Gobsmacked

“Jesus is leading us to the death of illusions, and illusions die hard. Jesus is leading us to the death of self-will, and self-will is a stubborn survivor. Jesus is leading us to the death of sin, and sin is a cat with nine lives. Jesus is leading us to the Lenten death that will catapult us into the Easter resurrection.”

Today is Thursday, the seventeenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,380

Today is also St. Patrick’s Day. March is a busy month. St. Patrick’s, Ides of March, my birthday, Spring Break, and the Vernal Equinox. Oh, and the change to fake time, which may be on the verge of being permanent real time.

It was a pretty quiet day at the library, yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect, it being Spring Break. But it was also a beautiful day outside, so that may be why we didn’t get a lot of traffic. I’m off today, and will be back in the Computer Center, tomorrow.

The weather is pretty nice again today, with a high of 78 predicted, but possible thunderstorms late this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
(Isaiah 29:13-14 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a growing sense of awe, wonder, and mystery surrounding my Father in heaven
2. for the utterly astonishing mercy, unconditional love, and faithfulness of God; I am gobsmacked
3. for the community of saints; oh, how we need each other
4. that, though I may not be the wisest, the mightiest, or the richest, I can boast I know the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
5. that Jesus teaches me to die so that I can live

Today’s prayer word is “glorious.”

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

There are a lot of things that we might think are “glorious.” But truly, our God is the only One worthy of the adjective. One of the definitions is, “having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.” There are many things in our physical world that might evoke such feelings. A beautiful sunset, the ocean waves crashing on the shore, whether it be rocks or a sand beach, a beautiful mountain range, or a dense, green forest. I have seen all of these things.

I have not “seen” God. Yet I know that He is beautiful; He has a striking beauty and splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration in me. Therefore, He is glorious. In the words of one known only as “Susanna,” “I am stunned by His mercy. I am gobsmacked by His unconditional love. I am awed by His faithfulness.” Yes, she said “gobsmacked.” That’s a British adjective that means, “utterly astonished; astounded.”

I, too, am all of those things in the presence of God.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
(John 7:38 ESV)

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
(Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 ESV)

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

It’s only two paragraphs, so I’m going to quote the Peterson reading in its entirety.

“A gospel paradox: in getting us ready to live, Jesus gets us ready to die. First he gets himself ready to die so that he can live. Then he gets us ready. Our habit is to think life first, then death. Jesus radicalizes our perceptions: first death, then life. This death is not primarily biological, although it will eventually include that.

“Jesus is leading us to the death of illusions, and illusions die hard. Jesus is leading us to the death of self-will, and self-will is a stubborn survivor. Jesus is leading us to the death of sin, and sin is a cat with nine lives. Jesus is leading us to the Lenten death that will catapult us into the Easter resurrection.”

“Death, Then Life” is the title of this reading. Just as we have traditionally gotten evening and morning reversed in our thinking (the ancient Hebrews considered evening as the beginning of the new day), we may have the whole death and life thing reversed. In order to truly live, a lot of things must die first.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

As I continue looking at Augustine’s writing on fasting, I see that he uses a word that is not used much these days. “Ostentation” is indicated as something that should be avoided in fasting. What is that? It means, “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” I’ve seen the word “ostentatious” a number of times, and confess that I was unclear on its meaning. Now I’m more clear.

Jesus spoke of this in the Gospel accounts, in the Sermon on the Mount.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

So, instead of ostentation, we are to exhibit joy when we are fasting, not sadness or gloominess. If we practice fasting in order to attract the attention of others, Jesus is quite clear that that will be the extent of our reward.

“In his fasting, therefore, let a man rejoice inwardly in the very fact that by this his fasting he is turning away from the pleasures of the world to make himself subject to Christ, who in the words of this precept wants him to have his head anointed. With the same intent he will be washing his face, that is, cleansing his heart whereby he is to see God.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, indeed, you are glorious, and I am, indeed, “gobsmacked” by Your mercy, faithfulness, and unconditional love. It is all of these things, along with Your great kindness, that lead me down the ongoing path of repentance, constantly revising the way I think about reality. And reality, for me, is what I run into when I am wrong. And I’m wrong a lot. Oh, how I love You, Lord! Your glory is everlasting and beyond my comprehension. The word “glorious” isn’t even adequate to describe You.

I am so very grateful that I know You, Lord, and that is the only truth in my life that is worth boasting about. Well, maybe not the only truth. I feel justified in boasting about the things in my life that You have placed there, such as my loving wife and family. But all of the things that I could boast about have come from You, and are from nothing “good” that I did. I am not very wise, not very mighty, and my “riches” are made up by much more than material things.

I praise You that I have been, for the most part, delivered from any kind of envy about anything that my “neighbor” might have. I am, by Your grace and Holy Spirit, quite content with all that I have. I am also praising You for the relationships that I have that make life so much easier, beginning with my family, and continuing into the community of saints, and I use the definition of saints that says that it is everyone who calls on the name of Jesus.

Thank You for teaching me how to die in order to live. We’re still working on that, because there are plenty of places I have not yet surrendered to You. But, like I said . . . we’re working on it, and for that, I thank You for Your great, and seemingly infinite (thought I think it probably isn’t) patience with me. Help me to eradicate illusions, self-will, and sin in my life.

All glory to You, the One and only glorious God, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.