The Fig Trees of the New Realm

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

fig treeFrom the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:32-35

In this passage that ties together the future destruction of Jerusalem some forty years later with His apocalyptic discourse to encourage for the people to endure even though the end seemed imminent, there exists a phrase that has intrigued me.  This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

I have observed that throughout Christian history that each generation that has come and gone senses that they are the generation to which Christ refers.  And that has proven to be a useful tool for keeping believers on their toes!  Yet … Christ Himself said to people of Judea of His time, …”this generation“.

More and more I am sensing that Christ was telling His followers … that all the events that will take place will come and go … but the emergence of the New Kingdom will depend upon the faithful and perseverance of this generation and all the generations that will follow.  The New Kingdom of the Spirit and the Truth, the New Kingdom of Divine Love being shared, will outlast the false hopes of military might and violence, the fall of “supposedly holy kingdoms and empires”, the claims of messiahs who eventually are proven false,  the end-times predictors that will keep conjuring timetables for the end.  Look not to these but think about the manner by which a fig tree grows … step by step in gradual process of maturing … look for where the New Realm of Grace is spouting and bearing fruit throughout the world.  And I tell you … that even this generation will witness the first harvest of the New Way.

Or so, I presently believe until such time I more perfectly understand.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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WE ARE CALLED TO SHARE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, July 9, 2018

After taking the cup, Jesus gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the realm of God comes into its fulfillment.”  And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:17,19

sharing the bread

In so many ways, one can contemplate the Last Supper and the words spoken by Christ … a moment we have relived for centuries, a moment we have recreated, a moment when re-voice those words of Christ.   We often focus on the breaking of bread and of the spilling of wine, a remembrance of the sacrifice made by Christ and so many of us who followed.  We often focus on the covenant made, a new covenant wherein the images of Old Covenant sacrifices were used to ushered in a new covenant of the Spirit, the self-giving Love, and the sacrifice of sinful pride.  We often focus on the Oneness formed by way of the mercy and grace in the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of the whole world.  But today … I view the Last Supper and the Holy Communion through Christ’s act of sharing, sharing the bread, sharing the wine, sharing the life, sharing the mission.

In Christ, we share in this blessing, calling, way of life and work … together.  All that we do is meant to be accomplished through the act of SHARING.  And yet … throughout Christian history, we have chosen the easier course of SEPARATION, DIVISION, and even EXILING THOSE OTHERS FROM OUR VERY MIDST.

In the sharing, we care for each other.  In the sharing, we acre for the world.  In the sharing, we tell and model the miracle of grace.  In the sharing, we tell the stories of Christ and echo the words He spoke.   In sharing, we provide for the mutual need and the common cause.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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IT IS NOT REALLY A MATTER OF OPINION

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sincerity and truth are what You require; fill my mind with Your wisdom. – Psalm 51:6

The air is flooded with opinions, informed and uninformed, but wisdom seems to be so much rarer.

oil lampWe have all have opinions about this and that … but in the end what matters is what is in the heart and mind of God.  The question is, for the authentic Christian, what is in keeping with the fullness of God’s ways and wishes.  Instead of searching for a clearer, purer, deeper understanding, a wisdom greater than our own, we advanced our opinions that we have already formed.

According the psalmist, wisdom is a bequest from God not a level of achievement on our own part.  We receive wisdom from a loftier perspective.  We embrace wisdom from a higher source, a wisdom that so many times will go counter to our own calcified opinions.

According to the psalmist, wisdom comes to those who work at sincerity of soul and yearn more to discover the Truth than to win the argument.  Wisdom comes to those who sincerely keep seeking the actual truth, even when then that truth changes our own opinions.

We like to think that it is those on the other side of the argument who are blind to the truth.  But in actuality we all see through blurry, mortal vision.  We keep declaring the other side as in the wrong, but all of us are wrong in some way, in some measure.  The answer is not found in my opinion or your opinion neither in our opinion and their opinion but in the gaining of the skills of wisdom, that Divine bequest that enables us to see more clearly.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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TO SPEAK THE PURE TRUTH

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, July 7, 2018

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37

OATH

Perjury is the willful giving of false testimony under oath or affirmation, before a competent tribunal, upon a point material to a legal inquiry. ”

We hear much about the matter of perjury in the political and criminal news of our times.   You often hear the phrase …”but what will he say once he is under oath?”  I think Christ might be more concerned with “what will he say even if he is not under oath?”

Truth is truth.  A falsehood laden by a thousand oaths is still a falsehood.  A falsehood rationalized as actually being the truth is still a falsehood.  A falsehood spoken in support of a cause is still a falsehood.  No, no matter how you spin it, no matter how your disguise it and twist it, a falsehood is a falsehood, never to be turned into a truth by one’s own will and desire that it be the truth.

Let your “Yes” be actually a true and accurate “Yes”, and let your “No” be actually a true and accurate “No”.   It is rather simple once you untangle the defensive or deceptive rationalizations.  Seek to speak the truth not as you yourself define the truth but as the integrity of God defines the Truth.

Why do we lie?  Because we fear to be exposed.  Because we fear to be found inadequate.  Because we fear to be found needing to confess and needing to change.

I find it takes constant vigilance and ongoing self-examination to keep one’s “Yes” as a pure “Yes” and one’s “No” as a pure “No”.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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AN ACCOUNTABILITY OF OUR WORDS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, July 6, 2018

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak … – Matthew 12:36

WORDS2

I am forever and reverently mindful of these cautionary words spoken by Christ.  No matter how people might spin their theology of forgiveness, I do believe that we will still give an account of our lives, our actions and our inactions, our words and our silences.

I find the air flooded with careless words.  Some are deceiving and deceptive words.  Some are insincere and hollow words.  Some are words of cruel condemnation.  Some are hurtful, wounding words.  Some are mean-spirited words.  Some are manipulative, self-serving words.  Some are boastful words filled with hubris and haughtiness.  Some are words that ignite rage and words that blind the power of wise discernment.

Every sermon I preached, I was vividly aware that each word I spoke was listened to by the Lord.  And I believed that the Lord who called me and the Lord who guided me required of me keen consciousness of the authenticity and veracity of my words.  Often my preaching was at odds with the prejudices that lingered within me and went against the grain of my own sinfulness.  For the most part, I preaching to needs of my own mortal soul, allowing the congregation to listen in.  And when I stand before the Lord and lean into His Mercy, I know there will be words spoken that I then will regret.  But I pray they will be few and the few will be forgiven … for the Lord will know the intent of my heart.

My Loved Ones, I do not speak to aggrandize myself.  I do not speak to further some ideological cause.  Rather I speak in allegiance to Christ and to speak words that come from His Holy Conscience.  And I pray that you will join me.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, – Matthew 12:36

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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BLOOD SACRIFICE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, July 2, 2018

Spilt WineThen Christ took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:27-29

Moses slaughtered the bull and took some of the blood, and with his finger he put it on all the horns of the altar to purify the altar. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. So he consecrated it to make atonement for it. – Leviticus 8:15

I am one who believes that the crucifixion was, at least in part, the closing act of blood sacrifice required by the Old Ways.  From that moment on, the sins of the people would be washed away by the work of the Spirit and the Spirit’s work through the agency of merciful humanity.  From that moment on, it would the processes of repentance and forgiveness that would restore the Oneness both with God and with one another.  No more bulls to be slaughtered in rituals of atonement, no more lambs to be sacrificed for the sins of mortal.  At least, this was the hope and intention of Christ pouring out of the wine of his own sacrifice.

Yet, the Church through the centuries has far too often turned to punishment and violence, to casting out and to shaming, to deal with sins of others.  Too often the Church was so preoccupied with judging that it had little time for confessing.  Too often the Church kept spilling blood both figuratively and literally in their claim of advancing the Kingdom of God.

In our present times, we tend to punish the “sinners”, the “wayward souls, the “flawed ones”, the “heretics”, not so much with swords, but with words used in the manner of swords.  We tend not to burn them at the stake but to banish them from our midst.  We tend to see ourselves as the “righteous” rather than the “sinner forgiven”.

I remember the tears in the eyes and the voice of an old veteran of World War II.  In commenting on military parade in our local town, he said to me …”So many of my friends died not so that we might fight yet another war, but that we might make an end of war.  Yet, we keep preparing for the next war to be fought.  For some reason, we love war too much.”

The sacrifice made by Christ … was made to change our ways … but, at times, I find that change is something reluctant for people and a land to make.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Caesar coin“Tell us, then,” the Chief Priests asked, “what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” – Matthew 22:17-21

Later they shouted to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate …“They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar. – John 19:15

A famous declaration made by Christ that possibly could be heard as a command, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”  But it begs the question … what does belong to Caesar and what does belong to God?

In our times, I hear much about military personnel who give their lives in service to their country.  It has almost become a state religion with the flag as its graven image.  This military/nationalistic religion with its martyrs and its own code of ethics and its set of values can slowly infiltrate and then take over the soul of the Christ.  Remember the warning of Christ … “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”  But what is that yeast?  Surely a trust in law-and-order to bring about salvation for both the individual and the nation, surely a trust in the glory of Herod’s Temple to restore the greatness of Israel, surely the conscience that allows hypocrisy to flourish, and surely a willingness to vault Caesar as “King”.  Remember the words of the Chief Priests at the trial of Christ … “We have NO king but CAESAR!”

In His encounter with His inquisitors about whether Jesus was a tax protestor, part of the resistance against the occupation by Caesar’s military forces, Jesus subtly exposes their own collusion.  Christ asks for a coin … and they produce a Roman coin from their own pocket, evidence that they already were identifying with the might of Caesar.  “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar!”  And what was Caesar’s?  A coin, a participation in the Roman economy, their loyalty, their silence, their cooperation, their hypocritical collusion for the sake of their own safety and security?

And then Christ continues, “But render to God what is God’s?”  A loyalty, a devotion, an allegiance to godly values, one’s life, one’s priorities even they go counter to the values of Caesar?  It is a decision that all Christians must make in whatever nation they live … what belongs to the reign of Caesar and what belongs to the reign of God?

Sadly, even in our own time  … you will hear certain Christians declare …”We have no king but Caesar!”

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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THE PEACE OF OLD OAKS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  – John 14:27

Christ gives to the disciples the gift of Peace, a peace that is of another quality than the worldly peace of treaties and temporary cessation of hostilities.  This Peace that Christ bestowed to His disciples is the Peace of Eden before Eden succumbed to human selfishness.  This Peace that Christ endowed to His disciples was a Peace crafted out of a More Perfect Love rather than conjured out of fear and condemnation.

Christ gives His disciples the gift of Peace, but soon conflicts would flare up, most of the disciples would be martyred, many would be sent into exile, and all would be spurned by the supposedly devout.  Yet He says that He gives them Peace … a Peace that will endure and survive the hatred, a Peace that will carry them through these years of rejection and hostility.

This quality of Peace I imagine in the quality of soul in old, oak trees.  Storms come, yet they endure.  Wounds come, yet OLD OAK BWthey continue.  Seasons change, yet they keep steady their pace.  They are rooted; they are weathered; they are committed to growing; they communicate a quiet strength, a steady manner, a fearlessness of whatever might come.  At least, in my soul’s sense of an oak tree’s soul… and maybe this is why … I go to them to restore my inner peace.

After Christ’s resurrection, none of the disciples surrendered to fear … they did not resort to violence … they did not loathe their enemies … they did not abandon their cause … rather they provided nests for the young ones and shade for the old ones.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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A SACRED RESPONSIBILITY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, June 29, 2018

cHRIST AND pETERChrist then said to Peter,  “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:18-19

My Roman Catholic brothers and sisters hold this as foundational to the formation of the Church, the work of Saint Peter; my Protestant brothers and sisters also hold these words as foundational to the formation of the Church, but they emphasize the faith that Peter possessed.  But I focus more on the responsibility of the Church as Christ expressed in the ultimate words of this teaching.  “…a nd whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

The Church will be held accountable for what it does in the name of the Lord.  The Church will define for the people the ways of heaven, whether they be in harmony with the actual ways of heaven or whether they be in disharmony with the ways of heaven.

The Church can choose to portray God as the spirit of judgment, or the Church can choose to portray God as the spirit of mercy.  For the people who place their trust in the Church they will most often believe heaven to be in the manner of the Church on this earth.

I tried to begin each message I preached with this prayer …”Lord, let my words be words of truth; let me never stray from Your Wishes and Ways.”

A few weeks ago, a devout lay member of the laity shared his experience of having dinner with a pastor in the area.  He shared with a reluctant sadness … “He did not seem to have the heart of a pastor.  My wife and I thought, ‘He seemed so cold and insensitive.”  And as they shared their negative experience, I thought to myself … “What quality of soul do others experience when they experience me?”

The Church historically has been a world of words.  We try to explain, we try to persuade, we try to defend, we try to justify … but now at this stage of life … it is the tone of words and the spirit of the speaker which tends to be long remembered.

And the Lord said to Peter and the other disciples … You will set the tone and spirit of people’s earthly experience of heavenly ways … you best be responsible for the heaven you create in the minds of the people.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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SO CALLED DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, June 28, 2018

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. – Luke 4:28-30

ANGRY CROWD

I am intrigued by the drama of this encounter between Christ and his hometown synagogue.

I dare raise a paraphrase by way of parallel.  All the church members were furious at what the preacher said.  The committee met and said, “We must fire this pastor for his speaks most troubling words.  How dare he question our ways!”  But the pastor moved on from there and continued being faithful to his Lord.

Those who were about toss this young rabbi over the cliff, these were church-going people.  They probably attended classes on the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  They all went through the rite of passage into adulthood.  They were Jews of a Jewish nation.  They were people who prayed.  They were people who sang the old hymns.  They were people who kept the rules their forefathers wrote.  And they dragged a rabbi to the edge of a cliff.  Synagogue people sometimes did unholy acts in unholy ways in a false delusion that they were protecting the ways of God.  And church-going people sometimes do unholy acts in unholy ways in a false delusion that they are protecting the ways of God.

But it is the manner of Christ in this moment of crisis that models for me the Christ-incarnated way we are to carry ourselves and to advance the work of God’s Realm of a More Perfect Love.  “He walked through the crowd and went on His way.”  No kowtowing to the rage of the crowd, no surrendering to the status quo, no fighting back using their unholy ways … no, He simply carried Himself with dignity and walked on in His pilgrimage of faith.

I seek to face the judgmental ones with rage in their voices and murderous intentions in their hearts … with nobility of soul, without resorting to the ways and will of the crowd, and continue in the authentic ways of the Lord.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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