Monthly Archives: January 2014

The World is my Monastery, the World is my Cross…


Devotional Thought of the Day:

It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed1 Peter 2:21-24 (TEV)

785      If we join our own little things, those insignificant or big difficulties of ours, to the great sufferings of Our Lord, the Victim (He is the only Victim!), their value will increase. They will become a treasure, and then we will take up the Cross of Christ gladly and with style. And then every suffering will soon be overcome: nobody, nothing at all, will be able to take away our peace and our joy. (1)

Yesterday I wrote of the challenge of making the world my monastery, a place where even amidst the chaos, the anxiety, the pains and sufferings, I found the refuge, the rest, the sanctuary I need.  That the things I would do in solitude, writing music, reading and writing, could be replaced with people-craft, watching God work in the lives of those around me, even as perhaps He would accomplish some of that work through a poor tool like me.

It is funny – among those who liked the blog were a man that appears – by dress to be a Budhist monk, and another whose penname leads me to believe that though they like the idea, they don’t understand how I see this happening.  Specifically, the world can only be my monastery when it intuitively is lived in Christ Jesus. When I am following His steps, not from a distance but in jounreying with Him, Being carried in Him, depending on Him, Jesus Christ who was crificied for our sins.

Not just some ethereal form of community with all things, Not just in being one with nature, nor some primeval thought.  But being with Jesus, the One in and through whom all things were created, and who redeems us by bearing our guilt, our iniquity. A person, a presence, a life, lived in and with us.  Given to us, not just so we could be better people – but that we too would be considered God’s most incredible work – as God redeems us, re-creates us, shows us that we walk with Him.

It happens to su when we take up our cross – when we realize that God is in charge, and we trust in His promises that all will work for good for those who love Him. When we see our entire lives wrapped up in Him and we are joined to His cross, to His work.

It is hard to explain, because it is intuitive.  But to know His presence, to know Him. Deeper than we know anything else.  For to know Him is to know love and mercy and joy, and peace.  Know not as in data, but as in living with Him.

Then our cross, is our monastery, is our life…now and  is in Him. 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2808-2811). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The World is My… monastery?


Devotional thought of the day:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Philippians 2:14-16 (TEV) 

738 I will never share the opinion—though I respect it—of those who separate prayer from active life, as if they were incompatible. We children of God have to be contemplatives: people who, in the midst of the din of the throng, know how to find silence of soul in a lasting conversation with Our Lord, people who know how to look at him as they look at a Father, as they look at a Friend, whom they love madly.  (1)

One of my favorite writers in David Morrell, who weaves tales of intrigue which happen to include a lot of soul searching.  Often his heroes flirt with monasticism and the need for sanctuary and refuge.In one of my favorite stories, he starts in a monastery, located in one of my favorite places in the world – the mountainous forests of New England.  The monks live separately from each other, in three room cells – a work room, a bedroom, and a small prayer room in between.  Part of me craves that kind of life, only to come out of my cell for worship and communal prayer.

My work room would be musical and a library, my time spent writing, and dare I dream, composing music on guitar. Solitude, peace, quiet, .  If you know me well, you are porbably thinking that I would never stand it, the extrovert I am would be driven nuts in a place like that.  No electronics, no interaction with others?  Are you really kidding Dustin?

No, I would fill the time with music and plunging the depths of writers that it takes that kind of solitude to comprehend.  Pascal, Chesterton, Luther, Augustine, the Shepherd of Hermas, Douglas Adams.  ( I could keep going…)  To just play my guitar without thought of time, but focusing on playing to God.

I would love it – even as I realize it would take a week or two to get used to it.  Our need for refuge, for sanctuary seems to be growing exponentially, even as we face information overload, even as our lives become complicated by gadget, even controlled by them.  Even as communciation and agendas and pressures overwhelm and confuse us.

Unfortunately, that is not my reality.  It is not my call. I live in the “real” world.  And I thrive in helping people – especially helping them know God’s love.

So the question becomes… can I make the world my monastery?  Can i live life in such a way that it is my monastic workroom?  Where I invest myself, as I would in music, or in reading/comprehending, but with people?  Can I see these things as sacred and holy as spending time on my knees.  I am not like Luther, who saw little value in monstacism, I see a great benefit to the monastic lifestyle – but can we live our lives with such intent, with the peace that is found in such sanctuaries in the real world? Can we live, shining like stars, reflecting the glory and love of God in the midst of the darkness, the chaos, the stress?

That is one of the reason I would love to sit down with Josemaria, for 40 and 50 years ago, he seemed to be able to accomplish this.  Surely he had his struggles, he freely admitted them in his writings.  But somehow, from many different accounts, he was able to see the world as one complete work of God – that it was in the midst of the anxiety and stress where we shine brightest, where we can find the stillness of the soul, and the presence of God.

The world is my monastery?  Yeah – it is, when I am in coversation with God while in the middle of it all.

It is my sanctuary – when I realize I live in Him in it.

God’s peace is with us….an amazing, undescribable peace…. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2671-2675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Can We Love Those Trapped in Darkness?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

 19  So I gave orders for the city gates to be shut at the beginning of every Sabbath, as soon as evening began to fall, and not to be opened again until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my men at the gates to make sure that nothing was brought into the city on the Sabbath. 20  Once or twice merchants who sold all kinds of goods spent Friday night outside the city walls. 21  I warned them, “It’s no use waiting out there for morning to come. If you try this again, I’ll use force on you.” From then on they did not come back on the Sabbath. 22  I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to go and guard the gates to make sure that the Sabbath was kept holy. Remember me, O God, for this also, and spare me because of your great love.Nehemiah 13:19-22 (TEV)

Every single day, do what you can to know God better, to get acquainted with him, to fall more in love with him each moment, and to think of nothing but of his Love and his glory. You will carry out this plan, my child, if you never, for any reason whatever, give up your times of prayer, your presence of God, with the aspirations and spiritual communions that set you on fire, your unhurried Holy Mass, and your work, finished off well for him. (1)

Through the darkness of sin, Your love reached out to me! The cost of it all, You bore there on that tree! For nothing could stop You declaring us Clean!  Conquered sin, Rose again, now eternail You reign, and so we praise you!   (2)

Yesterday I wrote about the church Militant, that Christian soldiers aren’t marching off to war with sinners, but to liberate those who are oppressed and in bondage to sin.  That are so caught in darkness, that they sturggle to hold on to it, for that is all they know. We mistake that struggle, far too often, as an attack on us.  It is so like the classic lifeguard interaction with a drowning person.  The drowning person strikes out in desperation, and if the lifeguard isn’t careful, the drowning person will take them both under. It takes skill and patience and wisdom to save someone who is drowning.  To know when and where to move, but also to know that these hits are not an attack – but even more a sign of their desperation.

As the lifeguard is sent to save the drowning preson, so too we are sent by Christ to bring His love, His mercy, His peace to those who need to be freed from sin.  To those whose darkness needs to be shattered.by the light of Christ.  They to thrash and strike out – and far too often, we respond, not with the patience and care to save them, but as if they are spoiling for a fight – and we are ready.  We take their struggle to survive – which they cannot on their own – as an attack on Jesus, or the church or us.

In the meantime, they are dying… the people we’ve been sent to bring salvation to, the people we’ve been sent to reflect Christ’s glory and love to…..

You might be wondering what this all has to do with the reading from scripture, from the book of Nehemiah.  And with St. Josemaria’s words.

Call it a lesson in Life-guarding, a lesson in how to deal with those who we think are attacking us, but are really floundering in life. For if we “go to battle” them, what will happen is that we will founder as well.  We will take our eyes off of salvation if we go to battle.

When what we need to see instead, is these people the way the God does – the way oen who would save them and bring them life abundant does, the way the One who died because He loved them does.

That my friends, can only happen, the more time we speand rejoicing in His presence, the more time we realize we live in Him, and He is us. The more we are transformed into His image (see 2 Cor. 3:16)  Then we see His heart – the depth of His love for us – and we will begin to realize that “us” is more than just ourselves – and our friends at church – but us is all people – all ethnicities, all languages, and.. eventually – even those that are out there – itting away at those who would try to bring them back to life, back to standing on solid ground, back into the presence of God.

Where they belong.

Where we would stand against that which would keep people from God, that which would rob them of their time, resting in His presence.  That’s one of the roles of the Levites – the servant priests of God.  To try to guard the precious time people have with God.  That they can know Him more and more – that they can just enjoy His presence, His love, that they can celebrate His mercy, His healing.  The more we, those who minister, those who serve and shepherd, see what happens as our people do this, the more we treasure its impact on them, and the more we realize how this opens their hearts up to seek and save the lost – by brining Christ’s love to them.

How can we love those struggling in darkness, thrashing about, even appearing to attack us?  By realizing how much God loves and desires to cleanse us all, and make us His children.  That’s how we learn to love sinners, trapped in darkness… by learning how Jesus loves us… even there and then as well.

Lord, Have mercy on us, and teach us to show that mercy to all….

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2667-2671). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Lyrics by Rev. Mike Rayson and Dt Parker…

Church “Militant” I don’t think that word means what you think it means….


Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 12  For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12 (NJB)

18  So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. 19  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’  Matthew 16:18-19 (NJB) 

 1  For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the past humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so the future will glorify the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, the territory of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death light has blazed forth.  Isaiah 9:1-2 (NJB)

Onward Christian Soldiers, marching off to war…. with the cross of Jesus, going on before…  

This morning, there are people crying for the church to wake up, to take up the challenges thrown before it this weekend, to reclaim lost territory as the forces posed against the church have attacked Christianity by once again trying to distort one of it mosts sacred symbols, marriage.  I’ve read concepts that this is the worst attack yet, that the evil people need to be stopped that we have to draw the line here, and reclaim what is ours by right, or else all will be lost. They urge the church to become the church militant… I can hear pipe organs warming up to lead the great anthems that will lead us into this great crusade to come..

And the words of that great philosopher Inigo Montoya come to mind.  “Church ;’Militant’  You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

When I see people talking about the church with military like speech, it is not a church locked in a life or death struggle with the Satan and his minions in the world.  It is not a struggle to keep what is ours, our culture, our rights, our dominant place in society, defining the norms and behaviors in our society.  That’s never been the proper battle arena in the church.   And those who “fight us”, aren’t fighting us, anymore than a blind man with two teaspoons could fight a Navy Seal unit. They can’t – they are locked in darkness, and they have absolutely no clue about who God is.

Luther says it well,
For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

We are talking about people we believe cannot know about God’s love yet, so why do we take offense at their attacking a god they perceive as un-loving?  Worse – why do we defend that God, rather than giving them an explanation for the God we know – the God that invaded our darkness, that showed us love? When we fall into this battle they want, we end up doing exactly what we aren’t supposed to be doing.  We are making them believe that it is a code of behaviors that matters, that we don’t care about their eternal soul as much as we care that they meet our behavorial standards.

And so the church militant is confused with a type of group that wages war on sinners, rather than does what its supposed to do – delivering them from oppression.  Bringing them healing and restoration from the damage caused by sin – their sin, the sin of the world, and yes our sin as well. Delivering them into the presence of God, where that healing begins.  Delivering them their, by living alongside them, for God dwells with us.

That’s the mission of the Church Militant, even as it was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, who John tells us – came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.  May as we live in the midst of this oppressed, broken, sinful world, reflect that glory, a reflection that continues to invade darkness, and see God set at liberty all that are oppressed.

AMEN.

Rejoice! For God is in Charge! (and a pastor parker parable)


Rejoice!  God is in Charge!

Matt 4:12-25

 In Jesus Name

May the grace and mercy of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that the Kingdom of God is here… and that He’s made you to fish for men!

The Kingdom of God is like…

Another one of Pastor Parker’s Parables this morning.  

“The Kingdom of God is Like Starting Your Very First Job.”

For me, it was as dishwasher at the restaurant at the Salem Inn.  Four to Eleven three nights a week, Four to Twelve Fridays and Saturdays, plus sometimes banquets on Saturdays and Sundays.  Two dollars and eighty-five cents an hour,, plus a dollar or two if the waitresses were busy and I delivered room service for them.

I remember the first day, the cool industrial dishwasher (I thought I would be doing it by hand!) the noise and bustle, the ancient 45 year old chef, the sweetness of the waitresses and the speed at which they could turn into Medusa, if their orders were delayed.

I remember getting yelled at a bit, and working so hard to try and keep up with the flood of dirty plates, silverware, coffee mugs, taking out the trash, and the absolute fear when in front of the manager I accidently dropped a plate….

Fear and joy, frustration and terror, determination to do a good job and keep ahead of the game, and yet… why was I always the last person in the restaurant to get my job done?  Why was I the guy to shut off the lights?

As we are going about our lives, and hear the call of Jesus to follow Him, to be transformed for the Kingdom of God is here… our heart might race like it is the first day on the job.

For while we are excited to be there, we don’t quite comprehend what we are called to do.  The difference is that we can “Rejoice! God IS in Charge!”

I’ll screw up!

If you can remember your first job, and the first day there, do you remember that absolute fear that you would screw up?  That you would do something that would see you fired halfway through your first shift?

Slowly but surely you built up confidence, or if not on that job, the next one. We eventually learn that in every job, every person makes mistakes.  Those who are successful are the ones who don’t let the fear of mistakes paralyze them, but take responsibility, correct them, learn from them and keep going.

We struggle with that though, this idea that we are imperfect, we are anxious that we will somehow screw-up – and we either become paralyzed, or a self-fulfilling prophesy.  The same with sinning.  We think that this sin or that sin is the end of the world, and like a young dishwasher hiding the broken plates in the walk-in until he can take them out in the trash… we think we can hide it, cover it up, or even ignore it.

Most of us I bet have experienced the moment where the errors we made at work are found, where our “accidents” that we thought were buried are revealed, usually before everyone to see.  I wonder sometimes if that is what slows down our commitment to seek and save the lost?  What if we screw up here, what of we overlook something there?

Is that what happens to us, when Jesus says, come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people?  Many similarities to that first day of work!

Do we freeze like we are on the first day of work?  Do we fear making mistakes, or when we make them, do we fear it is all over? We’ve heard God’s call – for most of us, we’ve heard this passage, or the one’s like it in the other gospels more times than we can count.  We know that we are called to be the light to the world, that we aren’t to hide the light we reflect from Christ….

Yet we find ourselves as nervous as a 15 year old..in fear of being chewed out by an old chef.

The Blessings of the Kingdom

I’ll remind you that the parable is that “the Kingdom of God is like starting your first job”, and the title is “Rejoice, the Lord is in Charge!”

Later in my career in food service, I learned that most good managers planned for the learning opportunities that occurred when their people messed up.  They never told them they were expecting them to screw up, but they were, and would be there to help them learn.  Because most of us learn better from mistakes than from carefully laid down errors.

God is no different, at least according to Luther, who writes:

for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself.” (Large Catechism Apostles Creed, Article 3)

When Jesus says, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people,” He is doing it with the same wisdom He uttered the “Repent of your sins for the Kingdom of God is at hand”  He knows what He is doing when He calls, and He has called each one of us to serve alongside Him.

He’s called us, to repent and be baptized, and now to work beside Him in fishing for people, people who need to be caught up in His net, as He calls them to His people.

And yes, He knows that as we go to work for Him, He will have opportunities to teach us, because we will make a mistake or twenty – but never a mistake He will not use for good.  He’s given us Himself, not just as a guarantee of our salvation, but as a guarantee our work with Him will be a blessing.

He’ll craft you into fishers of men…

You see – the calls of Jesus in this passage aren’t two different calls – a call to repentance – that transformation that comes to us in Baptism and a call to mission that only some will hear.  The call to mission – to come walk with Christ is the same call – and it explains it a little clearer – we join Jesus on a fishing trip that lasts our lives – even as it did His.

It’s the same call, the same transformation, the same walking with Christ as He cleanses and heals us, as He works through us to bring that healing to others.

That’s the point of the pastor parker parable – we find ourselves in this Kingdom of God – our first real “work” in life.  For nothing else we’ve done, or we will do matches the work we do at God’s call.  For His work is done in every other part of lives, our vocations as parents and children, our vocations where they pay us, our vocations in our community, and in the world.

Never forget though, what we are made for, what we are made to be, is the recipients of His love, to be the redeemed and Holy people of God, who catches us, and turns us into His children – the fishers of people.

As we do this, as we God’s graced pull them in, cleanse them, make them His children, we are reminded of what He’s done for us, and knowing that, we rejoice, and know His presence..   AMEN?

The Pastor/Watchman’s tears and the Heart of Christ…


Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  After seven days the LORD gave me a message. He said, 17  “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18  If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 19  If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. 20  “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 21  But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.” Ezekiel 3:16-21 (NLT) 

673      We can never attribute to ourselves the power of Jesus who is passing by amongst us. Our Lord is passing by: and he transforms souls when we come close to him with one heart, one feeling, one desire: to be good Christians. But it is he who does it: not you nor I. It is Christ who is passing by! And then he stays in our hearts—in yours and in mine!—and in our tabernacles. Jesus is passing by, and Jesus comes to stay. He stays in you, in each one of you, and in me. (1)

674      Our Lord wants to make us coredeemers with him. That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders. He could have produced bread from anything… but he doesn’t! He looks for human cooperation: he needs a child, a boy, a few pieces of bread and some fish. He needs you and me: and he is God! This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace. (1)

I heard something the other day, that unnerved me.  A pastor told one of his members that he didn’t have the gift of compassion. That it wasn’t his calling to care about people.  Part of me wishes I could be so callous, part of me knows that I would be wrecked if I was, i would simply shut down.

The reason I wish I could be so callous is that it hurts to watch those who are entrusted to our care fakk into judgment, to walk away from the love of God that would heal the bruises they don’t want to admit they have.  It is not like having a part of you, ripped from your body, and watching it slowly rot before your eyes.   I guess you could be callous and realize your body has other parts, that it will survive, that you could ignore the pain. While we can’t brutally force them to stay, we can’t let them go without tears, without praying that somehow they would listen, they would hear – not our voice- but the voice of God. And when they walk away, we should weep, not for the failed efforts, but for their souls, for that which they will endure until like the prodigal, they come home.

I’ve known a few of these tears recenlty – know many in the past.

That is the price of being co-redeemers with Christ, about being the child who brings a couple of fish and some loaves. About being Peter, who grew from his own failure to be God’s voice, to be Dorcas, the Lady who loved and served. Yes, some of us get the “upfront” jobs Others work behind the scenes, others are there when all the chips are down. Yet it is God in all, working through all .  It is Christ’s call our to people that we utter, in sermons and in coffee shops covernsations, by bedsides and in Bible Studies.

We have compassion, because He has compassion – it is He that desires to be there for them, through us. There is no option – we must learn to care as He cares.  To be there, to bring His love and mercy and healing, things that come from being in a relationship with Him.  There in peace, and security, for when we and they, hear the word of the watchman, we find our refuge, our keep, our fortress…. is Jesus.  The One who is passing by… and taking us with Him.

So cry hard for those who have not really heard.. but pray even more for them, for the Father desires their homecoming, and Christ is going to go to them…

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2475-2484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Christianity and Lessons from the Blacklist!


Devotioal Thought of the Day:

 15  I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. 16  Since what I do is what I don’t want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. 17  So I am not really the one who does this thing; rather it is the sin that lives in me. 18  I know that good does not live in me—that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. 19  I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. 20  If I do what I don’t want to do, this means that I am no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the sin that lives in me. 21  So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. 22  My inner being delights in the law of God. 23  But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24  What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25  Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God’s law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin.   Romans 7:15-25 (TEV)

Liz: You’re a monster.
Red: Yes.
Liz: How can you live with that?
Red: By saving your life. (1)

With my schedule, I don’t get to watch television much, except when I am home sick, or occaisonally something dvr’d.

One of my favorites used to be Boston Legal – wihich surprised me, because I didn’t like any of the primary actors in it.  But I was amazed with the brilliance of how they worked together, and how the writers strived to find ways to take the broken charachters and send them hunting, often blindly for some sort of reconciliation, some sort of justice they found, despite themselves.  Have to admit, I became impressed with James Spader’s characterization.  Enough so, that when the Blacklist came about – I wanted to see it – just to see if he could be a truly evil charachter.

Have to admit – it is the only television show I really watch these days, usually a couple of days later, and always fascinated with the depth of depravity and yet, a quest for some kind of vindication.

There is a blunt acknowledgement of evil, a confession that is there, unaware that there is grace.  There is in each primary character – a questioning of the soul.  You see it in Liz, as she struggles with the evil of each case, and the questions about her husband.  You see it in Red, as he tries to help Liz, but also as he has his moments of solitude, (of course he goes and decides to do what he knows is wrong thereafter) you see it in the director, and in the partner.

There is an acknowledgement of our sinful selves, and attempts made to justify themseives by doing something good or noble or perfectly just.  Except they realize, as we do, that the harder we try, the more likely we fail.

That’s perhaps what I like about the show – it strips us, not from the idea that we are not sinners, but from the idea we can justify ourselves. That we can explain away our own shortcomings, our own falures, our own tendency to sin.  But it needs to go beyond that.

Luther wrote,

For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself.  (2)

Red sees his own redemption in saving the life of another.  I don’t think he means just her physical life either, but the emotional and spiritual life that can be lost in their line of work.  (remember what he did before he went rogue)  Perhaps by ridding the world with more efficiently of the truly evil, he can help her save her life. He wants to be her savior, her Christ, Even so, he cannot.

Luther sees it differently, noting that God is the one who can do, and has done, what Red so longs to do.  He did come – and take on evil, personally as Christ carriest all our sin to the cross.  That’s what Paul is talking about as well – who can rescue us from the despair of living in the presence of Evil?  Only Christ.

Maybe we don’t see ourselves as the people on the balcklist – people beyond hope.  Maybe were the Liz, losing her naivete about the world, about mankind with every episode.  Maybe we’re Red, hoping beyond hpoe that we can save the next generation from turning into us.

What we need in each case – is to cry out to Jesus, the One who can save us, and has already provided all the means for our salvaiton, and more importantly, to leave anxiety over walking in evil behind, as we walk with Him.

We cry, “Lord, Have Mercy”  and know, and trust.. He has.

(1)   http://www.tvfanatic.com/quotes/shows/the-blacklist/page-4.html#sthash.HSTHtX83.dpuf

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

Dare We Pastors/Priests say “imitate me as I imitate Christ?”


Devotional Discussion thought of the day:

As he was walking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast into the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. 19  And he said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.’ 20  And at once they left their nets and followed himMatthew 4:18-20 (NJB) 

 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

AN ABYSS SEPARATES the priest from the religious functionary; they are qualitatively different. Sadly, however, the priest can be slowly transformed, little by little, into a religious functionary. When that happens, the priesthood ceases to be a bridge, and the priest is no longer a pontifex, a builder of bridges; he ends up simply having a function to perform. He ceases to be a mediator and becomes simply an intermediary. No one chooses to be a priest; it is Jesus Christ who does the choosing. Priestly existence remains true to itself only when it draws deeply on direct encounter with Jesus Christ. The priest must seek the Lord and let himself be sought in return; he must encounter the Lord and allow himself to be encountered in turn. All of this goes together; it is inseparable. (1)

In dicsussion with those I mentor, as we study the scriptures togather, we often talk (okay every week) about the relationship that God desires us to have with Him.  To walk with Him, to understand His presence in our lives is not just something that is theoritical of philosophical, but real.

It is what we have to communicate – this relationship that is not idyllic,romanticized Thomas Kikaide version where everything is happy and perfect.  Rather it is a relationship where we know His love enough that we are confident to argue with God, to question Him, to ask Him to silence our doubts, our fears  An honest, open relationship where we encounter Jesus in the life we live, letting Him minister to us, heal us.  As we do, we find ourselves being remade – crafted into fishers of men, even as our Lord fished for us.

Functionaries don’t fish for men. Pastors and priests do,it becomes why we exist, our greatest moments.  Whether it is baptising a 90 plus year old, or an infant,  It can be seeing one of the people we disciple in the faith having a AHA!!! moment, or joining us among the ordained.  And make no mistake, while we disciple some much more deeply, we are making disciples of all whom hear or read our words.

When they point to Christ, when they draw people into that relationship – even as we were drawn into it. That is when we can say imitate me as I imitate Christ.  Because we see Him as clearly as we see them.  Knowing Him, being in a relatiosnhip where we follow Him, where we seek Him and now we are sought, that is where we find ourselves not demanding that people imitate us, but begging them to imitate us where we imitate Christ.

For it is there were life is,…. a life we’ve come to know… and which we want them to know as well.

Lord, Have Mercy we cry… hoping to help them cry it as well!

(1)Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (Kindle Locations 266-271). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

Through You I Will Shine!


Through You I Will Shine

Isaiah 49:1-7

† In Jesus Name

 As you dwell in the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize that His glory shines through you, doing far more for His Kingdom than you could ever imagine!

Who is this servant who brings God glory?

As we hear this call from Isaiah to pay attention, to hear his words, written to us from distant lands and who are far far away, we need to ask the question.

Hear part of it again, starting in verse 3,

“He said to me, “You are my servant Israel, and you will bring Me glory”

So here is the question – who is it that is saying this?

Who is God’s servant, who will bring God the Father glory?  Who is it that God says to, “through you I will shine?”
The Sunday School answer is Jesus, some scholars would says the nation of Israel, others might indicate it is Paul, and missionaries and people who want to see the church grow may say it is…us.

Yet, who is this servant whom through God says “you will bring me glory”, or as I titled the sermon – “through you I will shine?”

I think we need to dig through more of the passage in order to find out.

What about this feeling of uselessness?  Is that Jesus or Us?

If we are going to find this person or persons out, let’s look at the next sentence:

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

That’s a proper response to realizing that God chose us from before our mother’s gave birth to us?  That is the response to realizing God knew our name – even then?

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

I think this would put many of us in contention for who this passage is about.  We know God’s called us, we know He knows our name.  Yet there are days where we wonder if our efforts to be faithful are working.  When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, where we have spent ourselves, exhausted ourselves in our efforts to build His kingdom, or some days, our efforts just to endure.

So is this passage about us then?

If it is, then can we finish the verse?

Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”

The real struggle in life isn’t enduring those times, but in leaving things in God’s hands, in trusting Him to make the situation be what He promised, when He promised that all things work for good for those who love Him, whom He called according to His will. When we look around us and wonder, why aren’t things reflecting the love of God, why does not it look like we are blessed by God?

Here is the catch, while we may know these feelings at times, they are also true for Jesus.  Think of the words he uttered in tears looking over Jerusalem,

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Luke 13:34 (NLT)

Later He would say,

Luke 19:41-44 (NLT) 41  But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42  “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.

Just in case we in our pride think Jesus only felt this way about Old Testament Israel, read the letters to the church in Revelation, for there we see God’s call to Christians like us, who struggle to realize they are His.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus knew these questions as well, for He was tempted in every point, just as we are. Yet He was able to commit Himself into the Father’s hands

So is He the servant through whom God will shine?  Or are we?

The final “qualification”

If we go down to verse 6, there is another point to consider; that will help us determine whether this servant is us, or Jesus, or someone else.

6  He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Surely this points to our Lord, it is the very concept we sing of in the Nunc Dimitis, those words of Simeon when he saw the infant Jesus. For his ministry was seen to be just to the Jews, to restore them, that they would be readily identified as the people of God.  His ministry went beyond that, reaching out even to us, 2000 years later, in a far distant land, the land that Isaiah calls to listen, and pay attention!

I do not think it is only about Jesus though.  In our Bible Study, we’ll see Paul used the same language about Paul’s call into ministry, and about others. I would include, ABOUT US!  The people of Concordia, the people that God gathers here in the this place.

Even with this last qualification, there is a strong point to be made – that we are part of this….

The realization of the Gospel

To make my point, I will refer back to last Sunday’s sermon on Romans 6.  In the call and response we re-learned I said something – based on Paul’s understanding of our being united to Christ in Baptism….let’s see how good your memory is….

The call was, Alleluia!  His is Risen!  To my saying that, the new response is…

( “therefore WE are risen indeed!  Alleluia )

It is critical to understand the gospel, to learn to place it all in the Lord’s hands, to trust in God for the reward, that we are that united to Christ’s death and resurrection.  We need to realize that we find life in Him, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us that God has called by name, those whom He recognizes as His people.  (even if we do not yet)

So this passage is about Jesus – but because it is about Jesus, it is about us as well!  We can learn to leave everything in His hands, and trust in Him that it will be made right.  We can see that He has called us, knowing us and forming us in our mother’s wombs, and that our words can bring people to know that they are righteous in the sight of God, for that is His judgment for those who know Him.

Our strength isn’t spent for nothing and no purpose, our work isn’t useless.

The answer to that attitude is found not in trying different things, or working the old things harder.  Instead, its found in realizing that we are in Christ.

Even to the phrase that our ministry is not just found here, among the people we love.  Rather God uses us, our words, our work, to reach people throughout the world, and will continue to do so.  For what Paul said in our epistle reading this morning, to the church in Corinth.  Look there in your bulletin, for the verses are highlighted,

I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

And let’s start at verse 7 for the second one..

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 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.

For there, in partnership, in communion with Christ, we find who we’ve been called to be, the children of God. For there in Christ we know that God will shine through us!  That we will reflect His glory, and dwell in Him.

Knowing that, we find a peace that passes all understanding, which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!  AMEN?

One Last Thought About Ministry and “Spinning our Wheels”


Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

13  “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘What have we said about you?’ 14  You have said, ‘It’s useless to serve God. What’s the use of doing what he says or of trying to show the LORD Almighty that we are sorry for what we have done? 15  As we see it, proud people are the ones who are happy. Evil people not only prosper, but they test God’s patience with their evil deeds and get away with it.’ ” 16  Then the people who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the LORD and respected him. 17  “They will be my people,” says the LORD Almighty. “On the day when I act, they will be my very own. I will be merciful to them as parents are merciful to the children who serve them.  Malachi 3:13-17 (TEV) 

 “The apostle has no aim other than letting God work, making himself available.”  (1)

“It is by God’s grace that our feet don’t lose contact with the path we are set out to follow.  We say, “here I am, Lord” when He calls.  He calls continually to the willing, and the unwilling.  It is not so much our ability He has need of, but our availability.  (2)

I started a number of blogs this week, questioning the validity of our feelings, when they question the results of our ministries and our very lives.  When we wonder if the effort is worth it, when we wonder if we are just spinning our wheels. As I looked at the “hit count”, and the responses to these posts, the results were staggering – a lot of people read these posts.  I am not sure whether I should be sad at this being so common, or relieved that I am not alone.

But as I’ve written each day, there is a faith issue involved, as well as one of discernment.  It is really easy, as in the Malachi passage to look at this world and see people getting “blessed” for doing good, and those who struggle, not being blessed, at least from our view.  Do we see those people who know God is with them and therefore make incredible sacrifices to serve being pointed out as great examples of faith, or those whose political machinations earning them praise?

Do we trust that God is here, listening, acting, being part of our lives as He has promised over and over and over to His people?

Oh how easy it is to question God, or the more “mature” version (since we know we can’t do that) our questioning our own results, the benefit of “our” ministry.

When we trust in God, yes, we rejoice in the the hard times. But we also rejoice in the times of rest, the times where we need to realize God is at work, and that the present trying times are not an indication of His faithfulness to us, nor of His love.  We simply make ourselves available, keeping our eyes focused on Him, or remembeing His work in us in our baptism – and rejoicing.  Of remembering His invitation to come and dine with Him, to do this knowing His work, His love, His presence.  Of seeing His unmatched love for us.

As we do – our focus comes off of us, we stop evaluating things by our standards, our expectations, and realize that He is at work in us.

And that.. simply is glorious.

To reveal the work that happens, that God makes profitable within His will and His desire.

To realize the ways He wants to walk with us may seem different – but then again – He is with us…….

Cry out in those times, Lord Have Mercy, and wait and listen, and know He already has…

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2454-2455). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Northumbrian Community, Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper One  p. 313

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