An Interesting Look at the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic.

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:

15  I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (NAB)

4  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 5  For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. Romans 6:4-5 (NAB)

The Lord could say that his Body was “given” only because he had in fact given it; he could present his Blood in the new chalice as shed for many only because he really had shed it. This Body is not the ever-dead corpse of a dead man, nor is the Blood the life-element rendered lifeless. No, sacrifice has become gift, for the Body given in love and the Blood given in love have entered, through the Resurrection, into the eternity of love, which is stronger than death. Without the Cross and Resurrection, Christian worship is null and void, and a theology of liturgy that omitted any reference to them would really just be talking about an empty game.

As much as I appreciate the Lord’s Supper, as much as I’ve meditated on it and studied it, I’ve never thought about it as I read the blue quote above. I have read the great book by Pope Benedict, (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) several times, in fact, I’ve used it as a supplemental text when I teach on the liturgy. And yet, I’ve never considered the point that is offered above.

That not only do we share, participate, fellowship, become partners with Christ’s body during the celebration of the Eucharist (Communion/Lord’s Supper) we are also because He is risen, a partner in the resurrection, drawn into His resurrected life, and into the “eternity of love.”

This is a mind-blowing thing to me, and be patient with me while I process it.

As someone formally trained in non-denominational theology, and then in Lutheran theology, I tend to think of the Lord’s Supper given His death, His offering of His body as the hilasterion, the sacrifice of blood that covers and cleanses us from our sin.   I know well the implications of that and am in awe to think of it. 

When I lead people to the altar, with the cross overhanging it, when we commune together in front of the New Testament version of the mercy seat  (Lev. 6:14) my thoughts are almost always on the love of God poured out on the cross.  There we meditate on the Body was broken, and the Blood was shed.  By no means am I saying that this is still not true!

There is something there, in these words of Pope Benedict, that I have witnessed so many times at the altar, the incredible, glorious mystery that happens as people come and are joined again to the death of Jesus, and that is that they come alive in that moment.  You can see their bodies change, as they enter into this blessed moment, this feast, ( I want to use the old word “repast” ) as the brokenness is shorn away from them, as the wait is lifted. As they are revived in their spirit, it shows physically. 

This is the missing key, the idea that not only are we given the gift of His death for us, but the gift of His resurrection, the gift of life in the resurrected Christ!  

This is something that we don’t understand, if we only think of the Lord’s Supper as in sharing in His death (though it does certainly proclaim it so strongly )  We don’t see it if we only see our sharing in the dead, lifeless corpse.  But our souls get it, as this feast is one of incredible joy, one of peace that shatters the chaos of life. 

This feast, which is a foretaste of the feast to come is just like baptism, a joining with Christ’s death, and with the hope, the promise, the reality of our resurrection, because He is risen.  

You have been united with His death, and sin has been dealt with, but in His giving you His body and blood, He also gives you life!

Hear again the blessing that is given, as people stand and kneel form the altar…and know it is for you.  ( It might make even more sense now!)

Now, may the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, your confidence in the God’s work in your life; and until we are all before God throne, dwelling in His glory, may you know you dwell, kept secure in His peace!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Christmas is how close? GULP! Some thoughts on struggle that Christmas can be.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:

19  And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22  let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 (NLT)

But, as St. Gregory the Great puts it, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New Testament is a peculiar kind of “in-between”, a mixture of “already and not yet”. The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.

Two weeks from today is Christmas, a day some are able to celebrate with great joy with those whom they love, who they care for, as meals are shared, as presents are exchanged, as laughter and smiles are contagious.

Yet recognizing that Christmas is only two weeks away causes my anxiety levels to rise.  There are services to plan, sermons to write, music to practice, and most of all, people to pray for and try and find ways to comfort and to try to reveal God’s presence to, so that they can know some peace.

Some are stressed out by finances, or work situations.  Some are broken by their own sin, or addictions, or broken by the sin and addictions of those they love, that have caused deep division.  Some are grieving, and that number has grown this year.  Some are simply wandering, directionless, unable to find anything stable enough to give them hope, even as they drive by churches advertising Christmas concerts, and advent services, even as they set up Christmas trees and manger scenes in their own homes.

I like how Pope Benedict phrased where we are in life, in this time of the dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled.  There are shadows that seem to overwhelm us, to convince us we still are in the darkness. The struggles of life are still there, undeniably, yet there is a hint of the perfect, complete life we know is coming in Christ Jesus.

We are in the time of the “now, and not yet!”  The time where God’s kingdom is here, yet we struggle to see it.  The time when we are in God’s presence, though we cannot see Him,  It is a time where we have to depend on God, but still have so many doubts, where we have to have hope, but struggle to define that, and therefore to express it.

Which is all the more reason to gather together as believers regularly,  To celebrate the fact that we are in His presence, that Christ has cleansed us, that we have been baptized by His blood, and therefore have clean consciences! This all in order that we know, that when He returns, He is not just returning to us, but returning for us.

We gather to encourage each other with these facts, for too often we forget them in the shadows of the world.  Too often we get overwhelmed by sin, ours and that of the world.

There is the hope, that is the real message behind all the decorations, all the mangers scenes – and the lights symbolizing Jesus coming, He whose light shatters our darkness, He who is our light, the Light of the World.  He who is our comforter, He who is our peace.

And for the next two weeks, and until His return, the One who hears us when we cry, “Lord Have Mercy,” and find int he manger and the cross, He has!

So let’s get together in these times, often, so that we can cry and laugh together, and encourage each other, even as we look forward to the day of Chrsit coming.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

The Greatest Leadership Challenge: Waiting

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days

When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god z who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!”
21 Then Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them into such a grave sin?” 22 “Don’t be enraged, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil.  Exodus 32:1, 21-22 HCSB

What is truly great grows outside the limelight; and stillness at the right time is more fruitful than constant busyness, which degenerates all too easily into mindless busywork. All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of time is being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mystery of time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same in the area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do; where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoid facing the true mystery of inner growth toward God. And yet, in the area of religion, what we receive is at least as important as what we do.  (1)

Every leader, whether secular or religious has felt the pressure that Aaron felt in the passage above in red.  Taken from the Old Testament, this is one of the first times that he has had to act on his own as high priest.  Prior to this, he served as Moses spokesman, he said and did what he was told to say and do in the Old Testament Liturgy.

But now, in the absence of Moses, the people urged him to act, they urged him to make a decision, for that is what they thought a leader should do.  They couldn’t wait!  It is restlessness that Benedict XVI calls “Americanized”, the idea of resting and being still cannot be profitable, it cannot provide what we need.  In our mixed up world, waiting and resting has no benefit, no importance, no sense of progress.

Instead of helping his people wait on God, Aaron submitted to their desires (and then lied about it!)  As do too many of us.  We run around, keeping busy, unable to find those moments where we simply wait on God, where we breathe deeply and find in that stillness that He is here!

I find this is even true among myself and my peers in the Lutheran Church, who replace doing with learning or at least acquiring knowledge and passing it on, whether we are able to wisely apply it or not. We move from one guru of the past to another, from one theologian to another, constantly seeking and yet, I wonder if we can ever be satisfied with what we know.

We see this even in a church service, where a long silent pause is even painful.  When we struggle to take a moment to give to God the sins He longs to remove from our hearts and souls, when we struggle to be silent as we commune, unable to wait the time it takes to let our mind run out of the things it would use to distract us, unable to wait for the moment where peace and serenity and the rest that comes from being in His presence happens.

We need to learn to face the true mystery of our inner growth toward God, a growth that isn’t measured in pages read or written, a growth that isn’t measured with watches and calendars, a growth that is simply found, like Martha’s sister, sitting with Jesus, and being in awe of Him and His love for us.  Or like Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, who sat and pondered in her heart the message of God.

Aaron would not be removed from the priesthood, for God was patient with him.  The people would sin more often, and they would wander the wilderness for a generation.  God would forgive them, as He promised, as He will forgive us of our sins, including our lack of patience, our lack of trust, or lack of conversion.  Then again, that conversion is His work, for as Benedict reminds us, what we receive is at least ( I would say significantly more) than what we do.

Rest in God’s presence, dwell in His love and peace… for this is God’s will for you – and for everyone you know.  May God help to desire this and to see it happen.  Amen!

 

 

 

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

The Visit of the Peace of Christmas Past

The Visit of Peace of Christmas Past

Isaiah 11:6-10

†  I.H.S.

May the peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ bring you great peace, as you bring the Christmas message of Immanuel to the World!

Whose Christmas Past?

As Ebenezer Scrooge met the ghost of Christmas Past, he had one question.  He asked the shadowy ghost was whether it was there to talk about Christmas long past, or the Christmas of His past.

And as we look at the peace of Christmas past, that is still a good question, to begin with, are we talking about the peace of Christmas long past, or the peace of our Christmas past.

Some of you are saying, “What’s the difference!”

For tonight – we will answer the Lutheran way, that is, both the Christmas of long past and the Christmases of our past…

For Jesus brings peace to the past.

Was the Past that Peaceful?

Many need to bring to Jesus that peace to their past Christmas.

Maybe there were years when the world was at war, or maybe it was just their families that were divided and broken.  Maybe It was broken hearts that couldn’t understand how everyone else could be joyous and happy.  Maybe it was finances that challenged them, or addictions or their health or the health of those they love.

Many of us have some good memories, but also hard ones, and those steal away the peace, for the moment.

In Isaiah’s passage this evening, we heard a promise made to people that were challenged with many of the same challenges.  Many of them dealt with broken families, broken finances, broken by sin and shame, with heartache.  Which was  why peace seemed impossible, as impossible as natural enemies that would forgo the violence, and instead find peace with each other.

Such a passage would mean nothing special, if there was peace at the time.  For what division would be reconciled, what anger would be calmed, what relationships would need to be healed?  Isaiah’s promise revealed that this would happen….that they could wait for it

And that is promise in which God’s people trusted.  Because of that promise, and His Spirit confirming it, they could find peace in the mist of the chaos.  They could wait for the cross which was to come, they could wait for the point when all would be reconciled together in the death of Christ, just as we wait for the day when all is reconciled in His resurrection. They knew the brokenness that they endured in their society would fade.  God had promised it.

When our eyes are on God’s promise we can wait as well, Looking at the Christmas’s in our past, as we realize that the peace of God was with us, even in the middle of the fights, the anxiety, the frustrations and pain.  He sustained us in our Christmas past, just as He sustained them.

We could look forward because of the promise

Each visit of the ghosts taught Scrooge something, in Dicken’s parable, and as we look at the visit of the peace of Christmas Past, we realize that the peace we knew then is the peace that we know now, a peace that looks forward, trusting in God to do finish what He has completed in us.

A peace that enables us to look forward to the day when lambs and wolves relax together, and nothing hurts or destroys anymore, to the day where we live with Him will be a glorious place.

It is the peace that hope gives us that we are sustained in now, as Jesus keeps us safe in that peace.  AMEN!!

Are We Afraid to Pray?

photoDevotional Thoughts for our seemingly broken days:
28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

291 Jesus is asking you to pray … You see this very clearly. Nonetheless, how poor your response has been! Everything is a great effort for you: you are like a baby who is too lazy to learn to walk. But in your case, it isn’t just laziness. It is fear, too, and a lack of generosity!

The Second Petition
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.

In my daily devotions this week, there seems to be a common thread, the idea that we are afraid of intimacy with God, the idea that we are afraid of God.

Looking at the church today, we see this is truly an issue.  We speak far more about God than we speak to Him.  We train our pastors and ministers to teach theology, to pursue accurate doctrine (even on this feast of St Nicholas, to punch out those who don’t teach accurately)  but do we help them to desire those moments, where we simply are in awe of God’s presence?

A friend of mine used to talk about how he hated the Sundays when the church had communion (some Lutheran churches have communion every other week, some even less,) because that meant church went 20 minutes longer, and he would miss 20 minutes of football.  In later years this changed, and as a pastor, the churches he cared for moved to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week.  He had realized how precious this time was, in fellowship with God.   It meant something special to, this time of breaking away from life, and concentrating not on the truth of God’s presence, but on God himself, there with us.

Prayer is no different, and we need to realize that so that we don’t treat it with indifference.  It is the Kingdom of God coming to us, the Holy Spirit transforming us, comforting and calming us, helping us to trust in what is revealed about God’s love in scripture.

We shouldn’t fear it either, this coming of God to interact with us.  Some fear the change that God will ask of them, either to give up this sin or that habit or to make some sacrifice (like becoming a missionary to some jungle or the inner city)  s if somehow the more we hang out with God the more likely He will ask us to do something that only a saint could do.

I am not going to promise you won’t e “volunteered” for something, but that can happen if you aren’t praying.  I can’t say that God won’t put on your heart a desire to break the habits of sin either, for surely He will.  What I can promise is what He doesn’t, that in spending more time with God, our burdens are lifted, our anxieties fade away, and our souls find rest, even as God more clearly uses us to reconcile the world to Him.

In a world where peace seems so fragile, prayer, walking with God shows us that the real peace is internal, a gift of confidently living in Jesus.

Don’t be afraid, don’t be apathetic, rather, run to Him, leaving all your brokenness, find rest for your souls.  And while you talking to Him, pray that I learn these lessons as well!

Thanks!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Who Me? Thoughts on the Image of Christ…

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day:
16 They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. z “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. 17 Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar c or not?”
18 But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a •denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.
21 “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.
Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.  Matthew 22:15-22  HCSB

298      My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope.

I vaguely remember the first time realizing the inference in the gospel reading in red above. That while money bears the image of Emperor’s and Presidents, we bear in ourselves the image of God. Intellectually, it was pretty cool insight for a kid, and I remember being pleased with the simple idea.

We are made in the image of God!

What a wondrous thought, that every person we meet was created by God  Even though we have too often obscured His image as we’ve fallen to temptation,  the image remains. Bruised and battered, torn, dented, covered in the slime and muck that is the result of sin. And one of the joys of being a Christian is when we see someone realize this, as God cleanses and recreates them, restoring the image.  What a joy it is, to see God begin to transform them!  (see 2 Cor. 3)

Yet there are times, even as I observe that the observation seems to be from a distance. I get the idea of being made in the image of God, yet as I look in the mirror, I see something far different.  I see the darkness and brokenness still, I see the damage of my sin.  To borrow from St Josemaria’s words this morning, I see far too clearly the wretchedness of my poor soul. 

This is where God’s love is so glorious, so wonderful, so nearly beyond belief.  St Josemaria describes it so well, as he is sure of God giving us the supernatural beauty, knowledge, and power we need so that Jesus is not sullied, not shocked by looking upon our brokenness.

Realizing this, we find another reason to adore Him, for we find another facet, another depth of His love for us!  He will let us love Him!  He doesn’t just accept the love we show Him, He will treasure the love we are able to show Him!

He is our God, and He makes us His people, and rejoices in our love!  Even as He transforms it, and creates in us the ability to love.

Enjoy His love, my friends!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1219). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Great Scandal, the incredible gift we can give God!

f68f6ad20bfbc6d47f4c6aab419b44e6e2044849510c043d7b02e848674b9064_1Devotional thought for our seemingly broken days:

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you! 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him  Matthew 21:21-32

God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many
mistakes and sins there may be in our life.

The Christian existence, therefore, includes this as well: that we, out of the distress of our own darkness, like the man Job, dare to speak to God. It also means that we do not think we could present to God only half of our existence and must spare him all the rest because it might grieve him. No—to him in particular we may and must carry the total burden of our existence in complete honesty.

If someone did a translation of the quote from the Bible in red above today, we would have to replace tax collectors and prostitutes with some other terms.  Simply put, those jobs aren’t as demeaned and distasteful as they once were.  They aren’t considered evil, so who do we choose?  Whose very identity and actions not only are scandalous, but disgusting?

What if it was those men who were accused of sexual harassment?  What if it were those in the media than manipulated with false news?  What if it were the out-of-control politicians that we all want to hold up to ridicule, as if that would change their attitudes and behaviors.  What if it were those who had committed atrocities with guns, or bombs?

The scandal of the Church being the church is that every sinner, even these are welcome in its midst.  That we will care for such, that we won’t just try to rehabilitate them, we will work to reconcile them to God, and even to those they have hurt. 

Jesus words to those who thought they were righteous, that they were holier than the rest of the sinners is that these disgusting, sickening, evil people are more likely to trust and depend on God, and therefore come to repentance than we are. 

They did in John the Baptist’s day they still do. And it is what we need to do, desperately need to do.

Unless we realize our brokenness, damaged by our own sin, and by original sin which left us helpless against temptation, unless we realize our sin is as scandalous as those mentioned above, how can we return to Him?  How can we out of the distress of realizing our own inadequacies cry out for mercy to God?  How can we, in Benedict’s words, give more than our “good stuff”, and hand over to Him, the offering of our sin and shame.  he has been waiting patiently to deal with that crap in our life, and to offer it to Him may be the greatest sacrifice we have

Yes Lord, here it is, my life, broken by sin, crushed by temptation, ridiculed by guilt and shame.  Here it is, Lord Jesus, create something with it…

This is our prayer in advent, that like Isaiah we would cry for God to rip open the heavens and do what He longs to do, because He loves us and calls us to be His own

It is a costly gift, this gift of our brokenness.  It will truly take courage to give Him, it will truly take faith and trust, 

It will be worth it… when we see what God creates… 

 

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

Blessed to Be in His Presence: Free from Blame and made Partners: An Advent Sermon on 1 Cor 1

church at communion 2We Are Blessed to Be in His Presence

Free from Blame and Made His Partners!

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

  I.H.S

 As the Apostle Paul desired for the Corinthians, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace!

 Thank God you belong to Jesus!

An observation I heard more times than I could count yesterday is one familiar.

“How do people get through this without Jesus?”

“How does the secular world deal with this?

And to be honest, I don’t know, but I have an answer to their problem, at the end of this message.

So when I got back to church yesterday, and I looked again at the passage, what caught my eye more than it did before was Paul giving thanks to God for his people and the grace He’s given, for they belong to Jesus.

And so memories of after the service came back, so many of your faces, resonating with these words of Paul.

I have to thank God that it the grace He has given so evident, as is that you belong to Jesus, you are His!  All of the words of comfort you offer each other confirms it, as we seemingly do it month after month, year after year.  The gospel I share with you from up here, or in the MPR, I get to see them lived out far more clearly, as the riches of God’s gifts is seen in you.
I don’t have to prove His presence is true, you know that, even if you are little hazy about all the details, we cannot deny that God carries us in times like these.

Look at what we do, this isn’t possibly without God’s work being true

I don’t know how often you think about Jesus coming back, never mind are eagerly waiting for His return.  Most of the time for me, it is a prayer of desperation, a prayer because I don’t know how we are going to cope any longer, or dare I say, how much more of a challenging life we can endure. 

That’s the same kind of feeling Isaiah had in the Old Testament, when he cried, Lord, just burst open the heavens and come down!!!!

We’re waiting Lord!  Just rip open those skies and get down here!

I mean what are you waiting for Lord?

We’re not the first people to struggle, and we aren’t the only people who think the struggle’s gone on long enough.  According to the Book of Revelation, even those in heaven, those who testified to God’s love cry out, “How long, O Holy and true Lord, how long until the suffering is dealt with?”  (Rev. 6:10)

God’s answer to them is rest a little longer, the number of your brothers and sisters aren’t complete.  Remember that please.  That the number isn’t complete….

The church is like Maxwell house….

So how do we endure all the suffering?  All the pain that sin causes in our lives?  If God won’t come and take us all home right now, how will we get past tomorrow?

How can we endure to the end?  How will we be strong and faithful from this moment until Christ returns?

While Jesus isn’t coming back for the final judgment yet, He promised that God would never abandon us, that He would never leave us alone.  Here he promises it again,

“He will keep you strong to the end,”

But it doesn’t end there, there is more , “so you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus returns”

Hear that guys?  All blame!  By guys I was talking to the men who are to blame for everything!  You know who you are!

Seriously, that promise is twofold.  The first is that God will personally sustain us, and keep us strong until Jesus returns.  The second is that we will be blameless – completely righteous, innocent of all sin, completely cleansed by God, our soul completely healed.

What we can’t do, He did already.  For our strength comes from our being untied to Jesus’ death and resurrection in our baptism, in God claiming us as His, for it is when we were united to Jesus that we became His, new creatures, that He fully cares for and sustains.

Because of Him we were sinners, and now we are forgiven, righteous, holy, and this is how Jesus will find us, the very work He did on the cross made it possible, and made it happen

Partnership with Christ – from His death till He comes again

So let me bring back up the idea of how people get through this life without knowing God.

It’s not supposed to be that way, and in fact, even as God planned for us to be blameless and holy, and strong to the last drop, he planned for those people who didn’t know His comfort.

Just as the Father sent Jesus to us, Jesus sends us to them.

You heard me right, that’s what the idea the Apostle is getting to, when he says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what He says, and he has invited you into partnership with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Our partnership, our communion, our fellowship with Jesus is so complete, we share in His vocation of Savior.  Not that we are crucified for their sins, but they hear about that incredible act of love, and the resurrection through us.  They hear of the love of God that will sustain us through this seemingly broken, shattered life.

And our words will confirm the work of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Him, as we share the hope we have.

They don’t have to go through this life without Christ, and certainly, we know that God doesn’t desire that they go through life without hope, and for that reason, He isn’t come back yet…

You and I are Jesus partners, have been since our baptism, and through us, through the gospel, we share with family and friends, they will know that God is with them as well…

And then on the days when they like us are broken and exhausted, or tire of crying, and dealing with the guilt and shame of sin, they will know the power and beauty and strength and peace found in these words,

The Lord, who loves you, is with you!

AMEN!

Are We Still Afraid of (intimacy with) God?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
18 All the people witnessed m the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it n they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”
20 Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.”  21 And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 HCSB

213      When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, he will cure you.

Reading the reaction of the people God led to Mount Sinai, at first I am confused.  Why do they want to distance themselves from the God who had saved them from the Egyptians, the God they had cried out to save them?

Then I wonder if I am any different.  Or if the Church today is any different.

We are in awe of those who seem visibly in tune, intimate even, with God.  They are among those we sort of see as our heroes.  That is, until they invite us along on their journey.  The moment we hear them say that all they have done is possible for us as well, we treat them much as Israel treated God.

“We stand over here and watch as you approach God.  We’ll stand close enough to know some sort of safety, but far enough away that we aren’t overwhelmed by His grace.  We can be afraid of Him, but we don’t want to be close enough to fear Him, to be overwhelmed by His glory so much that we rever Him, that we adore Him.

Look at Moses words again, Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin!”

We might read this and think the reason we will not sin is that of fearing punishment, of fearing His wrath, because we fear both the consequences now and for the future.  That isn’t the reason we won’t sin.  It is because of our fellowship with Him, and the trust that grows that impels us to call out to Him when the darkness of sin begins to cast its shadow over.   We might not like the phrase “intimacy with God”, but it is that very intimacy that gives us hope, that draws us deeper into a relationship with Him, and as we grow in our love for Him, as we trust and adore Him and revere Him, then we are changed, sanctified, set apart to Him.

To use St Josemaria’s words, we are cured. 

He has heard us.

He is here.

As He was for those in the desert, those He rescued to make for HImself a people.  The people He would love, and care for, those through whom His place to reconcile the world would come true.

So let us hear the advice the Apostle Paul gave in his letter to Hebrew Christians,

16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 928-932). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Do You Feel Like Your Ministry is Against the Tide? That’s not always bad…

Devotional Thought for these seemingly broken days:
20  Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21  Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” 22  Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:20-22 (NLT)

255 Don’t expect people’s applause for your work. What is more, sometimes you mustn’t even expect other people and institutions, who like you are working for Christ, to understand you. Seek only the glory of God and, while loving everyone, don’t worry if there are some who don’t understand you.

“Sometimes, “the pastor writes, and my heart and mind want to say, “all the time.”  Because there are times I am sure that my peers in ministry don’t quite understand me. Or if they do, they think I am slightly unhinged, or out of contact with reality.

An example. a few years ago in a group of pastors being taught and mentored by some experienced leaders, we were working on the “Mission Statements” for our churches.  The process they were taking us through was similar to work I did a decade before, and my church had just developed its Mission Statement, the description of who we are, and what God does through us.  “Concordia is the place where people find healing in Jesus, while helping others heal”.   It didn’t meet the standards of a normal mission statement, a standard brought over from the world of management.

While I stood firm, for this was who we were, who we wanted to be, and the standard to judge what we do, it bothered me for a while that our mentors didn’t see it…. appropriate as a Vision or Mission Statement.

So do I chuck it, and start the process over, limiting myself to the standards of good management theory (that I learned in management at Pepperdine, and in my undergrad work) or should I do what I did?   Part of me wonders if this is a product of some quirky tendencies of someone with Asperger’s, or is this description (originally noted by one of our 85+-year-old saints) God’s vocation for this church.  It seems like it is what the church should do, who it should be, and yet, if it is, why don’t more people understand?

Again, this is just an example to work with, not one I am currently questioning.

“Sometimes”, St. Josemaria said, “sometimes.”  So I need to consider the potential of whether any present scenario is simply my own concoction, or do I?

Peter wondered about John’s role as an apostle in the quote above.  If Peter is the leader of the apostles, John is often considered the #2 man, even despite his age.  Jesus is told, “don’t worry about him, you follow me.”  Similar to St Josemaria’s advice, to seek God’s glory (not mine, not yours) and to love people.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to criticism, (whether constructive or not – sometimes the not is more beneficial!)  That criticism is often that which will sharpen our words, out thoughts, and stop us from diving off a cliff.  We should hear them, especially when they are showing us from scripture, and from the lives and words of those who’ve gone before, when we are sliding away from God’s truth.

There have always been those that God used, who weren’t mainstream, who were misunderstood, who didn’t quite fit the norm.  Francis of Assisi,  St John of the Cross, Martin Luther, and yes Josemaria Escriva, missionaries like Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Eric Liddell come to mind.  But there are millions of others who likewise were put in a place, and in a time, where God needed them, with a vision that glorified God as the love of Christ was revealed.

That is the bottom line, hear them, listen, pray. Consider deeply what you are doing, is it revealing Christ crucified, the hope of glory?  Is it truly loving others?  Is it consistent with scripture,? With those who have depended on GOd in their lives before?

Then be faithful, be involved, and walk, depending on God.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1068-1073). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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