Monthly Archives: October 2015

Another year, another step, an incredible look at God’s glory, and hopefully a greater dependance on Him.


Featured imageDevotional thought of the day:

9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, but his own people* did not accept him.12 iBut to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 *j who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh* and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory,the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. Jn 1:9–14 NABRE

I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.

This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.

As we can see in the lives of such individuals, faith is a kind of passion, or, more correctly, a love that seizes an individual and shows him the direction he must go, however fatiguing it may be—the spiritual equivalent, perhaps, of a mountain to climb, which to the ordinary Christian would seem foolish indeed but to one who has committed himself to the venture is clearly the only direction to take—a direction he would not exchange for any conceivably more comfortable one.

5 We should have preferred, and we besought and petitioned the Almighty, that our churches and schools might have been preserved in the teaching of God’s Word and in agreeable Christian concord and that they might have been well managed and carried on in a Christian fashion and in harmony with God’s Word, as they were while Dr. Luther was alive

I started a journey a year ago, and today I start a new one.

The journey began by adding to my devotional reading several things.  The Bible, using a translation I like called the New Living Translation, The Book of Concord, which I read twice,  The Documents of Vatican II, the Edicts of the Council of Trent, and as I went on I added a devotional called the Co-Workers of the Truth, a very pastor devotional book composed of the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

It was an interesting journey, one which unexpectantly opened up a new category for my devotional blog.  It is called Augsburg and Trent, but simply is where I see the Lutheran Church (once called the Evangelical catholic Church ) and the Roman Catholic Church (referred to recently as the Evangelical Catholic Church by George Wiegel and others) holding a pastoral application of doctrine together… or more together than I would have thought.

I will do a similar journey this year, dropping the writings of Trent, and adding two earlier sources, that of the writings of Augustin and Patrick.  Augustine’s because is writings were the basis of a lot of what Luther wanted to see the church reform to, at least according to Him.  Also, Calvin points to him often, and I’ve heard scholars describe his Christian faith as simple.  Patrick because I am curious about the dude.  A strong theologian by all accounts, and a noted missionary/apostle.  Both writers write from a time of the earlier church, and in times where God’s love was revealed to many.

The goal is simple – not much different than the quotes above.  To seek Christ as Augustine desires, and to call upon Him in faith.  As Vatican II urges,  to learn to given people a new energy and desire to examine the height and depth of God’s love which will impact their very lives.  As Cardinal Ratzinger writes, to create the passion and love for God in my own life and the life of His people.   Finally, as the Book of Concord writes, to have for the people a perspective that produces in believers a life like Christ’s, lived in harmony with scripture.

Such a journey is worth the time, (probably about 45-60 minutes a day)  if indeed I can help us realize the truth that the Apostle John notes, that Jesus dwells among us, and to help us see His glory, finding in it the mercy, the love and the peace we so desperately need.

And yes, I will continue to blog where I find ideas that strike me, that challenge me and cause me to grow in understanding of God’s love for us, and communicating that to others.  And I would love the comments and discussions that come from these thoughts.

Thanks for reading… and encouraging me to record my journey… Godspeed

Rev. Dustin T. (d.t.) Parker
Pastor, Concordia Lutheran Church

PS  – my prior pattern was a Bible Translation and a book called Celtic Prayer, and writings of a Catholic saint by the name of St. Josemaria Escriva.  The Bible reading and the writings of Escriva will continue.  🙂

 

Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.Catholic Church. (2011).

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 345). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

.A Necessary Workout…to Help Us Value God’s Grace


Featured imageDevotional thought of the day:

27  So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 31  But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32  Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NLT)

72 If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength.  73 If you wait until you are rid of your burden in order to come to the sacrament purely and worthily, you must stay away from it forever.

142         If you are really fighting, you need to make an examination of conscience. Take care of the daily examination: find out if you feel the sorrow of Love, for not getting to know Our Lord as you should.

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world

We don’t talk about it much, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic or those of us somewhere in between.

Because of the pressures of time, we don’t take the time we need for it either.  This practice that would lead us to appreciate the sacraments better that would make more vivid and real what it means to be promised that our sins are forgiven and removed.

For I think we fall into two categories when it comes to sin.

We dismiss it, because, after all, our sin isn’t as great as “their” sin. I mean – look at the world, their sin is so much greater than ours, and they proudly flaunt their sin in front of all the world.

Or they are so crushed by it, they can’t imagine that God would ever notice their pitiful existence, never mind welcome them into His presence, nor spend the time and patience to create something holy and sacred, while removing all that mars the beauty He created in them.

That is where this idea of the “Examination of Conscience” comes into play.  It is a time to think about our sin, and the struggles we have in our faith.  Not to add to the guilt and shame, though we may shudder a bit as we really think through how much we have done wrong. But in examining our conscience, in taking the time to realize how often we push God away and put ourselves in His place, we begin to realize how incredible His love for us is.  We begin to realize what He has saved us from, and then we appreciate more what He has saved us to experience. Being in the presence, sharing in the glory of God.   This is what an examination of conscience leads to, as it allows us to realize our need for Christ.

I sometimes think we think of salvation, of God’s deliverance of us from sin like a lifeguard saving us from a near drowning experience. We needed the salvation, because we couldn’t calm down, we couldn’t overcome the waves of life.  Examination of our conscience reveals to us that we’ve been saved from drowning, not in a simple rip current, but as we opened the front door of our submarine a mile under the ocean.

And there, in the depths, we find the cross, we find the blood of Christ, we find salvation, a rescue we so need.  Even us who count on so many other things to save us, or count on them to have proven we’ve been saved.  Examination of conscience removes all such illusion.

That’s why Luther advises us not to wait until we are holy enough to run to where God’s grace is poured out on us. Because if we wait, we will never be good enough, we will never be free enough, for it is at the baptismal font that we find our peace.  It is at the altar we find the promise of God’s love, it is as the pastor pronounces our sin forgiven, that we realize the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love for us. It is an awe-inspiring ride, from the depths of despair to the heights of highest joy.

This is the love of God, for you!

So take the time, examine your conscience, and know the love of God which truly rescues you.  AMEN

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 455). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 794-796). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 48: Letters I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 48, pp. 281–282). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Anticipating a glimpse of Heaven this weekend.


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: People from nations and cities around the world will travel to Jerusalem. 21  The people of one city will say to the people of another, ‘Come with us to Jerusalem to ask the LORD to bless us. Let’s worship the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I’m determined to go.’ 22  Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD of Heaven’s Armies and to ask for his blessing. 23  “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:20-23 (NLT)

186         People from different countries, different races, and very different backgrounds and professions… When you speak to them about God, you become aware of the human and supernatural value of your vocation as an apostle. It is as if you are reliving, in its total reality, the miracle of the first preaching of Our Lord’s disciples. Phrases spoken in a strange tongue, which open up new ways, have been heard by each one, in the depth of his heart in his own language. And in your mind you can see that scene taking on a new life, in which “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” have come joyfully to God.

Sunday at my church we will celebrate the old feast of All Saints.

It is also the day that both congregations that are our church gather as the church.  One people, One service, Two languages, (and many, many more represented!)People from five continents ( can anyone bring an Antarcian and an Australian?)  It takes a little more to plan the worship, my sermon has to be translated, and we gather the most incredible food from all sorts of cultures.

There are days I feel like Peter at Pentecost, looking out on such a crowd.  Other times, the Old Testament prophecies like the one above in red, the scenes described fulfilled in the Revelation to St John, are made manifest.  God is with us; He has gathered us, so diverse, and yet to united in and by the blood of Christ Jesus. The same Lord that gave the vision to Zechariah and St. John is the same God who descended upon the apostles, and works through His people today.

It is truly amazing, overwhelming, beyond belief.

God has brought us all here… to celebrate His work in us,  To celebrate being made part of our family

It is a beautiful foretaste of what is too come – and it creates a desire to complete the work, too see people from every time in history, from every place where the sun has shined, from every Langauge and clan!  It is a foretaste of the healing of the nations talked about that will occur when God brings us together, and we glorify and praise and honor Him for what He has done.  It also puts perspective to this life for us… that we are really one, not divided by race or nationality or ethnicity or language, but one because of the blood of Christ, cleansing us all.

Bringing peace to all, bringing sustenance to all..

This is our hope, our expectation, because of the love of God.  The love of God for us…

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 991-996). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Travelling Companions of the Cross Lesson 6: Will We Be Companions to Whom He Was?


Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 6: Will We Be Companions to Whom He Was?

Matthew 11:12-19

† I.H.S. †

But Wisdom is shown to be right by its results

That last line of the gospel reading is interesting to me.

“Wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

It sounds at first, like an intellectual version of faith without works is dead.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize it is not the intellectual version of faith without works is dead, it simply is the same statement.

Not the normal phrase to preach on, as we celebrate the 498th anniversary of Martin Luther insisting that we aren’t saved by works, but simply by having faith in God.

Having faith in God =Trusting in God = Depending on God = Wisdom.

And that trust, that wisdom, is seen as our lives, and our hearts and minds, are transformed into the likeness of Christ.

We aren’t saved by our works, or our results, or even our knowledge.  Wisdom knows this!

But all of those are evidence of our relationship with God.

That is the reason He saves us.  To have a relationship with us!

So let us see how that is recognized in our lives.

The set-up

When I hear Jesus describe the generation of the apostles, I realize our generation doesn’t get it any more than they did back then.

They got everything backward, they didn’t repent when they should, and they didn’t celebrate when God brought together what should be together.   Heck, they didn’t even know how to play, to pretend, to imagine what the future held.

That is why they criticized John the Baptist for calling for people to be united to God, and why they criticized Jesus for celebrating that fact that God dwelt among His people.

Would we welcome them?  If so, their sin?

Which brings about an interesting question.

Would we be companions to the people Jesus was a companion too?  Would we be worried if people thought we were drunkards, I mean, the glutton thing is hard to deny.  What would people say if they knew the pastor of this church enjoyed hanging out with politicians, or drunks, or people whose morals were loose, heck if they were non-existent?  Would there be a scandal, if the world knew the leaders of this church hung out with a bunch of dirty rotten sinners?

I mean – wait – would it be really any different than any other week around here?

This place is a place for broken people to celebrate that God has given up on them.  To find in God, the Lord, who would heal them, and love them.  Who would draw them back to Him?  That is what the church is supposed to be, a place where a sinner haunted by his sin like Luther was could find respite in the cross.

Where the church was supposed to share God’s mercy, they didn’t.  They didn’t offer comfort to those who were broken by sin, by the loneliness that sins can often result in, for sin divides.

Would we welcome the broken? Would we celebrate their being here?Would we help them realize he healing, comforting presence of God in their lives? Would we celebrate with them as God makes them His own?

That calls for a feast – and so we shall!

That may make us different from the world, and even from other churches.

But it isn’t just the comforting of those broken by sin… it is calling people who need to, to repent.

Not the ones already broken by sin, but those who play God, or who hide their brokenness, or ignore and deny it.  For Jesus called people to repentance as much as He comforted the broken.

The difference is he called to repentance those who others believed were holy and perfect.  Those who pretended they were good and faithful. We need to repent, allow Jesus to heal our brokenness and forgive our sins.

We need to mourn, and we need to dance, we need to repent, and we need to celebrate the love of the Lord who draws us to Him.

Not crush the sinners and applaud the self-righteous….

But to let the Holy Spirit draw the self-righteous to repentance, and lift the prodigal, broken and desperate to the throne of God, to be welcomed home to a feast.

The Reformation – these can be saved.. and so can we…

You see, that was what the Reformation was about.

The theology was important, but more important was helping the church realize that our lives are to be like Jesus Christ’s.  We’ve been anointed in our baptism, united to Him, not only because God wants us to be holy, but because He wants the world to be Holy, and He will use us to draw people to Jesus.

To bring sinners into grace, to help the self-righteous to realize that they are sinners, so they too can know the grace, the love and mercy of God.

That was Luther’s issue…it drove him crazy thinking he couldn’t be forgiven.  It didn’t just bother him; he was driven nuts, screaming late into the night, trying to find some hope, some sense of love.

The goal of the reformation then was to help people know the peace He found, the peace we each need to find… the peace of Christ given to us because God loved us enough for Jesus to come and die on the cross.

The results of God’s wisdom was our being saved, sinners being comforted.  Broken folks being healed…

I said earlier in the sermon, one of the problems of the self-righteous was that they wouldn’t play because they don’t have the ability to imagine that which they can’t see, especially the future.

The humble, the broken, simply struggle and hear the hope of God’s love, of a life of peace, and they can’t think of everything else.

There is a time to mourn our sin, to mourn the brokenness and death….

And there is a time to feast, to celebrate the love of a God who dwells in our midst…

Because He is here… AMEN

Why Faith Is More Than Just What We Believe…..


Featured imagedevotional thought of the day:
26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:26-28 (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)

127         The test, I don’t deny it, proves to be very hard: you have to go uphill, “against the grain”. What is my advice? That you must say: Omnia in bonum, everything that happens, “everything that happens to me”, is for my own good… Therefore do accept what seems so hard to you, as a sweet and pleasant reality.  (1)

We hear the passages, the plea that is the question,

“do you believe in Jesus?”

We nod our head, maybe even say a strong, gut level yes.  We proceed to talk about some aspect of doctrine, or some moment in the past where our “faith” became alive and meaningful.  We know we are going to heaven, (aren’t we?) but we struggle to understand what that really means.

We believe, which I think too often we define as “we know”.  We reinforce that when we talk of defending the faith as arguing about doctrine, or some theological principle or proof, such as the proof for the existence of God.  Or even our “new believer’s class, which can appropriately cover a catechism, but is all question and answers, including some interesting tangents. Such knowledge is necessary and beneficial, but it is not what our faith is, it is simply a description of it.

Faith is a level of trust, a level of dependance on God.  It is knowing that He will indeed keep His promises, the promises He has actually made to you and others who know Him.

It is knowing that all things will work together for good.  All things, yeah, even when that moment occurs when you are revealed to be broken to the entire world.  Yes, even those times you struggled with the brokenness of the world, and the inability of anyone to deal with it.  As St. Josemaria encourages us, we accept what happens, not liking it, but confident in God will prove Himself again worthy of your trust, caring for you, healing you, holding you.

Faith is an intimate relationship with God, on His terms, based in His love, by His standards.  It’s a non-negotiable relationship, what we call a religion.  After all, He is the One who created us, the One who is pure wisdom, pure love, pure reality, pure grace.  A grace, a charism, a gift of life that is beyond anything we can imagine.

The odd thing is, we find ourselves closest to comprehending it, not during mountaintop experiences, but in the midst of our brokenness.  In is in the depth our sorrow, our anxiety, our grief that the light of the Holy Spirit comes in the brightest.  It is the midst of those times we pray, and we depend, and trust, and find Him holding onto us.

Maybe you are there, in the middle of brokenness, in despair and need to know that God loves you.  I assure you that He does.  That He will pick you up, as He has picked me up. As He continues to minister to us all.

I’ll leave you with this, a video of Rich Mullins, whose brokenness…is as evident as his dependance, his trust, his faith in God

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 720-724). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

want a meaningful vacation? try this…


Featured imagedevotional thought of the day

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

Insofar as we can trace its history at all, pilgrimage is one of the primordial impulses of humanity. Man sets out again and again to find escape from the customary daily humdrum, to gain distance from it, to become free. This impulse is still active today in the more recent profane brother of pilgrimage, namely, tourism. Its continued existence accounts for the hordes of wanderers who incessantly make their way through our continent, feeling that they are not completely at home there. But pilgrimage must be more than tourism. I mean: it must realize more truly, more fundamentally, and more entirely what the tourist only hopes to experience.

I have to admit, I was tempted to put the entire devotion from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger into today’s blog, and leave it alone.  It is one of the most brilliant pieces I have ever read.  When we go on vacation, what we are, in the bottom of our hearts looking for, is a retreat, a pilgrimage, and encounter with something that will restore and give us rest.

Instead we often try to move so fast, see so much, experience it all.

A few years ago, my wife and I were given a gift – a vacation to Italy.  We tried to see it all in the ten or eleven days we were there.  Having read this, I thought back to the trip, and what made it special.  I asked her, and it was the moment I thought, as it was for me.

It was in a church; Santa Maria de la Pace, that was located in a place called Villa Tevere. The church was built in what we might call the basement of a very ordinary building.  It wasn’t ancient, it wasn’t even old by American standards, never mind Roman.  It wasn’t a large cathedral or a majestic major basilica.  It was a place where we were able to pray, given as much time as we wanted by the man who showed us around.  It was a place that invited such prayer, even begged for it.

It was the place where a vacation turned into a pilgrimage.

We could then identify two other places, much more humble, yet even more incredible and precious than the huge places that surrounded them.  The chapel/sanctuary where St. Francis was buried, under to other incredibly beautiful sanctuaries in Assisi.  And the pantheon, a place once dedicated to destroying life to appease gods and re-dedicated as a church, a place where people came spiritually alive as they heard the Word and received the Eucharist.  We came back from this trip not exhausted, but fulfilled, rested and aware of the grace of God because of those moments kneeling in prayer.

I don’t think either would have meant as much without the church inside Villa Tevere. Thirty minutes, simply quiet and on our knees.  Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict ) later wrote in the devotion why this is so critical;  Those moments were amazing, a taste of heaven in a way words cannot explain.

The purpose of pilgrimage is ultimately, not an object of interest, but a breaking through to the living God. We attempt to reach this goal by seeking out the scenes of salvation history. Its interior and exterior ways do not follow the direction of our whims. We enter, as it were, into the geography of God’s history, where he has set up his directional signs. We journey toward a goal that has been designated beforehand, not toward one that we invent for ourselves. By entering into his history and turning toward the signs the Church gives us out of the fullness of her faith, we go toward one another. By becoming pilgrims, we are better able to attain what tourism seeks: otherness, distance, freedom, and a deeper encounter.

It is a chance to get a sight of what Ezekiel describes, a foretaste of what we will have for eternity, a time where we realize the reality of walking with God, we see the fellowship, the communion that is life changing, that leads us deeper in faith.

If you can’t go to Italy, I can recommend two other pilgrimages.  The first is to travel in time, to go back to your baptism, to meditate on what was given there, promised there.  The promise God made to you, an eternal promise of life, an eternal promise of His presence. The second is also sacramental, the time at the altar, on our knees, as we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  As we realize we are one with Him, as we gain what we really desire, the sense of otherness, distance from the world, freedom from sin and Satan and so much else.  It is that moment where we arrive at a deeper encounter, a transforming and transcending moment where all we are aware of is God presence and the presence of His family.  So in a very precious and real way, every Sunday becomes a pilgrimage, a real vacation, a real time of restoration and rest.

Come and rest, come and leave your burdens behind, come and know that God is indeed with you.  AMEN.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 335). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. devotion for 10/22

does how we view God affect our ministry?


Featured imagedevotional thought of the day;

18 You have not come to a physical mountain,* to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”* 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”*
22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.   Heb 12:18–24 nlt

119         Those problems which used to overwhelm you—and seemed like enormous mountains—disappeared completely. They were solved in a divine way, as when Our Lord commanded the winds and the waters to be calm. And to think that you still doubted!

when i read the verses from Hebrews this morning, i knew i would be writing about them, though i didn’t know how until i read the passage from St. Josemaria.

for i think we would all say that we understand the scripture passage, that we all agree, we do not dwell in the presence of God in the way Moses perceived.  we live in grace, we live in a God who reveals His presence as the comforter, the paraclete, the refuge, the One in Whom we can trust, and upon Whom we depend.

if that is so, shouldn’t that be evident in our life?  we should live in a manner that reflects the joy of coming into the presence of God as one whose name is written in heaven. we should live without fear, for we depend upon the fact that Jesus mediated the new covenant, a covenant which cries out with mercy, that speaks of forgiveness.

we need to realize what this means for life now, here and now.  those mountains of fear that assail us, that challenged our desire to serve God, cannot cause us to fail, for forgiveness and mercy follow us, as David wrote. we may need to find our rest, our sanctuary, and a place to heal now and then, but God will guide us past the mountains, and through the storms. we don’t have to walk around on eggshells, as if failing God, He’s already proven what He does with our sins, would He somehow less merciful because we tried to love, care, and bring the gospel to others?

this means we can dream big – not of our fame, but of God’s glory.  we can try something that we might not have seen as possible, or possible for us. we can reach out in love, without fear of rejection. we can simply love, not to be loved in return, but because we know we already are.

walking into God’s presence is something that leaves us in awe.  yet it transforms us as well, freeing us to hear His voice, to realize we walk with Him.  as we heard yesterday in Mark 9, that means the impossible – of seeing God at work in our lives… is not just possible.  it is probable.

live in Christ Jesus my friends, for that is why you were born again. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 692-694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hang on to God, not gods, a sermon on Mark 10:23-31


The Companions of the Cross

Hang on to GOD, not gods

Mark 10:23–31

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe, that no idol, no other desire would distract you from their love and mercy.  Amen!

Can’t get in!

I remember almost thirty years ago, standing at the desk at St joseph’s hospital in Orange.  A young man was standing outside the obstetrics ward, as his girlfriend had given birth to his son.  Big kid, some 13 pounds 8 ounces. He was frustrated, because it wasn’t visiting hours, he was there too early, and he wanted to see his son and his lady.

But there are rules, and at that hospital, back in those days, no one was allowed on a floor.

I remember the tiny little nun and the nurse, standing there, telling him there was no way they would let him in, never mind any of the other family standing around. He tried every argument, even suggesting a small bribe and then a bigger bribe.  Well, that didn’t make things much better,

No access.  No way.

I think the camel would have passed through the needle twice before he would get in past the nun and nurse prior to visiting hours.  .

No access.  No way.

Last week we saw the rich young man walk away because he owned too much property, and it was his idol, how he identified himself, and to give it all up to follow Jesus.

The rich man so wanted to find a way to get into heaven, and walked away realizing it would cost him more than he was willing to part with, it would cost him everything to walk with Jesus.

In today’s gospel, the story continues.  The apostles are amazed that the rich man can’t get into to heaven. They were astounded that Jesus compared the difficulty of taking a camel weighing 2000 pounds and forcing it through a sewing needle.

About the same likelihood of a young father getting to see his son in a Catholic hospital thirty years ago, a son born to a woman he was not married to…

Astounded and amazed – Powerless – really

It says twice in our gospel reading that the apostles were amazed and astounded by the fact the man couldn’t be among those blessed.  After all, the man they saw before Jesus had EVERYTHING they believed marked one as a blessed son of God.

He had property in the holy land, what God had promised to Israel, or so they thought.

He was able to keep the commandments and claim it before Jesus, something Jesus didn’t contest.  That didn’t mean he broke them, but that when he did, he offered the appropriate sacrifices to atone for them.

Mark even records that he was greatly loved by Jesus.  Either this was based on a comment or observation, but the proof was evident, so evident that the holy spirit recorded it in the scriptures.

With all of that, he wasn’t able to be given a free pass into the kingdom of God.

If anyone should have been, it should have been him.

Reminds me of paul’s words in Philippians

4  though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! 5  I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6  I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Philippians 3:4-6 (NLT)

Sounds like the young rich young man, doesn’t it.

Matter of fact, some in the early church thought it might have been.  A man with all the right stuff, all the right credentials, and he couldn’t get into heaven on his own.

The barriers were still up, and the idols he clung too were too much.

Amazed he can’t, the disciples are dismayed.  They wonder who can be saved, they ask the same question, what will it ake.  And if the apostles and the rich man can’t impressed Jesus enough, how in the world do you and I have a chance.

I guarantee I am not able to measure up to someone like Paul, and sorry, there isn’t one of you who can either.

Let’s be serious, we have as many false gods we cling too, we have our idols, and the things that control us, our identities, our sins.

And if it is impossible for a man who was, by all accounts a saint, who desired to be in heaven, to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, then it is impossible for us as well.

What hope is there then Peter says, we’ve given it all up.. is there any hope/

Empowered

While Jesus says it is impossible for man, it is possible for God.

The man, impatient to see his son and lady, realized someone walked up behind him.  It was his younger brother, who had a name badge identifying himself as a chaplain at another hospital.  The nun and nurse greeted him warmly, noting the badge.

He asked if he could see his brother’s lady, and the nun graciously said she would immediately show the young chaplain into see her.  The chaplain asked if his brother would come, and was told, ‘yes, chaplain.’  The man went in and saw his newborn son and lady.

What power and money couldn’t do, having a connection to the right person could. As we said in Boston,  click  “ya gotta know somebody.”

It is as Jesus said, what is impossible for man, God is able to do.

Or as Paul the apostle wrote,

7  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT)

That is what heaven is about.  About having a relationship with the creator of the universe.  It is about knowing his grace, his mercy, and his love. That we become one with Him, that we know we are the kids that God has given birth to in our baptism.

Nothing is more valuable, nothing is even comparable to knowing the love of God, love so incredible that St. Paul talked of our exploring its height, its depth, its width and breadth.

It is worth abandoning all, as peter indicated that he and the other apostles had.

And then heard Jesus remark something incredible,

I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

my brothers, sisters, we have been given each other, a gift from God as we’ve been born again.  We are going to have some struggles, but together, as His family, we will one day be home with our Father, and with our Lord and the Holy Spirit.

Until that day, we are His, and will dwell, guarded in peace, a peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

A Measure of Congregational and Christian Maturity: The Sacrifice of Preference


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. 7 And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.(Heb 7:6–7)  NLT

Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed, this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people.

I have an older member of my congregation; she is tone who loves a traditional liturgy with organ accompaniment going full throttle.  She said to me one day, “Pastor, I prefer the older liturgy, but I hear people singing the new liturgy, and I see where it is a blessing to others.  Keep doing it.”    I have another member, who learned the Lord’s prayer from a modern translation, without the hallow ‘d’s and Thy’s.  But hearing the passion in the voice of the older folk who say it, he wants to hear them say it, their way, and not steal their comfort by forcing them to become modern.

I hold them out to you, dear reader, as an example of Christian maturity.

Why?  Because they understand that being blessed by their preferences being satisfied is not as important as helping others know Christ Jesus, to experience His love and His mercy.

As the writer of Hebrews explains it, it is Christlike, it is the more mature that blesses, and what greater blessing is there that you can give someone, that to have the gospel communicate to them in a way they “get.”

That’s what I like about the statement from Vatican II.  It recognizes the purpose of the church to make sure that can grasp the gospel.   To express Christ’s message in a way that is different, not in core message, but in view of the context it is delivered to, knowing the age, the culture, the various ethnic and language idiosyncrasies.  Let me give you an example.  The French spoken in Quebec is different than the French of Belgium, is different from the French spoken in Vietnam.   Some is the same, but to communicate to the heart of the people, you phrase some things differently.  Likewise, I would preach a sermon on the same passage differently if I was preaching it at a Harvard Chapel, or at a rescue mission.  As Robert Schuller used to talk about, we have to study our milieu as much as the passage we preach.

A mature church adapts its message to the people.  This is not sugar coating it, but understanding it is an act of love to bless others with a message it can grasp. That means working hard, diligently preparing messages and music, and helping others see where they too can learn to sacrifice.

This is the church; this is growing in awareness of God’s desire. This is growing in our ability to depend on God, to love, to be transformed into the image of Christ.  It is proof of His work in us….

So think – and bless God fo the ability to communicate His love, even to those who are different!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

How Do You Survive Ministry Weariness and Do Your Job


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.  (Hebrews 6:17-20

122         You find yourself in a position which seems rather strange: on the one hand, you feel fainthearted, as you look inwards; on the other, sure, encouraged, as you look upwards. Don’t worry: it is a sign that you are beginning to know yourself better and— more importantly!—that you are beginning to know Him better.  (1)

As things get more expensive, the ability of most churches to have sufficient staff that is compensated for their work has decreased dramatically. Where there might have been a couple of pastors, a youth worker and secretarial staff of 2 30 years ago, is now down to a full-time pastor, and maybe a part support person or two. Sometimes the pastor is blessed with a large amount of volunteer staff, but to train them and still be responsible for their ministry, adds to the burden.

It is no surprise that pastors, ministers, priests and the others who “minister” at the church burn out.  Or simply get too weary to do things effectively.  For a pastor putting in a sixty hour a week (or more) or a volunteer putting in 15-20 hours after their full-time job, weariness becomes a way of life, a pattern that seems unbreakable.

St. Josemaria’s words hit home to those in those periods of life.   We look inwards and wonder how we will keep going.   How can we do our job, not just passably, but well.  After all, our ministry does have an importance like no other.  It is not just a life or death situation, it is now and eternally a life or death/hell issue.  So when we fall asleep on the job, what do we do?

We look up, we run to God for refuge, We find in Him our anchor for our souls.  And anchor that pulls us into the Holiest of Holy places, into the presence of God Himself.

And this holy place, this sanctuary, this place where God dwells becomes our life.  Because the Holy Spirit is given to us, we become that holiest place,  Our feet are standing on Holy Ground because we are there.  We find know His presence, exult in it.   Which is why the letter of Hebrews talks about encouraging each other, helping each other, coming alongside and reminding us that God comes alongside us.

It is there, in the second someone says, “and also with you” as you share with them the Lord’s presence in their lives, that we find the strength.  And the weariness fades long enough to drive home, and rest in His peace.

This is ministry… empowered by God… dwelling in His presence.. bringing Him to others who need to know that.

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 702-705). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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