Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

Want to Overcome Sin? Start with this…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 [By David.] With all my heart I praise the LORD, and with all that I am I praise his holy name! 2 With all my heart I praise the LORD! I will never forget how kind he has been. Psalm 103:1–2 (CEV)

We were told in the Second Commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain.” Thereby we are required to praise the holy name and pray or call upon it in every need. For to call upon it is nothing else than to pray.

It is just as true to say that every snowflake is a gift of God as it is true to say that every cent in a father’s inheritance is a gift to his children. It is just as true to say that every leaf on every tree is a work of art made by the divine Artist with the intention that we see it, know it, love it, and rejoice in it, as it is true to say that every word in a lover’s letter to his beloved is meant to be seen, known, loved, and enjoyed.

33 What are you so proud of?—Every impulse that moves you comes from Him. Act accordingly.

Sin is a huge issue in our lives.

We can not deny it. We can’t really hide it either.

It leaves us broken and shattered.

It leaves us avoiding people, some because we resent them because of some sin they committed against us. Some people we want to avoid because we feel so guilty, so ashamed, and being in their presence brings those feelings crashing down upon us.

As we look at the commands, there is one that sticks out to me, one that can be quickly dealt with, and as it is, we find the grace to deal with the others.

Luther talks about it, the commandment to not use God’s name in vain. Luther points out that means we sin when we should use it when we should cry out to Him for help,  and do not use it. When our vanity causes the Lord’s name to be misused.

Imagine not eating because you don’t want to spend the money you have in the bank. I imagine going barefoot on a hike in the mountains because you don’t want to scuff up your new boots. There is a logic that simply doesn’t make sense to these imaginations, that still doesn’t make sense when God pleads with us to call upon Him, to cast our burdens upon Him, to let Him heal us.

You want to stop living in the dark shadows of sin?  Cry out to God, call upon Him, don’t leave His name unused, for that is as wrong as using it wrongly.

What happens then, as you begin to converse with God, is that you realize how much He is doing, you start to look for how He encourages you! You see it in the care he takes with the color of a leaf, or the smile of a child, you being to see His artistry in everything, and realize that this artistry is at work in your life as well.  As St. Josemaria describes we begin to understand the good things in our lives are there because the Holy Spirit is guiding and empowering us in them, providing the impulse that drives our work

That beauty, that wonder is what leads the Psalmist to praise God, to exclaim in wonder at God’s kindness, at His mercy and love.  Our praise is always generated from seeing God at work in our lives.  Even in the hard times, even when we have to confess our sin, or lay some burden down at His feet.

This is what happens when we stop using His name in a way that it shouldn’t be used… but call out to Him, even if that cry is as simple and profound as,

Lord have mercy one me a sinner…

He hears, and He answers… and we begin to dwell in peace.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 420.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 20.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Easy Way to Become a Saint

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for your Day:
16  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.
Ephesians 3:16-17 (NLT2)

For a saint is simply a great lover of God, and nothing elicits love more than love. “Everybody loves a lover.” Nothing makes us saints faster than being hit over the head with God’s love.

37 When you love somebody very much, you want to know everything about him. Meditate on this: Do you feel a hunger to know Christ? Because…that is the measure of your love for him.

Thus the Creed is nothing else than a response and confession of Christians based on the First Commandment.

In the old comics, a lightbulb would click on in a bubble over the head of a character who got a brilliant idea. It is a way to describe the aha moment, what they once described as being enlightened.

As a former martial artist, there is another time you see bright lights, and that is when you take a punch or a kick to the head. You become a bit light-headed, you might even see stars!

I think we need the same kind of thing spiritually, we need to be hit upside the head by the love of God.  The love that makes us realize how stupid our sin is, how incredible the love of God is. He did this with Paul the apostle, spiritually hit him over the head with love, so much so it took Paul a few days and a miracle to see again.

We need to see God’s glory, and we need to realize that His glory is nothing more and nothing less than His love.

His love for you… and for me.

We have to see him, looking down from the cross, and in love saying, Father forgive them… (that means you and me) We need to see that love poured out on us as we were baptized, as His Body and Blood are given to eat and drink, as the Holy Spirit clothes us with righteousness.  It is that love that makes us holy, set apart for one thing – to be loved and love. That is what makes us saints.

This is not just the quickest way, it is the only way…

Lord Jesus, confront us in our brokenness, and ensure that we know You love us! AMEN!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 13.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 412.

When Life Seems Like the Titanic, or worse.

pexels-photo-2056194

Devotional Thought for the day

I belong to God, and I worship him. Last night he sent an angel 24 to tell me, “Paul, don’t be afraid! You will stand trial before the Emperor. And because of you, God will save the lives of everyone on the ship.” 25 Cheer up! I am sure that God will do exactly what he promised. 26 But we will first be shipwrecked on some island.  Acts 27:23-26 CEV

Christians have been making Peter’s mistake ever since, trusting in Caesar and chariots and horses and treaties and nukes and antinukes rather than in the love of God, the love on the Cross. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it, all the chariots and horsemen, even the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety.

We go on to say: “Let your will be done in heaven and on earth.” We say this not so that God might do what he wishes, but that we should be able to do what God wishes

I do not know how I would react, if I was one of the sailors or passengers on the ship with Paul. Yeah, we’ll be safe – all of us – but the ship will be wrecked. I imagine that even Noah was a bit anxious as the floods lifted him higher than some planes normally fly.

It is no wonder that we want to trust our weapons, our country, and our ability to fight back. For how do we find peace in times of oppression, in times where we are persecuted and attacked.

Many communities are facing this – those who find that nothing has changed in the death of George Floyd, or David Dorn. Those whose streets are filled with plywood rather than windows, those who cannot even find a home, because they are refugees. Some places where seniors dwell together still live in great fear of COVID 19. We all live in fear, and turn to something, anything for protection. Just about everyone I have met is stressed, worried, and focused on surviving today.

I wish we could all have the faith of Paul, who not only was ready for the shipwreck but to testify in front of Nero.

Please understand, we advocate for justice – even when we have to ask forgiveness for the injustice we actually committed.

At the same time, we need even more to trust in the Lord, for whether our boat is lifted by the floodwaters, or crushed against the rocks, He is with us.

We need to be aware that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us, (Eph. 1:19-20) and that power is the love of God.  That is why Kreeft makes the comment. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it,” 

Even if crucified, even if killed, our life is there, hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) and the power of death has already been defeated. That knowledge, that trust in God should empower us to work for justice, even as we do so peacefully, aware that He is stronger than the world.

So as Paul said, “Cheer up!  Just a shipwreck ahead of you, and then a trial, but God will deliver exactly what is promised!”

Your salvation and mine. ANd the presence of God in this midst of the storm…. the God who loves you.

Lord, help us to depend on you as Paul did. Even thru the shipwrecks, and the trials, through the persecutions and oppression, and even our own death. Lord may Your will be cone in our lives… and help our seeing that cheer us up.

AMEN!

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 212–213.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 75.

Why Isn’t God Helping? Something I learned as I cry out…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Remember, life is short! Why did you empty our lives of all meaning? 48 No one can escape the power of death and the grave. Our Lord, where is the love you have always shown and that you promised so faithfully to David? Psalm 89:47-49 CEV

All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

Dearest brothers, we should turn our minds and understand not only that we call him “Father who is in heaven,” but that we add to this and say: “Our Father,” that is of those who believe, of those who have begun to be children of God, sanctified through him and restored by a birth of spiritual grace.

I have to admit I feel much like the writer of the psalms this morning.

I feel useless, I feel as if my work on earth has no impact. Does being a pastor, or a friend, or a father mean anything anymore?

THought I saw and heard it three days ago on Sunday, as people received Christ’s body and blood, that seems a century ago. The curfews certainly add to it, after the months of stay at home orders.  One doctor says it will be a year or more before life returns to normal because of the virus, another says months, another says years. The despair that results from the murder of a man and the reactions to it will take longer to heal.

And in this, I find I must cry out to God and ask “Why? Where are you?” “What the ….. is going on?”

I have to, or my heart will be crushed.

But it is the fact that I can cry out, that I realize there is someone there to hear my cries. IN crying out I use god’s name in one of the holiest ways possible. I use it and you should, for the very reason, God revealed His existence to us.

Deliver us from all of this, from all the unrighteousness, from all the injustice, from the sin. Clean us up Lord, start with me. Or just come back, as you have promised.

Even as I cry out to Him, I realize the cry is not just an act of despair, it is an act of faith. Perhaps only the weakest of faith, a hope that somehow He will answer my cry.

But even that amount of faith is miraculous amid the pain, the turmoil, the hatred I am seeing. I am crying out to my Father, the only one who can do anything about this.

That is faith.

That is the Holy Spirit at work, the Comforter breaking through the spiritual blackness, reminding me of Christ’s love.

That is why Cyprian says we need to move from Address God as “the” to “our”, why we need to realize the significance of that cry as we pray, even praying the Lord’s Prayer.

He is our Father, He is our God, and He hears our cries, and responds…

We need to cry out, to use the old word, lament. To confess how broken we are, and that we are depending on God to fix us.  We need to do this!

Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with peace and strengthen our faith, our dependence on God to bring healing to the world, bring healing to us.  AMEN!

Luther, Martin. The Lord’s Prayer,   Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 373.

Cyprian: On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer,  Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 71.

We have a place in this world!

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46 But Paul and Barnabas bravely said: We had to tell God’s message to you before we told it to anyone else. But you rejected the message! This proves that you don’t deserve eternal life. Now we are going to the Gentiles. 47 The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth. Acts 13:46–47 (CEV)

1533 Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world.

THE FIFTH (Commandment)
“You shall not kill.”
10 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.

As I was working through my devotions this morning, in the back of my mind was lurking the idea of what difference do I make in this world.  I know I am not the only one who is pondering this. This virus situation has taken away from so many how they perceive they are valued, as jobs, schools, and interaction with people that would normally give their life meaning has been stolen away.

I have friends whose children are graduating from junior high school, high school, college, and graduate degrees.  They cannot celebrate these accomplishments in normal ways, stealing from them the celebration of their endurance.  Preschool teachers I know, who live for interacting with their kids, and getting hugs, cannot. In my case, my primary joy is communing people – the 50-70 people that show up on a given Sunday, and have not been able to for the last 8 weeks. This has been my dream and desire, and I believe my calling since I was 8.

It is brutal to our psyche, to our mental health.

It is wearying, and those around us, who are going through the same things, feeling the same pressures, are struggling with each other.

And hope is given and taken away with every newscast, with every internet article.  The roller coaster of our heart and soul seems to have no one at the controls, as we are wildly whipped around, and unable ot catch our breath.

The Catholic Catechism, notes our common place in life is found via the sacraments. That in that grace pouring out on us as we are cleaned and united to Jesus, we find our place.

We find we are being made holy, that we share in the same vocation as the Apostle Paul, as those tasked with sharing the news that God loves us, that God is with us, that we can, (and should) help other people know this!  Not just in church on Sunday morning, but throughout our week, in our homes, our zoom meetings, our telephone calls.

God has placed us here, (even as the Father sent Jesus) to be a light to the gentiles. e

We do this by loving them, and helping them and befriending them in every possible way. Including the incredible necessity, they may not be aware of, the necessity to know God’s presence. The necessity to know they are loved, the necessity of knowing they have a place, and God redeems the world.

This is hard to see and easy to get distracted from by the cares and pressures. It is a place that takes up our entire lives, and yet..happens best when we don’t force it, but we simply live in this amazing relationship with God.

This is our place.. this is where we find out ultimate meaning in life, as the ones whom God loves, as the ones He shares His greatest work with, the recreation of everything.

Let us find our peace and joy, there, as we work side by side with Him.  AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 383.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Small Catechism from The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.

Has My Hope Been Taken From Me?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for this Day
2
 I was resolved that the only knowledge I would have while I was with you was knowledge of Jesus, and of him as the crucified Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NJB)

929    The cross on your breast? Good. But the cross on your shoulders, the cross in your flesh, the cross in your mind. Thus will you live for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ; only thus will you be an apostle.

The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.

There is a  growing multitude of problems that have been caused by the pandemic. Beyond the health concerns, there are significant challenges in finance, in education, in mental health, in social dynamics – of homes and of communities.

Many of us are challenged by depression and temptation, as anger and pain can only be hidden for so long. Often, when we do strikeout, the target is not who it should be. We might even tear ourselves up, thinking that everything is our fault. This is not reasonable, yet there is no reason in a pandemic.

The Apostle Peter writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 (NLT2)) In doing so, he calls me back to remember the hope I do have, a hope that I barely hold on to it at times. More important, that Hope, He holds on to me.

That is why Jesus is all Paul wants to think of, and specifically Jesus – crucified. Jesus bearing every sin, every injustice, every bit of brokenness. Jesus, lifted up, to whom we are not just drawn to, but into whom we are drawn. The Catholic Catechism righty uses the word intimate in regard to our union with Jesus. It is more than we can explain, it is more than we can cognitively know, yet in that movement, it that taking and eating, we go beyond a casual acquaintance with God,.

That is why St Josemaria would have us fixated on the cross. That is why Luther talks about coming out of a time of trial with a faith that is far greater than when we entered. For faith is knowing the presence of Jesus so well, that we just live and move dependent on Him.

That intimacy is not all we need, it is all we have.

Realizing that is the challenge, along with remembering it as we are assailed, as we see the brokenness, as we deal with our issue. not alone, but as He is here, with us.

That is the reason I have hope, this relationship with Jesus- the one crucified for us…

The One who is alive! Praise God – and because He is risen, so are we.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 351.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 182.

Who has a right to commune?

church at communion 2

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.  Matthew 5:6  The Message

Twelfth, you see, that is what happens when one tries to make people pious and lead them to the right by means of commandments and laws. It only makes them worse. Thanks to such tactics, they do unwillingly and drearily whatever they do. This becomes a hindrance to God’s grace and sacrament. God neither wants to nor will he grant this grace to those who were forced, pressed, and driven to the sacrament by commandment and law, but only to hearts that long and pine and thirst for it, to hearts that come voluntarily……
(a little further Luther writes) Therefore, these words of his must be understood to refer to the labor and the burden of the conscience, which is nothing else than a bad conscience oppressed by sins committed, by daily transgressions, and by a leaning toward sin. The Lord does not drive all such people from him, as do those who teach that we must come to the sacrament with purity and worthiness. Nor does he issue a command or compel anyone to go to the sacrament, but rather he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help. The sublime sacrament must be regarded by us not as a poison, but as a medicine for the soul.10 Christ himself declares in Matthew 9 [:12], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament.

1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity

In some denominations, including mine, there is a concern about who should commune, and who should not.  Arguments abound in regards to what it means to have a close communion policy, Argmenets and division have blossomed over this idea, of who we can allow to commune.

There is something important in this, there is a Biblical basis for denying someone the Lord’s Supper, and it is found in several places – notable 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks of the consequences of approaching the Lord’s Supper without examining yourself first.

But that examination isn’t about whether we are good enough, or getting at least a B- on doctrine test, or having our membership in the right facility. (Remember – we confess that there is only one, holy catholic and apostolic church!) Yet we always seem to make it about such self-centered things.

One of my weight loss groups talks about the idea of eating when you are at the appropriate hunger level.  Not to eat just because of stress, or pattern, (aka tradition) or because it seems like time too.  Eat too soon, gain weight. Eat too late, and find that you overeat – and gain weight.

I think it is the same with God – we need to learn to hunger for Him and feed on Him regularly.  For some, that does mean daily reception, for others weekly. But it is based on need – not on qualification.  It is for those whose souls are tormented by sin and brokenness, who realize their need for Jesus because there is no other hope.

That is why I do not understand why there are people that say there is no emergency need for the Lord’s Supper. As long as there are sinners who need to know God’s grace, who are oppressed and haunted by their pasts, there is a need for this blessing for which Jesus gave thanks, even as He offered it. Luther makes this case clear.  It is worth repeating the words, “he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help.”  Yearn does not indicate they would like to have it, it means they desire it, they hunger for God, they hunger for the work He does, as He draws us into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

This is where we find hope, there is where we meet God in a very unique and powerful way, and it is where we know we are welcome.

Look at the Catholic Catechism – and see the beauty we need in this! The incredible unity that is found in the Lord’s Supper, as united in Christ, we find ourselves in the presence of God the Father! (see Colossian 3:1-3)

Caught in sin? Struggling with the burden of guilt and shame?  Need to know God’s love and forgiveness?

Come… and find peace at the altar of grace.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 176–177.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 342–343.

Weary at the foot of “the” Mountain…

Altar with communion

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.   1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)

Seventh, when a man has this hunger and so is prepared for the sacrament, he must carefully avoid receiving it while trusting in his own worthiness. Nor must he merely pray, as some do, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but say only a word, and my soul will be healed” [Matt. 8:8]. I am not rejecting that prayer, but one should be aware of something else. I am referring to the words Christ spoke when he instituted the mass: “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Take, drink, all of you; for it is the cup of the new and eternal testament in my blood, poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins” [Matt. 26:26–28].
Although the priest utters these words softly during mass (would to God that he would shout them loudly so that all could hear them clearly, and, moreover, in the German language), every Christian should have these words close to himself and put his mind on them above all others. For just as they are meant for us all, so they are spoken by the priest in the stead of Christ to all who stand around him. We should take all of these words to heart, placing our trust in them and not doubting that with these the Lord invites us to be his guests at this abundant meal.

928    You are right. “The peak,” you write me, “dominates the country for miles around, and yet there is not a single plain to be seen: just one mountain after another. At times the landscape seems to level out, but then the mist rises and reveals another range that had been hidden.” So it is, so it must be, with the horizon of your apostolate: the world has to be crossed. But there are no roads made for you. You yourselves will make the way through the mountains, beating it out by your own footsteps.

It seems like the last month (or is it the last decade) has brought one more challenge after another. And just s one challenge is climbed and another challenge looms.  Not all are mine, yet some I walk over with others, for the church never journeys alone. We weep and laugh together, we strive together, even as we sometimes strive against each other.

The reality St. Josemaria paints is painful, to know this journey isn’t easy, to know the pains we will feel, the times where we are spiritually out of breath and feel like we cannot walk one more step.

Then we look up, and we realize that on this mountain is something worth the effort, something that is worth it, something that will sustain us, give strength to our weariness, and heal our brokenness.

The Lord’s Supper is neither about our worthiness, or a brief confession (often without thought) of our unworthiness. It is about the promise, the incredible blessing of what Christ promised as He broke the bread,  as He blessed the cup. He invites us to share in His being broken, that we can also be made whole.

I have seen it over and over again, the sinner, barely able to address their brokenness, finding peace there, at the communion rail.

This mountain is different, it not another challenge, it is the destination. It is the feast with God, long foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and which foreshadows the final feast…

May we never lose our hunger and thirst for it…
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 173.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Can I Get “Them” to the Altar? A Plea for True Unity among those who trust in Jesus.

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional thought and Prayer of the Day;

2  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT2)

It almost goes without saying that if we realize God’s love and live it, we will heal the divisions and brokenness within Christendom. Only if we realize God’s love is this possible, for no merely theological reconciliation is enough. The tragedy of denominationalism arose through a lack of love, not only a lack of knowledge or theological orthodoxy. Indeed, we cannot even understand what orthodoxy is without love, for orthodoxy means right belief about God. And God is love.
We split God’s visible Church (no one can split the invisible Church) because we were selfish. We decided to be our own conductors rather than all following the divine baton. That has to be the root cause of denominationalism, for God is peace and unity, so if we all loved and obeyed and followed His leading, we would necessarily sing in harmony. We are not singing in harmony, therefore we must have disobeyed Him, disobeyed love. The diagnosis is inescapable.
And so is the prescription. Though a thousand further details need to be addressed, here is the most important ingredient of all in the prescription for reunion. Here is the root of all true ecumenism. All churches and denominations must approach dialogue with purity and simplicity of heart. They must seek not triumph or power or self-justification or conversions but simply to follow God’s will. If that were done, a miracle would happen. Impossible healings of our divisions would become possible. Reunion without compromise would happen. And the world would once again sit up and say, astonished, “See how they love one another!”

The sacrament, Luther says, is not and should not be for those who come solely because they are commanded to do so, but for those who recognize their personal need and are inwardly driven to receive it. Recognition of his sinfulness and unworthiness should not prevent a man’s reception of the sacrament. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ intended his Supper precisely for sinners who trust and believe in the words of institution

In the midst of the present crisis, stress is taking its toll on leadership.

And we begin to see that stress move divide the church even more. Not at the congregational level, I continually hearing of how congregations are doing amazing things. But at denominational levels and in inter-denominational levels.

It is sad and disheartening, and Shakespeare’s words to the Houses of Capulet and Montagu are oddly prophetic, “a pox on both your houses!”

It is in this time that we need to stop the fighting, the backbiting, the games, and strategic sessions. of how we will deal with “them”.

The Apostle Paul is right, the only answer to this is the answer we all need to hear.  It is not the best preaching or the best academic theology that will provide unity, that will create the bond we need to heal the brokenness in the Body of Christ.  That has not accomplished it in the last 120 years. Kreef is right when he discusses that we cannot truly be orthodox without the experience of love.

I might be naive, but I think that Kreeft is absolutely correct about seeing miracles occur when we seek God together; when we confess our sins and are forgiven; when we share in the feast the is the purest of love, the sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus.

For that is why the altar is there, why the pastor/priest urges us to remember Jesus, brutally crucified, His Body broken, His blood being poured out.  Not for the people who have it all together doctrinally, not for those who are without love claiming some form of Orthodoxy. His Body was broken, His blood poured out, and is there on the altar for those who need healing, who need reconciliation, who need a miracle.

That is where unity and revival find are generated, as we pray together, as we we seek His face together, as we experience His love and mercy.  That is where the miracles happen.

As we prepare for Pentecost this year, as we look for the regathering of saints, perhaps it is time to allow God to bring us together, to let His love wash us clean, to invite the Holy Spirit to do the miracles that would truly bring us back together.

Lord, help us to love, as you love us!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 151–152.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 169.

So Longed for…the Sacraments and the Return of Jesus!

church at communion 2Devotional 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.

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