Monday, February 28, 2011

A Future Focus

How do we keep equilibrium in our lives in spite of unpleasant circumstances and the many distractions in the world? The “world” places the most value on what is temporal – here-and-now, while Christian Faith tells us to focus on what is eternal (2 Cor 4:18). It's a lesson in delayed gratification, but also much more. The whole perspective of the New Testament is that the present should be lived in the light of the future – what God says is to come (and rooted in what God has already done).

Christian Faith will create a distinctiveness (a practical way to understand holiness) among its people; Christians will think, talk and act differently than those who do not live in faith. Reflect on the implications of the following Scriptures:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.... (Galatians 1:3-4)

For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).

For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (Heb 13:14).

But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13).

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home (2 Pet 3:10-13).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Irregularities and Irritations

I had intended to post more in past days, but my wife and I made a sudden trip for an extended family funeral – drove around 2000 miles and had intermittent Wifi access over the past eight days.

Life's circumstances affect all of us. Part of "the Lie" is that happiness comes from pleasant circumstances, and it is reasonable to do almost anything to avoid unpleasant circumstances. Christian Faith tells us that circumstances are not nearly as important as how we respond to them.

A particular application of this was in today's meditation in the Magnificat (a daily prayer guide):

So, when you feel as if you are about to lose your patience or say something against charity, bring yourself back to him, let go of this natural inclination in order to please him. How many acts of self-denial can be offered to him, known to him alone! Let us not waste them.... It seems to me that saints are souls who forget themselves all the time, who so lose themselves in him whom they love, without looking at self, without a glance at the creature, that they can say with Saint Paul: "It is no longer I who live, it is Jesus Christ who lives in me!" Of course we must immolate ourselves to achieve this transformation, but.... you love sacrifice because you love the crucified, isn't that so? Oh! look at him attentively, lean on him, and then bring your soul to him, tell him that you want only to love him, that you want him to do everything in you because you are too little. (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Christian Faith is following Jesus in our circumstances and trusting that what seem to be irregularities do not need to be irritations, but rather steps to self-crucifixion and holiness.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


The people who are persecuted for righteousness' sake are those who live by God's righteousness – by faith. Because man constantly strives for emancipation from God's will in order to follow himself alone, faith will always appear as a contradiction to the "world" – to the ruling powers at any given time.... (Pope Benedict XVI)

There is an inherent tension: Faith and righteousness..... or, being at home in this present world. "Faith will always appear as a contradiction to the 'world'."

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Part of the prayer from this morning’s Liturgy says:

Our lives are surrounded with passing things; set our hearts on things of heaven, so that through faith, hope and charity we may come to enjoy the vision of your glory.

Earlier this week we hosted a couple from the former congregation where I served as pastor. In the course of conversation the recently-retired husband said he spent some of his time trying to discern when the Lord would return. Quite quickly I responded, “You’re wasting your time.” Of course, my point was that Jesus said no one can know, and in that context trying to anticipate a certain day is fruitless.

Yet, there is a great benefit to such a general orientation. We too easily get consumed with this present world. It is good –– even essential –– that Christians regularly think about the coming of Jesus and the end of this-world-as-we-now-know-it.

Having just come through the Super Bowl season I was reminded of just how much our culture is consumed with passing things. Like millions of others, I watched the game.... and the commercials. I saw more TV commercials in a few hours than I usually see in several weeks. My overall sense was: I am not at home in this world.

I’ve been thinking about the orientation of the New Testament and the early Church. It is eschatological –– totally shaped by a focus of what is to come beyond this life and this-world-as-we-now-know-it. Over the next few days I will post some explicit Scriptures (and possibly a few hymns) that reinforce this perspective to help, I hope, our own orientation.

One of the preachers from my formative years would sometimes refer to the criticism of “being so heavenly-minded that you’re of no earthly use.” His retort was that the Church today needs to worry more about “being so earthly-minded that we’re of no heavenly use.”

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

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