Monthly Archives: February 2020
Don’t Just Pretend
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so strengthen your dependence on them, that you no longer have to pretend…
Bill, as you and your people struggle with what I preach today, remember you asked me to do this
I need to clarify something.
This isn’t your service. It is not about you!
Just like your wedding wasn’t about you!
This ordination is about the church, and their relationship to God, which you are to constantly reveal to them in all of its glory, in all its wonder. It is about the comfort and peace that accompanies the love of God, that you simply serve up and remind them of, with the words you speak, and the sacraments you administer.
It does include you, as a member of the church, but an ordination as Greg Seltz use to say, is about the church, the pastor and the people. Not just the pastor, not just the people, but together gathered into God’s presence you all are the church.
I asked you to extend the epistle reading a little, so I can talk about you all.
Let me read the last part of the last verse. “Don’t think you know it all!”
That’s a pretty strong challenge for a guy who spent his career working with doctors because as a nurse, you often did.
But I am not preaching about that today. Go back a few verses and it says this.
There is your mission.
Don’t pretend to love others, really love them.
When you people get frustrated because you’ve heard Pastor Abbott tell the same joke for the 65th straight week – really love him, don’t just pretend to love him.
Bill, when you get that 2 am phone call, from someone in the community that is having a crisis, in their opinion, love them, don’t just pretend to love them.
This is hard, because every person in this room, including every one of the pastors, has pretended to love others in the church a time or two.
You need to have genuine affection for each other, delighting in honoring each other. This is all part of what it means to present yourself as a living sacrifice. It’s not just about the gifts, it is about using them to love each other, to love those in the community, even those we don’t like, or those we are stunned by what they do, or have done.
This is your mission, this is what changes evangelistic efforts from arguing people into the faith, into walking beside them as they struggle through life. You see this as we laugh together and cry together. This is what means to live in harmony with each other.
Not pretend harmony, real harmony…
Bill part of your job will be preaching in such a way as to encourage this. Even when that preaching and pastoral care means you unveil the pretending. Not easy.
Church, that means you have to hold my friend to do that. Encourage Him to lovingly deal with your sin, by doing the same with Him. I’ve got a couple of elders and two or three members that do that. It is a pain in the butt, but it tells me how much they love me, and how much they value me as their pastor.
Real love makes a difference, and it allows you to minister to those you didn’t think it was possible to minister to, as well. For love sees their brokenness, and as you realize God is healing yours, you begin to desire that for them.
Tony Campolo has a great example of this, among his stories. He was in Hawaii to preach at a special gathering of pastors. Arriving in town a few days early, he couldn’t get used to the time change, and found himself in a 24 restaurant, working on his message.
About 4 a.m. a bunch of street-level prostitutes walked in, their “shift” done. Tony listened to their banter, their talk. One said she had to get home to her sick mom, and one of her friends told her to enjoy her birthday. She bitterly laughed as she walked out..
Tony had an idea. He went over and talked to the ladies, suggesting that they throw their friend a party the next night/morning. He arranged to go shopping with them later, buying stuff to decorate the diner. The husband and wife team that ran the diner said they would provide cake and drinks, and at 4 o’clock the next morning, the lady had a real birthday party. And tears of joy were shed because she knew she was loved. There is more to the story, but the part I like was when the cook found out Tony was a preacher.
“What kind of preacher throws a party for a whore at 4 am? I want to find a pastor and church that would do that!”
Well, that is what really loving someone is about. Not pretending.
When your church loves the supposedly unlovable, then Bill, you will know God has done what He promises through you.
How will that happen? Correct them when necessary. Absolve them when they confess, make them know God loves them more than he hates their sin. That is what it means to preach the word. That is what Law gospel is all about! It’s not easy. Most will want you to preach about other’s sins, those committed by people in Washington, or California or Vegas.
Still preach about where God needs to help them repent.
As important, help them see what happens at the altar as a celebration, a party God throws, a celebration of the new birth when they became His people. Here it is that they begin to understand that God doesn’t pretend to love them, that he has genuine affection for them.
Here it is that the Holy Spirit transforms them, as their eyes are on Jesus as Paul describes.
This is how you see them change, and how you yourself change Bill.
Not by your logic, or the strength of your personality. That might have worked with doctors, and you might think it works with Sonja. But change in the church always happens when the people of God know they are in the presence of God.
Bring them there, let God teach them and empower them to love, as He loves them! He gives them the Body and Blood of Christ, as He forgives their sins, as He tells them what the prodigal hear.
My child, you were dead, and now you are alive! You were lost, and now are found!
And as they realize this, the party begins…and love becomes what the church is known for…and for the peace that goes beyond logic… and is there in the midst of trauma.
When that happens, you will rejoice in the work God has done through the church, through the pastor and people together.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!” 1 Cor. 2:9 CEV
When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22 Gideon realized that he had seen one of the LORD’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.” “Calm down!” the LORD told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.” Gideon built an altar for worshiping the LORD and called it “The LORD Calms Our Fears.” Judges 6:21-24 CEV
Even the atheistic philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There comes a time when you say even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’ ” How can we understand anything of Heaven if there is nothing at all on earth to compare it to, nothing heavenly, nothing that never gets boring? Thus either Heaven is boring, or something on earth is not boring, or nothing on earth is like Heaven.
There are two parts to the answer: first, that everything on earth except agape is meant to be boring; and second, that agape is not.
So let us take up this problem: genuine art is “esoteric in the best sense”, say Rahner and Vorgrimler; liturgy is simple; it must be possible for everyone, particularly the simple, to participate. Can liturgy accommodate real church music? Does it in fact demand it, or does it exclude it? In looking for an answer to these questions, we will not find much help in our theological inheritance. It seems that relations between theology and church music have always been somewhat cool.
As I read Kreeft’s words in scripture today, I was amazed by their accuracy. We don’t understand heaven, we can’t conceive of it, even as the Apostle Paul says in the first quote.
I remember a professor quoting one of the early revivalists who said if he could give people a minute of hell, he would never have to convince them to repent. My sarcastic comment was, “but what if we could give them a glance of heaven?”
Sarcastically said then, but I’ve thought of the wisdom of it – how can we give people a taste of heaven? How can we help them know the joys of which we should sing? That which is “beyond” theology, that which defies our explanation?
How can we show them the holiness, the glory, the pure love that we will experience in heaven? How can we help them experience love beyond love, as radical as the day is from the darkest, stormiest night?
The church’s liturgy aims to do so, revealing the love of God as we celebrate our forgiveness, the Lord dwelling among us, the actions He takes to bless and transform us into His holy people, and the feast of the broken bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus. The feast that celebrates the love, the feast that opens, for a few moments, a view for our souls of heaven.
I love the story of Gideon, especially the verses above. Here he is, somehow missing the miracles the Angel did, then realizing afterward the significance of being in the presence of a holy messenger. He starts to freak out, the anxiety builds as he realizes his own sin and inadequacy. His glimpse of something holy, someone from heaven, causes enormous fear.
Then the Lord God tells him to chill.
Wait – where was he?
God does speak to us still, just as He did to Gideon. One of the ways that should happen is in our church’s gathering. Even as we receive the message we will struggle with, that kills oof our sinful self, and raises us to life with the crucified Christ. Even as we struggle with that, the Lord comes to us in His feast and tells us, don’t fear, I am with you…
That is why we have a dilemma about the art of leading liturgy and the art of leading songs and hymns that accompany it. The use of the term “art” makes us think it is a showcase for the best o our talents. It isn’t!
What the art is, is not found in the musician’s talent, or the pastor, in the charisma. It is found in the communion, the communication of revealing to people they dwell in the presence of God, and helping them to hear His voice. Therein is the art, there is our target, the goal we strive for, there is our art.
There is our joy as well, for the connection is undeniable, and beautiful beyond words, as people come to know they are loved… as they feast with the Lord, knowing the joy that only comes from knowing you are loved.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 88.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 100.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jabin’s army had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he made life miserable for the Israelites, until finally they begged the LORD for help. Judges 4:3 CEV
Jesus told the people another story:
What will a woman do if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the floor, and look carefully until she finds it? 9 Then she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found the coin I lost.”
10 Jesus said, “In the same way God’s angels are happy when even one person turns to him.” Luke 15:8-10
790 Don’t you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart and very often degrade it…. Leave all that and come with us in search of Love!
I see the scenario played out in Judges all the time. People who need help, who refuse to ask for it from God. They go years, even decades without praying about things, without looking to God from whom all help must come.
We struggle along, depressed, moaning about the brokenness we have to endure. Despising our own weakness, and yet, for some reason, unable to cry out for help.
We forget all the illustrations of God, who like the woman, search diligently for the coin. (Think one worth $500) Or we think it is about us, trying to find the answer we cannot provide. We think we have to get to God!
We struggle with the fact that we have ot deal with this sin, or that anxiety, this problem, that temptation, and then we can walk into God’s presence.
I want to struggle with St. Josemaria, “Fools! (myself included) drop all that stuff that is crushing you! look – a cross! You are loved! I am loved. (Josemaria knows it is not a hard or long search – for God is the one searching us out, even as He did Adam and Eve!)
For only in that place, where we are stunned by His love, can we see Him at work in our lives, and in this broken world! We need to start our days there, we need to start over and over again there, in the place where we find life. We need to run there when things are broken.
In Christ! Living out what the sacraments help us experience – the incredibly, intimate, love of God for you and I, revealed in all that is Jesus Christ!
Lord, in the midst of our brokenness, help us redefine life based on this simple truth. You love us more than we can ever know! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
After a while the people of Joshua’s generation died, and the next generation did not know the LORD or any of the things he had done for Israel. 7 The LORD had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they had worshiped him. But now the Israelites stopped worshiping the LORD and worshiped the idols of Baal and Astarte, as well as the idols of other gods from nearby nations. Judges 2:10-13 CEV
On the other hand, we must acknowledge that, together with the affirmation of this rich inheritance with its high technical demands, there is a desire to see the liturgy completely open to all, a desire for the common participation of all in the liturgical action, including liturgical singing, and this, inevitably, must put a curb on artistic requirements.
We should, then, learn what the sacraments are, what purpose they serve, and how they are to be used. We will find that there is no better way on earth to comfort downcast hearts and bad consciences. In the sacraments we find God’s Word—which reveals and promises Christ to us with all his blessing and which he himself is—against sin, death, and hell. Nothing is more pleasing and desirable to the ear than to hear that sin, death, and hell are wiped out.
When I was in High School and College, it was said that my generation (the early GenX’ers were leaving the church in droves. The worship wars were just starting to ramp up, the Seeker Sensitive movement had yet to begin, and the church changed from a place where the Gospel was preached to a place where scripture was exposited and doctrine was defended. Still to this day, there are not a lot of people in my age group in the church.
I have seen all sorts of plans over the years to reach them, and now it seems the church has given up on us, and now they mourn the Millenials not being in church. Now all sorts of ideas are being floated by boomers to reach them as if they are the last hope for the church in the world. We’ve even labeled this time as the “post-Christian” era, and strategize about how to consolidate our resources, closing churches as if the buildings were nothing more than fiscal assets, and our concern is not “return on investment” but eerily similar, where we make decisions based on a ratio membership against property value.
It is not unlike the time of the Judges, the time where a generation or two seems to be missing, and the church desperate for survival looks to consultants and business experts to guide them.
At the same time, the worship wars have gone underground, become more programmatic, and worship, whether contemporary, tradition or liturgical, has become more spectator driven and less participative. We’ve got it backward in many ways. Pastors and priests should be facing the people when they are proclaiming the gospel in the sacraments, revealing the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Worship teams should be facing the cross and altar when facilitating the worship of God, rather than standing with their back to the altar. In both cases, man is standing in the way of others being able to see and interact with God.
Pope Benedict was right, we have to put a curb on the artistic “performance” of the skilled musicians and liturgists, so that people can participate, so they can sing, so they can pray, so they can communicate with God!
This is why Luther was so adamant about people knowing how the sacraments are to be used, to comfort terrified consciousness, to communicate peace, their promises being fulfilled by the Holy Spirit as He transforms each and every one of them, from every ethnicity, from every language, from every generation.
It is this participation in worship, encouraging and empowering people to interact, not just with other believers, but together interacting with God, that was missing in the days of the judges. They didn’t share what they saw God doing in their midst in the past, in the present, and the hope of what He would do in the time to come.
They didn’t share what they saw God doing in the sacramental acts at the Tabernacle, they didn’t share in the promises of the covenant. And so the generation that followed didn’t know God, didn’t know the benefit of walking with Him, so they searched out other gods.
But they did it, one by one, family by family. What was to be passed down, the work of God, the covenant describing the relationship, was all not passed on, but simply treasured in their own hearts.
If in these days, we are to see the church revive, we have to help people see God. Older people, younger people, people of every description you can imagine. We have to help them worship the God who reveals His love, His mercy, His care to them… and not get in the way while doing it…
Let’s call them now… and plead with them, “let God reconcile you to Him….”
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 99.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 111.
1 Cor. 3:1-9
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus help you see God at work, causing you to depend on the fact God loves you!
Teaching Little Ones ( or Big Ones!)
There are a lot of amazing things in life. The Grand Canyon, the dawn on the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and the sunset’s you see sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Things people do also amaze me, whether it is skilled athlete, or our musicians.
Or our preschool teachers, especially Lisa and Lorena – who work with the tiniest of toddlers. Keeping them focused on a lesson, and sitting still in chapel, well, mostly still
Keeping big kids focused is hard enough, I can’t imagine the faith that results in patience that God gives our teachers!
That’s why Paul will compare the Corinthians (and us) to infants in Christ! For while they should be focused on what is important, they are not. And so in frustration Paul tells them that he has to treat them like toddlers, or people that have absolutely no clue about the love and mercy of God.
Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
But all we have to do is look around, and we see the leaders who act as if they are playing out back in the playground. Then we see similar things among our church leaders. I will freely admit to getting distracted from what is important, and acting more than a toddler at times! I want what’s mine! Give it back! That’s not fair!
In the background, Jesus waits, for the Holy Spirit is at work… and will use God’s word, including these words penned by Paul, to correct us, to help us to focus, to get us back into what comes close to a line!
Distracted by what is not important
In the readings from 1 Corinthians, we see what was the distraction of the day. It was who the people followed. It must have been a significant problem, for Paul spends some time on it.
For some reason, they tried to establish a spiritual pedigree. I have seen that – even among pastors! They somewhat jokingly compare whether they were trained at our Ft. Wayne Seminary, or St. Louis Serminary! How ludicrous, especially when they know that the best pastors come from Irvine!
Can you imagine if people here argued about whether the Lord’s supper was better from the hand of Pr. Mazemke, or Pr. Rossow, or Pr. Hsu, or Pr. CHen or from me? The bread and the wine are what is important, not whose hand put it into your hand.
If that is true for the communion we serve, it should be true for the message we give. As long as that message is about Jesus, about His love for you, about His forgiveness, that message that we sum up in a couple of statements…
The Lord is with YOU! ( and also with you)
Alleluia! His is risen! (He is risen indeed!) and therefore (we are risen indeed!)
Everything else, including which pastor brought you to know Jesus, or where you learned about His love, isn’t as important as the fact that God loves YOU!
What is important
You see, the intellect, the charisma of the pastor, that is not what caused you to believe. It was not by your reason or strength nor mine. It is, and always will be the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the growth.
All of us and everything we do is used by the Holy Spirit, whether it is the music team, or Lisa teaching the kids, or Sandi keeping the books, or Dane, Bob, and Tom as they bring other people the Lord’s Supper. Even our coming to the altar is about one thing – letting God do the work of making a masterpiece of our lives,
Hear the verse again,
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
To truly being to understand that verse, we need to replace the word seed with the word, us,
What’s important is that God makes me grow!
What’s important is that God makes us grow!
God causes the growth in each one of us, and in us as a while.
We must realize this my friends, this is what is important, the work God does in your life! In our lives together. Seeing that He is working in our midst, through each other, all to the same purpose of helping everyone know God is actively part of their life. That is perfecting them, transforming them as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
“17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
That is the purpose – that God is making us more and more like Jesus… that’s the goal and that is how God will continue to work in us, and through us.
That is what encourages pastors to do what we do, and empowers us to be there… -when we see people grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust in Him, to believe in Him. For the miracle we see occurring is that transformation that only the Holy Spirit can be credited for…
and so we shall… (lead into doxology…)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
24 The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away. 25 When your people meet, you will fill my heart with your praises, LORD, and everyone will see me keep my promises to you. 26 The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope. Psalm 22:24-26 (CEV)
Joshua, please come and rescue us! The Amorite kings from the hill country have joined together and are attacking us. We are your servants, so don’t let us down. Please hurry!” Joshua 10:6 CEV
Grace and mercy are there where Christ on the cross takes your sin from you, bears it for you, and destroys it. To believe this firmly, to keep it before your eyes and not to doubt it, means to view the picture of Christ and to engrave it in yourself. Likewise, all the saints who suffer and die in Christ also bear your sins and suffer and labor for you, as we find it written, “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfil the command of Christ” [Gal. 6:2]. Christ himself exclaims in Matthew 11 [:28], “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you.” In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ.
I sat in the E.R. hallway, trying to come up with something to calm my anxious soul. The lady, screaming profanities at the top of her voice didn’t help, but I was able to pray for her, and the staff that tried to calm her down. The flood of traffic, and the delay at seeing how I was bothered and comforted me at the same time. After all, if they were really worried about me, wouldn’t they have me in a bed, and be constantly looking in on me?
So I sat in the hall… trying to block out the noises, trying to find some sort of peace.
My prayer was not so different from the people sending word to Joshua ( whose name is shared with our Savior Jesus) Lord have mercy! Come help… make everything all right.
It took a while, six hours later to say I had severe gas bloating….
Six hours that seemed like a year.
As I have struggled with a few serious health issues over there, I will admit, I have wondered if God hates me. I have wondered if this sin or that is not forgiven, and that is why I have to suffer. I wonder if the suffering I help people endure in the churches I pastor is my fault, It is not a challenge to spiral, to let depression or anxiety fill the space where I forgot God was…
He is still there of course, as Psalm 22 reminds us. He has not forsaken us in our sufferings, He is there. Reminding each other of that..of God who is present, who is merciful, who is loving,,. well, that is how we carry each other’s burdens.
As to sin being the cause of our personal suffering, and the suffering all around us, consider the words Luther was able to pen…
Here sins are never sins… for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ!
Be at peace, Christ has not only overcome the world, He has overcome your world.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 105.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The Israelites tried some of the food, but they did not ask the LORD if he wanted them to make a treaty. 15 So Joshua made a peace treaty with the messengers and promised that Israel would not kill their people. Israel’s leaders swore that Israel would keep this promise. Joshua 9:14-15, CEV
Concern for achieving unity “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.”But we must realize “that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts.” That is why we place all our hope “in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Man looks with suspicion upon God, so that he soon desires a different God. In brief, the devil is determined to blast God’s love from a man’s mind and to arouse thoughts of God’s wrath.
There was nothing that Jesus sought more than faith, except love. Faith is the necessary beginning of the Christian life, but love is its consummation
Listening to my favorite “radio” channel the other day, they played one of the songs I hate and love. Musically, John Lennon’s Imagine is right up there, and I understand the sentiment, the yearning, the great desire for there to be peace, and unity in this world.
Musically, I love the piece, it is my favorite style of music, the ballad. But what Lennon demands people to give up, doesn’t guarantee there to be real peace or real unity. For he is asking them to give up things that clearly define us, our culture, our beliefs.
Most of all there is one line that bothers me, far more than most.
I’ll get to it, in a moment. (It’s not the one you think!)
In my readings this morning, the Israelites fell into the same trap for peace. Tired of conflict, they entered into a covenant, a sacred treaty with people that was based on lies. They sought something good, but they didn’t look to God. and they fell prey to their own desires. This would become a curse to them, and to the Gibeonites for centuries.
This is what Luther was talking about, as they didn’t even bother to consult God, but made up their own mind. Satan blasted God’s love from their minds, giving them a goal, a god to pursue, and they did earn for a time, God’s wrath. ( I’ve always wondered what would have happened if they went to God and pleaded with Him to save these people? We can not ever know, but we have examples of such prayer!)
What did satan steal form them? What did he blast at? The religious structures? The doctrines of the Faith? The traditions, the laws, and promises?
No, Luther says, it is the love of God that Satan would have out of sight and out of mind.
Kreeft tells us that Jesus sought love more than faith. What are the two greatest commands?
And what do we have faith in, if not the absolute love that God has for us? He loves you, and He loves me. Absolutely! Purely! Passionately! With such love that He doesn’t ignore our sin, but He deals with it, and had planned to – from before the foundation of the world!
That is what sustains us, and that is what can create true unity, not just unity that hides conflict, but true unity and true peace. That is where the Catholic Catechism has it correct, our hope for unity is found, not in the boardroom, not in the halls of academia, but at the altar, where we find ourselves enveloped by His love.
Which brings me back to Lennon, and the line that bugs me, that I truly can’t accept. It is not the one about no religion. It is this one,
Nothing to live or die for…
Love does have something to die for, One who loves will die for the one who is loved.
Without that kind of love, the kind that sacrifices self, unity, and peace is but a dream…
One last word, that love is not something you have to dream about, for God loves us that much, that Jesus would die for you… because He loves you. And in doing so, all that would impede peace…are shed, and are left behind, as we discover this new life in Jesus.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 218.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 103.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 77.
Devotional Thoughts of my Day:
My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you.
22 My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too. Luke 10:21-22 CEV
With all these things against us, now—in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be—now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” “Ah, but,” you say, “see how I am arrayed! my graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory.” But read the next: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” The Holy Spirit shall purify our minds, and divine power shall refine our bodies, then shall we see him as he is.
I used to think, (and sometimes still do) that with enough learning, with enough time spent in meditation and prayer, that I would gain in my understanding of how God works in life. Why does He allow this or that to happen, or that, how He makes everything run, heck, why he allows “those people” to have authority over a country, a city, a denomination, a church.
I thought I would understand what God’s idea of justice is, and be able to work towards it. Yet I resonate with a pastor who wrote these words over a century ago. I am not able to show grace to all people, and my ideas of righteousness/justice are not always glorious. It is broken, and because I can’t figure out what God is doing, and when that happens I get frustrated, agitated, anxious.
Eventually, using after a period of depression, in the midst of the brokenness I realize that we don’t know everything, we aren’t God, but what we have been shown is more than enough.
We’ve been shown, given, united to Jesus. And in Him, the Holy Spirit is at work, preparing us for the day when we shall meet the Father face to face.
This doesn’t mean I don’t work for justice and righteousness in this world, that I give up and leave it all to fate. In fact, it means that I take my role as an evangelist, and ambassador of reconciliation more seriously. (You should as well!) For as we walk with Christ, as we feel His comfort and peace overwhelm our anxiety and frustration, we take what we know of Jesus, and share it with others.
Especially those struggling with the concept of justice, who struggle against unrighteousness.
We need to know Jesus is there.. we need to know His work, which results in our being revealed as the children of God, and that nothing can separate us from Him. AMEN
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of my day:
The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back. Deut. 32:11 CEV
The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God
This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.
In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.
That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!
Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.
It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true. God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.
Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash. I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.
But in the midst of falling, He is always there…
And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.
Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence. Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
29 The LORD our God hasn’t explained the present or the future, but he has commanded us to obey the laws he gave to us and our descendants. Deuteronomy 29:29 (CEV)
29 Things hidden belong to Yahweh our God, but things revealed are ours and our children’s for ever, so that we can put all the words of this Law into practice.’ Deuteronomy 29:29 (NJB)
29 “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT2)
“For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere.”
Although very few of those who express their uneasiness have a clear picture of these interrelated factors, there is an instinctive grasp of the fact that liturgy cannot be the result of Church regulations, let alone professional erudition, but, to be true to itself, must be the fruit of the Church’s life and vitality.
I read the verse in red in the first translation this morning. It piqued my interest because I get frustrated when I cannot understand the things going on in life. That has been happening a lot recently.
So i started looking the passage up in other translations. Sometimes that helps, sometimes I have ot go a bit deeper than that. I use the NLT in our church, and the NJB is the first full Bible I ever owned. I like it just like people who grew up with the KJV are not comfortable with more modern translations.
Turns out I like all three, but the NJB resonates the most with me.
To paraphrase it, “what God has made a mystery, these things we cannot know. That is good. The things God has revealed to us, this is what is needed for us to live in the relationship He created with us…. (at the cross) For the Law is not just the commandments, but the entire covenant, the entire description of our relationship. It is the explanation of, “I am your God, and you are my people!’
That’s the message – that is the mystery that we can’t conceive of, but we need to know is true. We have to have that, far more than why we have to understand some of the evil things that happen in this world or even the odd and unexplainable things.
Even if we understood the present or the future, could we change it?
No. Not really. We might even be more frustrated than we are with things all in the dark.
But if we know of God’s presence, HIs promise, HIs love, that changes it all…. and we can His peace and comfort in that revelation.
And this is where the two quotes about liturgy come in, for the liturgy needs to communicate God’s presence, love, and mercy above all. It cannot be the same, for it has to address the place where people are at, the struggles they face, the despair they know, and to reveal to them that they can depend on God, that He wants them to do so!
That means the liturgy may look a little different here from there. It gives expression to God coming into the presence of His people and healing them of their brokenness. And liturgy comes out of that feeling., as the people respond to the merciful, comforting loving presence of God. That is why liturgy is fruit, proof of the vitality of a congregation, proof of the truth revealed to them. And it is why those who would use the liturgy to bind the church are not protecting the church, but severely damaging it. Damaging it far more than the changes they fear ever could.
Liturgy is the expression of the faith of those who enter into worship and must always remain so. For then it gives voice to what God has revealed, and where He has not, where we don’t get it, the liturgy will bring comfort and peace.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Cinnfessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 173–174.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 86–87.