Monthly Archives: October 2023
6 The LORD Almighty says to the priests, “A son honours his father, and a servant honours his master. I am your father—why don’t you honour me? I am your master—why don’t you respect me? You despise me, and yet you ask, ‘How have we despised you?’ 7This is how—by offering worthless food on my altar. Then you ask, ‘How have we failed to respect you?’ I will tell you—by showing contempt for my altar. 8When you bring a blind or sick or lame animal to sacrifice to me, do you think there’s nothing wrong with that? Try giving an animal like that to the governor! Would he be pleased with you or grant you any favours?” Malachi 1:6-8 GNT
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Everyone who hears this must also say, “Come!”
Come, whoever is thirsty; accept the water of life as a gift, whoever wants it. Rev. 22:17 GNT
Meditation is a continual prating or talking and is here used in a bad sense. For as a lover is always spontaneously saying many things about the object loved, so the hater is assiduously prating the worst of things about the object hated. There is the same modesty also in the words “rage” and “take counsel together;” the act itself was far more atrocious than the purport of these words would seem to indicate. We are thereby taught not to exaggerate the evil conduct of men, but as much as possible lessen it, and thus show that we do not feel so much indignation on our own account as pity on theirs.
823 Love for God invites us to shoulder the Cross squarely: to feel on our back the weight of the whole human race, and to fulfil, in the circumstances of our own situation in life and the job we have, the clear and at the same time loving designs of the Will of the Father.
I write this with more than a little anxiety, as I want people to depend on God to do the the miraculous through them, not add more guilt or shame, or use that to motivate them.
But I read the the first passage, these words that come at the end of the Old Testament, and hear them, and take them in consideration with the words from Revelation, and the words of Luther and Escriva, and see what an incredibly, wild, miraculous God works in and through us, His people.
As I look at the church today, it does seem to have settled with less effort less results in what they offer God. Other things take the best part of our time and our talent, take the best parts of us, rather than allowing God to transform us in His image rather than being conformed to the world. (Romans 12:1-3, 2 Cor. 3 16ff)
We are more than willing to protect what we have in the church, trying to preserve it (whether traditional or contemporary) rather than muddy ourselves by reaching out to those who desperately need to know God loves them. We are more than willing to whine and complain and obsess about those who we see threatening our lives, but are we willing to intercede for them, get to know them, learn to love them? That’s the kind of Cross we need to shoulder, to see that God desires more than anything to transform us and them into His one people.
To say with the Spirit and Jesus, “come!” for that is we need to do to invite them, on God’s behalf! To help them who are thirsty for justice, and for making things right, to realize that is seen best in Christ’s work on the cross. THey may not understand this – but love and prayer, patiently delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit, will cause the antagonists and yourself to be the kind of offerings that makes God dance with joy!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 383.
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father, and our victorious brother Jesus Christ strengthen you as you look forward to the mission accomplished, as promised!
For the time has come
There are two or three ways looking toward the second coming of Jesus, and the Day of Judgment that occurs when He comes back.
The first way is to be scared out of your wits as Jesus descends, as people realize He wasn’t kidding, and all their delusions about what they thought was good and right fall aside, and the guilt and shame which harassed every believer since Adam and Eve sinned, weighs heavily on them. This is the “Oh my…G…” reaction…
The second way is to be ecstatic, as a person realizes that this world and all the crap it throughs at us is now meaningless. This is the “Thank God, it’s over” reaction!
The third way is the way you feel after a hard day’s or week’s, or even year’s work on a project, and you know it has been done well. To welcome the end with a sense of joy, peace, and accomplishment, knowing the Mission has been accomplished, and God is pleased.
As we have spent the fall talking about the harvest, and God drawing people through us to Him, this is a look at the future…
- This is what we’re aiming for… hoping for, basing our lives and our deaths upon
This scene – where the angels are flying everywhere with the gospel, as the time of Christ’s second coming is revealed, is mind blowing! John describes people from every imaginable difference hearing the good news – that Christ died and rose for them…
But this is something well promised, consider this view of the same moment that the prophet Zechariah,
10 The Lord said, “Sing for joy, people of Jerusalem! I am coming to live among you!”
11 At that time many nations will come to the Lord and become his people. He will live among you, and you will know that he has sent me to you. 12Once again Judah will be the special possession of the Lord in his sacred land, and Jerusalem will be the city he loves most of all. Zec 2:10–12 GNT
From the beginning, it was planned and revealed that people from everywhere would be there…when God judges the hearts of us all.
But I would have you notice, that as John describes the scene, the people aren’t recognizing the incredible diversity of the people there.
He describes the angel’s directions to everyone, “7 ‘Fear God,’ he shouted. ‘Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.’”
All the attention is on God – not on the music selection, not on some pastor, not on what is going on in the world, – the direction is here He is—praise Him! Give Him Glory! Worship Him!
This moment is why we want everyone to know God, so they can rejoice with us, so they don’t fear the Judgment Day,
When we see people that we helped know the comfort of God in this life, and who gain the expectation of spending eternity with God, and we realize they are there because God sent us out into the Harvest… when we realize Concordia’s mission, like all the church is accomplished by the power of God, will be an amazing moment.
And then we will hear, well done good and faithful servant Linda, good and faithful servant Sandie, good and faithful servant Coleen…and Tom and Doug and Maureen and everyone else!
And we won’t care about the compliment…because we will be in the presence of God.
- The Reformation – our Transformation is all about this..
Prior to the Reformation, Luther struggled with the idea of Judgment Day. Despite his mentor’s insistence on the mercy of God, Luther dreaded any kind of judgment, including the Judgment Day.
Guilt and shame, over what Fr. Johann Staupitz thought was “boring sins” crushed Luther and drove him mad. Indeed Luther said of his mentor, “If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell,” said Martin Luther.”
As we work together, ministering to friends, neighbors, parents of our preschoolers, I want them to say the same thing about us, that if it had not been for Concordia’s people, they would have sunk into hell!
But our role in the harvest—is to make sure they know the love of God, and the complete forgiveness found in him. That’s what Staupitz did… Hear an explanation of it,
At the time Luther was struggling with the need to confess completely everything he had ever done wrong. He wore Johann von Staupitz out, trying to remember every sin that his mind would try to cover up. On at least one occasion, he confessed for six hours straight.
Johann tried to explain God’s grace to Luther. Surrender to the love of God, he counseled. Luther should lose himself in God, he said. He was making religion too difficult. All he needed to do was love God.
In talking about the forgiveness, there wasn’t indulgences to buy, there wasn’t pilgrimages that had to be made, there wasn’t penance that had to be done…
There was love the God who died for you and rose for you! Trust Him, put yourself into His care, knowing the plan He has to bring you home.
Until then, we work in the harvest field – like Staupitz, looking for our Luthers, helping them know the comfort and blessings of walking with God into eternity as He declares the mission accomplished!
For as we walk with Him, assured of His work in our lives, we dwell in peace, a peace that passes all understanding, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! AMEN!
quotes in italics from: https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1501-1600/johann-von-staupitz-luthers-confessor-11629932.html#:~:text=At%20the%20time%20Luther%20was,explain%20God’s%20grace%20to%20Luther.
Thoughts that drag me to Jesus, and to the Cross:
10 The LORD said, “Sing for joy, people of Jerusalem! I am coming to live among you!”
11 At that time many nations will come to the LORD and become his people. He will live among you, and you will know that he has sent me to you. 12Once again Judah will be the special possession of the LORD in his sacred land, and Jerusalem will be the city he loves most of all. Zec. 2:10-12 GNT
And the deep darkness and alienation of our times is shown in the fact that we have powers and abilities but do not know what they are for; we have so much knowledge that we are no longer able to believe and see truth; we are no longer able to embrace the totality. Our philosophy is that of Pilate: What is truth? This only looks like a question: in fact it is a statement, to the effect that there is no truth, and only idiots and fanatics imagine they have it or argue about it. But if this is how things are, if man has no truth, only abilities, he is fundamentally alienated, and “participation” is only an empty playacting in the dark, deluding man with the notion of freedom and hurting him deeply. There is nothing fortuitous about the strident protests against such empty freedom: man, deprived of truth, has been dishonored.
Following that, the Genesis record becomes a narrative of human failure against the abiding backdrop of God’s faithfulness.
God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, points out a universal problem: the natural brotherhood of human beings is a sinful brotherhood. It is the brotherhood of all who are spiritually lost.
I can count an amazingly scary amount of conflicts in the world, from wars in many countries, to divisions in our country, in our cities, in our denominations and churches, and even in our homes. Some make the news, some are known, others are invisible, yet those do as much damage as any global conflict.
People want me to take sides, where as my heart wants to go out to the victims–and there are victims on both sides of of most conflicts–even as I know I should want mercy to be show to those who abuse others in the conflicts, I should desire their repentance, I should pray for the Holy Spirit’s intercession for all….
Tozer poins out this morning that we are all sinners, the Russians and the Ukrainians, the Palestinian and the Israeli, those on both aisles of Congress, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Rare is it it those who will remove their own beams before attempting to remove specks.
That sin alienates us from God, and from each other, driving us to a narcissism that focus all its energy and all its power on justifying
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 126.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Thoughts which drive me to the Cross, and to Jesus!
7 The people of Israel who survive will be like refreshing dew sent by the LORD for many nations, like showers on growing plants. They will depend on God, not human beings. Micah 5:6 GNT
What can be more acceptable to God and advantageous to man than a life lived, in its own calling, in the way that contributes to the honor of God, and that by its example influences others to love God’s Word and to praise his name? Therefore, influence men by your godly walk and good works to believe in Christ and to glorify him.
821 Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.
Every once in a while people tell me that Luther was against works-that he didn’t beleive anything but faith was needed to be a Christian. The people that tell me this are in two camps.
1. Catholics who want to accuse Luther of heresy – and if they were accurate in their allegation – they would be right!
2. Protestants and Lutherans who understand that we are saved by grace without works, but leave it there, as if they don’t need to respond, or to let the Holy Spirit transform them. They don’t want to bother with the sacrifice and pains of growing to be like Christ, and often fear loving their neighbor (nevermind their enemy) And they reduce our relationship with God to saying a pray, or being baptized…
Article VI of the Augsburg Confession and quotes like the blue one above should convince both groups otherwise, but I’ve found people in groups 1 and 2 can be pretty stubborn!
In my devotional reading this morning Micah points out the great blessing the people of God will be to all nations, There is no “if” or “Maybe” or even “except”. In the New Covenant, that means all who’ve been drawn to depend on Jesus for His promised eternal life, freed from sin, dwelling with the Holy Spirit–these will bless everyone, as they are used by God to rescue others.
Both Martin Luther and St. Josemaria agree on what this means – that right where we are, doing what we do, In our own calling, is a special place where we see God’s holiness poured out upon us. A Friend of mine walks 2 miles a day, three of the epoepl on those journeys have made our church their home. Another person in my church uses lunches and buyin things at thrift shops as part of how she (often without knowing) is ministering to people through what she does. Another does it in her teaching, another in caring for the physical building at church–greeting everyone that walks by with a smile.
All these things are evangelism – all are ministry-all are life lived in the Spirit, following God’s lead, as they realize He is with them.
God is with them, and amazing small things happen.. But it all starts with him, and walking with Him. Everything else is but a reaction to that, found in their daily life.
Even so, as I see it, I praise God!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 375.
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of our God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to embrace your brokenness in order to let God heal it and bandage your wounds…as you help bring back exiles, building the city of God!
- We are encouraged to praise God – How right it is!
I used to be a little cynical, and when some walked up to me and said, “praise the Lord, brother!” my usually response was… “for what?”
I used to say it cynically, thinking of the trauma and grief I’ve witnessed over life, and the struggles that I had tried to help people endure. And usually after such a time, some upbeat, overzealous Jesus freak would come up to me with a big grin, and utter those words, “Praise the Lord brother!”
And as I grew in my dependence on God, still asked the same question, but now I wanted to know – for what was it they wanted me to praise God for… what had God done, or promised to do, that would result in a reaction of praise.
Unfortunately, most of the time the question was met with a blank stare, as if they had never considered why they were praising God, they just knew it was good to encourage others to do so so they did!
Hey! Bud – how are you packers? Praise the Lord!
How you doing with your recovery from surgery? Well, go on and praise the Lord!
Oh you had an IRS audit and a colonoscopy this week? Praise the Lord! Isn’t He just wonderful?
That’s why we need to hear the entire verse and the entire passage from Psalms today! Let’s start with the first verse, “Praise the LORD! How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting!”
That’s a key point—how fitting, how appropriate our praise needs to be… but that means we have a challenge…
- We need to understand the brokenness… so we know the healing
Listen closely to the next words from the Psalm,
“2 The LORD is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.,… 5 How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!” Psalm 147:2-3
As the Psalmist praises God, he now shows two reasons why we should praise Him:
First there is rebuilding the kingdom and bringing back those who were exiled. We have to see this for what it is, as Israel and Judah get so enslaved to sin, and the consequences of that is that they were overrun by other nations, and their people taken away as captives. The city of Jerusalem as well, the place where the idolatry occurred, was reduced to rubble,
God had prophesied such a consequence more than once, even reinforced it when he sent 10 of the 12 tribes to captivity-he told the remain two that this could happen to them. Despite all this, the people still continued to sin, every sin known to man.
If we look at the world today, we see a world that rejects God the same way Israel did in the Old Testament. Everywhere you look is a form of idolatry, as people choose their own gods, and even believe that they are as knowledgeable and wise as God, and can dismiss what God teaches is right for what is right in their own eyes.
You see it everywhere, as people dismiss God’s word. And so, much like Israel, many people have chosen exile from God, and His peace and love. But He promises to bring people back… and rebuild a home for them.
But he also promises to heal the broken-hearted—those who still walk with Him but have been so devastated by the sin of others. He promises to cause the healing and bandage their wounds while they are here – committing Himself to all of that care… for you are the people He loves.
I gave this message an odd title—“bring broken back”
The reason for the title is not that I want more people exiled or more people broken. I just want people to know it is beneficial to realize that they are in exile, that they are broken-hearted. TO not hide either, or be ashamed of it, but to confidently trust that God will bring us back, and care for us, as we heal in His presence.
This is the time and place for both, within this group of fellow former exiles and people still healing from their brokenness, for many more to come back into the place that God has put here, for them to call home.
This altar, this place is one of the rebuilt places God would have His family call home, until we are all home with God our Father celebrating that day… as well as His celebrating every time an exile comes home, or someone’s heart it laid open so they can be healed.
- How do we trust Him that much?
Laying our lives this open isn’t easy, whether it is realizing like the prodigal that we are exiles, or that our hearts are shattered. It helps to know the nature of God – as the Psalmist describes,
8 He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures. 9 He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry. 10 He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might.
If God takes care of all of that. Then certainly He can keep his promises to bring the repentant home, and heal and bandage the brokenhearted…..
- And when we do… when we put our hope in His cHESED
Which brings us to the greatest reason for the praise of our God as the psalmist which wraps up our reading this morning.
11 No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.
That phrase unfailing love is that word cHesed – meaning devoted, love so intense, that nothing can stop the love, or separate us from it. A love that requires the lover to die for the one He loves..
As Jesus did for you and me… which is why we praise Him! AMEN!
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross.
1 I had a vision from the Sovereign LORD. In it I saw him create a swarm of locusts just after the king’s share of the hay had been cut and the grass was starting to grow again. 2 In my vision I saw the locusts eat up every green thing in the land, and then I said, “Sovereign LORD, forgive your people! How can they survive? They are so small and weak!” 3 The LORD changed his mind and said, “What you saw will not take place.”
4 I had another vision from the Sovereign LORD. In it I saw him preparing to punish his people with fire. The fire burned up the great ocean under the earth and started to burn up the land. 5 Then I said, “Stop, O Sovereign LORD! How can your people survive? They are so small and weak!” 6 The LORD changed his mind again and said, “This will not take place either.” Amos 7:1-6 GNT
6 When the king of Nineveh heard about it, he got up from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat down in ashes. 7He sent out a proclamation to the people of Nineveh: “This is an order from the king and his officials: no one is to eat anything; all persons, cattle, and sheep are forbidden to eat or drink. 8All persons and animals must wear sackcloth. Everyone must pray earnestly to God and must give up his wicked behaviour and his evil actions. 9Perhaps God will change his mind; perhaps he will stop being angry, and we will not die!”
10 God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behaviour. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would. Jonah 3:6-10 GNT
846 Constantly call to mind that at every moment you are cooperating in the human and spiritual formation of those around you, and of all souls—for the blessed Communion of Saints reaches as far as that. At every moment: when you work and when you rest; when people see you happy or when they see you worried; when at your job, or out in the middle of the street, you pray as does a child of God and the peace of your soul shows through; when people see that you have suffered, that you have wept, and you smile.
Neither was it a mere “religious experience” that made of Luther the Reformer. His task was not to proclaim to the world some sort of new supernatural-mystical revelation. He was more than a prophet of a new religious “idea.” Hundreds of false prophets have received their “calling” in this manner, but not Luther.
Luther became the Reformer by discovering the true meaning of the written Word of God, particularly the Word concerning justification. True, his discovery in the tower was also a deep religious experience in which he found peace and joy hitherto unknown to him. But what he felt and experienced was not the central or primary thing.
It amazed me that Joel, like Abraham and Moses before him, could “correct” God, and change His mind about wreaking havoc on sinners. A more likely explanation of course, is that God’s heart was never in it, but saw in the moment the opportunity to send a prophet who knew God’s heart, and was willing to bring the message of salvation, and help people come to repentance.
Jonah had to be more convinced, and even then he didn’t appreciate God ministering to and forgiving his adversaries.
But that is our call, to lok out on the broken – and even those who break others, with the passion God has. That is the call Luher had, not to share the relief he felt as the mercy of God revealed to him, for him. The emotional reaciton was not important – helping people know what caused it was.
That’s the vision I want the church to have – to hear the true and honest declaration – that God will judge those who reject them. And then fighting for God to save them – whatever the cost. (remember Jonah was already an evangelist – he got the boat crew to worship God – even as they tossed him overboard! If that is what it takes – then let it happen. If it is letting God discipline them, so they learn that they need Him, let it happen. Whatever it takes, whatever the sacrifice, let it happen, that one more can know the love of God, can experience the complete forgiveness of their sins.
This is the only vision the church should have… though it may express it in different ways…
To see people realize the love of God, and to depend on HIm as He brings them into the family
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 124.
13 Whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy but mercy can afford to laugh at judgement.
James 2:13 (NJB)
In the Baroque period the liturgy used to include the risus paschalis, the Easter laughter. The Easter homily had to contain a story which made people laugh, so that the church resounded with a joyful laughter. That may be a somewhat superficial form of Christian joy. But is there not something very beautiful and appropriate about laughter becoming a liturgical symbol?
Therefore as in the preceding verses the passion and death of Christ are prophesied, so in this verse his resurrection is predicted, though by a somewhat obscure allusion. Who would have thought, while Christ was suffering and the Jews triumphing, that God was laughing at them all the while! So also while we are oppressed, how shall we believe that God is holding our adversaries in derision, when it seems to us as though we were held in derision both by God and men? What a power of faith is required in all these words!
In my office hangs a copy of the painting entitled Jesus laughing.
I often thought of it as a reaction to something Peter said, or when some well-meaning rabbi complimented Him on His understanding of scripture.
The words of Luther gave me another insight–as the Father endures watching the Son endue the cross…there is a slight grin on His face, a grin like the A-Team’s Colonel as he says, “I love it when a plan comes together.” In that same moment, as Jesus screams it is finished, a victory cry through the pain can be slightly heard…
The God who tells us to rejoice without ceasing himself rejoices without ceasing.
This attitude needs, no, it has to invade our liturgy, to invade our preaching. The joyous laughter that knows that no matter what, the plan of God will succeed, and the people of God are His. We are HIS!
That is why when Pope Benedict XVI, one of the greatest theologians and teachers on the liturgy brings up laughter, but only from his own perspective. He brought up the history of the liturgy, and the fact that the rubrics required laughter in the homily! For the very reason that this was a celebration–a time when laughter is more than appropriate!
Do you think Simeon, when holding the baby Jesus, knowing He was the Messiah, wasn’t giggling with laughter? Do you not think the disciples were laughing and crying in the upper room when Jesus appeared? That Thomas, on His knees, wasn’t smiling–even as Jesus said he could touch his wrists and put his hand in Jesus’ side.
This is part of our minsitry, this odd, paradoxical sense of humour in the midst of complete reverence and awe of the God who comes to us, to die for us, to use all of His power to save and re-create us… which brings God the greatest joy, and glee.. and laughter!
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 119–120.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 391.
Thoughts that draw me to Jesus and toi the cross
2 When the LORD first spoke to Israel through Hosea, he said to Hosea, “Go and get married; your wife will be unfaithful, and your children will be just like her. In the same way, my people have left me and become unfaithful.” Hosea 1:2 GNT
Jewish thought continually returned to that mysterious moment when Isaac lay bound on the altar. Often enough, Israel was obliged to recognize its own situation in that of Isaac, bound and ready for the fatal knife, and was thus heartened to try to understand its own destiny. In Isaac, Israel had as it were meditated upon the truth of the word, “God will provide”. Jewish tradition tells that, at the moment when Isaac uttered a cry of terror, the heavens opened and the boy saw the invisible mysteries of creation and the angelic choirs. This is connected with another tradition according to which it was Isaac who created Israel’s rite of worship; thus the Temple was built, not on Sinai, but on Moriah.2 It is as though all worship originates in this glimpse on the part of Isaac—in what he then saw and afterward communicated.
Two years ago today, I found our George had passed away.
He greeted me a few times as I stopped in his store to buy a bottle of sparkling water, or some quick snack. But few people in my life have I been as close too as we became that night
On October 15, 2021, he was bunch in the face by a young man, just one punch, and George fell back, and proceeded to bleed from his nose, ears, mouth and his skull where in cracked open. For twenty minutes I held this man, a man I learned later was a man whose trust was unshakably in Chirst Jesus.
I just held him, and prayed.
The Sherriff’s department showed up- they said the Fire Department was on the way – best if we don’t move till they got there. I was on the ground for nearly 20 minutes, it seemed like so much longer, til the only thing I could do was to cry, “Lord, have mercy…”
And yet those words took on a deeper meaning that evening… as I went from despair to grieving to oddly, being at peace.
It was a Friday night, and worship on Sunday was never sweeter, as my people reminded me that the Lord was also with me.
I wasn’t Issac, I wasn’t the one being sacrificed. Nor did a ram appear in the bushes outside the 7-11. I didn’t hear the Lord’s voice, though I got to speak about him to the deputies on scene. I still would prefer, like Hosea, that the event wouldn’t have happened. Too many nightmares, to many tears driving by the 7-11 come, even to this day. Yet, there are moments where insights into the presence of God gained in those moments amaze me.
When I went to his service, as I greeted and told his son I was praying for them, I said I was there… He and his mom broke into tears as they realized the person that held him was a pastor. They started praising God…in the midst of their grief, their loss.
Life is short…God is there!
Life is painful…God is there!
Life doesn;t have to be alone…for the message of Hosea is not only that we’ve walked a way and betrayed God… but that we are welcomed back, cleansed, and dressed for a party!
And then, life is eternal, and filled with joy and peace!
Somehow, this truth is more relevant in the presence of death, and even in the presence of suffering and horrid sin.
Hosea learned that, and the man Joseph Ratzinger did as well.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 115.
Thoughts which pull me towards Jesus and to His cross
Give thanks to the God of heaven; his love is eternal. Psalm 136:26 GNT
3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 4In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4 GNT
When religion has done all it can, you are still a sinner who either went to church or did not go to church. Religion can put us on the roll and educate us and train us and instruct us. But after all that, there is still something within our beings that cries, “Eternity is in my heart and I have not found anything to satisfy it!”
Only our Lord Jesus Christ is enough to satisfy the eternal longing in our souls.
829 Tell Our Lord that from now on, every time you celebrate Mass or attend it, and every time you administer or receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, you will do so with a great faith, with a burning love, just as if it were to be the last time in your life. And be sorry for the carelessness of your past life.
As I read the words of Tozer this morning, I hear the echoes of posts on twitter, facebook and even conversations of people who lament the “organized church” My first reaction is, “cone to Concordia – we aren’t organized, we throve on chaos!”.
But then I heard the complaint, and I hear myself 20-25 years ago, and then I read Tozer and then Luther…
Things aren’t changing, except maybe pastors and people feel more free to critique from behind the wall of social media.
What they don’t realize is that as they define the church, as they define the organized structure, they are forgetting to include the fact that God can only work through broken groups of people. There is no perfect church, organized, unorganized, meeting in nearly empty cathedrals or a neighborhood garage. Tozer’s comment about Jesus being the only thing that can satisfy the enteral longing… has to include the pronuon “our”–it cannot use the pronoun “my”.
And as long as it is “our”, there will be hurt and pain along the way, there may be sin and even betrayal. Some may say that this is the cost or the sacrifice we have to make. What we have to tolerate and endure. I would disagree, the brokenness is a blessing, for as we see it healed we are in awe of the love of God. This is the nature of our communion – it is the natural outcome of sharing in His love together. This is what it means to live a “religious life” not to avoid the brokenness–but to embrace it – so that we may see it healed, and the new life come out of the old.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.
9 But you are the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light. 10At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received his mercy. 1 Peter 2:8b-10 GNT
When prayer is genuine, possessing the fire by which it is kindled, prompted by a sincere heart which recognizes its need and likewise the blessings that are ours as proclaimed in the Word, and when faith in God’s Word—in his promise—revives, then the individual will be possessed with a fervor prompting him to fall upon his knees and pray for strength and for the power of the Spirit. Martin Luther
767 What really makes a person—or a whole sector of society—unhappy, is the anxiety ridden, selfish search for well being, that desire to get rid of whatever is upsetting. Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge .
I’ve been doing some research into the collapsing mid-sized church, those that run 250-2000. In my group of churches, their numbers are shrinking faster than the hopes the fans of the… (well I won’t mention the team name). Seriously, we have a problem across the board–and many younger pastors are leaving their church to pick up the problems some other pastor left, in order to take the place of pastor #3. Or more likely, they leave the parish, and become life coaches or counselors or teachers or..
I have to believe some of this is do to our poor formation, not only of pastors, but of church leaders in general. As churches shrink, we put in place anyone breathing – anyone willing to volunteer, rather than adequately prepare them. Then frustration and anxiety set in, as they don’t feel successful, and the leaders who put them there see no results. We become unhappy, as if happiness is the answer to everything, and the lack of it causes anxiety and desperation and often, change that is… unwise
St. Peter’s words talk about what eventually happens – they forget the promises in the word of God and they don’t hear it…even as we study it with our churches, we don’t hear it. We hear about the Greek or Hebrew, we read and hear about the background of those who did hear it, and how the Holy Spirit used it to change their lives. We hear what we have to do, the doctrines we have to believe, the way we must behave (or that how we behave is okay…when we know scriptures teaches differently) But we don’t hear about the good news, the love of God poured out on His people…along with mercy and grace and healing…as He restores us.
And without hearing that, without knowing God is hear for us, ready to listen, ready to act…the noise and stress and anxiety only gets worse. Eventually, pastors and people leave, determining there has to be more, a different way…..and they try to find it on their own, or coach those who are looking for it–but are just as lost in the darkness….
The church needs to draw them out of that darkness, as it is gthered by Jesus and reflects His glory, as He revives them. He’s there, we just need to recognize our need for Him, and those promises, the promises that we are no longer alone – but we are His people. A message we receive, not just in sermons and the Lord’s Supper, but in that neglected sacrament of prayer…
Oddly enough – though Lutherans may not talk about it often today, Luther points us to that need – to pray for the power of the Spirit to be manifest in our lives together, in the church where the Spirit gathers and enlightens us all.There is no doubt of the need, there should be no doubt of the theology… and there should be no doubt of the promise…
So hear that word, those promises and pray with me…