Monthly Archives: July 2013

Some thoughts on Church Leadership. EC XVI


Discussion thought of the day:

 I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: 2  give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. 3  Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 4  When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory. 5 In the same way, younger people, be subject to the elders. Humility towards one another must be the garment you all wear constantly, because God opposes the proud but accords his favour to the humble.   1 Peter 5:1-5 (NJB)

“There is, obviously, an issue of theology here. How a man understands his priesthood will have a lot to do with whether he succumbs to the worst aspects of clericalism: pretentiousness, ambition, jealousy of others who are advancing faster in their “careers,” and an inability to relate as both leader and brother to the people who have been given into his pastoral care. Thus, the way the theology of the priesthood is taught in seminaries will be a crucial factor in building the right kind of priestly fraternity, in which the priests of a diocese think of themselves as fellow members of a presbyteral college, with and under the local bishop, for the service of all the People of God. Clericalism, understood as the identification of a priestly caste with “the Church,” is an impediment to the full flowering of Evangelical Catholicism, and an antidote may be found to it in the example of Blessed John Paul II. Karol Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, was a priest’s priest and an inspiration to countless numbers of priests and seminarians. He nevertheless found many of his friends among laypeople— men and women whom he had first known as a university chaplain, and who remained among his closest friends throughout his life. There was no confusion of identities or roles in this network of friends; he was a priest, and they were not. But even more fundamentally, all were disciples who understood that the gifts they had been freely given, be they gifts of intellect, athletic or artistic skill, or personality, were to be shared freely with others. And in that mutual exchange of gifts between a priest and his lay friends, there was a continual growth in discipleship. 9 It is a pattern that might well be emulated throughout the world Church.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I “picked” Wiegel’s book, between our national convention, and trying to prepare for vacation, and taking a class, I haven’t had time to contemplate and sift through what he writes to apply it within my own framework.  He’s writing about what is necessary in the Catholic Church, I have to translate it into my own form of Lutheranism.  But I again find the principals one’s I would strive for – even if others label that goal naive.

The same temptations, the same drives. the same attitudes can caustically erupt, no matter the brand of the man wearing the collar. (or polo shirt with church logo!)  The challenge instead is to be a servant, to be a man who recognizes that God has surrounded him with gifted people who compliment him, whose gifts are there to overcome his weaknesses, to serve alongside each other.   It is a symbiotic relationship – it is not that they are dependent on me.

The same goes for leadership in the church, Bishops (or District Presidents) and in my denomination, circuit counselors, aren’t to treat others as if they are dependent on us, or even as if we are their “bosses”.  We exist to minister together, as Weigel says, as a presbyterial college.  It’s not just me and my church, my territory and your territory.  It’s our work together, in Christ, Our being there for each other.  Yes, there are those whose wisdom we seek out – both officially, as sadly in circumvention of official offices. There are those who we can assist as well.  The idea is one church, on baptism – and one Lord of all (see Eph. 4)  It is in Him we live, the greatest example of servitude, the greatest example of pastoral care, and yes, the one in whom we are united.

May we serve, may we work alongside the people God has entrusted them, teaching them the necessity and the blessing of crying out:

“Lord, have mercy!”

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 148-149). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

  

I don’t want to…its soooo boring!!


Devotional THought of the Day:

22  They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘We must all experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.’ Acts 14:22 (NJB)   

9  Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10  Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11  Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12  cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.  Romans 12:9-12 (MSG)

““My enthusiasm is gone,” you wrote me. Yours has to be a work not of enthusiasm, but of love, conscious of duty— which means self-denial.”  (1)

One of the joys of having a brilliant 6 year old son is having to teaching him.  Well sort of! This morning’s lesson was one on dealing with boring things.  The title of the blog is a direct quote from him, about something I asked him to do.  THe response is one I’ve heard from my own lips a time or two during my life. Luckily, with vacation noly a week away, I had some good tools to work with, to explain why doing boring things can be quite good to get done.

Daddy, “Well, going tonight to check out our tent trailer is boring, so I guess I don’t want to do that either”

William – “but….”

Daddy:  “You know – the drive up north to the campground is 6-8 boring hours… and I have no enthusiasm for that…. so we shouldn’t go…”

William – “But…” Then the lesson dawned on him…

Then when I got to the office,. gulp – it dawned on me as well….  ( I really dislike when God ramns “my” lessons back down on me!) I may not be enthusiastic about some of the things I have to endure, some of the things that are tedious and boring and.. well not fun.

The times where I am not worshiping with people, or teaching/learning with them. THe times where we aren’t in awe of God’s grace – but wonder why life has to be so… boring, mundane or trying.
The times of doing the grunt work – either at home or at church.  It is just a fact – there are times in our lives where we will deny our own wants and desires, times where boredom will cause us to slow down, or even be distracted.  Other times where we won’t have any enthusiasm to endure because the road is to rough, the obstacles take to much effort to overcome.

The answer in both places is the same.  When we persevere, our goal cannot be the task alone.  Most of them would fail to be worth our effort.  But if we see the end of the task as a place to rest and be ministered to by God, a chance of peace and a time for healing, then it changes our attitude.  The Kingdom of God is there… waiting… ready for our entrance home. The only way to get there is to endure – and the key to that is to know who has taken us on His journey home… for we live and dwell and persevere and find life’s great victory… in Christ. With Him, the trying times can be endured.

WIth Him, even the boring times can be endured. AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2309-2310). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Take Up Your Cross and Walk with Jesus


 38  Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. 39  Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.  Matthew 10:38-39 (NJB)

“989    Come, now! After saying so often, “The cross, Lord, the cross,” it is obvious you wanted a cross to your own taste.”  (1)

It is pretty obvious that the culture in America doesn’t handle suffering and death all that well.  Heck, we don’t even handle getting old that well, as our bodies begin to groan and ache.  We find ways to hide the effects of suffering and the problems we endure, and if we can’t, we try to ignore it, shove it in a corner.  Or we try and use it to get some kind of attention, as if we can play the martyr, or even top someone else’s martyrdom.

We don’t even like to see others suffer, and far too often, we leave them alone in it.   Abandoning them because if we have to face their pains, their burdens, we might have to deal with our own as well.  So getting down in the dirt, embracing the pain, being for them, no, that’s not where God wants us.  Even pastors do it, as that open congregation must have less suffering and sacrifice than the one we are at. Congregations as well – as they look for another pastor, thinking that it’s his fault that the church isn’t what we think it should be.  Indeed, how much time do we spend looking with envy at where the grass is greener?  How often do we disrespect God by coveting the lives, the things, the churches that others have?

Like St Josemaria says…. we want a cross we like, burdens that we don’t lose sleep over, the perfect cross that doesn’t hurt, that doesn’t cause our bodies to scream out in pain, or cause our soul agony.  One made by Sealy Posturpedic, with massage units.

No pain and maybe we gain.

Yesterday, I learned for a moment to greet a cross with a sense of joy. After having been away to bear a cross I whined and complained about, (and still am!  My wise wife warns people for my sake not to bring up the pain!) I was able to be with my church family.  A family that has and is bearing much pain, hardship, illness, and brokenness. I am sure there are others who deal with more, but the people I care for…together in Christ we’ve endured.  We even know why, as we regularly greet each other with the phrase, “the Lord IS with you”.   We’ve come to rely it so much.

As we waited for service – people came up to me – to add prayers.  Some with tears, some barely able to say the words. Others added them afterward, in scratched out writing on paper crumbled and slightly damp.  Two more were added from requests from friends via electronic media.  Thirteen prayers total – added to a nearly full back and front half page. We pray a lot around here… because we have the need, and that’ has grown over the years.

As we looked at the Lord’s prayer, and why our prayers are answered, I felt more and more at home. As we struggled in prayer, as we worshipped the God who calls us to talk to Him, to lay our burdens upon Him, more and more peace flooded into our brokenness, bringing the healing and trust in God that we don’t have on our own.  Our communion time, our passing the peace, were all incredibly….good?  beneficial? moments of great awe?

As I look back on it. all I know is this, the pain and burdens we gave to God,… we trusted He would deal with in all wisdom and love.  The things we celebrated, the joy and peace we know are evidence of His glorious presence.

We took up our cross – and we realized, consciously, subconsciously, that we were in His presence, we were with Him…..and the crosses were dealt with, and we relaxed with our God, We rested with Him. We dwelt in the presence of God, but we knew it. Taking up our cross is not just a matter of not hiding from the pain, it is a matter of embracing Jesus.

Now to remember that again today… as new crosses are embraced, new things endured, and can even become a joyous occaison, as we walk with the Lord who took the cross meant for us.

English: The lord's prayer in Manchu

English: The lord’s prayer in Manchu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2298-2299). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Sermon on the Lord’s Prayer


Why is Prayer Answered?

Luke 11:1-13

 

In Jesus Name

 

As you are overwhelmed by the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, in you may there develop an unquenchable desire to commune and communicate with our Father, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit!

 

We can’t understand if… if we don’t understand why…

 

Of all the times I have taught about prayer in sermons, in Bible Studies, in classes, on retreats and in conversations over meals, I have never taken the approach I will in this sermon.

For that, I ask your forgiveness.

For I think that the question the sermon title asks and answers is the only question that really needs to be answered. This question can confidently be answered; one, without cliché’s or well-meaning stock answers that avoid the responsibility of saying, “I do not know.”  This question, why are our prayers answered…silences many of the other questions.

This question causes us to see His heart… we need to grasp how much He loves us, how much He is our Father…and how much at relationship is the reason our prayers are answered.

Or our prayers are simply rote and in vain…as empty as praying to some gold lacquered statue.

So let’s answer the question – why are our prayers answered?

The Burden of Life – Melancthon

Instead of just a prayer sheet this week – I included two short excerpts about prayer. The first is by someone that Luther was a father figure for, the deacon Phillip Melancthon.  Asked why we should pray when we don’t want to… he responded with 9 reasons.  Look at number II. 

II. The great and manifold need by which we are burdened in this penitentiary of the world, and which we cannot sufficiently understand or comprehend by thinking, must less guard against or avert by our effort, should properly move us to pray even all by itself.

In simpler language – we need to pray because this life isn’t easy, and it can overwhelm us all to easily.   Whether it is the challenge of our sin and the struggle to overcome temptation, or the effects of others sin, or the brokenness of the world and even the church, prayer is what will make the difference, what helps us get through the day.

Melancthon is right – we are burdened in this world, and there are times where prayer is barely able to be said, never mind can we grasp what we are saying.  This isn’t something new, it isn’t something we are the first generations to encounter this.  Remember what St Paul said to the early believers in Rome/

26  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our (pregnant) condition, and keeps us present before God. 28  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

It is often in such desperate times we remember to pray… yet would we pray sooner if we understood why prayer is answered? 


The Blessing of Presence

If we pray only in such oppressive times, we do because we hope someone will hear us. Maybe we realize it can’t hurt, or we vaguely remember a promise that God has made.  Melancthon mentions this as well,.

 
IV. Very sweet divine promises draw and incite us, namely that God the Father embraces us with such great love in Christ His Son, that He regards it as pleasing and acceptable if we approach and address Him with our prayers, and He has promised to incline His ears and hear us.

I love this point – and how clearly it is seen in the Lord’s prayer, as God promises to take care of our physical needs (like providing bread) and spiritual needs – helping us with knowing we are forgiven, helping us forgive, dealing with temptation and protecting us from evil.

I love the verses that follow the prayer – those that cause us to think of how we love our kids and our grandkids.  They compare the Creator of the Universe to us – to help us realize our love for them is but a small example of His love for us.  If we want the best things – imagine the “best things” that He has planned and created for us!

But if reason number IV, is true, then look at number V.

V. Likewise, that our mediator, Christ, has bound Himself with the firm promise that He would be present when we pray (Mt 18:20) and as our advocate and High Priest Himself bring our supplications to the Father, and intercede for us, and ask the Father together with us.

Remember Matthew 18:20 (TEV) 20  For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”

Jesus has promised to be here – where we pray, the Father has promised to answer our prayers.  Not because of some incantation or form, or because we are holier than the people praying down the street, or on the other side of the world.

He answers our prayers because He loves us, because He is here, because we are His.

So Let Prayer Arise from within

On the prayer list, along with the quote from Melancthon, is a description of a type of prayer and devotion that is indeed ancient.  It is called Lectio Divina.  The quote is from one of Chris’ mentors.  The man who is the reason he is the Rev. Dr. Chris Gillette.  It’s a great way of doing devotions – one Luther used as well.  Look at the part I underlined:

Let the word touch your heart (prayer, Oratio). In Oratio, the Word of God goes deeper into the self and becomes the prayer of the heart. In this prayer, open your heart so that his light may enter. The goal is like that of St. Augustine, who cried, “O God, our hearts are made for thee, and they shall be restless until they rest in thee.” There emerges within the heart a holy desire, a longing for the text, the Word of God, to be concretized in reality.

Enter into contemplation (Contemplatio). Contemplatio shifts praying the Scripture into a new language (silence). This silence does not ask us to do anything, it is a call to being. Thomas Merton says, “The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not.17

This concept is especially true, as we work through the Lord’s prayer, or even the Old Testament account where Abraham learned to pray for those who were lost.  As we know these words, they well up within us, they become part of our life, because God makes them live in us, even as He quickens life in us.

The words ingrain is us these promises – they cause us to desire to pray even more.  They bring the words to life in us, when nothing else brings comfort – a message from God.  When thought through… they cause us to realize this important thing..

Why does God answer our prayers…

Because He is our father… because He loves us… because He is with us….

Use His name, not in vain my brothers and sisters…but as He encourages us to, to talk to Him –  to know Him as our Father… to know His love and mercy…for us.

AMEN!

English: Lectio Divina Português: Leitura Oran...

English: Lectio Divina Português: Leitura Orante ou Lectio Divina Latina: Lectio Divina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


17 Thomas Merton, Seeds, ed. Robert Inchausti (Boston: Shambhala, 2002).

Some wise words to encourage us to pray


As I was preparing for my message this week – I came across these words… some of which will be in my sermon.  Even though the language is a bit rough to work through… think through them – especially II, IV, V, VI and VII.

297    Mention Some Reasons that Should Stir and Move Us to Pray When We are Otherwise Slow and Lax.

Text of "Our Father" prayer with Tri...

Text of “Our Father” prayer with Trinity in central column (God the Father, dove of the Holy Spirit, Jesus) and Biblical and symbolic scenes in left and right columns. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since nearly all of us are by nature cold and slow to pray, it is very helpful and necessary to know such reasons and have them ready at hand; when we consider and meditate on them, the Holy Spirit stirs up and kindles zeal for prayer in us.

I. Since it is the will and command of God that we pray, as we have shown above from Scripture. Neglecting and ceasing to pray devoutly is therefore no light sin.

II. The great and manifold need by which we are burdened in this penitentiary of the world, and which we cannot sufficiently understand or comprehend by thinking, must less guard against or avert by our effort, should properly move us to pray even all by itself.

III. Also the boundless benefit and very abundant fruit of devout prayers should invite us. For spiritual good things are not obtained from God except by prayers (Lk 11:13). And temporal things are not good for us, unless they are sanctified by prayer (1 Ti 4:4–5). So also St. James describes at length the effect of devout prayer (Ja 5:15–18).

IV. Very sweet divine promises draw and incite us, namely that God the Father embraces us with such great love in Christ His Son, that He regards it as pleasing and acceptable if we approach and address Him with our prayers, and He has promised to incline His ears and hear us.

V. Likewise, that our mediator, Christ, has bound Himself with the firm promise that He would be present when we pray (Mt 18:20) and as our advocate and High Priest Himself bring our supplications to the Father, and intercede for us, and ask the Father together with us.

VI. Also that the Holy Spirit of God, as the Spirit of prayer, would kindle zeal for prayer, and devotion, in us, so that we cry in Him: Abba, Father (Gl 4:6). Indeed, He intercedes for us with unutterable sighs (Ro 8:26). They therefore sorely grieve that Spirit of prayer for whom prayers are not [a matter] for concern or for the heart.

VII. Since prayer is common to all members of Christ, who call upon one Father in heaven, whom we therefore call “our” [Father]. Therefore he that does not pray thereby severs and separates himself from Christ the head and from the members of His body, which is the church, or communion of saints. And God Himself regards and holds those as Gentiles, who do not call upon His name (Ps 79:6; Jer 10:25).

VIII. Since the practice of prayer is truly a training for all piety and a most useful exercise of all of Christianity, e.g., of repentance, faith, patience, comfort, hope, etc. For the Holy Spirit nourishes, preserves, and increases these gifts in us through persistence in prayer, just as, on the other hand, by ceasing them [i.e., prayers] those gifts are gradually diminished and finally disappear altogether.

IX. Where the exercise of prayer grows cold and is neglected, there the door and windows are open to the devil for all kinds of temptations (Mt 26:41; Lk 22:40).[1]


[1] Chemnitz, M., & Poellot, L. (1999). Ministry, word, and sacraments: an enchiridion (electronic ed., pp. 141–142). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

When All Seems Meaningless….


 6  And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, two of the spies, tore their clothes in sorrow 7  and said to the people, “The land we explored is an excellent land. 8  If the LORD is pleased with us, he will take us there and give us that rich and fertile land. 9  Do not rebel against the LORD and don’t be afraid of the people who live there. We will conquer them easily. The LORD is with us and has defeated the gods who protected them; so don’t be afraid.” 10  The whole community was threatening to stone them to death, but suddenly the people saw the dazzling light of the LORD’S presence appear over the Tent. Numbers 14:6-10 (TEV)

“To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for saints. May your perseverance not be a blind consequence of the first impulse, the effect of inertia; may it be a reflective perseverance.”  (1)

It was once said that “life is suffering”.  Another wise man, wrote that all is vanity, it is all meaningless.  While both were significantly wiser than I, I know the feeling after a week among church leaders in my denomination.  It may only be my thinking, but we spent several million dollars on a convention that did nothing, but remanded more things to study, and ignored the issues we all wanted to work through.  Even if we would have come to the table with extremely divergent ideas.

Add to that 12 hours days, some people I dearly care for going through tremendous trauma, some really meaningless and almost incomprehensible theology reading for a class I am taking and a long flight and time change, and as I sit to write my blog and then my sermon,

It is far too easy to be like Israel, approaching the promise land and wondering – why go on?  Why keep pushing through this “stuff” (insert any term relating to digestive system end product) and fighting the system?  Why not just go back to places like Eqypt, as the Israelites wanted to, where at least the pain and suffering where known and you could brace yourself for them?  Why push through to a land of promise that we will have to fight to enter?  Even as we realize the threat isn’t external, but internal?

Why go on?

As I read the account this morning from scripture, I am reminded why I preach, and the message that I will share tomorrow, and indeed the entire service is gear to a fact that is far too often overlooked.

The LORD is with us and has defeated the gods who protected them; so don’t be afraid.” 

All our false gods, all our struggles, all the sin that would so easily ensnare us has already been defeated.  God has won the battle, He has overcome.  His promises are to that extent, if we can remember to hear them.

THe people there, ready to take out their angst on others, ready to through it in and abandon their mission, give up on the course God sent for them needed to remember this simple thing – “The Lord is with us!”  That changes everything.

The look to the place where God put His name, where He promised He would be for them… and He was there.  His promises, His presence, His glory shown as He was where He promised He would be, in the midst of His people.  As He has been, ever since.

That is why gathering together, as the Body of Christ is so critical.  We need our Calebs, our Joshuas, those who lead us to remind us of this… to drag our eyes to look to Him, not to the past where we were comfortable, but even to embrace the journey and battle we have until we reach the “promised land”, that place where we will finally see Him face to face, the place were others will find themselves because Jesus was there for them, even as we are there for them.  The strength to persevere is indeed there for saints… because He is with us, and He is our perseverance.

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan (il...

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan (illustration by Gustave Doré) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Go with God this day… and know that He is the reason you have hope!

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2286-2288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Divine Appointments


 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearerHebrews 10:23-25 (TEV)

973    Those words whispered at the proper time in the ear of your wavering friend; that helpful conversation you manage to start at the right moment; the ready advice that improves his studies; and the discreet indiscretion by which you open for him unsuspected horizons for his zeal—all that is the “apostolate of friendship.” (1)

I often think of the passage from Hebrews above as one talking about our church gatherings- our worship services, our Bible Studies.
But this week, as those services cause me to struggle – I also think about it as the meals I have shared with others at this convention.  The young teacher from Canada, the pastor’s wife from Detroit, the breakfasts with those from my district.

Those have been the benefot of being here. as some have helped me in my struggles – as others I’ve been able to help.  They weren’t the reason I came – yet…. they are the reason I am here.

As you go through this day – realize God has set your calendar full of people you are to encourage, people you are to gather with, meet with, invest the time God has given you… and rejoice – where you are gathered with them…. God is there as well.

Cry out together, “Lord, have mercy…” and sit back and watch as He reveals the wonders of His love!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2253-2255). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What’s in you?


 14  Then Jesus called the crowd to him once more and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15  There is nothing that goes into you from the outside which can make you ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of you that makes you unclean.”  Mark 7:14-15 (TEV)

It is necessary that you be a “man of God,” a man of interior life, a man of prayer and of sacrifice. Your apostolate must be the overflow of your life “within.”  (1)

In the last couple of days, I have heard a lot of people talking about the threats to Christianity, and indeed to Christians.  I’ve heard talk of teaching pastors to defend the faith ( using a very misguided translation of St Peter’s words about being ready to give the reason for the hope we have).  It’s as if these challenges to a Christian could possibly remove their faith, or break them.

That attitude is not unlike the attitude of the Pharisees in Mark 7.  They spent all the time working on the outside appearance of their faith. They want it to appear perfect, with no cracks, no gaps, not even with the slightest hint of guilt.  Except of course, we are all dirty, and whether we want to admit it or not – we are all weak and broken and needing to be cleansed – from the inside out, not the outside in.

The outside isn’t our threat – the inside is.

But just like that – it is not the inside that is the source of our holiness, even though we are called to a pure interior life.  It’s not something we can do on our own, but it is something that is done to us.   Hear the prophetic words of Ezekiel,

 25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you! Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

This is what it is all about – this interior life that St. Josemaria speaks of so clearly.  It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is the promise of His incarnation in us – as we are united to His death and resurrection.  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit – dwelling in us, and the communion that occurs.  That is the spring of a life from which no longer comes that which perverts us, but proof of God’s work in us – the fount of holiness.

So look within – not to see your own internal clock – not to see your own desires – but to see the love of the One who desires that you are transformed, repentant, made alive… and works in you……

and find that His mission, HIs apostolate – that even as the Father sent Jesus – so we are sent – to bring life and a walk with God to those he died to save.!

Lord Have mercy on us!

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2226-2228). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The View from The Back


 7  He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. 8  “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9  and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. 10  Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. 11  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.Luke 14:7-11 (NAB)

949    To aspire to positions of responsibility in any apostolic undertaking is a useless thing in this life and a danger for the next. If it’s what God wants, you’ll be called. And then you ought to accept. But don’t forget that wherever you are, you can and you must sanctify yourself, for that is why you are there. (1)

One of my favorite apologetic works, The Hitchhilker’s Guide to the Galaxy, talks about the leadership in a rather unique way.  Simply put, the one who is best to lead is the one who desires it the least, and even abhors it, but takes it on because of necessity. 

It’s one thing to want to be the leader in elementary school or even the class president in high school, or the captain of a team.  It is far different to lead a company, or for that matter, to lead a congregation or a church body.  It is a task that no one should want, for the pains, and experiences can shatter a man’s faith.   And they often do.

But there is something else that can grow in such a crucible, a level of faith and dependence upon God that goes beyond the security we seek.  An assurance of the presence of God’s comfort, of God’s love, and of His presence.    An accepting of the task, a determination to go the distance.  Not confident of our own abilities or strengths, but simply confident of the fact that we aren’t leading, He is.  THat is what holiness, sanctification is truly about.  Not about pious appearance,,, but about walking with Christ.

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-centur...

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai. NB – slightly cut down – for full size see here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is then we are ready to undertake such a role….

Thanks to all who lead…. in Christ.  ANd may those who lead btw own strength, find the courage and strength to let the Paraclete lift them, turn them and guide and support them as they follow God.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2201-2204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do You Read the Scripture? As the Authority, or as a Pilgrim?


Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

105 Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path.Psalm 119:105 (TEV) 

“You are badly disposed if you listen to the word of God with a critical spirit.”  ( #943 -The Way, St. Josemaria Escriva)

The juxtapostion of the course I am taking andmy denomination’s convention(held every three years) is causing me much thought about how we view scripture and indeed what we believe and how we communicate it.

In both cases, what is being heard and read seems to indicate we think interpretation of scripture and communicating it gives us some authority over it. In the case of the textbooks, there is a not so subtle projection of doubt, and a definite attitude that we are the authority, not the text.  I have experienced a similar thing as we begin this convention, where people speaking have locked in their mind what they think the scriptures mean – (as well as the Lutheran Confessions)  And if you challenge their assumptions, well let’s just say there is a lot of loyalty to the assumptions.
Again, we find ourselves as the judge – and our interpretation ( or that handed to us) as being the final statement, the final judgment.

I would suggest instead, that we return to the point where God’s word is that which we use as the norm and standard.That we know it so well, and hold it in such esteem, that we do love this communique from our God – and we allow the Spirit to use it to stir up faith within us.   For it is His revelation of His love, of His plan, of Himself to us, to bond us to Him.

May we read it, may we hear it and consume it, knowing that God has given the word to usas a precious gift.

For it shares with us the answer to our plea: Lord Have Mercy!

and His answer is….  I AM.

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