Category Archives: Ancient Future

RIght Now, the Church Is Like An Anxious Bride…

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day

1  A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)

We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.

O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.

The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!

As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.

I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.

I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.

As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well –  but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)

That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.

As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.

As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him.  As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 147.

What I still need to learn about Worship

The Pantheon, a place where God’s people have worshipped for nearly 1800 years…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)

Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.

“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.

As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.

Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..

Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.

Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.

That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!

God is with us… meeting us where we are at.

It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.

But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!

For the Lord Jesus is with us….

We just need to learn that… together.

A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 96.

Ministry in the Shadows…

St Aiden on Holy Island

Devotional Thought for our Days

6  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he rescued them from their distress. 7  He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:6-7 (CSBBible)
13  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 14  He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Psalm 107:13-14 (CSBBible)
19  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 20  He sent his word and healed them; he rescued them from their traps. Psalm 107:19-20 (CSBBible)

Aidan’s statue, Holy Island
Aidan stands. His head is close to the heart of the cross.
His eyes, far-seeing, scan the horizon, the joyous venturing of little boats.
A torch burns clearly in his grasp, a faithful challenge in his generation, meeting, listening, heart-connecting.

In his shadow is a place I covet, a challenge in a present time and confluence of cultures.
Aidan, let me lie down in your shadow. While I live may I be the shadow of a Rock in a weary land, a shelter from the heat.

When our Bohemian interrupted to say that he still had doubts about baptism, he [Martin Luther] replied gently,“When you first came here you were not at the stage which you have now attained. Continue to be patient. Give our Lord God time. Let the trees bloom before they bring forth fruit. Who was I before? I used to worship saints who hadn’t even been born! The time hasn’t come yet for me to speak otherwise [about baptism], I should now say, but wait and you’ll see what the Word of God is and can be.”

To embrace the cross, courage and endurance are needed. There are some “strong” Christians who undertake apostolic work but falter when faced with difficulty. They don’t know about patience.

What requires patience also requires the ability to endure exhaustion. Whether a marathon, or a long journey in a car, or the ministry, one must be able to endure the shadows. One must endure the times where you aren’t sure you can make it another mile, another hour, another day. Life is filled with such shadows, as we work through a world that has no direction and no ability to see where we are going, and yet we strive to define progress in so many areas.

Most of the people we minister to live there, in those shadows of exhaustion. Not quite in spiritual darkness, but neither are our lives always filled with the glorious light of Christ. We are not patient; we want our life on earth to be heavenly. When we cannot see that perfection, the shadows form, and tired and weary, we are anxious, not knowing when the next storm will hit or this one will subside.

We need to embrace the cross, not just with strength but patiently. We need to, as Luther advises, be patient and give the Lord time. (this not just with those we minister to, but with ourselves!)  We need to see what the Word of God is, and what it can be.

That is why I find so much hope in my reading from Psalms this morning. There we see people cry out to the Lord, those lost in their wandering, those imprisoned by gloom and shame, and those whose foolishness caused their own suffering. The eventual response was to cry out to God to have mercy, and His response was to rescue them. In those times in the shadow, it is good to find the Aidans of our time. Those whose lives point us to Jesus. Those who keep close to the cross and draw us there. They dwell in the shadows as well (why else would they need torches?), and as they are in the presence of Christ, their shadow is a place of rest, a place of peace. As Jesus delivers us, slowly, we too become like Aidan, or Paul or Peter, and we dwell in Christ! Others will come, and we will learn to deal as patiently with them as God deals with us. Aidn’s image is so powerful, in the shadow of the cross, he provides light to others!

This is life in the shadows; this is ministry in the shadows… be patient. Find those who help you keep your heart and head near the cross, and then look for those who need to be drawn into His presence, and provide them the rest, the sanctuary they need, in the shadows.

Andy Raine – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/meditations/meditation-day-16/ (text reformatted to fit the page)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 92.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 132.

The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2  I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.

WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?

I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.

I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.

As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.

My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!

We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.

It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.

It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.

Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.

God is with us!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.

We don’t need to play the game…

“God has raised you out of darkness, I have saved your soul for God!”

Devotional Thought of the Day

12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB

26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB

Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”

Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession

Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.

Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.

Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.

God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.

They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,

That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.

It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.

Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.

That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.

God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.

That is what it all boils down to…

We are in Jesus…..

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 41.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Journey to Holiness: Will You Go on THIS pilgrimage?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success. Chron. 26:4-5 CSB

18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passoverb contrary to what was written.c But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God,d the LORD, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people 2 Chron 30:18-20 CSB

Many Christians submit to great fatigue, and expose themselves to many dangers, to visit the places in the Holy Land where our most loving Saviour was born, suffered, and died. We need not undertake so long a journey, or expose ourselves to so many dangers; the same Lord is near us, and dwells in the church, only a few steps distant from our houses. If pilgrims, says St. Paulinus, consider it a great thing to bring back a little dust from the crib, or from the holy sepulchre in which Jesus was buried, with what ardor should not we visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, where the same Jesus is in person, and where we can go without encountering so much fatigue and so many dangers!

God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.

I have been blessed to visit Rome, and pray in many of the churches there. Some I found irresistable, such as the church in the Villa Tevere, and the church that was made our of the home of St. Francis of Assissi. I have preached in China as well, and found in a little church along a small canal the same sense of being in a refuge, being in a sanctuary. There was something special about those places.

De Ligouri’s words therefore resonate with me, although his visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament and mine differ – for his is the Eucharist in a monstrance, to contemplate upon in prayer. Mine preference is to find that same thing as the people of God receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under the bread and wine.

In either situation, seeking the Lord is not about encountering physical torment. That may be needed, and it may not be. The challenge is what Is mentioned in Chronicles, being taught the fear/awe of the Lord. Be able to know that we should be terrified, as we are sinners gathering in the presnce of the Holy. At the same time, realizing in awe that God still accepts us anyway. He will deal with our sin… and still welcome us.

And welcoming that teaching is part of our journey. To allow God to inspect our lives, the deepest parts, to let Him find what lurks within, and carefully cut it away. To admit, as Hezekiah and His crew did, that we aren’t ready to enter into the feast, and to cling to a God who is merciful.

That is our journey… that is our hope.

This God of ours… and make no mistake, He is ours, for the Holy Spirit walks with us on this journey. Note the healing that was done to Hezekiah’s crew? That is being done in our lives today… making us right and whole, so that we would be welcomed in the presence of God.

It is a hard journey to make, for we don’t know what lurks within us. We just recognize the Spirit’s work, especially as we bow and kneel with others at the rail… and receive Christ again,

It doesn’t matter where… the Holy Land, Rome, Jiangmen, Macao, Cerritos or Lawrence, Mass.

He is our God, and we find refuge, sanctuary, and serenity as we feast with Him, and His people.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 181.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

The Hardest Part of Prayer

Could you speak in a moment like this?

6  “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

10  Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NJB)

Not all silence is spiritual. Some Christians are silent because they have nothing to say; others are silent because what they have to say cannot be uttered by mortal tongues. We … will confine our remarks to the latter.
Where the Holy Spirit is permitted to exercise His full sway in a redeemed heart, the progression is likely to be as follows: First, voluble praise, in speech or prayer or witness. Then, when the crescendo rises beyond the ability of studied speech to express, comes song. When song breaks down under the weight of glory, then comes silence where the soul, held in deep fascination, feels itself blessed with an unutterable beatitude.
At the risk of being written off as an extremist or a borderline fanatic, we offer it as our mature opinion that more spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome Presence of God than in years of mere study.… The exposure may be brief, but the results are permanent.

Let us now consider some of these human virtues. While I am talking I would like you, on your own, to keep up a conversation with our Lord. Ask him to help us all, to encourage us to penetrate more deeply today into the mystery of his Incarnation, so that we too, in our own flesh, may learn how to give living witness to our fellow men of him who has come to save us.

If it is hard when we are alone, it is nearly impossible in a time of prayer with others.

Quiet.

Stillness…

It should bring us to a place of peace, but it rarely does.

Our minds spin crazily, our hearts are blown from joy to despair, and if we are honest, maybe a little paranoia.

Quiet should be a great experience, a time to revive, and yet… it drives us crazy.

It should be a time to be in awe of the Incarnation, a time to be silent as you realize Jesus has come to you!

As you breath slows, as your sense sharpen, so should you become more aware He is there

Then watch, as that which pollutes your life is purged from you…as your sense of His grace overwhelms it, as the Holy Spirit sanctifies you.

Take your time in the silence… take your time in the peace…

Be confident in His promise, that He is there…

And find life.

in Him!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stop Teaching the Faith… teach faith!

The word? FAITH

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

32  How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:32-34a (NLT2)

The catechist then takes up a part of the catechism, and begins to catechise not only the children and those to be confirmed, but also the older and matured members of the congregation. Adults shall not be forbidden to ask questions, state doubts or whatever may trouble them, so that the minister may encourage or warn them as need may require.

In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God

O foolish ones of the world, says St. Augustine, miserable creatures, where are you going to satisfy your hearts? Come to Jesus; for by him alone can that pleasure which you seek be bestowed. “Unhappy creatures, whither are you going? The good you seek for comes from him.”1 My soul, be not of the number of these foolish ones; seek God alone: “seek for that one good in which are all good things.”

Loehe, a German Lutheran pastor from the 19th century, prepares young people to be part of God’s family in a unique way.  Look at this demonstrated in the purple quote this morning. He lets the Adults (apparently they sat in on the youth’s classes) state their doubts and what troubles them! These “older and more matured church members are allowed, no encouraged, to speak of their doubts and their troubles in front of the impressionable young minds? The young people witness the pastor working with these older people, encouraging and warning them!

This isn’t how catechesis works today. Now it is all about “teaching the faith,” or to use a less politically correct term, indoctrination. Here is the material, here is data. Digest it, spit it back, and we will make a church service all about you, praising you for passing our class.

Instead of “teaching the faith,” I think we need to teach faith. We need to arrange our instruction so that those we are responsible for experience the love of God!  It is a love with vast dimensions, far more than we can explore, a love that is experienced, for words cannot describe it. (see Ephesians 3:18-19) Tozer talks of this in noting that being born again is beyond Psychology’s science. It is beyond human reason, yet not beyond us.

Augustine, perhaps the greatest and simplest of theologians, speaks to this as well. He just wants people to come to Jesus, to be drawn to Him. There the contentment, the joy they chase is experienced. There is the highest good, the sunnom bonnum of which poets and songwriters attempt to describe. It is no wonder the Old Testament includes a book, solely describes the intimacy Christians have with God, using romance and sex to describe it. Not that our relationship with God is sexual; instead, like sex, it goes beyond explanation and yet envelopes us entirely in the dance.

Teaching this is more than teaching someone to memorize the Decalogue or the Lord’s Prayer. It is teaching them to find peace in the silence of a sanctuary as they contemplate the truth of the phrase, “The LORD is with you!” The moments between the notes of a hymn, where the words take root in the heart. It is in the tears of the one worn out by guilt and shame, as the tears flow even more as the guilt and shame are lifted by the sin being forgiven.

Teach people to depend on God, trust Him, and entrust Himself to His care. This is what catechesis should be.

Then, as they begin to sing…stand back, and look in awe at what God has created…in us.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 68.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 149.

What Draws Me To Jesus…

The Intimate Feast

Devotional Thought of the Day:

29 The king said to him, “Why keep on speaking about these matters of yours? I hereby declare: you and Ziba are to divide the land.”s
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Instead, since my lord the king has come to his palace safely, let Ziba take it all!”
2 Samuel 19:29-30 CSB

Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently that they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee, Sela.” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.

Come then, O Lord! come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee. Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being; and if ever I do not obey Thee perfectly, chastise me with rigor, that thenceforward I may be more watchful to please Thee as Thou willest. Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar; to entertain myself with Thee, and to receive Thee in Holy Communion.

The young, crippled man, Mephibosheth, who was King Saul’s son, meets King David after he was restored to his throne. Even though David would restore to him all that he had, the young man would have none of it. So glad was he that David was restored to the throne.

Grace didn’t matter; restoration of things of the world didn’t matter.

Being in the presence of his lord, the one who saved him from death, did.

This is a lesson for us! We should be like the young man, desiring just to be in the presence of Jesus.

William Loehe, a trainer and sender of Lutheran pastors and missionaries in the 19th century, saw this need and its answer in the Lord’s Supper. He implored a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The words in purple show why – “it prepares us for the celebration of the great Supper on high!” It helps us see that the only meaningful thing in our life is the presence of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the most significant way to celebrate and meditate on that presence!

Likewise, 100 years before Loehe, a Catholic Bishop, wrote the words in blue. The words come from his treatise on the Lord’s Supper. And they describe something I have found more trustworthy and more comforting in these challenging days than ever. The presence of the Lord that we encounter in the Lord’s supper, as we receive Christ, helps us find the rest that restores us from the brokenness we encounter, from the brokenness we know in our own lives.

Like Mephibosheth, we find that all that matters is the presence of our Lord. The Lord who is pictured in the parts of David’s life, where he became known as a man after God’s own heart. When we know His presence, our riches fade in importance. Our troubles lose their ability to overwhelm us. In the same moment, we want to collapse in awe and yet be hugged, embraced by the Lord, who makes our crippled souls whole, as we are invited, as special guests, to His feast.

This is the glory of God; this is why He deserves our praise. He comes to us, and He cares for us… This is the place where Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus to be when he wrote,

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT

I pray that for us all, this experience of the love of Jesus Christ. I prayer that we encounter it frequently, as we take and eat the Body of Christ, and we take and drink His precious Blood… and we look to the day when with all the saints from all times, all places, all nations, and all languages, we celebrate the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. AMEN!

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 55–56.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 128.


Why The Church WILL Gather Again…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

53  Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55  For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)

The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.

Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.

Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.

There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.

I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.

I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is. 

You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.

That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.

This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.

 

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.

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