Jesus Fulfills-a Lectio Lenten Devotion

Matthew 5:17-19

More than anything else, I want to draw closer to God. There are so my obstacles, opposition, and illusions both within and without that I realize this must be the greatest treasure any human being can seek.

So many religions have rules that must be followed, laws that must be learned, and conditional circumstances and situations that must be met that the goal of being with God is impossible to reach. In many of these religions, the means become more important than the goal.

But this Jesus is not a God we need to seek. Jesus is the God who seeks us. Jesus is aware of the parameters set by the Father to instruct us on how to live a righteous life that is pleasing to God. Jesus knows no human being can keep the commandments and never violate what we know as “law”. So Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law so that all we must do to please God, to draw close to God, is to follow Jesus.

When a person is willing to listen to Jesus, to pray as Jesus prayed, to see people as Jesus sees people, to love the Scripture as Jesus loved the Scripture, then one has a solid grasp of how to allow oneself to be found by God. And when we slip, fall, or take a wrong turn, Jesus has shown us he is willing to forgive us and help us to get back on the narrow way that leads to the greatest existence we can ever know.

Today, I pray I will allow Jesus to lead me within the parameters of the law thus fulfilling my purpose in this life. Jesus is my fulfillment and such understanding makes every challenge, barrier, obstacle or opposition much easier to face as well as making the goal all the more glorious.

 

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Paraclete’s probation-Lenten Lectio devotion

Matthew 18:21-35

I want my mind thrown into prison. Why it deserves to be there. My mind continually brings up a perceived debt that it believes it is owned. It believes others should be made to pay for a wrong done to me that completely shattered the life I was living. It wants to bring up this perceived debt time and time again. It wants to throw those it believes responsible into the prison of shame and guilt.

But my mind has been forgiven of even greater debt. My mind owed a debt it could never pay back no matter how many good thoughts it could think. God has forgiven that debt. I don’t believe my mind appreciates that enough.

Yes, my mind is wicked for this. However, thankfully God is renewing my mind. The Spirit of God dwelling within me prays for my mind and works to bring it to an awareness of its sin and the reason for that sin which is pride and acedia. I believe my mind is beginning to change. Perhaps it may not need to go to prison but instead may be put on a Paraclete’s probation.

Glory be to God.

 

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Highly Favored-Lenten Devotion

We do not have an actual date for when the event took place. The reason for this is that this event started off in such a private and isolated manner. Not a simple matter, but a private and isolated manner when an angel sent from God comes to a very young woman and tells her she is highly favored.

Today the Lectio passage is the Annunciation to Mary of an act that changes everything for all time. God is going to become a man. The Divine Trinity is going to become an active intimate participant in what it means to be a created human being.

Words really cannot describe this event. God self describes it through the Apostle John when John writes the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word, the Logos, the very meaning of life, love, and ultimate living. God became a living person in order to be a dying person.

And the young girl, the things she will face, the awkwardness, the risk to life, the potential shame and rejection do not matter. I believe the name Mary is a synonym for faith. Through her womb, God was fashioned into a man. In Mary, God was seemingly fragile and dependent. Again not the word seemingly, for God is God in whatever form or fashion God chooses to be.

Yet, since we know the high points of the story of this life, we know it is to a journey of suffering, rejection, hostility, pain, and cruel death. These are negative things we either have experience or will experience in our lives in some form or fashion. What we cannot ever comprehend or grasp is what God felt, experienced, or endured to: “but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.     (Phil. 2:7-8 NRS)

Because of this, not only Mary but we too are highly favored.

An Untitled Lenten Devotion

Luke 13:1-9

The man stood quietly on the side of the road with a sign, “need help.” His clothes are dirty. His hair long and uncombed. He holds the sign in one hand and a cigarette in another. His face has not been shaved for some time and his smile shows a mouth of yellow teeth.

Repent.

I see the man and then reflect on my initial feelings and assumption I have made. How did this man get to this point? What events and choices lead to his standing here begging? What is the gardener doing to try to have this living being produce the fruit for what he was created to produce?

Repent.

There have been destructive storms in the middle part of our country. Hard working people have lost everything. Are they more sinful than the people who live in high rise apartments and make millions of dollars buy and trading predictions on how much profit a company will make?

Repent.

As one wakes up, if one wakes up, to the reality that there is potential, actual, and eventual certain of death, suffering, grief, loss and tragedy that surrounds us perhaps we will realize the importance of the simple/complex paradox of the word repent. Because there is accountability and responsibility there is grace. Because there is unpredicability and chaos, there is hope. because there is a timeframe with expectations there is the advocacy of love.

Repent.

Oh, Lord my God, help me in my ignorance and stubborness to understand, embrace, and never ever let go of your call for me to repent.

The Story We Think We Know-lenten devotion

Luke 14:1-3, 11-32

The story of the prodigal son is one of the best known of the parables of Jesus. There are sermons and writings on this parable that cover every character, every action, and even some speculative actions related to the story. So what happens when it becomes the text for a time of Lectio Divina?

First, approach the text from the awareness of how well it is known and what one believes about its purpose, perspective and meaning are for them. Awareness of familiarity can help prevent a person’s being distracted by the known while seeking an illumination for your own life.

Second, be willing to spend more time in reflection, meditation, and contemplation when dealing with a text like this. This allows the message to move beyond the head to the heart.

Have you ever faced criticism that you felt pretty sure was meant to hurt? Or perhaps, criticism that had no malicious intent, but it hurt and brought on a feeling of inadequacy anyway? Perhaps the criticism came from a wrong decision you made, a word you spoke that was poorly chosen, or a foolish action engaged in without forethought? You were wrong and you know it, but the words of someone else magnified the wrong to the point that it inflicted some emotional damage.

This is not a good place to be in. Such a state can make one even doubt if God loves you. But then there is the story.

There can be times in which we get angry, really angry because of a perceived or real injustice. You don’t want to forgive. The person who wronged you cost you. You want recompense. But then there is the story.

You are in a situation that is stressful at best. The two sides seem far apart. You have no idea what the final result will be. Then there is the story, the Father’s story. This is what I learned today.

An Unthinkable Mistake-Lenten Devotion

Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

“The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to another.”

There have been some embarrassing, awkward mistakes made on live media in the not too distant past. In one instance, the master of ceremonies crowned the wrong contestant as the winner, only to have to take it away from her and give it to the actual winner.

In another instance, the person announcing the winner of an Academy Awards category announced the wrong winner and then had to take the Oscar away from the one announced and give it to the rightful winner. Embarrassing for the one making the mistake, yes. Embarrassing and painful to the one on the receiving end, oh yes.

If you are the one who has the accolade taken away, what emotions do you feel? Do you feel shocked, anger, hurt, sadness, humiliation along with the embarrassment? Very likely you do. You thought you had achieved the goal. You thought you had finished first. You thought I am getting what I hoped for only to find out you were wrong.

We, humans, make mistakes. But if there is one mistake I do not want to make, it is to be mistaken about what is asked of me by my God. Yet, I know, that I am a flawed person. I know I can make mistakes in interpretation of what God has written. I can make mistakes in discernment and understanding, in actions and deeds. How can I be sure I am doing what the owner of this world wants?

I cannot rely just on reason. I cannot rely just on tradition. I cannot rely just on experience. I must develop a faith, a way of life, in which God leads me to a point of assurance, of confidence that comes from acts of love, and then continue to strive to work out my salvation with fear (respect and trust) and trembling (constant reflection, adjustment, repentance, and prayer).

I start with the assumption that I did not create my own life. I work on the premise that God really does love me. I seek to grasp the ways I fail and seek to find ways I can succeed. I hope and desire to give what I owe and rejoice when what I give is received. I want to end this life with the joyful discovery of hearing the words, “Well done, good servant, rather than, “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to another.”

 

Momentary Pleasure-Lenten Devotional

Luke 16:19-31

Many of us live a lifestyle that allows us access to what some call instant gratification. Many have large amounts of personal credit in order to buy what they want when they want it. We have electronics whose primary purpose is to provide entertainment for us at any time of the day or night. We have industries that provide food and other necessities of life that now can be delivered by a drone. All of these cultural amenities are designed for our pleasure.

But these pleasures are momentary and must be renewed or replace constantly. We either need to replace what we have consumed or else grow bored with what we have and desire to replace it with what we think is better. There are some who believe human life is just about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. And so we try to hop for one lily pad of desire to another, always within the uncertainty of what could happen if we miss and encounter misfortune as we do.

God speaks to us of eternal life. God’s words are placed with the parentheses of birth and death (a finite amount of time) and death and eternity (the infinite). God desires that we use the former to prepare for the latter. This cannot be done if our lives are more about momentary pleasure than appreciative preparation.

We don’t like to think about death, but we should. If we would, in the context of faith, we would live much differently, or would we? It likely depends on whether we can grasp glorification and its superiority to gratification.

Thus the parable calls us to think, contemplate, and awake.

Joesph’s Gift-A Lenten Devotion

Every morning, if at all possible, I gather with others at our church to do our morning office. Each day we begin our office with the Angelus.

About a year ago, I was told I was no longer welcome to participate in a local ministry at a state school for girls. The primary reason I was told was that I told a young Hispanic girl that it was okay for her to pray and ask for Mary to advocate for her. I was told this was not accepted by the majority of Christians.

Some people can be so ignorant and arrogant in their prejudicial beliefs. The majority of Christian throughout history have asked Mary to pray for them now and at the hour of their death.

Joseph desired to take Mary as his wife, but when he found out that she was pregnant he planned to divorce her quietly. Then God intervened.  An angel was the messenger and like his young bride, Joesph was faithful and willing to obey.

When we pray the Angelus, we do not invoke the name of Mary. We do remember who she is and what she did. We do believe she is with her Son and that she and all the other saints do advocate for us. It is not heresy or idolatry to pray and ask for this advocation. It is understanding Mary is special, just as Joesph did, and making her a part of our spiritual lives and Christian homes.

Thank you, Joesph, for your faith. Thank you for your example.

Harder than It Seems-Lenten Devotion

Luke 6:36-38

Forgiveness, this is the centerpiece action of Biblical belief. We are told, and should believe, that we commit actions that offend God. God wants to forgive us. God has provided a way in Jesus his son for us to be forgiven.

We are also told we should forgive others. This is part of the Lord’s prayer. Our failure to forgive puts our security, our salvation, our beliefs into question. So we forgive, right?

But then those thoughts begin to rise. Thoughts of holding others accountable. Thoughts of what we might be able to do, say, or hope that might even the score just a little. Thoughts that have nothing to do with forgiveness and everything to do with what we think is just, or right, or ought to be. Thoughts that are hard to stop or eliminate.

If we have such thoughts, have we really forgiven? Have we followed the model of God by putting the wrong away as far as the east is from the west? Forgiveness is harder than it seems. In many ways, it is a process. Forgiveness requires the disciple of spiritual replacement. Thoughts about the perceived or actual wrong must be replaced with thoughts of love. This takes emotional and spiritual work. It requires reflection, recognition, repeat repentance and replacement.

This work is aided by our Lenten focus. When we remember what God has done for us, how God has forgiven us, we should be inspired to do the work of forgiveness in our own lives. I believe we will find it worth the effort, no matter how hard it may be.

It’s Lent-What Do I Ask For?

Matthew 7:7-12

Ask and you will receive. Wow, did Jesus really say this? Yes, Jesus did!

I wonder how many people have taken this verse and asked for things like money, houses, girlfriends or boyfriends, a new job, or any of many other things that they think are important to their being happy? And I wonder how many of them considered God a liar when they did not get what they asked for?

There are some who hold to a modern day heresy of a “name it, claim it” pseudo-theology who use this verse as a proof text. Perhaps many of the TV preacher who promote this shallow, deceptive and false way of thinking get what they want by duping their listeners into sending them money. I really do feel sorry for such deceived and empty souls. Note that this verse says God will give. It does say when God will give them to us.

What if God gives us what we ask for as we stand before the divine presence giving an account for our lives. The word “given” in the language the Bible was written in means it will be obtained at a later time. What if one was given the money only to realize just how petty, how foolish, how condemning such a request was for all of eternity?

Ask and you will receive. These words scare me. What in the world would I dare ask of God except that I do not have to account for all the things I have done that deserve the most severe punishment imagined?

Yet, I find these words spoken by Jesus in a time when he is instructing his disciples on how to live a life pleasing to God. He speaks to them about things that please God, about behaviors God accepts and rejects. These are words spoke to disciples. Disciples are individuals who are learning how to fulfill God’s greatest desire to share love with them and to have them share this love with their neighbors.

If I love someone and they are willing to fulfill my deepest desire, would I not want most of all for that desire to be centered on them?  I think this would be the best request.

It is Lent, a time of preparation, a time of remembering the price Jesus paid, a time to exam our lives in the light of God’s holiness and love. So, what do I ask for?