Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Purpose of Christian Education & Catechesis

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:

1  So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. 2  Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. 3  When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. 4  A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. 5  An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. 6  It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. 7  Think it over. God will make it all plain. 8  Fix this picture firmly in your mind: Jesus, descended from the line of David, raised from the dead. It’s what you’ve heard from me all along.  2 Timothy 2:1-8 (MSG) 

9  As you are going through life, disciple people of every ethnicity, of every nation.  Do this by uniting them to Christ in baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to treasure everything I have commissioned life to be.. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28:19-20  (my own paraphrase)

14 “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.  (1)

I was asked the other day, what I thought Christian Education is about.

I thought for a moment, and replied that it is about discipleship.  About teaching people what they need to know about Jesus Christ. 

It can’t just be about getting them to memorize scriptures, or creeds, or even Luther’s catechism.  For memorization often is simply being able to regurgitate on command.  This isn’t about imparting facts and forms, about lessons of history and systematic theology.  Discipling them, teaching them is far more.  It is helping them know Christ, and His word.  Knowing personally the Lord who cares for them, even tot he point of dying for them.  it’s not about bringing forth stuff we’ve memorized but don’t get, it is about seeing the Spirit at work in our lives, pouring out of us to affect the lives of others by bringing them to the cross.

But there is a part of Christian Education and discipleship that is often overlooked – the bringing up of people to take on teaching and preaching, to replace us as we get older, or are called to other places. To pass on what we know of Jesus, His love, His mercy, and especially His faithfulness.  men who will respond with this message as it resonates in them to others. Men who will sacrifice what is needed, to focus on the ministry (reminder – we are called to do that as well)  St. Josemaria talks of this as well, for some we train will serve God as clergy, but many more will serve him from their places of work, reaching people we cannot reach, reaching people we will not reach. For that is our ministry in discipling other, seeing them gathered into Christ, united to him, then reaching out to gather others in form their lives.

There is something special in this as well, as we gather men and women together in Christ, as we see them grow and minister to others in return.  Such is an incredible blessing it is, when we see men that a congregation raises up to minister start to serve. But we need many more such servants, deacons and pastors, Sunday School Teachers, Bible Study leaders, who invest in others the time, so that they might know Jesus, so tht they might walk with Him, So that they may go throughout all the world, in their workplaces, in their schools, in the doctor’s offices and walmarts, That they may go into the inner cities and rural areas, To every corner, bringing and revealing Christ – for such has been invested in them.

That’s what Christian Education is about,

So shall we engage in it?

Lord have mercy… we must!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Midweek Lent III Treasuring God’s Gifts is Helping other s See God’s Blessings

Treasuring God’s GiftsMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

Means We Help Others See God’s Blessings

Exodus 20:15, Eph. 2:10, Luke 10:25-28

† IHS †

As we experience the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, may we grow in appreciating how He has gifted us all, and grow in stewardship of all of His blessings!

 

The Expert’s question

 

I would have loved, in preparing for this sermon, to walk around a bunch of churches on a Sunday, with a television camera and ask people the question the lawyer poses to Jesus.

Sort of like the street interviews, Jay Leno does.  He goes onto the street and he asks people what seems to be the simplest of questions, and their answers are… well there is a reason that they end up on late night television.  Thinking about last week’s message about not damaging people’s reputations, and about putting the best construction on everything, let’s just say they weren’t ready to be on camera with a legend. They were so overwhelmed, that they did not think clearly.

The young expert in religious law asks Jesus a simple question, “what must I do to inherit enteral life.”  Curious to know what so many would say these days, simply because people aren’t all that sure.

Jesus puts the question back to him, and the young man answers very wisely.

Love God completely, love my neighbor the same way I love myself.

Not rocket science, this young man gets the answer right.  He sums up the entire decalog, the 10 commandments, very simply.

Love God completely, love my neighbor the same way I love myself.

Give the man credit, he knows what it takes, but the very next phrase he will ask what this love looks like, when he asks,

Who is neighbor?  And what does this love look like?

In these days of lent, as we go backwards through the ten commandments, we see the same commands, the same structure.  We are looking at it differently, in view of the very first words,  I am your God, who rescued you…. Therefore… from your neighbor,  tonight’s phrase,

You shall not steal!

Do this, Jesus says, and you shall live!

We might think it’s easy, but is it?

What it means to “not steal” in Luther’s view

Luther didn’t think so, for stealing can be done both actively, and passively. Here how he explained it:

We must fear and love God, so that we will neither take our neighbor’s money or property, nor acquire it by fraud or by selling him poorly made products, but will help him improve and protect his property and career.

Wait this makes it sound like we are supposed to be our brother’s, (or sister’s) keeper. The truth of the matter is, we aren’t and yet we are.

If we define being our brother or sister’s keeper as we have the authority to boss them around, to condemn their works, to rule over them with an iron fist, we do not.  If we think that being their keeper means we get some material benefit from them, no, we do not.

Being our brother’s keeper means we have responsibility, responsibility to help them, even as we would need help.  Helping them to know God’s love, helping them to see what God has blessed them with, and helping them to enjoy it, even at our own cost. Helping them to see that God is the source of every blessing they have, material, physical, spiritual.

Helping them not waste what God has blessed them with, when we are able.

How it reveals our trust in God

 

We continue to see that this life that God has designed, that He has called us to live, that He has described in the Ten Commandments, is one that is impossible on our own.  Without God, we revert back into self-preservation, and eventually into self-centeredness.

It takes faith, confidence in the very wisdom of God, and in His love for all of us, to find the love we need to share with others.  To realize that God’s plan, that how he provides for each and every one of us.

To trust in His love, in His wisdom.

That kind of trust is a challenge!  We have realize it was the same wisdom that drove Christ to the cross, That He loved us, more than He loved His own life. That is why we trust!

Jesus, the Lord who saw us tossing away our greatest blessing, and did what it took to help us value it, to help us keep it.

The blessing of being the Father’s great masterpiece.  He not only kept us from letting something go to waste, He rescued God’s great work…saving what the Father cherishes.

Us.  The people of God, His very children.

Nothing can steal us from God, because of Jesus.  Nothing can separate us from Him, because of Jesus.  Because of His love for the Father, because of His love for us.  Jesus showed that love to the Father, while showing it to us.  Both summaries of the law, fulfilled.

The more we see this, the more we understanding the depth of His love, the more we can’t stand to see others waste the blessings God has given to them. Whether or not they realize that God has given them this blessing, whether they even realize that God exists.
That’s the nature of God’s love, the deeper we explore it, the more we are immersed in it, that we appreciate and are in awe of all He does.

The more we want others to see all the blessings He pours out on them, and thereby see the depth of His love even more clearly.

In seeing it, they know the peace we’ve come to know, the peace that living in God’s peace brings.  AMEN?

 

Not Separating That Which Goes Together: God & Religion, Faith & Works, Justification & Sanctification

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

17  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18  Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20  How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17-20 (NLT)

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

11         I am copying this example of cowardice from a letter so that you will not imitate it: “I am certainly very grateful to you for keeping me in mind, because I need many prayers. But I would also be grateful if, when you ask Our Lord to make me an ‘apostle’, you would not insist on asking him to make me surrender my freedom.” (1)

This morning as I was looking on Facebook while waiting for the shower, I saw another “meme” that thought you could separate God and religion.  It had the usual accolades, the usual slams.  Comments about religion not being loving, that religion causes wars, that it is hypocritical, and so on.  Not one of those comments defined “religion”, not one of them quoted scripture.  But they universally condemned religion.

I guess they find caring for widows and orphans, and not bringing yourself down by involving yourself in sin, something that is very negative.  Though I expect that it is more the latter issue, than the former.  That and the people who are a bit insistent that others follow God’s commands, without teaching first of His grace.

Religion is putting into practice the love of God in our lives.  It is understanding His love is what gives us the Two Great Commandments, the Decalogue (aka the Ten Commandments), the Beatitudes. the directions given in the Epistles.  Living those out, isn’t possible without the presence of God, with His love and mercy, with understanding that He desires what is best for us.

Dividing God from what He considers to be pure and genuine religion, is the same as dividing faith and works.  Even though it is trusting in God (faith) that saves us, James (and Hebrews, and Paul and Jesus ) is clear. A person who trusts in God will live a different life from those who do not.  A religious life.  As will those whose first thoughts are to praise Him for His work in their lives, a work that becomes theirs.  Yet there are people out there who says we don’t have to follow God’s plans for our lives.  That they are outdated, that they are too restrictive, that they don’t make sense.

And they call for a relationship with Him, where what we do should be right in our eyes, not His.  It’s still a religion folks, it is just that the deity we are in a relationship with, has been replaced.  It is now us that rule, and God who does our bidding.

There is one last “break-up” that goes with the first two.  I use theological terms for it, Justification and Sanctification.  But I could easily use other theological terms, conversion/forgiveness and abiding in Christ/transformation/repentance.  In each case we divorce salvation, God delivering us from our brokenness (sin) and healing/restoring us to what should come naturally.  We make excuses, we blame others, we basically determine that we can’t live any better, that we can’t struggle with sin, and so we don’t.

And we toss God’s way of life out the window.

During lent, we take a breath, and see the need for God to put back together the lives we shattered, our own, and those we’ve had a hand in breaking. Not that we shouldn’t do this year round, but taking 7 weeks here, helps a lot.  We see that religion – God’s plan, does have a purpose in our lives, it is a way of life we can abide in with Him. That we can know and show mercy, love, forgiveness, that we can redeem that which was tossed aside, that we are called and chosen to do this very thing.

That we can get off our own pedestal, that we can stop playing God, and that we can know His peace.

AMEN

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 282-285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Is Enough… Enough!?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols and the sacrifice of innocents, but reborn to host the worship of God, to celebrate Christ's sacrifice  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

38  “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ 39  Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40  If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41  And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42  No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. 43  “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer,  Matthew 5:38-44 (MSG)

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 3  He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 5  The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 6  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 7  The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8  The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.   Psalm 121:1-8 (NLT)

“Here am I Lord,  I’ve come to do Your will, Here am I Lord, In Your presence, I am still” (1) 

5 “Meditate on this slowly: I am asked for very little compared to how much I am being given.”  (2)

It is, I know personally, a struggle to deal with some people.

I witnessed it in the past few days, as several people I know were offended (not at the same time), and found myself extremely frustrated by the way I was treated. It literally took me a couple of hours, and some distraction to deal with my own frustration.  No, let me be honest, it wasn’t just frustration, there was some anger that was beginning to settle in and take residence in my heart.

The first reading, especially the italicized part, came to mind in the shower this morning.  Except in the older translations sense, this is the passage about “turning the other cheek”.  But I think Peterson does a good job in getting the heart of the matter.  I’ve heard a lot of people “explain” this passage, trying to get out of what we are called to do, trying to justify their own anger, or resentment.  We try to justify our thirst for revenge by saying we want to stop them from doing this to others. Or that Jesus couldn’t have had what this person did…

Skip past the second passage for a moment, it was part of my devotions this morning, as were the two short extra-biblical readings.  Look at them.

From the Celtic Prayer Book, we find the idea that serving God sometimes means standing still.  Psalm 46 comes to mind, but that to is written amidst a storm, against threats.  Written by one who was no stranger to war, and yet must trust God to deliver the stillness, to deliver the victory!  What a challenge when you know how to treat those who oppress and attack us.  Can I be still in those times?  Confident in God’s presence and His strength and His desire to work in my life?

Even as I read that, the next part of my devotions include this little passage by St. Josemaria.  And I think that I have done far worse to Jesus, and perhaps to others, than was said to me.   I think of the others I know, that I observed getting offended, Yeah – we, the offended, the oppressed are not innocent of similar offenses, we don’t have the right to cast the first stone, for the One who would crush us, died for us instead. That puts things into better perspective, as I realize how blessed we are, how the times we’ve offended people were paid for, as Christ proved the depth of God’s love for us by coming and living among us, by dying, by rising, by ascending and He still is there, at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us.

His ministry to us, through us, isn’t over, until the last sinner/saint has come home.

That is where the second reading, my psalm of the day comes into this discussion.  Do I trust God at these words? Do I know my help is coming from on high?  Do I realize that He doesn’t sleep, Do I realize that what happens to me will work out for good somehow, for this is His promise.  The promise of the crucified Lord.  The promise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

In the words of a man who needed to know God’s deliverance….

Yes, I believe, Lord help me believe.

A form of a heart depth’s cry for the Lord’s compassion…. and the hope, the expectation that we will know it.  AMEN

 

(1)  Meditations for day 17, Celtic Daily Prayer 

(2)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 261-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The One Who Journeyed for a Promise!

What Child Is This?SAMSUNG

The One Who Journeyed for a Promise!

Genesis 12:1-9

In Jesus Name

 

May you realize how the grace of God our Father, the mercy, love and peace revealed to us as we are united to Christ, may you realize how it sustains you on this journey.

 Journeys…..

I wonder if there were children among Abraham’s people, if during the journey from UR to Bethel, he heard the ever present phrases emanating from the back of the caravan….

“Are we there yet?”

“Fr. Abraham, cousin Michael is hitting me!”

“Honey, is there a bathroom ahead of us soon?  I didn’t have to go at the last Oasis, but now…”

During the journey, there must have been times when Abraham raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Yahweh, you said this journey would be worth it….well – when does it get to be worth it?”

And about that time, someone gets sick…..or there is a flat tire or someone wonders whether the driver is lost, or…or..

Journeys do not always go as we plan.  Sometimes they are fun, sometimes not so much.  Especially when we forget why we are on the journey, when we forget our destiny.

Ultimately, that is what it is all about…knowing your destiny, and knowing that you aren’t alone on the journey….

Abraham’s Journey

So let’s look at Abraham’s journey first.  Imagine the conversations he had with his father, his family and friends.

You are going where?

Who is this God again?  How does He speak with you?  How are you going to manage there, no friends, no help?  Imagine the questions that Sarah had, and Lot.

It’s not easy to pick up everything and go to a destination you don’t know much about, to not even know when you are there!  Take my word for it, Kay and I have done this once or twice….

One of the things about Abraham’s life, that fascinates me, is trust in God, when he had no idea of the depth of the plan. The plan was revealed slowly, and the fulfilment of it was always off in the distance.  Eventually the promise would be seen fulfilled – but how many years?  He knew his descendants would spend time in captivity.  He struggled with how an old man would have heirs.  Like us, he sinned often, doing things like giving into his fears, and letting his wife be taken by a king.  He wrestled with God over the fate of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, He moved here and there, never really settling in one place in the Promised Land.   He may not have known hardly any of the points in the journey, but he had a promise, and he knew well the Lord who promised him.

CLICK  There is one thing he did, (well besides sinning) that we see here.  He set up places where he could worship, places set aside to interact with God.  Places to pray, places where Abraham could call on the name of the Lord the passage tells us.

It was a regular part of his life, even before the church, even before the Temple and the tabernacle.  Even as his life wasn’t easy, even as he was betrayed and hurt by his nephew, even though he would face small wars… there was a constant.

God’s presence, interaction with God.  What we call a relationship, or abiding with Christ.

A relationship where Abraham knew God well enough to trust Him at His word, and to call upon God often. God was part of his life, that’s why Abraham could trust Him.

Even when the trusting in God meant a long hard journey, with a bare visible promise.
Christ’s Journey

We are in Lent, a time to consider Christ’s journey, to understand our need for Him to take that journey, and to wonder at a love so complete for us.

His journey was different.  He wasn’t able to take his wealth, or a wife, or anything.  He came as a babe, the babe we were singing about 3 months back, asking what child was this.

He probably the only one who chose to go on a long, long journey?

Definitely, He was the only one who took a journey knowing that a destination on the journey was death.  A hard, bitterly cruel death, on a wicked, torturous cross,

He knew the promise. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when he was inspired to write.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

He endured it, he endured the journey, because the cross wasn’t His final destination point.  It was simply a place where He did what the Father wanted, a midpoint, a place to take care of things, and put everything to right. 

The joy was the destination, not even the resurrection, but 40 days later, as He ascended to the Father.  He obeyed, like Abraham finding the strength through prayer, through interaction with the Father.  Knowing that the cross wasn’t the end of the promise, but a waypoint. A part of the journey, but not the end.

His focus was what was the promise.  The Promise.  The Same Promise given to Adam and Eve, and to Abraham, and to Judah, and David, to Isaiah and Jeremiah.  His journey was the beginning of the promise.  Hear Hebrews again,

39  Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. 40  God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. Hebrews 11:39-40 (MSG)

His journey was a “there and back again” journey. He had a pick-up to make. That pick-up – are those who would join Him in the journey.  Those who would find life in Him, and start their journey, even as we have.

Our Journey

Back to that quote from Hebrews.  The one that talked of Jesus’ focus on the destination the end of the final leg of journey that we call the Ascension.  Hebrews tells us:

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.   Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

You see His journey was to come and get us, and return us to the Father’s presence.  That’s the promise of Abraham’s journey, that every nation would be blessed because of Jesus, the seed of Abraham (his descendant see Mt. 1)

His journey and the promise is about our journey!  His destination is ours!

Ours may seem more like Abraham’s at times, and that’s because it is, and well, isn’t.  It is because we will sin, and struggle, there will be times of war, and times where others walk away to places like Sodom (Hopefully we don’t forget to rescue them when needed, and intercede and wrestle with God for them as well!)

There will be times where we wonder – “why aren’t we there yet?” and times where we might get lost for the moment.  We may still sin and struggle, we may still not find a permanent home, for the destination is still some way off.

The promise is still the promise – we can keep our eyes on Jesus, our champion, the one who brings us into a relationship where we grow in trusting God, in hearing His voice.

For that is where we can be most like Abraham, as we establish our times and places to hear God, to praise Him, to let Him nourish and strengthen Him, even as we look to the promise of His presence.

For He will never leave us or forsake us.

That too is His promise, on this journey of life.

What Child is this?  The One who undertook a journey to come and take us on the journey of our lives… the one where the destination is found where we abide in the Father’s glory, the journey where Jesus Christ will guard our hearts and minds, for the journey is taken in His peace… amen?

 

Is There a Time to Be Numb?

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The church seems to be always threatened and challenged by storms…yet… He is here.. and He is its Fortress and rest

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  4  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.     Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 (NLT) 

 9  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong   2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

829 The thought of what has happened to you burns within you. Christ came to you when you were only a miserable leper! Until then, you had developed only one good quality, a generous concern for others. After that encounter you were given the grace to see Jesus in them, you fell in love with him, and now you love him in them…  (1)

I sit here in my office, wondering how I will finish my sermon tomorrow.

It doesn’t help that the above passage from Ecclesiastes ran through my heart over and over in the early hours of this day.
It doesn’t help that yesterday I ended up grieving three different times, as I interacted with two friends who are suffering, and then wasn’t really able to interact with another close friend, whose husband, a pastor who has sacrificed much, passed away suddenly.

There is time, a season for everything, and it seems I’ve been in the midst of a season of trauma since September.

It’s to the point where I wonder if there are any more tears, even as they flow.  It’s where I hesitate with phone calls, relaxing when I see it’s my pharmacy that is telling me my refills are ready.

I wonder to myself, if there is a time to simply be numb……to be so drained that there is nothing left, just a soul that seems empty….

Then I look at the clock and realize, I’ve a sermon for which I have to compose the final manuscript, a congregational meeting to prepare for, a son who waits for me to take him to see Hobbit II in 3d in just 5 and a half hours…Time to kick into high gear…. even as the engine seems to cough and sputter.

Keith Green’s “my Eyes are Dry” comes on my rhapsody player… perfect song for a day like this….

What can be done for old heart like mine…. soften it up with oil and wine, the oil is You!  Your Spirit of Love, please wash me anew, in the wine of your Blood.

It’s what I need to hear, this song will get a lot of play today.  For there is nothing I can do, to find the strength I need today.  It’s going to have to be Him, if it is to be anything at all, if there is to be letter on the screen, if there are going to be words to hear tomorrow… He will have to be the strength I don’t have, for the trauma isn’t being removed.  The pain I’ve witnesses will be in places tomorrow, even distant places. How to speak to it?  How to show them the journey of History, of Abraham, of Jesus, is about God being here, in these times of numbness, or trauma.

For if I am numb, then He can minister to me, a sort of enforced rest, a time to just let God be God.  To slowly arise out of it in awe. To realize the depth of His love, His care for these friends of mine is far more than I can have – but He shall surely show it.  And Jesus shall indeed comfort my friends, my dear friends.  As He will me. Whether Keith realizes it or not, that last line, the wine of His Blood will have so much to do with it.  As we receive His Body and Blood, as we realize once again that we are united with His death, and His resurrection, as we remember the height of His love, and its breadth and width, and that its depth can reach us.

And once again, I realize I don’t have to play God… that He dwells in these friends of mine, and that God will be there for them. Even as He ministers through all of us, in our weakness….

The odd thing is that as I realize this, the numbness begins to recede… it’s time to work….

But may I never forget He is God… and I am not…and that its His work…not mine.

(oh and here is Keith Green’s song  – if you aren’t familiar with him, He passed away when I was in high school – but his music still nails me to the cross…. which is good!)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3408-3412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Midweek Lent II: Treasuring God’s Gifts Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

Treasuring God’s Giftsconcordia lutheran button only logo (1) - Copy

Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

 † In Jesus Name †

 

As we realize the mercy, peace and love of God our Father, that crafts the life we have in Christ, may we rejoice in the gifts that life helps us realize are ours!

 

Commands, or sub-clauses?

I said last week that I am coming to see the 10 Commandments, what is known as the Decalogue, more and more as the Old Testament’s Beatitudes.  The Blessed are they whose lives are described in the words that many of us have memorized.

In a way, it is a matter of hearing, even as it is with the Beatittudes.  We hear them as commands, as a list of characteristics we must developed in ourselves.  What English instructors and Greek professors call “imperatives”

If they were, I think we are in more trouble than we think we are, for how many of us can keep these commandments 24/7/365-366?  If we see these as simple commands – do this or you are going to be zapped, we are in deep trouble.

I hate to sound like an English teacher, but if these are instead  sub-clauses (and they are), it is based on the original statement.

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you….. and therefore…

This is how you live.
This is the masterpiece, this is ….His masterpiece.  The one we read together earlier.

10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
The problem of false witness/gossip
These words, these phrases, that we know so well, take on deeper meaning when we realize they describe how we look as God’s masterpiece, and that sinnings is simply robbing ourselves and God of this masterpiece, smearing the masterpiece, like someone throwing a bucket of pain over a priceless painting, or graffiting a incredible statue.  It mars the image, it obscures the masterpiece that is there for all to see, to testifying of God’s wisdom, His glory, His creative power in our lives.

This week, the phrase we read, from Deuteronomy concerns bearing false witness, testify, talking about someone in a way that wrecks their reputation.  It’s not just about telling lies about them, but as Luther taught,

“we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

In the Large cathecism, Luther even reveals that it is not just spreading lies about them, but it can be spreading the truth, if our reason is false – that is, if we spread the truth, because we think it will damage their reputation.

Why?  Where is God’s wisdom in this?

If we begin, even about a person we truly detest, to think bad about them, to gossip about, to assume that what they do is with devious or evil intent, that begins to affect our own character.  It spreads an grows, like an unchecked infection, throughout our lives.

It wrecks our relationships with others, it puts us on the defensive, it robs us of compassion,  and steals us of the ability to love them, as Christ loved us.

That spreads and spreads, and it even affects how people look at us, as they primarily hear us comment negatively about others.

We are all guilty of it, whether we want to admit it or not. We all have those we have trouble understanding, those we don’t want to see the best side of, to think of what they do in the best way.  Some are our enemies, some are those who lead, and some are just people whose actions affect our lives.  They are in far off places like Russia, or Washington D.C. or St. Louis, they might be our co-workers, or family, or they are might be here, in this very room.

Blessed are they, who do not testify falsely, whether in word or intent about others.

The challenge of Trusting God’s craftsmanship

Last we talked about the reason one could be content, rather than jealous had nothing to do with who had more than us, our even our unmet expectations. Rather, whether we talked about it being a matter of trusting God, about realizing that He in love, provides what we need.

The issues about gossip, slander, and trying to damage the reputation of others is the same issue.

If we trust that God is in charge, if we have faith in His Lordship, and that He will deliver us from evil, we must believe He desires to rescue them from evil as well.  That He desires to make their life a masterpiece along with ours.  We see them, not as a drain on society, but someone who either knows God’s love, or needs to know it.  We hear Joseph’s words,

“What you meant for evil, God used for good,” and we know it is about all of us.  That all of us are forgiven, blessed, cleansed, and our actions, no matter what they were, or what our intent was, God will use for good, for those whom He loves, for He has called them by name.
How could we testify about their actions or intent harmfully, if we trust God will make it good?   As we look at them, and see them at the foot of the cross, the blood washing away their sin, as we realize our need to be there as well,

He desires to make our life a masterpiece, and occasionally, we can glimpse that He is doing this very thing.  We trust Him at His promise, the promise that we see here, in baptism, the promise we see here, at the altar….

We know He desires that for every one, and it is the same trust, the same faith we have in God, that leads us to treasure all those He has died to save…and as we realize His love for them… the love that grants repentance, the mercy that transforms, the more we know God will use them… and the more we find ourselves thinking of them in the best possible way – as God’s gifts

As we see them that way – as we love them as we love ourselves… we find ourselves in living in Christ, is peace.
Let us pray…..

 

 

Humanity’s Search for Meaning. Which Star Trek Captain, Princess Bride Character, Super Hero, MBTI Type are YOU?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

 20  But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! 21  My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. 22  Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, 23  a life renewed from the inside 24  and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:20-24 (MSG)

34    Don’t be afraid of the truth, even though the truth may mean your death.(1)

We take them mostly for fun, or so we tell ourselves.

In the last week, I found I am Captain Jeffrey Archer, Inigo Montoya, the Green Lantern, and that I am an Elf.

The personality quizzes are fun, and mostly I can live with the results. ( being labelled a unicorn though?)  But these “tests” are getting more and more popular,Especially, how do I say this nicely, among those who no longer fit the “college/career demographic (20-35ish.)

We post the results, looking for affirmation? Looking for comments that tell us it’s okay to be Data and not Patrick Stewart, that its okay to not be Harry Potter but to be Dumbledore, to be Gomer Pyle rather than Church Norris.  (But why did I get picked to be St Stephen, the first martyr?)

We long to know that people will accept us for who we are, for where we’ve ended up in life, that it is okay to be… us.  We long to know who we are even, for there are days, where our self esteem plummets, where our confidence drops, when we dream of re-defining ourselves, and we look for someone we admire, someone we could be life.  And how we answer the questions more often describes what we would like to be like, than who we really are.

The challenge is to remember that who we are isn’t determined by our personality, or our vocation, or even our successes and failures. That we are who we are being “okay” doesn’t depend on what others think of us (especially if they read the 8th commandment)  It doesn’t even truly depend on our own understanding and approval of who we are.  St Paul refers to this when he talks of our limited knowledge:

12  We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (MSG) 

St. Josemaria says that we don’t have to be afraid of the truth, even though it may mean our death.  In a way it does, for to know the truth about ourselves, we have to know that we have been untied with death, Christ’s death. (Romans 6:1-8, Titus, 3:3-8, Ezekiel 36:25ff)  For He is the truth, and it is united to Him, to His death and resurrection, that we begin to know our “true” identity.  The identity that God knows, the identity that He created us to have.  The identity that makes us more than our favorite hero (or villain) could ever be.

For you don’t just have the characteristics like a child of God, you have been created as one.  A creation that God promises is a Masterpiece.  One where we are judged by God to be righteous,

That is who you are….. who you really are.  A child of God, a friend of Christ, a masterpiece

No matter what those “tests” say.

Take His word on it!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 241-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rejocing During Lent? Inconcievable? Not at All!

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 25  Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26  And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27  David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment. 28  So all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres. 29  But as the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.   1 Chronicles 15:25-29 (NLT)

16  “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17  ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’   Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

Tonight my church will gather to celebrate the love of God.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say God will gather them, for that too is part of the celebration.

We are in the beginning days of Lent, just a week ago we celebrated Ash Wednesday, with a service that…could only be called a celebration. It wasn’t just that we had a much larger group than is our pattern. It was the idea that people gathered, and with reverent smiles  they were marked with ashes, knowing that this reminder of their sin, which grieves them, would be accompanied by another trip forward, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, proof that God wouldn’t leave them in ashes, that they would not be left in the dust.

That’s something to rejoice in, that’s something to celebrate, and even…like King David, dance over.

Yes, like Isiah, we are people who sturggle with sin, (and sometmies struggle is a strong word) , who live in a world that more and more rejoices in sin.  This is indeed something we should grieve over, it is something that we should never be callous about either.  Christ grieved and wept as He looked over Jeruslaem, the prophets wept as they reminded Isarel of what would be the consequences of their sin, especially their abandoning their relationship with God in order to choose idols of their own making.  Even so, Jesus went on to the cross, to do something about that grief, just as the prophets would foretell not just of doom and judgment, but of the glory of Christ incarnation, death and resurrection, and what it means.

So to, our journey of Lent, the remorse and grief we find as we review our lives, is tempered by the glory of God. The shear joy of realizing that we will soon be in Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday!  The joy of knowing that our grief has been dealt with, our expectation of God’s promises have been fulfilled. This is also a season of expectation, a season of hope that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!  How can we not be excited y the promise, and knowing it is fulfilled in Christ.

And so each service is a mini-lent to easter celebration, from the death of sin, to the resurrection to life in Christ, celebrated as we feast together at the altar (and on Wednesday nights, at the table)

Rejioce?  How can I not, when the glory of God is present, when His people are gathered together, when He gives us life and shares with us His mercy, His peace, His love?

As we walk through lent, even as the priests and David walked with God toward the Holy CIty, let us rejoice in His glory.  As well, may the light of His glory draw all to Him.

AMEN.

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishe(1rs. Kindle Edition.

They Ask, but Do They Want the Answer…..????

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day::Dawn at Concordia

25  In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NLT) 

14  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.       Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT) 

8    Serenity. Why lose your temper if by losing it you offend God, you trouble your neighbor, you give yourself a bad time … and in the end you have to set things aright, anyway?

Several times in the last week, people have asked for my professional opinion on things, or asked on behalf of a friend or family member.

Because they ask based on my “profession” my answer is bound to scripture, I can only speak where it is clear. I can’t deny scripture, but I also don’t have the authority to speak where scripture is silent.  I can’t guarantee something or give permission for something, and pretend that I have the authority of God behind me.  Why? The same for every pastor and priest.  We don’t have the authority on our own.

We can offer comfort, correction, advise, but even that is to be in line with God’s word. with what He has revealed to us.  If people want me to speculate, I suppose I could, but I have to know they will hear it that way. The very way the question is asked, leads me to believe it won’t happen.

We all oftne want to play God, or as I said Sunday, put on our Father in Heaven’s shoes.  We want to do what we want, to believe what seems right in our own eyes. We want God’s comfort, but not His correction.  We want His presence, but only if He can live with our standards, our expectations, our definitions of what is right and moral, and what is true.

Enter the pastor, the priest, and every other minister of the Christ. They who are tasked with speaking for HIm, pointing people to His peace, the peace that is tied to His mercy, forgiveness, compassion and the transformation that occurs in His presence.   You want to know God is with you as you deal with trauma, even the trauma of the valley of the shadow of death?  That we can do, we can point ot the cross.  You want to know that God will wipe away every tear, we’re there, showing you the passage in Revelation.  You want to know God will help you with temptation, and forgive you and pick you up, cleanse and heal you when you fail?  No problem.  That’s what we do.  That is what we are called to do, to give you real hope in real situations,  To point you not to some false comfort, but the God who is present.  To give you hope along with the comfort, but hope that is based in God’s word, not our speculation.  We will try to do it with all the care we have, even though that sometimes means we have to be blunt.

For us, we embrace the challenge of being there through your stages of grief, the stages of coping with any change.  Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  We’ll be there ( or we will try) pointing to the reason we have hope, the reasons we know God will keep His promises. The incredible ones that scripture speaks of, guaranteeing   Even when you walk away, ticked off at us, we’ll still try to be there… ready with the words, “the Lord is with you!” and ready to help you pray, “Lord, have mercy on me.”  knowing He has promised to be.

There is your answer, the one that lasts for an eternity…

 

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 182-183). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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