Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Challenge of Being a Good Pastor..



Discussion Thought of the Day:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture—oracle of the LORD. 2 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.b 3 I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.c 4 I will raise up shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing—oracle of the LORD.  NABRE _ Jeremiah 3:1-4

“If there be no bad shepherds,” says Saint Augustine speaking about the good shepherd, “he would not have described the hireling, who sees the wolf and flees. He seeks his own glory, not Christ’s glory. He does not dare to rebuke sinners with freedom of spirit. The wolf catches a sheep by the neck, the devil induces a man to commit adultery. And you are silent and do not rebuke. Then you are a hireling because you have seen the wolf and have fled. Perhaps you might say: ‘No, I’m here, I haven’t fled.’ I answer: ‘You have fled because you have been silent, and you have been silent because you were afraid.’”

16 The holiness of Christ’s Spouse has always been shown—as it can be seen today—by the abundance of good shepherds. But our Christian faith, which teaches us to be simple, does not bid us be simple-minded. There are hirelings who keep silent, and there are hirelings who speak with words which are not those of Christ. That is why, if the Lord allows us to be left in the dark even in little things, if we feel that our faith is not firm, we should go to the good shepherd. He enters by the door as of right. He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy. If your conscience tells you that you have committed a fault—even though it does not appear to be serious or if you are in doubt—go to the sacrament of Penance. Go to the priest who looks after you, who knows how to demand of you a steady faith, refinement of soul, and true Christian fortitude. The Church allows the greatest freedom for confessing to any priest, provided he has the proper faculties; but a conscientious Christian will go—with complete freedom—to the priest he knows is a good shepherd, who can help him to look up again and see once more, on high, the Lord’s star.  (1)

It seems a lot of my devotional reading has been about the interior life and caused me to focus on my internal life.  My readings this morning are also calling for some self-examination, and the prayers for forgiveness and strength, and prayers for those who like me, shepherd the people of God.

I admit, I wonder how to live up to the words of Jeremiah, whether the people I minister to have been able to overcome the fears or anxieties.  I fear the sheep that are being driven away from the church – not just my congregation, and not even the body of congregations mine is part of, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.   We spend to much time focusing on division, or drawing lines in the sand, and not enough time in humble prayer.  We spend too much time plotting and setting visions, and not enough in selfless service, in building the relationships where people trust us. They need to trust us enough that we can direct them to depend on God, that they drop the barriers and allow God to refine their souls, and that they can run to God’s presence, where the find that He is their rock, their fortress, their sanctuary.

Like every pastor and priest I know, we start out wanting people to have the freedom, the confidence in God that they come to us, so that we can point them to Christ. So often the burdens of ministry stop us from ministering to them.  This is our call, the reason we are given the responsibility of preaching the gospel, of teaching people to trust in Christ, and the reason we are the stewards of the mysteries of God.

For those of us, who take the time and begin to examine our ministry, and the life devoted to Christ from which our originates, I would point out some simple words in the middle of St Josemaria’s words.  He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.”  Yes, this is us, we want to be a soul in love.  and we gave our lives for others.  Yet even as we do, St. Josemaria notes we may be sinners (may be is quite generous) who trusts in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.

We can shepherd because we know His mercy, we must depend upon it.  The gospel we preach, we preach because it means something personally to us.  We can guide people to Him, because we’ve been in the valley and overwhelmed by darkness, and yet have seen Him lifted up so that He might draw us to Him.

This is the walk of the shepherd, one who has been shepherded.  Pray for us, pray for your priest and your pastor,  Ensure they have time to know God’s peace, that they know His love. Encourage them in ways they know theya ren’t just employees, not just servants, but those who care for your soul.  AMEN.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1163-1178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lord, You Want Me To Preach on What?


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

7 You seduced me,* LORD, and I let myself be seduced; you were too strong for me, and you prevailed. All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage I proclaim; The word of the LORD has brought me reproach and derision all day long. 9 I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name. But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot! Jeremiah 20:7-9  NAB-RE

If vocation comes first, if the star shines ahead to start us along the path of God’s love, it is illogical that we should begin to doubt if it chances to disappear from view. It might happen at certain moments in our interior life—and we are nearly always to blame—that the star disappears, just as it did to the wise kings on their journey. We have already realized the divine splendor of our vocation, and we are convinced about its definitive character, but perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk—our miseries—forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above.

In the passage I am preaching on this week, there is what is called a gospel imperative.  In other words, a command of God that only can be realized and heard within the fullness of the gospel.  It has to be heard in a life of prayer, a life which realizes we stand on Holy ground.  

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good”  Galatians 6:9

The first quote, from scripture above, is one of my ten favorite passages in scripture.  It probably could be described as my life verse, at least it is one I experience a lot.  For working in God’s kingdom is as wearing as building stone walls, or managing a university bookstore in the first weeks of class. It is worse, physically tiring, mentally exhausting and spiritually draining.

If a pastor neglects God, if he is too busy for time in prayer, if he is too busy for devotional time (as well as the business of studying scripture to preach and teach it) he will reach Jeremiah’s position quickly.  We can reach the point that St Josemaria describes, where the dust we stir up in our journey distorts and even eclipses our view of Christ, our understanding of His love for us.

Of course, this isn’t just about pastors, for we are not the only ones who do good.  It is true for every believer, for every perosn who trusts and depends on Christ.  For that is what the faith is, need to cling to Christ (Jeremiah describes it as our being as clingy as underwear!) because He is our source of life, and of serenity and joy.

The answer to burnout, the answer to not seeing Christ is to know Him, to know the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns within us.  TO depend on that rather than what we see and observe.  It is what saints and mystics call the interior life,  This is why St John of the Cross advises staying where we are at, making no dramatic change.  We are to keep praying, to keep receiving the sacraments even when the storms of life blind us, when Satan assails us.  We need to be patient and seek God, remembering that He is our refuge, our fortress, our sanctuary.

It is from this place that we can find His strength, where we find the dynamo that is the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. For dwelling in Christ we can keep on doing good, we can keep on loving the unlovable, we can be patient with those struggling, and guide them into the very presence of God.

For we know where He is… we know where Holy Ground is.  We know where He has put His Name… fo we have met Him at the cross and been united to Him there.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1146-1151). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Prayer: The Required Grace…?



Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  Just as [under] shorts fit tightly around the waist, so I intended all the people of Israel and Judah to hold tightly to me. I did this so that they would be my people and would bring praise and honor to my name;  but they would not obey me.” Jeremiah 13:11 (TEV)

To pray, as the Second Commandment teaches, is to call upon God in every need. This God requires of us; he has not left it to our choice. It is our duty and obligation to pray if we want to be Christians, just as it is our duty and obligation to obey our fathers and mothers and the civil authorities. By invocation and prayer the name of God is glorified and used to good purpose. This you should note above all so that you may silence and repel any thoughts that would prevent or deter us from praying.  (1) 

For those familiar with Luther, and the Lutheran understanding of Law and Gospel, the words in blue may sound strange and confusing.  This sounds like a harsh use of the law, something that would lead to condemnation, something that is so demanding that all it can lead to is guilt and shame.

For many do not pray as they should! It is overlooked, dismissed as activities that are based in pietism. And if these words were not in Luther’s Large catechism  they would be dismissed.  Instead, I think they are simply ignored.

There is a part of us, the part that doubts God is listening, that doubt God cares, that finds prayer, whether prayers  laying burdens down or hearing from God as we listening in prayer, as we meditate on His word, as burdensome and boring.  We see them as something that saints might do, but by no means required beyond the prayers that are read at church.

Luther realized the necessity (so did Melanchthon – see his comments in Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession! ) of prayer.  But that necessity isn’t borne just of pleasing God.  God didn’t commission us to use His name just so He would be glorified.  The glory comes when we respond to His hearing, to His answering the prayer.  Praise issues from our lips when we realize the comfort and peace the world cannot give, the comfort and peace that is possible only as we realize the merciful serenity that can be experienced in the presence of almighty God.

It is the answer to the cry of our heart that brings us to worship.  This is why prayer is a requirement – because we need this means of grace, we desperately need what it delivers.

It is serendipitous (always wanted to use that word) that on the day I encounter Luther’s words, I encounter the words of the prophet Jeremiah.   For indeed God wants us to know how close to us He is, how close to Him we are!  This is the life of prayer – to cling to God like we are his underwear, as bizarre as that metaphor sounds!  (and oh the comments that could be made…)

We need to be that close, we have to, in order to survive mentally, spiritually, even physically.  For our life begins to spiral out of control as we separate ourselves from our Lord who is our life. We  replace knowing God with knowing about Him, then we replace that knowledge with our own speculation and desires, as we make an idol in our image.

Cling to God, stalk Him, be persistent, wrestle with Him.

For He is our God, our Father.

And a great place to begin is with this little prayer of St Josemaria…..

383      Dear Jesus, I do want to correspond to your Love, but I am so feeble. With your grace, I will know how to!  (2)

AMEN!

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 421). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1501-1503). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Growing Faith & Ministry and Those who Would Prevent It


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
5  And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.    1 Peter 2:5 (NLT)

1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.    Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)

On some occasions I have witnessed what could be called a general mobilization against those committed to dedicating their whole lives to the service of God and souls. Some people think that our Lord ought to ask their permission before choosing others for his service. Apparently they believe man is not free to say an unequivocal yes or no to this proposal of Love. To people who think that way, the supernatural life of each soul is something secondary. They do believe it has to be reckoned with, but only after petty comforts and human selfishness have been accommodated. If this were the case, what would be left of Christianity? Are the loving but demanding words of Jesus only to be heard? Or are they rather to be heard and put into practice? Did he not say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”?8

One of the things that those who observe the church and its ministry is that the millennial generation is more caused based.  That is, they do not want a passive church where they sit and learn academic proofs for the existence of God and the formula for justification. They want an active faith, a trust in God that drives them to serve with purpose.

Some say this is new, but I remember my generation wanting the same thing.  We responded to calls to be servant leaders, not just the bureaucrats and office holders we’ve too often become. What is worse, my generation, and the one before that seem determined to quench the spirit of those who would serve, saying that they cannot serve.

In doing so, not only are they preventing men and women from serving the vocation God has given them, they deny them a chance to grow in faith.  The church should be recognizing the gifts and calling that God has given them.  The church should be laying hands on and praying for the Spirit to bless those who would serve!  Those who stop people from serving as part of the church are restraining them from doing the things that would lift up their pastors. There is no scriptural or confessional reason for this!  ( Luther, Melancthon, and Walther all talk about such assistance as being good and right!)

I think St. Josemaria Escriva is correct, the resistance to letting people serve as God has called them has nothing to do with caring for them spiritually, and everything to do with petty comforts and selfishness.  Harsh words, but to dismiss the supernatural life of souls as something secondary is completely contrary to the scriptures.

For these is a great tie between making sacrifices, and depending on God.  Service and Faith are inseparable.  Just like there is a right call to the office of the pastor, there is a right call to the priesthood, to the ministry of serving, to what in Greek is called the diakonos, that is – the office of deacon.

As a pastor, there are few things more uplifting as seeing the people of God hear the message I proclaim, the gospel I teach and desire to do something with it. It is not a threat to my job, or a threat to my existence.  It isn’t a financial threat to see this!  There is no threat in educating people to serve.  It becomes the joy of seeing the care of souls entrusted to me bearing fruit. What a joy it is, when people say that this person ministered to them, what joy is it to watch a man stand by me and assist in baptizing those he shared the hope he has because of Christ.

What a joy it is to see them hunger and thirst to know God’s love, to help them explore it, to help them be rid of those things that quench their relationship with God. To see them realize that they can please God, that they who were justified by Christ are now sanctified and set apart to live walking with their Lord, guided by the Holy Spirit.

We have a unique opportunity, to see the church’s faith become relevant to their lives, to see them dedicate their lives to serving God and the people in the communities they live in, and the communities around the world. How we do that will determine the church for generations to come, whether it will be weak and die out where we live, or whether it will serve God.

It’s our choice, just as it was Israel’s as it entered the land.

Let’s pray.. and hear God speak clearly.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1116-1122). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Justification Isn’t Enough


Devotional/Discussion Thought fo the Day:

7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)

7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)

1  This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)

1  This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2  God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.
1 Peter 1:1-2 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

In Lutheran Theology, the Article of Justification has a primary place. Indeed, some call it the chief article of the faith.  But that doesn’t mean that it is the only article of the faith

It is a genesis point, a point of beginning, and God’s declaration of our righteousness is something that continues in our life.  It is hearing this declaration that enabled the disciples to walk away from family and work, and follow Jesus.  His call to them, even as He calls us. But even in Luther’s explanation of the Creed we see that it is a beginning point, that God works something more in us.

But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  (2)

It is work, the enlightenment, the sanctification and preservation that brings Paul and Peter to describe the people of God as holy, as saints (the same thing in Greek)   Were they perfect from our perspective?  No, but God was sanctifying them, and creating in them a perfection that no one can deny.  

While we don’t make ourselves holy, there is the nature of self-examination that helps us realizing that the Holy Spirit is at work.  As the Spirit confronts us, illuminates those things which our heart could easily turn into our idols.  It might not be something that people would normally think of as an idol, but what do we trust in, what can we not live without.  Where does our hope balance upon, and if that is threatened, we react strongly, even vehemently, to protect it. Do we believe something may make a difference, that only it can make a difference?  Then we have made a god and idol and given it a place in our heart that need be reserved for God.

And it is as we examine our conscience, as we look for that which is not set apart from God, that we can cry out like the blind man, “Lord have mercy!”, “Lord, Son of David, Heal me!”

Faith is the confidence it takes to ask God to remove it, to remove that which mars the holiness He has declared to be true.  Faith means we depend on the Holy Spirit to create in us the repentant spirit that is part and parcel of our being declared righteous, being declared justified.  Faith realizes that we’ve been united, that we are in communion with Jesus.  That his incredible union, our baptismal gift from God, is strengthened as we spend sacred time,  participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist, hearing we are absolved of our sin, reading and hearing scriptures and meditating on all these things.

This is our life saints… to cry out for mercy, and to trust God as He purifies our lives, a work that is brought to completion in the day of Christ.

Justification is primary, yes, as in the beginning.  It is not all the work of God in our lives, just that which begins and makes the rest possible including the amazing fact that we can love God, and He would know that love.  For this purpose we have been created… to love our God, and to know His love for us, His people.

AMEN!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

A Very Needed Lesson in Church Leadership..


Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  After Jesus had washed their feet, he put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table. “Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked. 13  “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. 14  I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. 15  I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you. 16  I am telling you the truth: no slaves are greater than their master, and no messengers are greater than the one who sent them. 17  Now that you know this truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice!   John 13:12-17 (TEV)

12  Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” 13  Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14  so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” 15  Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” 16  “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17  “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18  But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19  For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20  These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
Matthew 15:12-20 (NLT)

Today how can anyone deny the fact that some men of the church are in a state of moral ruin?  The careerism and the temptation to worldliness that the successor of which Peter speaks so often are very real evils.   Some people imagine that they are products of the pope’s imagination.  Alas , clerical narcissism is not just a literary theme. The sickness can be deep-seated.  
In order to turn the tide, we must first reform our interior life. The church depends on the purity of our souls.”  (1)

The quote in blue comes from a book, basically an enhanced interview with a Roman Catholic Cardinal from Africa.  His story is a remarkable blend of suffering and hope, of wisdom born from times of real persecution, and a desire to see Christ.  This is the story of a man who came from a village in the middle of nowhere, became a priest and bishop in a place where his predecessors were jailed and murdered.  His dependence on God was tried in a way we can’t quite imagine, here safe and comfortable in the USA.

His critique of leadership in his church is accurate, and perhaps even more accurate in the Protestant church, and in my comparatively little corner of the church universal known as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  His presentation of where hope is found?  It is also I believe accurate.

If the church is spoken of as being immoral, most would assume we are talking about either sexual immorality or fiscal impropriety. I am not naive enough to deny that exists, but the Cardinal speaks of something just as devastating.  A sense of careerism, and a sense of clerical narcissism pervades the church today.

We see the results in the church, as parishes are closing, and others in steep decline.  Where men are not entering programs that lead to ordination. Some will blame these things on finances, others on the decline of births among sections of the population. Some will say the decline is because they don’t appear to have the right sense of mission, or the appearance of the church, how it looks and sounds is not up to an ideal.

This is a sickness, and it is not imaginary.  These attempts to fix it are attempts to clean up the appearance, to clean up the exterior, while the defiled nature is left intact. That is why a pastor or priest can easily fall into the sin of careerism, can quickly abandon the basin and towel and find the office and title, far away from the parish so appealing.  (though we might on occasion return to give somone else a break)

So where is the hope?  Cardinal Sarah pointed out these challenges given St Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, and their focus on the interior life. To realize that the church does depend on the purity of souls.  Not pure by their own work, but by a interior life that is simply depending on Christ Jesus.

There in meditating on His work as we are united to Him in Baptism,; it begins the cleaning fo the inside.  There as we kneel and are given the body and blood in the Eucharist, we find ourselves being cleansed still.  There as we deal with our brokenness and confess it, as we hear God absolving us, we find that the old nature has been nailed to the cross.  That the old Adam was drowned in those baptismal waters, that we are free and able to die to self, to give our bodies over as living sacrifices.

This is where the church finds it hope.  Not in men who are pure by the sweat of their own brow, but by men who are broken, yet, who find themselves at the cross. Who are drawn to Jesus who is lifted up, and find themselves being healed, who realize that healing is needed by those around them.  The purity found in walking with Christ, in meditating on that which He has promised and accomplished.

The interior life is not something of our own making or sustained by our internal strength.  It is the work of poiema found in Eph. 210, the work of art created in our lives by Christ. That is where the church finds its hope, for in shepherds who are so broken, who are the chief of sinners, if in them we see God at work, then the church has hope. As in their own healing they begin to wash others feet, as in their healing they bring healing to others the hope is magnified.  The church then hears hope, It comes to know and share that hope with those who are around them.

Our church needs to be defibrillated, but that can only happen as hearts stone hearts are broken and removed, and hearts of flesh, filled with the Holy Sprit as God promised He would.

It is knowing the promise of God, the love and mercy we find as Christ is revealed, and depending on it, that we will find the hope for the church.  May its shepherds learn to cry out what they teach others to.cry out.  LORD HAVE MERCY!

(1)  God or Nothing   Robert Cardinal Sarah, Ignatius Press 2015  pg.100

WWJD Seems Impossible…yet…


Devotional Thought of the Day:
4   Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. 5  But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. 6  We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. 7  Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. 8  Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, 9  A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. 10  (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. 11  Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
Isaiah 53:4-11 (NAB)

343      If you are aware of God’s presence, high above the deafening storm, the sun will always be shining on you; and deep below the roaring and destructive waves, peace and calm will reign in your soul.

I’ve seen some versions of a post that not only mocks the concept of WWJD, but also mocks Jesus, and His call to love our neighbors.  They says that if we are going to consider What Would Jesus Do, it is in the realm of possibility that it would include beating people with whips and knocking over tables.

But too often, our zeal is not for the alien and foreigner to find a place to pray, to know God’s comfort and peace. That place where Jesus did that was for the outsider, the unbeliever, the skeptic and the seeker who would pray, who would benefit from seeing the love and mercy of God pour out into their lives.

We aren’t that zealous about that… though we should be.

WWJD comes from a book by Charles Sheldon, who tells the story of a pastor and a movement who has to deal with someone dying in front of them, a stranger who asked for help, and received too little.  The guilt drives them to the cross for forgiveness, and then to seek out how to live differently.  To imitate those who imitated Christ, like St Stephen and St. Paul.  It is not an impossible thing, it is not a touchy, feel good thing.  It is the hardest of challenges, and therefore requires a superhuman effort and motivation.

Motivation not from guilt, but from receiving mercy, a motivation that comes from the presence of God in our lives healing.

Without that, the idea of living like Christ, of sacrificing self so that others could be reconciled and know forgiveness doesn’t make sense. Without Christ’s presence, we don’t desire reconciliation; we desire revenge.  Without dwelling in His peace, we don’t desire to lay our lives down in service to others; we desire to protect our lives, our way of living.  That sense of self-preservation will tell us that WWJD is wrong, it will justify it because we are sinners, and it will tell us that striving for this, isn’t necessary.

Without the presence of Christ, Isaiah 53 is simply a prophecy. In His presence, this prophecy saves us, and becomes our joy and our way of life. And our deepest desire is to see our enemies receive healing, to know mercy, to walk with God.  Our deepest regret is when someone dies without that comfort, when someone lives without that peace.  We don’t look at WWJD as law, but as the way of life, we are given.  And when we fail, we run back to the hope of the one which

St Josemaria is correct, if we are in His presence, if we realize His comfort and peace, if we know mercy, it changes everything.  We simply live in the Kingdom of God, and the storms and struggles are what they are.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1353-1355). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Socrates and the Paradox of Spiritual Maturity


Devotional thought of the day:
25  Brothers, pray for us!       1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ESV)

318      Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you.

An oracle once identified the smartest man of his time, the philosopher Socrates.  When asked about this Socrates thought and said the statement is not based on how much Socrates knew, but that Socrates realized how much he didn’t know.

Spiritual maturity is like that,  the more mature we become, the more we need to pray, the more we need others to pray for us. 

I think society has become confused as to what maturity is, about what it looks like.  I think the problem has to do when we consider independence a necessary part of maturity. It is as if we measure maturity based on how much we can do for ourselves.  That is because our ability to be independent parallels our physical and emotional growth, but that doesn’t mean being independent is an aspect of maturity, or for that matter is good.

I would tie interdependence to physical and even emotional maturity before I would think about independence.Being part of a community, being a part of family, being married, these things require interdependence.  Maturity can require a giving up of self.  A sense of sacrifice, a sense of commitment.

If that is true in regards to physical maturity, I would suggest that it is even more true in regards to spiritual maturity.   That we don’t become independent of God, but that we see our life more connected to Him, as well we become more connected to the family of God!

Like Socrates view of his intelligence, a spiritually mature person will run to God in prayer, will not hesitate to ask others to pray for them.

That is the paradox, you become spiritually mature by becoming more dependent on God, more aware of His work in your life, more content and at peace, knowing the Spirit is here, and that this life is not all there is, there is something far more… The more spiritually mature we are, the more we end up appreciating the sacraments, the time where God’s grace is showered upon us. Likewise our time in meditation on God’s love, that marks as us His in baptism, and our time laying in His hands all our burdens, all the things that cause anxiety.

It’s not easy though, to take such time.  Hence, the request for pray, even as Paul did. Please pray for me!  And for all who minister to others.

Lord help us all to take the time, to know and to ponder this basic truth.

There is God, and we are His.

Knowing that, may we cry out for the mercy that will enable us to see you!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1273-1276). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Blessing of the Communion of Saints



Devotional THoguht of the Day

Here is my servant* whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.2 He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed* he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow dim or be bruised until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands* will wait for his teaching.  Isaiah 42:1-4 NABRE

Thomas Aquinas even went so far as to explain the scientific nature of theology in terms of this text. He says that theology, too, is in this sense a “secondary science” that does not “see” and “prove” its own foundations. It is, so to speak, dependent upon the “knowledge of the saints”, on their conviction; this conviction is the reference point of theological thought, which vouches for its legitimacy. The work of the theologian is, in this sense, always “secondary”, always ordered to the real experience of the saints. That is the humility that is required of the theologian.… Without the realism of the saints, without their contact with reality, which is what it is all about, theology becomes an empty intellectual game and loses its character as a science.  (1) 

With Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven we exalt and magnify Your glorious Name, evermore praising You and singing…”    (2)

I am still caught up a little, in the message from yesterday, and the action Jesus takes, not just in delivering a man tormented by demons, but the action Jesus takes in sending the man home. Back to the people he tormented, to the relationships that were shattered in the course of the possession.  He sent him back to give the people hope, to proclaim to them the way God worked in His life.

The way described in the passage I came across in my devotions in Isaiah this morning. The care Jesus showed, the tenderness showed even to the demons ( Why not just trash them? Why not just send them into the pit?  Why respond to their plea for comfort and mercy?)  .Look at Christ, caring for the man, and for the village that rejected him!

I then came to the theologian’s quote and heard the words of our liturgy.  They both speak about the fact that we don’t live in a vacuum.  That life isn’t restricted to what we see, but that our worship joins with those before us, that their encounters with God.  We need to realize that the list of people that lived by faith in Hebrews 11, and those that followed in their steps as they followed in Christ, are those whose voices we join in praise.

And it is their experience; it is their stories that become part of our story (I think someone might say meta-narrative – but I don’t know what that is!). It is their experience of God that undergirds our study of theology.

Not because they are holier than we are.  Not because they were more intelligent! (though in my case – they are significantly so!)   It is because they experienced the love of God!  They saw Him bring healing and forgiveness into their lives, they walked with Him, even through the valley of the shadow of death!  To those who have gone before us, we see the impact of God revealing Himself to them.  It is imperative that we realize the communion of saints that we include in our confession of faith that we call the creeds.  We have to realize we are part of that, that they are part of our lives as well.

If we are to describe theology as a science, a pursuit to discover truth, and to gain an ever-deepening understanding of it, the lives of saints, past and present is the laboratory part of the course.   It is where we see the truth of Jesus in real life, experienced, observed, known.

It is something we need to know, to know Jesus has walked with others, healed others, delivered others, and sent others out, to minister to those who will be the next generation of the communion of saints.

What a blessed gift God has given to us, to help us journey with Him in life!

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 198–199). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(2)   A paraphrase of the Lutheran prayer said as we prepare for communion

 

Delivered from Demons, Now Return Home and Love!



Before the sermon, the Gospel had been read, and the heard again as our special guest Bob Bennett sang the song at this link  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JIzudCJZAE  I would ask you listen, as it frames the sermon well…

The Simple Christian Life – Love Hope Faith!

Delivered – So Return Home and Love!
Luke 8:26-39


† 
I.H.S.

May the grace, that mercy and peace that comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the grace which delivered you from the power of demons, be the hope you share with those you dwell among!

 It bothers me….

Even as I love the story of this man being delivered from the power of demons, there is something that bothers me about this story.

No, it is not the destruction of several tons of bacon.

I mean it’s not like it would have lasted two thousand years anyway.

There is something ominous that hovers in the background of the story, that even as we celebrate one man being healed, being redeemed, being freed from thousands of demons, there is something that is frightening going on.

The reaction of the town, the community that is so paralyzed by anxiety, that they drive off the hope that is in their midst.  Unlike other towns, they turn down the chance for Jesus to be in their midst, healing, teaching, the Lord God dwelling in their midst…

Living in the presence of God, that is the simple Christian life, a life full of love, hope, and faith.   So why would they beg Jesus to leave?

What were their issues?  Why would anyone want to reject the hope of the man of the tombs knew?

To quote Bob’s song

Underneath this thing that I once was

  Now I’m a man of flesh and blood

  I have a life beyond the grave

  I found my heart; I can now be saved

  No need to fear, I am not afraid

  This Man of Sorrows took my pain

  He comes to take away our sin

  And bear it’s marks upon His skin

  I’m telling you this story because

  Man of the tombs I was
Why would they reject this for themselves?

Or the harder question to face, have you and I rejected this hope?  Have we driven tried to drive Christ away?  Or worse, do we ignore His presence in our lives?

Why do we avoid Jesus? 

I’ve heard a lot of guesses about why this group of people begged Jesus to leave them alone, and all are really conjecture. I’ve also heard some reasons people have given me over the years. Some are more about why they want to avoid the church, because of bruises and wounds that we’ve inflicted on each other.  Or they are afraid of the time commitment it will make in their life, a life already complicated and overloaded.
Others are more considered because of the idea that their lives will change.  That in order to change, they will have to deal with the pains of the past, the guilt, and shame.  Or that Jesus might confront them over something sinful and broken in their lives today.

That’s scary.  Maybe we aren’t wandering among the tombs, yelling and screaming, but to let Jesus come to us and work in our lives?  Remember – that is what Jesus told the man to share, what did Jesus do?

The man was naked, he had no home, no place to belong, he was the kind of guy that Jesus said the sheep who were welcome into the kingdom, because they helped him.

But what was it about the community that Jesus needed to address?

We say we know we need Jesus, but for what reason?  For most of us, it isn’t as easily seen as it as in the case of the man Jesus met.  Even so, it is there, some of us buried deep.

Don’t run! This time, don’t try to avoid Him!  Come and ask, trusting in His nature, knowing He will deliver you!.

Don’t send Jesus away, don’t beg him to leave. Let the Spirit come to you…

and bring you the relief and peace you need.

He’s come to us; He heals us…

For that is what Jesus does,

You see, the beach where he directed the disciples for, he came to those people, there is no other reason for a Jewish Rabbi to come to this place, but to meet people where they are at.

To come to free a man from thousands of demons, to bring peace to a village that only new fear, and now in their anxiety, sent Jesus away.

A Second Chance?

You need to know, that Jesus doesn’t quite accept their rejection.

For after they beg him to leave, he gives them a pastor, a prophet in their midst.  The man who was the possessed by the demon, which begs Jesus to come with him, is now sent to them to preach.  To announce salvation, to explain everything God has crafted, the poem God made out of his life.

A miracle they couldn’t deny, a life so dramatically changed that people notice.  A man tortured by the life he knew, freed now and so incredibly at peace.  Who lives in their midst, forgiven, saved, healed, and a testimony to the work of God, and that fact that God comes to us.  God hasn’t given up on them, any more than he gave up on the man with thousands upon thousands of demons.  He will come to them as he abides with this man…

That’s what the cross is all about, where Christ died to forgive us and to make us holy as we dwell in Him.

 

That is what this moment is about, as Christ comes to you, and saves you from the burdens that haunt you, from the life’s anxieties, from the pain you’ve endured, and even the pain you’ve caused.

For He has promised this, that you will know the serenity, both now and for all eternity.  For Christ has come to ensure you of that peace, and He shall keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.

AMEN!!

 

After the sermon, Bob helped us focus on the hope we have in Christ by singing this song,,, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X46ayH7Io4c  

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