Category Archives: Ancient Future

Imitation of Jesus: Are You Ready?

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.

In us.

Ranjith, M. (2012). Addressing Objections to Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 162). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

I don’t fit in… which is such a blessing!

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

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.

We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT

To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)

The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.

For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.

There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!

But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”

It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.

The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.

It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.

For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.

Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.

This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.

And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….

Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

A Question of Primary Importance to Your Life!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31  “So don’t worry and don’t keep saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:31 (Phillips NT)

Therefore, I maintain there is no one who can know everything that the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they had to proclaim or teach something from this psalm, they would not know where to begin. In order to shame these evil people and to honor the word of God, I have decided to interpret this psalm myself. I would like people to see both how clear and common it is and how it is nonetheless unfathomable. Even if it seems obvious (which it is not), nonetheless in virtue and power it is unfathomable, and it always renews and creates a clean heart and refreshes, washes, comforts, and strengthens us without end. I see and learn daily how the beloved prophets studied the Ten Commandments from where their sermons and prophecies had their sources and springs. Let us now divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and admonition.

Benedict XVI told the young prisoners n the prison of Casal del Marmo in Rome on the 18th of March, 2007, We have recalled that God loves us: this is the source of true joy. One can having everything one wants and still be sometimes unhappy. On the contrary, one could be deprived of everything, even freedom or health and still be in peace and joy, if God is in our heart. So therein lies the secret: that God is always in the first place in our life.”
Before him, St Augustine said, ‘Sometimes the doctor makes a mistake in promising the patient health of the body. God gives you a sure and free healing, that is salvation’. This is the first point: this confusion between health and salvation. Make no mistake, let us look for salvation and many things will follow.

“How is your spiritual health?”

More important than your financial health, your physical health, even more important than your financial health is the question of your spiritual health.

You many think differently, and could point to reasons why mental health or physical health is more important. You could claim that poor financial health could affect the rest.

I know a lot of people in poor health, and they know joy. I’ve been on the mission field and seen the smiles of children and adults, and know they have something the richest people in the word do not. I’ve worked with people challenged by illnesses of the mind, who even through their challenges, find peace and comfort at the altar, where they receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Yet we often get confused about what it means to be truly “healthy.” And the thing we omit the most is our spiritual condition. We refuse to ask ourselves

– are we struggling with a particular temptation or sin
– are we repressing anger and resentment
– are there people we’ve offended that we need to seek forgiveness from
– do we realize we are in the presence of God, God who loves us.
– are we taking the time to adore God, and to realize the work He is doing in us, renrewing us as the Spirit cleansses us, and empowers our will and our deeds?
– Do we depend on God more than we distrust the world’s leaders, (or trust and depend on them? )
– Do we trust and depend on God to make all things work in our lives for good. All things, including the crap we don’t like.

I think most of us are afraid to ask this question.

We feel like the negative answers would result in massive amounts of guilt, the pain of judging ourselves, the feeling of failure and condemantion. The shame of falling short.

But unless we ask ourslves, we will never resolve to apply the easiest healing remedy that exists for anything. For it is simply being in the presence of God, hearing His promsies, receiving His blessing that renews and refreshes us. This is the salvation that Augustine spoke of, a deliverance from spiritual death to an abundant life, now and forever,

This is why Luther said Psalm 118 was so deep, for this is what it reveals, and celebrates and drives into our soul at levels beyond our comprehension.

We need this, for it transforms our life, it actually helps us really live life

It is when this is taken care of by God, as we realize His work, that life changes… it really changes.


Heavenly Father, help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and those we care about and are responsible for guiding in the faith. Help us to desire to see Your work in our lives, that our shame and guilt are left behind, as we seek You, and Your influence in our lives. We ask this, knowing Your love for us, revealed in Jesus Chrsist. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 130). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 111). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

50,000+ reads, 578 subscribers, 1866 posts, and a thought

This underground church blessed m with great peace…
I pray my blog has helped you experience it over the years.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT

The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in it there was no light. The second was the holy place; here stood a lampstand with seven arms and seven lamps. The third was the outer court; it was open to the sky and to the sun’s light. This is a metaphor for the Christian person, whose spirit is the holy of holies, God’s dwelling in the darkness of faith without light. For the Christian believes what is neither seen, nor felt, nor comprehended. The soul is the holy place with its seven lamps, that is, every form of reason,18 discrimination, knowledge,19 and understanding20 of bodily and visible things. The body is the outer court that is open to everyone, so that everyone can see what one does and how one lives.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.

This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.

Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.

And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.

There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.

Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?

It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.

You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.

Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.

That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.

The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.

It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.

Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.

That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.

Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


How are you investing your pastor’s time?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3  So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4  We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5  The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6  The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.

A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)

Those were the priorities of the early church –

A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?

Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.

The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?

How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.

Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!

Be a good steward of his life… and time.

The blessing will be yours!



Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Do we care enough to ask?

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional thought fo the Day:
19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.    James 5:19-20 (TEV)

Anyway, I would gladly know how things are with your soul. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.

What a question for Martin Luther to ask his friend George!

Can you imagine me, or any pastor, or any friend asking that question of you?  What would be your response?  How would you respond?

Maybe I should ask you!

Or perhaps it is isn’t as questionable as “maybe”.  We need to ask this question of each other.  We need to care enough about people to ask them this, to genuinely care for their souls, for their spiritual needs.

And while I am not exclusively talking about pastors, elders and other church leaders, it starts with us.  We are the ones tasked with shepherding souls, with reconciling the broken.  This job belongs to the entire church, the caring for souls, whether they are members of our church, or atheists, whether they are our family and friends or our nemesis.

The words of James’ epistle strike this home. if someone wanders away, we bring them back, we cover a multitude of sins, and we save them from death. 

As hard as it sounds, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters, to lovingly help them bring their sins to Christ, to let Him remove and annul them.  Not just to look the other way, not to just say, “well, really, except for this or that, Joe was a good guy, good enough to get to heaven.”  That is easy, but really, it isn’t loving, it doesn’t call him back to God, it lets him wander through this life. It leaves him bound to self-righteousness, or to the guilt and shame he dwells in. 

The church, you and I, have the ability to be there, to assist the prodigal on the way home, to help them know what we should know so well, the words of God declaring we are forgiven.  We need to help them do as Martin Luther encouraged his fried George to do, to take a  “deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.”

Lord, help us not to hide our sin, help us encourage others to be drawn closer to You, to receive your promise of absolution, and to live lives free and forgiven.  Help us to be one people, united together in Your presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 3). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

The Secret to the Revitalization of the Church, or a church

IMAG0406

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.   Zeph 1:7

Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.

I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.

They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus.  These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them.  But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them.  Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.

And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.

The second one is more obvious than the first.  While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan.  It requires compromise in the nature of the mission.  Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change.  That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God.  If you do that, you have changed the mission.

Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people.  God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt.  It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.

We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus.  Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.

All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote.  It brings us to the point of this devotion.  And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.

Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.

God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus.  For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.

ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.

This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.

And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible.   AMEN

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Confession of a Burnt Out Minister of God

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the day:

14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the LORD demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame?  Jeremiah 20:14-18  HCSB

14. In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.

I always worry when in my devotions I read passages like those above.

No, this confession isn’t mine, it is Jeremiah’s.

But it could be, as it could be the confession of so many pastors and priests and others who work in the church.  It doesn’t matter whether they are volunteers, or whether this is a paid vocation.

Burnout is inevitable.

There are days serving the church where it seems we would be better off dead.  (And we even think maybe those we serve would be as well!)  There will be days where the demands of our duties and the problems they bring will overwhelm us.  Where we would rather lock ourselves in our offices, and simply write.  Or find some passing big fish and dive into it, ala Jonah!

And Vatican II points out that devotion alone isn’t the answer, it also notes that just going through the motions of ministry doesn’t solve the problem as well.  We can do the job, it can bless others, but it is just as empty as becoming a monastic and retreating from the world which needs us, simply because we know we need God.

We can minister more effectively, and help others, even in the midst of burnout and brokenness, when we accept that the weariness is sometimes necessary.  That God is with us, even there.  That the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the Lord of life will lift us up, and empower us, and work through our lives to call others to depend on the God who is there.

Max Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in a concentration camp, probably knew this weariness more than any pastor in the USA today.  Imagine, working with the guards, who denied their actions were evil.  He served the Christians who were in despair, Fr. Max served and died for those who didn’t know Jesus as well.

How did he do such a thing?

Maximilian Kolbe was an individual deeply marked by Christ, wholly ordered to Christ. When he immersed himself anew in the witness of Holy Scripture, he was not searching for theories, not on a voyage into the past. It is impossible to live with a mummy—with a merely historical Jesus; nor can we live with mere words and programs—with a “thing”. But Kolbe lived from and for Jesus. He could do this because he heard in Scripture the voice of a living Person. He heard Jesus as a living Person because he experienced him as a living Person; he could touch him in the Blessed Sacrament in which he forms a Church and is present for us.

The only way to minister through the hardest times and despair in ministry is to hang on to what we’ve been entrusted with as ministers.  Not word and sacrament, but what they are conduits of, the experience of encountering Jesus in both word and sacrament.  Of knowing God loves you, because of that encounter, of knowing His care because it too is encountered in the sacraments.

As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT) 

Knowing about God’s love won’t sustain you in the darkness, it won’t keep you moving through the despair. It won’t help you see God at work in the midst of the pain.  But knowing you are known, finding hope in the fact you are loved, being refreshed through the grace and mercy poured out upon you.  Being filled through all your being with God Himself.

That is what we need, and that is what He provides… so relax, hear God!  Hear God! And find rest for your weary soul!  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 281). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Where Will We Find Ourselves?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for the day:

11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me” g—this is the LORD’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, h but they would not obey.  Jeremiah 13:11 HCSB

We have to be candles,
burning between
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.

And if our life means anything,
if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and
does some good,
it is that somehow,
by being here,
at peace,
we help the world cope
with what it cannot understand.

We may talk about finding ourselves, or our search for meaning, but I am not always sure we are ready to find ourselves.  Each generation has their search, whether it was the boomers in the 50’s and sixties, or the GenX’er, or now the Millenials.  Eventually, the majority of the people will settle down into a life that isn’t truly satisfying.  A life filled with turmoil, anxiety, uncertainty.

Lite I mentioned, I am not sure we are all ready to find ourselves.

Because the search will lead us into what Brodrick calls the “disquieting place”.

We live there, but we don’t want to find ourselves there, bouncing between optimism and pessimism, between joy and sorrow, in a place which is more often surreal than real.

And to be content there… in the midst of the disquiet, in the realm of the dysfunctional, in the place where balance isn’t found, that is when we truly find ourselves.

Because there, we learn to do what God desires, what God designed us to do.

To cling to Him like a pair of underwear!

Seriously, it is in that place where life spins us back and forth between the extremes that we find our only hope is clinging to God.  It is in our relationship with Him that we can find rest and peace, it is in Him that the paradox of life can be put to rest.

In Him, the disquiet turns into a crescendo of praise.

And clinging to Him, we reach outside of ourselves and find that we can help the world cope with what it cannot understand.

It is as we cling to Him, ministry happens…..

So learn to realize the disquiet can be a blessed place as well, and when it isn’t, remember to cling to God like a pair of underwear clings to its owner.

William Brodrick  (https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/  )

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