Monthly Archives: December 2014

God, please leave me alone!!! (and thank you Holy Spirit!)


Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5  Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” 6  It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. 7  They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8  Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Luke 5:4-8 (MSG)

574      You insist on trying to walk on your own, doing your own will, guided solely by your own judgement… And you can see for yourself that the fruit of this is fruitlessness. My child, if you don’t give up your own judgement, if you are proud, if you devote yourself to “your” apostolate, you will work all night—your whole life will be one long night—and at the end of it all the dawn will find you with your nets empty.  (1)

This morning I made it through my devotional time, without a thought that struck me hard.  I would think I was just going through the motions, but that is a poor excuse.  The reason I enjoy the time I spend in the scriptures, reading through the Book of Concord and Vatican II documents (my goal for this church year) and the writings of St Josemaria Escriva is because one of them reveals to me the presence and promises of God.

i do it so I don’t get into the practice of doing by just going through the motions.

I am in mourning this morning, and that has an effect on me, I am sure.  A very good friend from one of my previous congregations passed away, and it is hitting me all to hard. I haven’t seen him in a while, maybe two years…. and I miss him a lot.  This is on top of a very emotional week.  Two other friends in ICU, and pouring out in sermons on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday the miracle of Christ’s presence, and the desire of God to make us His holy children.

I feel a lot like Peter, as Jesus performs the miracle and fills his boat with abundance. Lord, I am tired, weary, not holy enough to be in your presence. Just leave me alone….. please…..

As I was finishing up with devotions, the very first point in The Forge, is the one quoted in brown above. I knew I had to write on it, and the event that inspired it, the scripture passage.

What I didn’t realize, even as I started writing, having copied and pasted both quotes, was how Peter’s request would affect me.  It is how I feel.

Lost
Full of remorse,
Tired
Hurting.bereaved

And yet, all around me, I see miracles, stuff God is doing, there is no other explanation for what is going on….

“Leave me alone, I can’t handle this holiness Lord!” This is Peter’s cry… but it is echoing over and over in my soul.

Even as I am writing this, another passage comes to mind….

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

I will hang on this this today, despite my wanting to find a cave like Elijah, or the spot David can’t find in Psalm 139, a place where God isn’t.  I need to know God doesn’t forsake or abandon us, He is there, a Father who keeps His promise, a Brother who gives His life for us, who bears our sorrows, and iniquities… (taking away our excuse to run because we aren’t holy) and the Holy Spirit, who brings comfort and peace, and takes our cries…and prays for what we really need……

The assurance of God’s presence, and love.

Lord Have Mercy….. and He does!  

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2137-2140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Justified Sinner’s Blog: 2014 in review – Thanks to all my readers! (and especially those who share my blog!_


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,700 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Restoration of Christmas… and the People of God


Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you Featured imagein his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, 18  as one sings at festivals. I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 19  Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you; I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts; I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration. 20  At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, When I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:17-20 (NAB)

Would it be a bad thing for the church to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to the spring. The tradition of Christmas and Christ’s birth could be seperate. Just a thought.” ( my friend Mark B. )

“When I hear the phrase Merry Christmas I think of decorated trees, presents and good food. Christ’s birth is the last thing that comes to mind.” ( also from Mark B )

A few days ago, one of my friends responded to one of my wild ideas about a sermon concept, as you see above. My basic idea, well – you can read the sermon, I posted it a little while ago.  ( Or listen to it on Itunes at Concordia Radio)

Mark has a very valid point. We’ve allowed Christmas and its traditions to be redefined.  To the point where celebrating Christmas is a completely separate idea from celebrating God’s invasion into our lives, as the baby laid in a manger, who would die on the cross.

I’ve seen this in the lament of some, as churches cancel midnight services/masses, once “the” service that all went to on Christmas Eve.  You see it in the multitude of Meme’s talking about keeping Christ in Christmas, and how to do so.  You see it in the willingness of people to beleive “modern” scholarship which will claim Jesus’ birth happened at some other point in the year, but the one day it couldn’t have happened was 12/25.

I think many would go along with Mark’s thought, out of frustration, out of a sense of hopelessness.  Let’s just start all over again!  Let’s just celebrate Christ-birth at some other point that on Christ-mas Day.

I asked Mark if I could share this, and what his vocation is.  He saw the connection, and agreed.

So here it goes.

Mark is in the furniture restoration business, so I am going to suggest we use some of his techniques in restoring Christmas, and then re-use the same concepts in restoring our congregations, our parishes, His Church.

1.  Vision
The first thing to know is that you don’t restore something based on your vision.  You didn’t create it, and as you begin to carefully work at it, the vision that has been muddled, covered over, damaged will be restored!

2.  Value
In restoring something, you have to be aware that it survived because it had value.  Maybe it is pragmatic, maybe it is artistic, maybe it is both.  If it was simply sentimental, it wouldn’t have survived and taken all the abuse, neglect and paint that it has.  (Example – having everyone over to feast…. there is something about gathering together to celebrate Christ’s birth hidden under all of it!)  Sure, it’s often about gluttony and to see which part of the family has bragging rights now… but once… it was to celebrate God’s faithfulness!

3.  Flexibility
Because the value and vision are often so muddled, so hidden, so broken, we may not perceive it accurately.  That’s okay, be willing to adapt to what is revealed.  After all, no Christian at baptism knows everything… we grow and mature.  So will the revelations as you see more and more what you do points to Jesus.
You also have to realize that what you thought was the valuable part, may be that which obscurs the most, and the part you originally were doing to toss aside.. is a critical component.

4.  Love

in order to have the patience, the ability to make this happen, you have to learn to love what you are restoring.  It’s the only way you will take the years and maybe a decade it take to see the job towards completion.  There will be interruptions, distractions, days of frustration, that’s okay.There might even be people who question, you wisdom, your integrity, your sanity – they do this to me all the time!

The goal is worth it – a beautiful restoration that is a double piece of work of art…..that of the Creator, and that where the Creator’s vision was once again visible to mankind… and the hopelessness became hope.

I said in the beginning that this works with churches and parishes as well with the simple idea of making Christmas about Christ’s coming to us.  The Mission and concepts are the same, and the goal is the same.  To preach Christ crucified, whom is our hope of Glory. It’s what we do here at my church, when Christmas Day was first 10-12 people, now is 50, (Our Christmas Eve services have also grown)  where once it was a bother, now people are excited to come.  It can happen

It is what God promised, look above at the scripture, dive deeply into those promises… and rejoice… for God is restoring you… that started that very first Christmas morning.

He is with us.  Immanuel.

Focus on that…. and all comes into place.

For no one does restoration work like God our Father!

(and if you need restoration work done on furniture – go talk to Mark at http://www.bausmanandfather.com/ or

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bausman-and-Father-Furniture-Refinishing-of-Huntington-Beach-Ca/321617409278?pnref=lhc

Crying Out Loud


Crying Out Loud

Featured imageGalatians 4:4-7

IHS

We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”

A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!

A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.

I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between.  People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.

I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.

How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?

Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.

For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.

Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….

For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer…  and in praise.

That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His  being Immanuel – God with us,

It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…

This What the Right Time is about!

When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.

It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.

He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity.  I love how one theologian-pastor put it:

Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]

What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!

No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.

Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.

It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.

The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!

That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right.  He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God.  Another Christian leader put it this way:

“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,

We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father.  Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.

The pastor went on….

It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ,  To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.

Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”

AMEN!

[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Why Christianity is More That Just Spiritual Anti-depressant


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day….
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (TEV) 

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

573      When you are with someone, you have to see a soul: a soul who has to be helped, who has to be understood, with whom you have to live in harmony, and who has to be saved.

I’ve seen a number of blogs that would have you believe that a good Christian, is one who never feels depression or grief during Christmas season.  Who because they know Christ, because the Holy Spirit dwells within them, there is no longer any darkness that attempts to consume them, no more doubts, no more pains…..no more tears.  As if this world is utopia…
Just happiness, and smiles,

It is as if they believe that Christianity is some kind of spiritual anti-depressant, that allows us to balance out, and that the balance is somewhere on the upside of life. Please hear me – there is a great need for psychiatric medicine, and the balance it can provide to life, it is just that Christianity doesn’t work like that….

This week I am living proof of that.

Between planning 6 services this week, writing sermons that were… emotionally challenging, doing a memorial service, and then having two very good friends in the hospital with potentially life threatening issues (both are dong better now) I am emotionally a wreck.  I am not “happy” but very challenged emotionally and spiritually.  I am still grieving over some significant losses in my life, and the losses and struggles my friends are enduring.  Let’s add into it some physical back pain.

There is a lot of grief, a lot of weariness, a lot of “why God?!!!?  (matter of fact, one of my sermons had that name as well!)

Reading someone’s words that say that all good Christians are full of cheer and joy and don’t struggle?   Part of me wants to laugh at the silliness/ignorance of such a statement, part of me wants to take the writer through a few hospital wards or skilled nursing facilities I know of, to a mortuary or two, or the homes of people whose family members are in harms way in the military.  There are many people of great faith who are suffering, bravely suffering, but are wearing down.

So where does Christianity, where does being a Christian help in such times, if not to provide a lift of emotions, or at least the illusion of such a lift?

It is better than that…. it allows for honesty, and therefore allows for hope.

As you read through the scriptures, there are people with real problems, real trauma, real issues.  Some things are external, some are internal like the ravage that sin can do to a soul.

God doesn’t cut them off… he doesn’t tell them to get their act straight. He doesn’t give them some placebo of hope.

He comes and makes His home among us.  He dwells with us, in us.  He helps us to embrace Him so that we can embrace the hard times with Him. No longer alone, those traumas are one’s we don’t have to hide. We know that we are with Him, and that there is a future.. because He dwells with us, we dwell with Him.

That doesn’t change the situation, but the scars… are that.  They hurt badly, they sting, but even so… there is healing on the way….

He is with us,,,,

He is comforting us….

He is providing us peace… even in the midst of the depressing times, in the midst of grief and anxiety and pain….for we dwell in Him.

That is what

This is God, with us…

If you aren’t the one struggling, look around, there are people that are, souls weary and tired, laden with anxiety and fear, and grief….. you can’t change their situation, but you can be there with them… and remind them Christ is present with both of you.  That is Christianity as Paul describes it:

12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone.  Romans 12:12-16a (TEV)

Know He walks with you… and therefore would meet all you encounter… and share His love with them as well.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2134-2136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He is Home – The Miracle of John 1:14


14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.  John 1:14 (NLT)

Featured imageHome!
John 1:1-14

 May you realize the blessing of Christ making His home with you…the love and mercy and promise of eternity!


My friend Chris ( our Minister of Worship ) and I were talking last night between services,  of the ride we and our friends have had over the last sixteen or seventeen months.  There has been so much trauma, so many tragedies, so much going on physically, emotionally, spiritually, that it hasn’t seemed like we were singing and playing and leading worship n Christmas Eve.

There seemed to be a disconnection, a hard to believe gap between the calendar and our minds.  It just didn’t seem like Christmas yet…..

It’s like being away from home to long, there is a sense you belong there… but it takes a while to get acclimated.   I felt this even more going back to New England this year, taking William and Kay to see where I grew up, to walk where my family lived and played and grew up.

Yet home is here, especially here at this altar. Home is here, with the people of God. It is odd to have two homes, especially two so radically different.

In the gospel this morning There is an amazing line.

The theologians will talk about the importance of the first three verses, where I focus on the last two.

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.


Some older translations will phrase this – and dwelt among us.  But the words in Greek talk about setting up camp, your base, where you and your family dwell.  It talks of setting up the place you call home.

Jesus came and established His home with us.

He whose first home was with the Father and Holy Spirit, makes His home with us, in our midst.  He who is used to hearing the angels singing praises, whose home is a place we can’t even picture, we can’t even imagine the sound, our hearts cannot even conceive of the glory there…..

He leaves that home, and He just walks into our lives, uninvited, and makes Himself at home.  He belongs here, with us.

Amazing.

Miraculous,

Wonderful.

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)


Jesus made His home with us.

Normally a Lutheran sermon would include the law, a look at how we’ve broken our relationship with Him.

No need to do that here – we realize how odd it seems that a pure, holy, sinless God would tolerate our presence.

Much less make His home with us….

But that is why He has come……

To make His home with us….

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.   John 1:14 (NLT)

That we would realize we have another home, one far different that this home….

For our home is with the Father in heaven…

And may we walk all the way home, at the side of Christ…

 

 

It is TIME to Sing GLORIA in Excelsis Deo!


“Glory to God in highest heaven,and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

 It is Time To Sing Gloria!

Luke 2:1-24

Featured image
May your hearts resound with great joy, as you glorify God with your life!

Forty-one Sundays a year, as part of our regular liturgy, we sing the song of angels.  It’s in different settings, from a chant, to hymns that were meant for hundreds to sing together in 8 part harmony, to the music Chris has written that we’ve come to treasure.

Gloria in Excelcis Deo.

The Gloria

The Doxology, words that have been sung in 1000 languages, by soloists and mass choirs, to every kind of instrument.  Simple words, yet… full of wonder and awe.

The greatest musical performance, as the largest choir sang in front  small exclusive audience.  As we lend our voices to them tonight.

The first performance so staggering, that the response was awe, and joy, and a mad desire to rush to see that which inspired the heavenly song.

For 11 weeks a year, this song is omitted.

Chris, cover you ears for a moment.

Come on. …..

there you go.

What Chris doesn’t know, is that we don’t have to have to omit it.  There is a tradition that we do, but there is an exception to the rule.  There is an exception for the Alleluia’s as well.   We could sing them, but we do not.

We don’t sing it, not because it would grow old to keep singing it.  Though for some perhaps it might.

We don’t sing it so that when we do, it will be more powerful either, though that is actually a reasonable reason.   And actually we do throw ourselves into a bit more.

We put it aside, to think of the blessing that we’ve been given in Christ, to spend time in Advent and in Lent in the dark so to speak.  To think about what life would be without God.  We can’t really remember – the difference is the difference between death and life.

The times of penitence, the thinking through the sorrow we feel, the struggle we have against sin.  That’s advent…. When we remember why we need God, why we desperately needed him to come and to be with us. To come and live among us, to come and die…

For the Messiah that was placed in a manger, was the offering for our sin.  In a very real way, that manger was an altar, though his death would come years later, the Father put Him there, to be the sacrifice that would bring grace and people to Him, that would buy us out from sin.

That’s why it is time to sing the praises of God, to sing Glory to God in the highest, , to praise Him with everything we are.

It’s time to sing, It’s time to rejoice with everything we are.

For God’s come to us.

To make us ready, not just for tomorrow, but to spend eternity with Him…..

So let us sing…. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!


You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!

Featured image

Isaiah 7:10-14

As you experience the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you know the peace of the Babe, held in His mother’s Arms.

Can We Know Peace?     Snoopy and the Red Baron & the real Story

As we look at the world, at Afghanistan, Syria, the Ukraine, as we hear of more shootings, and protests here in America, as we hear of disasters and people living in poverty, looking at a romanticized view of the manger causes… dissonance.

How can this be the same world?

My mind wandered back to a more peaceful time, or at least, It was in my mind.  In a small New Hampshire town, the news of the Vietnam War was far more distant than the wards of today… and life seemed at peace.

I remember listening to Christmas music, on our record player, the albums that would get pulled out, year after year.  One of my favorites was a group called Royal Guardsman, and their Christmas song was about Snoopy.

Yes, Charlie Brown’s dog, and a fight he had with Baron Manfred Richtofen in World War I, on Christmas Eve.  A battle about to end with snoopy getting shot down, when the bells of Christmas began to ring in the village below,

The chorus was

“Christmas bells those Christmas bells

Ring throughout the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man”

And for a moment, there was peace.

Such actually happened in World War I, not between two pilots, but two armies.  For an evening, they laid down their rifles, they silenced their artillery, and as one man started singing silent night, men from his army joined their voices to his, then the other army did as well.

For an evening, as bells chimed from churches, announcing the birth of Jesus, there was peace.

Can that happen today?

Will we know if it does?

Can we know peace in War?

That question God wanted to ask…. Yeah

In the days of King Ahaz, in the time described in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, there was a war.

We know the passage so well, because of the prophecy of Mary, and the name, Immanuel, which means Immanent or Immediate God.  It is from where we get our blessing, “The Lord is with you!.”

Jerusalem was going to get run over, brutally run over….surrounded by armies,

In order to provide for God’s people, a prophet is sent to break this new to them.

God asks the king, “let me prove I will be with you through these times, ask me for something to confirm it….Let me give you and answer for the questions you will ask.

Ask, and you shall receive…. Jesus will ask us, centuries later….

Ahaz refused to answer, for whatever reason.

I won’t put you to the test…. I won’t demand you prove your presence, your love, I won’t depend on you God, no matter what threatens me.  That’s Ahaz voice, defensive, dismissive….

Will we doubt the One who was promised, the babe born to a virgin, the One who would remind us that God is with us? That God has promised to deliver His people, and bring them, bring us safely home?
Will we hear it, more than this night!

Many of our wars aren’t military battles, nor even do they include weapons.  They are wars with our neighbors, or our families,, skirmishes and fights with friends.  Civil wars within our hearts, within our souls.

We need to hear that God wants us to ask of Him, we need to seek Him out, we need to realize that He will prove that He is as here this night

We need to know He is Immanuel, our God, with US.

That is what this night, these songs, these readings are all about.  It’s why we gather.  It ‘s why we are here……

and we are why He is here….

We are why this baby doesn’t just belong here… in the manger, but here, on the altar.

The sacrifice that we would know peace.

During a war, nearly 100 years ago, the bells pealed out, and the war was forgotten,… and men sang the praises of God, who came and dwelt among us…

To bring us the peace of heaven…..

So seek, and knock and ask….

And realize the answer was first seen, as a young lady laid her newborn babe in a manger, and God the Father offered Him as the sacrifice to prove Himself to be our God, and to make us His people.

The Hard Lesson From the Manger…..we have to share in it…


Featured image

Artwork by my friend, and soon to be ordained Mark Jennings. His artwork (either originals or prints) is available through http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html

Devotional THought fo the Day:

1  Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2  I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4  And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5  The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6  He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.

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

562      When I preach that we have to make ourselves a carpet so that the others may tread softly, I am not simply being poetic: it has to be a reality! It’s hard, as sanctity is hard; but it’s also easy, because, I insist, sanctity is within everyone’s reach.  (1)

We have a fear of being taken advantage of, one that can easily consume us.

I feel it every time I get a phone call, and the person promises to come to church, if only we would pay their rent, or buy their meds, or provide them with money to buy food. I feel it when I get that text message at 10pm or 2am, knowing that the people need to listen, more than they are ready to hear my wisdom.

I see my fellow pastors, and all those who minister at this time of year struggling with it to, because they put in some much work, and sometimes only see a few people who will benefit from it.  Or we fear that this is the year when only 3 people will show up for the midnight service.on Christmas Eve. I see in it families, where one member always feels underappreciated, even as they continue to meet the needs of others in it.

We don’t like to be taken advantage of, we don’t want to be walked all over.

And that fear is confronted by the words of St. Josemaria Escriva.  What?  You think we should allow ourselves to be run over, run down, wiped out?  You want us to be a carpet or door mat that people can walk all over, grinding into us the mud on their feet?  He wants us to just take it, and serve people, knowing we may never even get a simple thank you?

(quick disclaimer – I am not talking about being run over by sexual, physical or emotional abuse)

But yeah, St. Josemaria is saying exactly what Paul is saying in Philippians 2.  The lesson of Jesus, lying there in the manger.  Lying there, with the shadow of the cross already promised, with the stripes that will be caused by whips already accepted, with the humiliation, with the fact that the very people that will praise Him, that He’s come to save… spitting on Him, cursing Him, nailing Him to the cross.

That Jesus would suffer all of that, to save us.  He through whom everything that has been created was created, becoming a infant, needing sustenance from another, needing another to change His diapers. That level of humiliation at the manger and at the cross, is first and above all, a picture of God’s love.

It is also a picture of God’s plan for our lives, here, during this life.

Paul knew that – and tried to live that way, accepting times of hardship, taking on the sacrifice it would take, including the humility to not strike back. but instead to let people see the strength of Christ-crucified, Christ-Incarnate alive in Him.

And he calls us to imitate him, as He imitates Jesus.  To live in Christ as Paul strived to, to have that attitude, that being a carpet doesn’t matter, that seeing people reconciled to the Father is far greater a reward than inconvenience, sacrifice, even martyrdom.

This is the lesson – that little Baby, willing left Heaven for you…. so you could walk with Him……in good times and bad.

that’s the lesson we need to remember…..

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2107-2110). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Believe “The” Church MUST Strive for Unity


Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22  I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23  I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me. John 17:20-23 (TEV)

9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:9 (TEV)

20  Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21  Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)

19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:19-21 (TEV)

546      Pause to consider the holy wrath of the Master, when he sees that the things of his Father are badly treated in the Temple at Jerusalem. What a lesson for you! You should never be indifferent, or play the coward, when the things of God are treated without respect.

Dustin, as a Lutheran pastor you know very well the theological gulf that exists between Rome and the BoC.  Why do you continue to flog this very dead horse?

A few days ago, I was asked the question in green above, on a facebook forum. In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a man, a pastor who I admire, even as I note we don’t agree on a few important things.
And the four quotes have been swimming through my head since I was asked the question.

The four quotes from scripture are why I must “continue to flog this very dead horse”,  The quote from St. Josemaria is the reason I will do so with a lot of energy, put into prayer, into study, yes and into writing blogs and having conversations with friends across denominational lines.

A comment about each of the passages, might help.

John 17:  I don’t think we can read this prayer without seeing the desire of Christ and the Father.  Read it carefully, our unity ( real unity) is sourced, not in compromise, but in the love of the Father. Even by praying for it publicly, Jseus is noting that it is going to require supernatural influence. (deistic cessationists might have a problem with this…)  Yet it is in the very deep, personal, relationship we have with Christ, that we find ourselves in a relationship with each other.

2 Peter 3:9  Last I checked, God wanting all to come to repentance (to have the mind of Christ) is also a supernatural manifestation of His presence. All means all, it doesn’t mean “us, but not them”.  This isn’t something you can try once, grab a t-shirt and give up on.  This call to repentance is not something we can dismiss by saying, “they aren’t of our brand” or “we are an immigrant church and can’t reach out to other ethnicities.”
If God wants all to come to repentance, if this is His desire, then we will begin to desire that, the more time we spend in His presence.
On further thought.  It doesn’t say God is patient with them…but us.   Think about that.  (Go – do it!

(no, I mean it – take 2 minutes to think that through)

(that was 10 seconds – go do it some more!)

2 Cor. 5:  We’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (that’s what “Churchese translations” do for this passage) Simply put, God desires greatly to reconcile with mankind, to restore a relationship with Him, a friendship, a deep, permanent, relationship where love and mercy are the norm.
Mathematically, if a=b and b=c, the c=a.  Or, if you are reconciled to God, and “they” are reconciled to God, the you and they are reconciled.  That can’t be denied.  If they aren’t reconciled, your work, done in faith, is bringing this message of reconciliation to them, to give them this hope and celebrate it with them.  Either way you are stuck, you are reconciled with them, or your vocation is reconcile them to God.  This isn’t law, this is the work of God’s gospel in you.

Unless, of course, you need to be reconciled to God yourself….. in that case… let me let you know, God will remove every sin and all injustice that separates you from Him, and He desires to be in a relationship with you, and has made it possible.  Enjoy it!

1 John 4:  If this doesn’t provide the icing on the cake, I don’t know what does.  We must continue to work that people would be reconciled to God, and the goal of any unity discussion or work starts and ends there. At the altar of God, in His presence, God and His people.
Working for unity between the Roman Catholic Church, and Lutheran Synods and churches is as much included in this as working to reconcile with that obnoxious person in the pew behind you, or the neighbor next door.  If we don’t work for such, if we don’t care whether they are reconciled with God, how can we claim to love them?  If we don’t love the, can we really claim to love the God who loves us?

Some may read this, and say I am a dreamer, that the RCC and Lutherans are both so stubborn that they will never change. If so, that is sad. As I am reading through the Book of Concord and the works from Trent and Vatican II, I see a lot of areas we can find enough common ground, to strive together toward unity in Christ.

Even if our leaders are afraid to breach these conversations, it is the vocation of pastors and priests, those who pastor the people of God and the people themselves to bring this message of reconciliation to God to the world.  That will produce unity, even as we struggle with how that can be expressed, (and we should struggle with that, not just dismiss the differences)

And by the very word, and the promises given to us in the sacraments, this should become more and more part of our spiritual DNA.  It should be part of our vocation, part of our prayers, striving to bring this message of reconciliation, which will reconcile us, even as it’s heard…..

LORD HAVE MERCY!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2055-2057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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