When Donald Gorske likes something, he sticks with it. He has eaten over 32,000 Big Mac hamburgers and he can prove it. You could say that he’s devoted to eating Big Macs. But there’s a lot more to being devoted than hamburger.
Before we kick off our discussion on devotion this morning, welcome to “Mornings with Bishop Robert” — lots of you are devoted to joining me in my study each day and I’m grateful.
When I say the words “devoted” what words and images come to mind? I think of words like “dedicated” and “faithful,” perhaps even “zealous.” The images that come to my mind will be different from the images that come to yours, but I think of older couples walking hand in hand and people in military service faithfully doing their duty. Devotion is seldom measured only in words, though words can be used to express it. True devotion’s best measure is found in one’s actions, and most especially in the inner motivation that drives them.
When devotion is driven by an ardent love, then the acts that flow from it are filled with life. The best and highest acts of devotion are focused upon others.
I’m not taking anything away from Donald Gorske’s Guinness Book of World Records recognition, but I do challenge whether “devotion” is the right word to describe his menu choices. The reason is that it impacts no one besides himself. No other lives are affected and made better because of it, no situations are improved. It is the definition of selfish, something that he does only for his own enjoyment. It is neither evil nor good, it is absolutely neutral. The more you consider it, the quicker you get from the initial “wow” to the final “so what.”
Devotion, true devotion, is life changing. Even if only one life is affected. We’ve all heard of couples like George and Dorothy Doughty, a husband and wife who were devoted to one another through 68 years of marriage and died within hours of one another. Or Jack and Phyllis Potter, who were married for more than 70 years. In her final years, Phyllis suffered from dementia, and Jack would come to her nursing home every day and read to her from a series of diaries he had kept over the years.
But devoted love need not be measured only in years, but can be instantly displayed.
Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar whose church provided shelter to thousands of refugees, including Jews, during World War II. He was eventually arrested and imprisoned in 1941 and placed in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. In July of that year, three men escaped, and as punishment, the SS commander ordered ten men to be starved to death to deter further escapees. Fr. Kolbe was not one of the men, but when one of the chosen begged for mercy, he volunteered to take his place. During the entire time, he calmly led the others in prayer, and cared for them as they died. After three weeks, he was the only one left. Eventually, the commander ordered him to be killed with an injection of carbolic acid. Fr. Kolbe willingly gave the executioner his arm.
Devotion is always about a relationship of love. When the love wanes or is abandoned, devotion becomes only duty. When Jesus was speaking to the church in Ephesus, He dealt with them for abandoning their first love. He said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.” He had no problem with their actions, their deeds. “But you have forsaken your first love,” He said to them. They hadn’t “lost” it, instead they had abandoned it. They let their deeds become duty and forgot about loving.
Today’s verse says DEVOTE YOURSELVES TO PRAYER, BEING WATCHFUL AND THANKFUL
People who love one another love to talk to one another, write notes, send messages. Prayer is time for you and God. Time to talk and time to listen. Though some prayer can be public, the best prayer is intimate and private. You may hear me speak to my wife about a hundred different things, but there are some things we say to one another only when we are alone together. And those are the most dear and the most important. Intimacy does not flow out of time together in a group, intimacy flows out of time together one on one. This is why time alone with the Lord is critical. It develops the intimacy that undergirds our walk. Scripture calls the Church “the bride of Christ” – and the Bridegroom desires a deliberate and deepening closeness with His bride.
He speaks! First and most clearly through His word. Complaining that God is silent while your bible remains closed is like complaining about not getting texts while your phone is off.
He speaks! And we can learn to discern His voice.
Learn to listen in prayer, as well as speak. Then be watchful, for God will move IN you and THROUGH you to accomplish what He has said TO you. Then be thankful, and continue to pray and act in love.