Monthly Archives: February 2023
The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David! Take pity on me!”
40 So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” “Sir,” he answered, “I want to see again.” Luke 18:39-41 GNT
Jesus came preaching the forgiveness of sins in God’s name and we killed him for it. How can it be said that we did it? We were not there. It is important for the proclamation to encompass this because the universal claim of the cross to be for us all depends on it.
If we are willing to add the appeals from the book of Revelation to the weight of the other Scriptures, we discover God saying to us that the earth on which we live is not self-explanatory and certainly not self-sufficient.
If we bully people into talking on our terms, if we manipulate them into responding to our agenda, we do not take them seriously where they are in the ordinary and the everyday.
Nor are we likely to become aware of the tiny shoots of green grace that the Lord is allowing to grow in the back yards of their lives. If we avoid small talk, we abandon the very field in which we have been assigned to work.
Last night I went to a concert in town. The band, Chicago, had three original members from the founding of the group in 1967, when I was 2 years old.
I expected to see a lot of people ten to twenty years older than me. Sure enough, a little more than half the crowd fit that demographic. A few more where my age, from the height of Chicago’s popularity, but a significant amount were younger, even much younger. The concert has been sold out for a while as well. During the second set, the band announced that they were doing some old favorites from the 1980’s, and the place went ballistic. People were dancing, singing, going crazy in the aisles. Young, old, and the young, digging the music, the beat, the atmosphere!
It got me to think about the theories I have been hearing for years about church services, how they need to be planned for certain demographics. Too often we project our fear of not being respected by others of different ages? They won’t get us, because we don’t think we have much in common with them.
Yet in this midst of a rock concert, there was no thought to age. or culture. There was enjoyment of the moment. There were hearts touched by the lyrics and the music. What communicated in the 70’s and 80’s communicates still.
So why doesn’t the gospel? Why doesn’t the liturgy?
Perhaps it is not with those who haven’t come yet.
Perhaps it is more about us, and our fears and anxieties.
We find a church that does something we treasure, that meets us just as Jesus met the blind man. We may not always understand the impact of the cross on our life, but it is always there. As we are taught about it, as we confess it with our singing and prayers, we celebrate it as we eat His body and drink His blood. We should be in the moment just as much as when we are singing “Saturday in the park” with 2,000 people.
It is that moment that we have to share. It is that moment that we can invite them into, much as we would invite them to a concert.
It doesn’t matter it if is worship led with guitars, or organs, whether the pastor is wearing shorts and polos or a chausable. You may change some – but don’t do it till you know you will recognize Christ in the moment. You find that naturally, not forcing it, and you help them find it normally, naturally. That is something most evangelism materials don’t tell you…
It matters if, in the moment, you recognize the presence of God caring for you.
Your heart and soul recognize it, at a far deeper level than a concert.
The Lord is with you… and desires to be with them.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 122. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ create in you an eager repentant Spirit that rejoices in the God’s presence!
- We should be envied!
There is an old Italian “blessing”, which mommas used on their children when they are misbehaving! That “blessing” is this:
“I hope your children grow up to be …. JUST LIKE YOU!”
Oddly enough, the Psalmist would agree, but without the sarcasm.
You, according to the Psalmist, you are to be envied greatly! People should want to be just like you! Well, at least in one way!
Let me explain. Our translation reads:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
In looking up the word “joy”, I discovered it means “to be envied with great desire” So we could translate this
“Greatly envied (with a desire to be like them) are those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is forgiven. Yes, how we should envy (and wanna be like) those whose record the LORD has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty”
So you are to be greatly envied, and people should want to be just like you!
- Our stupidity!
Well, except there is a problem—at least the writer of this Psalm had one, and I think some of us might as well. He describes the problem spiritually in verse 3:
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
That sounds like a bit of a problem!
I need to be clear here, not all physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is caused by refusing to confess your sin. But there is a definite correlation between suffering from the guilt and shame sin causes and one’s well-being.
Sin can and does rip us apart.
We need relationships, and it destroys them. It can cause a type of paranoia—as we are afraid someone is going to find out. It creates all sorts of stresses, as it disconnects us from God and from those who love us and would have us live in peace. Even if we convince ourselves that our particular sin isn’t that bad, living a life based on that lie hollows it out until it collapses.
Sin drains us,
It wipes us out..
And makes our life hollow.
There is only one way to deal with this—though it is a joyful one.
- Our Joy!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
I know how much courage this takes to stop trying to hide all the guilt. But as much courage as it takes, the reward of knowing those sins are completely lifted and tossed away…
All of it – forgiven!
All the guilt—gone!
Think about that for a moment…
Not one thing should haunt you.
Not one thing should you even regret!
As much as we contemplate our sin and brokenness during Lent, it is for this purpose–to know the relief of Psalmist–the absolute joy of the weight being lifted off of us!
We really need to take the time and think through what God has done to us… what He continues to do in our lives. …
Therefore, the psalmist says people should envy us, as we live forgiven lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit! For the burdens we no longer carry, or at least that we aren’t to carry,.. so many do! This is what Jesus came to do, to free us from the sin which stops us from being with God!
So many walk around, living with guilt and shame….so many people walk around without knowing God really loves them, without experiencing that love.
- What happens next
The change is so incredible for the psalmist – that feeling the relief inwards; he turns to those around him
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory!
This is an evangelistic spirit.
Wow, God, you did this for me! All of us need to know this – we all need to pray—we all need to experience this relief, especially before the waters rise, and judgment occurs.
The more you know God has done for you, the more you need to share it with others, to share with them how God heals and protects and hides us from trouble, the more we need to invite people into the safe place we have found.
This is Christianity at its simplest… to realize the incredible way God has called you to His side, cleaning you up along the way, as you invite others into a peace that is beyond explanation….as Jesus saves them, as the Holy Spirit takes us residence with them, as sin and satan the fear of death are tossed out like yesterday’s trash…
This is our hope, and it is the very reason people should be envious of us, why we want them to be just like us.
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT2)
We shall see that in order to enter fully into communion with the life brought to us by Christ we must in some sense—sacramentally, ascetically, mystically—die with Christ and rise with Him from the dead. The whole life of the Kingdom of God consists then in the gradual extension of the spiritual effects of the death and resurrection of Jesus to one soul after another until Christ lives perfectly in all whom He has called to Himself.
This gospel is to us a true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes in three great and hard fought battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word.
Is the church dying? Is it dead? Is it no longer relevant to a society that ignores its brokenness? Will we continue to consolidate and merge ministries, selling this off to try something different over here? Will we believe the post-covid reports abut what the decline in church attendance means?
There is no doubt attendance is less across all Christian denominations, but what does that mean?
I think it is time to listen to St. Paul, and focus on the cross of Jesus, to think through that which is our only hope, to realize we have died, and risen with Him. We have to get back to that message – for the sake of our people. Merton states this clearly – the whole life of the Church nad its believers consists of the death and life of Christ, and our unity with it. Luther adds the grace of God experienced and revealed through His word which proclaims Christ crucified.
We can’t afford to be in a defensive position any longer! In fact we should have never gone down that road to begin with, relying on our own intellect and ability to strategize the next moves for the church..
Paul, one of the greatest intellects in the history of the church, says he abandoned the things which communicated loftier ideals with larger words.
Just Christ. Just the cross.
This is where we die, and live…
This is the message that sparks revivals and reformations. That Jesus dwells with His people, His church. This is what is seeing churches in other places in the world grow so fast they are sending missionaries here.
God at work, in the lives of people, redeemed and reconciled by the body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, and found on the altar.
Let’s celebrate that love, that passion, that presence… and depend on Him. As we do, we will find the rumors of the death of the church to be greatly exagerated, and in fact, lies from hell.
Merton, Thomas. 1976. The New Man. London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross
16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times, 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20 do not despise inspired messages. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 (TEV)
The New Testament language is as plain as can be—in Christ through His death and resurrection, every legal hindrance has been met and satisfied: taken away! There is nothing that can keep us from assurance except our own selves.
Let us quit trying to think our way in, to reason our way in. The only way to get in is to believe Him with our hearts forevermore!
Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.
Imagine having tickets to some major amusement park, going in, and standing in line for 3 hours to ride the newest, greatest ride in America. As you get there, as it is time to take your place, you decide, its not worth it, and you walk away, apathy. All of that time and money invested, is now wasted, never to be used for something else. Or imagine someone giving you the best seats to the Superbowl, or to a favorite concert–plus the airfare and limo rides and access to all the good stuff, and just as you get there, you decide, “Nah, this isn’t worth it,” as you walk away.
Every person and every church has access to God the Father, because someone else paid the admission price, and waited for us to enter the presence of God the father with great confidence, but what do we do with this access? Tozer is right, to often we are the ones who dismiss the access…
Despite the encouragement to pray and be thankful, despite the commands and promises attach to it, the church has been not one that prays all that much. Not just today, even back in Luther’s day. even back in the 1st century.
We need to pray; we need to pour our hearts out to God, assured that He will provide what we need. His love, His mercy, the faith we need, even persecution and trauma that draws us closer to Him. We need to talk to Him enough that we can thank Him for the good things – and the challenging things in life as well.
The joy doesn’t come from the problems, but the awareness of God’s presence, His protection, His care, from the healing He causes. That hope comes, not from academic knowledge, but from experience. That is why the early Lutherans still considered prayer a sacrament, as sacred action that we need to keep at all the time. Not because doing that shows off our holiness, but because we need to be lifted up by God, we need to hear Him speak of His mercy and love..
So pray… and pray for me..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 213.
10 One Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. 11 A woman there had an evil spirit that had made her ill for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free from your illness!” 13 He placed his hands on her, and at once she straightened herself up and praised God.
14 *The official of the synagogue was angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, so he spoke up and said to the people, “There are six days in which we should work; so come during those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath!”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Any one of you would untie your ox or your donkey from the stall and take it out to give it water on the Sabbath. 16 Now here is this descendant of Abraham whom Satan has kept bound up for eighteen years; should she not be released on the Sabbath?” 17 His answer made his enemies ashamed of themselves, while the people rejoiced over all the wonderful things that he did. Luke 13:10-17 GNT
At our human and Christian best we are not fascists barking our orders to God and his creatures. At our human and Christian best we are not quietists dumbly submissive before fate. At our human and Christian best we pray in the middle voice at the center between active and passive, drawing from them as we have need and occasion but always uniquely and artistically ourselves, creatures adoring God and being graced by him, “participating in the results of the action.”
This is written for our admonition, that we may in the light of his example also cheerfully suffer want and temptation for the service of God and the good of our neighbor, like Christ did for us, as often as necessity requires it, which is surely accomplished if we learn and confess God’s Word.
As long as I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve noticed a theological battle between two groups.
They go by many labels, but the basic common fiber they have is that they have is not being a relationship with God. They see themselves as observers of God, those who study what He does.
Often, that is seen like the Pharisee who would rather have Jesus obey his traditions than heal someone tormented by demonic spirits. We get so caught up in how it has been–we forget why it is that way. Freeing the lady from demonic power was the basis for the Sabbath – a chance for the broken to find rest in God.
Yet he barked at Jesus, and told God that helping this lady find her Sabbath rest was wrong. The other side of that is to allow her to be that way, to just give up, and let what is will be. Leaving her to the fate of suffering–assuming that this was simply what God wanted for her.
The lady in question, an impressive picture of the church, may not be able to describe the theological nuances of Jesus being her Lord, her Savior. But He didn’t leave her in captivity, to sin or to the demons that haunted her. She didn’t tell Jesus what to do, but she certainly was a “participant in the results of the action.” That participation ended up with her worshipping Him. Not as something planned, not something scheduled out, but as a blessing that was incredibly deep.
This enables us to suffer through want and temptation, this participation in the glory of Christ. Having been united to Him in His death and resurrection, this salvation begins a transformation where we become more like Him. This, too, is the work of the Holy Spirit, who, through His word creates in us a new life that is like Jesus. We participate, really, in His life, in His glory, in His Sabbath’ rests peace.
This is why He came to us.. this is why we are here.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 111.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 66.
Then Joshua called the twelve men he had chosen, 5and said, “Go into the Jordan ahead of the Covenant Box of the LORD your God. Each one of you take a stone on your shoulder, one for each of the tribes of Israel. 6These stones will remind the people of what the LORD has done. In the future, when your children ask what these stones mean to you, 7you will tell them that the water of the Jordan stopped flowing when the LORD’s Covenant Box crossed the river. These stones will always remind the people of Israel of what happened here.” Joshua 4:4-7 GNT
Prayer and spirituality feature participation, the complex participation of God and the human, his will and our wills. We do not abandon ourselves to the stream of grace and drown in the ocean of love, losing identity. We do not pull the strings that activate God’s operations in our lives, subjecting God to our assertive identity. We neither manipulate God (active voice) or are manipulated by God (passive voice). We are involved in the action and participate in its results but do not control or define it (middle voice). Prayer takes place in the middle voice.
In supernatural union (union with God by grace) the divine Spirit within our spirit unites us immediately to the Image (the Word) in a new way. No longer is the divine Image present within us as unrecognized and known. We become aware of His presence. We plunge by supernatural understanding and love into the abyss of His light and being. And beyond all knowledge and love we are united with Him and rest in Him
My death is nothing. Christ’s suffering is my consolation, upon it I rely for the forgiveness of my sins; but my own death I will suffer to the praise and honor of my God freely and gratuitously, and for the advantage and profit of my neighbor, and in no way whatever depend upon it to avail anything in my own behalf before God.
Luther’s claim about death, is, I pray, what pastors and our people learn.
That eternal life is not just possible, but definite because of Christ’s suffering and death. Yet in reaction to that, I pray we would desire that our lives bring God praise, and cause people to praise and find value in a relationship with God.
But that is not simply a matter of saying a few words here and there. It is not by my reason or strength that I come to Christ, nor is it by my reason or strength that others come as well. It has to be the Holy Spirit’s work, through the words and sacraments I simply carry to them, that people are drawn into Christ and are united to Him. Merton’s word are far more eloquent than mine – but it is as He says, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ.
That union is deep, and deeply intimate. It is, as Peterson notes, neither active or as passive. It is like a dentist extracting one of our teeth. We are there; we are part of the process, and it deeply affects us, as that which shouldn’t be there is removed, and we are forever changed – living in the life so different than the pain and infection that required the tooth to be removed.
THe difference, of course, is that the dentist doesn’t remain – the Spirit does! The intimacy of the operation is nothing compared to the intimacy that Peterson reflects upon in the passage from his work. Both he and Merton talk about it, this consolation and comfort from knowing we aren’t alone, but we walk every day in God’s presence, as He comforts and consoles and empower us.
This is what Joshua and Israel had to conclude, and as important, remember. THeir walk with God wasn’t over as they entered the Promised Land. It only had begun. God made Joshua put up and altar of 12 stones to remember that point of origin, and what God did to make it happen. That God was going to be with them in this strange new world. As He does with us, neither being manipulated by us, or manipulating, rather walking and guiding and consoling.
This is our joy, our hope, and what sustains us. So may we always remember these markers in our lives, so that we never forget His presence.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 110.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 102–103.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 65.
Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Yes, Teacher,” he said, “tell me.”
41 “There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42Neither of them could pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.” Luke 7:40–43. GNT
Then he said to the disciples, “Where is your faith?” Luke 8:25 GNT
A “mystery” is a hidden secret that is not known; and the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” are the things in the kingdom of God, as for example Christ with all his grace, which he manifests to us. He who knows Christ aright understands what God’s kingdom is and what is in it. It is called a mystery because it is spiritual and secret, and it remains so where the spirit does not reveal it. For although there are many who see and hear it, yet they do not understand it. There are many who preach and hear Christ, how he offered himself for us; but all that is only upon their tongue and not in their heart; for they themselves do not believe it; they do not experience it.
The Truth was hunting for those who would receive it, and relatively few did, for “many are called, but few are chosen.”
When I first started listening to language with these discriminations, I realized how thoroughly culture-conditioned I was. Talk about being conformed to this world! My use of language in the community of faith was a mirror image of the culture: a lot of information, a lot of publicity, not much intimacy. My ministry was voiced almost entirely in the language of description and of persuasion—telling what was there, urging what could be. I was a great explainer. I was a pretty good exhorter. I was duplicating in the church what I had learned in my thoroughly secularized schools and sales-saturated society, but I wasn’t giving people much help in developing and using the language that was basic to both their humanity and their faith, the language of love and prayer.
I think we need to spend some time thinking through Luther’s idea that people (and some preachers) do not believe the gospel we preach (and preach clearly and well) because we have not experienced it The faith remains mysterious to them (ok, us) because we are so caught up in the details and questions, that we fail to simply be in this intimate relationship with the Lord who died for us.
Jesus’ interaction with the “used-to-be-harlot” and Simon the Pharisee demonstrate this all too well. Simon doesn’t understand the gratitude of this lady who knows the depth of her own sin, now forgiven. But she does, she has experienced Christ offering himself for her, even before the cross. She is being made whole, she realizing that her re-creation is God re-creating her in His image once again. At least she understands this in her psyche, and the gratitude–well that is an unprovoked response to His love, to His care, ot he intimate relationship she found herself in, so different from the physically intimate relationships she surrendered herself to. Simon doesn’t think he needs to be as forgiven, so he receives little forgiveness. And the disciples in the boat, haven’t experienced it either, for if they had, their faith would be automatic, and they would be at peace!
This is what Peterson is getting at with his use of language–he elarned it was time to stop talking about Jesus, but time to demonstrate and live talking to Jesus, and hearing Him. THat’s what this pastor’s people needed, it is what my people need as well.
Experience is what Tozer is getting at, as well. Jesus didn’t say I will teach the Truth, the Way and the Life. He said He was the Truth. The Truth that frees us, the Truth that changes our lives. the Truth that is our life, as we live in Him. That is the experience that causes our faith, our trust in and dependance on Him to grow. FOr faith is not a group of beliefs, faith is a relationship you know you can invest in, because you have experienced that the other Person has done just that. Jesus is the Truth that hunted us down, and we are thankful He did!
Heavenly Father, please send the Holy Spirit to cut through our hearts and minds, cutting away all that is not of You. Help us to rejoice, to celebrate, to be in awe of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives, and then guide our lives lived in awe and gratitude. We pray this in Jesus name! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 51–52.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 99.
Words that draw me closer to Jesus, and to His cross
After the LORD your God has driven them out for you, do not say to yourselves that he brought you in to possess this land because you deserved it. No, the LORD is going to drive these people out for you because they are wicked. It is not because you are good and do what is right that the LORD is letting you take their land. He will drive them out because they are wicked and because he intends to keep the promise that he made to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You can be sure that the LORD is not giving you this fertile land because you deserve it. No, you are a stubborn people. Deut, 9:4-6
The two most essential truths we need to know are the two things God said to St. Catherine in a mystical vision, the two things that summarize all of divine revelation: “I’m God, you’re not.” My favorite sermon, the shortest and the funniest. The joke’s on us. What’s so incredibly funny (and also incredibly tragic) about that short sermon is that we keep forgetting that second point.
I often wonder how so many people can live with a continuing hope that they will in some way be able to commune with God through their intellectual capacities. When will they realize that if they could possibly “discover” God they realize that with the intellect, they would be equal to God?
After a few years of this, I noticed how different my teaching was from that of early generations of pastors. My secularized schooling had shaped my educational outlook into something with hardly any recognizable continuities with most of the church’s history. I had come into the parish seeing its great potential as a learning center, a kind of mini-university in which I was the resident professor.
And then one day, in a kind of shock of recognition, I saw that it was in fact a worship center. I wasn’t prepared for this. Nearly all my preparation for being a pastor had taken place in a classroom, with chapels and sanctuaries ancillary to it. But these people I was now living with were coming, with centuries of validating precedence, not to get facts on the Philistines and Pharisees but to pray. They were hungering to grow in Christ, not bone up for an examination in dogmatics. I began to comprehend the obvious: that the central and shaping language of the church’s life has always been its prayer language
We hear it often, “we are saved by grace, through faith,” Most of us have the concept memorized, especially among us Lutherans.
We know it is not by our own reason, our own strength, or anything that we do that God saves us. He justifies us, He sanctifies us, He empowers us to do His will.
Yet we still struggle with it. Peterson notes that in his “confession” –that he needed to learn to teach his people to pray. He wanted them to know everything, to establish his school of teaching. ( I would also maintain that a university’s mission is not just that of downloading data into its students – but to assist in shepherding them into their vocations in Christ) In this age, the church isn’t as focused on salvation by works, as salvation by knowledge. Teach theology, teach doctrine, teach exegetically, teach Socratically, didactically, without asking…are we teaching about Jesus… or are we helping people explore and experience their relationship with Jesus?
Kreeft’s insight gained from a four word sermon reinforces this – God is God, we are not, is just as important as the sermon. We keep forgetting that we aren’t God! That is why we pursue knowing about God, as if we can be equal with God. Experiencing Him is far different, it is humbling; it is awe-inspiring, it leaves us not knowing what to say.
We can’t know enough about Him, and that curiosity is good, unless it replaces our walking with Him. But in that giving of knowledge has to be the experiential as it is formative.
This is just as amazing as it must have been for Israel. TO be in the presence of the Almighty, Omnscient God. And to remember – that its isn’t because we are perfect, or sinless, that we are simply loved.
Kreeft, Peter. Ha! (p. 26). St. Augustine’s Press. Kindle Edition.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 96.