with a more specific list that helps us to address the bigger examination of our heart. She asks the following:
- What am I doing with my time?
- What am I doing with life?
- How well am I expressing the imprint of Christ upon my heart?
- How deep is my charity?
- How deep is my love?
- How well am I functioning in the Christian life?
And, the question I completed the list with that “popped” into my head as I pondered these—“Am I becoming all that God desires and has destined for me to become?”
I think I will sit with and revisit these through my Lenten journey…
Our Prayer from Charles de Foucauld
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence. For you are my Father.
Desolation and Purgation in the Wilderness
“Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O you righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)
It is easy for me to think more highly of myself than I should. I need not look far to make comparisons to my former self and see that I am not the man I once was. I am leaps and bounds a better man than I was. This truth is affirmed from the lips and words of others too…I do not lie. I am a better man than I used to be. There are a couple problems with this.
Problem number one is the comparison I make is an invalid comparison; it might be an accurate comparison, but it is an invalid one. The way of the Christian journey is not one looking back at my former self, but it is a journey looking forward and following the Christ who is now my model and the image I seek to become more like. In the case of this example, I am no longer a better man. I am a man marked by humility, frail in comparison to the Christ I follow and endeavor to be made like.
The second problem with thinking more highly of myself is in the self-righteous attitude that I am a “good” Christian…or that I have attained a level of maturity. This too might be true, but at the point that I begin to think this of myself, I am in danger of being fed lies from the false self. It is comforting and satisfying to think I have arrived at a destination or reached a new plateau in my Christian journey. It can be an exhilarating and self-important to think I know more than others…maybe even to the point that I don’t have to do certain exercises or participate in certain disciplines. This is a dangerous place to be spiritually and exactly the reason an excursion exercise that takes me into the “desert” with Jesus is a good thing for me.
Reading again today from the Book of Deuteronomy revealed how resolute God was in his instruction about “purging” the evil from amongst the people of Israel. The following references seem only to scratch the surface of the point I make:
*Deut. 17:7 So you shall purge the evil from your midst…
*Deut. 17:12 So you shall purge the evil from Israel…
*Deut. 19:13 You shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel…
*Deut. 19:19 You shall purge the evil from your midst…
The same is true for me as was true for Israel; of this I am sure. God is just as resolute about “purging the evil from me” as He is/was about Israel. Where there are vestiges of the old man, the false self in me, God desires to make it known so it can be dealt with and purged from my midst. This type of purgation can take place in the solitary and desolate place—being alone with God—tuning out the noises of the world and its busy-ness. The problem we often have with this line of thinking is the point I was trying to shed light on earlier. We do not like inconvenience or sacrifice. We like comfort, warm-fuzzies, and hearing affirmation from people as well as God. The truth; however, might be more difficult for us to come to terms with. Hear the words of Kathleen Norris:
“If grace is so wonderful, why do we have such difficulty recognizing and accepting it? Maybe it’s because grace is not gentle or made-to-order. It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change.”
Those words smart, probably because they are full of truth. If I accept the notion that I need purging of evil, that means I have not arrived. I might not be who I think I am. I might not be the image I have created for everyone to see. A trip into the “desert” may involve elements of change that I do not want to incorporate into my life. These are some of the means by which God pours out His grace to me; they are definitive places God has ordained to meet with me. It is needful for me and good for me to accept His invitation. My backpack is ready. Into the desert we go.
A Prayer for the 1st Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Nature of This Journey: The Land
The weeks leading up to Lent have been very formative for me and helpful in clarifying the nature of this 40-day journey. Many areas of my life have been laid open for examination and I feel some of them have been identified for further examination and tweaking. I am working, as God leads, on some of these areas even now.
Even with this knowledge and my surrendered agreement to God’s transforming work in my life, it seems there is something the Spirit of God is communicating to me beyond what is obvious. I recognize this. I am slowing down, paying closer attention to the details of my day and trying to be hypersensitive to the whispers of God as we enter this season of surrender, turning, and transformation.
A metaphor has emerged that seems to fit with and explain many of the “words” God is speaking to me through my Bible reading and through my meditations. I believe this metaphor is “the land.” I do not know the full extent of the metaphor’s application just yet, but there are several areas of my life that are quite relevant. Some of these I have identified are my health, God’s plans for my future in ministry—what it will be and where it will be, and my present relationships beginning with the Holy Trinity, extending to my wife, my children, my friends, and the community circles of which I am part that continue from there. I’m not sure how I would describe my sense of knowing this… call it intuition, discernment, or whatever, but I am convinced this latest adventure will be a time well-spent with God and I’m fairly certain He will make some things known to me that I have been wondering about for several years now. We will see what those things will be.
If you’ve followed the blog for the past week you will have noticed that talk about the “land” has been prominent. Today, from my first reading in the Psalms, I heard God speaking to me the following:
“3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 4Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD and he will act. 7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; 9Those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:3-5, 7, 9)
Also, while reading this psalm, I noticed that within the framework of these verses, the psalmist instructs the hearer to “Do not fret” (verses 1, 7, and 8). Between these words of encouragement about “inheriting and inhabiting the land” and partnering with God in the process, I hear God telling me not to over think or obsess during this process of discernment. My part in this collaboration with God will become evident in due time; for now, I am to remain faithful and obedient to opportunities in the moment while remaining focused on Him and attentive however and wherever He speaks. I will pay close attention to how I listen.
Confidence and resolve are good things, but as I continued my reading and meditation today, a couple of warnings became evident to me. The first came to me through my reading in the Book of Deuteronomy and it too was part of the land metaphor. God, speaking through Moses, is warning the people of Israel about the hazards of entering into the new land they were about to occupy. He tells them; “Take care or you will be seduced into turning away, serving other gods and worshiping them” (Deut. 11:16). The applications of this might cover several areas, but the primary intent for me is clear: Stay focused on Jesus. Listen intently for his voice and follow closely. Distractions abound. It is easy to get tired and weakened…the easy path and shortcuts can be alluring. It is important to keep my primary relationship (with God) vibrant and healthy—this includes my mind, my spirit, my soul, and my physical strength or my health.
The second word came to me from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus. He writes the following:
“To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions.” (Titus 1:15-16)
I hear two applications that I should heed in this caution; the first is to me. I should be ever conscious that I am being faithful to the knowledge that God has given to me. As God reveals himself and his path to me, it is critical that I obey as quickly as I am aware. Stubbornness, distrust, disobedience, and unbelief will shipwreck my faith quicker than any attack from Satan. My actions should always align with my knowledge of God. The second thing I hear is a warning to be discerning about the people I meet and the company I keep. There is no reason to be obnoxious about this second warning, but it is very important.
Beginning the Journey
Will Willimon reminds us that the introduction to Christ begins with John the Baptist in the Gospels. John is not the Christ. John is the one who gets us ready or prepared for the Christ. How does he do this? John calls for us to recognize our sinfulness and selfish attitudes; he calls for you and me to repent, turn, change our ways—be washed (baptized, cleansed, purified)—symbolically “dying” to self and becoming raised and reborn in Christ. What is our lesson here? I believe that we are being taught that we cannot begin any Journey with Jesus without a preparation of repentance. This was the purpose of John the Baptist…who was sent by God—to prepare us for our Journey with Jesus with a baptism of repentance first.
“The soul can become entangled with bad little habits. We never completely conquer them. We become attached to certain clothes, a book, a specific food, gossip, or a desire for any number of things. Any of these little imperfections can stand in the way of spiritual progress.” John of the Cross
Repentance is turning—turning from my way and returning to the Way of God—following His ordinances and precepts. I think the act of turning toward God is a good thing, but it might be an even better thing if our turning is bit more intentional. What I mean is this; 40-days is a long time to be focused on something that I might not be sure of. It can be helpful to reflect on the choices I have made that have been responsible for pulling me or distracting from my path of devotion to God. Perhaps spending some time considering and recalling those distractions and naming them might be a helpful exercise for me. This exercise can make me aware of the “triggers” that grab my attention and steal it from holy devotion. Knowing these triggers and being mindful of them can be helpful in remaining surrendered to Jesus as we walk together for these next 40-days.
St. Benedict of Nursia instructs us through his Rule; “First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection.” So we pray…
Faithful God, trusting in you, we begin the forty days of conversion and penance. Give us the strength for Christian discipline, that we may renounce evil and be decisive in doing good. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Book Review: Red Letter Revolution
Publisher: Thomas Nelson ISBN: 9781400204182
Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?
I appreciate this book very much for a number of reasons; first of which, I agree that considering the words and teaching of Jesus seriously is a good starting point for any conversation regarding the Bible. This is the foundational premise of this book, Red Letter Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. A second reason I like this book is the style it is written. It is a conversation, a running interview-style dialogue between Claiborne and Campolo from beginning to end. I felt as though I were a passive participant at a round-table discussion listening in and pondering the ideas that were pushed, poked, and prodded. And this is the third reason I liked the book; not all of the conversations were positions I would embrace or agree with, some I had not even considered, but I appreciated being “invited” into the conversation nonetheless and I’m still pondering some of the thoughts presented for my consideration. The entire dialogue is needful, relevant, and healthy.
The book is divided into three main components or three primary conversations: Red Letter Theology, Red Letter Living, and Red Letter World. Each part deals with a specific group of sub-conversations. The way that I understand the breakdown is as follows: Red Letter Theology deals with the history, traditions, and doctrines of the church relevant to the words of Jesus; Red Letter Living relates more specifically to the movements of community and neighbor; and Red Letter World reaches out the global stage and forward impact of Jesus’ teaching. This may or may not be entirely accurate, but it is the way that I perceived the conversation from my reading.
The book is a fairly easy read. I found some areas more subjective and opinionated than others, but taking into account that the conversation is comprised of the thoughts and opinions of two men interpreting their understanding of Jesus’ words, that is expected.
I think most persons will find the Red Letter Revolution stimulating. I think engaging the conversation is healthy and might stir the thoughts of critical thinking people. It has certainly given me reason to pause and examine my own positions and return again to Jesus’ words with new questions…seeking fresh answers. I recommend the book.
Advent 4th Sunday: Year C [23DEC12] Theme for week 4—Expectancy & Incarnation
This week, with only two days remaining until Christmas, I will focus my reflections on what God “in the flesh” means to me. What does the little Hebrew baby born in a lowly manger two-thousand years ago really mean to my life? How does this reality translate to the life I live out daily? How does this translation of God in the flesh, living in me, create anticipation and expectancy for his coming again.
Canticle 3 — Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46-55)
46 ”Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
“Every situation in our lives has a ‘high cross’ somewhere within it. Day after day, over and over, we find ourselves sensing that unease inside which warns us we are not living true to the core of our being. But just as certainly, day by day we will find, if we keep our eyes open, the traces of ‘forever moments.’” -Margaret Silf
O Emmanuel (Is. 7:14) : “O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.”
Lord God and merciful father, you stand by your people on whom you have bestowed the gift of faith. Grant them your sure presence in this world, and their eternal heritage in the world to come.
The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock
Purify our conscience, Almighty God by your daily visitation, that your Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who live and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Advent 3nd Sunday: Year C [22DEC12] Theme for week 3—Joy & Peace
The LORD will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. (Psalm 138:8)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)
In that day the LORD will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders. (Isaiah 10:27)
But you dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. (Luke 3:9)
Contemplation of Christ does not mean an emotional sort of pious daydream; it means entering by a deliberate, self-oblivious and humble attention into the tremendous mysteries of His Life—mysteries which each give us some deep truth about the life and Will of God and the power and vocation of a soul that is given to God—mysteries which each one of us in particular is called to make part of our very lives. They will break up, into colors we can deal with, that white light of God’s Holiness at which we cannot look. -Evelyn Underhill
“God is specially present in the hearts of his people by his Holy Spirit. Indeed the hearts of holy men are truly his temples. In type and foreshadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants. There is his kingdom.” -Jeremy Taylor
O Rex Gentium (Is. 2:4; 9:5): “O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.”
Holy God, Infinite Mystery, source of all life and light and love, let me walk with you in my daily life, let me come toward you in my prayer, let me know you in your holy word, let me receive you at your altar, and let me live only in you both now and always.
O Lord, I long to be fruitful, to know myself growing in likeness to you. Often I feel sterile, not fertile. I need your living water, the sun of your blessing, the wind of your Spirit, the grace of your presence. I yearn to recognize your likeness in my mirror, a reflection that will come only from the daily awareness of “God with me.”
Almighty God our heavenly Father, whose grace here on earth brings us the gifts of heaven, guide us in this present life, and so lad us now, that we might dwell in the light of your eternal love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Advent 3nd Sunday: Year C [21DEC12] Theme for week 3—Joy & Peace
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God… Oh the joys of those who trust the LORD… I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. Let the LORD keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my god, do not delay. (Psalm 40: 1-4, 8, 13, 16-17)
Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else? (Matt. 11:3)
Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. (Matt. 11:15)
You are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19)
As I consider the questions from yesterday’s reflections, I have continued to ponder what it means to “have the peace of Christ” and how one becomes a peacemaker. Interestingly enough, a practical opportunity to engage these ideas presented itself to me today and I was able to glean more insight about maintaining an attitude of peace and bearing peace as a peacemaker.
Today my peace was tested…not disturbed, but tested. I had a number of errands and appointments and was “on the go” much of the day. While there were many opportunities for me to lose my peace, there was a solid foundation and I sensed the presence of God at every meeting and every turn of my day. Peace won. I maintained a peaceful attitude of heart and I think I lived the part of a peace-bearer, if not a peacemaker.
“If we realized and were constantly conscious that whatever we do to each other, to any human person, we do to Jesus, to the Son of God, to our beloved Savior, how then would we act?” -M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.
Tonight presented a different scenario and my peace was disturbed. I realized at the moment that I was disturbed, I was being presented with a choice. I could allow the disruption to continue unraveling my peace or I could choose another path. At the same time I was realizing my choices, I had the consciousness to recognize that my inner joy and winsome attitude was slipping from me with almost equal proportion to my peace, which had been “disturbed.” I was aware that a swirl of unhealthy emotions was amassing at my mental gate waiting to be released into my spirit. I had the mental image of some type of infection being released into my bloodstream… At the same time these thoughts were being stirred in my mind, other memories and Scripture recollections were being called to my mind as well.
You are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19)
I was on the cusp of being offended and angry; and for the most part, over something inconsequential. I had a choice to make; I could choose to be offended and allow my peace to be disturbed and have my joy dampened or I could choose to dip into the reservoir of Christian virtue and the teachings of Jesus who said; “You will know them by their love.” I remembered the greatest Christian virtue of all, love.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
Love, and its practice, was the key to maintaining my peace, keeping ownership of my joy, and remaining credible as a witness to bearing peace and potentially being a peacemaker. What I determined is that there are countless opportunities to let peace and joy slip from us each day. I reflected earlier, with pride, how I had managed to maintain my peace in the throes of a potentially disruptive day. That pride was almost my undoing (Love is not boastful or proud) later in my evening. Instead of choosing offense and “wanting my own way,” I chose to love. I chose and I choose; patience, kindness, selflessness. I choose peace. I choose joy. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love endures through every circumstance. Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and Almighty God, Love wins.
I am grateful that Jesus has given us the words of life and a model to follow. I am thankful to Him for the Peace he has given to his disciples; the Peace Who is the Comforter and Holy Spirit. I boast in Christ my Savior that I am His servant and I can “joyfully” smile when I read Peter’s words, “You are a slave to whatever controls you…” And know that tonight, it was my surrender to the Holy Spirit and His control that maintained peace and joy in my soul.
Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. (Matt. 11:15)
O Oriens (Is. 9:1): “O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
O Mighty One, you have done great things and holy is your name; your mercy is for those who fear you from generation to generation. Here I am, O Lord, your servant; let it be with me according to your word.
Gracious and eternal Lord, in your bounty you have sent us your Holy Spirit. May he teach us to think and do what is right, so that we, who without you cannot exist, may live in loving obedience to your will. Come Holy Spirit and enlarge your presence in me this day, that I may bring into the world more of your life and more of your love.
Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come to you. Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.