The Need and Challenge of Social Ministry

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world. James 1:27 (TEV)

19  If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world.
1 Corinthians 15:19 (TEV)

But it would be a sad turn of events if anyone were to take advantage of the energies latent in the piety of the people in order to use them in a project of purely worldly liberation that would very soon reveal itself as an illusion and as the source of new enslavements.

There is a part of the church’s role in the community it finds itself, and in the world at large to do what is called “social ministry.” Things like feeding the hungry, visiting the hospitalized, home bound, and those in jail. It dgoes onto other things, helping those who marginalized by society for what every reason, including the immigrant, the single mother, the elderly. Defending the right to live of those elderly (and have affordable healthcare) and those awaiting birth, and those who are poor. Helping provide care and education for children. Helping those in trauma of all types, holding the hands of those who mourn. The list goes on.

There is no option for the church in this at all. And we don’t just get to help the peoeple we choose to help. We are called to help whomever God brings to us, or sends us into the midst of, to show them the love and providence of God, even as we’ve been shown it. If the passage from James isn’t enough, let me know – there are many, many more, in both the Old and New Testaments.

There is an obvious need for the church to see Jesus in their faces, and care for them.

But there is a challenge to social ministry, no matter who it is we are caring for, we need ot make the ministry complete. We need to realize it doesn’t end when we make sure they are fed and clothed, when they have a roof over the heads, when they feel safe and are cared for.

Our ministry to them cannot end there.

For if all the church gives them is another day of comfort, another day wihout the feeling of being abandoned, another day or week or decade without hunger and thirst, we haven’t completely ministered to them.

They need to know Christ has saved them, delivering them into a life that is eternal, a life that goes far beyond anything we could ever imagine. A life that is risen with Christ.

That is too hard to see when need and trauma shatter our peace, and therefore we help them there, but also we help them understand that it is not just us that is caring and providing and weeping with them, but God is doing something.

They need to know God’s love.

When they see our “social ministry” our care, they need to know why. They need ot know God’s love and care. Spoken about with as much love and care. Revealed to them so they can know the depth of peace and joy that comes from being loved by God.

Lord Jesus, help us to see and minister to all the needs of those around us. Help us to look at them with Your eyes, and Your heart, and enable us to minister to them, so that they can respond to Your love. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 171). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

A Way to Deal With Stress…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Where there is no vision the people get out of hand; happy are they who keep the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NJB)

2  Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)

958         You have a big problem; but if such things are approached properly, that is to say, with calm and responsible supernatural vision, the solution is always to be found.

Yesterday I attended a class on the relationship between stress and weight loss/gain. Some of the things in the course were quite interesting. others were, hmmm, more challenging to hear, as they led down different paths.

But the first words were about the inavoidability of stress, of problems that we will encounter. It’s there, and there are natural bio-chemical, hormonal reactions to stress. ANd the natural reactions to stress are fight or flee, both kicked into high gear by the rushing hormones that fill our blood stream and affect every muscle and organ in our body.

Stress is unavoidable, brokenness, grief, guilt, shame, worry, all cause this, and more besides. And the toll of such stress over the years is an horrific list of thigns from heart disease and cancer, to forms of mental illness.

Techniques were offered. Breathing, mediation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Visioning. Lacking was anything about prayer, meditative on scripture or on the sacraments. ( Which is odd considering the weight loos program is under the asupices of a Roman Catholic Hospital, administered by an order of nuns. )

For I have found that in the presence of God, when I realize that He is my fortress, the protesction from the trauma of the world (and my own internal trauma as well), that I can begin to relax, that I can begin to hand over the causes of my anxiety.

It is as the Proverb says above, that without that vision, we get out of hand. In other translations, we cast off all restraint, and then, we perish. But when we treasure (for that is what heep means) this revelation of God’s love, of His mercy and healing, we know a joy that is only found in the most perfect peace.

But how do we get there?

It was odd, at the end of the presentation, the last slide included the presenter’s fvorite word. Metanoia a word she knew as change, the change of our mindsets, our way of processing life. You could see her light up as she talked about it.

So I asked if she knew the “other” translation of the word. And then shared with her the word often it is translated into in scripture.

Repentance.

Not the repentance seen in movies, the guilt and shame producing feeling that comes from someone pointing out your guilt and shortcomings. But the kind of transformation seen in Romans 12 above, the very work of God renewing our minds. The work of Holy Spirit in our lives, brinign comfort and healing to our broken hearts and souls. Reminding us that there is no need to beat ourselves up over our sin, rather as 1 John 1:9 says, confessing ti to God, knowing He will cleanse us of all of it, and all injustice.

All of it.

The end of this, the end of seeing/envisioning God, revealed in all his love and mercy in scripture finds us at peace, at home in the presence of God, a place where the anxieities and stress of life may exist, but are so dimiished as we know GOd will bring us through them.

As He has for all who depend, who trust in Him.

Heavenly Father, help us be aware of the Holy Spirit’s work within those who have faith in You, and depend on what You have promised to do and provide for us. Grant us, repentence, the renewing of our hearts and minds and souls, so that we can dwell in the peace You intend for us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who made this all possible at the cross. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3886-3888). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Hardest People to Minister too, and how to do it!

Devotional thought of the Day:

10  Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11  Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12  Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13  Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Psalm 51:10-13 (TEV)

And so they rejected him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his hometown and by his own family.”
Matthew 13:56-57 (TEV)

953         I think it is very natural for you to want the whole world to know Christ. But start with the responsibility of saving the souls of those who live with you and sanctifying each one of your fellow workers or fellow students. That is the principal mission that the Lord has entrusted to you.

Whenever I hear of people rejecting Jesus, it amazes me it is the people that knew him best, the people he grew up around, the people of Nazareth, including his own relatives.

It is not an unusual phenomena, and you see it in scripture, Joseph struggled with his brothers, (even when they were together in Egypt), David His dad and uncle struggled with each other, and even among the apostles, there was competition.

It is almost enough to say, Lord, send me anywhere in the world to be a witness of you, but do indeed send me! I don’t want to stay home and minister. They won’t listen to me anyway! After all, they didn’t listen to Jesus, right? Or we use the rule that physcians shouldn’t treat their families, so we decide we don’t have to minister to our own.

We are so desperate to see them know God that we often come on to strong, or too condescending, We don’t know their brokenness, because we don’t take time to listen. We try to find a reason to jam our beliefs down their throat, without introducing them to God’s love.

So we find excuses not to minister to those around us, and our faith becomes more individualistic, more isolated, more personal. The result is that we will never go out to share our faith, and eventually that faith will atrophy, grow stagnant, and shrivel up.

So how do we minister to these people that know all our weaknesses, the times where are hypocrisy has been so blatant, where our sins have shown for all to see?

I think we see the answer in Psalm 51, in this prayer in whih David pleasds with God,a s we should, not to banish us from His presence, where he begs God not to take the Holy Spirit from us.

To realize the joy that comes from realizing God has rescued us, the incredible truth that we are His children, co-heirs with Christ. To be able to pray, with confidence for the ability to really obey God, to hear His word and welcome the changes the SPirit makes in transforming us.

You see, the work that changes the messenger is what often is realized by the one the message is delivered to, and no one would recognize the change more than those close to us, those used to our patterns.

Lord, help us to spend so much time, and spend that time well adoring you, hearing your promises of Love and being changed by the Holy Spirit that those around us realize our zeal comes from being healed of our brokenness, and help us to see them healed as well. Thank you Lord!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3865-3867). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Really Broken and Really Dependent, these are my real life heroes!

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

35  Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36  Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37  They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. 38  The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. 39  What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40  because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40 (TEV)

The Bible contains stories of salvation which are completely paradoxical. In the tales and the stories of the world, we learn that the heroes were young, beautiful, strong and that they set off on an adventure. In the Bible, they were old, sterile and powerless and God chose them (e.g., Abraham and his wife Sarah). For us it always starts on the wrong foot! What is important in the Bible is not so much to be healthy or ill, but to be with God. One is healthy and holy when one is with God Who comes to meet us in our weakness. The place of our wound, our vulnerability, is the place where God meets us

There is a picture that people post on the internet that annoys the heck out of me. Well, actually there are a lot of them, but one in particular drives me up a wall.

It is a drawing of Jesus, surrounded by “superheroes”, Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America, those kinds of guys. And it contains the quote, “and that is how I really saved the world.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the Marvel and DC ficitonal superheroes. They are a cool escape, and I understand their role in our society, giving people hope, and possibly giving them some moral lessons. But they are simply modern fables, they are nothing more than that.

Jesus on the other hand, and those who follow him, are more than that. Living in fellowship with God the Father and depending on people, they really save people’s souls, and oftne their lives.

They aren’t perfect either, as the quote in purple points out, their brokenness is declared clearly in scripture, which makes their work, done depending on God, all the more phenomenal. They don’t have a weakness – they have all of them.

They even doubt God at times.

But they depend on Him, and they dwell assured of his presence

For He has come to dwell with us, to heal us, to reasue us, to support us. To not just fly in and out, but to really care and help us in our lives, especially the dark and challenging parts.

Not just a symbol, but a God who inspires us all to depend on Him, even as we serve others.

And those who do depend on Him, whether old fogies like Abraham, or the ladies who teach preschoolers to sing, “Jesus loves me”, or the pastors in the inner city, caring for those too often left behind, or the missionaries in the Sudan and Cameroon and Nebraska – they are my real heroes. So are they who have gone through the darkness, those abused, those broken beyond imagination, those incarcerated, and those ill ( one lady who has battled cancer for 7 years – 5 years past the time doctors gave her and is going strong) These who found God waiting for them in their darkness and simply hang on.

They know God loves them, they know He is faithful and they go where He sends.

May the Lord help each of us to realize He has done the same with us!

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 112). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

A Question of Primary Importance to Your Life!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31  “So don’t worry and don’t keep saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:31 (Phillips NT)

Therefore, I maintain there is no one who can know everything that the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they had to proclaim or teach something from this psalm, they would not know where to begin. In order to shame these evil people and to honor the word of God, I have decided to interpret this psalm myself. I would like people to see both how clear and common it is and how it is nonetheless unfathomable. Even if it seems obvious (which it is not), nonetheless in virtue and power it is unfathomable, and it always renews and creates a clean heart and refreshes, washes, comforts, and strengthens us without end. I see and learn daily how the beloved prophets studied the Ten Commandments from where their sermons and prophecies had their sources and springs. Let us now divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and admonition.

Benedict XVI told the young prisoners n the prison of Casal del Marmo in Rome on the 18th of March, 2007, We have recalled that God loves us: this is the source of true joy. One can having everything one wants and still be sometimes unhappy. On the contrary, one could be deprived of everything, even freedom or health and still be in peace and joy, if God is in our heart. So therein lies the secret: that God is always in the first place in our life.”
Before him, St Augustine said, ‘Sometimes the doctor makes a mistake in promising the patient health of the body. God gives you a sure and free healing, that is salvation’. This is the first point: this confusion between health and salvation. Make no mistake, let us look for salvation and many things will follow.

“How is your spiritual health?”

More important than your financial health, your physical health, even more important than your financial health is the question of your spiritual health.

You many think differently, and could point to reasons why mental health or physical health is more important. You could claim that poor financial health could affect the rest.

I know a lot of people in poor health, and they know joy. I’ve been on the mission field and seen the smiles of children and adults, and know they have something the richest people in the word do not. I’ve worked with people challenged by illnesses of the mind, who even through their challenges, find peace and comfort at the altar, where they receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Yet we often get confused about what it means to be truly “healthy.” And the thing we omit the most is our spiritual condition. We refuse to ask ourselves

– are we struggling with a particular temptation or sin
– are we repressing anger and resentment
– are there people we’ve offended that we need to seek forgiveness from
– do we realize we are in the presence of God, God who loves us.
– are we taking the time to adore God, and to realize the work He is doing in us, renrewing us as the Spirit cleansses us, and empowers our will and our deeds?
– Do we depend on God more than we distrust the world’s leaders, (or trust and depend on them? )
– Do we trust and depend on God to make all things work in our lives for good. All things, including the crap we don’t like.

I think most of us are afraid to ask this question.

We feel like the negative answers would result in massive amounts of guilt, the pain of judging ourselves, the feeling of failure and condemantion. The shame of falling short.

But unless we ask ourslves, we will never resolve to apply the easiest healing remedy that exists for anything. For it is simply being in the presence of God, hearing His promsies, receiving His blessing that renews and refreshes us. This is the salvation that Augustine spoke of, a deliverance from spiritual death to an abundant life, now and forever,

This is why Luther said Psalm 118 was so deep, for this is what it reveals, and celebrates and drives into our soul at levels beyond our comprehension.

We need this, for it transforms our life, it actually helps us really live life

It is when this is taken care of by God, as we realize His work, that life changes… it really changes.


Heavenly Father, help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and those we care about and are responsible for guiding in the faith. Help us to desire to see Your work in our lives, that our shame and guilt are left behind, as we seek You, and Your influence in our lives. We ask this, knowing Your love for us, revealed in Jesus Chrsist. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 130). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 111). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

What Deep Faith Looks Like:

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT

Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.

Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.

I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.

That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”

This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.

The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.

Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.

That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.

You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.

Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.

To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.

This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.

It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.

And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..

This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.

Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction! (and why that’s a good thing)

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

10  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (TEV)

952         You run the great risk of being satisfied with living, or thinking that you have to live, “like a good boy”, who stays in a cosy and neat house, with no problems, and knowing only happiness. That is a caricature of the home in Nazareth. Because Christ brought happiness and order, he went out to spread those treasures among men and women of all times.

I was dealing with a fairly uncomfortable situation this morning, and as I wa completing my devotional reading I came across St Josemaria’s comment about being satisfied, about being comfortable.

I am still trying to process this one, and the scripture above it. To be honest, I would rather not do so.

Living as a Christian isn’t always satisfying, and it certainly shouldn’t be considered comfortable. It shouldn’t be, in the normal sense of the word, we shouldn’t be comfrotable with the American Dream, a life where everyhting has its place, and life runs like a smoothly runinng machine.

Because that isn’t life. it is reduced to being a robot.

Life, real life is lived in the brokenness, in the moments where we are weak, in the moments of being uncomfortable where God has led us. The moement we have to talk to the lady who had to celebrate mother’s day on the day her mother died, and is grieving. The friend whose work is breaking him down, and he doesn’t realize it, the couple that loves each other, but doesn’t know reconciliation is possible.

It is there we see God bringing healing, it is there we see God at work, it is in those moemnts that aren’t satisfying, comfortable and easy that we find a peace that goes beyond all understanding.

That is why St Paul could use the word content in describing them, for he had learned, he had been taught that it is then that Christ must become our strenght, for we have no other option but to depend on Him,and His love.

Ultimately, getting out of our “comfort zone”, out of our perfect lives is what we need. So rejoice in the moments that aren’t personally satisfying, you are about to see God’s work revealed.

Heavenly Father, when we are undergoing the challenges of life, help us to rejioce in them, as they cause us to be drawn closer to you and depend upon You more. Even as we struggle, may we see revealed the power of the Holy Spirit, comforting us and enabling us to endure. In Jesus name!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3860-3864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Search for Who I Am. Why is it so difficult…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2  then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
Philippians 2:1-5 (MSG)

947         May you acquire the custom of concerning yourself every day about others, and give yourself to the task so much that you forget you even exist!

Many of us live in our own world, A world, that though we are broken, is chock full of stuff that gives us little chance ot be who we are. In reality, it gives us little chance ot find out who we are. And finding meaning in our lives? After so many years, it seems useless, and perhaps, even a waste of time.

I think part of our problem is trying to determine who we are from some theoretical, philosophical or even psychological study. These tools can tell me a lot of things about me, but they don’t tell me who I am. For example, my MBTI personality type is ENFP, and as I read the description, I resonate with it. It describes aspects of my personality, of my traits and behaviors.

However, I am more than that.

Ultimately, we are the children of God, the men, and women that Jesus says He no longer addresses as servants, but as friends, beloved friends. We are, as the church and as individuals, being transformed into the image of Christ, therefore the image of God.

And His nature should begin to be seen in us.

That is what St. Paul is talking about, this idea of being like Christ. Not that we have to or we aren’t saved, our merits gain us nothing in view of salvation. We are like Jesus because of the incredible love and comfort He pours out on us. If you have experienced this love, this fellowship with Christ, then we do begin to lose ourselves in Him, caring for those who He has brought into our lives. As we realize His love for us, that love is passed on to others, even to those the world tells us it is impossible to love. It is what happens

And our life is saved by losing it. By taking up the cross and following Him.

That is what St. Josemaria talks about as well, as we minister to the various broken people, ministering to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and orphan, the brokenhearted, to mourning, the hurting, the lost. We do it because as we are in fellowship with God, there is no other option, it becomes natural. (see article VI of the Augsburg Confession)

This is how we find “ourselves,” this is how we know who we are.

We are His.



Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3843-3845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will We Let The Holy Spirit Get Back to Work?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20  do not despise inspired messages. 21  Put all things to the test: keep what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (TEV)

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.

The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.

My youngest years were spent on the fringes of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Roman Catholic Church. And like many, I witnessed abuses, the one lady who always had to have a prophecy, the crowd of people mumbling their prayers, each one trying to be louder than the next, the people that claimed spiritually giftedness, only to go hang out after the prayer meeting talking in ways that weren’t godly. I know too many people who bore scars and are afraid of churches because of those days.

(Note: I have seen similar folk in most of the churches and denominations I’ve been associated with over the years.)

And noting the extremes of such movements, if people stay in the church, they end up in churches that deny the Holy Spirit works in any miraculous way today. They come so close to embracing a form of deism, thinking that God left us the scriptures (and maybe the sacraments) and therefore we need nothing else, even His presence.

You really can’t claim that Pope Benedict or Martin Luther were charismatic or pentecostal extremists. In fact, most would assume they are contrary to the position of those movements.

Yet they both see an incredible need for the church to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Their words resonate with St. Paul’s about ot restraining the Holy Spirit, but heeding the Spirit’s call, and taking joy in the work of the Holy Spirit, as He calls, gathers, enlightens us and makes us Holy.

Such is a miracle, it is a supernatural work. It goes beyond on anything we can control, and therefore it makes us nervous. Theologians and people who need to understand get anxious, and as we realize God’s ways are not our ways, that who He sends us to serve, that those He brings us to love are not whom we would choose. Nor it the way we are to minister to them the way we would prefer.

As Pope Benedict notes, this isn’t the most comfortable of places to be, as we are directed by the Holy Spirit, given gifts and abilities, insights and a new heart (see Ex 36:25ff) that resonates with the will and desire of God.

So how do we listen and hear? How are we guided by the Holy Spirit? How do we know if what we are hearing is the Spirit’s guidance?

Luther would say prayer, meditation, and faith-building stress. For the more we look to Christ- the more we realize He is our hope, our life, the revelation of the Trinity’s love, the more we are hearing the call, the more we are gathered, made holy and used by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glorious love of God into the darkness of this world.

So don’t hold back the Spirit… don’t depend on your own reason or strength, but rather depend on God, as He reveals Himself in scripture.

And dwell in His peace!

Luther’s Small Catechism: Part 2 The Creed: Article Three

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

More Blessed to Give Than Receive

Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
https://youtu.be/R6SQ4TMMvQs

More Blessed to Give than Receive!
Acts 20:17-35

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…

Mother’s Day

If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…

“It is more blessed to give than to receive”

and then think

Mother’s Day. 

Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,

Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms!  Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college.  The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms.  Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games!  I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.

Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.

So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.” 

And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.

The struggle and the answer

The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us.  We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry. 

We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.

Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role.  That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids.  They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.

And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”

But it did….

Well, I think it did!

But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!

That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum.  What?  You don’t think adults throw tantrums? 

We are quite good at it!

Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!

Remember, we are called to love.  Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…

That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.

Let me give you an example.

Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.

Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan?  Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?

That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!

Context! Context! Context! 

And that brings us back to the context of our passage. 

You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.

He says this,

24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken.  A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life. 

Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.

For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.

And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints.  Including all that depend on Him.

For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it.  The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.

This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive. 

As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!

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