Monthly Archives: April 2021
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)
We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.
O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.
The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!
As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.
I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.
I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.
As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well – but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)
That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.
As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.
As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him. As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 147.
Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
1 Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. 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 the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the faithful celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1–5 (CSB)
It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be a church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled. “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.”
How does one find the balance between the scripture passage and the selection from Tozer above?
The pslamist writes of worship in a way that describes an emotional frenzy, such as would have been seen in Acts when the crowd asked if the 120 believers were drunk! There are more than enough examples of this attitude in worship!
There are also enough passages that are similar to Tozer’s humility in worship. There is a somber nature that comes when one finds themselves a sinner in the hands of God. And that sense leaves us in awe.
When is one proper, when is the other? How do we balance the two?
I wish there was a spreadsheet, or a process one can discern when it is time for this or that. Some program to answer 25 questions and determine it is time for dancing, or times to just sit in awe.For to do so would be to try and control God, and how the Spirit moves us. That is the key of course, the movement of the Spirit in our lives. Ultimately, worship is the response to HIs action on our behalf, in His presence.
And sometimes that means a reverential awe, and sometimes dance, and because nothing is impossible with God, sometimes both!
A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.
Devotions for our day:
1 Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely. 2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel’s exiled people. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3 (CSBBible)
“God makes fools of both theologians and princes, for he commits to us an impossible task which nobody would undertake if he knew about it beforehand but which he is not allowed to relinquish once it has been committed and undertaken. So it is with the rest of our work. We demand many things, but they aren’t done except to a limited degree. We teach many things, but they are learned only to a modest extent. ‘Nothing is successful,’ as the preacher of Solomon says [Eccles. 1:1, 2].
“Why does God act so? Because he alone is wise and powerful. Because if our suggestions and ideas were carried out we would become presumptuous and would claim wisdom and power for ourselves. Because we surround the glory of wisdom and power with the defects which belong to our nature. We want to set things straight and make everything right. To this God says, ‘Well, then, go ahead! Be clever and do a good job! Be a preacher and make the people godly! Be a lord and mend the people’s ways! Get to it at once!’
“What a retrogression would occur! And the conclusion would be: ‘Vanity of vanities’ and ‘Let wisdom be attributed to God alone’ [Eccles: 1:2; 2:26]. We are fools and wretched bunglers in all we do and attempt.”
As I began to read Luther’s thoughts this morning, I wondered if he had been projecting himself 500 years forward, and was observing me. You see, I resonate to the frustration of things not getting done, and often wonder whether I am helping anyone learn anything, especialy when I wonder if they are learning to depend on Jesus more.
The battle seems to never end, and so I question the efficiency of my work. The experts all talk about being more effective in ministry, how to get better results. ( Note: It is always good to look at their track record and see how they did! If they were truly successul, why did they leave?) But the weight is burdensome, it can even seem to crush you.
But I ask this question – the one that Luther alludes to, why are you expecting you are the one to get it done?
Why do we expect our work to be as successul as the One who was crucified? Why do we spend more time planning and trying to find the ways we need to manipulate life?
I am not saying do not put effort into what we do, but what we do has to originate in what God is doing. The ancients in the church talked about our reaction of praising God for HIs work and promises being what forms our beliefs (our doctrine – what we teach). Those beliefs in turn should cause our actions.
It starts with God, and what He is doing, as we see God renuild His community, as we see God gather and heal His people. It relies on Him for our efficacy, for it is His work, and we follow. WIth HIm we find that we are loving the unlovable, brining healing to the broken, sharing His mercy with those around us that neither deserve the mercy, nor know it exists.
I need to remember this, I need God to remind me of it often, so that life isn’t managed by the fool and bungler that I am, but the God that works within you and I.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)
Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.
“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.
As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.
Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..
Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.
Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.
That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!
God is with us… meeting us where we are at.
It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.
But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!
For the Lord Jesus is with us….
We just need to learn that… together.
A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 96.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)
We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.
Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.
On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.
I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.
Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.
Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.
It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.
They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,
I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.
I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.
The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.
I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.
The love and compassion of Jesus.
For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.
To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.
There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.
SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.
He’s made me, and you, His own.
and that means more than anything else, than everything else.
It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.
May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 133.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.
Devotional Thought for our Days
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he rescued them from their distress. 7 He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:6-7 (CSBBible)
13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Psalm 107:13-14 (CSBBible)
19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent his word and healed them; he rescued them from their traps. Psalm 107:19-20 (CSBBible)
Aidan’s statue, Holy Island
Aidan stands. His head is close to the heart of the cross.
His eyes, far-seeing, scan the horizon, the joyous venturing of little boats.
A torch burns clearly in his grasp, a faithful challenge in his generation, meeting, listening, heart-connecting.
In his shadow is a place I covet, a challenge in a present time and confluence of cultures.
Aidan, let me lie down in your shadow. While I live may I be the shadow of a Rock in a weary land, a shelter from the heat.
When our Bohemian interrupted to say that he still had doubts about baptism, he [Martin Luther] replied gently,“When you first came here you were not at the stage which you have now attained. Continue to be patient. Give our Lord God time. Let the trees bloom before they bring forth fruit. Who was I before? I used to worship saints who hadn’t even been born! The time hasn’t come yet for me to speak otherwise [about baptism], I should now say, but wait and you’ll see what the Word of God is and can be.”
To embrace the cross, courage and endurance are needed. There are some “strong” Christians who undertake apostolic work but falter when faced with difficulty. They don’t know about patience.
What requires patience also requires the ability to endure exhaustion. Whether a marathon, or a long journey in a car, or the ministry, one must be able to endure the shadows. One must endure the times where you aren’t sure you can make it another mile, another hour, another day. Life is filled with such shadows, as we work through a world that has no direction and no ability to see where we are going, and yet we strive to define progress in so many areas.
Most of the people we minister to live there, in those shadows of exhaustion. Not quite in spiritual darkness, but neither are our lives always filled with the glorious light of Christ. We are not patient; we want our life on earth to be heavenly. When we cannot see that perfection, the shadows form, and tired and weary, we are anxious, not knowing when the next storm will hit or this one will subside.
We need to embrace the cross, not just with strength but patiently. We need to, as Luther advises, be patient and give the Lord time. (this not just with those we minister to, but with ourselves!) We need to see what the Word of God is, and what it can be.
That is why I find so much hope in my reading from Psalms this morning. There we see people cry out to the Lord, those lost in their wandering, those imprisoned by gloom and shame, and those whose foolishness caused their own suffering. The eventual response was to cry out to God to have mercy, and His response was to rescue them. In those times in the shadow, it is good to find the Aidans of our time. Those whose lives point us to Jesus. Those who keep close to the cross and draw us there. They dwell in the shadows as well (why else would they need torches?), and as they are in the presence of Christ, their shadow is a place of rest, a place of peace. As Jesus delivers us, slowly, we too become like Aidan, or Paul or Peter, and we dwell in Christ! Others will come, and we will learn to deal as patiently with them as God deals with us. Aidn’s image is so powerful, in the shadow of the cross, he provides light to others!
This is life in the shadows; this is ministry in the shadows… be patient. Find those who help you keep your heart and head near the cross, and then look for those who need to be drawn into His presence, and provide them the rest, the sanctuary they need, in the shadows.
Andy Raine – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/meditations/meditation-day-16/ (text reformatted to fit the page)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 92.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 132.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
29 I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as heaven lasts. 30 If his sons abandon my instruction and do not live by my ordinances, 31 if they dishonor my statutes and do not keep my commands, 32 then I will call their rebellion to account with the rod, their iniquity with blows. 33 But I will not withdraw my faithful love from him or betray my faithfulness. 34 I will not violate my covenant or change what my lips have said. Psalm 89:29-34 (CSBBible)
By grace alone are we saved. God doesn’t want to be obligated to anybody. Once we believe, he tells us (and this, too, is by grace), ‘Give, and it will be given to you [Luke 6:38]. You are bound to give in any case, whether out of pity for the Turks or some other unfortunates, so you may just as well do it when I command it.’
Christian life can never be reduced to an oppressive set of rules which leave the soul in a state of exasperation and tension. Rather, it accommodates itself to individual circumstances as a glove fits the hand, and it says that, as well as praying and sacrificing ourselves constantly, we should never lose our supernatural outlook as we go about our everyday tasks, be they big or small.
The quotes I use may seem ironic to amateur theologians.
The Roman Catholic saint demanding in a very Lutheran manner that the beleiver is not, and should not be, oppressed by the law. Luther saying we aren’t obligated to anyone, but then saying we are bound to give, even to our enemies, as God has commanded it. These seem opposite the way their church bodies are normally reprsented. And of course a Psalm, which talks of discipline and punishment when God’s instruction and rules are not flaunted and disrespected.
So, is a Chirstian obligated to obey the law, to honor what God has established, or not? Are we indebted to God, and tberefore we have to keep in step with His demands or face His wrath? And what good is it to say that we are saved by grace, when we then become enslaved to God?
We talk about all this in very theological terms, but what does it mean for the average guy who may come to church once a month or less?
I think we first have to talk about prior to being drawn into God’s grace. In those times our slavery isn’t by choice. Satan and the demonic world oppress and enslave the one who doesn’t know they can believe in God. There is no choice about it, we are born into sin, and even in sin were we conceived. Involuntary slavery, and we live life in ways that are more oppressive.
When we are freed from that power, we still have to deal with a tendency to sin. Paul describes in Romans 7 how it haunts and depresses him. But then, in the midst of despair, he finds the relief in Christ’s declaration from the cross that all is finished. That we are free, that there is no condemnation for those who are drawn to the cross and join with Him there.
And unlike sin, which demands us serve its desires, Jesus invites us to walk with Him, to let Him be in control of our life’s journey. We join Him, trying to remember that He is in charge, that He is Lord. It is dependency, it is, in a way, voluntarily ceding our will, our futire (and past and present) into His care. It is, because of experience, knowing His direction is the safest, the one that occurs in peace, the one of healing. Letting Him be in total control of our lives, is the blessing of the cross and the resurrection.
Call it slavery if you want… yet it is the most glorious of freedom as well.
This is life in Christ.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 91.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Restore us, God; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 (CSBBible)
It is also necessary to make a thanksgiving after Communion. There is no prayer more dear to God than that which is made after Communion. We must occupy this time in acts of love and prayers. The devout acts of love which we then make have greater merit in the sight of God than those which we make at other times, because they are then animated by the presence of Jesus Christ, who is united to our souls.
As a Lutheran, I am well attuned to the fact that we are saved as God’s gift to us. There is not one thing we must do to be saved. God will hear our cry, just as He heard the Psalmist. Heaven isn’t a reward for good people, it is a place of rest that God prepared for the sinners, for the broken, for those that found their only hope – is found in Him.
So when a religious writer says that we must do something, that it is “necessary”, I take a step back. I look at why it is necessary, why we must do this thing. Is it to impress God that He might save us? Is it to earn His admiration? Or is there something that has happened, that compels us to respond with thanks, praise, and even adoration?
30 years ago, this summer, I died. I experienced a cardia arrest and had to be shocked 5 times. Before the fire department arrived and rendered that aid, a lady did CPR on me. She was the secretary to the Dean of Students. When I asked if there was anything that I could do to show her my thanks, she indicated no, there was not. That bothered me, and in a way it still does. I had a need to show my thanks, I felt compelled to do so.
That feeling is what I believe de Liguori means when he says it is necessary. Someone saved you, He revived you, He brings you healing, and in the celebration of that, how do you not give Him thanks?
I would disagree with de Liguori’s pronouncement of those prayers being more meritorious, for I believe it is not about merit, nor value, but the fellowship. Certainly, we should be aware of the presence of Christ as we share in the Eucharist. But that awareness should be remembered and realized throughout the week. And anytime we experience that love, as we realize our deliverance, as we see what God is saving us from, we must respond… with thanks, praise, and adoring the one who saved us.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 227.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2 I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)
Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.
Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.
WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?
I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.
I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.
As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.
My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!
We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.
It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.
It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.
Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.
God is with us!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.
Many Messengers, One Message
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
† Jesus! Son! Risen Savior! †
May your gift from God today be more confidence in this message – that Jesus died for your sins, He was buried, and he was raised from the Dead!. And therefore, you are risen in Him! AMEN!
I came up with an illustration for this morning’s message that would be perfect! It would illustrate the idea of many messengers, one message, it would drive home.
Only one problem, we can’t do it because of social distancing!
Too bad! We could have defeated the most frustrating team-building exercise in history if only social distancing weren’t an issue!
We could have beaten the classroom game, “telephone!”
You see, the message I would start on this side of the room with would be simple.
“Alleluia! He is Risen!”
And I am 99.9 percent sure that when the message gets over here to Brian, he tells it to me… I will be able to reply. “He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! and therefore…. Therefore…
That message would be remembered!
Remembered like it was in the days following the Resurrection and Pentecost!
Peter shared what he witnessed, the rest of the discipled shared what they witnessed, 500 others would share it, and James, and then by all those sent out with the message. (remind me to talk about that later!) And finally, Paul would encounter the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus…. And it would change everything!
The Message Obscured
There are two reasons teams fail at the telephone game.
The first is that the message is too complex, too complicated.
The second is that the message has absolutely nothing to do with the people passing it.
Let’s say the message is that “Woodworth Cadillac was acquired 46 years ago, and was nominated in 2011 for the Time Dealer of the Year.” That’s a pretty prestigious nomination! It is a great car dealership. But none of you know where it is!
So if we used that sentence in the telephone game, it would be obscured by the third person it was communicated to.
It is a complex sentence, and except for the Parkers, no one in this church knows the DeLuca family.
If there is a reason the church doesn’t grow in this time and in this place, it is because we make other messages more critical. We talk about politics, and social issues, and sports.
I am not just talking about this church. I am talking about churches in general, so people think that church is nothing more than another location for questionable news and views.
The problem with the church today? It has sinned! What Paul identifies as “most important, and what has been passed on to us” has faded into the background.
We can’t do that anymore!
We have to pass on what has been given to us.
Not because it is an obligation, but because we know the difference it will make in someone’s life, to know God loves them this much.
A simple message…
Alleluia! HE IS RISEN!
- But, ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!
And therefore… I AM RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
Paul continues on,
10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results.
It doesn’t matter to Paul whether he is an apostle, a pastor, an evangelist. The results are what matters.
God pours out the grace, and there are results, and he will claim this,
yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the exact message you have already believed.
If 20 people lined up to get baptized here this morning, I would not care if Bob brought them, or Tom or Doug or Gerry. There would be 20 people brought here to know God’s love, and that is worth rejoicing over!
It doesn’t matter which one of us God used! We would have 20 new people to share God’s love with. It doesn’t matter if they are 4 or 14 or 84 or 94! It doesn’t matter what ethnicity they are or what sins they were delivered from by Jesus!
This message which you already believe, they need to come to believe! That because Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grace, they are being saved. They have been separated from their past and future sin.
Just as we are…. They are saved by the blood of Christ, made alive through the power of the resurrection.
- This is the Message
This is our message, the one passed on to us and entrusted to us. Not just for us to keep and ponder, but to pass on to those around us.
It meets the two criteria I had for establishing something that could be easily spread and kept correct in the telephone game.
- It is simple. “Alleluia, His is Risen.”
And it concerns you, for, “He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! And therefore We Are Risen indeed, Alleluia!”
Twelve me, some women, 500 people saw then and changed the entire Mediterranean Basin in 50 years. Keeping the message simple and showing people how it affected their lives.
Now the test, I want you to spread it from there to here, from the east to the west! AMEN!