Tag Archives: Zechariah

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Trust

‘Advent means a heart that is awake and ready, which does not let itself become bitter and deadened by hard blows but stays awake and aware of the free coming of the Lord God. That is why this free God must be met by a free person…who may well suffer hard blows but without going under.’ (Fr. Alfred Delp)

Christmas invites us to welcome Jesus into the mangers of our lives. He alone can make a feast out of what frightens, even repulses us.

Gabriel, the scary angel of Annunciation in Luke 1:5-38, helps us here. How Zechariah and Mary respond to this intimidating creature (don’t be fooled by the androgynous darling of religious art who whispers gently) blazes a trail for me when life announces something dreadful. Rather than seize up with control, I now invite Jesus into the mess. I try and trust that new life is growing in what might otherwise kill me.

Christmas is rife with ugly announcements for lovely people: the cancer diagnosis, parents whose son returns home as a ‘daughter’, the spouse who splits, a church split by an unchaste pastor, death threats from offended LGBT+ers…

Zechariah helps me a lot. His response is much closer to what mine might be. He’s an old religious guy, guided and steadied by rules. Rigor mortis has set into any hint of womb-like elasticity. When Gabriel declares he will father the firebrand John the Baptist, he tries to mop himself off the floor by demanding a map, more knowledge, a strategy. ‘How can I be sure of this?’ he says. Thrown off, he tries to control the situation by insisting on a more logical prophecy. Like us, he demands of mystery what it cannot give.

Perhaps the wise old guy was a preacher who used words to control his world. Not for long. The angel gives him nine months to be still and listen to a voice other than his own. Gabriel mutes Zechariah as he awaits the Baptist–a humbling pregnancy for any priest! Yet rather than scorn Zechariah, I empathize with him. I too grasp for control when levelled by scary angels; noisy with intense, often indecent language, I lose my voice. But I don’t lose the invitation to new life! I’m just chastened a little until I simmer down and can trust God’s design in my distress.

Gabriel encounters Mary after Zechariah. Mind you, the angel’s annunciation to her is far more challenging. Not only has God willed Mary to become a mother, He Himself will father the child. Yet this overwhelming prospect doesn’t provoke a controlling response. Unlike Zechariah who grasps after facts, Mary counters a native fear with faith: ‘Tell me more,’ a response resonant with consent.

And trust. She leans into the mystery, content to grow in ‘the love that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3:19) rather than flail for security in mere knowledge. Soon she will be filled with love’s fullness (v.20), our Savior, her Son, God’s only, expanding in her until she can contain Him no more!

I love her simple answer to angel Gabriel: ‘Be it to me as you said’ (Lk. 1:38). Henri Nouwen paraphrases this beautifully: ‘I don’t know what all this means but I trust that good will come from it.’

May Mary’s wisdom and humility become ours. A good goal for all the scary annunciations that await us in 2020? Spend less time grasping for security in vain things and lean longer into the mystery of divine mercy. I want to try and trust Jesus with every unsettling thing and so abide in peaceful love more than with alien passions like anxiety. Please join me.

‘What transformed Mary into royalty is that she recognized God as a God of challenge. She experienced what it means to be torn away from all normal destinies and, thereby, to be caught up in new possibilities. She stands as a healing and helping source of strength, right in the middle of what no-one can know beforehand.’ (Fr. Alfred Delp)

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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October 20: Fountain of Life from the Dying God

‘On the day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. On that day, I will banish the names of the idols and…the spirit of impurity from the land.’ (Zech. 13:1, 2)

Zechariah prophesies that the One pierced for our sins upon whom we gaze and grieve is also the One whose death releases the Life that saves us. A cleansing fountain is Zechariah’s description of that ‘life’; St. John further describes that fountain as a river of ‘water and blood’ gushing from the Crucified (Jn 19:34).

Jesus does more than die in our place, substituting for the death our sins warrant. To be sure, His death cancels out our sin but we are left with the stain of sin—the truth of multiple violations encoded in our depths. Anyone made tender by Jesus’ love becomes sensitive to sin’s impact. No longer dull and stupefied by sin, we are horrified by what we have done to self and others. We need a bath that breaks impenetrable bonds. Only the fountain of Blood and Water can dissolve sin’s stronghold in our thoughts, affections, and memory.

I recently met with a small group of men who dared to expose sins which had tormented them for years. In the dark, these sins accused them daily. Certain of their monstrous state, these men brought their monsters before the Crucified to be killed, drowned in Love’s flood. I had not experienced this strength of exposure and cleansing in years.

Gratefully, in the parish chapel was a ‘dispenser’ of Holy Water; I liberally applied it to my brothers. As I did these words (Heb. 10:19-22) came to mind: ‘Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience, our bodies washed with pure water.’ Not seeking to replace any man’s priest or pastor, I nevertheless knew that as brothers we had invoked the power of baptism upon sins never confessed.

Pierced for our sins, Jesus’ released a river of blood and water. He intends for that flood to penetrate the depths of our sin and break its grip. He aims at the violations that still assault and accuse us. Through confession to our elders, through prayer with one another, the sheer power of His blood cancels out the effect of evil and sets captives free.

‘You give us drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of Life.’ (Ps 37: 8, 9)

Join us as we pray for:

1. Rocky Mountain Region, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Cindy Del Hierro – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Cindy, for existing groups in the region and for new groups to be established.

2. Ministries of Pastoral Care (ministriesofpastoralcare.com):For the international schools and ministry, October 18-22, near Munich, Germany and for the local leaders including Christiane Mack; February 22-28, Auckland, New Zealand and for the local leaders including Gay Baretta; for MPC’s mission to South Korea and for the local leaders including Pastor Lee Jae Hoon.

3. New York City Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living
Waters group.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 19, 20, 21, 22

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Pierced for the Bride: 40-Days of Prayer

Zechariah prophecies that God will pour out a ‘spirit of grace and supplication’ in order that we ‘might gaze upon the One we have pierced’ (Zech. 12:10). Likewise, we at Desert Stream Ministries are positioning ourselves before Christ Crucified for 40-days of prayer, from October 15th to November 23rd. Our purpose is to welcome Him afresh into our depths, that we might more nearly grasp His heart for the one He loves most, the Church, His bride. Will you prayerfully consider joining us?

As we allow His passion to provoke us, we will ask Him to penetrate our hearts with His burning heart for the saving and healing of many lives. As a result of God’s piercing, Zechariah foresees a fountain of life that will be released in God’s house for the cleansing of our sins, impurities, and idols. (Zech. 13:1, 2)

We will enter into those waters ourselves and cry out for persons bound by sexual and relational confusion. Our desire is to pray effectually for ministry to deepen and new doors to open in the Church for many who are waiting to be saved from their sin, and reconciled to God’s beautiful purposes for their sexual humanity.

Many today are crying out to the unknown God. We want to cry out for them, asking Jesus to rouse His Church to make known His tender, transforming power to them. We want to see the beauty of His image—man and woman honoring and dignifying one another with their whole selves—become a reality wherever we honor Jesus as Lord.

We will provide a daily devotion and several daily petitions for ministries around the world who provide healing for the sexually broken in the Church. For each of the 40-days, the Desert Stream staff will pray at 3pm cst for these themes and needs. In order to sync our efforts a little more with the rhythm of church life, our Sunday devotional reflection will be from that day’s Catholic Gospel reading. Also, our 40-days end on Christ the King Sunday, which is the last day of the Catholic Church year. We shall be ready for the next day, which is the first of Advent.

Please consider joining us in some form. We will fill you in on more in the weeks to come.

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No More Angels?

As I begin my 54th year (my birthday was January 13th), I am aware of a tendency to lock into familiar ways and to resist what is peculiar, untested by my experience.

Wisdom? Nah…More likely the hardening of the arteries, the closing of the womb, that menopausal tendency in both men and women to rebuff angels and resist the new life they announce.

I pray for the simple, elastic faith of Mary, Jesus’ mother; I marvel at her response to angel Gabriel. His announcement that she will become the mother of God troubles her, but she believes it. All she wants to know is: ‘How will this come about?’ She trusts God, even though it means yielding to Him at the most personal and vulnerable manner conceivable (pun intended).

I relate more to Zechariah who was also visited by Gabriel. The old man’s response to becoming a father so late in life? Prove it to me! ‘How can I know this?’ Time had clogged his heart valves, gave him a spiritual vasectomy. We know from scripture that religious disciplines and duties had kept Zechariah righteous. Such rituals may have also made him rigid, controlling, suspect of dreams and angels and heavenly babies leaping in wombs and saving the earth.

Religion did not necessarily incline him to new life; you could say that its rules gagged him, rendered him mute, unable to grant God a humble ‘yes’, let alone a song of praise for His sovereign control!

I take note, and consider who will define me more as I age—Mary or Zechariah? Both were afraid of an unfathomable future, but while the old man wanted proof, Mary surrendered, in fear and trembling, trusting that God was good, His will fruitful regardless of its cost.

God is patient and merciful to those like me whose hearts and wombs bear the normal scars of age—unhealed wounds, losses yet to grieve, disappointments that tempt one to unbelief.

It is a new year. Let us pray together on my 54th in the spirit of Isaiah 54, that our youth would be renewed, a marvel of elastic, expectant faith.

“‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of she who has a husband,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen the stakes’…For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His Name–the Holy One is Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. ” (Is 54:1,2,5)

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Prisoners of Hope

Day 5 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘In spite of everything, Jesus, I trust You in the face of every sentiment which sets itself against hope.’ (14)

Imprisoned by hope: Zechariah expressed well the exile of the Israelites (Zech. 9: 11-12). Far from their land, subject to the cruelty of other masters and their gods, the holy nation hoped against hope for mercy. The prophet reminded them of the covenant of blood God had made with them—unchanging, Almighty Mercy.

‘Because of my blood covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortresses, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.’ (Zech. 9: 11-12).

Waterless pits…a form of punishment for restless Jews in Babylon, and an apt metaphor for all of us who know the Merciful Father and yet are entrapped by a merciless adversary. That enemy mocks the hope in our hearts; he lures us into the exile of sin then derides us for forfeiting the Mercy that could be ours.

At the onset of my journey in Christ, I fell into one such pit. I fled from a small group of believers and immersed myself in the gay community. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in a tiny room, I created a waterless pit where I sought to satisfy my thirst with others.

My thirst intensified. Because I had tasted the real thing—His blood, His body—the bodies I sought never sated me. Still I persisted in my delusion. One night, I chose to stop fighting; I asked God to leave, to release me to live as an exile, as a gay man, all my days. I felt despair draw near. The Merciful Father drew nearer still.

For some reason, one little praise song kept running through my head. I began to sing it out and as I did peace filled the tiny room. His Presence accentuated the sting of death in my unclean body; I felt sick and dirty. Then something like ‘living water’ began to fall gently from the sky, like morning dew, raining then rising and falling again until I felt clean.

I marveled at His goodness to me. He poured out a kind of liquid mercy that flooded my waterless pit and lifted me right out of it! He elevated me to the fortress that Zechariah prophesied for all ‘prisoners of hope’. Raised up by Mercy, I partook of the blessing that was twice as good as the sin was bad.

What a Father. He finds us in our waterless pits and offers us the richest of fare.

When we receive that Mercy, hope rises and releases us from exile.

‘In the time of my favor, I will answer you; on the day of salvation, I will help you…I will say to the captives, ‘Come out!’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ (Is. 49: 8, 9)

‘Who is like You, Father of Mercy? Even our sin is not stronger than Your Mercy. You woo us with a Love sweeter and stronger than any the world offers. In that Love, we cry out for all those who have fallen into waterless pits. We rebuke the enemy of their souls, and ask for Mercy to come quickly to meet them. Release those imprisoned by hope with Your Divine Mercy.’

 

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