Fighting to the Death for Truth

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Ecclus. 4:20-5:7Rev. 7:1-8Luke 9:51-62

Beware of evil.  Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment.  Do not subject yourself to a fool, or show partiality to a ruler.  Fight to the death for the truth, and the Lord God will fight for you.

So states some of our Wisdom literature reading from the OT today.

Oh how this hits close to home.

As a people who have had to endure one of the most foolish administrations to date in the great history of our nation, it is a daily battle of when to speak and when to keep silent.

This is doubly challenging as a pastor.  I do not want to take sides politically.  But I also realize my silence violates scripture when the actions of one, or many, add to the sin of our land.

We are called to speak, not to be reckless in our speech, but also not sluggish in our deeds.  Wisdom and justice and peace follow.

This is incredibly important for our ministry in our dark times, when the assault on truth is at an all time high.  As we erode confidence in the sacredness of our own word, we run the risk of descending into anarchy.  The other choice is almost worse, for fascism is right around the corner from eroded truth as well.

One of the aspects of our reading from Sirach today (also called Ecclesiasticus) is forgiveness.  We must have a stance of forgiveness and humility, not afraid to confess our sins.  Let God will sort out the evil doers, our text implores us.

And that is a helpful reminder.  I can only invest so much energy barking at the wind, or working to change a broken system.  At the end of the day I have to fix myself too.

But let us be bold, sisters and brothers:

“Watch for the opportune time, and beware of evil, and do not be ashamed to be yourself.  For there is a shame that leads to sin, and there is a shame that is glory and favour.”

Maybe I should get that tattooed into my flesh.

-Matt

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Journeys of Paul

I am off to explore the Journeys of Paul, along with my fellow travelers.  See you all soon!

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Who Does This Guy Think He Is?

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Hosea 4:1-10Acts 21:1-14Luke 5:12-26

Today Luke reminds us of the familiar story of the healing of the paralytic.  His friends bring him to the house, but finding no way in because of the crowd, they lower him in through the roof.  When Jesus sees their faith, he declares, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Of course most of the story focuses on the scandal of Jesus forgiving sins.  The scribes know full well that only God forgives sins, so to them this sounds like blasphemy.  Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man, which is quite a title – an Old Testament term which means that at the very least he is a great prophet, but more likely the end-time judge who arrives on the clouds of heaven.  “Who does this guy think he is?” the scribes are asking themselves.

And then Jesus does something miraculous.  He steps in and says, “Which is easier…to say ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Stand up and walk.’”  So he does it.  And the man takes up his mat and goes home.  This is all too much for the crowd.  Strange things.

What fascinates me the most from this passage is not the healing, but Jesus’ initial assertion that “Your sins are forgiven.”   What sins?  The sin of busting this guy’s roof?  Jesus may have been referring to the understanding of sin of the time, which held that his physical affliction had something to do with his sins of the past.

At other times in the gospels, Jesus challenges even this idea.  He talks about sin in a much more general way, often leaving the crowd wondering if these were the “sins of the mother and father.”  At other times, Jesus understands sin as more as a condition, one that we all suffer from.

But here he does not even ask this paralyzed man what he did.  Sin is just something that exists in all.  The overwhelming part of this story is that he focuses not on the past, but the present.  No matter what he did or who he is, the fact is, “Your sins are forgiven.”

This is a powerful statement – come to Jesus and your sins are forgiven.  And that goes for all of us.

This story isn’t about a paralytic that goes through someone’s roof – it is about every person reading these words, and the power of action and belief.

It is about an extraordinary presence that has come into our midst – the very presence of God – to heal and forgive each and every one of us.  Knowing the political and cultural climate of today, that sounds like a pretty good place to start.

-Matt

Therese of Lisieux

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Therese of Lisieux

In my ongoing quest to lift up women leaders of the Church, today is the Feast Day of St. Therese of Lisieux for many of our brothers and sisters around the world.  She was a French Catholic Carmelite nun who lived in the late 19th Century, only living to the age of 24.  And yet she is one of the more popular saints in church history.  Go figure.

This is mainly due to her spiritual memoir, Story of a Soul, which lays out the “little way” – a simple life of prayer and good works.  I encourage you to discover the witness of St. Terese.

I conclude with her Morning Prayer:

O my God ! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits ; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in Heaven for all Eternity. Amen.