Monthly Archives: January 2015

Are You Ready….. for Something Far More than Football?


Devotional Thought for the Day:
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15  I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: 16  When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17  Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 18  That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. 1 Corinthians 10:15-18 (MSG)

Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.(1)

828      Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that he makes it so easy for us to come to him: but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves very well to receive him.  (2)

I’ll be the first to admit to loving watching football.
Especially watching the Patriots, who in the last 21 years, have been in the Superbowl 7 times!
I really love it when people write them off, say they are done, and they make it look like child’s play in the playoffs.
Tomorrow, I hope they beat the Seahawks, and I hope they come back for one more, next year.  B

Yet, if the game started at 9:50 here, rather than at 3:15, you wouldn’t find me in front of my television.  There is something more precious, more meaningful, more important to life where I am a spectator, and yet, am a full participant.

The Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, Communion.  the Feast that is a foretaste of the feast to come.

St. Josemaria above puts a perspective on it….what if tomorrow was the only day, the only time you could receive it in your life?  What would your thoughts be today?  What kind of expectation would be building?  what would get in the way?

is a Superbowl big enough?  is the need for sleep?

If tomorrow was the only day you were able to commune with God, what would stop you?

If the answer is, ‘nothing”, then apply the question without the frequency, is it the same/  should it be/

This is a hard question, because to ask it could promote shame or guilt, or harden you against those things.

It will also make you examine what you think the Lord’s Supper is, and how it benefits you….. strengthening your confidence in the Lord’s love and presence in your life, healing you from the brokenness of sin, relieving stress and anxiety, and mostly giving you the rest and peace that comes from knowing the Lord is with you……

I am glad this is not a once in a life time thing… in fact, I am somewhat envious of those churches that provide it daily, simply because I know people who need this sacrament, this holy time, this holy meal…. more than once a week.  Or who cannot get there on Sundays…..

So are you ready?  Do you recognize your need for it?

I am!

(1)   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained. Part 6, The Sacrament of the Altar

(2)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2940-2942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

where does loving my neighbor stop…..


Devotional Thought fo the Day:
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16  And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 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 4:16-21 (TEV)

869      If you really loved God with all your heart, then that love for your neighbour, which you sometimes find so hard to have, would come as a necessary consequence of your Great Love. You would never feel hostility towards anyone, nor would you discriminate between people.

Your neighbor, the one that cut you off on the freeway.  Or maybe the one who was promoted over you unfairly at work, he’s your neighbor, isn’t he?  what about your old high school friend, who stabbed you in the back/  Or what about that false preacher, the guy who doesn’t agree with anyone else (or so it seems) in your denomination, is he your neighbor?

If these are those you are called to love, is there a point where you can stop loving them?

Where you can with all purity of heart wish God’s wrath to fall on them?  Where you can hope that they receive justice, and not the mercy of God?

i can perhaps come up with 50 reasons I should be able to just hate them, or dismiss them into obscurity.  Those I have heard as a pastor, and some I came up with myself.   We may not want to deal with them, we may not want them in our neighborhood, or our church, or our denomination.

Yet, we are still called to love them. To not only do what is best for them, but to do it in a loving way.  (not gritting our teeth, or just saying – this will hurt  – but its what’s best for you… )  We are still called ot be like Christ in the way we deal with them.

I had a friend who once said you don’t change anything as a pastor within your church, until you know its place so well it hurts you to change it.  If that is true for a practice, or a tradition, can you see the necessity of the same attitude towards a person?

this is the atitude of God, so clearly seen in the words from Ezekiel,

10  The LORD spoke to me. “Mortal man,” he said, “repeat to the Israelites what they are saying: ‘We are burdened with our sins and the wrongs we have done. We are wasting away. How can we live?’ 11  Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live. Israel, stop the evil you are doing. Why do you want to die?” Ezekiel 33:10-11 (TEV)

Would you cry over than neighbor’s continued lack of repentance? Or would you rejoice?  Would you carry a cross for them, for the joy set before you?  Or would you simply dismiss them as having rejected God, because they rejected you? ( And would you count on Jesus to forgive you your debts, even as you refuse to forgive them theirs?

Hard questions? Sure!

But they should cause you to run to the only place the answer can be found.  In the wounds of Christ crucified, in the eyes of the one who cries out for our forgiveness, even as He steals our sins from us.

You see, to love your neighbor like this requires only one thing…. our unity with Christ.

Nothing else will make it happen, nothing else will cause us to desire it to happen.  We will search for every lookhole, try to find every exception, Look back into our lives to every pain and challenge God saying, “You can’t mean this one Lord, the pain is too hard”

It is then we realize the depth of our need for Jesus…. and His faithfulness.

Which is what we need to know about Jesus.

May every service, every mass, every Bible study with others, every quiet time of prayer, devotion and study, reveal to us His presence… so we can know the impossible, is certainly doable….. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3073-3075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are We Willing to Pray for Our Needs?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

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31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)

9  “If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:9 (Phillips NT) 

“Give us this day our daily bread.” What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
14 What is meant by daily bread?
Answer: Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.  (1)

807      I copy these words for you because they can bring peace to your soul. “My financial situation is as tight as it ever has been. But I don’t lose my peace. I’m quite sure that God, my Father, will settle the whole business once and for all. I want, Lord, to abandon the care of all my affairs into your generous hands. Our Mother—your Mother—will have let you hear those words, now as in Cana: ‘They have none!’ I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you, Jesus. I want nothing for myself: it’s for them.”

in the Lutheran and evangelical churches, there is a reaction to the works of those like Joel Osteen and those who teach what is referred to as Dominion Theology, or more degradingly, as the prosperity gospel, or the “Name it-Claim it” movement.  So much of a reaction, I think we forget to tell people to pray, even as the Lord taught us to, and to recognize He will meet our needs.  He will care for us, and while we have to live wisely, we also need to live trusting Him.

Our reaction to those who sometimes advocate praying for selfish desires to be met, whether financial or relational is damaging.  Yes, we know God doesn’t necessarily want us to win the lottery,  He probably won’t grant always grant that teenager’s prayer to date the supermodel, or that everything will wok out perfectly, as we see it.  He does want us to look to Him, to see His love, to see His care for us. To have us depend on Him, like a child depends on their dad.

Yes, to often our prayers can become a form of idolatry, as we put our desires before our relationship with God, or make that relationship conditional upon getting what we want. (and we’ll even throw a tantrum when we don’t!)  But to stop depending on God, leads to anxiety, and coveting, and temptations to get what we want, without God.  To manipulate our situations, to become machivellian, that is what happens when we forget God is our source

We need to be aware of God’s gifts, we need to receive them and celebrate them, whether it is that last can of soup in the cupboard, or the bank account that is down to $2 the day before payday.  As we do realize that even these things are gifts of God, our attitude towards them will change. We’ll treasure what we have, not because of its fiscal value, but because of from whom we received it.

We need to pray, God give us what we need, even fervently pray for it.  Our relationship must be that kind of relationship – where He is the source of all our blessings… not just the eternal ones.    Don’t forget those, but also realize, from Him we have life,

Praying for our daily bread is not just about spiritual nurture. for we aren’t called to love Him with just our soul, but with every part of our lives.  Mind, Soul, Body and Spirit.  We need to realize our dependence and His faithfulness in this part of the prayer as much as any other!

So let us pray, even as our Savior taught us…

(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 347). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2877-2882). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why fighting false teaching is not a oneman job.


Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?20  So Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:19-21 (NKJV)

Again you say, “The temporal power is not forcing men to believe; it is simply seeing to it externally that no one deceives the people by false doctrine;85 how could heretics otherwise be restrained?” Answer: This the bishops should do; it is a function entrusted to them86 and not to the princes. Heresy can never be restrained by force. One will have to tackle the problem in some other way, for heresy must be opposed and dealt with otherwise than with the sword. Here God’s word must do the fighting. If it does not succeed, certainly the temporal power will not succeed either, even if it were to drench the world in blood. Heresy is a spiritual matter which you cannot hack to pieces with iron, consume with fire, or drown in water. God’s word alone avails here, as Paul says in II Corinthians 10[:4–5], “Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty in God to destroy every argument and proud obstacle that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to take every thought captive in the service of Christ.”[1)

Over the last few days, I’ve given a bit of thought to how to deal with those who promote heresy or heterodoxy, and to those who attempt to deal with it.  It is a bit of a focus in the higher echelons of my denomination presently.  Or at least some are making the case that it is, and they are struggling to determine how to deal with it, or not deal with it.

Yet in the parish, we have to deal with both heresy and heterodoxy.  It may be someone who has strayed into it.  It may be someone who deliberately comes into the church, or posts something on FB.  So how do we approach those who would lead people away from the mercy of Christ?

The question, no matter the situation, whether large and prevailing, like Arius, or the lady who watches Joel Oseteen, is whether we can confront is love, and call the person to repentance.  This is why force cannot be used, or power and “authority”.  That is not the pastoral approach, nor is tt that of Matthew 18, where it is not the individual or the elders that deal with the sinner, but the community of God.

Why does this work this way? Simple, because as faith  and prayer, leaving it in the hands of God.

You see, when you fight heresy by your own strength, by your own will, what you are doing is falling into heresy, for you have created a idol out of your position.  Worse than heresy is this… for it is blasphemy.

You see, when dealing with history, one must be pastoral, one must care for souls.  Doing so is critical, to have the people of God be the correcting source, the church is the one who has the witness.  Not just any one man has the ability to defeat heresy or heterodoxy.  You see, dealing with it through force, through authority doesn’t evangelize, either the heterodox or heretical, or those who are watching the confrontation.  You see, they need to hear the clear gospel as well, those who would challenge it. By using authority, by using force to bluntly crush heresy and heterodoxy, you fail in that regard, you don’t show the people the true gospel, the light that will always shatter the darkness, that will reveal clearly Christ.

That’s what is important, not seeing them crucified, but seeing them crucified with Christ.

This is ministry, it isn’t easy to bear this cross, and not everyone is able to….. but this is how He did it, embracing, reconciling transforming….

That is what those who follow Him pray to see… not to win a battle, but as we see Christ victorius over sin and satan and death.

May we pray for all souls.. even as we desire to see all reconciled.

(Side note – seeing the church work together in this – also allows for the humility that corrects us when we go astray…)

85 On Luthers approval in another connection of the position here rejected, see Kawerau (ed.), Kötlin’s Martin Luther, I, 584.

86 Cf. Titus 1:9ff.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 45, p. 114). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Need to Find Peace? There is One Place You Can Always Find It.


Devotional Thought of the Day:

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4  I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace. Titus 1:4 (NLT)

772      These are the unmistakable signs of the true Cross of Christ: serenity, a deep feeling of peace, a love which is ready for any sacrifice, a great effectiveness which wells from Christ’s own wounded Side. And always—and evidently—joy: a joy which comes from knowing that those who truly give themselves are beside the Cross, and therefore beside Our Lord.  (1)

It is one of the greatest Paradoxes of our faith.

That a place of torture would be the place we find serentiy.

That a place of horrific death is the place we will find the greatest of peace.

That the place where we give up our desires, where our very being is sacrificed, is the place where our lives truly begin.

The Cross of Christ,

The place where we are joined with His death.

In  a week where a friend’s mom lies in critical condition, where another is dealing with great grief, where the politics of my church body are extremely frustrating, and churches are struggling and not being strengthened, there should be a lack of peace. I could go on and on, as our church on Sunday had 134 different people, families and groups to pray for, and we did,  ( Everytime we get down to 100, it seems to grow back up)

Except for the cross, the cross where we can bring those burdens, those anxieties, those sins, both that we commit, and are committed against us.  All three sacraments lead us back to there, as we are joined to His death in baptism, as we feast on His Body and Blood, given and shed there, and the absolution that is ours, as our sins are atoned for and washed away….

It is at that cross where we find ourselves joined to Him… and that is enough…..and more.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2773-2776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Careers: A Sermon by Vicar Mark Jennings


JANUARY 25th, 2015

Mark 1: 14-20

 

YAHWEH’s most perfect grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ who calls and chooses you and keeps you forever.

Alleluia, amen!

 

One of the things I have noticed that is changing or has changed in this great country we live in is careers.

What I mean by this is that it seems that people change careers these day faster than you can shake a stick at.

I remember back in the day that people seemed to find a career or job and they stuck with it, it seemed for their whole careers until they retired, even if they didn’t like it! My grandfather was a gardener for 45 years and my father in law was a teacher his whole career.

You got a job and stayed with it.

But now? That doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore. With corporations downsizing and the economy so fluid, these days you may have to choose another career whether you want to or not. It may be out of your control as outside influences seek to change what you think you want to do.

I speak from experience. If you would have said that I was going to be the pastor at OSLC to me 25 or 15 or 5 years ago I would have looked at you like a bull at a new gate! I didn’t want to work Sundays!

I was trying to climb the ladder as a professional artist and designer with the goal of my name up on the screen with a credit on the next Star Wars or Star Trek movie!

But God had other ideas and it’s just not me. There are guys in the SMP program who came from other backgrounds and careers also. One guy worked in the fashion industry and another owned his own beverage company. Another was a children’s book editor while another ran a very lucrative upholstery business.

My brother was a teacher before a pastor.

All these men giving up their careers to start a second career serving God in a new and unique capacity.

An outside influence affected these men just as an outside influence affected those men in our Gospel reading from Mark today.

These fishermen are doing what they do for a living, they are fishing and they are repairing their nets and probably the boats and whatever else it takes to be successful in their careers.

This is the career they have chosen and they had planned to do this til they retire.

Did they retire back then? Maybe move to Arizona or Miami? Did they have a 401k?

So here comes this rabbi who is proclaiming a message of repentance and a belief in some good news that the promises of God are happening right now!

They probably heard the rumblings and talk of this rabbi but then He sees them and makes like a laser beam to them where He says to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

This is the outside influence that changes their career path.

What was their response? Did they look at him and say ohh kayyy and dismiss Him? No, They left their nets at once and followed Him. They repented of their sins and believed the Good News.

This all sounds like they had a choice and chose to accept Jesus.

But listen to what Jesus says in John 15:16 says,” You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Of course, they could choose like Jonah tried to do in our OT reading and you saw how that worked out for him!

He became fish bait!

You could say that we have a choice to reject but really we have no choice as that is our standard human default mode. On our own we can’t accept Christ nor do we want to.

So an outside source made these fishers of….fish now start a second career and become fishers of …men!

This was Jesus calling them and choosing them just as He does to us. This was and is Jesus saying,” Consider a new career!”

“Come to me and I’ll do all the heavy lifting. I will make you a trade and a promise, my blood for yours!”

In this promise or covenant is repentance of sins that calls us and changes us and gives all of God’s people a second career, a new start.

Before this we were slaves to our jobs and if we are honest with ourselves, our jobs were sin and we were and are extremely proficient at it even making it our career.

Job and career are the same but different. You work at a job but a career is something usually planned and prepared for. It might include some kind of schooling and training.

Jesus calls these fishermen to leave their jobs and begin a new career with Him just as He does with you and i.

Leave your jobs of sin and begin a new career with our Savior.

Before this new career offer that you can’t refuse, we had settled in to retire in this life. We had no purpose and the products we made was the results of sin. We worked in the dark and on our own trying to control and run our lives and ways..

But the outside interference of Christ changes that.

You’ve been let go of your position and your services are no longer needed or wanted because you now are employed by the Sovereign King of the Universe who sends His Son to bleed and die for you.

The benefits are perfect and the retirement is top notch!

This repentance of sins is yours and it’s freeee!

This repentance of sins though is more than just saying your sorry for your actions, that is a result and response to what God has done and continues to do.  If you look at the Law you realize that you can’t keep the Commandments in thought, word and deed. It really appears hopeless and that is when we hear the good news about the promises of Christ as the Law drives us to the cross.

It is a holistic change and what I mean is that it affects all of you not just a part or section of you but all of you. It is who you become through Christ calling you in baptism. You repent because the Holy Spirit comes to you and you, through the waters of baptism are cleansed and transformed. You have Breen changed and are able to start your second career in service to God through Christ. You are made new.

Remember how it feels when you start a new job? There may be a little apprehension but there is also the fact that you are starting over and starting fresh and new. You have that new car smell not the old fishing trawler smell.

I began the sermon talking about God calling men into a second career as pastors but this calling applies to the entire priesthood of all believers. You all have been called into second careers as you have been repented and transformed by divine love and you now through His work believe the good news.

The good news of Jesus Christ. The very Son of God who came to us and became one of us and died and rose for each one of us and everyone else so that all may live and begin anew!

So consider a new career or better yet, don’t consider or contemplate it, know it through the promises of Christ that you have been called to it and into it.

You have a new career, a second career and what does that mean?

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and there are lots and lots of fish to catch.

In your new career you get to fish! My kind of career!

But God has called us to fish for something different and work the harvest for something rather than corn or wheat or grapes.

Our work fishing and harvesting is the sharing of the Word.

Through Christ calling and choosing us which brings the repentance of sins, we can go out and proclaim this same repentance given to us to each other, to family, to friends and co-workers, to our neighborhoods, this neighborhood, to our cities and country.

As we follow Christ in our new and second career, people can see that by our acts of service in response, the repentance and transformation that can be theirs as our Lord calls to us, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men!”

Consider a new career? Instead know that you have one through Christ choosing you like He chose those fishermen!

Alleluia, amen!

The Refuge for A Tiring Monday…..


Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image2  For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3  I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling….. 5  I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:2,5 (NLT)

19  So far as the Law is concerned, however, I am dead—killed by the Law itself—in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, Galatians 2:19 (TEV)

We live in a world where mental ability is rewarded.  But the heart is not trained.  It just muddles along.  Soon we know more and more, and understand less and less.  (1)  (emphasis mine)

770      When you walk where Christ walked; when you are no longer just resigned to the Cross, but your whole soul takes on its form—takes on its very shape; when you love the Will of God; when you actually love the Cross… then, only then, is it He who carries it. (2)

It was a long, busy weekend, and I am very tired, and thanks to some allergies… wiped out more than usual.

Monday is the longest day of the week for me, most of the time, and I while I love what I do, this day will tire me more.  I know it, even as my aging body groans…..

No amount of knowledge will make it easier.  I won’t find the strength to endure in my knowledge of Greek, or in being able to discuss the communication of magisterial attributes of Christ.  Both things are blessings, but as my prayer book notes, there is a difference of knowing things, of acquiring data, and knowing something, or someone.

I loo around my office, and see the crosses, one painted by a friend, another some fancy hand stitching.  Crosses from Ecuador, from the Ukraine, from Rome and Estonia.   The latter one where Jesus’ body and ornately molded details have been word away from hundreds of years of people holding it close while they prayed.  People who probably could quote the great preachers in history, or the theologian whose works line seminary library walls.

But they knew where to find comfort and peace, in the midst of pain, or anxiety.  They went to the cross, and laid out their lives to the One who loved them. It’s why Paul modeled knowing Christ crucified alone, that they would place their trust in God, in Jesus with who they were crucified.

This goes so against the models of the world, which seeks knowledge for the mind, and allows the heart to struggle and barely survive. Even in the church, the focus is again moving towards a unbalanced focus on knowledge, of getting every aspect of theology, even the minutiae known.  We see a pursuit to explain the mysteries that are unexplainable, and are meant to be that way.  We don’t want to build the tower of Babel, rather a theological equivalent!

But what we need it not knowledge of the material of the cross, or the effective distance of the words of Institution.

we need our souls to live in Christ.  To know the height and depth, the width and breadth of His love, of His mercy, of His desire that we would all become His people.   That can’t be known with the mind alone.  It must be known in our soul, in our heart. That is where the Holy Spirit transforms us (see Ezekiel 36 and 37), as the Breath of God begins our life, and sustains it. (the mind is also transformed, but not just the data storage, but the ability to use that data)

St Josemaria words so resonate here… as do the Celts with Paul.  The cross, the place where suffering can make sense, the place of life….that is where we survive Monday.  It is where our heart, our soul, our mind find the love of God, and find Him carrying all that afflicts us, indeed, it is where He carries us.  For we dwell in Him, in His precious, sacred heart.

So it’s Monday.  You may not want to be where you are, you may be dragging, so much so that your pessimism can’t be overcome with three Trente coffees….. that’s okay…

Run tot he cross… cling to the Lord who died there… that you may live in Him forever.

AMEN

(1)  Celtic Prayer Book – Finian Readings for January 25th.
(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2768-2770). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s Time, Let’s Go Fishing!



It s time…. Come Fishing with Me!
Mark 1:14-20

IHS

Featured imageMay You Be So Changed by the Transforming Gifts of Repentance and Faith that You Don’t Think about Fishing With God, Rather, You Just Do it

Plans? Nah, let’s just go…

There are two types of fishing trips in life.

There is the professional or expert fisherman.

They have everything planned out, they have a place for everything and everything in its place in their tackle boxes.  They have every piece of equipment known to man and Bass Pro Shops.  They have checklists and itineraries, water temperature equipment, fish finders and sonar, first aid kits and emergency beacons, and coolers stocked with food and a Lutheran beverage or two.

In comparison, there was my grandfather, who basically would call up the night before, or show up about 5:30 in the morning, honking his horn a few times rather than knocking on the door, and inviting us to go fishing.

My brother and I, who had trouble waking up for school, would be out of bed, dressed, rods and reels in hand, down the stairs, and out the door, before my mom could wake up and say, no, no, it’s a school day.

We’d be out on the Lake, or in Hampton Harbor, or just outside the Jetty – with the sun barely clearing the horizon.  Fishing… enjoying life… catching a couple dozen flounder, or if it was a bad day… some crabs and eels.

No planning, no fancy equipment, no life jackets, just our rods and reels, a Chinese food carton full of sandworms, a couple of sodas and his cup of coffee.

For a kid, real fishing wasn’t the first kind of fishing.

Real fishing for a 8 year old, was going out in Grampy’s little aluminum boat.

As the disciples abandon their dads, as they leave everything behind, to go fishing for men with Jesus, I picture it like that.

Not a moment’s thought, we knew what we are being called to, and to be honest, we didn’t think about the fishing.  It was what happened, when Grampy picked us up. What it was about was being with him.  The same occurs, when we are awakened by God, and we spend each day fishing for men with Him….

Even as there seemed to be nothing much to Grampy taking us fishing, there was…and those things are there as Jesus takes Peter and Andrew, James and John fishing as well.

Repentance
While we never knew what would cause Grampy to decide to take us fishing on this day or that, it was His decision.  He would have to change His routine, hook up the boat, and drive north from his place.

His horn blast before dawn was like Christ’s call to repentance. It’s time! Let’s go!

With that, everything would change for that day.  Our attitude about staying in our warm beds, about not wanting to leave our place, would dramatically change.  It’s like we weren’t even the same kids.  Our minds focused on something else, our attitudes were that of being alive, and excited about getting up and out!  It wasn’t a conscience change, it was one brought about by the horn.  We heard it, we reacted, we went.

That’s repentance.

Repentance often is pictured as being sorry, or contrite.  Or it is explained as choosing to change how we think and act.  To make a u-turn, especially in how we behave.

It’s not those things.  It is far more internal, in the subconscious. It is hearing the voice of the Lord, and the change that hearing His call awakens in us.

That’s why Luke describes repentance in the book of the Acts of the Apostles as something from God.

30  it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, whom you executed by hanging on a tree. 31  By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. Acts 5:30-31 (NJB)

and
18  When they heard this, they stopped their criticism and praised God, saying, “Then God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!” Acts 11:18 (TEV)

Do you year the horn going off?  That Jesus has come to take you with Him through life? That things will never be the same?

Maybe its time to wake up, and join Him on this journey through life?

Faith

My grandfather drove a 1970 Ford Maverick.  Besides no back leg room, not even enough for a 8 year old, it had a unique horn sound.  Sort of like a sick frog going through puberty.

Unique enough that it would wake up my 11 year old brother and myself. It would mean something special – because we knew it was Grampy’s.

It wasn’t just believing Grampy was out there.  It meant so much more.  A day fishing with Him, We knew it would be special, because we knew Him.

Having faith in God is like that.  It’s not about believing some cosmological argument for the existence of God, or some theological treatise that attempts to explain how Jesus’s divinity mixed with His humanity.

You just know Him, you trust in Him, and if there is one thing my job boils down to, it is introducing you to the God who loves you enough, to die for every act of self-centeredness you ever committed, for every bit of idolatry, every angry attack on your neighbor, every intimate word, thought or action not directed toward your spouse, every bit of envy, every act of gossip.

He took care of them all, as He said, “it is finished,” and bruised and broken Jesus stopped breathing… and died.

And the promise of everything being made brand new and right and perfect with Him became clear, as He rose from the dead.

That’s what Jesus proclaimed, as He announced the kingdom of God was near…. As near to Peter and James, Andrew and John, as it is to you, this very moment.

The gospel for you to hear.

He is here, calling for you.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve known him all your life, or this is the first time getting to know His call to you, come walk with me, come join me…..

Let’s go fishing.  Not for flounder or Pollock, but for men and women, those that God the Father sent me to call, to catch, that everything would change for them.

Bweeap Bweap….

Time to go fishing, as we live together, as we journey together through life.

Fishing

It’s one thing for two young kids to go fishing with their grandfather.  Yet the eagerness, and the carefreeness of the disciples, is not so different.  They leave everything behind, as will a tax collector, a rebel, a Pharisee and so many others that went with jesus, and lived life fishing for men.
When my brother Stephen and I went with Grampy, it didn’t matter if we caught a ton of fish, or we didn’t.  The experience was about being with someone we loved.  The journey?  The sitting in a cold boat?  We enjoyed it all, just because we were there.  Everyone knew that we went fishing the next day (even our teachers!)

Fishing for men is like this…. Except it is even better.

Because as our attention is spent on Him, that resulting relationship is what draws others to Him, it is how they are caught.

No worms needed, no bait, no trickery or skill.

it is the effect of knowing we dwell in the presence of God.

For He has called us, transformed us, given us a relationship where we know His incredible love……

So it’s time, let’s walk with Jesus through life, having repented and trusting Him, and fish for men.  AMEN?

 

a thought about truly suffering for God


Devotional thought of the day:

Featured image16  “And when you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. They neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 17  When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, 18  so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (TEV)

3  The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4  Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5  When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that? Isaiah 58:3-5 (TEV)

765      Renew in your own soul the resolution that friend of ours made long ago: “Lord, what I want is suffering, not exhibitionism.”  (1)

There is a trend that is growing more and more.  The idea that those who are “persecuted” should be publicly defended,  Sometimes that call for action is taken by the very people under persecution.  Other times people attach themselves to the cause, urging others to join them.  It is almost like people want other Christians to suffer, a sort of Christian version of Munchausen by Proxy, or even a Svengali syndrome.  And sometimes, we can even bring it on ourselves, a masochistic attempt to gain fame or at least attention.

An example, the person who gets fired for using their position of authority to “spread the gospel”.  Or the Christian who boasts of losing family and friends because of the Biblical position against adultery, or abortion, or homosexulaity.

Even the temptation of pointing our how richer, how much fun, how much sex we could have, how much better life would be, if we didn’t sacrifice our desires out of obedience or submission to Christ.

Jesus addresses that pretty clear in the New Testament.  If you are voluntarily suffering, and it is because of your faith, then don’t let it show.  If you are embracing that pain (ar some annoying stuff) then don’t make a public spectacle of it. we could project that out to those who want to make a Christian cause out of everything, because then they can be the hero.

All of this public suffering borders on exhibitionism, We (or the person/cause) we’ve hooked up with gains us acclaim, or pity, it projects a value or praise onto our life. We pursue, as Isaiah writes, our own interests, our own satisfaction?  Our own recognition by others who declare us, “holy”.

Yet what if we endured it, sought true martyrdom even death, without a sense of need of people even knowing?  What if our cause that never appeared in daylight was sacrificing time and money to help others out of poverty.  What if our desire was not to hear man’s applause, but to hear God welcome us home?  Our suffering should be God pleasing, whether a real form of martyrdom, or the self-sacrificial acts we embrace, loving others?

Can we empty ourselves, in this way?  Even as Christ did?

I think we can do better at it, simply by looking to Christ, adoring Him, cherishing His work. Let me rephrase that – as we do those things, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit!  Then those crosses and burdens we bear?  They don’t seem worth complaining about, or receiving praise for, simply because knowing Christ in those moments far supersedes any praise or attention gained in other places.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2755-2756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is God Stalking Me?


Is God Stalking Me?
Featured imagePsalm 139

  IHS

 May we revel in the presence of God our Father, who knows everything about us, and yet is determined to show us His mercy and love.

I could see you… WHAT?

You are walking up to someone, you have never met before.  While the person is becoming famous, you aren’t sure why, matter of fact you are cynical about him.

You go to meet him, and as you are walking up to him, and instead of the meeting being all about him, he makes it all about you….

As He does, it becomes very, very personal….

So personal it is eerie…

We don’t know why Nathaniel’s attitude changed so rapidly in the gospel, or what he was thinking underneath the tree… yet…

It was so personal! it was so deep that Nathaniel only had two possible thoughts,

The first was that Jesus was stalking him… how else could he know…

The second was that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one that Moses and the prophets promised, that Jesus was the son of God.

It is both frightening and yet comforting; to know that God knows each and every one of us that well.

The gospel reading this morning is a great illustration of the psalm, and this sermon about how well God knows each of you….

The depth of God’s knowledge

David’s psalm should frighten us a little

The psalm starts out with an amazing concept, that God has examined each one of us.  The word there in Hebrew is rich!  It pictures a legal investigation, not just the facts of the case. It is deeper than that, probing not just what we do, by why we do it.  God examines our integrity, our heart, our emotions, and knows even those parts of us, that we don’t want to face.  The parts of us that keep us awake at night, or cause us to shudder.

He knows those times…

God knows our movements, our thoughts, when we are praising Him and close, and when we try to rebel. God knows what we are going to say, and sing even if those words were going to be cuss words, or words that take His name in vain.

The one that hit me as I was reading it this time, was the phrase, “If I go down to the grave.”, or if I translated it, “if I took my place of rest in death”.  The words of despair that King David knew all too well.  This isn’t just a statement about location, there are words born of despair.

We can’t escape Him, we can’t get away from Him.  Even though there are days we are so confused, so anxious, so in pain that we try to run…

We can’t get away!

He is here…. He is here…

Not to condemn, not to chastise, which we deserve, but as the Psalm says,

You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

It’s too glorious for me
You will support me

If God knows everything about me, if He knows everything, then why doesn’t He give up on us?

If He knows us in the midst of our anxieties, in the midst of our doubt, or depression; if he knows us as we are about to sin, and do so, knowing it is sin, why does He continue to seek us out?  He continues to be ready to catch us, even seems obsessed with the need to care for us.

God, the creator, the Holy One, the One who determines what is right and wrong.

David, the prophet-king-worship leader described as the man who knew God’s heart, thought the reasoning was beyond him.  No wonder I don’t have a clue as to why God loves us.

Seriously, I can’t tell you why God loves us, yet we know He does.  We don’t know why He has chosen us to be His people. We don’t know why our salvation and the salvation of our friends, our family, our peoples is His obsession.  Why He decided to love us, and pour out His mercy upon us.

We simply know He has.

We see that love in the cross, in the very coming of Christ, and the promises that tell us why He came.  To bear the stripes and nails, to satisfy the very wrath we deserve.  We see it as well, as God promises time after time, to call us by name,

He places His hand upon our head… and marks us with His blessing.

No wonder some make the sign of the cross, the sign of our baptism, with such meaning…. For it reminds them of the wonderful things God has done to us!

The promise of His presence, of His guidance, of His support!

Even more… and invitation…

The idea of God stalking us, of God being obsessed with us may seem a bit odd.  Yet that is what He does.  His thoughts are of us, Peter says He desires that all of us come to repentance.

Not all of us at Concordia…. All of us… each one of us.  Peter tells us that He desires all will come to repentance…

But salvation is not just God knowing us, it is about us knowing Him.  About our being as in love with Him, as He is with us.  I love how St Paul puts it:

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
That isn’t what happens in sermons, but it is why we have them.  It is what happens in the sacred times, especially the one we are about to share in…

Come my friends, to the table of mercy, and know something too wonderful, to glorious, something we struggle to understand, yet that brings us the greatest of comfort, the greatest of support, the greatest of joy.

God has examined you, and loves you, and calls you His own…. AMEN!

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