Category Archives: Ancient Future
Devotional Thought of the Day
23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign LORD, then the nations will know that I am the LORD. 24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Ezekiel 36:23-27 (NLT2)
23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT2)
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . James 5:16 (NLT2)
Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ,33 which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church.
18 A sacrament is a ceremony or act in which God offers us the content of the promise joined to the ceremony; thus Baptism is not an act which we offer to God but one in which God baptizes us through a minister functioning in his place. Here God offers and presents the forgiveness of sins according to the promise (Mark 16:16), “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” By way of contrast, a sacrifice is a ceremony or act which we render to God to honor him.
I saw a friend share part of the Ezekiel reading the other day, and my mind flashed back to a baptism 5 years ago this week,
A pastor I know and admire posted about baptizing someone yesterday in their front yard with family looking on from an appropriate distance.
I’ve talked to pastor and priest friends, who all agonize over not being able to provide the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper to those whose faith is so challenged in these days.
Sacraments are not some magical incantation, the words accompany the promise, and the means God promised real to those whom HE blesses in that moment.
That water, because God promised, because He is pour/sprinkling/immersing people with it, give what He promised – the cleansing of our sin, the change of heart (and mind) that we need, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
That bread that we place in their hands, it is the Body of Christ – given and shed so those people can realize GOd’s love, His mercy, His presence in their lives.
The words of forgiveness, which ring out, not because the pastor likes you, but because God wants you to hear them – YOU ARE FORGIVEN!
This isn’t about us doing the work, about our obedience, about our religious acts. It is about God coming into our lives, about God doing His work.
Those who are ordained to make sure these gifts are delivered are crushed, because we hear the need across phone lines, through texts and messages, and in the posts on social media. We can and are responding to some of those cries in person, but it is another thing to celebrate it all in person.
We look forward to the days when services and masses are the gatherings they should be. But this time helps a little I think. For we begin to understand a little more clearly what it means to cry out for Christ to return, for the great gathering that will happen, when He welcomes us home.
I think we take heaven for granted at times, as we might the Lord’s Supper or our baptism, or that moment when you hear your shepherd tell you that you are forgiven because Jesus said so. One has seemed so far away – a lifetime. The others, the sacraments have always been there, they always should be. Their removal, and the threat of death, combine to help us think of the biggest reunion.
We learn to yearn for the future, because of the absence of the present. We learn to look to eternal life, as we are reminded that this life is easily threatened. We long to have Jesus return to us in the sacrament, even as we are learning to yearn for His second coming!
Let me say it again, for it is worth saying! I long for the day when the people I pastor can re-gather, and celebrate Christ’s feast together. But even more, I am understanding why I should long for the feast to come when all of God’s people are welcomed home…and the celebration begins.
May God’s peace, poured out on you in Christ, nourished through word and sacraments, sustain you until the re-gatherings. This will happen, for He has promised, and He is faithful! AMEN!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 289.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 252.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 (NLT2)
6 Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful. 7 Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. 8 And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle? 9 It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space. 1 Corinthians 14:6-9 (NLT2)
For it is the existential presence of the celebrating, praying faithful which makes the liturgy into the worship of God; change is necessary so that their awareness of what is going on and of their part in it are not restricted by extraneous factors. Roman history reveals a most eloquent example of a form of worship which had become unintelligible. After three centuries no one any longer understood the ritual, the ceremonies or the meaning it was all meant to express, with the result that religion dried up and became an empty shell, although it was no less practiced than before. The lesson is that, if liturgy is to retain its vitality and have an influence on individuals and society, there must be a continual process of adaptation to the understanding of believers. For believers too, after all, are people of their time, people of their world.
Over the past 40 years, I have participated in just about every flavor of worship service and liturgy on could imagine. I have play pipe organs in my youth, and electric guitars and keyboards, done traditional non-denom worship, and straight out of the hymnal liturgy.
I have my preferences, and they would probably surprise most people who know me.
Preference laid aside, and it must be, there is only one reason to change the wording of the liturgy or the way a church worships.
It is what Paul is the very pragmatic reason Paul is discussing, in relation to the very real gift of tongues, in 1 Corinthians 14. It echoes Jesus teaching about the Sabbath.
Does your liturgy, your order of worship allow people to hear God, and does it allow them to respond to Him?
The Lutheran confessions talk of the mass’s chief purpose to give people what they need to know about Jesus. His love, His mercy, His presence in their life. What they need to know – not just with their mind, but with their heart, soul and strength.
Do the words said and sung communicate this in an understandable way? If not, reset them. Do the people have the opportunity to experience the awe of being in the presence of God and respond to Him with joy? If not renew your service, focus it on the incarnate God who loves them. Open up the lines of communication, ensure that they know God speaks to them in a way that anyone can understand.
Maintaining the liturgy that doesn’t communicate to people is a waste of time. So is changing it for any other reason is just as much a waste of time.
Lord, help us to guide your people until with heart, soul, mind, and strength realize that You love them all. And then, help us guide their discussion with you, their prayers and praises.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 79.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on. Mark 12:43-44 CEV
By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”
The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”
172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”
The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.
This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading. I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.
They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there. In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.
What an incredible concept, this salvation.
But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?
I do not think we do, at least not always.
How about this explanation. We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.
Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.
The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.
We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.
She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…
May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.
Devotional Thought of the day
22 His answer surprised them so much that they walked away..…33 The crowds were surprised to hear what Jesus was teaching. Matt 22:22, 33 CEV
This development reflected the new liturgical awareness which had been growing in these years. At that time, young people were interested not so much in the inherited dogmatic problems of eucharistic doctrine as in the liturgical celebration as a living form [Gestalt]. They found that this form, or structure, was a theological and spiritual entity with an integrity of its own. What previously had been the rubricist’s sphere of operations, mere ceremonial, having no apparent connection with dogma, now seemed to be an integral part of the action. It was its actual manifestation, apart from which the reality itself would remain invisible. Some years later Joseph Pascher put it like this: as far as the structure is concerned, up to now people had only paid attention to the rubrics, to what was printed in red; now it was time to give equal attention to the red and the black print. “There is far more in the form and structure of the texts and the whole celebration than in the rubrics.”
Throughout scripture, I find God surprising people.
Sometimes it is with what they are taught, as in my readings from Matthew this morning. Sometimes it is with the call, the role He gives them in life, as they minister and try to lead the people who need to find themselves, by discovering their relationship with God.
So why does He keep surprising us? Or perhaps the question is “how” He keeps doing so.
The latter question is seen in the words from Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) We get so caught up in “how” we worship God, how we serve Him, that we don’t hear the words we read, that we sing, that we preach or hear in the sermon. We get so caught up in the forms and directions for doing them right, (the rubrics – which were printed in red by the printers of worship hymnals, missals, and the agendas – the books that guide pastors/priests) Pascher talks about giving equal weight to form and matter, even realizing there is what is said.
We do that today as well, getting more focused on how we worship and how we live than in the glory of God that surrounds us, for we are His people. That is why some police morality and thoughts more than seek God’s face. Why some think revival comes from people being corrected in thought, word and deed, rather than realizing that their errors in thought word and deed are forgiven, and the damage done by sin God will heal. (That is what forgiveness really is, by the way, not just the removal of the punishment, but the healing of the damage done!)
That is why it is surprising when miracles happen, or when prodigals we gave up on come home. It is why we hide our sin and brokenness, rather than talking about it freely, we struggle to believe God will forgive what we cannot believe can be forgiven. It is why we have developed a culture that still is based on shame and guilt, rather than in the hope of restoration and the love that brings it about.
These things are taught in our liturgies, whether complex or simple. It should be heard in our sermons and our prayers celebrated and rejoice over in our songs sung in church and throughout the week.
And when we are surprised by what Jesus reveals to us in His word, then again give thanks, for the Holy Spirit is keeping us focused on Jesus… and the form will naturally follow. As the ancients taught, as we worship, so we believe … and so we practice.
Lord Jesus, we ask that you keep surprising us, that you keep revealing to us the promises, and even more your presence and love which makes us sure of them. Lord, help us never grow stale or dull in our dependence on You but keep us marveling at how You sustain and heal us. AMEN!
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 33–34.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD Almighty said to Haggai, “These people say that this is not the right time to rebuild the Temple.” 3 The LORD then gave this message to the people through the prophet Haggai: 4 “My people, why should you be living in well-built houses while my Temple lies in ruins? 5 Don’t you see what is happening to you? 6 You have planted much grain, but have harvested very little. You have food to eat, but not enough to make you full. You have wine to drink, but not enough to get drunk on! You have clothing, but not enough to keep you warm. And workers cannot earn enough to live on. 7 Can’t you see why this has happened? 8 Now go up into the hills, get lumber, and rebuild the Temple; then I will be pleased and will be worshiped as I should be. Haggai 1:2-8 GNT
412 May the fire of your love not be a will-o’-the-wisp, a vain fire, an illusion—an illusion of fire, which neither enkindles what it touches nor gives any heat.
As I look at the prophets words above, I wonder how many of us see the application in the life of the church today? Let me rephrase that, in our lives today.
The parallel is simple, and while they were talking about building a temple of stone and wood, the temple now is made of people, the living stones that
St. Peter talks about,
5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (TEV)
In building this temple, made of us and those we know, we have to stop procrastinating. We can’t use our age, our lack of knowledge or skill, our over-burdened schedules, or anything else as an excuse any longer.
But this won’t be done unless we realize what men like Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola, and Martin Luther realized, the wonder and splendour of what it means to walk with God, as He removes all the obstacles and the sin.
That is how God builds us up, smoothing out our edges, that which has been made rough by guilt and shame, by denial and bargaining. He is the one who places each “living stone”, He is the one who makes us all fit together.
My personal opinion is that even in back in Haggai’s day, the issue was helping people realize that this isn’t about duty, it isn’t about even fulfilling the mission of God. That is His responsibility, to get the work done. It is about seeing God’s desire, that all people come to Him, and about realizing the joy when one prodigal, or one sheep is brought home. It’s about seeing the sinner who realizes they are forgiven, and that they are welcome in church.
You see, this temple we witness God building in our midst, it is the greatest of temples – for it is the temple that will endure for eternity. Each person that comes to know Jesus, who comes to realize His love, who is united to Him in the water of Baptism, who receives His promise, this is the eternal temple, and we will dwell with Him forever.
We could talk about what they are saved from, but what they are delivered into, what is given them in this relationship with God, is incredible, and we get to be part of that temple, and part of its being built. Part of each victory of God over satan, sin and death.
We keep our eyes open, we pray, and we mention to people why we have hope in view of the broken, battered world. It doesn’t matter if they are in our age group, in our socio -economic bracket, whether we serve them, or they serve us, it doesn’t even matter if we can barely communicate because of language differences. It doesn’t even matter if they are of a different political party, or are fans of different sports teams!
We all need to know Jesus loves us…
It’s time to stop procrastination.. to share the one thing we treasure above all.. the love of God.
ANd then, we witness the wonder of the place God will dwell.. among us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1029-1031). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The priests have the priesthood as their share of what I have given Israel to be handed down from one generation to another. They are not to hold property in Israel; I am all they need Ezekiel 44:28 GNT
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. 2 Peter 2:1-3 GNT
363 You’re disheartened, crestfallen. Men have just taught you a lesson! They thought you didn’t really need their help and so they made you plenty of empty promises. The possibility that they might have to help you with hard cash— just a few pennies—turned their friendship into indifference. Trust only in God and those united with you through him.
There is a part of me that doesn’t want to write this blog. Partly because I know pastors who are well described in the words of St Josemaria. Ministers who needed a few pennies, and were turned down by congregations whose people drove new luxury cars, and lived in more than moderately priced homes. And there are pastors whose people are just as poor and financially desperate as they are.
And the words disheartened and crestfallen are descriptions that are blunt and accurate. Depressed and anxiety laden could be added.
I won’t say I’ve always had a solid salary to work on in ministry, Twenty-one years after I started serving “full-time” I am about where I was before I entered the ministry. My wife has had to work all the time, and there have been times where I worked a second or third job, but when push comes to shove, we’ve not gone without a meal, or been late on the rent. God’s people have been there. For which I am grateful
I know guys who haven’t had their church there. Pastors whose families are on welfare, who receive assistance from the government. Or who are too proud for that.
And then I come to passages like the two in my Bible readings this morning. Odd they come up on the same day, on a day I am writing a sermon about the disciples asking Jesus to “increase our faith”. Are these passages just talking about the days of old? Does the LORD still provide all that those in full-time service to him need? Do we have everything we need to live a truly religious life?
Yes, but we don’t often see it, and our lack of vision causes us to stumble, and fall into despair.
Yeah there are times we are stretched thin, and times where our people don’t see our need and doubt. Some of that is our fault, not helping them see what is going on. ( One church wasn’t aware how much their pastor’s rent was – they all owned homes, and hadn’t reconsidered the housing allowance for 30 years!) Sometimes it is necessary that we look somewhere else, as God is opening up doors for ministry. ( I know of two pastors who planted a church while working for a large hardware store – they built it from their regular customers whom they got to know. Similarly, my first church grew from the students I taught computer science to, and the families of the hospice patients I served as their chaplain).
The challenge is seeing what comes, the good and the bad, the time of wealth and the time of great need as something where God is. Being transparent about that, all the while investing in people the one treasure we have in abundance, the presence of God. Of realizing there are times where God’s provision is in the few pennies, or the bag of groceries (ot supermarket gift card) that appears on your desk. Other times it is in the opportunity you find to provide for yourself and your family. Other times it is found in going to your people and saying. can someone help us with food, or pay for our meds, or… and all the time trusting in God for your needs. And in the process, watch your people’s dependence on God grow as well…and that, my friend, my brother in ministry, is worth all our trials. It is why we do what we do… to see our people walk with God
Above all, remember how God fills our greatest needs, the need for peace, for mercy and love found in His presence. For that is our greatest treasure… one that doesn’t get used up, or go into the red. God is with your there…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 924-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD says,
“Listen to me, you that want to be saved, you that come to me for help. Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut. 2 Think of your ancestor, Abraham, and of Sarah, from whom you are descended. When I called Abraham, he was childless, but I blessed him and gave him children; I made his descendants numerous. Isaiah 51:1-2 GNT
In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. Eph 3:12 GNT
105 If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others?
In our first quote from Isaiah, God tells us to look back at our past, at the people who came before us. The passage will start with Abraham, but it will not stop then. God wants us to think about those who went before, to consider their situations deeply.
But the reason why is critical. We look back at the past not to glorify them (they were sinners – notorious ones at times) or imitate their actions (they were sinners remember) and turn what they did into our traditions. They aren’t superheroes, and people for us to adore. They were sinners.
We can talk of Abraham or Moses, we can move to the New Testament and talk of Peter and Paul. We can talk about the saints through the ages, ones like Francis of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, modern favorites like St. Theresa or Billy Graham, or my two favorites Martin Luther and St. Josemaria Escriva.
Looking back at those who went before us is good, unless we begin to turn them into idols, or people whose faith and practice was so much “holier” than our own. We need to remember Paul didn’t say “imitate me!” He said imitate me as I imitate Christ”
So what do we do with these saints? what do we learn as we look back at those whose faith precedes our own?
The Lord tells us in Isaiah, we look back and see that Abraham was a broken guy, just like the rest of us, and then God worked in His life!
As we look at the past, that’s what we need to see, that the Lord worked in the life of Abraham, that God worked in the life of Moses, and King David, and stubborn and broken guys like the Apostles Peter and Paul
God works in our lives too. Which is why the chief of all sinners can tell the church in Ephesus to enter the presence of God the Father with confidence. Not when we die and get to heaven, though that surely will happen then. But to do so now, as we be still and take time to pray, to seriously find ourselves in the presence of God, laying burdens down, letting Him strip us of sin, talking with us, being with us.
This is why we look back at the our ancestors in the faith. To realize as broken and sinful as they were, God worked in their lives, He drew them into a relationship with Him, and in the process, things happened. But the major lesson – they lived in the presence of God, learning to depend on Him, whether in their prayers, or the times where He was physically present.
That’s what we need to know. That is what we must experience. that is what every person in our world needs. Looking back shows us He will be there, because He always has been there for His people, no matter how broken, even calling them back when they wandered or ran off.
He was faithful, He is faithful, and we learn He will be faithful in our lives, and in those who follow us… and look back to us.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ.d God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.
6 In our work together with God, then, we beg you who have received God’s grace not to let it be wasted. 2† Hear what God says:
“When the time came for me to show you favor,
I heard you;
when the day arrived for me to save you,
I helped you.”
Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; today is the day to be saved! 2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 GNT
13 Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. 14 As a matter of fact, it may save their lives. Pr. 23:13-14 GNT
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
As I read the words from St Paul that are the first quote above, the words of Shakespeare’s Henry 5th came to mind. From readings about Sir Horatio Nelson, who had his band of brothers who stood by him, and later in the annals of the Star Trek: The Next Generation, as a Frenchman mouthed those words to an American #1, a Klingon Security officer, a Blind engineering officer and.. an Android named Data.
While I am not sure of the romanticized brotherhood of Henry V, or of Nelson, and certainly Picard’s is fictional, I have seen sch brotherhood in action. In the Marines I have known when I served near 29 Palms, in the Sherriff’s Deputies who I have had the blessing to stand beside while they pick up the pieces after a suicide, or a officer involved shooting. I have been there as our hospice team took the time to finally grieve, having set it aside to deal with others facing death. All of these groups share in a
There is one other group, the men who serve as pastors and priests and deacons, especially those in sacramental brotherhoods. It is not that we are holier than the rest, far from it. But we have faced the challenge of being “there”. In the moments where life just really… sucks. In the moments where eternity hangs in the balance, and when spiritual warfare is overwhelming. Rarely do we stand in the same “there”, yet we’ve all been there. Been there to see the spilled blood of Christ cover sins. Been there as mercy conquers the sin which so ravages our people and our land. We’ve been there, and some have given so much, and battled so often, sacrificing their lives to serve..
Over the weekend, I attended three churches, two Roman Catholic and one Lutheran. Two priests, one pastor, and a deacon. Two other deacons cared for my people back home and I thought of them, not running into each other, but sharing God’s love. I think of others I have been mentored by, and mentored. Each a little different, each a little… well wacky… each bearing the scars of ministry, of having to discipline children, and the blessing of seeing them come home. Each one hoping that this week, some will receive God’s favor, that some will be saved…
We band of brothers.. not holier, not more special or talented, often far more scarred…but we’ve been there. So hear us, as we don’t tell tales of our heroism, but rather His. And if we have to discipline you… please know the goal is to help you see that God would befriend you through Jesus, transforming you from a sinner/enemy, to the beloved saint and friend.
We just get to be there.. and see the glory in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 1 Peter 2:23 (TEV)
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
The reception of communion too requires faith in the grandiosity of what is about to happen—the Lord comes to me or rather coming to me, He embraces me and wishes to transform me into His very being. It is not just a mechanical act of reception of a piece of bread—something done in an instant. It is this invitation to be in communion with the Lord: invitation to love.
I remembering hearing a sermon about “imitating Jesus” when I was in Bible College. The thoughts that ran through my mind were about imitating Jesus as He taught, as He trained the disciples, as He did miracles, even as He “officiated” at the first communion service.
I didn’t think about the suffering, or even the insults he endured from those who should have been his closest followers. The pains caused by his family who didn’t understand. The loneliness when even his closest disciples didn’t understand His ministry. The times that were so challenging that He needed to go away and pray to the Father… alone.
Are we ready to imitate Paul as he endured, as He imitated Jesus who endured through all of this?
Can we forgive the insultm? Can we show mercy to the one who threatens us? Can we love the ones who cause us to suffer, either deliberately, or accidentally?
That too is part of the call to imitate Jesus.
Can we do it?
I believe it is possible, but only as God has a relationship that is, only one word works here, a relationship that is intimate.
A relationship where He is able to transform us, a relationship where He is able to cleanse us thoroughly. A relationship where He is able to descend to a darkest place, where fears and anxieties form and control more of our life than we can explain.
A relationship that is that intimate.
A relationship that is nurtured at the altar, when Jesus comes to us, where we come face to face with the Lord who died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.
It is there, in the midst of His grace being poured out on us, that we realize what God is doing, and how complete the change is that He is crafting in our lives. We become more and more like Him, and we may not even realize it. His desire that people would come to know His love, that the Spirit would grant them repentance becomes far more important than our revenge.
Such a transformation is the result of, and only possible because we encounter Jesus. For then, we see the final judgment of God, and His work in all of us, making reconciliation possible. Our being reconciled, as well as those who offend us.
This is our hope, this is His work.
Ranjith, M. (2012). Addressing Objections to Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 162). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21† For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. ! Cor. 1:21 GNT
54 Conform? It is a word found only in the vocabulary of those (“You might as well conform,” they say) who have no will to fight—the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly—because they know they are defeated before they start.
In the last couple of months I have had to consider the unusual way I have done things in life, and especially in ministry. If I look at my MBTI score, I should not be a pastor If I hear the words of my internship supervisor (and T’s words often ring in my head), I shouldn’t have been a pastor. I didn’t graduate with my intended minor in Bible and Preaching, I went back years later and got a degree in business. I became a non-denom pastor, and then moved into a more organized and formal denomination, confusing those I left behind and those I joined! Both my roles as a circuit counselor and as a Regional Vice- President (the first working with 8 churches, the second over 80 and being on the district Board of Directors) I backed into, as the one elected ended up moving shortly thereafter.
So I don’t fit in, and sometimes, I confess, I feel proud that I don’t. There is a little fun being the non-formist, and more than a little freedom.
More often though I wish I did. I wish I understood the logic of the majority more, and those in power. When I don’t, i can begin to feel left out of the discussion, and alone, even in the midst of 500 people, I can feel alone. Sometimes very alone. Eerily so, as if I am not in the same moment of time, slightly out of phaze with everyone.
Yet there, it is easier to see God at work, I believe. Because the focus is not on our appearance, iIt is easier to see the brokenness around us, and the need for healing that only comes through the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus.
If we don’t focus on conforming to the world, and even to those in the church, there is a freedom to minister to others, a freedom to worship God based on His revelation of His love. You don’t try to become a clone of this preacher, or that theologian. This makes spiritual development a challenge, a time where you have to depend on God more. It gets us out of MEME Theology and the cute quips of populist theology. Which means it applies to this life, this context, these people we interact with in a way conformity,
Conformity doesn’t guaranty knowledge of a God who did the unthinkable, who came to us, Who loves us, who provides and cares for us, healing us of our brokenness. The God who comes to us simply, who uses simple things, a cross, a tomb, water, bread, wine, and a few people who don’t fit in. He confounds the world, and its rules that it demands us to conform to, just as His gifts require unity, and yet an incredible diversity. Our identity is our, yet found only in our relationship to Jesus.
Lord, help us to desire to conform only to Christ Jesus, and help us be patient, with, others and ourselves, as the Holy Spirit causes and makes this transformation a reality. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 286-288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.