Monthly Archives: April 2019
What do we train/disciple people/pastors/priests to do?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
Carlo realized that the countries of Europe have turned secular mostly because the people are tired of hearing about church. They hunger for spirituality and intimacy with God, and all we give them is church. Carlo was determined to make Jesus real again for the people, knowing from his own experience that when he preached Jesus to the people, it changed their lives. It is what they had been looking for, and the crowds at his masses proved that. Now was his chance to make that happen throughout the whole world, and it was his plan to start with the seminaries. The congregation governing the seminaries would prepare a course on Jesus. The book that Carlo’s special staff had just finished would become the resource material for making Jesus real to seminarians studying for the priesthood throughout the world. They would no longer be trained as lawyers, masters of moral law, liturgical law, canon law, the natural law. They would be molded in the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, so different from the masters of the old law, the scribes and Pharisees.
I really like Fr. Girzone’s novels. and the one quoted above and the Shepherd are among my favorites. The reason, I think, is because they talk about the role of priests and pastors, the role we are supposed to fulfill, as opposed to what we often have to do.
We are called, not to bureaucracy, not to roles of power, but roles of service. We are called to show people Jesus, not just the historical figure, not just the theological doctrines of Christology, but to help them experience the love of God, revealed in Jesus. To help them realize that Jesus loves them!
We need to know Him, for you cannot find replicated in yourself the love for others if you don’t know (intimately even) the love of God. You can teach them the theological doctrines, you can help them go through the motions that facilitate worship, and the Holy Spirit may work despite you.
(side note – this is true, not just for pastors and priests, but parents, elders, deacons, any and all that serve in the church, and the community)
It is as St. Paul also writes,
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ.
Colossians 1:28 (TEV)
I love that Girzone isn’t afraid to use the phrase “the hunger for spirituality and intimacy with God.: It is what we have to pass on to those we are all tasked with discipling, with all those God the Father draws to Jesus (and Jesus brings to the Father.) This is what our world so desperately needs, A connection to God that is so close our personalities get imprinted, stamped, sealed with His image.
This is the intimacy that scares us, that we struggle to understand. That God loves us so much He wants to live with us, and us with Him. Yet this is what we are called to reveal to people, it is the “end game”, what eternity will be like, and the reason for the celebration that is known as the Feast of the Lamb.
It is what Paul is talking about with his words up top, “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” We get words like mime and mimeograph and mimic, this idea of being imprinted with the image of Christ.
And if we, those who disciple others, are called to facilitate this, it means that is what we should be trained to do, first and foremost. And how we should train others… to do this for those who are around them as well.
Revival doesn’t happen because of dynamic preaching, or inspiring worship. It comes as the Spirit draws people into union with Christ, as the Spirit moves them, using the gifts, to minister to those around them. That is what Fr. Girzone was getting at (or the character was !)
Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus to us, so that we could find life in Your Presence. In His coming, You have planned and made that happen as our sins have been forgiven, as You declare us righteous, as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and makes us like Jesus. Help us to see this happening, as we find ourselves sharing our lives with those whom You draw to you next. AMEN!
Girzone, Joseph F.. The Homeless Bishop (Kindle Locations 4381-4389). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
Will Skepticism Rob Us of the Incredible Gift?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 They deliberately put God to the test by demanding the food they wanted. 19 They spoke against God and said, “Can God supply food in the desert? 20 It is true that he struck the rock, and water flowed out in a torrent; but can he also provide us with bread and give his people meat?” 21 And so the LORD was angry when he heard them; he attacked his people with fire, and his anger against them grew, 22 because they had no faith in him and did not believe that he would save them. 23 But he spoke to the sky above and commanded its doors to open; 24 he gave them grain from heaven, by sending down manna for them to eat. 25 So they ate the food of angels, and God gave them all they wanted. 26 He also caused the east wind to blow, and by his power, he stirred up the south wind; 27 and to his people he sent down birds, as many as the grains of sand on the shore; 28 they fell in the middle of the camp all around the tents. 29 So the people ate and were satisfied; God gave them what they wanted.
Psalm 78:18-29 (TEV)
But the Eucharist is more than just a ceremony, more than a liturgy. It is a form of life.
HUME: What do you fault about my method?
SOCRATES: As I said, it seems highly rationalistic.
HUME: And as I said, I am the enemy of the Rationalists!
SOCRATES: As an epistemological theory, yes, but not as a method. Your method, like theirs, is to reduce the data to the explanation, the complex to the simple, the rich variety of experience to simple universal formulas.
Israel was given manna, and they could not get past the idea of food to truly appreciate it. They did what Socrates accused Hume of doing in the fictional account of their meeting before the judgment. They explained manna simply as food, and they neglected the greater nature of it being a fellowship meal, with the “bread” supplied by the hand of God.
They simply reduced it to what they could see, which is why they hungered for more.
I wonder if we do the same with the Eucharist, with the Lord’s Supper. We reduce it to being simply part of the liturgy, simply part of the process by which we receive the gospel. We reduce it to being the approved conduit of the grace we need.
And so we reduce it from a fellowship meal with God to just a “means of grace” Our skepticism quietly sneaks in, and while we still claim it is a sacrament, our focus on the substance causes us to lose focus on the intimacy of the life we have with and in Christ, and His life in and with us.
The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is truly something incredible, a moment of we, a miraculous moment if we can only be in that moment, to have revealed and to revel in the presence of God who in a very specific, very intimate way comes to be with us. WITH US! YOU AND ME!
(This is why Paul finds it so dangerous to not perceive the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament in 1 Cor. 11:27 )
That’s why Pope Benedict XVI, writing when he was still a cardinal speaks of it so powerfully. For surely in those moments, when our skeptical, cynical nature is pushed aside by the presence of Jesus, w find the life as God means for us to live. In His presence, sharing in His glory, understanding that we are truly His.
This is why theologians can never perfectly define the sacraments. It is Paul describes knowing the love of God.
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)
It is not something we can minimize, reduce and completely explain,It has to be something we experience, it is something beyond measure, yet which completes us as we intimately experience it.
For what we are experiencing, this incredible communion is what Pope Benedict XVI calls it, it is life. Life with a God who loves us beyond measure, and desires that we dwell with Him.
Lord Jesus, help us to not limit religion to the doctrines that correctly describe our relationship with You. Help us realize how they point us to You, and explain the promise of Your love and presence. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 141). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Kreeft, P. (2010). Socrates Meets Hume: The Father of Philosophy Meets the Father of Modern Skepticism (p. 38). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
The Great American Temptation…
Devotional Thought of the day:
26 Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourself. 27 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
James 1:26-27 (TEV)
907 They spread slander and then make sure themselves that someone comes along immediately to tell you: “It is said that…” No doubt that is villainous, but don’t lose your peace; the tongue can do you no harm, if you work honestly. Consider how silly they are, how tactless, humanly speaking, and what a lack of loyalty they show towards their brothers—and especially towards God!
And don’t go and fall into slander yourself, through an ill-conceived idea of the right to reply. If you have to say anything, make use of fraternal correction as the Gospel advises us.
Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.
Often, sinning is like a Olympic Sport.
We train for it, we cheer on when someone excels in it, and rarely do we offer real critique… even when they are our adversary there our critigue is meant to hurt, rather than help improve.
And yet we call ourselves Christians, belivers, we claim to strive for holiness, to be imitators of Christ.
Check out a basketball court, or hear the comments made among friends during the NFL draft, or get a bunch or religous folk in the room, and bring up televanglists, theoligical liberals or legalists.
We greet the news of someone falling with cheers, and cries of”they got what they deserve” as if we were the judges that condemned them to their fate, as if we knew all that led to their brokenness.
Our slander may even be in response to their attacks on our charachter, our personality, even our ministry, and so we react in kind, not seeing why their attack is so brutal, so negative, so deriding.
We just defend ourselves, and want to show them as more frequent and worse… sinners.
God calls us to live in a life of grace, to live a life that is beyond such pettiness, such gossip, such slander. We don’t have to defame that politician, or that sports team, that actress.
We don’t have to do that because we don’t have to prove ourselves better than them, we don’t don’t have ot be better, we can simply relax knowing that God loves us.
You see, whether it is trash talking on the basketball court, talking about the president or congress, or talking about our obnoxious neighbor, the bottom line for doing it is that we think we somehow gain something, whether it is self-esteem or revenge,
Which is why the Biblical letter of James helps us properly define religion, It is why Luther tells us to avoid judging and condemning others. It is why St Josemaria warns us not to fall for the same temptation.
We fine our identity in Jesus, we find true justice there as well. As we do, that person we once trash talked and gossipped about becomes someone else God would save, someone else He would transform, someone else He loves. They are someone God would have us love, not from compulsion but from realizing what God is trying to do in their life.
So think before you speak, and if your thoughts aren’t nice… we need to pray before speaking, asking God to help us know His presence, and His love. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3689-3694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
Are Our “Rights” More Important Than Their Salvation?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (TEV)
9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)
866 Violence is not a good method for convincing anyone… Even less is it so in the apostolate.
The answer to the title is simple to say, but very difficult to implement in our lives.
I am teaching a man, preparing him to serve more at church. He’s currently reading about the reformation and how violent it was. Catholics burning those who would attempt to break away, Henry ordering the death of many, Calvin and Zwingli and Luther were prone to violence as well.
It wasn’t right then, and the more subtle versions that exist today in the church are not righteous or holy either. Jesus, of course, anticipated our thoughts, actions, and words, when He laid out the understanding of sinning in Matthew’s gospel.
Pretty blunt, call your “enemy” or adversary names, deride their character and you are in danger of going to hell.
Even if their action would remove what the world considers your “rights”.
You are still to love them. You are still to be concerned about their life and their salvation. You are to ask God to bless them, rather than curse them. Do not take any violent action, wish that they get what they deserve.
This isn’t easy, in fact, it requires great faith. It requires us to look past what is “ours” to what is God’s.
We are His responsibility, and we are the way His love becomes known to a broken world that needs it. That mission, the reason that God is patient with us is more important than getting angry. And to remember that, when people are making decisions that cause you stress and anxiety when politicians are polarizing when you are dealing with violent threats yourself, requires great trust in God.
And that trust, that dependence, that faith requires us to know He is with us, to know His attitude toward us, to know His love for us, and to know that nothing can separate us from His love.
Knowing that… we can love them, and that love may be the very thing that allows them to see Jesus love for them revealed.
But it all comes back to walking with God…
Lord, send Your Spirit to strengthen us, to draw us so close to You that your love drives out all anxiety, all stress. Lord, help us to know you are with us. In Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3549-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discouragement? The Route To Holiness?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I cry aloud to God; I cry aloud, and he hears me. 2 In times of trouble I pray to the Lord; all night long I lift my hands in prayer, but I cannot find comfort. 3 When I think of God, I sigh; when I meditate, I feel discouraged. 4 He keeps me awake all night; I am so worried that I cannot speak. 5 I think of days gone by and remember years of long ago. 6 I spend the night in deep thought; I meditate, and this is what I ask myself: 7 “Will the Lord always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? 8 Has he stopped loving us? Does his promise no longer stand? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has anger taken the place of his compassion?” 10 Then I said, “What hurts me most is this— that God is no longer powerful.” 11 I will remember your great deeds, LORD; I will recall the wonders you did in the past. 12 I will think about all that you have done; I will meditate on all your mighty acts. 13 Everything you do, O God, is holy. No god is as great as you.
Psalm 77:1-13 (TEV)
856 If you fix your sight on God and thus know how to keep calm in the face of worries; if you can forget petty things, grudges and envies, you will save a lot of energy, which you need if you are to work effectively in the service of men.
I love (and hate) the honesty of the Scripture, especially Psalms like this one, and most of Jeremiah.
To describe the feeling of knowing God is there, and that He hears you and then to go on and describe the despair and discouragement. When we look at the trials we go through and wonder whether God has rejected us, whether He has stopped loving us, whether anger takes the place of His compassion.
Most of us go through these phases spiritually ( see Dark Night of the Soul for a great example) when our faith is not so much dependence on God and trusting in Him as it is simply a set of doctrines. We even doubt the power of God or at least the application of His power in our life.
The challenge isn’t seeing His power at work, it is seeing Him For if we are trying to see Him at work in our lives, the challenges in our lives will dominate us. The challenges will overwhelm us and create a dissonance between what we think we need, and what we do need. It is from this place, this moment of brokenness, that we again remember He is our savior
But if we can keep our eyes on Him, as He draws us into His kingdom, then because we are looking to Him, we see the work He is doing, the work He has promised us in scripture to do. The kind of miracles that happen simply because we dwell in His presence, and He provides for us.
As we look to Him, we see this, and it is truly amazing.
That is why those moments at the altar, as I am receiving the Lord’s Supper are so incredible. Or as I serve it to His people and I see what is happening to them as they recognize the presence of Christ’s body and blood. (1 Cor 11:29) The same goes for the times of prayer, and the times when someone experiences the love of God in the scripture as something that is theirs. When they realize the resurrection isn’t just “history” but it completely impacts their day, lived in the presence of God.
And then, dwelling in His unexplainable peace, you will find it easier to love and serve those God is entrusting to you. It is this life that is holy, it is this life that is the result of His resurrection, and our being re-born in Him.
Lord Jesus, bless us with eyes that can see You, ears that can hear Your words of love, and hearts that desire you above all else, then walk with us Lord and show us whom we get to minister to…together. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3508-3510). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
They Stood There, in Disbelief and… (Our Easter Service with guest Bob Bennett)
(a special thanks to Bob Bennett, who did a couple of special pieces and played with our praise band. And to all the people who came and celebrated this blessed day with us
They Stood There in Disbelief
… Filled with Joy and Wonder
Luke 24: 36-49
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with awe, with wonder, and suspend your disbelief!
You have to love these crazy, hard-headed apostles.
No matter how many times they heard Jesus say he was going to rise on the third day, they just didn’t get it. Over and over Jesus told them, He pointed out all the teachings about the Messiah in the Old Testament, about His death and resurrection.
And the first word we see describing their reaction to Jesus showing up was terror.
And the second was, oddly enough… disbelief.
Or better translated – they didn’t have faith, they couldn’t trust their own eyes…or their ears, or their sense of touch.
Here it is, three days after Jesus died on the cross after a spear pierced His heart, and He’s standing before them asking for a few fish sticks.
The can’t believe it.
I am not sure I blame them. It is hard to process, hard to wrap your mind around this thing called resurrection. Dead – Alive? Tortured and Beaten – Healthy? (well except for the holes in his hands, feet, and that gaping wound in his side…)
We’ll hear Jesus tell Thomas at some point – “hey, you see me and believe, blessed are those who believe me and don’t see.” In response to which I must quote another man in the gospels.
“Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief”
Realizing that they struggled with the resurrection, there in the upper room helps a lot. It enables me to deal with the times where despair brings doubt with it. And when we forget or doubt that He is risen… (He is risen indeed, therefore, we are risen indeed!)
When we struggle with believing in the resurrection, when we struggle with depending on Christ’s resurrection, our resurrection with Him becomes in doubt as well. For our resurrection, our life is intimately connected to Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Remember Colossians 2
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT2)
It shouldn’t be surprising that Satan would try to get us and get the apostles to be caught up in disbelief. He had done a pretty good job…but you can’t last in Jesus presence long before things change.
Even while they are struggling with disbelief in the presence of God, they are finding themselves no longer empty, no longer hopeless, but filled with joy and wonder.
Something I think we could all use, right about now.
So let’s get past our struggles believing. and move on to the good stuff!
They were filled with joy and wonder!
I love how Jesus reminded them of what He had taught them, and as He does, He opens their minds to help them understand the scriptures. To see what the scriptures really focus on, this love of God, so immense, that is revealed throughout the scriptures.
Twenty-five years ago, Kay was in Siberia for 5 weeks, on a mission trip. It was so amazing when she got off the plane and I was at the boarding gate. There is something amazing to being reunited to someone you care a lot about, whom you know cares about you.
And yet this man they all cared about, who invested himself in their lives, whom they gave up everything to follow, and who was brutally killed before their eyes…
Jesus then opens their eyes to the most amazing thing, that the Old Testament was all about this moment – about His death and resurrection. And therefore, our resurrection.
HE’s back, the last three years of their lives weren’t wasted, their hopes, they if anything just got an incredible boost. Their sorrow disappeared faster than cockroaches when you turn the light on.
And yet this isn’t just their moment. We need to realize it is ours as well.
And then the wonder sets in, an amazing thing as we realize what the resurrection means, and how it changes everything.
Jesus even explains it, again.
47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,* beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’
There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent. No matter how many hundreds of thousands of sins you have committed. No matter how dark those sins are. Everything is made new in our lives, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we have a new life!
Remember, Alleluia He is Risen… and therefore!
Every sin you have committed and will commit, has been nailed to the cross.
Each and every one, dismissed because they were nailed to the cross with Jesus,
And while Jesus is risen, and you are risen, the sins are still there….dead, separated from you.
This is the work of the same Holy Spirit, the One who will empower His church. Not just these apostles and the disciples hanging out with them, but all the church.
You see, you have been entrusted with sharing that message with all people, every language, every ethnicity! Sharing with them that their sins are forgiven because of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit changes their lives, as He grants to them repentance. What is awesome, get this, the world is coming to us, and we can share it with them!
That is how much God has changed us, that is why we are filled with joy and wonder.
Because Alleluia He is Risen!
And therefore… you are risen indeed! AMEN!
The Greatest Identity Theft….ever!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 David became very angry at the rich man and said, “I swear by the living LORD that the man who did this ought to die! 6 For having done such a cruel thing, he must pay back four times as much as he took.” 7 “You are that man,” Nathan said to David. “And this is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I made you the king of Israel and rescued you from Saul. 2 Samuel 12:5-7 (TEV)
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Look! Here is the man!” John 19:5 GNT
Identities are stolen every day.
Some are as innocent as a wife seeing her husband’s Facebook page open and typing in, ” I have the most beautiful, precious wife in the world!” Others have a more evil intent, stealing money, credit, anything they can from their victims, their families, even their workplaces.
Identity theft is so prevalent that it is has created multiple industries to defend against it, from computer programs and special routers to wallets that protect the information on your credit and atm cards, to special companies that scan your information regularly and alert you, and insurance policies to compensate you while it all gets straightened out. It is a billion-dollar industry.
But the greatest identity theft we see happen in two Bible passages above.
David, full of sin, and not all that remorseful judges a sinner as being worthy of death (and paying back 4 to 1 what was stolen.) The sentence was right and just, it was what the man deserved, Without a doubt, without any hesitation.
And then David hears the harsh words, “David, you are the man”
Remorse sinks in faster than the realization of Nathan’s words. His contempt for God has been revealed, his sin is now known to all. He is broken, or perhaps one can say, the brokenness he lived with is finally brought to light.
And this is where the identity theft comes in, as another man hears similar words, “Here is the man”, and a death sentence is carried out.
The death sentence David deserved is taken by Jesus. He steals David’s identity as a sinner, as an adulterer, as a murderer, The death David deserved is given to the Lord, who steals his identity.
And leaves David with his own, as David will become known as a man after God’s own heart.
But David is not the only one whose Identity has been stolen on a Friday like this.
Your identity is stolen as well.
Maybe you didn’t actually have someone killed, Maybe just in anger, you wanted someone dead. Maybe you have committed adultery, being unfaithful to your spouse, or causing someone else to be unfaithful to theirs. Or maybe it was simply desiring someone you aren’t married to.
Or any of the millions of sins in thought, word or deed that you committed, or the sins you committed by doing nothing.
That identity you have, and the accompanying guilt and shame is something you’ve lived with, maybe so long you have grown hardened to, and indifferent.
Jesus comes along, nailed to the cross, and steals that identity. We lost our identity, it is no longer ours, It is nailed to the cross, all of its ugliness, all our painful brokenness.
We are free, that is no longer us.
As we realize this, as we explore this new identity we have, as children of God, as we explore the breadth and width, depth and height of God’s love for us as Jesus is there, hanging on the cross…
it is time to say thanks, time to adore Him, time to let that old identity completely go…and be healed.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to steal our identity. And thank you for the Holy Spirit who establishes our new identity. Help us to heal and live new lives, sharing this “theft” with the world. AMEN!
How God builds His Church/Kingdom
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:2-3 (ESV)
As I read this verse this morning, it resonated more than a little.
The PSalmist is describing, to borrow a phrase, how God will make His people great again.
He doesn’t do it by attracting the rich, or those who have it all together, or at least pretend to. He doesn’t gather the powerful, He doesn’t market His church with a mission statement that resonates to the successful,
He gathers the outcasts.
He finds those people that are so broken, so weary, so burned out by the world, and brings them together to share in the healing of their souls. They will find a home in the peace He provides, they will find joy in the glory of dwelling with God, they will find rest, even as God brings about their healing and comforts them.
This is how the church grows, as broken sinners are drawn to the love of God, so clearly demonstrated at the cross.
This is why we are here… this is the reason churches exist.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but then a lot of what God does is…. for His ways aren’t ours.
Lord jesus, help us welcome the outcast, the broken, those without hope. Lord help us learn to care for them well, encouraging them to explore Your
“And Therefore,” A New Easter Tradition…that I highly recommend!
Devotional Thought of the Day”
51 Listen to this secret truth: we shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed.
53 For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die. 54 So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!”
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (TEV)
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. Colossians 2:12 (TEV)
4 By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. 5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. Romans 6:4-5 (TEV)
Christ is risen! In old chronicles we read how the faithful in Russia used to embrace each other with this greeting. They had undergone tangible renunciation during the period of Lent, and now that this period was over, they experienced a real, immense overflowing of joy. By entering into the rhythm of the Church’s year they knew quite tangibly that life had triumphed and that life was beautiful. We still celebrate Easter today, of course, but the grey veil of doubt has spread over the heart of Christendom, robbing us of joy. So is Easter obsolete, a word powerless to inspire hope?
A few years ago, I wrote an Easter sermon called “So what”. And as I took the church through the Easter Acclimation, I asked them to respond one more time:
Pastor: Alleluia! Christ has Risen!
Church; HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!!
Pastor: And therefore…
Church: WE ARE RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
The concept worked well, and with Great energy, they responded. It worked so well, we used that call and response for the rest of Easter (which is celebrated for 7 weeks in our church)
But what I would have never expected happened the next year, when I was planning on only doing the traditional Acclimation, and one of my elders, seeing me pause, enthusiastically and loudly proclaimed the “And therefore” and the entire church responded with the “We are Risen Indeed!”
It is now tradition!
And some poor pastor 30 years from now will have to consider whether it is a tradition he is willing to pay the price of changing!
But I love it. It helps drive the meaning of Easter home. In a world where, as Pope Benedict notes, Easter has become obsolete ( You rarely see church attendance go up on Easter anymore, when it was once the only day some would show up) this little tradition is making a difference.
It makes people realize the Resurrection is personal, they have a major stake in it. THeir role in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is talked about throughout scripture, and especially in Paul’s writings (there are more than the ones above)
And what we now know as a promise, and see hints of here and there, it is guaranteed. We will be changed, we are immortal, and our bodies will one day resemble this. We dwell in the presence of God, and death’s defeat is sure.
Easter matters, and however it takes to make that something we realize, for ourselves and can teach with conviction to those who follow is a not a bad tradition to have.
With Christ, you have risen indeed. Alleluia! AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 126). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
The Wonder of Faith
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 Those who abandon you will certainly perish; you will destroy those who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, how wonderful to be near God, to find protection with the Sovereign LORD and to proclaim all that he has done! Psalm 73:27-28 (TEV)
Faith is a godly work in us that changes us, makes us to be born anew of God (John 1:13), puts to death the old Adam, and turns us into completely new persons in heart, in soul, in mind, and in all our powers.
I’ve studied a few different languages, and while many of them take a while to learn, they have basic rules. There are more jokes about the exceptions in English that could be easily dealt with in this post. For example, you can put together a paragraph with all the exceptions of the “i before e except after c”.
We have words that are spelled the same but with a multiplicity of meanings. We have to look carefully sometimes to see whether the word is being used as a noun, an adjective or a verb in the sentence.
Faith is one of those words, is it a noun, a verb, a passive verb, an active verb, and how does the usage of the word shade its meaning, or completely change.
Is it a belief, or a group of beliefs, a belief in someone. Is that belief simply knowledge, a collection of data we learn and store away? When we talk of faith are we referring to a group of doctrines or a religion? Which definition goes where?
I like the definition above from a book of Luther’s Spirituality. It reminds us that faith has its origin, not in our heart, mind. or soul, but in the one that we are trusting in, the one we depend upon.
Faith is possible, it grows out of our realization that God is trustworthy, He is dependable. He will do exactly what is promised, including the transformation in our lives that sometimes seems excruciatingly slow. But it is His work, in His time, this transformation that we can see by faith.
It is why the Psalmist finds so moving, this idea of having God weave through every part of our lives, so integrated in them, so near. To realize that God is at work in us, creating that faith even as the work He does leaves us amazed. Even as we find ourselves safe.
This is where faith begins and grows, as we see God at work in us… not apart from those works, but because of them. It takes off as we realize we are in His presence, that He has drawn us here, to heal, comfort, encourage empower us. But mostly He gathers us to show us His love.
Lord, help us ot see Your work in our lives, and help us to grow to depend more and more on Your being involved. AMEN
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 104–105). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.