Monthly Archives: July 2018
Devotional Thought of the Day
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:15-17 (NLT2)
6. We also believe, teach, and confess that, although the genuinely believing and truly regenerated persons retain much weakness and many shortcomings down to their graves, they still have no reason to doubt either the righteousness which is reckoned to them through faith or the salvation of their souls, but they must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, on the basis of the promises and the Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God.
Men expect redemption from themselves, and they seem quite prepared to provide it. Thus there is linked to the primacy of the future the primacy of practice, the primacy of human activity above all other activities. Theology, too, shows itself more and more open to this concept—orthopraxis replaces orthodoxy. “Eschatopraxis” seems more important than eschatology. If in earlier days it was left to popular enlightenment to tell the lower class that artificial fertilizer was more effective than prayer, now, after a suitable interval, we can read similar commentaries in the kind of “religious” literature that strives to reflect the contemporary Zeitgeist; we can even find voiced there the argument that under certain circumstances prayer itself will have to be “refunctioned”: it can hardly be considered any longer an appeal for divine assistance; on the contrary, it must be regarded as a period of quiet composure in preparation for the practice of human self-help.
Benedict XVI’s words about orthopraxy replacing orthodoxy (right practice replacing right praise) seem eerily prophetic. Written in 1971, these words I believe talk of the church today. For the focus on doing things correctly, doing things in a way that seems holy to man dominate both traditional and contemporary Christianity, It can be seen in both conservative and liberal voices.
As he notes, even prayer becomes the preparation for doing things correctly,
As I look at this, I think I see a tie into the quote from the Lutheran Confessions in green. I think that we struggle with the fact that while we believe, the weakness and shortcoming we have (which is simply a fancy way of saying we still sin). We don’t know how to deal with our own frailty, our own brokenness. We are impatient with the healing we are experiencing in Christ, and so we seek to fast track our own sanctification.
If only we can do everything right, if only our performance reveals how much faith we have, then maybe others will see us as holy, and then, based on our testimony, we can believe we are holy. So we look for the masters, the life coaches, the pastors who will show us the way to worship, how to live, how to raise our kids, and be a bastion or moral and religious perfection.
And instead of being an imitator of Christ, we try to become a clone of those who we follow. Driven by the fear of being revealed to be something less than faithful, we take on the mannerisms, while leaving a soul behind that is empty, broken, and struggling with the sin that so easily ensnares us.
Prior to the passage from Romans above, we see Paul going from the joys of rising with Christ in baptism, to the absolute low of discovering he still can’t get things right. Orthopraxis is impossible, He can’t do what is right, he can’t help but do what is wrong. In this moment of shame and self-pity, he finds in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That despite his struggle with sin, God sees Paul as righteous, holy, a son of God.
This discovery changes things, it changes our fear of our sin being discovered into a cry for help, Daddy! Daddy! HELP! We realize that our hope is not found in our attempts to be holy, but in hearing His voice tell us we are His children. In hearing His promise to complete everything in the day of Jesus. We find our transformation not by our work in ministry, not in our perfection of word and sacrament, but from being there, broken, and finding healing.
Nothing I can do will bring you the level of holiness you will be satisfied with, in this age. For satisfaction means you want to judge if you have made it, or rely on the judgment of others. That desire for satisfaction will drain you, ripping out from you the core of your heart and soul.
But allowing God to minister to us, allowing His grace, His mercy and love to pour into us, living life being drawn to Him, sometimes in tears, this is our hope. Not starting with prayer, but a life lived in Him, allowing Him to recreate us.
This is our hope of wholeness, of holiness. Letting God be God, as we realize we are His.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 474). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
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. 242–243). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Two Encounters With Jesus
† Jesus, Son, Saviour †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause you to recognize Him, and bring to Him those who need to be made whole.
The Challenge to Evangelism?
In twenty years of ministry, one of the hardest things to see develop in a church is the attitude that we exist and serve to bring others to Christ. Some call this being missional, some call it recognizing our apostolate.
You see, each of us is sent by God, to live where we are, and to reflect the love of God to those who are broken and so desperately need His touch upon their lives.
The challenge is not in learning what to say, most of us have been taught how to explain our faith. I mean how many of us can say the Lord’s Prayer and the apostles’ creed without looking at the bulletin?
We know the teachings, the basic doctrine.
So what do we need? What will change us into being a church that reveals to people the Jesus who will make them whole?
The key to Concordia, or any other church, becoming an evangelistic church, is simple. We need to know how to act when we encounter Jesus.
For when our souls learn to recognize Jesus, when our hearts know we dwell in His presence, the intuitive thing to do will be to drag people to Jesus, to the places where we know they will encounter them.
In today’s gospel, there are three encounters with Jesus. Two will show us how we can react to seeing Him. And the third, well, we will get to it later.
Seeing Him, amazed and confused!
The first way people reacted to Jesus is seen in the boat. The apostles, tired and weary, still overwhelmed by their first mission trip, and the feeding of thousands, see Jesus.
They see him, the word there is from where we get “identify.” Picture someone routinely checking driver’s licenses, and then realizing the person in front of them is someone famous. This is how they reacted, and their hearts, confused by all of life, were described as too petrified to take it all in. We all get that way sometimes, as life throws a few curves at us. As we get overwhelmed, as we are struggling with what is going on, or with the storms in our lives.
The apostles were there, “hey” its Jesus. Oh no! It’s beyond natural! It’s something supernatural! It’s not something normal.
Uhm, yeah Peter and James and John. It’s Jesus! What did you expect from Him, if not the supernatural?
We don’t recognize Jesus all that well at times, or the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We struggle to see Him during the hard times, and we don’t completely get what God is up too when we see the miraculous happen.
Our hearts are petrified, they are too hard to take it all in. But can we change?
Knowing Him – and dragging people in bed to Him
The second group was the group that encountered Jesus when He got out of the boat. These people just didn’t identify Jesus, the Greek indicates they knew Him, they deeply knew Him, who He was, and what it meant for Him to be there.
Whereas the Apostles went crazy with fear, these people went crazy bringing every person they could find that was broken. They ran around, grabbing people on mattresses and carrying them, they even just knew that if they could encounter Jesus, even just touching the edge of their robes, it would change everything….
And it did.
They encountered Him in the everyday mess of life. Though they had no clue about the cross, or the grave, the resurrection, they were sure He was a messenger from God, and they knew he would do the supernatural. So they brought the broken, the needy, almost without thinking about it!
Imagine lying there on your bed, some guys storm in, and the next thing you know, you are being dragged to meet Jesus, no explanation given. As you encounter Jesus, something more occurs than just being healed. You are made holy, you are saved. You are made right, perfect.
That’s what happens when you reveal the love of God to someone, that is what happens when Jesus is revealed In your life, what occurs when you encounter Him.
So How? Close Encounter of the Third Kind
So how do we go from the first reaction to reacting like the evangelists in the second group of people? How do we go from going crazy because of trauma and stress, to being crazy trying to get people to come to Jesus? What hope is there for those of us who are overwhelmed, whose hearts are too hard to take it all in?
Because even the holiest and most devout of us can get overwhelmed by life.
I did this week, as the prayer list seemed to explode with people in need.
It isn’t within me to remember 24/7 that God is here, actively working in our lives, actively working through our lives. I get too distracted, I get too overwhelmed by the storm, I get too frustrated by the work that God sent me to do.
So how do we keep centered on Jesus? How do we stay aware of His presence in life?
One pastor wrote it this way,
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering. (Pope Francis)
Remember where the disciples were heading with Jesus when they came back from their first mission trip? When they took off and found people chasing them on the shore, and then Jesus fed them?
They were heading off to a place to be with Jesus, to find time to pray, to find time for that personal encounter with God. To know Him enough to recognize Him.
Jesus did this, He went away for a time to talk to the Father, that was why He had to chase the boat, and if it is a blessing for Him, it is necessary for us.
Not just to please God, though it does. I need it, and you need it too. We need to be able to recognize God’s presence in our lives, to expect it, and the healing and peace that He brings. For that presence ties out theology to life, it makes what we say more than words.
To know Him, to encounter Him in prayer, and in the sacraments, they help us to now He is there. And so this week, God blessed me by helping me encounter Him more, as people took time out, and we shared in the Lord’s Supper together. Then when the storms hit, we know to look for Him, to expect His presence.
For from there, recognizing God at work is easier, knowing He is here, and He will make us whole is easier. For with Him revealed, we are still, and we know He is indeed God. And that He keeps us, our hearts and minds safe in Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:15-16 (TEV)
1 Keep on loving one another as Christians.2 Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are. Hebrews 13:1-3 (TEV)
25 And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (TEV)
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.
Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. William Goldman from the Princess Bride
Though life isn’t always pain, (it just seems like it some years!), There is enough of it to go around.
Since ministry is about meeting people where they are at and revealing to them the love and mercy and work of Christ in their lives, it must also be true that “ministry is pain, and anyone who is telling you different, is selling you something!”
As we look at the quotes from the Apostle Paul, there is a simple acknowledgment of this fact. We share in the suffering, we share in the tears and the pain of those who are enduring hard times.
There is no avoiding that truth. If your church, your Bible Study and the people in them aren’t experiencing anxiety, pain, concern, it is probable that they are, you just don’t see it. It is possible that everything is awesome but more likely, people are afraid to open up to share what they are struggling with in life.
So, given that we will encounter people who suffer, who we will share the tears and the pain with, the question then becomes, how do we survive this, especially when there are many people struggling, many tears to share, many people to care for in our circles? How do we share in the pain, without it having a long-term effect on us mentally, physically and spiritually?
On a tangent, modern psychology is now recognizing such stress on the life of caregivers (counselors, pastors, teachers) and first responders, as they develop information on “Second Hand Shock Syndrome” a form of PTSD that constant exposure to others’ stresses can cause. Take it from me, I have learned to be aware of its effects, as they impact others around me when I am dealing with too much.
My answer may seem too simple, not scientific enough, and not always possible.
It is the answer that Pope Francis notes in the quote above. It is the personal encounter with Christ that can alleviate the oppressive discouragement, It is only encountering Jesus, regularly and intimately that enables us to continue to be tender and caring with those who are weeping, with those who are broken.
We find our hope and theirs, as Christ is healing our brokenness, as He is wiping away our tears, as the Holy Spirit comforts us with a peace that goes beyond all logic. But that only comes in those moments where we realize His presence, where we just are still and know He is God, that He is our God.
Such as at the altar, when we receive His Body and Blood. Such as in our daily time where we pray, and read, and simply adore the Lord who has given us life. SUch as the time when we hold each others hand, and silently pray as we weep, and then experience His peace.
Are we still going to weep? Yes.
Are we still going to feel helpless and broken? Yes, absolutely.
Are we going to endure, sure of the ministry that is God’s, that He shares with us, that will bring comfort and peace to those we serve? Yes, absolutely.
God is with you, know that dwell on that, and the tears can flow, and the weeping can occur, and you will be amazed at what he does thru… and in you.
Godspeed, and God’s peace….
Heavenly Father, help us in our brokenness to rely on the Spirit’s comfort, and help us to see that comfort shared with those who are weeping… in Jesus name, we pray, AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 244). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist
Devotional Thought of the Day
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. 29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 (NLT2)
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT2)
We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin, not only in the beginning when God created man pure and holy and without sin, but also as we now have our nature after the Fall. Even after the fall our nature is and remains a creature of God. The distinction between our nature and original sin is as great as the difference between God’s work and the devil’s work.
3 2. We also believe, teach, and confess that we must preserve this distinction most diligently, because the view that admits no distinction between our corrupted human nature and original sin militates against and cannot co-exist with the chief articles of our Christian faith, namely, creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our flesh.
4 God not only created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the Fall, but also our bodies and souls after the Fall, even though they are corrupted, and God still acknowledges them as his handiwork, as it is written, “Thy hands fashioned and made me, all that I am round about” (Job 10:8).
It seems like we either want to anoint people as angels or condemn them as demons. We want to be able to accurately pick out which are sons of Satan, and which are children of God.
We want to separate the wheat from the weeds, we want to declare that not only are the reformed theologians correct when they say people are predestined to heaven, and therefore others are predestined to hell but that we somehow know which is which. Somehow we think in our baptism we were all given the spiritual gift of discernment, that enables us to see into people’s hearts and souls, and determine who is saved, and who is not.
Then we can declare this person is a good person, and that person is the purest evil. People we don’t even know, but that we judge from thousands of miles away. People we’ve never talked to, that we’ve only seen in the news, or mentioned on Twitter.
What we aren’t allowing for, in these judgments, is the work of God, and we deny the grace which is extended to all, including us. We deem what God desires to be impossible, and then for others, which sins we willing overlook, as automatic. By automatic, I mean we judge the heart based on works we see and assume the person is righteous.
In either case, what we’ve done is stopped seeing the need for praying for them. If we think they are saved, we think that prayer redundant. If we think they are condemned, there is no need to ray, as their fate is already determined. If they are close, not only do we stop praying for them, we may stop telling them about God. We might give up on the power of God to transform them, just as we need Him to transform us. Eventually, this leads to complacency affects our own walk with God.
This thinking about people, the Lutheran Confessions brought out in my reading this morning, is counter to our theology. FOr we should see in even the most notorious of sinners the handiwork of God’s creation. It may be marred by sin, it may be broken, but it is not, in this lifetime, marred so much so it is beyond recognition. They are still God’s creation, they are still His children. AMEN!
We are not our sin, and our weakness to temptation does not define us. Or the person next door, or the person being lambasted or praised on FB or Twitter or SnapChat or the nightly news. That sin and sin nature is removed by Christ so completely that it proves it was never meant to be us, or how we are defined.
We are new, we are complete. What God does in us, can be done in others. What we pray to happen in their lives, we testify can and is happening in ours. This is our hope for everyone, near or far, friend or enemy, family member, and ourselves.
That all would come to experience the love of God.
So next time you are tempted to say someone is pure evil or pure good, remember the impact that makes on you….
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 466). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:31-34 (MSG)
797 You know that your way is not clear, and that by not following Jesus closely you remain with that clouded vision. Then, what are you waiting for to make up your mind?
Until a year ago, I was an avid tea drinker, and I would make ice tea by the gallon and drink it over the day. Earl Grey white was my favorite, and I would take my fancy tea maker and steep the tea, then drain it off and add ice.
in Peterson’s translation, he uses the same illustration for life, that we should steep out life in God,. We should let our lives be infused with His view of reality (that we are forgiven and adopted in Christ Jesus) We should soak our lives in the work of God, redeeming and sanctifying us, and depending on Him to provide all we need.
We need to do this, to soak in the love and mercy of God, to let it change and flavor our very lives. Tea is no longer simply water, no longer simply a bunch of dried and cured leaves, it is a new liquid. The same for us, infused with the Holy Spirit, we are a new creation. We are one with Him.
The challenge is letting other things in the process. the things that cause anxieties, heartaches, the resentment stored up, the sin hidden and harbored, These cloud our life, and seem to affect our relationship with Jesus, they blind us to His reality, to what He provides in our lives.
The challenge is, cleaning out all the other stuff, of learning to give all our attention to God, seeking Him and His reality, His kingdom. We need to depend on God to bring us to that point in life, to that point in our ministry.
My special tea-maker had a drain that filtered out all the leaves and the junk left over from the seeping. The micro-filter screens eliminated all but the liquid, allowing for the purest cup of tea. We need to let God do that with us, filtering out the sin and desires, the anxieties and resentments. We have ot let Him do it so that all that is left is the relationship we have with God, in Christ.
Then our vision and our mission will be clear, and it will motivate and empower us more than any beverage ever could! For we will not only know with our minds God is with us, we will experience it and be refreshed by it!
Lord help us this day realize how much You infuse our lives. Help us to trust You and let You filter out of our lives everything that pollutes, everything that clouds our vision of You! We thank You and Praise You! Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1837-1839). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
One New People!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that you are always a member of God’s family, and may it compel you to find and bring in all the members of His family!
In the bulletin today, there is an interesting article, written by Chris. (that article posted below) Unfortunately, he is working this morning. He’s been part of our church for a little more than a year, yet it is hard to remember what it was like without his voice booming in the choir, without the smiles that come to his face as he realizes how much more God loves him than he can realize.
He thought, for the longest time that he was an outsider, and now, he knows he is part of the family of God, part of this community that God put here, that God’s love would be revealed to us all.
And that is exactly what Paul is talking about to the church in Corinth, as Paul explained that our salvation is “ours”, that is it brings together everyone, from those whose faith was only a fleshly thing and didn’t affect their hearts, and those of us who are considered the outsiders.
For God is carefully joining us together, united to Him and Him and through Him.
And that is something to be excited about, that is something to be in awe of, as we become aware of it.
Used to be’s
As I was writing this sermon, I kept thinking about all the movies where the outsiders challenged the “in-crowd”. Whether the movies and television shows were about high school and college, or about the military, or life in the workplace, or retirement, the movies are unending.
And they picture a reality. There are the outsiders, people like Chris and I, who don’t feel like we fit in, who are normally on the fringes, looking in, and wondering what it would be like to be part.
Except that the people Paul spoke of were really outsiders.
He mentions that they lived apart, that they were separated from God. They didn’t even really know He existed, never mind that He cared. If they came, they were excluded, foreigners and aliens that would never be allowed to become citizens of Israel, that would never be allowed to be in a relationship with God, the relationship described in the covenant, with the incredible promises that were given to those who were God’s people.
Talk about being outsiders!
And here I was thinking I didn’t belong.
There are many of us that feel that way, who struggle in life because we don’t feel we belong, doubt we ever could because we see all the things that hold us back!
But Paul refers to another group of those who didn’t get the blessing.
The insiders who don’t get it. He describes them as the circumcision, but people who show all the outward appearances of being in the family of God. Yet, it hasn’t affected their heart.
They don’t belong either, and they know it. Their hearts and lives are empty, the promises that belong to the people of God they don’t hear as theirs, even though they are told the promises. They cannot hear them or believe the promises are theirs.
And so they are like empty tombs or cups that have been cleansed on the outside. They know they aren’t any closer God than the outsiders, but they play the game well.
Good thing God loves us all!
And God in Christ has brought peace to us all,
In all the movies, the outsiders overwhelm the insiders, and some of the insiders end up siding with the victorious. The outsiders accomplish the task, become the heroes, defeat the bullies, show those in charge.
I’ve always liked those movies because of that. They gave me hope that somehow I could win at some point in my life.
I never would have thought of what Paul talks of here. That the neglected outsiders and the empty insiders could be made one, as Paul describes,
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
There it is, there is where we find unity, there is we find we belong, there we find an answer for the broken emptiness that we who grew up on insider feel.
In the eyes of the Lord who looks down on us, even today and pleads, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing… even as he claims the penalty for our sin.
And as He draws us to Him, He unites us, both those who weren’t a people and those who are. Those who weren’t in a covenant relationship, and those who were, but constantly failed to live in that relationship.
The outsiders aren’t outsiders anymore, for Christ has not just given them access, He has drawn them into Himself. The same of those inside whose hearts were so hard they couldn’t see or access the blessing of being the people of God. Yet now, in Christ, united to Him through the blood spilled at the cross, we are all His, carefully joined together as His home.
All sin is forgiven, all unrighteousness erased, all hostility left behind as God does something wonderful to us, and in us through us. We are one, nothing dividing us anymore. And so we can reach out to others that they think are outsiders, and help them know they are not.
We see this unity, this coming together here, as we come together to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, as one family one people, united in Christ….and we see it as God amazes us, using us all to bring more people to His cross, where they find this peace.
for together we have been brought peace by Christ Himself, a peace that goes beyond anything we can imagine, for it is this Christ has saved us to, as we dwell in Him. AMEN!
The letter sent to our church from one of its newest members
dear Concordia, Chris sent me this, and I think you all need to see what he sees in us. Because sometimes… we are so used to experiencing it, we forget the treasure we have!
I have spent the last few weeks taking a good look around the church at all the people inside and I have begun to see some amazing things that I hope I can relate to you.
Everyone at church has commented to me about the change they have seen in the past few months. I do feel different inside as I have shared in past emails and conversations with members of Concordia. But the changes are not my own. I am one who doesn’t like change. I never did and probably never will. My heart has started to heal, my mind has become more clearer, although I have gained a few pounds, I am healthier than I probably have ever been. But that’s getting away from what I feel I need to share right now.
I looked around church and I see not a German, or an Asian, or Portuguese, or swede. I see people at PEACE!. I see a glow in the many faces of GODS PEOPLE. What is this GLOW? To answer this question, first turn out your light and turn on a small desk lamp or a nightlight. You see all the light that’s coming from that small bulb? That GLOW? That’s not even a 1/10 of what I have seen in the faces of you all.
I see this in everyone no matter the age, sex, or beliefs about life (apart from our faith) ! From the newborn that cries sometimes during the sermon to the woman that sits across from me that’s in her 80s. I see that radiance that says “I know he is with me and is taken care of me.” And “I am loved”. I sit and I think about the brokenness and sometimes despair that people have experienced as of late. And I look at our prayer list at church every week. I get sad as more and more names get added on to it. Then I look up and I see a sanctuary full of PEACEFUL people. I have drug out that dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word but yet I still cannot grasp it. But yet I can recognize it and I’m seeing it every Sunday and Wednesday at bible study.
I know that some of you do look around during church for various reasons and maybe whisper. But next time you do, look and you will see the GLOW on peoples faces as you say “THE PEACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS WITH YOU ALWAYS”
YOUR BROTHER IN CHRIST,
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT2)
775 Lord, if it is your will, turn my poor flesh into a crucifix.
22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift.
There are some that would say I am not quite normal, and I think they might be on to something!
But beyond that, there is a certain part of Christianity that doesn’t make sense, that does seem crazy, that is beyond our ability to reason out.
This idea that perfection comes not from discipline and self-correction and an unbending will, but through facing our brokenness, and being compelled to let Jesus deal with it, to let him have it as He hangs on the cross. To let Him draw us into the suffering and death on the cross, , that we can know the peace and healing that only comes from seeing the body, broken for us, and the blood, poured out that we would be cleansed by it.
What was once a torture for Luther, (and Staupitz whom he confessed to!) hours in the confessional trying to get free of his sin which shattered his life, confessing his lies, and lust, his envy, and anger. He couldn’t find relief for it, and he mistook the sacrament of confession for a chance to atone for his sin, to be beaten up for the things he thought and said and did that were wrong.
Then he realized that this was a sacrament, a moment where God would come, and bring us through Christ’s death on the cross, through His death, so that we could be renewed, that we could be re-born. Confession and absolution as a blessing rather than a curse, Death with the promise of being made anew, without the brokenness, without the guilt and shame, but a new life dwelling in peace.
It may seem illogical, it may seem counter-intuitive, it is definitely scary at first, but allowing our sin to be nailed to the cross, as crazy as it seems, is a source of hope, a source of healing. Not because of our action, but because of His presence and promise., because of His love and mercy, because this is where we find hope for healing and for eternity.
If it sounds crazy, blame the craziness on me, yet still, know this. God is with you, and you can give Him everything, the good, the bad, the horrid, and at the cross, it will be taken care of, and you will know peace! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 459–460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT2)
68 We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?
69 Of course, it is true that those who despise the sacrament and lead unchristian lives receive it to their harm and damnation. To such people nothing can be good or wholesome, just as when a sick person willfully eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the physician.
70 But those who feel their weakness, who are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, should regard and use the sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in their systems. For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defense, and power against death and the devil and all evils.
Sin can be forgiven but not corruption, simply because at the root of every corrupt attitude there is a fatigue for transcendence. In front of God who does not get tired of forgiving, the corrupt person gets tired of asking for forgiveness.
You can’t go to a seminar for church leaders where you won’t hear about the “nones”, the people who have no religious affiliation at all, that won’t even declare themselves agnostic, or atheist. They are described by those who “observe” them as apathetic toward any form of organized religion.
I am not sure as I would describe them as the apathetic ones.
I think I would describe as apathetic those who believe we can’t reach them, just as five to ten years ago we gave up on GenX and tried to focus on the millennials. You might be thinking I am talking about being apathetic about out-reach, about Evangelism,
I am not, I think our problem is deeper than that, that our apathy starts with the very salvation and the presence of God. It starts with what Martin Luther called despising the sacrament, or “getting tired of asking forgiveness” that Pope Francis describes as being subject ot corruption. We see it as well in Paul’s words in Hebrews, asking what hope is there for those who neglect so great a salvation.
As a pastor, as one who trains others in ministry, what I’ve learned is that people can only respond so long to motivational cries for evangelism before they burn out. They can only keep their purpose-driven lifestyle up so long before it fades and disappears and we lose our first love. If doing our duty is our motivation in our being missional, in working where God has sent us to be a light, then we will fatigue like metal, We will allow our spirits to be corrupted.
Some call this backsliding, others term it a “falling away”. I simply think a spirit of apathy has found room in our hearts and slowly taken over. Instead of maturing in our relationship with Jesus, we’ve allowed it simply to age, to get old. As it ages it becomes more fragile, brittle, and even bitter.
Where is the answer?
It is going back to what is amazing, what moves us from the fear of God into being in awe of Him. In once again finding the joy that comes when we know we are forgiven, that God is restoring our relationship with Him, and restoring the calling in our lives. We need to see the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist as the incredible blessing it is, and the promise of again knowing we are forgiven, and that God desires to share in our life, as He invites us to share in His.
The medicine that cures apathy is God’s mercy, applied to the wounds in our lives caused by sin. That healing changes us, and as we experience the fact that we are loved, that God rejoices when we allow Him to forgive and heal us of the damage inflicted by sin. That promise, fo forgiveness realized is not easily forgotten, nor that feeling as we take and eat, and take and drink, and experience the depth of God’s love. Prayer, reading the scriptures, remembering the promises given to you in baptism, receiving Christ in the Lord’s supper, and hearing your sins are absolved renews your faith. A renewed faith is full of joy. That joy is contagious, that joy, lived out day to day is noticeable…..and you can’t be apathetic about it.
That joy is the thing that will attract the “nones”
You want to reach a broken world? Let God reach you in your brokenness… and heal you of your sin!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 234). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT2)
776 Don’t fall into a vicious circle. You are thinking: when this is settled one way or another, I’ll be very generous with my God. Can’t you see that Jesus is waiting for you to be generous without any reservation, so that he can settle things far better than you imagine? A firm resolution, as a logical consequence: in each moment of each day I will try generously to carry out the will of God.
I have been at people’s sides when they were so overwhelmed that they thought they would never live through it. And I’ve been there when they not only expected to die, they actually expected it. The feeling as darkness closes in, as our hope in this life seems to fade, these emotions? feelings? Those words aren’t strong enough, this level of life seems too unbearable, even as tears come without warning, or worse, the days when you wonder if there are any left.
It is those times we want to be like Luther, hiding in plain sight in a thunderstorm, trying to make a deal with God. “God, if you will only let me survive this, I will dedicate my life to you as a monk, or go on the mission field, or give up my favorite moments of sinful joy.”
In Josemaria’s words, we refuse to be generous with God unless He miraculously settles the issue, solves the problem, provides the miracle. We look at accounts like Luther’s, or we misappropriate the story of Gideon’s fleece, and blackmail God, only giving Him what He should have if our demands are met if our rescue is completed if we receive the blessings we want. We can even find justification for our actions in Jacob’s wrestling with God, demanding a blessing from Him.
Except that Gideon’s fleece wasn’t something that directly benefited him, and Jacob’s blessing was not a blessing of his choosing.
I wonder if God hadn’t already been working on his to give up the legal profession for the ministry. Seems like an awfully random thing to come up with in the midst of a storm. Repent of something might be more common, fearing God’s wrath certainly, but sacrificing his life as a living sacrifice?
I think he may have already been doing a Jonah routine on that one.
And God used his suffering to benefit many. God would use his sacrifice to reform the church (yes the Catholic Church reformed after that – some of his issues were handled at Trent, and then Vatican I & II… and maybe some more..eventually)
When we try, under duress or plan, to blackmail God, we take our eyes off of Him, and we ignore or refuse to see and hear His plan, and how it will be good. Even in this midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering.
That’s when we need to listen to Paul, and the sure confidence he has in God, who rescues us from sin and death. We learned to rely on God he writes. instead of relying on ourselves. It is a plea to us as well; that we would know we can rely on Him, too. “He will continue to rescue..”
We need to know that. For the, we can hear Josemaria’s advice, to give generously, without any reservation, without any thought of the suffering, for we shall endure eternally with Jesus. Don’t wait for everything to work out, give of yourself generously during the crisis. Depend on His faithful love. Look forward to the day we will be at home with the Father/ As it is now, with the Spirit indwelling in us, so it will be with our dwelling in the Father’s presence, fully experiencing the breadth, width, height, and depth of His love.
Heavenly Father, when we suffer, help us to keep looking to you, knowing Your love is faithful always, that you do promise all to work for good for us who love You. Help us to realize we aren’t always the best judge of that, and simply trust in You.
We pray this in Jesus name, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1791-1795). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker; let the children of •Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1-5
39 In conclusion, now that we have the right interpretation and doctrine of the sacrament, there is great need also of an admonition and entreaty that so great a treasure, which is daily administered and distributed among Christians, may not be heedlessly passed by. What I mean is that those who claim to be Christians should prepare themselves to receive this blessed sacrament frequently.
Since I started studying for the ministry in 1983, I have usually been taught two things about what happens when the people of God gather together. (You may call this a worship service, a divine service, church, or the mass; but I am talking about the main time a group of people are gathered by God together, where they sing, hear scripture read, a teaching time (called a sermon or homily) and perhaps (more about this later) sharing in our communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood.
Both teachings focused on service. The difference is who is serving whom.
In the first theory, we go to church to serve God. We go out of obedience to the commandment which talks about keeping holy the Sabbath. We go to church because it is our duty, and if we miss doing our duty, God will punish us, either actively, or perhaps by withholding the blessings He would have poured out for us.
The problem is that looking at this “active” view of church reduces it to mere duty, and then we start to ask how much is enough. Can I serve God by going once a month instead of weekly? Can I get by with once a year or one a quarter? How active do I have to be to be a Christian? Why can’t I just be with God at the beach, or in a forest?
The second theory is that we go to church to be served by God. That His servants exist to make sure we receive what we need through explaining God’s word and giving us the sacrament. This breeds a consumer mentalism to church as well, as we go to the church that feeds us the best. We want the purest doctrine, explained in an enjoyable way that drives away our sin and weaknesses and makes us stronger in our faith and the way we approach life.
Both of these ways make sense, and in part, they both are true., in that in a church service, in the mass, we should be serving God and He, most assuredly,, serves us.
But the reason we go to church, the reason we are gathered into the assembly of His people (and those that are becoming His people) is neither.
The reason we are gathered is that it is a celebration, It is a time for us, as the Psalmist says, to sing and dance as we rejoice in the presence of our King, our Lord, our Heavenly Father! It is likewise a chance for God to take pleasure in His people. It is, as one of my professors was known to utter, “the people of God gathered in the presence of God”
It is why our forefathers called it the “Celebration of the mass” understood as the “Gathering/Communion of the saints”. Yet this gathering, this celebration is that not just of the saints, bit the saints gathered around and in fellowship with God. That communion, that fellowship, that time where we and God are together, His people and Him, that is the treasure we find in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (which is why the passage from Luther’s catechism described it being offered daily!)
This church service/mass and Lord’s Supper/Eucharist isn’t a solemn occasion, though certainly, it is one we should treasure and celebrate with all we are. It is God and man, together, living as one, because of Christ. It is a Thanksgiving feast, a celebration of peace with God, and the welcoming of the prodigal home.
It is a time we celebrate with an abundance of Joy, it is one God where God looks out on His people and is pleased. It should be an amazing time, where we realize what God has done, adopting us as His kids, and we adore the one who loves us.
Celebrate this, my friends. and jealously treasure this time with the One who loves us, and draws us together.
Heavenly Father, draw us together with greater and greater frequency, with a hunger to know You, to explore and experience Your love. We pray this all in Jesus name! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 451). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.